Apr 132019

This shloka means when the vata dosha gets located in the joints and back region, then the swelling occurs which feel like an air-filled and pain occurs during the contraction and relaxation.

(Reference: Charak Samhita (Chikitsa Sthan) Chapter-28 and shloka-37)

As per Ayurvedic aspect:

Back pain is correlated to “katigaraha” in which kati means a back region of body and Graha means holding. This condition mostly occurs due to the vitiated vata dosha which causes pain in the back region.

As per modern aspect:

Every individual has experienced significant back pain during his or her lifetime. Functions of the back region or spine include movement, structural support, and protection of certain body tissues. The pain may occur in different regions such as the middle (thoracic region), lower (lumbar region) or coccydynia (near the tail bone). The lumbar area supports most of the weight in the upper body and is the most common area of pain. This condition usually involves the spasm of muscles along with the spine. There will be a pain, tingling sensation, numbness in the lower extremities. The pain may be acute, subacute or even severe and this usually depends upon the duration.

What are the causes of back pain?

The most common causes of back pain are:

  • Poor posture: Poor postures such as sitting hunched over a desk or slouching in front of the TV can cause joint compression, muscular fatigue, weakness, tightness, etc.
  • Age:

Some inherited factors may cause degenerative changes in the disc and joints. Aging factors may cause a decrease in the bone density, its strength, and loss of elasticity of ligaments and muscles of the spine.

  • Sprain in ligaments:

Ligaments connect the vertebras of the spine and provide stability in the back region. It can be caused by sudden injury and any forceful movements.

  • Disc bulge:

Disk bulge or herniated disc may cause pressure on the nerves that can cause pain which is radiated towards the legs.

  • Muscle strain:

Spine muscles provide strength and mobility in the back for all the activities of daily life. Muscle strain occurs when the muscles are weak or overworked.

  • Other causes:

This can occur due to any disease such as kidneys diseases, cancer, endometriosis or any other ovarian problems.

What are the symptoms of back pain?

  • Pain: The pain may be mild or severe. Severity depends upon the duration of disease. It becomes worse with lifting, bending, walking and standing.
  • Tingling sensation
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Restricted movements
  • Muscle pain

Natural treatment to tackle the back pain:

  • Massage with herbal oil:

Massage the back region with herbal oil is very helpful in relaxing muscles and relieving pain. Various herbal oils such as eucalyptus oil have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that help to relieve the pain. Its massaging action has been found to be very effective for getting instant relief from back pain.

  1. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil, coconut oil or almond oil.
  2. Add 5 or 6 drops of any herbal oil in the warm carrier oil.
  3. Massage the aching area gently with the oil for 10 to 15 minutes to relieve the pain.
  4. Repeat this remedy for 2 or 3 times a day for the effective results.

The root of ginger is a very effective remedy used in the treatment of back pain. As its root contains anti-inflammatory compounds that can provide relief from back pain. This remedy also provides relief from nausea and vomiting to a huge extent.

  1. Make a paste of ginger and apply this paste on the affected part.
  2. You may also consume this in the form of tea.

Garlic is an effective remedy that can help to treat back pain. This herb is full of antioxidants and is rich in calcium, minerals, and vitamins. It is not only useful in back pain, but also useful in other pains. It has several therapeutic properties.

  1. Make a paste of garlic along with mustard oil and apply this paste on the affected part of the back which provides instant relief from pain.
  2. Consume two cloves of garlic every day on an empty stomach daily.
  • Poppy seeds:

Poppy seeds are one of the wonderful remedies that provide relief from tingling and burning sensation and pain.

  1. Grind 100 grams of poppy seeds and mishri each and make a mixture of it.
  2. Consume two teaspoons of this mixture two times daily with milk.
  • Cold and hot compression:

Cold compression:

Cold compression is the best choice for an acute injury when there is a pain with inflammation. This remedy decreases the inflammation and provides a numbing effect on the body.

  1. Put a bowl full of crushed ice in a plastic bag and wrap it in a towel.
  2. Put this compress on the affected part for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Do this remedy. But do not apply ice packs directly on the skin.

Hot compression:

  1. Hot compression is the better choice for increasing muscle relaxation and blood flow to the muscles. This remedy can provide relief from intense pain.
  2. Place a towel around the plastic bag and apply it to the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Repeat this remedy after every half an hour. Make sure the temperature of this pack is not too much hot.

Some useful exercises:

  • Supine twist, sphinx poses, needle pose, Cat and cow pose, downward facing dog pose are very helpful in reducing the back pain. These poses decompress the entire spine and act as a great tension reliever for the entire back region.
  • The natural inclination to the onset of back pain is to stop the movements and take adequate rest because movements often make the pain worse and hinder the recovery. Some researchers have demonstrated that frequent movements, such as yoga, walking or any other gentle exercises that are mentioned above can help to reduce pain quickly and make for a faster recovery.
  • Exercising for 20 to 30 minutes can help to release the body’s endorphins to address the pain.

Some prevention tips:

  1. Once the severity of pain started decreasing, a rehabilitation program to strengthen your hips and back muscles can help to prevent its recurrence.
  2. The main goal is that the spine is, not slumped or over-arched.
  3. A proper lifting of heavy objects and body mechanics should be practiced.
  4. Take proper and enough sleep to get recovered from back pain.

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Dec 052018

Rejuvenate Yourself Daily with natural Rasayana programs

Our bodies  constantly go through changes in their microcellular structures. Every day, millions of cells die and millions of new cells are born.  In other words, after every 10 to 15 years, you will have a new body. It is important for our bodies to replace aging cells and produce new cells constantly.   Rasayana programs play a vital role in helping our body achieve these goals.  Rsayana programs help you become healthy and look and feel younger !

Some Rasayana tips which you can follow easily at home. You should practice regularly these Rasayana/Rejuvenation programs.

