Category: NAP Earlier Blogs
by Gregory Kelly
What is Cyanocobalamin?
Cyanocobalamin is the most commonly supplemented form of vitamin B12, but you might be surprised to discover that this form of vitamin B12 does not actually occur in plants or animal tissues. In other words, outside of the chemically synthesized cyanocobalamin that you encounter as B12 in most vitamin supplements, you would be extremely hard pressed to find this compound in nature (in fact you would not be able to find it). As the name implies, cyanocobalamin contains a cyanide molecule. Most people are familiar with cyanide as a poisonous substance. Although the amount of cyanide in a normal B12 supplement is small and from a toxicology point, viewed as insignificant, your body will still need to remove and eliminate this compound. This removal is accomplished through your detoxification systems with substances like glutathione being very important for the elimination of the cyanide.
The Coenzyme Forms of B12
Another available form of B12 that offers significant advantages over cyanocobalamin is called methylcobalamin This form of B12 is called a coenzyme form of B12 and is believed to be a much more active form of the vitamin. In addition to the methylcobalamin coenzyme form, B12 is also available in another coenzyme form, which is most commonly called "adenosylcobalamin". The adenosylcobalamin form of B12 is also occasionally called cobamamide or dibencozide. Although methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin are both considered to be active forms of B12, they do appear to offer slightly different health advantages. We will discuss those; however, before beginning this discussion it is important to make a distinction between an enzyme and a vitamin, so that you will be able to appreciate the advantage that coenzyme forms of vitamins can offer.
What's the Difference between a Vitamin and an Enzyme?
Most people assume that a vitamin has some type of special activity or unique and important function in the body. In essence, there is a degree of correctness and a degree of incorrectness to this basic assumption. The truth is that a vitamin is nothing more than a component of one or several enzymes. And, enzymes are what are important for generating the chemical reactions you need for good health. To the degree a vitamin that you consume in a supplement can be converted into or plugged into an enzyme, the basic assumption will be correct and a vitamin will be able to fulfill its actions in support of your health.
Let's use a metaphor here to try and make this clear. We will resort to a car metaphor since most of you will have a great degree of familiarity with the car and its various parts. Let's pretend that one of the enzymes needed for function of this car is the ignition system. Without the ignition system catalyzing the reaction we call "starting the car", the car has much less usefulness. Enzymes in your body are similar; they are needed to jump-start the various reactions you need to allow for good usefulness of all of your various capabilities and systems.
Now in our car model, if this particular enzyme were the ignition system, what would the vitamin part be? Probably the best way to think of the vitamin would be as the key to the ignition system. Obviously the key is a very important part of the ignition system. However, how valuable is the key without an ignition system? Not very useful actually. In fact, you can have a surplus of keys, but if there is no ignition system, or if part of the ignition system is missing, or if the key is not placed correctly into the ignition system, these keys are in effect utterly useless. Vitamins are very similar to this. If they are not plugged into the enzyme correctly, you can have an abundance or surplus of the vitamin, and you still will not have appropriate function.
There is another level of complexity with respect to vitamins that is also never discussed. Did you know that the common forms of vitamins used in the majority of supplements are actually a far cry from the compound that will eventually be plugged into the enzyme? In other words, the vitamins that you take in a pill have to be processed inside your body (usually in many different steps) to turn the vitamin into something your body recognizes and can then plug into the enzyme. Another way to state this is that your body has to do a bunch of work on most vitamins in order to get any benefit from them. And just as in any other type of work, more different steps from start to finish of a process will create many more opportunities for mistakes to occur.
Let's return to our car metaphor for a moment. In this example, the vitamins that you consume as supplements can best be thought of as a blank key that has not been cut to fit the ignition system. Granted it is the building block for what you will need, but until someone cuts the appropriate grooves and indentations so that it will fit your ignition, it will be unable to catalyze the reaction called "starting the car". Having blank keys available is important, but having a key that fits and is inserted correctly into your ignition system is what is really important. In the automobile world, a locksmith can cut the appropriate grooves and indentations into the key so that it will fit your cars ignition system. In your body, the absorption and transformation processes that occur in your intestines and liver, act as this locksmith.
Some of the many factors that can limit the ability to take a vitamin and turn it into an enzyme include genetic metabolic errors, aging, nutritional inadequacies of other important vitamins and minerals, enzyme defects, disease states (especially of the liver, kidneys or with digestion and absorption), and pathological changes to tissues. In all of these circumstances you can have many blank keys available, but the locksmith just cannot perform the job of cutting the keys and putting them into the ignition correctly.
