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.

Minerals: The Overlooked Necessity

Nutrients such as vitamins, proteins, enzymes and amino acids, are required for our bodies to function properly. These nutrients are dependent upon minerals. Minerals are predominantly obtained from the food we eat, and the mineral content of that food is dependent upon the mineral content of the soil it grows in. Therefore, depleted soils create mineral deficient food.

All of this results in mineral deficient bodies, from which comes an abundance of health problems and degenerative diseases. A few of the major symptoms and illness linked to mineral deficiencies are osteoporosis, bone and muscle weakness, growth failure, mental apathy, paralysis, glucose intolerance, anemia, poor wound healing, changes in hair, skin and nails, and liver problems. A lack of minerals can also lead to weight gain, as a deficiency leaves your body craving minerals and never feeling satiated. A shortage of even one mineral in your body can trigger all sorts of problems.

In 1936, Rex Beach presented document #264 to the US Senate, which discussed Dr. Charles Northen’s research on the prevalent mineral depletion of America’s soil. At that time, North America’s soils were estimated to be hugely lacking in mineral content and 99% of Americans were considered mineral deficient. Dr. Northen conducted experiments in which he restored the mineral balance to the soil of one area of a crop and left another area alone. The plants grown in mineral-rich soil consistently yielded healthier crops free of pests and fungus.

Around the same time, famed soil scientist Dr. William Albrecht was performing studies on calcium content in soils. Albrecht’s results showed that sufficient calcium levels produced plants with higher quantity and quality of protein. Dr. Northen concluded, “Healthy plants mean healthy people. We can’t raise a strong race on a weak soil.”

Studies showed then, and maintain today, that the vegetables, fruits, grains, milk and even animal products that are eaten today, do not provide the same nutrition as they did 100 years ago. It is impossible for a person today to acquire all his mineral needs from food because our soils have become so deficient. Hundreds of years of farming the soil, combined with the effects of pesticides, herbicides, and air and water pollution, have slowly drained the soil of its vital elements.

In 1936, the importance of minerals in food was a relatively new concept that Dr. Charles Northen and Dr. William Albrecht were only beginning to introduce to the scientific community. Their research and experimentation produced startling truths about the importance of minerals in soil and the effect of mineral depletion on the health of our bodies. Studies today confirm Dr. Northen’s conclusion that the mineral content of soil does in fact affect the mineral content of the food grown in it. Unfortunately, 68 years later, little has been done to better the mineral content of North America’s soil. The 1992 Earth Summit soil mineral depletion report showed soil depletion in North America to be at 85 percent, the highest in the world. This is a sad statistic for a country that is supposed to be healthy and prosperous.

Fortunately, it is possible to ensure sufficient mineral intake. See our Health Tips section for information about mineral supplements and eating right.

Is Sucralose a Dangerous Sugar Substitute?

by Andy Malin

Most people know that too much sugar is a bad thing, especially processed refined carbohydrates. We are a society of health conscious, more specifically, weight conscious people. Low-Carb diets, the hottest diet regime ever, has people looking for calorie-free sugar substitutes. So, when Splenda (aka sucralose) came along, people thought their prayers had been answered. But ingesting sucralose could cause more damage than people think.

Sucralose has a molecular formula of C12H19Cl3O8, which is produced by chlorinating sucrose, ordinary white table sugar. It is a five-step process discovered in 1976 by a British company, which sold it to Johnson and Johnson Company who then formed McNeil Specialty Products to commercialize sucralose. In 1998, the USFDA approved sucralose for food use and today Splenda has surpassed Equal (Nutrasweet) in dollar market share.

The human body is very good at detoxifying itself of certain substances, but this is not the case with organochlorine compounds, which are organic compounds that have been chlorinated. Dioxin, one organochlorine compound that is a by-product of the paper bleaching process, is 300,000 times more carcinogenic than DDT, an insecticide that was banned because of its toxicity. These compounds have been linked to birth defects, cancer, and immune dysfunction. These chemicals stay in the body and accumulate over time. According to the Sucralose Toxicity Information Center, the absorbed sucralose and its metabolites (chemically altered substances) concentrate in the liver, kidney, and gastrointestinal tract. Splenda manufacturers claim there is minimal absorption of Splenda and its metabolites. The FDA says there is only 11 percent to 27 percent absorption, but the Japanese Food Sanitation Council says as much as 40 percent is absorbed by the body.

