Category Archives: Health

Kundalini Yoga Online w. Look.Withinisha

Kundalini Yoga! Join the upcoming online session this Friday!! Sept 18th the first 10 people to follow @lookwithin.kundalini.yoga will get free pass this week and your love donations are always welcomed!

I’ll also be giving a discount on Kundalini Cube Shirts for anyone that joins the class! Get your yoga mats ready!

Infocus247.com

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How To Grow Potatoes

Everything you need to know about harvesting potatoes. I’ll show you how I grow potatoes and know when they are ready for harvest. https://www.instagram.com/jewell_gard…

I’m a Champagne sippin’ Baltimore gardener & former mushroom grower.

Help my channel by shopping for your garden supplies through my Amazon Storefront, completely free to you!!! https://www.amazon.com/shop/seedsspor…

 

How to grow Tumeric

Close-Up Of Turmeric On Table

AKEPONG SRICHAICHANA / EYEEM GETTY IMAGES

Sure, you can buy turmeric powder from the spice department to whip up your own golden milk, turmeric lattes, turmeric smoothies, or turmeric tea, but aficionados swear by fresh turmeric for the best flavor and possible health benefits. And while you can find the fresh stuff in health food stores and even mainstream grocery stores, it isn’t cheap.

Luckily turmeric is easy to grow if you have a sunny spot to put a large pot or planter. Give it what it likes and it will grow like a weed and reward you with attractive tropical foliage and a generous harvest of fresh turmeric.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a tropical plant in the same family as ginger. Not a dainty plant, turmeric has large green leaves and grows 3 or more feet tall. As the plant matures each stem sends up a spike of greenish-white and occasionally pink flowers. Like ginger, turmeric thrives in warm, humid conditions and well-drained, neutral soil.


Preparing to Plant

Turmeric
MARKGILLOWGETTY IMAGES

In most parts of the U.S. turmeric will produce best if you plant it indoors in the late winter. Depending on your indoor and outdoor space you can either keep it inside as a houseplant all summer or move it outside once all chance of frost is past and the weather is warm enough to put out your pepper and eggplant seedlings. And if you live in Zones 8-11, you can grow it completely outdoors.

1. Calculate when to plant.

Turmeric takes seven to 10 months from planting to harvest. To figure out when you should plant, count back 10 months from when you usually get your first frost in the fall. My first frost is around mid-October, so I’d start my turmeric between mid-December and mid-March. If your growing season is longer, or you have a large and sunny indoor space to grow it, your timing is less critical, but you’re still likely to get the best results from planting in late winter through spring.

2. Source your rhizomes.

Turmeric is grown from rhizomes, fleshy root-like structures. My local supermarket and health food store both have fresh rhizomes for sale in the winter. Asian or Indian groceries are also likely to stock it, or may be able to order some for you. If you can’t find any locally, Jung Seed sells small potted plants, or you can buy fresh turmeric rhizomes from a number of sellers on Amazon or eBay. (Choose a seller in the U.S. to avoid possible customs issues). Select plump rhizomes with as many bumps (buds) along the sides as possible.


Planting

planting a turmeric root or rhizome
SWAPAN PHOTOGRAPHY/ SHUTTERSTOCK

You will need a 14- to 18-inch pot or planter for each 6 to 8 inches of rhizome, and enough potting soil to fill it. But to start, it’s more practical to sprout your rhizomes in smaller containers and then transplant them into the larger containers once they have a few leaves and are growing well. Here’s how:

1. Cut your rhizomes into sections, with two or three buds on each section.

2. Fill 3-inch pots halfway with a good potting soil.

3. Lay the rhizome sections flat on the soil, and cover with more potting soil.

4. Water well and slip the pots into clear plastic bags.

5. Place the pots or clamshells in the warmest place you can find (86 to 95 degrees is ideal). Sprouting at lower temperatures will be very slow and your rhizomes may even rot rather than sprout. No toasty location? You can make a great germination chamber with a heating pad or a small desk lamp, a picnic cooler, and a thermometer. Or you can buy a small germination chamber for home use. Light or no light is fine at this stage.