  1.  Before breakfast, have one or two teaspoons of pure cow Ghee. You can have it with half glass of warm water o have it directly.  Ghee stimulates Agni, enhances metabolism and preserves mental and physical strength which lead to abundant energy and immunity.Ghee
  1. Around 3 in the afternoon have half a glass of white pumpkin juice with the juice of one fresh amla (Emblic fruit) and half a teaspoon of raw cane sugar or honey.  White pumpkin keep you energetic and fresh. Its very good for the brain.  it has the property to control Blood pressure, balance the emotions.  Relieves stress and anxiety remarkably.  While Amla improves your metabolism, improves appetite, relieves acidity.  Its Tridoshahar in Ayurveda.

white pumpkin juice

Detox programs once a year promotes vibrant health and vitality naturally

Apart from following this daily routine, undergoing detox programs once a year or every alternative year is the best and most effective rejuvenation program. Detox programs gets rid of all the toxins, heals and rejuvenates the body and revitalizes the mind and emotions.  Detox treatments prevent relapses of chronic health conditions.  Promotes healthy body mind and emotions.  You feel more energetic, freedom from illnesses and look younger than your age !

You must remember to consult an experienced Ayurvedic doctor to heal yourself with the help of Rasayana programs.


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Oct 272018

It is believed that every aspect of life is sacred, so each important stage, from conception to anteyeshti (death cremation) is distinguished as special rituals. These series of rituals are known as samskaras. According to the classical hindu texts, there are 16 special rituals, termed as Shodasha Samskara. They are connected with the major events of life such as pregnancy, childbirth, naming ceremony, education, marriage, etc. These samskaras enables us to live a complete fulfilling physical and spiritual life.
In Ayurveda, the word samskara introduced as “Samskaro hi Gunaantaradhanam” means qualitative improvement is carried out by incorporating the specific qualities.

Samskara described in Ayurvedic texts are based on the various stages of child growth and developments and hence provide a rational guideline toward his care during celebrating different ceremonies from very conception to childhood.

Through this article lemme delight you people with the concept of Swarna Prashana.
Swarna Prashana is one of sixteen samskaras mentioned in ancient texts for paediatrics.

( Swarna means gold & Prashana means administration.)
The term Swarna Prashana was coined by Acharya Kashyapa.

Sometimes known by other names like, Swarna amruta prashana, Swarna prashana, Swarna prashan, Swarn prashan, Swarna bindu prashana or Suvarna prashan.

Administration of processed gold in children is a unique practice mentioned in Ayurveda as “Swarnaprashana” by Acharya Kashyapa thousands of years back.

Ayurveda propounds that prevention is an equally important aspect of disease management as cure and thus strengthening the immune system is a natural way to help the body fight against the diseases causing ailments.

Basically, childhood is the period of growth spurts. In Ayurveda texts, various acharyas described countless useful dravyas (drugs), yogas (formulations) and mode of conducts for adult to enhance the immunity (Bala and Vyadhikshmatva) & similarly for the healthy ksheerapa (infantile period), ksheerannada ( 1-2 year age period) and annada awastha ( age period from 2-16 years).

Swarnaprashana in children can be mainly implicated in two contexts of Ayurveda; Lehana (supplementary feeds) and Jatakarma Samskara (newborn care).

Different Acharyas views on Swarna Prashana.

According to Acharya Charaka,

atō’nantaraṁ jātakarma kumārasya kāryam |

tadyathā- madhusarpiṣī mantrōpamantritē yathāmnāyaṁ prathamaṁ prāśituṁ dadyāt |

stanamata ūrdhvamētēnaiva vidhinā dakṣiṇaṁ pātuṁ purastāt prayacchēt |

athātaḥ śīrṣataḥ sthāpayēdudakumbhaṁ mantrōpamantritam ||          –   (Charaka Samhita Sharirsthana 8/46)

On first day of birth, the child should be given first feeding of honey and ghrita consecrated (or blessed) with mantra as given for this purpose. Thereafter, firstly milk from the right breast should be offered (or given) to the child. A water filled pitcher and consecrated with mantras should be kept near the head of baby, probably to maintain proper humidity in Kumaragara (maternity home).

Acharya Sushruta mentions on natal rites as:

tasmāt prathame’hni madhusarpiranantamiśraṃ , mantrapūtaṃ trikālaṃ pāyayet, dvitīye lakṣmaṇāsiddhaṃ sarpiḥ, tṛtīye ca; tataḥ prāṅnivāritastanyaṃ madhusarpiḥ svapāṇitalasammitaṃ dvikālaṃ pāyayet || – (Sushruta Samhita Sharirsthana 10/15)

The baby should be made to lick an electuary composed of honey, clarified butter and the expressed juice of Brahmi (Centella asiatica) leaves, Vacha (Acorus calamus L.), mixed with (half a Rati weight of) gold dust and given with the ring-finger of the feeder.

Acharya Kashyapa describes Swarnaprasahana in the context of Lehana.
Lehana depicts administration various herbal drugs, ghee preparations, and gold alone as supplementary feeds wherein precise indications are stated. This unique formula has been explained wherein gold should be triturated along with water, honey, and ghee on a clean stone facing eastern direction and made the Shishu (infant) lick the same.

Acharya Kashyapa has not mentioned the dosage for Swarnaprashana in specific. However, he has given general dosage of children according to age in the same context from birth. The same can be followed to fix the dosage of Swarnaprashana. A few other available references regarding per day dose of Swarna Bhasma from various texts are as listed below:

  • 1/4th–1/8th Ratti (15–30 mg) Swarna Bhasma.
  • 1 Gunja (125 mg)/As per age
  • 5–62.5 mg of Swarna Bhasma.
  • 2-4 drops

By taking these adult dosages as reference standards, dosage in children can be calculated.

When to take Swarnaprashana?

  1. On an empty stomach preferably in the morning.
  2. Do not have food at least for 30 minutes after consumption of Swarnaprashana.
  • On the day of Pushya Nakshatra.

Why Gold is indicated ?

