The Natural Way: Unsung heroes of supplements

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

There are many unsung heroes in the supplement world. My next few columns will focus on these well-known but mostly forgotten wallflowers. Just like in our lives there are those that are steadfast -- those who we know are there but who are so humble it is very easy to just not see them and take them for granted. In this column I'll be shining the light on Echinacea, Royal Jelly, Bee Pollen and Brewer's Yeast.

Echinacea root (Echinacea angustifolia) is one of the first supplements I learned about more than 20 years ago. The root extract is the most potent but the whole plant can be beneficial (Echinacea purpurea), so be sure to read the label to be sure you're getting what you want. European standardization creates the most reliable choice for potency. This oldie but goody has been around for a long time and when I did a Pub Med quick search I found 154 scientific studies. It is considered a safe, useful and mild herbal beneficial to the immune system, a good thing for children (liquid tincture) and parents (capsules) during cold and flu season.

Royal jelly is reserved for the aristocracy in the bee hive. The makeup of royal jelly is mostly water, about 10 percent protein, including small amounts of many different amino acids, and about12 percent simple sugars. It also contains many trace minerals, some enzymes, antibacterial and antibiotic components, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and trace amounts of vitamin C. When checking Pub Med hundreds of studies were referenced, (for example go to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22995464. This one concluded, "Six-month ingestion of Royal Jelly in humans improved erythropoiesis, glucose tolerance and mental health. Acceleration of conversion from DHEA-S to T by RJ may have been observed among these favorable effects". Putting this in normal language what they are saying is that they found benefits in improving red cell numbers/production, sugar tolerance, mental health and an improvement in natural testosterone production.

Bee Pollen has long been used to reduce allergy to pollen. It has been called a nutrition super-food and described as having beneficial effect on health and beauty and cholesterol (lowers bad, increases good), while enhancing physical activity. Because this is pollen-based be careful of using this if you're prone to allergic reaction. Some people believe the more local the bee pollen, the better effect it will have. This may or may not hold true.

Finally, Brewer's yeast, which is a safe, tasty and natural source of essential nutrients. This powder is easily added to food either in salads or that which is cooked. This is a true super-food and if you've never replaced the salt/butter on your popcorn with Brewer's yeast, do it ... you're in for a treat!