Goji Berries: Ancient Remedy Finds New Popularity

by Tandis Bishop

It wasn’t long ago when Noni Juice was all the rage. High in anti-oxidants, used for centuries by traditional healers, impressive testimonials for dozens of health ailments. Sound familiar? With such a bitter tasting juice commanding so much attention, it’s no surprise that the tangy tasting goji berry has now stolen the limelight.

Although the goji berry (“goji” means “happy”) has been used for thousands of years by herbalists in China, Tibet, and India to protect the liver, help eyesight, boost immune function, improve circulation, and promote longevity and overall wellbeing, it has only recently gained popularity in the West. It has become so popular, in fact, that Time Magazine recently named the goji berry as "superfruit" of the year. A big reason why goji berries have quickly become a favorite nutritional supplement is its impressive list of ingredients.

According to the Beijing Nutrition Research Institute analysis conducted in 1988, goji berries contain more beta carotene than carrots, more iron than spinach, 500 times more vitamin C by weight than oranges, over 18 amino acids, 21 trace minerals, and substantial amounts of vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6 and vitamin E. The analysis also discovered that the berries contain essential fatty acids and are an incredibly rich source of carotenoids (more than any other known food). What is even more impressive is the amount of antioxidants contained in goji.

In a test developed by USDA researchers out of Tufts University in Boston called the ORAC scale (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), goji berries were shown to have extremely high levels of antioxidants with 5 times more antioxidants than prunes, and ten times more than blueberries.

To truly appreciate the significance of this discovery, you must first understand the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are atoms with an odd or unpaired electron. Because they are unstable, they seek out an electron to make a stable pair. As the free radical captures an electron, it creates a new free radical missing an electron, thus creating a cascading effect that can result in cellular damage. This damage can accelerate the aging process and contribute to a host of ailments and diseases. Free radicals are constantly attacking our body via the air we breathe, water we drink, pesticides on our fruits and vegetables, preservatives in our processed food, toxic chemicals in our cleaning products, and so on. Consuming foods high in antioxidants offers our bodies a powerful weapon to combat these free radicals.

While goji berries (or goji juice) may be an excellent addition to your diet, remember, no one food is the answer to perfect health. It’s important to consume a well-balanced, wholesome diet from a variety of foods, (primarily whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and healthy plant proteins). For those of you anxious to give this “superfruit” a try, you'll find ample supplies of goji berries and goji juice at all of our Down to Earth stores.

Footnotes: 

The information in this article has been provided for educational purposes only. If you have any medical conditions or are on any prescribed medications, please consult your physician before using goji berries or other nutritional supplements.

Hormone Replacement Therapy: Dangers and Natural Alternatives

by Eva Martin

The newspaper headlines were alarming: "Hormone therapy too risky, study says. Increased chance of cancer among long-term effects."

These headlines were no surprise to me, a post-menopausal woman who is part of the nationwide, federally funded study, "Women's Health Initiative." This study started in 1991 and includes 265 women in Hawaii.

Though I am merely a "control", meaning I did not agree to take the hormone pill or a placebo (dummy pill), I was notified by letter in June of this year - 2002 - that preliminary results of the study showed a puzzling and disturbing increase in serious health problems among the women taking HRT in the form of estrogen plus progestin. These problems included blood clots, strokes, heart attacks, and breast cancer. The study was scheduled to last until 2005, but as increasing numbers of negative effects came in, the researchers decided to pull the plug three years early; they simply could not justify continuing.

In July, the official announcement was made and in doctors' offices across the country the phone began ringing off the hook. Patients and doctors were upset and confused and a class action lawsuit has been filed against the maker of this drug demanding that it be taken off the market immediately.

I had been well aware of the risks for years. Working at Down to Earth Natural Foods, I was familiar with the book "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause" by Dr. John R. Lee. He is an M.D. who spoke out against HRT many years ago. I gave several workshops on the topic, informing women about such alternatives as plant-based natural hormones, the benefits of a plant-based diet, taking nutritional supplements and herbs, and getting regular exercise.

What doctors have told menopausal women - and probably believed themselves - was that taking a daily pill made from extracts of urine from pregnant horses (Premarin) and a synthetic form of progesterone called "progestin" would prevent hot flashes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and that it would greatly extend women's youthful years. The study shows a very different picture. About all the pill does is prevent hot flashes!