Gold is one of the most ancient metals even used for preventive and curative purposes. It is one among the Sapta Loha (seven metals). Gold is such a noble metal, which is having substantial outcomes in the human body starting before conception until demise. Ayurveda recommends only purified and processed form of gold for internal administration. Its medicinal properties and uses are mentioned at different contexts in Ayurveda classics. Purified gold is indicated for its Vajikarana (Aphrodisiac) and Rasayana (Rejuvenator).

As the child grows, gold is also being recommended to be given alone or along with various herbal drugs for procuring better Agni (digestive power and metabolism), Bala (physical strength and immunity), Medha (intellect), Varna (color and complexion), Ayu (lifespan) etc. Swarna bhasma possesses Anti oxidants, Anti depressants, Anti cancerous, Antibacterial & Anti rheumatoid property.

The action of gold is described in the context of immunity which provides a holistic approach and a potential promise regarding immunotherapy. The pharmacological study showed specific and non- specific immune response which were modified in a positive manner in Swarna Bhasma treated mice. It also has a stimulatory effect.

Research reveals that Swarna Bhasma possesses immunomodulatory, free radical scavenging activity, analgesic antistress activity and safe. 56-57 nm gold ash acts on peritoneal macrophages, phagocytic index, free- radical scavenging activity, brain catecholamines, 5 HT and plasma corticosterone levels.

Shudha svarna also said vatashamaka, rasayana, dipana, netrya, medhya etc.

(Bhaisajyaratnavali 2/99-100 )

Gold compounds have Immuno-modulatory effects (C.K Hashimoto et.al. 1992) (14)

Benefits of Swarna Prashana

“Suwarnaprashanam Hyetanmedagni
Balavardhanam Ayushyam Mangalam
Punyam Vrushyam Varnyam Grahapaham”- Ka. Su. 18/ 4-5

  • Medha (improves intellect)
  • Agni (digestive and metabolic power)
  • Bala (strength)
  • Aayush (gives long life)
  • Mangalam (is auspicious)
  • Punyam (virtuous)
  • Vrushyam (aphrodisiac)
  • Varnya (increases complexion)
  • Grahapaham (eliminates the evil effects of planets).

The specific benefits of Swarnaprashana according to the duration of administration have been mentioned such as:

  • If administered for 1 month, the baby will become Parama Medhavi (highly intelligent).
  • If administered for 6 months, the baby will become Srutadhara (will be able to remember the things, which are just heard).

Swarna Prashana should be preferably given on pushya nakshatra day !!

The day of Pushya Nakshatra (a star in Hindu calendar) is very auspicious and according to Hindu religion all the Nakshatras have their own effect on different metals. The rays radiating on the Pushya Nakshatra day doubles the medicinal values present in gold. Pushya Nakshatra day comes once in 27 days.


  • Even slight negligence in the administered drug can cause serious adverse effects due to their highly sensitive body systems. So the gold used must be well processed.
  • All ingredients are safe and non-toxic but sometimes because of the altered ingredients dose may create side effects.
  • in certain conditions like acute fever swarna bhasma may increase the body temperature.
  • It is always advised to take a doctors opinion in such cases before taking swarna prashana.

Last but not the least, Swarnaprasana is a unique Ayurvedic process which improves your child’s immunity, memory and growth. So, give your growing child this unique advantage. The benefits of Swarnaprashana in children are multidimensional. In a nut shell, for positive health care program for children, Swarna Prashana can be the best option.

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Aug 172018

As you age, your bone density starts decreasing.  If not enough bone mass is created or bone loss occurs later in life, you have an increased risk of developing fragile bones that break easily. Consumption of healthy foods for bones can avoid such issues.

A good lifestyle habit can help you build strong bones and maintain them as you age. Adults over 50 should get 1000-, 200 milligrams of calcium and 400 to 600 IU of vitamin D. Hence, the addition of ayurvedic calcium supplements or calcium-rich foods is a must in one’s diet.

Here are 10 natural ways to build healthy bones with natural calcium supplements.

Eat Lots of Vegetables

One cup of cooked spinach contains almost 25% of your daily calcium, plus fibre, iron, and vitamin A.

One cup of cooked cabbage contains more than 25% of your daily calcium.

200 gm Cooked broccoli provides more than 25% of your daily calcium and protein and is rich in bone protective antioxidants.

100 gm amaranth in any form.  It is a good source of calciumprotein and amino acids and is rich in iron, magnesium and Vitamin A, B and C.


Getting enough protein is important for healthy bones. About 50% of bone is made of protein. Eat minimum 100 gms of any protein food daily.









Include Foods High in Magnesium and Zinc

Along with Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc also important for bone health.  a Magnesium and zinc help in converting vitamin D into the active form that promotes calcium absorption to the bones.


Nuts like almonds, cashews 20 gm per day or Brazil nuts 2 per day are the powerhouse of essential vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.  Walnuts are the great source of omega – 3 which helps to strengthen bones.

The proven powerful home remedy to take daily:

  • 1 Green ripe Banana
  • ½ glass Pomegranate juice
  • 1 pinch Cardamom Powder
  • Mix very well and take every day after the age of 40 compulsorily.
  • This remedy contains 600 mg calcium and pomegranate is helping to boost metabolism too.  So calcium is converted into bones naturally and faster.

The amazing remedy for pain in knee, hips and back an improve bone density:

Tinospora cordifolia (Rasna) powder                                     1 teaspoon

Boswella serrata (Shallaki) powder                                        1 teaspoon

Cissus quadrangularis (Asthishrunkhala) powder              1 teaspoon

You can write to Ayushakti vaidyas and get a free advice on how to manage your health naturally. Email: info@ayushakti.com.  Website: Visit.