You might be wondering about food.... what does food have in it? Well, in this metaphor, food contains the complete ignition system with the perfectly fitted key already inserted in the ignition system. In other words food contains vitamins already in the form needed for the enzyme to work and already appropriately placed into the enzyme. Obviously this is an advantage when compared to just having a blank key.
The other option for vitamin supplementation is to supplement with coenzyme forms of vitamins. A coenzyme form of the vitamin means the key (or vitamin) has already been cut to fit the ignition perfectly, so it bypasses the need for the locksmith. Vitamin B12 offers two such coenzyme forms, methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin.
Methylcobalamin and Adenosylcobalamin: Active B12's
Compared with cyanocobalamin, it appears that both methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin are better absorbed and retained in higher amounts within your tissues. In simple terms, they are used much more effectively. In general, methylcobalamin is used primarily in your liver, brain and nervous system, while adenosylcobalamin is used mostly in the liver and for hemoglobin (blood cell) production
One of the classic indications of B12 deficiency is a specialized form of anemia called macrocytic anemia. This usually shows up on a lab test as an increased mean corpuscular volume (in other words your blood cells are a bit larger than they should be). While iron is often the only thing given for anemia, this form of anemia usually has nothing to do with a lack of iron. B12 and folic acid are the nutrients you would need, but you need them to be plugged into enzymes. Because of this, the active forms of B12 are often much more effective. Even with other forms of anemia, it is usually much more effective to combine iron supplementation with folic acid + either or both of the active forms of vitamin B12.
In animals, a significant body of experimental evidence suggests that a deficiency of vitamin B12 can enhance the activity of various carcinogens. Animal experiments have also demonstrated that both methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin increase survival time and reduce tumor growth in some forms of cancer. Amazingly, methylcobalamin has also been shown to enhance the effectiveness of methotrexate, a drug sometimes used in the treatment of cancer. The active forms of B12 also appear to be very important in supporting proper immune system health. While this information should not be presumed to apply to human cancer, and their is currently no available evidence indicating that any form of vitamin B12 has any benefit in preventing or treating cancer, it certainly seems that this nutrient would be worthy of some future research.
Methylcobalamin is the specific form of B12 needed for nervous system health. Because of this it should be the first form of this vitamin thought of when interested in attempting to optimize the health of the nervous system with vitamin supplementation. Indications of a potential deficiency of B12 in the nervous system might include numbness, tingling, loss of feeling sensation, burning sensations, muscle cramps, nerve pain and slowness of reflexes.
The relative balance of the nervous system is also of critical importance in your overall sense of health and well being. In essence we have a fight or flight nervous system and a relaxation nervous system. Methylcobalamin has been shown to be an important vitamin in helping to establish and maintain an appropriate balance between these two opposing nervous systems.
Because of methylcobalamin's importance in nervous system health, it is also an important nutrient for vision. In fact, continued visual work (like work on a computer) often leads to a reduction in something called "visual accommodation". Methylcobalamin can significantly improve visual accommodation, while cyanocobalamin appears to be ineffective.
An elevated level of homocysteine is a metabolic indication of decreased levels of the coenzyme forms of vitamin B12, especially methylcobalamin. Homocysteine has received a tremendous amount of emphasis in the scientific literature because of its associations with heart disease and a variety of other specific health conditions. I have even seen advertisements on television promoting folic acid, as a vitamin needed to lower homocysteine. While this is true, and folic acid does lower homocysteine levels, the combination of methylcobalamin and folic acid appears to work much better.
In people with liver disease, although high blood levels of vitamin B12 are common, it is not unusual to actually have a correspondingly low liver tissue concentration of vitamin B12 and its enzymes. In effect your locksmith can't make keys anymore so the functions that depend on a complete and working B12 enzymes often suffer. Because of this, methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin should be the forms of B12 used under these circumstances. In fact, even under normal circumstances, the active forms of B12 help the liver function much more efficiently. Liver detoxification and antioxidant systems work much more effectively when methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin are supplied (as opposed to cyanocobalamin). Since our livers tend to be over worked due to the varieties of pollution and other environmental factors we are exposed to, these active forms of B12 can be valuable forms of additional nutritional support for the liver.
The most well studied use of methylcobalamin has to do with sleep. Although the exact mechanism of action is not yet clear, it is possible that methylcobalamin is needed for the synthesis of melatonin. Available information indicates that methylcobalamin can modulate melatonin secretion, enhance light-sensitivity, and normalize circadian rhythm (your 24-hour clock). Because of this, individuals supplementing this form of B12 often have improved quality of sleep, often will require slightly less sleep, and will not uncommonly report that they feel a bit more refreshed when waking in the morning. Methylcobalamin is particularly effective when your 24-hour clock is not running smoothly. This may be indicated by a need for excessive sleep, changing sleep-wake cycles, or a tendency to have altered sleep wake patterns. As examples, you might require 10-12 hours of sleep, or you might not feel tired until 2-3 am and you might wake at noon, or you might find that you wake a bit later every day and go to be a bit later every night. Under all of these circumstances the combination of methylcobalamin (about 3000 mcg daily) and exposure to bright light in the morning can help reestablish your 24-hour clock.