It is crucial that we understand the difference between natural hormones derived from plants and those made from horse urine and synthetic progestin. It was the latter prescription drug that was used in the study, and the results confirmed what had been in the small-print literature accompanying the product for many years. In other words, the serious drawbacks and dangers had been known for a long time. But aggressive marketing had convinced many women and their doctors that HRT would keep them healthy and youthful. The only benefits the study revealed were a small percentage of fewer colorectal cancers and fewer bone fractures.

If a study of this magnitude had been conducted on the combination of a healthy lifestyle, natural supplements, and the natural hormone progesterone made from Mexican wild yam, we probably would have seen impressive benefits. According to Dr. Lee, progesterone protects the body in so many ways that they are too numerous to list here. And plant estrogens go to the same receptors as the dangerous estrogens and replace them. In addition, many wonderful supplements such as flax oil, multi-vitamin-mineral combinations, and special menopausal herbal formulas are now available. They may not relieve all hot flashes, but I'd rather have some of those than worry I might suddenly have a stroke or discover a lump in my breast!

Most doctors are as distressed and confused as their women patients. They have been exposed to the same sales pressures from drug companies as well as TV ads with Patty LaBelle and Lauren Hutton. What every woman and every doctor needs is a copy of Dr. Lee's book (inexpensive at $13.99 and available at Down to Earth and most bookstores). All of his claims are backed by scientific studies and professional literature as well as his own experience as a family physician.

I think the Women's Health Initiative study came just in time for millions of baby boomer women entering menopause. Many of these women will now seek out naturopathic physicians who are familiar with the dangers of HRT. They have saliva tests available to assess a woman's hormonal status (a procedure which regular MDs don't even know about) and can design a personal program based on those tests. We are not able to recommend any particular naturopath, but several are listed in the Oahu Yellow Pages.

Warnings About Pain Remedies

In the not-so-distant past, Aspirin was virtually the only non-prescription pain reliever on the market. It was the solution for anything from headaches and fever to cramping and arthritis. Then acetaminophen and ibuprofen came along to challenge the pain reliever monopoly, giving the world new options for their pains and fevers. These days, there is a new category of pain relievers known as COX-2 inhibitors. These drugs were designed to avoid the gastric bleeding that is a concern with drugs like aspirin. But these new drugs come with their own set of side effects and complications, which is why they are now under close scrutiny.

A few well-known examples of these drugs are Celebrex, Vioxx, and Bextra. Millions of Americans take these drugs for rheumatoid and osteoarthritis as well as common headaches and muscle tension. Most people who watch television have seen the ads for these drugs and heard the long list of side effects at the end. But many people have eagerly sought out and taking these prescriptions despite the potential harm. However, the FDA is alerting consumers to be aware of these side effects and to take the warnings seriously.

Vioxx was recently taken off the market when a study showed that it doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke. Celebrex, a very similar drug, is currently under careful evaluation. A December 2004 study of Celebrex by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported a 2.5 fold increase in the risk of major fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular problems for participants taking Celebrex compared to those on a placebo. Even over the counter naproxen pain relievers like Aleve and Bayer have been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.

The warnings of the potential dangers of Celebrex listed on the FDA’s Web site include: stomach ulcers that bleed, stomach bleeding in general, liver damage, kidney problems, fluid retention, swelling, headache, indigestion, upper respiratory tract infection, diarrhea, sinus inflammation, stomach pain, and nausea.

The FDA has recently told doctors to limit prescriptions for Celebrex and Bextra, while encouraging alternative therapy. If a patient is continuing to take either of these drugs, the FDA advises that the lowest effective dose be used.

It is easy to overlook the side effects of a drug when it helps you feel better, but exchanging a headache for a heart attack may not be worth it. Luckily, there are natural alternatives for pain relief. Down to Earth can help you find alternatives to be pain relief, so be sure to drop by for a visit and inquire about the natural choices available.

Super Greens

Photo: Green Fields

Wheat grass and micro algae consumption throughout the world, especially in western countries, has sky rocketed in the recent years. However, the dietary use of these substances is nothing new. It has been discovered that in both South America and Africa cereal grasses such as wheat grass and micro algae have been used internally for nutrition and externally as an antiseptic healing salve. Today, we generally use these substances as a supplement to improve our health and vitality. Individuals that use them regularly enthusiastically testify to their amazing healing properties.