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Dec 272017

Fire ants sting can cause lots of uncomfortable feelings including itching, burning swelling, raised bumps, pus-filled lesions, or spreading redness on your skin within a few hours or more. There are some rare cases; however, fire ant bites can lead to death in humans because fire ant has the toxin similar the one of wasp sting or result in an allergic reaction. These symptoms appear after fire ants remove chunks of your skin with their mandibles, and fire ants sting with their venom. More than 220 species of fire ants are now found around the world. This writing will explore the top natural remedies for fire ant bites including how to treat the itching and prevent infection from fire ant bites.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Unlike formic acid found in the sprayed venom of other ants, the venom of fire ants is alkaline. Apple cider vinegar is one of the top natural remedies for fire ant bites. It works by neutralizing the venom and decrease the pain, itch, and inflammation caused by fire ant bites.


Apply some apple cider vinegar on the skin areas stung by fire ants. Leave it and massage gently for 15-20 minutes.

Lemon Juice

If apple cider vinegar is unavailable, lemon juice with citric acid will work in neutralizing the alkaline venom.


Apply some fresh lemon juice on the skin areas stung by fire ants. Leave it and massage gently for 15-20 minutes. You can also apply limes or fresh orange juice if lemons are unavailable.

Raw Potato

Raw potato is mildly acidic (PH= 5-6), so it is quite useful in easing itching and inflammation as well as reducing swelling caused by fire ant bites.


Place some slices of raw potato on the skin areas stung by fire ants. Leave it for 15-20 minutes.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is one of the great natural remedies for fire ant bites. It may reduce the itching, redness on the affected areas. Baking soda works as a wonderful natural acid neutralizer which helps lessen the effect of the fire ant venom. This also reduces the risk of infection from fire ant bites.


Apply some baking soda water on the affected areas. Leave it for 15-20 minutes. If the itchy and burning feelings persist, you should apply the paste again after a few minutes.


Oatmeal is a pretty effective home remedy for any type of itching, burning feeling and inflammation. Oatmeal contains soothing properties, anti-irritating, and anti-inflammatory which may relieve you from itching and burning feeling as well as reduce inflammation.


Stir thoroughly some cups of oatmeal in a bathtub which is filled with warm water and.

Soak your body in this water for 30 minutes. If the itchy and burning feelings persist, you should repeat this after a few minutes.


Onion with potent anti-inflammatory properties is beneficial in treating various skin conditions. So, it helps to cure itch and swelling. Onion contains the sulfenic acid which can neutralize the venom and decrease the pain, itch, and inflammation caused by fire ant bites. However, the sulfenic acid turns into sulphuric acid, causing you crying in a few seconds when it reaches your eyes.


Place some thinly-sliced onions on the skin areas stung by fire ants. Leave it for 15-20 minutes.

Raw Honey

Raw honey is another of natural remedies for fire ant bites. Honey contains antibacterial activity and skin-soothing properties which may lessen itch and swelling caused by fire ant bites quickly.


Apply some raw honey on the skin areas stung by fire ants. Leave it and massage gently for 15-20 minutes.


Cucumber contains caffeic acid and ascorbic acid which may reduce itch and swelling caused by fire ant stings by neutralizing the alkaline venom of fire ants. Cucumber also contains anti-inflammatory properties which may cure and prevent inflammation on areas affected by fire ant bites.


Apply some fresh cucumber on the skin areas stung by fire ants. Leave it for 15-20 minutes.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is really effective in reducing symptoms associated with the fire ant venom because it contains oleocanthal content which may inhibit inflammatory enzymes including COX-1 and COX-2.


Apply some olive oil on the skin areas stung by fire ants. Leave it and massage gently for 15-20 minutes.

Eucalyptus Oil

According to researchers, eucalyptus oil has various antibacterial, antibiotic and immune-modifying properties such as eucalyptol, a chemical which helps to fight against skin irritation caused by fire ant bites.


Apply some eucalyptus oil on the skin areas stung by fire ants. Leave it and massage gently for 15-20 minutes.

In conclusion, you need to be far away from fire ants as much as possible. However, in case of being attacked by fire ants, the top natural remedies for fire ant bites mentioned above are effective ways on how to reduce itchy and burning feelings from fire ant bites. If you enjoy our list of the top natural remedies for fire ant bites, please click like and share for more articles and leave your comments below.

Posted by Huyen My, a health and beauty expert at AllRemedies.com

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Jul 172016
Natural remedies are popular. But are they an appropriate substitute for medication?

Natural remedies are popular. But are they an appropriate substitute for medication?

The idea of taking medication can be frightening. And as consumers and patients that want to make our own informed health decisions, it’s understandable and even appropriate to question our physicians when they recommend drug treatments. We need to understand the rationale for any medication that’s recommended or prescribed, the benefits of therapy, the side effects, and if there are any other approaches that might be more appropriate. Dietary supplements and natural health products are widely marketed as being safe and effective, and are occupying more and more shelf space in pharmacies, usually right beside the pharmacy counter. Many of my patient encounters in the pharmacy have included a discussion on the merits of drug therapy, versus the supplements that may have flashy packaging and impressive claims of effectiveness.

One encounter from my time working at a local pharmacy still sticks with me. I met a new patient who was anxious and eager to get my advice. He’d been cautioned by his family doctor that he was on the borderline of being diagnosed with diabetes. He had come to the pharmacy seeking a supplement that could help him avoid diabetes and medication. Rather than recommend any supplement, I suggested that the best approach he could probably take would be to lose some weight and get some exercise – it could be more effective than any supplement or drug, and would definitely help his health. He agreed, and then asked me what supplement he could take that could help him with some weight loss.

This type of discussion occurs all the time, and seems more common when there’s a lack of trust in the physician, or when the goals of treatment aren’t understood. The patient, reluctant to accept the physician’s recommendation, heads to the pharmacy for what they believe is a second opinion. In some cases, the patient may question the physician’s advice: “All my physician wants to do is prescribe drugs,” is a statement I’ve heard more than once. In those that are reluctant to accept medical treatment, there’s often a willingness to consider anything that’s available without a prescription – particularly if it’s perceived as “natural.” Natural products and dietary supplements are thought to be gentle, safe, and effective, while medicine may be felt to be unnatural, harsh, and potentially dangerous. Yet when I explain to patients that there’s actually little evidence to suggest most supplements offer any meaningful health benefits, I am sometimes met with puzzled or dismissive looks. The supplement industry’s marketing has been remarkably effective, glossing over the fact that the research done on dietary supplements is overall unconvincing and largely negative when it comes to having anything useful to offer for health.