Caring for Growing Plants

turmeric flower and leaves
KANCHANA TIPMONTIAN/ SHUTTERSTOCK

1. Keep things light and warm.

Check on your pots every few days and once the sprouts start to emerge, move the pots to a windowsill or under a grow light. Unless your house is really warm (optimal growing temperature at this stage is 77 to 86 degrees) you will want to put them on a heat mat set to the low 80s. As the plants outgrow their plastic covers, remove them.

2. Water as needed.

Once you open the mini greenhouses you will need to start watering your turmeric as needed; keep the soil moist, but not soggy, and mist the leaves once or twice a day with water to keep the humidity up. Allowing the soil to dry out at any point will reduce your final harvest.

3. Transplant to larger pots.

When your plants are 6 to 8 inches tall, carefully transplant them into larger pots (either the final ones or an intermediate size) full of potting soil. Begin turning the heat mat down several degrees each week until you hit 70 degrees. At this point, you can remove the heat mat as long as your indoor temperature averages at about 68 degrees.

Otherwise, continue using the heat mat. Plants in intermediate-sized pots are ready to go in their final pots or planters when they become top-heavy or start sending up more shoots.

4. Move plants outside.

Move your turmeric outside once all chance of frost is past, when the forecast shows only warm nights ahead. Provide partial shade for the first few days to keep tender leaves from getting sunburned. Continue to water as needed during the summer and fall to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Feed your growing plants by watering every couple of weeks with compost tea or applying a fertilizer recommended for potatoes or root crops.


Harvesting

Freshly harvested turmeric root with dirt
SWAPAN PHOTOGRAPHY/ SHUTTERSTOCK

Your turmeric is ready to harvest when the leaves and stem start to turn brown and dry, about seven to 10 months after planting. Tip out the plants, soil and all, and shake the soil off your fresh turmeric. Cut the stems off an inch or so above the mass of rhizomes and wash the rhizomes well.


Storing and Eating

Turmeric
LILLI DAYGETTY IMAGES

Rhizomes will stay fresh in the fridge for up to six months in an airtight bag or container; toss them in the freezer to save them for longer. Be sure to set a few of the largest aside for replanting!

You can also make your own turmeric powder. Place the freshly cleaned rhizomes in a pot and cover them with water, bring them to a boil, and simmer until you can easily pierce them with a fork (depending on their size, this may take 45 to 60 minutes or longer).

Drain the cooked rhizomes, rub the skin off with your fingers (optional), and dry them in the sun or a food dehydrator set at 140 degrees until they are brittle and snap cleanly when you try to bend them. Grind dried rhizomes in a spice mill, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle to make turmeric powder for cooking. Pro tip: You may want to wear gloves when handling turmeric rhizomes as they will turn your fingers a bright orange that won’t wash off.

Enjoy your tasty and healthful harvest!

Source – Good House Keeping 

What Is Glutamate?

AN EXAMINATION OF THE FUNCTIONS, PATHWAYS AND EXCITATION OF THE GLUTAMATE NEUROTRANSMITTER

 

What is Glutamate?

WHAT IS GLUTAMATE?

Glutamate is the most abundant neurotransmitter in our brain and central nervous system (CNS). It is involved in virtually every major excitatory brain function. While excitatory has a very specific meaning in neuroscience, in general terms, an excitatory neurotransmitter increases the likelihood that the neuron it acts upon will have an action potential (also called a nerve impulse).1 When an action potential occurs the nerve is said to fire, with fire, in this case, being somewhat akin to the completion of an electric circuit that occurs when a light switch is turned on. The result of neurons firing is that a message can be spread throughout the neural circuit. It is estimated that well over half of all synapses in the brain release glutamate, making it the dominant neurotransmitter used for neural circuit communication.

Glutamate is also a metabolic precursor for another neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Inhibitory neurotransmitters are essentially the flip-side of the coin—they decrease the likelihood that the neuron they act upon will fire.1

WHAT DOES GLUTAMATE DO?

In the brain, groups of neurons (nerve cells) form neural circuits to carry out specific small-scale functions (e.g., formation and retrieval of memory). These neural circuits interconnect with each other to form large-scale brain networks, which carry out more complex functions (e.g., hearing, vision, movement). In order to get the individual nerve cells to work together across these networks some type of communication between them is needed and one way it is accomplished is by chemical messenger molecules called neurotransmitters. Glutamate plays a prominent role in neural circuits involved with synaptic plasticity—the ability for strengthening or weakening of signaling between neurons over time to shape learning and memory. It’s a major player in the subset of plasticity called long-term potentiation (LTP).