Because of methylcobalamin's impact on 24-hour clock and the cycles that feed of this, it is also an important vitamin to regulate your 24-hour release of the stress hormone cortisol. This seems to be particularly important for blood types A and AB. Methylcobalamin also seems to result in a better 24-hour maintenance of body temperature. Typically individuals supplementing this coenzyme form of B12 have higher temperatures in the later hours of the daytime. This usually corresponds with improved alertness at the same time of the day. While this can be of importance to all blood types, low body temperatures seems to be an area of greater challenge for A's and B's.
The appropriate dose of the coenzyme forms can vary, but a dose of between 1000-2000 mcg daily is usually adequate. If attempting to influence sleep cycles or your 24-hour clock a higher dose of methylcobalamin (3000 mcg daily) is usually a more prudent starting point. Both of these forms of B12 are considered to be exceptionally safe and can be used by all blood types.
Rhodiola rosea (Russian Rhodiola) This is a perennial plant with red, pink, or yellowish flowers. It is no biological relation to the "common" rose, but due to its similar fragrance it has been used as a substitute for Attar of Roses. One of the greatest things Rhodiola does is enhance mental and physical performance. It has been widely used by Russian athletes and cosmonauts to increase energy. Rhodiola is cardio-protective, normalising the heart rate immediately after intense exercise. It improves nervous system and mental functions such as memory by increasing blood-supply to the muscles and brain, and also increases protein synthesis, (1,2,3).
Rhodiola rosea has extraordinary pharmacological properties as an anti-mutagen and anti-depressive agent. In this respect Rhodiola rosea is much more powerful than other adaptogens. In one study done by O.M. Duhan and colleagues (4), the anti-mutagenic activities of Panax Ginseng and of Rhodiola rosea were compared It appeared that the extracts of Rhodiola rosea had the higher capacity to counteract gene mutations induced by various mutagens (up to about 90% inhibition in some cases). The anti-depressive and anti-stress activity of Golden root is higher than that of St. John's Wort, Ginkgo biloba and Panax Ginseng. Furthermore, Rhodiola rosea is five times less toxic than Panax ginseng. In experiment on rats with Pliss lymphosarcoma (PLS) it was shown (5) that partial hepatectomy, a course application of Rhodiola rosea extract or combined effects inhibit the growth of tumours by 37%, 39% and 59%, respectively, and that of metastases by 42%, 50% and 75%.
In one human study (6) oral administration of Rhodiola rosea extract to 12 patents with superficial bladder carcinoma (T1G1-2) improved the characteristics of the urothelial tissue integration, parameters of leukocyte integrins and T-cell immunity. The average frequency of relapses for these patients was found to fall twice. In another clinical trial 150 individuals suffering from depression took Rhodiola rosea extracts for a period of one month. At the end of that period two-thirds of them had full remission of clinical manifestations of depression, and had become more active and more sociable. Daytime weakness and general weakness disappeared.
Rhodiola rosea extracts reduce significantly the yield of cells with the chromosome aberrations in vivo and inhibit unscheduled DNA synthesis induced by N-nitroso-N-methylurea in vitro (7). It is emphasised that Rhodiola rosea extracts have rejuvenative properties due to their ability to raise the efficiency of the intracell DNA repair mechanisms.
Probably the best reason to use Rhodiola (an a real Achille's heel for group O individuals) is the ability of the plant to help clear excess catecholamines, such as adrenaline and nor-adrenaline. From Live Right 4 Your Type, you may remember that group O blood is associated with tendencies to over accumulate adrenaline by excess conversion of their dopamine. In addition to the excess levels, group O is associated with a lowered ability to clear catecholamines once made. (1) Upon my advice NAP has added 100mg per capsule of pure Russian Rhodiola to their already very effective Catechol formula. If you thought Catechol was already pretty effective, I'm sure you will be delighted with the results of the added Rhodiola.
