Holy Basil: An Herb With Incomparable Benefits

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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Natural Strategies to Maximize Thyroid Function (Part 2 of 3)

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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Seasonal Respiratory Support

With cold and flu season upon us, now is the perfect time to consider herbal remedies for supporting respiratory health. During the fall and winter it is important to focus on strengthening the lungs with warming foods and drinks such as soups and hot teas, as well as specific tonic herbs. In my practice, I rely on botanical formulations of herbs that have a long history of traditional use for respiratory well-being to help us better adapt as we move into the colder months.

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An Herbal Approach To Rheumatoid Arthritis

I recently conferred with a patient who had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory type of arthritis that affects the lining of the joints, causing painful swelling and potential joint destruction and deformity. The standard treatment for the disease is high dosages of pharmaceutical drugs, including anti-inflammatories, steroids, and immune suppressive drugs. The danger is that although these drugs suppress symptoms and may keep the disease somewhat under control, they do not address the underlying causes. And the side effects of these types of drugs can be significant, including serious liver damage, increased risk for infection, and heart disease.

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Protective Phytoestrogens Found In Botanicals

In my last post, I discussed the benefits of phytoestrogens, and how these plant compounds may help to regulate the effects of estrogen. While soy foods are perhaps the best-known phytoestrogens, there are a number of herbs with apparent phytoestrogenic properties that have a long history of use in herbal medicine. Current research has demonstrated the usefulness of these botanicals in protecting breast and prostate health.

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Phytoestrogens and Breast Health

In the quest to identify nutritional compounds that potentially influence breast cancer (and other hormonally driven cancers), phytoestrogens are among the best researched. The label “phytoestrogen” has been given to specific compounds in plants and foods that under certain conditions appear to have a modulatory effect on estrogen and other hormone receptors.

Plants contain a diversity of beneficial compounds, including a wide range of phenolic compounds, flavonoids, lignans, and phytosterols. Each phytochemical exerts multiple actions, both alone and in combination within and on target cells, including the epigenome. Abundant data indicates that these compounds act on estrogen receptors; for example, isoflavone and other compounds referred to as phytoestrogens have an ability to inhibit local estrogen synthesis and induce epigenetic changes.1 According to the most recent literature, phytoestrogens have demonstrated positive effects on breast cancer prognosis, including breast cancer recurrence and mortality in survivors of the disease.2 Continue reading “Phytoestrogens and Breast Health”