Given I want to ensure patients are making informed health decisions based on good scientific evidence, I was eager to read a post that naturopath Reuben Dinsmore recently posted on the website of the British Columbia Naturopaths Association (BCNA). Entitled “The Top Five Medications You Shouldn’t Take Without Trying a Natural Alternative First,” Dinsmore states that supplements can offer all the benefits yet none of the side effects of prescription drugs:

Natural supplements, or nutraceuticals, have been given a bad rap lately—which, in some cases, has been absolutely warranted. But natural formulas that actually contain what they claim on the label, and that are formulated to have maximal efficacy, can be equal to their pharmaceutical counterparts. Better yet, they can be just as effective without the laundry list of side effects.

I approached the article with curiosity. Are supplements an appropriate therapy before medication? I have no bias against supplements, but I do have a bias against unsubstantiated claims. I want to know what works, supplement, drug or otherwise. I looked at each recommendation as if it was given to me by a patient in the pharmacy, and evaluate it against the scientific evidence.

Understanding the naturopathic approach

I’ve written multiple posts in the past about treatment claims by naturopaths, and how they stack up against the scientific evidence. Naturopaths offer an array of unconventional health practices like homeopathy, acupuncture and herbalism that are linked philosophically by a belief in vitalism – the prescientific idea we have a “life force”. From this philosophy can sometimes emerge sensible health advice, but it can also be illogical and even potentially harmful. In past posts I’ve looked at the naturopathic perspectives on fake diseases, infertility, autism, prenatal vitamins, vaccinations, allergies, and even scientific facts themselves. As long as a treatment is viewed as being congruent with the naturopathic belief system, it’s acceptably “naturopathic” – no matter what the scientific evidence says. Despite this obvious disconnect from science-based medicine, naturopaths present themselves as primary care providers, just like medical doctors. The BCNA’s own marketing campaign describes naturopaths as “medically trained”:


Britt Hermes is a former naturopath and has written extensively about naturopathy, and her perspective is clear: There are no naturopathic standards of care and naturopathic training is very different than what naturopaths claim. She argues is that naturopathy has too much quackery and that what actually makes naturopathy unique is its embrace of pseudoscience.

So let’s examine the five categories of drugs that Dinsmore says have equally effective natural remedies. He lists statins, antacids, SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), antihypertensives, and benzodiazepines.

Statins for high cholesterol

Why do we treat it?

High cholesterol has no symptoms. We treat high cholesterol to lower the risk of heart disease: heart attacks, strokes, and death. One’s risk of heart disease goes up with the LDL cholesterol level, along with the total number of heart disease risk factors.

When is drug treatment appropriate?

High cholesterol doesn’t mean that drug treatment is mandatory. An assessment will include age, family history, and other health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or a prior heart attack or stroke. Lifestyle changes are important: A healthy diet, an appropriate weight, regular physical exercise, and quitting smoking can also reduce your risk of heart disease. In those at low risk, drug therapy many not be necessary. “Statins” are a class of drugs that reduce LDL cholesterol. In those with a prior heart attack or stroke, the benefits of treatment with drugs like statins are well documented.

What benefits have drugs been shown to offer?

There’s two general uses for statin therapy: primary prevention (avoiding a first heart attack or stroke), and secondary prevention (using a statin in someone that has already had a heart attack or stroke) to reduce the risk of another cardiovascular event. There is good evidence that statins reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, when used for both primary and secondary prevention. Much of the debate on the usefulness of statins has focused on the net benefit when used in lower-risk groups. This is a fair question, and one that I’ve discussed at length previously. But what is not in question is that statins have been proven to reduce the risk of heart attacks, stroke, and death.

What does naturopathy suggest?

As per Dinsmore:

High cholesterol is blamed for heart attacks and strokes via formation of arterial plaques. But the real culprit is inflammation, without which the plaques wouldn’t form in the first place. Bottom line: You can lower cholesterol all you want, but as long as there is inflammation present, plaques can still form.

Some common side effects of statins include muscle pain, cognitive impairment, sexual dysfunction, and increased risk of cancer and diabetes.

Nutraceuticals are an alternative to statins. These include: Omega-3 fatty acids (best sourced from wild-caught fish oils) and curcumin (the active component in turmeric). Both are excellent supplements to lower inflammation. Garlic extracts have been proven to improve cholesterol levels as well. Another option I discuss with patients is red rice yeast extract, which is the natural compound statins were derived from in the first place, and works in a similar manner. This product may have side effects; I find that it can be beneficial for some patients, but not all, something I deal with on a patient by patient basis.

What evidence supports the use of naturopathic treatments?

The reason we use drug therapy to treat high cholesterol is to lower the risk of heart attacks, stroke, and death. Consequently, that’s the benefit we want to see when we consider taking any treatment – naturopathic or drug. Statins are proven effective, so that’s the effectiveness we should be looking for if we’re going to use supplements as an alternative. There is no published evidence to demonstrate that garlic extracts or curcurmin supplements can prevent heart attacks and stroke, or reduce the risk of death. The data are a bit more encouraging with omega-3 fatty acids (which, incidentally, exist as both a drug and a supplement with different regulatory standards for each), but whether or not these products actually produce a real survival advantage is not clear. There is a Cochrane review on dietary modifications for the treatment of high cholesterol, in which the authors conclude:

No conclusions can be made about the effectiveness of a cholesterol-lowering diet, or any of the other dietary interventions suggested for familial hypercholesterolaemia, for the primary outcomes: evidence and incidence of ischaemic heart disease, number of deaths and age at death, due to the lack of data on these. Large, parallel, randomised controlled trials are needed to investigate the effectiveness of a cholesterol-lowering diet and the addition of omega-3 fatty acids, plant sterols or stanols, soya protein, dietary fibers to a cholesterol-lowering diet.