1 Maslova L.V. et al. (1994) "The cardioprotective and antiadrenergic activity of an extract of Rhodiola rosea in stress" Eksp Klin Farmakol 57(6): 61-6
2. Germano, C. et al. (1999) "Arctic root. The powerful new ginseng alternative" Kensington Publ.Corp.
3. Petkov, V.D. et. al. (1986) "Effects of alcohol aqueous extract from Rhodiola rosea L. roots on learning and memory" Acta Physiol Pharmacol Bulg 12(1): 3-16
4. Duhan, O.M. et al. (1999) "The antimutagenic activity of biomass extracts from the cultured cells of medicinal plants in the Ames test" Tsitol Genet Nov-Dec 33(6): 19-25
5. Udintsev SN; et.al. (1991) "The role of humoral factors of regenerating liver in the development of experimental tumours and the effect of Rhodiola rosea extract on this process" Neoplasma;38(3): 323-31
6. Bocharova OA et.al. (1995) "The effect of a Rhodiola rosea extract on the incidence of recurrences of a superficial bladder cancer (experimental clinical research)" Urol Nefrol (Mosk) Mar-Apr (2): 46-7
7. Salikhova RA et.al. (1997) "Effect of Rhodiola rosea on the yield of mutation alteration and DNA repair in bone marrow cells". Patol Fiziol Exsp Ter Oct-Dec (4) : 22-4
8. Linh PT et.al. (2000) "Quantitative determination of salidroside and thyrosol from the underground part of Rhodiola rosea by high performance liquid chromatography" Arch Pharm Res Aug 23(4): 349-52
by Gregory Kelly
"I have found Collinsonia (stoneroot) to be of great reliability in assisting to stabilize the lining on the sinus cavities and to minimize the build-up of excess mucus in the sinus cavities, throat, and stomach." --- Peter J. D'Adamo, N.D.
"Remember it in any wrong of the venous capillary system". --- Lloyd's Bulletin
Collinsonia or "stone root" (other common names have included knob root, horse balm, and richweed) has traditionally been employed for passive venous congestion or engorgement. It was historically described as astringent, alterative, diuretic, tonic, etc., none of which give a very clear idea of its effects. A more apt description of its actions in old herbal texts often emphasizes its ability to overcome undue congestion with accompanying pain, irritation, and a sense of stagnation, whether it is within the rectum, pharynx (throat), or other vascular area. In the Merck Index its active principles are listed as resins, saponins, tannins, and mucilage.
Collinsonia was also used historically as a tonic and as an antispasmodic (essentially something to relax smooth muscle tissue). Comments in old herbal texts refer to its ability to relax painful constrictions and spasms of the rectum. As such it was often used in the past for fistulas, ulcers, and fissures. It had a similar reputation for relaxing activity on urinary organs, where it was thought to relax the ureter, and therefore increasing urination, reducing irritability of the bladder, and assisting with the passage of kidney stones.
Another often mentioned use of collinsonia is its ability to counteract the build-up gastric catarrh. This word has fallen out of common use, even within the medical profession, but implies inflammation of a mucus membrane resulting in an increased production of mucus.
Collinsonia's two most common historical applications were for "preacher's throat" and hemorrhoids. Preacher's throat is best thought of as the irritation, dryness, or scratchiness to the throat that develops as a result of overuse. Hence the idea of the preacher who was constantly delivering a sermon and had chronic problems with sore throat or an irritated sensation from overuse of his voice box. I think its reputation in this area is well deserved.
I routinely give presentations and occasionally have been on marathon speaking engagements. Last spring, for example, I gave a 3 hour presentation for the Learning Annex in New York City on a Thursday night. On Friday morning I flew to San Diego and gave 2 presentations at health food stores on Friday, and 2 more on Saturday; all sandwiched around a presentation on herbs at a local botanical garden. Collinsonia has repeatedly helped me when my throat has become irritated from this type of overuse. Whether this is a placebo effect or not, I honestly could not tell you. However, it has been quite reliable in this area for me, and for patients who have tried it for similar situations.
Its use in hemorrhoids seems to also be well worth a try. This has without question been its primary use among herbalists and naturopaths. Hemorrhoids can be a result of several different factors. Generally, we hear that they are a result of straining too hard to defecate, constipation or from low fiber diets and the subsequently harder stools. Other explanations for hemorrhoids include a weakness and irritation in venous tissue and liver congestion (causing increased pressure through the portal veins). In Boericke’s Materia Medica, collinsonia is listed as having an ability quite specific to all of these functional derangements. Do not expect this plant to cure you of hemorrhoids overnight; it won't. However, it does offer the possibility of relief if used regularly for a prolonged period of time.
The first mention of collinsonia's use for some functional problems of the sinus that I ran across was in Eat Right 4 Your Type, which gives some idea of the depth of Dr. D'Adamo's herbal knowledge. However, in old herbal Materia Medica’s, collinsonia is invariably mentioned as being useful for nasal catarrh and dull frontal headaches (especially in people who have or have had hemorrhoids). These common complaints are now invariably lumped into a category called sinusitis (or inflammation of the sinus cavities).
