In my last post, I broadly discussed the exciting field of epigenetics, which is radically changing the landscape of what we’ve long believed about genetics and biological destiny. Emerging research shows that food and herbs may be the most important factors in our genetic well-being, directly affecting our health, disease risk, and longevity.

As a clinical herbalist, I find the relationship between herbs and epigenetics particularly compelling. A large body of research shows that a wide array of botanical compounds work in a variety of ways to maintain health at the cellular level, and offer great promise in improving our molecular expression, protecting against cellular stressors and aging by normalizing gene behavior. We cannot change the genes we have, but we can positively alter the fate and behavior of our genes by supplying them with beneficial herbal and dietary compounds.


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First discovered in 1929, vitamin K has long been recognized as necessary for healthy blood clotting. This, of course, is a critical function—without sufficient vitamin K, we would bleed to death from even a minor wound. But in the past decade, vitamin K has been shown to play a much greater role in health than was previously recognized.

Research shows that vitamin K, in synergy with vitamin D, is an essential nutrient for building strong bones. Vitamin K also supports cardiovascular health, promotes an appropriate inflammatory response, ensures healthy cellular function, and provides redox/antioxidant activity.


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Closely related to the culinary herb sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is a plant with a rich history of use as a healing herb. Because this venerable herb has so many applications, it has become one of my favorites. I often include holy basil in adaptogenic tonics, and also find it useful for specific conditions, ranging from support for cancer and cardiovascular disease to improving skin health.

Native to India, holy basil is also known as tulsi, which means “the incomparable one.” Considered as sacred in the Hindu faith, most traditional homes and temples in India have at least one tulsi plant, which is used in prayers to insure personal health, spiritual purity, and family well-being. In Ayurvedic medicine, tulsi is classified as a rasayana, an herb that nourishes a person’s growth to perfect health and enlightenment and promotes long life.


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In my two previous posts on thyroid health, I discussed the potential problems associated with diagnosing and treating thyroid issues. As I stated in my first post, thyroid problems are frequently under diagnosed, primarily because of inadequate testing and incomplete understanding of the complexities of thyroid function. At the same time, thyroid problems are often treated in ways that further compromise function.


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In my post last week, I introduced the topic of thyroid health and the many misconceptions that the medical profession has about diagnosing and treating thyroid disease. In general, thyroid problems are under diagnosed because the standard blood tests used to evaluate function are woefully inadequate. At the same time, an underactive thyroid is often over treated with thyroid replacement hormones—which frequently cause even greater dysfunction. In my experience, a much more effective approach is to focus on the factors that underlie the dysfunction, providing the support needed to restore balance and function to an endocrine system that has gone awry.

Unfortunately, conventional “modern” medicine insists on viewing the thyroid as an independent entity, and treats any dysfunction by addressing only the thyroid. But in fact, the thyroid sits at the epicenter of the endocrine system and oversees the critical job of regulating the body’s metabolism. Although the thyroid gland weighs less than one ounce, the hormones it produces affect virtually every cell in the body.


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While over 20 million people are currently being treated for clinical and subclinical hypothyroidism, there may be as many as 13 million more Americans suffering the ill effects of an undiagnosed thyroid problem–making it one of the most under-diagnosed health conditions in the United States. At the same time, because the thyroid is intimately intertwined with the other glands of the endocrine system, supplementing with thyroid hormones may be counterproductive if the problem is rooted in adrenal fatigue, dietary and lifestyle factors, and stress. Many factors affect thyroid health, including common stressors such as inadequate sleep, exposure to environmental toxins, or minor illnesses. Even the normal physiological changes associated with aging are stressors that are detrimental to thyroid function.


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