Red rice yeast extract is effectively a natural but crude source of the statin drug lovastatin (the active molecules are identical). There are questions about its safety that are exclusive to red yeast rice, but not present with prescription drugs. Why red rice yeast extract would be preferred over a drug product is unclear, unless one puts a priority on something “natural” over something that’s standardized, predictable, and demonstrated to be effective.

What approach has the best evidence?

Statins provide proven benefits, reducing heart attacks, strokes, and the risk of death. Even if a supplement reduces cholesterol levels, real benefits haven’t been established. There’s no obvious reason to use supplements for high cholesterol.

“Antacids” (anti-ulcer medications for gastro-esophageal reflux)

Why do we treat it?

The reflux of stomach contents, often called “heartburn” requires medical attention when there is damage to the esophagus, or there are unpleasant symptoms. The objective of treatment is to repair any tissue damage and/or to reduce the symptoms of heartburn.

When is drug treatment appropriate?

So called “lifestyle” modifications are usually recommended first, and they aren’t always effective. Weight loss (if appropriate) can provide relief, as can elevating the head of the bed for those with heartburn at night. Minimizing specific foods or “triggers” is usually not necessary, but some find this approach helpful. Drug treatment with medications like proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which suppress stomach acid production, are usually appropriate when symptoms are severe, or where there’s esophageal damage.

What benefits have drugs been shown to offer?

PPIs are among the most effective drugs to treat heartburn and heal esophagitis. PPIs are well tolerated over the short term. When acid production is suppressed for long-term periods (months to years), there are concerns this may predispose people to infections and malabsorption conditions. Whether or not PPIs raise the risk of osteoporosis or hip fractures isn’t clear. Many people find these medications highly effective, but some stay on therapy far longer than necessary. Current guidance suggests the lowest dose should be used for the shortest duration possible to minimize these risks.

What does naturopathy suggest?

As per Dinsmore:

It’s said that five million Canadians suffer from heartburn symptoms weekly. Prescriptions for the acid-blocking drugs PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) accounted for $24 million in BC alone in 2013. Risks of taking these mostly involve nutrient deficiencies from poor absorption DUE TO LOW STOMACH ACID (see the problem here?). Examples include bone fractures from poor calcium absorption or anemia from decreased levels of vitamin B12 or iron. B12 deficiency can also cause dementia and neurological damage. There has also been a correlation shown between PPI use and C. difficile infection, which causes life-threatening diarrhea.

Nutraceuticals: Long story short, most people don’t have too much stomach acid. The problem is the acid they have is getting into the wrong place (the lower esophagus) where it burns. This can be from the muscle between the esophagus and the stomach not closing properly, either from poor tone or insufficient stomach acid, which is the signal for the sphincter to close. Limonene (an extract from citrus peel) helps strengthen this muscle and promotes movement of food downward to the stomach. DGL (an extract from licorice root) stimulates mucus production in the stomach, which acts to coat and protect the sensitive lining of the esophagus.

What evidence supports the use of naturopathic treatments?

Limonene is an ingredient in citrus oils, and is considered “possibly safe” as a supplement by the Natural Medicines database. I could locate no published evidence in PubMed it has been studied for heartburn or GERD. I did find a reference to clinical trials in Alternative Medicine Review, but there’s not a lot of information to review: one trial had 19 adults and had no control group. The other had just 13 participants but was randomized and blinded, noting improvements in heartburn symptoms with limonene. There’s not much safety information on limonene, and it appears to have multiple interactions with drugs. How limonene might work isn’t clear. Long-term effects haven’t been reported.

Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is licorice processed to remove the glycyrrhizic acid, which can cause steroid-like side effects when consumed in excess. Short term use of licorice as a supplement is considered “possibly safe” and long-term use is considered “possibly unsafe”. Some branded supplements combining licorice with other herbal ingredients have been studied for the treatment of acid reflux, stomach pain and cramping. How DGL might work isn’t clear. There’s a lack of evidence to suggest DGL is effective.

What approach has the best evidence?

There’s good evidence to show PPIs work, and they work quickly. There are some concerns when used for long-term purposes. The effectiveness of the remedies suggested by Dinsmore is unclear, as is their long-term safety. Given the lack of good evidence showing they work, I wouldn’t recommend the products, but if someone wanted to try them for mild heartburn, they appear to be low risk when used for short-term use.

SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) for depression

Why do we treat it?

Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder and a major public health issue. It is associated with functional disability and greater risk of death. It frequently recurs.

When is drug treatment appropriate?

We treat depression to put symptoms into remission and to restore baseline (pre-depression) levels of function. The usual initial treatment of depression can include drug therapy or psychotherapy. Psychotherapy alone appears to be just as effective as drug therapy alone. There’s some evidence the combination may be more effective than either approach alone.

What benefits have drugs been shown to offer?

Antidepressants can help with depression, but the magnitude of that benefit has been questioned. The overall advantage of antidepressants over placebo can be modest for mild-to-moderate depression. Selective publication of trials may have led to an overestimate of the efficacy of antidepressants. SSRI’s or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are a popular class of antidepressant medications. No particular SSRI is dramatically and consistently superior to any other antidepressant drug in terms of effectiveness, but the side effects can vary. In severe cases of depression, drug therapy is combined with psychotherapy.

What does naturopathy suggest?

As per Dinsmore:

SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are the most common class of anti-depressant drugs. One in twelve Canadians will experience major depression in their lifetime, but it’s still one of the most misunderstood conditions. Standard treatment protocols typically target neurotransmitter activity (most commonly serotonin). However, new research indicates the underlying cause may actually be inflammation. Either way, natural medicine has you covered.