“The brain doesn’t grow new neurons to store memories. It strengthens connections between existing neurons. This process is called long-term potentiation (LTP).”

Because of these and other roles, the glutamatergic system is paramount for fast signaling and information processing in neuronal networks. Glutamate signaling is critical in brain regions, including the cortex and hippocampus, which are fundamental for cognitive function. Glutamate receptors are widely expressed throughout the CNS, not only in neurons, but also in glial cells.

[Note: Glial cells (or neuroglia or simply glia) are non-neuronal brain cells that provide support and protection for neurons.]

Because it is the main molecule promoting neuronal excitation, glutamate is the principal mediator of cognition, emotions, sensory information, and motor coordination, and is linked to the activity of most other neurotransmitter systems.2 But glutamate is not a “more is better” molecule. Glutamatergic communication requires the right concentrations of glutamate be released in the right places for only small amounts of time. Less than this results in poor communication. More than this can be neurotoxic and can damage neurons and neural networks.

THE GLUTAMATE NEUROTRANSMITTER AND THE GOLDILOCKS PRINCIPLE

Glutamate signaling is an example of what’s sometimes referred to as the “Goldilocks Principle.” In the fairy tale story, Goldilocks tastes three different bowls of porridge. The first is too cold; the second is too hot, and the third is just the right temperature. This concept of a “just the right amount” has widespread application, including in cognitive science.

In cognitive science, this principle can refer to a process where the same neurotransmitter (or medication) can have both antagonist (inhibitory) and agonist (excitatory) properties. It can also apply to situations where too little or too much stimulation by the same signaling molecule is linked to sub-optimal performance, but some middle ground amount produces healthy responses.

When thinking about things that follow the Goldilocks Principle it’s important to avoid black-white or good-bad thinking. The key thing to focus on is that there’s a just right amount, often a range, where the best results are produced.

“Glutamate follows the Goldilocks Principle. Too little glutamate excitation can result in difficulty concentrating or mental exhaustion. But too much can result in excitotoxicity, which can damage nerve cells (neurons).”

GLUTAMATE SYNTHESIS, SIGNALING, AND CLEANUP

Neurotransmitters have several characteristics in common. The first is that they are synthesized (i.e., made or created) in neurons. After that, they are moved into areas near the end of neurons (synaptic vesicles near the terminal end of nerve cells) where they are stored until needed. This occurs in preparation for signaling, which involves release of the neurotransmitter from the message-sending neuron into the space between neurons (synaptic cleft), so it can activate (i.e., bind to) receptors on message-receiving neurons. After this signal is sent, the space between neurons is cleaned up, so it can be made ready for the next time a message needs to be sent. This is achieved by absorbing the neurotransmitter into a cell so it can be reused (recycling), and/or by degrading (breaking down and inactivating) the neurotransmitter in the space outside cells. Let’s explore how these occur with glutamate.

Glutamate does not cross the blood-brain barrier and must be synthesized in neurons from building block molecules (i.e.,  precursors) that can get into the brain. In the brain, glutamine is the fundamental building block for glutamate. The most prevalent biosynthetic pathway synthesizes glutamate from glutamine using an enzyme called glutaminase.2

[Note: Enzymes are catalysts used to produce specific biochemical reactions: They usually have names that end in “ase.” Coenzymes are parts of certain enzymes. Many coenzymes are derived from vitamins.]

Glutamine is the most abundant of the twenty amino acids the body uses to build proteins. It can be produced in the body (so is categorized as non-essential). Most glutamine is made and stored in muscle. Under certain circumstances, such as severe stress, the body can require more than it can make. This has led many scientists to consider glutamine as being a conditionally essential amino acid. It is one of the few amino acids that can directly cross the blood–brain barrier, so the glutamine pool in muscle can be used to support the brain.

“The blood-brain barrier acts a bit like a doorman, choosing what goes in (like nutrients) and out (such as metabolic waste products) of the brain. It also protects the brain against the entry of potentially harmful things (like bacteria).”