Micro algae are aquatic living organisms. These plants are very small and are measured in microns (millionths of a meter). Spirulina is a species of micro algae. It is blue green in color and spiral shaped. In these tiny plants are found the highest levels of chlorophyll, protein, beta-carotene and nucleic, more so than any other plant or animal food. Because Spirulina is a plant and can be cultivated in a controlled environment, their producers can alter the mineral content of their environment, which in turn affects the mineral content of the product. In other words, depending on the environment, Spirulina can also be an excellent source of essential minerals.

Chlorophyll, which is an inherent property of all green plants, is very similar to hemoglobin. In fact, their molecular structure is nearly identical. This similarity makes it easy for the body to assimilate. Chlorophyll increases the hemoglobin count of the blood. Hemoglobin is the oxygen-binding substance in blood. More hemoglobin translates to a more oxygen rich blood. In addition, chlorophyll detoxifies the blood of drug deposits and de-activates carcinogens. It also stops bacterial growth in the digestive tract as well as the production of yeasts and fungi. Chlorophyll eliminates bad breath and acts as an internal body deodorant.

Spirulina is one of the highest sources of chlorophyll. In contains .7-1.1 percent chlorophyll in comparison to alfalfa, another good source, which contains only .2 percent. It is also the highest source of protein, 68%. The protein found in Spirulina is also more digestible than any other source. Beef protein, for example is only 20% digestible where as Spirulina protein is 95% digestible. In this way, a person can eat less, yet the body's protein cravings will be satisfied.

Believe it or not, Spirulina can even reverse aging. It is rich in gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and nucleic acid (RNA/DNA). Nucleic acids are the building blocks of cells, and GLA assists in cellular renewal. The amount of nucleic acid in the body directly affects the rate of regenerating of cells. The amount of nucleic acid in the body also decreases with age. Other contributing factors to nucleic acid loss are a lack of exercise, poor diet and stress. It is therefore vital to the health of the body to replenish these stores.

An important aspect of Spirulina is the blue pigment, phycocyanin. This blue pigment is very rare in foods. It has shown to inhibit the formation of cancerous cells. In this way it helps to stop the spread of cancer in the body.

Chlorella is another common micro algae. Although, it does not contain as much protein or beta-carotene as Spirulina, Chlorella has higher levels of chlorophyll and twice the levels of nucleic acid than found in Spirulina. Because of its high levels of nucleic acid, it speeds up the renewal and healing of damaged tissue. This is called the chlorella growth factor or CGF. In this way, chlorella is most beneficial in treating degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. The CGF also strengthens immunity by improving the activity of T and B cells, which protect the body against viruses and other invading microorganisms.

Originally it was found that the outer cell wall of chlorella was indigestible. Producers of chlorella had to crack this wall in order for the benefits to be experienced by the body. Later a Japanese biologist was able to produce a form of chlorella that had a less resilient shell and could be assimilated by the body. It was later discovered that this hard outer wall is a benefit as it binds to heavy metals in the body such as lead and mercury and can then be eliminated. It is also known to remove other toxins in the body which are introduced due to our polluted environment. This tough outer wall may well be responsible for some of Chlorella's immune strengthening ability.

Wheat grass is another substance that is high in chlorophyll and minerals. A benefit to wheat grass is that it can easily be found in its "live" form, where as micro algae are normally only available freeze dried. This freeze-drying process destroys a percentage of the enzymes found in its "live" state. Wheat grass can be cultivated in your own home. From seed to harvest normally takes about 8-14 days depending on the climate. In lower temperatures (ranging between 65-75F), wheat grass grows slower, yet will exhibit a deeper green color and tends to have a higher concentration of chlorophyll and minerals. The mineral content of wheat grass depends on the content of the soil it is cultivated in. It can absorb 90 out of 102 available nutrients found in rich soil. This puts the ball in your court. The enzyme content of fresh wheat grass is impressive. The benefits of these enzymes directly affect the functions of the intestine and bowel. They aid in the assimilation of food and loosen debris in the lower bowel. Regular elimination of fecal mater is vital to bodily health. Wheat grass contains an antioxidant enzyme, supper dismutase (SOD). Antioxidants protect the cells from free radicals in the blood that cause damage to cell structure. SOD protects against cellular mutation, and is threrefore useful in the treatment of aging and degenerative diseases. Wheat grass in general is an excellent blood purifier as well as an energy booster. Wheat grass contains glycogen, which is quickly translated into energy. This energy is sustainable and does not result in the "roller coaster effect" experienced after consumption of simple carbohydrates like refined sugar. To experience this quick energy boost it is important to consume wheat grass juice on an empty stomach or with a bit of real fruit juice, as long as it does not have added sugar.

