Winter flower endemic to China, Chimonanthus or wintersweet, found to have a wide range of medicinal properties

(Natural News) The six species that make up the Chimonanthus genus of flowering plants are commonly prescribed as treatments in folk medicine or turned into healthy beverages and decoctions. A recent meta-analysis by Chinese researchers indicated that these plants – often called wintersweet – contain many natural compounds with various beneficial effects. Traditional Chinese medicine…

Stress-busting fatty acids discovered in Mycobacterium vaccae

Humans’ modern-day obsession with keeping their homes and bodies regularly disinfected and as close to sterile as possible has come at a steep price — the lack of regular communing with beneficial microbes in the environment.

The issue is only compounded by the fact that many people no longer spend much time outdoors working, playing or otherwise cohabitating with the soil and all of its biological inhabitants.

Within the soil, it turns out, are a host of useful microbes, of which researchers have only uncovered the tip of the iceberg, but what’s been revealed so far is fascinating. University of Colorado Boulder researchers recently found, for instance, bacteria in the soil that’s a source of anti-inflammatory fat — exposure to which may benefit mental health.1

Bacteria in soil may contain stress-relieving fats

Mycobacterium vaccae (M. vaccae) is a type of bacteria found in the natural environment, including soil. The bacteria have previously been found to have anti-inflammatory, immunoregulatory and stress resilience properties,2 as well as offer anti-anxiety effects,3 but the reasons why remained unclear. Now, research published in the journal Psychopharmacology may have unveiled a key piece of the puzzle.4

When evaluating M. vaccae, researchers identified and isolated 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid, a novel fatty acid that they then sequenced to determine how it interacted with immune cells.

The fatty acid, or lipid, proved to bind to peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR), inhibiting inflammation-boosting pathways. Further, when they treated cells with 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid, they were better able to resist inflammation.5

Christopher Lowry, the study’s senior author, said in a news release, “We think there is a special sauce driving the protective effects in this bacterium, and this fat is one of the main ingredients in that special sauce.” He added:6

“It seems that these bacteria we co-evolved with have a trick up their sleeve,” said Lowry. “When they get taken up by immune cells, they release these lipids that bind to this receptor and shut off the inflammatory cascade …

This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils. We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us.”

Why gardening is an excellent form of stress relief

Gardening presents a trifecta of stress-reducing potential, including physical activity, exposure to beneficial sunlight and, last but not least, exposure to microbes. M. vaccae, for instance, has been shown to reduce anxiety-related behavior and improve learning in mice,7 and it’s possible people inhale such mood-boosting microbes when they’re outside playing or working in the dirt.

In 2004, researchers added M. vaccae to standard chemotherapy for cancer patients, which resulted in significantly improved quality of life.8 In 2007, Lowry and colleagues revealed that M. vaccae activated serotonin-producing neurons in mouse brains — specifically those involved in the immune response.9,10

In 2016, Lowry and colleagues published another study on the remarkable bacteria, showing that when mice were injected with a heat-killed preparation of M. vaccae, then housed with larger, aggressive males, they showed less anxiety and fear-like behaviors.11 The mice also had a 50 percent lower risk of suffering from stress-induced colitis and had less systemic inflammation.12

The results suggest, according to the researchers, that M. vaccae may help prevent disorders similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in mice:13

“Treatment of mice with a heat-killed preparation of an immunoregulatory environmental microorganism, Mycobacterium vaccae, prevents stress-induced pathology. These data support a strategy of “reintroducing” humans to their old friends to promote optimal health and wellness.”

Likewise, Lowry stated that as humans have moved into urban areas, away from their agricultural or hunter-gatherer roots, they’ve lost contact with beneficial organisms that helped to regulated their immune systems and suppress inflammation. “That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders,” he said.14

Soil may also be a source of powerful antibiotics

Antibiotic-resistant disease is spreading across the globe. Every year at least 2 million Americans acquire drug-resistant infections and 23,000 die as a result. Many others die from conditions that were complicated by antibiotic-resistant infections.15

One study estimated that up to 50% of pathogens that cause surgical site infections, and 25% of those that cause infections following chemotherapy, are already resistant to common antibiotics.16 Unless steps are taken to curb antibiotics usage (including in agriculture), it’s possible we could return to an era where antibiotics no longer cure common bacterial infections — but it’s possible soil could come to the rescue.

Researchers at the Rockefeller University in New York City analyzed about 2,000 soil samples from the U.S., extracting DNA and screening it to turn up a new family of antibiotics called malacidins.17 The compounds were powerful enough to kill multidrug-resistant bacteria in laboratory tests.18

In 2018, researchers tested soil samples from Northern Ireland, also revealing a potential source of antibiotics. They were looking for the presence of Streptomyces, which are known to produce antibiotics, and a novel strain they named Streptomyces sp. myrophorea.19 The new bacterial strain was also capable of inhibiting the growth of multidrug-resistant pathogens.20

Interestingly, there are historical accounts of people using soil, such as the red soils from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, to treat infections. When researchers collected samples of soil from the area and inoculated them with bacteria, the bacteria were quickly killed, and a number of antibiotic-producing bacteria were identified in the samples.21,22

One of the authors of the Ireland study, professor Paul Dyson of Swansea University Medical School, explained in a news release that looking toward traditional medicines, like soil, could be the answer to modern-day problems:23

“This new strain of bacteria [Streptomyces sp. Myrophorea] is effective against 4 of the top 6 pathogens that are resistant to antibiotics, including MRSA. Our discovery is an important step forward in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

Our results show that folklore and traditional medicines are worth investigating in the search for new antibiotics. Scientists, historians and archaeologists can all have something to contribute to this task. It seems that part of the answer to this very modern problem might lie in the wisdom of the past.”