According to claims by the manufacturer, the chlorine part of the sucralose molecule is similar to the chorine part of common table salt (NaCl – Sodium Chloride). However, some would caution that using sucralose may be more like ingesting small amounts of chlorinated pesticides like DDT. More long-term independent research is needed to evaluate this safety concern.

Purity is something everyone is striving for. The FDA claims that sucralose is 98 percent pure, but what about the other 2 percent? It contains heavy metals like lead, arsenic, triphenilphosphine oxide, methanol, chlorinated disaccharides, and other potentially dangerous substances.

One study on sucralose showed an increase in glycosylated hemoglobin (meaning damage to the oxygen carrying part of a red blood cell). Research in animals has shown:

  1. Up to 40 percent shrinkage of the thymus gland. (Critical for the response to disease – the ‘heart’ of our immune system)
  2. Enlarged liver and kidneys
  3. Atrophy of lymph follicles
  4. Reduced growth rate

In my opinion, not enough long-term research has been conducted on sucralose to establish its safety for human consumption. I feel our government should evaluate the use of natural substances such as stevia or lo Han fruit for use as a non-caloric sweetener. I am sure their safety would prove to be excellent.

Pointers for the New Vegetarian

For many vegetarians, obtaining proper nutrition is an important concern. Planning meals that combine all of the necessary components of a well balanced diet takes time and a little creativity. It can be difficult for aspiring and novice vegetarians; however, there are many support networks available. With more and more information surfacing about the dangers of a meat-based diet and the detriment to the environment and the food chain that raising animals for slaughter causes, people are wisely turning to a healthy and safe vegetarian diet.

It is recommended that the beginning vegetarian researches and understands the balancing factors of a plant-based diet. An obvious element that many people are concerned about when considering vegetarianism is protein. There is the standard: rice and beans, and also tofu, nut butters, protein powders, and the abundant choices for alternative meat products. The web site nomeat.com offers everything from vegetarian sausage to "mock duck." Of course Down to Earth carries many varieties of meat substitutes. To make a simple meat alternative, add water and spices to wheat gluten and knead the mixture, then boil, bake, fry or grill it. This is called "wheat meat." (Exact recipe is given in the Recipes section).

Dairy products, if desired, are also very high in protein and calcium while supplying vital intestinal flora. Yogurt is a wonderful food for growing vegetarian children and they will always eat it!

Nut butters are a very convenient source of nutrition and are high in essential fatty acids. Almonds and almond butter are tasty sources of calcium and protein and are very versatile ingredients for various recipes.

Whole grains like rice, quinoa, millet, oats, and barley should make up about 40% of a plant-based diet. Brown rice has more nutritional value than white rice (though white rice cooks faster) but both are a complete protein when combined with beans. Whole grain breads are best and sprouted wheat breads can be found in the freezer section at Down to Earth. Sprouted grains are usually easier to digest and are often welcomed by those with sensitivities to wheat.

Fruits and vegetables add vitality and variety as well as supply a host of essential vitamins and amino acids to the diet. It's best to stick to organic produce whenever possible, as these foods contain the highest nutrition and do not have the toxic pesticides residues and harmful chemical fertilizers.

The vegetarian diet does not have to be devoid of sweets and treats. Many wonderful sweeteners are available as alternatives to white, processed sugar, which can be detrimental to good health. Barley malt, rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, honey, or Sucanat (granulated cane juice), can be substituted for white sugar in your favorite dessert recipes. Eggs can be replaced with the commercial brand "Egg Replacer," which works wonderful as does yogurt, applesauce, ground flax seeds, and arrowroot powder. (All of these products can be found in Down to Earth). There are several excellent vegetarian cookbooks available in the Down to Earth stores.