Before we discuss under what circumstances you might want to try this herb for sinus health, let's discuss when it is not going to be of much help. When you have an acute sinus infection, collinsonia should not be regarded as a reliable option to replace either conventional medicines (such as antibiotics) or more aggressive alternative remedies. This plant simply does not have any known anti-microbial or anti-bacterial activity. This is not to say that it has no activity against these organisms; but this area has never been studied and is not part of the plant's historical use. If collinsonia does have any anti-bacterial activity it is likely to be too weak to be of adequate help for an acute infection.
So when might it be useful. Dr. D'Adamo frequently refers to some forms of chronic sinus discomfort as "hemorrhoids of the head". What he is implying is that the lining of the sinus cavities is made from similar material as the lining of your venous system, and just like with a hemorrhoid, this tissue has become inflamed or irritated. So this gives one possible clue to its use. When there is a sense of pressure, congestion, or a generalized inflammation in the area of your sinuses (with or without excess mucus production), collinsonia used regularly will often bring about a subjective sense of improvement.
Even if your sinus concerns just center around a chronic complaint of post-nasal drip, or excess mucus production (without pressure or dull headaches), collinsonia will often be quite useful. Another factor to consider and to place attention on for this type of sinus complaint would certainly be your diet; with strict avoidance of the foods mentioned in ER4YT being a great strategy.
There is one other hygienic practice you might want to consider for this type of recurring problem with sinus congestion or mucus build-up. This is the use of shea butter (a wax-like fat from a seed of an African tree) applied topically in the lining of your nasal cavity. This will often also be helpful to sooth irritated tissue, and reduce build-up of mucus or congestion.
Boericke W. Materia Medica with Repertory. 9th ed. (originally published in 1927) Boericke and Tafel, Inc., Santa Rosa, CA.
D’Adamo P, Whitney C. Eat Right 4 Your Type. 1996 G. P. Putnam and Sons, New York, NY.
Ellingwood F. American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy. 1919 Ellingwood’s Therapeutist, Evanston, IL.
Budavari S, ed. Merck Index. 1989 Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, NJ.
copyright 1999 North American Pharmacal. All Rights Reserved.
by Gregory Kelly
I went to lunch yesterday at a local health food store (they make great soup) and while I was walking through the supplement section I noticed an attractive floor display. But what really grabbed my attention about this particular display was that it contained a "new" immune-boosting product called "Larch Arabinogalactan." It makes me smile to see this product getting attention in the natural foods industry, because this product is far from new to Naturopathic Physicians. Ultimately the reason Naturopaths are so familiar with this compound, and probably the lion's share of the reason it now graces the shelves of health food stores can be traced to one individual—Peter D'Adamo, N.D.
The historical story of "Larch Arabinogalactan," as I have heard it, is actually quite interesting, so I will share parts of it with you. Arabinogalactan is a specific polysaccharide, and polysaccharides interact with blood type. So, it is not surprising to discover that Dr. D'Adamo has had a passionate interest in polysaccharide research for more than a decade. Because of this interest, years ago now, Dr. D'Adamo was scanning research articles and came across a Japanese study (written in Japanese) which just happened to have several words written in English..."Echinacea" and "Arabinogalactan." This ignited the spark that would eventually lead to his use of this product.
While information on the health benefits of Arabinogalactan were non-existent to scarce at this point in time, the connection with Echinacea led Dr. D'Adamo to ponder whether it might have immune benefiting effects. However, a source of concentrated arabinogalactans was not as easy to find 8-10 years ago as it is today. His search for a source of Arabinogalactan eventually led him to the lumber industry. The larch tree, as it turns out, is a rich source of this polysaccharide. But up until this point in time, it had been regarded solely as a fiber. Before long, 50-100 pound bags of bulk "Larch Arabinogalactan" began to show up at the D'Adamo Clinic in Greenwich, CT. Dr. D’Adamo’s research of this natural product now moved into full swing. In fact, patients will still tell you stories about the plastic baggies filled with a "fluffy, white powder" and how this product helped them.
By the time I was in naturopathic school, Dr. D'Adamo had introduced the use of this product into Naturopathic Medicine. Before I had graduated, he had published his first review article on the health benefits of Larch Arabinogalactan. The rest, as they say, is history.
So, from its rather inauspicious beginnings—as an underutilized leftover from the logging industry—to one man's curiosity—Larch Arabinogalactan has now arrived as an emerging new darling of the natural foods industry.