Glutamate can also be produced from glucose through a metabolic pathway that begins with the conversion of glucose to pyruvate (a process called glycolysis). Pyruvate then ethers the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle (also called the Krebs cycle or citric acid cycle). The TCA cycle forms multiple important intermediates. One of these intermediates is α-ketoglutarate (α-KG). α-KG can be used to produce glutamate. An enzyme called glutamate dehydrogenase, which uses vitamin B3 (NAD+) as a coenzyme, is responsible for this reaction. This same enzyme can reconvert glutamate back into α-KG. Because of this enzyme, glutamate and α-KG can be continuously converted into each other.2 This dynamic equilibrium is a key intersection between anabolic and catabolic pathways and allows the body to shift resources in whichever direction is required.

[Note: Anabolic pathways construct molecules from smaller units. Catabolic pathways break molecules down into smaller units.]

Neurotransmitters, including glutamate, convey information from one neuron (message sender) to other “target” neurons (message recipients) within neural circuits. After synthesis, glutamate is transported into synaptic vesicles by vesicular glutamate transporters. This transport (and storage) occurs in the message-sending neuron in anticipation of needing to send glutamate messages in the future. Glutamate is stored in these vesicles until a nerve impulse triggers the release of glutamate into the synaptic cleft (i.e.,the space between neurons) and starts a receptor-mediated signaling process.3

“It’s estimated that about 99.99% of all the glutamate in the brain is stored inside cells (intracellular). Intracellular glutamate is inactive. It’s only the glutamate in the extracellular space between cells that causes excitation.”

Neurons with glutamate receptor proteins (i.e., glutamate receivers) respond to glutamate in the synaptic cleft. There are two general types of glutamate receptors. One type are called ionotropic receptors: Glutamate binding to these receptors allows the entry of ions (i.e., electrically charged minerals such as sodium or calcium) into the cell. There are three classes of ionotropic glutamate receptors: (1) N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA), (2) α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid (AMPA), and (3) kainate receptors.

The second type of receptors are linked to molecules that will activate intracellular signaling pathways subsequent to glutamate binding. These are called G protein-coupled or metabotropic receptors. Metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluR) modulate synaptic transmission (i.e. neuronal communication) by regulating the activity of a wide variety of ion channels, including ionotropic glutamate receptors, as well as receptors for other neurotransmitters.1,4

The next phase of neurotransmission is cleanup. Signaling is based on relative changes, not absolute amounts. In a quiet room the human ear might detect a whisper. In a loud nightclub it might not hear a shout. Neurotransmitters work on a similar principle. Short bursts of glutamate produce responses. But, for the best response to occur with the smallest amount of glutamate, the space between neurons needs to be the equivalent of a quiet room. Glutamate also follows the Goldilocks principle—too little and signaling within neural networks is subpar, but too much can be neurotoxic. For these reasons, the glutamate in the extracellular space between neurons needs to be continuously removed.

Neurotransmitter cleanup is commonly a combination of (1) transporting some of the neurotransmitter back into cells, and (2) inactivating the neurotransmitter that’s left floating in the space between cells. While the first of these processes applies to glutamate, there is no enzymatic inactivation system for glutamate in the extracellular space. This means that glutamate can interact with its receptors continuously until it diffuses away or is taken up by cellular transporters for reuse/recycling.

“Because there are no enzyme systems in the spaces between nerve cells to inactivate glutamate, it’s important to support nerve cells against excessive glutamate excitation. Astrocytes provide part of this support.”

Some glutamate can be taken up into neurons. This is done by excitatory amino acid transporters (i.e., glutamate transporters), but much of the released glutamate is taken up by a type of glial cell called astroglia or astrocytes. Astroglia surround synapses and play important roles in areas including nervous system repair, metabolic support of neurons, and neurotransmitter cleanup. The combination of neurons and supporting astroglia are responsible for emptying the synaptic cleft of glutamate to turn off the signal and reset the system for generation and propagation of the next glutamate signal. In this cleanup role, astroglia act to protect neurons from glutamate excitotoxicity.