Some nutraceuticals to consider are 5-HTP, which is used to make serotonin, with the help of vitamin B6. The herb St. John’s Wort has been studied extensively and appears to work in the same way as SSRIs. Both 5-HTP and St. John’s wort have shown similar efficacy to SSRIs when given for mild to moderate depression. And as I mentioned earlier, omega-3 fatty acids and curcumin decrease inflammation throughout the body, including the brain.

Side effects of SSRIs include sexual dysfunction, weight gain, and worsened/chronic depression. St. John’s wort also has a side effect which should be considered if taking other medications—it impacts liver function, which can result in either higher or lower blood medication levels.

What evidence supports the use of naturopathic treatments?

5-HTP is considered “possibly effective” for the treatment of depression by the Natural Medicines database. It notes:

Overall, despite the preliminary beneficial effects shown in clinical research, the trials to date are generally small and have methodological problems or a lack of generalizability to mixed populations of depressed people. More higher-quality studies in larger patient populations are needed to confirm these result.

St. John’s Wort is considered to be “likely effective” for the treatment of depression by the Natural Medicines database. It’s an interesting natural product that is used widely for antidepressant effects. Trials have many limitations, but the data suggest that SJW may be as effective as SSRIs, but the evidence is less consistent. However, it’s not recommended in most treatment guidelines for many of the reasons discussed before at this blog: preparations of the product are often not standardized, supplement manufacturing quality is not clear, and the dosing may consequently not be predictable. Moreover, St. John’s Wort causes a wide array of drug interactions with other medications, making it difficult to use safely.

What approach has the best evidence?

Overall, there’s better evidence with the SSRIs compared to 5-HTP and St. John’s Wort. However, a decision to use St. John’s Wort is effectively a decision to use medicine, so unsupervised, unmonitored use, when treating depression, should be avoided.

Anti-hypertensives for the treatment of high blood pressure

Why do we treat it?

Untreated high blood pressure, or hypertension, can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease. We treat hypertension to reduce these risks.

When is drug treatment appropriate?

Non-drug treatments are usually considered before drug therapy, and can reduce the need for medication. Weight reduction (when necessary), quitting smoking, avoiding excessive alcohol, a healthy, reduced-salt diet, and regular exercise are all low-risk strategies that can be beneficial. Drug therapy can have side effects. People are usually unwilling to tolerate side effects for a symptomless condition, unless there is a good reason to take medication. There is good evidence that drug therapy provides real benefits to those with hypertension that can’t be controlled by lifestyle changes.

What benefits have drugs been shown to offer?

When drug treatment is considered appropriate (usually when blood pressure exceeds 140/90), there are multiple treatment options that may be appropriate. From Up-to-Date:

In large-scale randomized trials, antihypertensive therapy produces a nearly 50 percent relative risk reduction in the incidence of heart failure, a 30 to 40 percent relative risk reduction in stroke, and a 20 to 25 percent relative risk reduction in myocardial infarction.

The absolute benefit is less impressive, but still real: There’s an approximate 2% reduction in heart attacks and strokes. The benefits of medical treatment are not as clear in those with mild hypertension, those with few risk factors, or the frail elderly.

What does naturopathy suggest?

As per Dinsmore:

Hypertension (i.e., high blood pressure) affects 6 million Canadians, and is responsible for approximately 13 per cent of all deaths. Various classes of anti-hypertensives include diuretics, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs). Diuretics increase urine output, which can negatively affect sodium and potassium levels, which can cause muscle cramps. ACEIs and ARBs may both cause a chronic dry cough. All anti-hypertensives can cause dizziness, headache and low blood pressure.

Again, there are many nutraceutical options for patients to consider, such as CoQ10, magnesium, garlic extracts, omega-3 fatty acids, L-arginine and vitamin C. All of these have all been shown to lower high blood pressure by various means. Dandelion leaf is an effective diuretic that doesn’t lower potassium levels.

What evidence supports the use of naturopathic treatments?

I could find no published evidence that coenzyme-q10, magnesium, garlic, omega-3 fatty acids, l-arginine, or vitamin C supplements reduce the risk of heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, or kidney disease. There is some evidence to show that eating fatty fish (a source of omega-3 fatty acids) can reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke. Omega-3 supplements (also discussed above for hypercholesterolemia) may modestly reduce blood pressure. None of the products listed are considered both safe and effective for treatment of hypertension by the Natural Medicines database. I could find no published evidence that demonstrates dandelion leaf is an effective hypertension treatment.

What approach has the best evidence?

The only reason to treat hypertension with a drug or supplement is to reduce the risk of a future catastrophic event. If medicine is necessary, there’s little reason to choose a “natural” remedy first, as the real-world benefits of supplements have not been proven.

Benzodiazepines for anxiety and insomnia

Why do we treat it?

The term “anxiety” describes worries and fears that are difficult to control and can cause debilitating effects. Insomnia describes difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. We treat both to reduce the consequences of these conditions, and to restore normal functioning.

When is drug treatment appropriate?

After a workup for underlying causes of anxiety or insomnia, drug therapy might be considered after options like lifestyle changes and cognitive behavioral therapy have been attempted. Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that can be useful treatments for anxiety and insomnia, though they are usually not the first choice for either condition. There are justified concerns about dependence and tolerance with benzodiazepines, reinforcing the importance of using these medications cautiously and when the benefits are expected to outweigh the risks.

What benefits have drugs been shown to offer?

Benzodiazepines can work quickly and can be effective in anxiety where there’s a poor response to other medications. They are also effective insomnia treatments, with some taking effect within minutes.

What does naturopathy suggest?

As per Dinsmore:

Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs most often prescribed for anxiety disorders and insomnia. They work by binding to receptors for GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain that calms activity of the nervous system. Interestingly, this is the same mechanism by which alcohol acts in the brain. One obvious effect of benzodiazepines is sedation—great when the treatment target is insomnia. Not so great when you just want to decrease your anxiety but still function. Other side effects include dizziness, loss of balance, and even cognitive impairment at higher doses. They also have a significant risk of developing physical or psychological dependence and rebound anxiety when discontinued.