So let's learn a bit more about this natural product. As I have said, arabinogalactans are a class of polysaccharides found in a wide range of plants; however, they are most abundant in plants of the genus Larix (larch tree is Larix occidentalis). High-grade or nutraceutical-grade Larch Arabinogalactan (the grade typically utilized for supplements) is composed of greater than 98% arabinogalactan. As produced, Larch Arabinogalactan is a dry, free-flowing powder, with a very slight pine-like odor and sweetish taste. It is 100% water-soluble and produces low viscosity solutions. Because of its excellent solubility and mild taste, the powder mixes readily in water and juices and is easily administered (even to children).
The longest recognized use of Larch Arabinogalactan is probably as a source of dietary fiber. It has been shown to increase the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA's), principally butyrate and proprionate. These special fatty acids are critically important for the health of the colon. In fact, having an adequate supply of SCFA's is thought to make colon cells more resistant to both tumor promotion and a variety of intestinal disease.
Larch Arabinogalactan also acts as a food supply for friendly bacteria. The term used to describe this action is "prebiotic." The most well known prebiotic substance is "fructooligosaccharides" or "FOS." Larch Arabinogalactan acts in the same manner as FOS in humans. In effect, when we consume Larch Arabinogalactan, we are rewarded by this significant positive effect on our gut microfloral balance. Specifically, this fiber acts to increase good bacteria like bifidobacteria and lactobacillus, while decreasing bad bacteria. Since these friendly bacteria are critically important for the health of our digestive and immune systems, detoxification and hormone regulating capabilities, and nutrient formation and absorption; the growth promoting effects of Larch Arabinogalactan on these organisms alone makes it a valuable addition to our diet.
While Larch Arabinogalactan has a huge impact on digestive health, it has received even more attention for its ability to promote the health of our immune system. It was this possibility that first drew Dr. D'Adamo's curiosity.
The immune system is a very complex system. A healthy immune system is, in many respects, the core of prevention or resistance against disease. While it might be easy to assume that, with respect to immune system function or response, "more is better"...this is not always the case. In fact, like most things in life, your immune system's performance is more about an "appropriate" response, than it is about simply an "increased" response. Many chronic health challenges are predictably associated with some parts of your immune system "under-achieving"; however, it is just as common in these same circumstances to have other parts of the immune system "over-achieving." So, in simple terms, immune system health is all about "balance."
Substances, which promote a balanced response to stress, are called "adaptogens." Larch Arabinogalactan appears to act as an "adaptogenic" agent on your immune system...lifting up weak aspects and balancing down over-achieving aspects. So, while this supplement is currently primarily thought of as something to improve or stimulate immune system activity, it would be more appropriately described as a substance with an ability to build a more responsive immune system...or in effect, an immune system that is better able to function in a balanced and appropriate manner in the face of the challenges we face today.
Safety and dosage
Larch Arabinogalactan is FDA approved for use in food applications. Toxicity tests in animals indicates that Larch Arabinogalactan is significantly less toxic than methylcellulose (one of the most commonly supplemented fibers). Clinical feedback suggests an occasional reaction of bloating and flatulence in less than 3 percent of individuals (most often women). This side effect is probably secondary to the effect Larch Arabinogalactan has on beneficially altering gut microflora and will often disappear after several days to 1 week.
As an addition to the diet, the usual dose is 1-3 grams daily (1000-3000 mg). However, much larger amounts can be taken if desired (up to 2-3 tablespoons daily). Larch Arabinogalactan is available in powder, capsules, and tablets from various supplement companies. Since it mixes very well with juice or water, and is more cost-effective as a powder as compared to capsules or tablets, I usually use the powder form. However, its effectiveness is similar whether taken as powder, capsule or tablet.
ARA6 available from the ABO Friendly Products Page.
by Gregory Kelly
We all know too much of this can have a detrimental impact on our health, but did you know that your blood type is a large determinant of your stress response? In pigs blood type is an accurate predictor of susceptibility or resistance against something called porcine stress syndrome. Certainly no one would argue that a pig's susceptibility to stress can be extrapolated to humans, but if blood type can impact a pigs susceptibility to stress...could blood type influence our stress response?
Several researchers have actually looked at the connection between blood type and the response to stress in (non-pig), human subjects. The findings have been quite consistent; the evidence quite clear. Just like pigs, our response to stress is influenced by and linked to blood type. Blood type plays a significant role in the basal levels of stress hormones we produce, the way people respond to stress, and how quickly they recover from stress.