Source – NeuroHacker 

Psilocybin Interactions with Glutamate

Researchers studying the loss of ego commonly experienced while tripping on psychedelics such as magic mushrooms have discovered that a key neurotransmitter may be linked to the phenomenon. A report on the research by scientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands was published last month in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Quite often, those who use psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin mushrooms and LSD experience a change in the perception of self and one’s connection to the larger world. Known as ego-dissolution, ego-disintegration, or ego-loss, the experience can result in a reduced state of self-awareness and a disruption of the boundaries of self and the world, leading to an increased feeling of unity with the environment. For some, the experience of ego-dissolution is a positive one, or a good trip, while others may have a negative, sometimes terrifying, bad trip.

Previous research has shown that ego and self-awareness may be related to levels of glutamate, the brain’s most abundant neurotransmitter. To test the theory, the team of researchers at Maastricht University designed a double-blind and placebo-controlled experiment to study the effect that psilocybin had on the glutamate levels of 60 healthy volunteers. Brain activity of the test subjects was monitored using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The researchers discovered that psilocybin led to increased levels of glutamate in an area of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex, which is thought to be responsible for planning complex behavior, personality expression, decision-making, and moderating social behavior. They also recorded lower levels of glutamate in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that has been linked to the formation of memories and one’s sense of self-esteem.

The researchers also noted that the higher levels of glutamate in the prefrontal cortex caused by taking psilocybin were associated with a good trip, while the lower levels of glutamate in the hippocampus were linked to experiencing a bad trip.

“Whereas changes in [cortical] glutamate were found to be the strongest predictor of negatively experienced ego dissolution, changes in hippocampal glutamate were found to be the strongest predictor of positively experienced ego dissolution,” the researchers wrote.

More Research Needed

While it’s yet not clear if glutamate is actually related to the experience of ego-dissolution, other studies have suggested that psychedelics may decouple different regions of the brain.

“Our data add to this hypothesis, suggesting that modulations of hippocampal glutamate in particular may be a key mediator in the decoupling underlying feelings of (positive) ego dissolution,” wrote the researchers.

Although more research is needed, the discovery of psilocybin’s effect on glutamate levels could help explain how the drug can be used therapeutically for a variety of mental health conditions including depression and severe anxiety.

“Such findings provide further insights into the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of the psychedelic state, and importantly, provide a neurochemical basis for how these substances alter individuals’ sense of self, and may be giving rise to therapeutic effects witnessed in ongoing clinical trials,” the authors wrote.

Source – HighTimes

How To Make Reishi Mushroom Tincture

Reishi Mushrooms. You have probably heard them being touted as a great medicinal mushroom and a wonderful healer. Well, I’m not going to tell you anything different. Reishi is kind of a big deal.

REISHI HISTORY

Reishi is known as Ling Zhi, which means “spirit plant” or “tree of life mushroom” in Chinese spoken word, and the Chinese characters literally translate to “shaman praying for rain.” Those names should give you an idea of how truly powerful the reishi mushroom is. It was seen as such an important herb in ancient times that it can be found in art depicting Emperors and on temple walls in the hands of the gods and goddesses of old.

WHERE DO THEY GROW?

Reishi grows on decaying hardwood deciduous trees and is native to China. It’s pretty rare to find them in the wild, so people have taken to cultivating these magical friends. It comes in a whole variety of colors, but the red one is considered the most medicinal of them all.

what does reishi mushroom do for us?

Reishi is considered a three vital tonic. That means that it helps protect and build the Jing, raises the Qi, and deeply supports the Shen of our personal energies. These three aspects of our energy are the keys to life.

The Jing is the energy that we’re born with and the energy that we lose when we’re dying. The Qi takes care of the Jing and keeps it safe from the difficulties that we deal with in his life. The Shen is representative of the larger self and spiritual journey. Wow! No wonder our red mushroom friend is such a big deal.

ADAPTOGENIC PROPERTIES

Reishi is an adaptogen. That means it helps our bodies adjust to the environment that we’re in. It’s great for adrenal fatigue (stress) because it helps us to stay calm in stressful situations – the ancients say that it “calms the spirit.”

It’s anti-inflammatory, a heart and liver protective tonic, and a super antioxidant. Long term use of reishi is considered to promote longevity and keep a person’s agility intact into the later parts of life.

reishi mushroom for immunity

reishi mushroom for immunity

Because they have lots of bioavailable polysaccharides in them, Reishi mushrooms are great for immunity. Polysaccharides are long-chain sugar molecules that help function as building blocks for our bodies and serve as an energy reserve.