This is an area where you should have a thorough workup with your naturopathic doctor and consider the options that are right for you. You can take GABA as an alternative (but there’s mixed evidence on whether or not it actually gets into the brain), or herbs such as passionflower (which has the same mechanism of action as benzodiazepines). Other herbs include valerian, chamomile, kava, and many others.

What evidence supports the use of naturopathic treatments?

Up-to-Date has a nice summary:

A variety of herbal products are purported to be useful for insomnia. There is little evidence from randomized controlled trials about the efficacy of many herbals, however, and for those that have been well studied (eg, valerian), there is little evidence of benefit. A meta-analysis that included 14 randomized trials in over 1600 patients found no significant difference between any herbal medicine and placebo on any of 13 clinical efficacy measures of insomnia [94]. The majority of the trials (11 out of 14) studied valerian; chamomile, kava, and wuling were studied in one trial each. Unlike the other herbals studied, valerian was associated with a greater number of adverse events per person compared with placebo. Valerian may also produce hepatotoxic effects [1]. Contamination with undesirable substances poses a problem for many such natural remedies.

And for natural treatments of anxiety, Up-to-Date notes:

None of the herbal remedies described here been shown in clinical trials to be clearly effective or ineffective for anxiety symptoms or disorders. Trials suggest that kava and chamomile may reduce anxiety in some people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Findings from trials of valerian, passion flower, and St. John’s wort are either mixed or negative. Patients may wrongly equate “herbal” with terms such as “good,” “weak,” or “healthy” in evaluating these remedies. These perspectives underestimate their potential risks; some herbs can be potent, poisonous, or addictive. Potentially serious adverse effects of herbal remedies discussed here include hepatotoxicity with kava and anticoagulation with chamomile. It is not known if these remedies are safe or unsafe during pregnancy.

What approach has the best evidence?

It’s understandable to want to avoid benzodiazepines, but they can provide real and demonstrated benefit in select circumstances with close monitoring from a physician. There’s a lack of evidence to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of any of the herbal remedies recommended for the treatment of anxiety or insomnia.

Conclusion: The evidence simply doesn’t support these natural treatments

Naturopaths claim that they can effectively manage medical conditions with “natural” approaches, but the evidence supporting these recommendations has been consistently shown to be absent or weak. It may be that the treatment goals are not understood, which may explain why therapies without any demonstrated benefit are being recommended before proven therapies. In some cases, avoiding drug therapy and using natural remedies may be harmful. In light of the recommendations above, it seems prudent to discuss any naturopathic advice with a health professional like a pharmacist or physician before making any decision to delay medically-recommended drug therapy, or substitute a natural remedy or dietary supplement.

This is a cross-post from Science-Based Medicine. Comments are open there.

Photo from flickr user Ryan Somma used under a CC licence.

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Oct 282015

Our skin is our largest organ in the body and serves many different functions such as protection and elimination. Often we just take our skin health for granted and when we have small dry patches or outbreaks we tend to reach for a quick fix rather then look deeper into what the underlying causes might be. In this post I’ll be sharing 6 dos and don’ts for skin.

Do eat plenty of Omega 3 fatty acids:
These important fats help keep the skin soft and hydrated and can reduce the risk of wrinkles. Add chia seeds to your muesli or smoothies, or eat more Salmon as a regular part of your diet. “Omega 3 fatty acids help lock moisture into skin cells along with maintaining and boosting elastin and collagen production” says Lisa Guy ND.

Do Drink Plenty of Water:
Hydrated skin is good looking skin. Dehydration tends to make your skin look dull and show more fine lines. Your skin is 30% water so drink as much pure, clean water as you can, –  up to 2 litres per day is ideal.

Do Eat Chocolate!:
This one may surprise you but chocolate in the form of raw cacao is actually beneficial for your skin. It has both Omega 3 fats an antioxidants, as well a Vitamin C, so you can eat raw, unprocessed chocolate guilt free! Just avoid the processed kind full of sugar!

Do Eat Foods Rich in Vitamin E:
Vitamin E is a fat soluble antioxidant found in your skin. When you eat foods containing vitamin E you will be feeding your skin and helping it to maintain its protective layer. Good vitamin E sources include avocado, cold pressed virgin olive oil, dark green leafy vegetables and nuts such as almonds and pecans.

Don’t Use Chemical Skin Products:
Many skin products have harsh chemicals that damage or upset the balance of your skin. It is known that skin absorbs around 60% of chemicals found in skin products. You really don’t have to spend a fortune on skin products as simple unadulterated natural products can do a better job and cost very little.  Organic Rose Hip oil for example takes care of the integrity and protective outer mantle of your skin and helps reduce wrinkles and fine lines as well as scarring at the same time. As it is very important to maintain the natural PH of your skin to allow it to do its protective job. The main chemicals to avoid are parabens, DEA, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Para-Dioxane and PEG; also avoid petroleum based products and bismuth. Choose 100% organic, natural skin care products.

Don’t Forget Vitamin D:
Vitamin D is more important in the body than many realise; and is key for healthy skin renewal. Vitamin D3 is made in the skin when it is exposed to UV-B rays so it is important to expose your skin sensibly in the sunshine without sunblock to ensure your body can make the required levels. Some studies have shown that an SPF 0f 15 reduces your vitamin D protection in your skin by 98%. Lisa Guy ND recommends 10-15 minutes exposure in the summer to allow your body to create valuable Vitamin D that can help fight free radicals in the epidermal layers of the skin. Vitamin D food sources include: oily fish, egg yolks and mushrooms.

Sam Adkins
My name is Sam Adkins, known also as The Homeopathic Coach. I have been working as a Homeopath since 2003 in both Australia, the UK and internationally via skype. I am also a qualified and experienced holistic counsellor using a Process Oriented Psychology approach. I like to combine both these skill sets to facilitate greater balance, wellness and happiness for my clients.

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