While a full explanation of the blood type response to stress will have to wait for the publication of Live Right 4 Your Type (there is an excellent chapter in the upcoming book on this subject). The "Reader's Digest" version is that blood type A tends to be the most affected by the type of stress we encounter everyday. As always, blood type O's are at the opposite side of the spectrum from A's and so are the most stress resistant. Blood type B's and AB's are in between (with B's being much more A-like in their stress response and AB's being more O-like) these extremes with their stress responses.
When discussing stress, it is useful to look at the model created by the noted stress researcher Hans Selye. He provided the classic model for the progression of our adaptation to stress. He observed that given any source of external biological stress, an organism would respond with a predictable biological pattern in an attempt to restore its internal balance. He termed this the General Adaptation Syndrome or Biological Stress Syndrome and divided the response into 4 categories. the "alarm reaction" characterized by an immediate activation of the nervous system and adrenal gland a "resistance phase" characterized by hypothalamic pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) activation a "pre-exhaustion" stage characterized by adrenal enlargement, ulcers, and immune system under-activity an "exhaustion phase"
Alarm would be the "fight or flight" or initial responses. In an ideal world, once the stressful event has passed we would then shift away from "alarm" and reestablish our internal balance. Unfortunately real life situations do not always allow for this recovery. This is especially the case for blood type A's, who seem to internally switch into "fight or flight" with even minor stress and live in the "resistance" stage of the stress response.
Because of this, from a health perspective, the importance of calming the nervous system or reducing stress is paramount for all blood type A's. When it comes to reducing stress levels...blood type A has to do more, for less return. Strategies to move them out of the "resistance" stage (to sensitize their ability to regulate cortisol levels) are imperative, as are strategies to prevent an arrival at "exhaustion". Herbal adaptogens and extra nutritional support can help buffer against excessive elevation of cortisol, to resensitize the body to regulate the cortisol stress response, and to protect the adrenal gland from functional exhaustion.
The term "adaptogen" has been used to categorize plants, which improve the non-specific response to and promote recovery from stress. Soviet researchers, beginning in the 1950's were the first to determine that many plants, especially belonging to the Araliaceae family, have adaptogenic properties. Perhaps the two best known adaptogens are Panax ginseng (Korean or Chinese ginseng) and Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng). In humans, extracts from these plants increase the ability to accommodate to adverse physical conditions, improve mental performance, and enhance the quality of work under stressful conditions. Other adaptogens important for the stress response include Boerhaavia and licorice.
Panax ginseng (Korean ginseng) The combination of its historical reputation and the abundance of animal research (some human research as well) have elevated Panax ginseng (often just referred to as ginseng) to being virtually synonymous with the term adaptogen. It appears fairly certain that ginseng can actually help the adrenal gland to respond to stress by actually either making the adrenal gland bigger (so more capable of a response) or decreasing cortisol when it is already too high. But, maybe even more importantly, ginseng appears to make your body more sensitive or responsive, perhaps thereby allowing your body to make more cortisol when it is required but allowing a quicker normalization of cortisol once the stress is removed. These activities lie at the very core of the definition of adaptogen, which implies a capability for a bi-directional or normalizing effect on physiological function in the face of stress.
Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng) Eleutherococcus is better known by its common name, Siberian ginseng (and is occasionally seen in health food or vitamin stores as Ci Wu Jia). Although it is called ginseng, technically speaking it not a ginseng at all and is, botanically speaking, not a close relative of Panax ginseng. Russian researchers in the 1940's and 1950's did a great deal of research on plants that function as adaptogens. Eleutherococcus was arguably the plant that consistently produced the best adaptogenic effects in their research. The data gathered indicated that ingestion of extracts from this plant increased the ability to accommodate to adverse physical conditions, improved mental performance, and enhanced the quality of work under stressful conditions.
This plant also appears to have an overall normalizing effect on the stress response, allowing better performance in the face of more stressful conditions, and similar to Panax ginseng, a greater sensitivity or enhanced ability to reestablish hormonal balance after stress. This herb also has a strong reputation for preventing stress-induced exhaustion.
Boerhaavia diffusa The alkaloid fraction of the root of Boerhaavia diffusa has a dramatic effect in buffering against elevation of plasma cortisol levels under stressful conditions. Subsequent to this buffering of cortisol, Boerhaavia alkaloids also prevent a drop in immune system performance. Indicating a bi-directional adaptogenic activity, these same plant alkaloids also act to reverse the depletion of adrenal cortisol associated with adrenal exhaustion. Since blood type A (and is most impacted by the tendency to over produce cortisol, this herb is tailor made for these blood types.