HOW DO THEY WORK?

Studies have shown that the polysaccharides in the reishi help build the immune system by activating our immune cells (T-lymphocytes) and increasing phagocytosis, a process where good cells in our body engulf pathogens that could make us sick.

A POWERFUL IMMUNE BUILDER

It also helps increase immune response and causes non-specific activation of the system under attack. Just to add a little bit of the “spirit plant” back into to all this science, that means that the reishi knows what part of your body is being affected, gets in there, brings reinforcements, heals your soldier cells and gives energy to your depleted system. I don’t know about you, but that’s the type of support we want.

All of this basically means that reishi builds and protects our immune systems with one hand tied behind its back (er.. mycelium?).

how to use reishi mushroom for immunity

Reishi isn’t delicious. While it is technically an edible mushroom, it’s almost impossible to eat because it’s tough like leathery wood. Don’t buy the whole mushroom unless you’re using it for decoration or you have some serious grinding tools.

I actually broke a coffee grinder and a pair of scissors trying to cut up a whole mushroom for medicine – that’s a personal problem, I know, but it’s good for you to know so that you don’t make the same mistake.

OPT FOR SLICES

Reishi slices on the other hand make beautiful medicine, and you can snap them apart with your bare hands.

Traditionally, reishi is used in tea or in tincture. I personally tincture it but a tea is perfectly fine too. The taste is very bitter and a lot like a common mushroom.

reishi mushroom for immunity

FOR TEA

  1. Take 1-2 large reishi slices and put them in about a quart of water on the stove. You can add other herbs too if you want; licorice root is great because it adds a sweet note to the bitterness.
  2. Let the water boil for at least 15 minutes.
  3. You can let it boil for a very long time, just make sure to add more water as it evaporates off. You can also do this in a crockpot on high for a few hours and it works wonderfully.
  4. Strain it off and drink it when it’s cool!

TO TINCTURE

You need to extract reishi in two different ways. It’s just so special that you need two different methods to pull out all of the bioavailable love. Traditionally, this is an alcohol extraction and a hot water extraction. I know this is a little advanced, but (at risk of being cheesy) if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right!

  1. Fill a pint or a quart mason jar with broken or ground reishi.
  2. Pour 2-3 cups of the highest proof of alcohol over it that you have (whiskey or vodka is fine) and set it somewhere out of the way.
  3. Let it sit for at least two weeks, shake it and give it love energy everyday.
  4. Strain out your tincture and set the alcohol aside – DON’T THROW IT OUT, THIS IS YOUR TINCTURE!
  5. Put the reishi mark (that’s what you have left over from the alcohol extraction) into a pot of water and boil it. It’s like making a tea, but you want the water to evaporate off this time. I start with about a quart of water and boil it down to about a cup but it can be up to 2 cups.
  6. Strain the water into the jar that you want your tincture to stay in and compost the reishi (don’t forget to say thank you to your spent herb!).
  7. When your reishi water is cool, slowly pour the reishi alcohol that you made into the water. Tip: Polysaccharides don’t like alcohol and they can come out of solution if you pour the water extraction into the alcohol extraction or if the overall alcohol content is higher than 40%

WHAT ARE THE SOLID FORMS IN MY TINCTURE?

If you see little solids form in your reishi when you combine the alcohol and water that’s okay. Those little guys are the polysaccharides reacting with the alcohol. Just shake it before you use it and you’ll still get all the benefits that reishi will give you!

Voila! A beautiful reishi tincture that will last forever! You can take a dropperful of this guy daily. It’s not an immediate fix to sickness because it’s not fast acting. This is something that you take small amounts of everyday and it helps you to not get sick in the first place (and it works!).

 

Sources:
Rogers, R. (2011). The fungal pharmacy: The complete guide to medicinal mushrooms and lichens of North America. Berkeley, Calif.: North Atlantic Books.

Essiac Tea Benefits

Essiac tea is an herbal drink that is made from four ingredients: burdock root, Indian rhubarb root, sheep sorrel, and slippery elm. Flor-Essence is a similar blend of herbs that contains the primary ingredients of Essiac tea plus four others: watercress, blessed thistle, red clover, and kelp. Both Essiac tea and Flor-Essence are widely reported to provide numerous healing benefits but published scientific studies do not support those claims.