Take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to be healthy, reduce the suffering of animals raised for food, improve the environmental conditions of the planet, and work towards integrating a sustainable food source for all the people of the world. GO VEGGIE!

Important News for Diabetics: Stevia the Natural Sweetener

Stevia is an herbal sweetener that will not raise blood sugar and has been used throughout history for its medicinal properties. There are indications that stevia was used in native beverages since pre Columbian times. However, the first written record was found in the late 1800's in South America. Scientist Dr. Moises Santiago Bertoni wrote, "In placing the smallest particle of a leaf or twig in the mouth, one is surprised at the strange sweetness contained therein. A fragment of the leaf only a few square millimeters in size suffices to keep the mouth sweet for an hour. A few small leaves are sufficient to sweeten a strong cup of coffee or tea." A Paraguan chemist named Rebaudi was the first to extract the plants sweet content. Stevia has been known to regulate the body's blood sugar and be a therapeutic and safe alternative to sugars. It is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar without the harmful side effects that sugar causes for diabetics. In Brazil, China and other countries, Stevia is recommended for people living with diabetes or hypoglycemia as a replacement for sugar. Stevia promotes balance in the pancreas, an organ essential for healthy digestion.

Stevia has...

  • No fat
  • No Calories
  • No Carbohydrate
  • And does not break down in the body as a sugar

In Down to Earth, Stevia is sold in as a dietary supplement in the form of powder, an extract clear liquid, and concentrate. One way to utilize the healing properties of Stevia is to make it into a "working solution" from the powder form. This is done by using 1 tsp of Stevia powder to 3 tablespoons of water. Place the solution in a glass bottle with a dropper top and refrigerate. This Stevia mixture can be added to tea, coffee, or any beverage that you would normally add sugar to. It may take time to acquire a taste for Stevia; however the health benefits are well worth the transition. Down to Earth also carries several cooking and baking books that are based on the use of Stevia as a substitute for sugar. Since Stevia has no calories, it is an ideal supplement for people watching their weight and counting calories, as compared to sugar, which is high calories often times stored as fat. For more information about Stevia and its forms and uses, please come to Down to Earth where you will find brochures and books on this wonderful alternative to sugar.

Ways to Use Goji Berries

by Tracy Rohland

Goji berries or “happy” berries have been used for centuries in East Asian food and medicine. This mild, tangy fruit is a little sweet and sour and is usually found dried. It has been used by Chinese herbalists to help eyesight, protect the liver, boost immune function, and to promote longevity. Because of their high antioxidant qualities, adding goji berries to your diet can be very beneficial.

How Do You Use Goji Berries?

  1. Raw: First and foremost, eat them raw! A small handful a day will do.
  2. Juice: Goji berries are also available in juice form. Down to Earth carries 100% Goji Juice without any added sugar, or color.
  3. Tea: Goji berries can be used to brew in a tea. You can add a handful of goji berries to a big glass of hot or cold water (or herb tea) and let sit and hydrate for 5 to 10 minutes. They become plump and juicy. You can drink the tea and eat the hydrated berries which are loaded with antioxidants.
  4. Smoothies: Soak a handful of goji berries in water for 10 minutes. Once they are plump and juicy, add them to your favorite smoothie. It won’t make much of a change to the taste or consistency of your smoothie.
  5. Trail Mix: You can also add goji berries to your favorite trail mix. Or, make your own by mixing your favorite nuts and dried fruit with some goji berries. Kids like it when you add some chocolate or peanut butter chips to the goji trail mix.
  6. Cereal: Just like raisins, add some goji berries to your hot or cold cereals in the morning.
  7. Muffins and Scones: Add goji berries to muffins or scones just as you would raisins.
  8. Goji Energy Bars: Blend a handful of goji berries together with cup of walnuts, ½ cup almonds, and 5-6 dates in a food processor. Roll the mix into balls or spread in a deep pan to make bars.
  9. Add to Soups: This has been a common use of goji berries in Chinese cuisine for thousands of years.