Bacopa ('Brahmi') is an Ayurvedic botanical with apparent anti-anxiety, anti-fatigue, and memory-strengthening effects. Bacopa monniera, Linn. (Brahmi: Scrophulariaceae) an Ayurvedic medicine is clinically used for memory enhancing, epilepsy, insomnia and as mild sedative. The results suggested that Brahmi is a potent antioxidant. (Indian J Exp Biol 1996 Jun;34(6):523-6) Administration of extract from Bacopa monnieri, to children with mental retardation, was reported to significantly improve short-term and long-term memory. (Ann Acad Med Singapore 2000 Jan;29(1):37-41) Modern research has validated the Ayurvedic claims indicating that Bacopa monniera can improve performance in various learning situations. (J Ethnopharmacol 1982 Mar;5(2):205-14) Results suggest that Bacopa, like the anti-Parkinson drug deprenyl, exhibits a significant antioxidant effect after subchronic administration which, unlike the latter, extends to the hippocampus as well. The results suggest that the increase in oxidative free radical scavenging activity by BM may explain, at least in part, the cognition- facilitating action of Bacopa, recorded in Ayurvedic texts, and demonstrated experimentally and clinically. (Phytother Res 2000 May;14(3):174-9)
Bacopa has additional effects on both bowel disturbance and allergy. Among 169 patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), standard therapy, a compound Ayurvedic preparation containing Bacopa monniere, along with a matching placebo were given in a double blind randomised trial for 6 wk. The Ayurvedic preparation in 57 patients was found effective in 64. 9 per cent, while standard therapy (60 patients) was useful in 78.3 per cent. Patients on placebo (52 patients) showed improvement in 32.7 per cent only. Ayurvedic therapy was particularly beneficial in diarrhoea predominant form as compared to placebo. (Indian J Med Res 1989 Dec;90:496-503) Bacopa has also been shown to stabilize mast cells, an anti-allergy mnechanism of action not unlike that of many conventional anti-allergy medications. Extracts of Bacopa monnieri were tested for mast cell stabilising effect. Theyxhibited potent activity comparable to disodium cromoglycate, a known mast cell stabiliser. (Fitoterapia 2001 Mar;72(3):284-5)
Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice) Glycyrrhiza glabra is best known as an herb for stress-induced exhaustion, but in appropriate amounts, licorice has a harmonizing effect on the stress response.
Nutrients and Stress
When you are under a great deal of physiological or mental/emotional stress, several vitamins are of particular importance. These include antioxidants such as vitamin C and Lipoic acid, B vitamins but especially vitamin B1, B5 and B6, and lastly, the nutrient phosphatidylserine.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) Apparently, even dating back to anecdotal reports of Europeans interacting with the Native American Indians, it is reported that eating an animal's adrenal gland could reverse symptoms of scurvy. Not surprisingly, medical science has found that the adrenal glands are a place of extremely high body levels of vitamin C. and, under stress, your requirement for this vitamin goes up. Evidence also shows that vitamin C, in amounts greater than the RDA, is needed to optimally support the adrenal glands function and buffer against high cortisol when you are exposed to a lot of stress. In effect, a deficiency of this vitamin will raise cortisol levels and make it much more likely someone will remain in the "resistance" stage of the stress response.
B Vitamins (vitamins B1, B5, B6 and lipoic acid) While without question, an absolute deficiency in any of the B vitamins would be detrimental; several of these vitamins are critical for a healthy response to stress. Experimental and clinical results have shown thiamin (vitamin B1) to be an effective nutrient to protect the adrenal gland from functional exhaustion when undergoing stress.
A combination of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), and vitamins B1 and B6 has been shown to improve the stress response and simultaneously normalizes the rhythmic activity of cortisol.
Pantethine is the most physiologically active form of vitamin B5. Deficiency of this nutrient or its precursor, pantothenic acid, results in a decrease in adrenal function with the most noted symptom of deficiency being fatigue; while evidence indicates supplementation normalizes the adrenal glands capacity to respond to stress.
Lipoic acid, primarily known as a superior antioxidant, has been shown to prevent the accumulation of stress hormones in heart tissue secondary to stress (very important for A's with their higher risk for heart disease). Lipoic acid also enhances the elimination of some stress hormones and can partially restore some of the immune suppression, which occur secondary to high cortisol levels.
Phosphatidylserine. Phosphatidylserine, found in trace amounts in lecithin, is a useful supplement to help regulate the stress-induced activation of the HPA axis. It appears to act primarily to make an individual more sensitive to the cortisol stress response. Current evidence suggests that it tends to help prevent large increases in cortisol and helps to return cortisol to a more normal level after stress.
All of the components have been blended into a unique NAP product called Cortiguard which can be used in all blood types requiring additional nutritional support because of stress.