What Is Essiac Tea?

Essiac tea is an herbal compound with a rich history. The original blend was made famous by Rene Caisse,1 a nurse who set up a clinic in Bainbridge, Ontario, Canada, to help cancer patients with the tonic. (Essiac is Caisse spelled backward.)

Caisse did not develop the blend herself but rather received it from an acquaintance who claimed that using the tonic cured her breast cancer. The original blend is said to be a traditional Ojibwa remedy, but Caisse made it famous with her work that continued into the 1970s.

In its original proportions, the herbal formulation is trademarked and sold by a Canadian company. But there are many Essiac-like teas and products sold online and in stores.

There are four basic Essiac tea ingredients:

  • Burdock root (Arctium lappaArctium majus) is a large herbaceous plant of the daisy family. It is purported to treat cancer, lower blood sugar, promote urination, reduce wrinkles, and provide other benefits.
  • Indian rhubarb root (Rheum palmatumRheum officinale) is said to provide relief from a variety of symptoms such as constipation and fever. It is also believed to treat cancer, treat infections, and boost the immune system.
  • Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella) is said to treat cancer, diarrhea, and reduce fever or inflammation.
  • Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra) is believed to reduce coughing or bronchitis, treat diarrhea, and ease irritable bowel syndrome.

The original formula of Essaic tea has been kept a secret since the sale of the recipe to a private company and is the subject of some debate.

Some say the ingredient proportions and method of consumption are important keys to getting the full benefits from the tea.

A quick internet search for a basic Essiac tea recipe provides several variations of the blend, but the most common is:

  • 1.5 pounds burdock root
  • 1 pound powdered sheep sorrel
  • 1/4 pound slippery elm
  • 1 pound Turkish rhubarb root

The ingredients are mixed together and stored in a glass container away from light. To make the tea, boiled, unchlorinated water is poured over the herbs and steeped for 12 hours. Proponents recommend drinking a 2-ounce serving, unheated, typically before bed,

Essiac Tea Benefits

According to some companies who sell the tea and other supporters, the benefits of Essiac tea include cancer treatment and prevention, HIV and AIDS treatment, immune system support, and diabetes therapy. Consumers who are not battling illness might use the tea as a detoxifying elixir or as a general health tonic. These claims, however, are not supported by peer-reviewed, published literature.

In the 1970s, investigators at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (with the cooperation of Caisse) began a study on mice to try to verify Essiac tea health claims. Unfortunately, the findings were never published and questions were raised about the research methodology. Caisse later refused to provide the original formulation to researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering or to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, making future investigations difficult.2

Later human studies were attempted in Canada, but those investigations were halted by the Canadian government due to concerns over poor study design and formulation.

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, there is “no controlled data available from human studies to suggest that Essiac or Flor-Essence can be effective in the treatment of patients with cancer.” It further notes, “some evidence suggests that Flor-Essence may increase tumor formation in an animal model of breast cancer.”

Despite the lack of scientific evidence and warnings from some health agencies, Essiac tea remains extremely popular and widely available for sale.

Essiac Tea Side Effects

While there is very little evidence to support Essiac tea benefits, there is some evidence regarding side effects. Drinking this herbal compound or the similar Flor-Essence may cause increased bowel movements, frequent urination, swollen glands, skin blemishes, flu-like symptoms, or slight headaches.3

Other sources express concern over the tannins present in burdock, sorrel, rhubarb, and slippery elm. Consumers may experience stomach problems if the tea is consumed in high doses and the tannins may lead to kidney or liver damage.4 Experts add that long-term use of tannins may increase the risk of head and neck cancers, although there are no documented human cases.

Burdock may increase or decrease blood sugar levels, which may be harmful to Essiac tea drinkers with diabetes or hypoglycemia. And oxalic acid (in rhubarb, slippery elm, and sorrel) may cause nausea, vomiting, mouth/throat burning, dangerously low blood pressure, blood electrolyte imbalances, seizure, throat swelling that interferes with breathing, and liver or kidney damage when consumed in large doses.