Vitamin C

by Janet Stewart

When you get a cold, is the first thing you think of taking vitamin C? Many people reach for this vitamin when they feel a cold coming on, but vitamin C has many other benefits besides helping us fight colds. In Earl Mindell's Vitamin Bible for the 21st Century, he lists many uses for Vitamin C—some you may not have thought of:

  • Vitamin C plays a primary role in the formation of collagen, which is very important for our skin and bones.
  • Vitamin C helps with wound healing and for burns and bleeding gums.
  • Vitamin C lowers the incidence of blood clots in our veins.
  • Vitamin C can help lower blood pressure.
  • You can use vitamin C as a laxative.
  • Vitamin C is an antioxidant and helps the immune system.
  • Vitamin C can counteract the formation of nitriosamines, which are cancer-causing substances.

These are only some of the many benefits of vitamin C. The natural way to get your vitamin C is in fresh fruits and vegetables. Good fruit sources are citrus fruits, berries, watermelons, papayas, and persimmons. Good vegetable sources include green leafy vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and onions, to name just a few. If you want to take a supplement form of vitamin C, you have lots of choices to consider. The most common form is ascorbic acid, which is made from corn dextrose (although no corn or dextrose remain). There are ascorbic acid crystals or powder to mix into juice or you can take ascorbic acid in a pill or chewable wafer. There are also buffered forms, which are easier on the stomach. You can also get time-released vitamin C, as vitamin C does not remain in your system for more than 2 or 3 hours. Vitamin C is water-soluble, so that is why you have to replenish this vitamin on a daily basis. There is a form of vitamin C called Ester C, first researched by Jonathan Wright M.D. He proved that Ester C increased white blood cell ascorbate levels four times more than regular ascorbic acid and that only 1/3 of the amount is excreted in the urine. Ester C also gets into the blood steam and tissues four times faster than regular ascorbic acid. As for precautions about taking vitamin C, you should know that if you are taking this vitamin supplement and are having tests done for blood, in stool or urine, or having a pap smear, it could cause a false reading, so it would be wise to let the doctor know you are taking vitamin C supplementation. Large amounts of ascorbic acid can cause diarrhea. If you have a sensitive stomach, you may have trouble if you don't use a buffered type. Nowadays it is hard to get all the fresh picked garden fruits and vegetables we should be eating, so taking a good vitamin C supplement, along with a multivitamin, is a good idea to help to keep you in better shape to fight off colds and other viruses.

Preparing for the Avian Flu

by Tracy Rohland

Experts say that the avian flu or bird flu could become a pandemic at some time in the near future, affecting people world-wide. There are precautions that each person should take to protect themselves now before the bird flu becomes a grave issue.

The Center for Disease Control ( CDC) recommends that “travelers (traveling to other countries) should avoid all contact with poultry (e.g., chickens, ducks, geese, pigeons, turkeys, and quail) or any wild birds, and avoid settings where H5N1-infected poultry may be present, such as commercial or backyard poultry farms and live poultry markets.”

“As with other infectious illnesses, one of the most important preventive practices is careful and frequent hand washing. Clean your hands often, using soap and water (or waterless, alcohol-based hand gels when soap is not available and hands are not visibly soiled) to remove potentially infectious materials from your skin and help prevent disease transmission,” the CDC said.

Currently no vaccine is available to protect humans against the H5N1 virus that is being seen in Asia. However, vaccine development efforts are under way. Research studies to test a vaccine to protect humans against H5N1 virus began in April 2005.

If the bird flu arrives in the United States, we should make sure we have enough food and water for one month in case people are told to remain in their homes. It is always a good idea to keep a general emergency kit in your house. This should include latex gloves and a respirator mask. The CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend the ANSI Certified N95 respirator mask which can be ordered online or found at a medical supply store.

Natural Remedies and Immune Boosters

Ask one of Down to Earth’s knowledgeable staff about natural antiviral products, such as elderberry and olive leaf extract. As always, be sure to keep your immune system in top condition by supplementing with products such as Vitamin C, Echinacea, New Chapter’s Host Defense, and vitamin-mineral supplements. Remember to get the proper amount of sleep and exercise in addition to a vegetarian, whole-food diet, avoiding sugars and processed foods.