MP's (mucopolysaccharides) found in the carbohydrate structure of wheat grass, and micro algae as well, are found to strengthen bodily tissue. They also lower cholesterol. This strengthening of bodily tissue includes the tissue in the heart and arteries. It also causes the arteries to dilate and improves blood flow.

An additional enzyme in wheat grass is P4D1. This enzyme stimulates the renewal of nucleic acid (RNA/DNA) and acts as an anti-inflammatory. This is especially beneficial for those suffering from arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Wheat grass benefits inflammatory conditions in several ways. It reduces toxins in the blood that collect around the joints and cause pain; strengthens damaged bodily tissues; and prevents inflammation.

In the treatment of disease, it has yet to be scientifically proven that micro algae or wheat grass can actually act as a cure. However, it is undeniable that regular dosages improve immunity and over all well being. There are several individuals that claim that they have been cured of disease such as cancer by the power of these super greens and these claims can be backed by the fact that they are living healthfully. Doctors and naturopaths are still discovering benefits in the use of micro algae and wheat grass. The best test is personal experience. Take a shot of wheat grass juice or indulge in a spirulina smoothie and feel for yourself the remarkable strength of these super greens.

Kombucha for Health

Photo: Kombucha Taps

by Manjari Fergusson

By now, you’ve probably heard of kombucha, the popular fermented beverage that’s taken the health world by storm. The slightly slimy, vinegar-like concoction of tea, yeast and bacteria isn’t new; in fact, some believe it’s been around since the year 220 B.C. in Manchura.1


While it may not be pleasant to taste at first, advocates like the drink because of it’s possible health benefits, as it contains probiotics, vitamins, organic acids and antioxidants. The taste grows on you pretty fast!  It has become so popular that Down to Earth has begun offering Kombuch on tap.  We are currently selling Sky Wave Kombucha on tap at our Kailua and Pearlridge locations and will be introducing it at our Honolulu an Kapolei stores later this month.  Our Kahului store is selling Big Wave brand Kombucha on tap. It's a huge sucess!



GT's Synergy, one of the most popular national brands of kombucha, says their drink contains the probiotics S. boulardii and Lactobacillus, the latter of which can boost the immune system, lower cholesterol and aid skin disorders, among other benefits.2 The bacteria also promotes a healthy digestive tract.


Others use Kombucha as a possible at-home fix for things like acne, fatigue, hypertension, constipation or headaches.3 Kombucha has been shown to be high in B vitamins.4


Lack of certain B vitamins can lead to things like anemia, abdominal pain, depression, muscle cramps, respiratory infections, eczema and birth defects. Some natural health practitioners say B vitamins can help in the treatment of cancer.5


Kombucha can be made at home, but because it can be easily contaminated, some recommend sticking to store varieties.


Down to Earth’s kombucha on tap is available in a variety of flavors, such as ginger, lilikoi, strawberry and mint. Flavors can vary at different times. The cost is $4.99 for 16 oz, $6.99 for 24 oz, $8.99 for 32 oz and $32.99 for a gallon. Customers are encouraged to bring their own containers for the larger sizes.

Footnotes: 
  1. Katalyst Kombucha LLC, “What is Kombucha?”, Katalyst Kombucha http://www.katalyst-kombucha.com/what_is_kombucha.html
  2. Medline Plus,“Lactobacillus”, U.S. National Library of Medicine, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/790.html
  3. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, “Kombucha”, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/kombucha
  4. Gamundi R, Valdivia M., “The Kombucha mushroom: two different opinions”, National Center for Biotechnology Information, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11363369
  5. American Cancer Society, “Vitamin B Complex”, American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryan...