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Do You Need Supplements? An Evidence-Based Discussion – Part II


Do you need Supplements? and Evidence-Based Discussion - Part II

 

Botanical Medicine

Botanical medicine, also known as herbal medicine, is the science and practice of using medicinal plants and extracts to support wellness, improve overall health, and treat both chronic and acute illnesses. The use of plants for healing purposes predates recorded history, and many powerful modern medications originate from plant sources. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 80% of the population in developing countries still depends on traditional medicines, which are mostly prepared from plants, for the prevention and treatment of diseases. Traditional medicine from plant extracts is more affordable, clinically effective, and results in relatively fewer adverse effects when compared to pharmaceuticals. A century ago, most of the effective drugs were plant-based. Examples of plant-based pharmaceuticals include aspirin, digoxin, quinine, morphine, metformin, guaifenesin, lidocaine, pseudoephedrine, simvastatin, tramadol, and warfarin. And, the pharmaceutical industry's interest in the clinical application of the phytochemical constituents extracted from medicinal plants has increased significantly over the years. The practice of botanical medicine combines evidence-based science with centuries-old experience to support balanced health. Botanical medicine could be an effective option for those with health concerns ranging from frequent colds and flu to gastrointestinal discomfort, diabetes, infection, inflammation, anxiety, depression, and more.1,2

Here is a brief overview of the current medical research for seven fascinating botanicals:

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

Ashwagandha is a relaxing adaptogen that has been used for more than 3000 years in Ayurvedic medicine for many health concerns, including stress management, energy support, and improving cognitive health.3,4 The withanolides in Ashwagandha are sterol compounds responsible for the beneficial adaptogenic and other effects.5 In a well-designed clinical trial, individuals under chronic stress who took an Ashwagandha extract saw their serum cortisol levels substantially reduced compared to those who received the placebo. The group of subjects that received Ashwagandha also showed substantial reductions in four additional stress assessments. The Ashwagandha extract reduced the “Anxiety and Insomnia” item-subset score of the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28) by 69.7%, the “Stress” item-subset score of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS) by 64.2%, the “Anxiety” item-subset score of the DASS by 75.6%, and the score of the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) by 44%.6

Animal studies suggest Ashwagandha offers anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, immunomodulatory, neuro-regenerative, nootropic, neuroprotective, liver-protective, heart-protective, kidney-protective, cholesterol-lowering, hypoglycemic, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral activity; and could be an antidote for arsenic toxicity.7 According to a clinical trial by Wankhede et al., Ashwagandha supplementation is associated with a significant increase in muscle mass and strength, which suggests that Ashwagandha supplementation may be beneficial in conjunction with a resistance training program.8

Ashwagandha is available in Flavo PlexC™, Adapt™, and Thyro-Dyne™ formulations from Interplexus.

Wormwood (Artemisia annua)

The medical literature describes Artemisia annua as anti-hyperlipidemic, anti-plasmodial, anti-convulsant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, antitumor, liver-protective, antifungal, antioxidant, anti-asthmatic, anti-hyperglycemic, and anti-obesity.9,10 The World Health Organization (WHO) strongly recommends artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) as a first-line treatment for Plasmodium falciparum malaria due to the presence of high-certainty evidence for its clinical efficacy.11 Research studies also show Artemisia offers strong antimicrobial properties towards numerous bacterial, fungal, and other parasitic pathogens, including Streptococcus pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Haemophilus influenzae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Candida albicans, Candida krusei, and Giardia.12,13 Furthermore, compounds in Artemisia annua inhibit cytomegalovirus (CMV) and other members of the Herpesviridae family (e.g., herpes simplex virus type 1 and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)), oncogenic human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and hepatitis C virus (HCV), as demonstrated in both in vivo and in vitro studies.14,15

Animal studies confirm Artemisia extracts are effective for many inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, and allergic disorders.16 Artemisia annua is also a promising prospect for the treatment of chronic liver disease, according to the data.17

Artemisia annua is available in the ProEnt2 Plus™ formulation from Interplexus.*

Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)

While we often think of milk thistle as a botanical that supports the health of the liver, accumulating scientific evidence from many in vitro and in vivo studies confirm Silybum marianum offers multiple pharmacological qualities, including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antidiabetic, antioxidant, heart-protective, neuroprotective, kidney-protective, anti-fibrotic, choleretic, and detoxification activities.18,19 Clinical and laboratory studies confirm Silybum marianum does exhibit protective effects against acute liver injury, liver fibrosis, and acute hepatitis, therefore; Silybum marianum is widely used by those with liver diseases, including alcoholic liver disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and liver toxicity caused by chemicals, such as drugs, heavy metals, and pesticides.17 Research also suggests milk thistle offers antiviral and antifungal properties since it inhibits the growth of Candida albicans and the replication of HCV and the human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1). Several animal studies demonstrate anticancer effects against many types of cancer, including liver cancer, colon cancer, and glioblastoma. Silybum marianum ameliorates anxiety and depression-related behaviors in animal studies, and clinical trials confirm Silybum marianum reduces glucose and insulin levels in patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus.18

Silybum marianum is available in the ProEnt2 Plus™ formulation from Interplexus.*

Berberine (derived from Hydrastis canadensis, Mahonia aquifolium, Berberis vulgaris, and other plants)

Berberine (BBR) is a natural compound found in many different plants. BBR is an “isoquinoline alkaloid” with low toxicity that exhibits numerous beneficial biochemical and pharmacological activities, including antidiabetic, cholesterol-lowering, anti-inflammatory, antidiarrheal, liver-protective, antidepressant, anticancer, blood pressure-lowering, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. BBR has a protective effect on the central nervous system, and in recent years, empirical and scientific evidence has shown BBR possesses strong antiviral activity against several different viruses, including herpes viruses, influenza viruses, and respiratory syncytial viruses.20

Berberine easily crosses the blood-brain barrier after systemic administration and is, therefore, a promising compound for disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral ischemia, mental depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.21 Robust clinical trials have studied the effects of BBR on cardio-metabolic disease, and data conclude BBR improves the blood lipid profile, glucose level, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, endothelial function, body weight, and systemic inflammation. In fact, according to the data, BBR exerts a hypoglycemic effect comparable to that of the medication metformin and is more effective than the medication simvastatin in reducing LDL-C, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.22 Berberine also demonstrates anti-obesity activity via the downregulation of adipogenesis and lipogenesis.21

Not only is BBR known to be an anticancer agent, but research studies have elucidated the many underlying mechanisms of action, including cell cycle arrest, apoptosis induction, modulation of the MAPK pathway, transcription regulation, inhibition of metastasis, inhibition of angiogenesis, inhibition of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, anti-inflammatory activity, and others.22

Berberine is available in the ProEnt2 Plus™ formulation from Interplexus.*

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Traditionally, Zingiber officinale has been used for several common ailments, including colds, nausea, vomiting, and headaches. Researchers have isolated and identified the numerous bioactive compounds in ginger responsible for its efficacy, including 6-gingerol, 6-shogaol, 10-gingerol, gingerdiones, gingerdiols, and paradols. These compounds exhibit antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, bronchodilating, and antimicrobial qualities. Moreover, modern research has demonstrated ginger possesses the potential to prevent and manage several health concerns, such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, obesity, neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, and respiratory disorders.23,24

In a randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled study, obese women supplementing with two grams of ginger powder daily significantly reduced their body mass index (BMI). Moreover, the data suggest the intake of dried ginger powder could reduce respiratory exchange ratios and promote fat utilization by increasing fat oxidation in humans. In another randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled trial, patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus who took ginger decreased their levels of insulin, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and triglycerides; decreased the homeostasis model assessment (HOMA) index; and increased the quantitative insulin sensitivity check index.23,24

Since oxidative stress contributes to the pathogenesis of aging and degenerative diseases, ginger has been widely studied with in vitro, in vivo, and human studies, and several reports have documented the effect of ginger as an antioxidant on delaying the aging of several organs, including the heart, lung, and brain. Moreover, ginger extract is considered an effective anti-inflammatory agent in preventing osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, and hypertension.24

In recent years, ginger has also been reported to show antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral activities via several mechanisms, including the suppression of biofilm formation, hyphal inhibition, ergosterol biosynthesis, bacterial adherence, and viral attachment and internalization. Ginger has shown efficacy against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Streptococcus mutans, Staphylococcus aureus, Fusarium verticillioides, Salmonella typhimurium, Escherichia coli, Aspergillus flavus, Candida auris, Candida albicans, human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV), and HCV.23,24 Furthermore, according to data from a study by Guo et al., ginger may improve health by restoring the diversity and functions of the gut microbiota.25,26,27

Zingiber officinale is available in the ProEnt2 Plus™ formulation from Interplexus.*

Chinese Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis)

Chinese Skullcap is a common heat-clearing medicine in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and has been used for thousands of years in China and its neighboring countries for treating cold, flu, fever, diarrhea, jaundice, headache, abdominal pain, drenching, and other health concerns.28

Modern research suggests Scutellaria baicalensis extracts and compounds also offer a wide spectrum of anti-tumor activities, both in vitro and in vivo, against liver cancer, gastric cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer, brain cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, mucoepidermoid carcinoma, colorectal cancer, gallbladder carcinoma, oral cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.29

Based on the data, it is also reasonable to assume that S. baicalensis and its compounds possess a common, non-specific anti-viral mechanism based on its inhibitory effects on different types of viruses. Scutellaria baicalensis extracts and compounds exert broad-spectrum anti-viral activities against HIV, influenza virus, DENV, HBV, and HTLV-I. Furthermore, the compounds baicalein, baicalin, and wogonin could also inhibit other types of viruses, including HIV, herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1), Moloney murine leukemia virus, Rous-associated virus type 2, and Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD).29

The compounds in Scutellaria baicalensis possess remarkable anti-microbial activities as well. Studies confirm S. baicalensis inhibits the growth of numerous pathogens and opportunistic pathogens, including Streptococcus sanguis II, Actinomyces viscosus, Actinomyces naeslundii, Actinomyces odontolyticus, two strains of Capnocytophaga, Bacteroides melaninogenicus ss intermedius, Fusobacterium nucleatum, Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans, Candida albicans, Staphylococcus aureus, and Escherichia coli. Inhibition occurs via many mechanisms of action, including neutralization of LPS (lipopolysaccharide) and reduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines.29

Treatment with extracts of S. baicalensis in research settings shows weakening of neuroinflammatory responses, inhibition of liver injury and fibrosis, cardio-protective effects, an increase in bone mineral density by 12–18%, reduced gastrointestinal dysfunction, anti-fibrotic activity, blood sugar-lowering effects, reduced endometriosis, improvement in sleep-wake regulation, anti-allergic activities, and antipyretic effects.29,30

Scutellaria baicalensis is available in the ProEnt2 Plus™ formulation from Interplexus.*

Guggul gum (Commiphora mukul)

The use of guggul for medicinal purposes goes as far back as 1700 BC. The ancient script on medicine and surgery Sushrut Samhita describes guggul as an effective treatment for internal tumors, malignant sores, obesity, liver dysfunction, intestinal worms, leucoderma, and edema. Ample modern evidence shows guggul to also be efficacious for chronic diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, cancer, pancreatitis, IBD, dermatitis, diabetes, breast fibroadenoma, chronic kidney disease, infectious diseases, intestinal metaplasia, otitis media, respiratory diseases (including asthma), psoriasis, nodulocystic acne, gingivitis, and more. Furthermore, evidence suggests guggul offers liver-protective, anti-obesity, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, heart-protective, cholesterol-lowering, and thyroid stimulatory effects by targeting multiple signaling pathways.31
Commiphora mukul is available in the Thyro-Dyne™ formulation from Interplexus.*

If, after reading this brief overview of the evidence, you feel botanical medicine could support your health and well-being, consider consulting with a specialized healthcare practitioner to discuss the botanical doses that might be optimal for your health concerns.

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