Trees also release stress-relieving compounds

In Japan, a practice known as Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, is a popular pasttime. In a study that compared the health effects of spending time in a forest versus spending time in a city, the forest environment was found to promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity and lower sympathetic nerve activity.24

Forest bathing has also been shown to offer relaxation effects while decreasing symptoms of depression, fatigue, anxiety and confusion in middle-aged men.25

It’s even been found that visiting a forest increases the activity of natural killer cells, a part of the immune system, as well as the expression of anticancer proteins — beneficial effects that persisted for at least seven days after the visit to the forest.26 Volatile compounds called phytoncides, such as such as alpha-pinene and beta-pinene, are released from trees and found in forest air.27

It’s thought that phytoncides released from trees, as well as reductions in stress hormone, may be partly responsible for the increased activity of killer cells.28 When 498 volunteers spent time in a forest, they experienced significant reductions in stress levels, including lower scores in feelings of hostility and depression. The researchers wrote in the journal Public Health:29

“This study revealed that forest environments are advantageous with respect to acute emotions, especially among those experiencing chronic stress.

Accordingly, shinrin-yoku may be employed as a stress reduction method, and forest environments can be viewed as therapeutic landscapes. Therefore, customary shinrin-yoku may help to decrease the risk of psychosocial stress-related diseases, and evaluation of the long-term effects of shinrin-yoku is warranted.”

The case for eating dirt

Many have taken on the attitude that getting dirty is a bad thing, but when that dirt comes from a natural (nonpolluted) environment, the opposite is actually true. In many parts of the world, in fact, even eating dirt is common, especially among pregnant women.

Writing in Emerging Infectious Diseases, Gerald Callahan, a professor in the department of microbiology, immunology and pathology at Colorado State University, suggests this may be done to boost the mother’s immune system, helping her to produce high levels of antibodies against pathogens in the environment, which would then appear in breast milk and offer further protection for the infant.30

“Eating dirt, then, rather than being abnormal, may be an evolutionary adaptation acquired over millennia of productive and not-so-productive interactions with bacteria — an adaptation that enhances fetal immunity and increases calcium, eliminates gastric upset, detoxifies some plant and animal toxins, and perhaps boosts mothers’ immunity,” he notes.31

He also points out the common habit that children have of eating dirt. It’s so common that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates children consume between 200 milligrams and 800 milligrams of dirt daily.32 While parents may try to stop this, Callahan notes, this exposure to dirt and the microbes therein is likely an integral part of healthy development:

“We parents have tried for years to put a stop to it. I don’t know of an instance in which anybody has succeeded in keeping children away from dirt. But animals have been successfully raised in absolutely sterile environments.

Rabbits, mice, guinea pigs, and rats have been raised under such conditions. In each case, the immune system failed to develop normally … Evidence suggests that the results would be the same in children.”

While, unfortunately, many areas have soil polluted with heavy metals, agricultural chemicals and other toxins that would make eating it dangerous, the underlying premise is the same: Don’t be afraid of getting dirty. Spend time outdoors, work in your garden and enjoy a tomato or two picked fresh from the vine.

Soil-based spores, or sporebiotics, are another option you can use to help introduce more beneficial microbes to your body, but you can also make a conscious effort to get out in nature as much as possible, put your hands and feet in the dirt, and re-establish the natural connection that’s been an innate and beneficial part of being human for millennia.

Hydrangeas — What makes these colorful flowers so popular?

The hydrangea belongs to the Saxifragaceae family, with four species native to the United States encompassing diverse locations such as New York, Georgia, Oklahoma, Missouri and Tennessee.1 Beginner gardeners can gain plenty of experience cultivating this plant, because some varieties are easy to grow.2

Different hydrangea varieties you should be aware of

According to FTD by Design, there are numerous varieties of hydrangea, producing flowers of different sizes and colors:3

Bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) — Also called florist’s hydrangea, garden hydrangea or French hydrangea, it’s the most common hydrangea variety. It is known for its thick, shiny, heart-shaped and short-stemmed leaves, which can grow 4 to 6 inches long and 3 to 5 inches wide. There are three known types of bigleaf hydrangea:

? Mophead hydrangeas — Flowers can be purple, blue or pink. It’s the most recognized and popular hydrangea because of the large, puffy flower heads.

? Lacecap hydrangeas — These are almost identical to mophead hydrangeas, although they have smaller fertile flower buds in the center and showy flowers around the flower head’s edge.

? Mountain hydrangeas — They slightly resemble lacecap hydrangeas, but tend to have smaller flowers and leaves.

A unique type of bigleaf hydrangea you should be aware of is the Endless Summer developed by Bailey Nurseries. It was made with the goal of blooming throughout the entire summer, even with old growth.4

Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) — This one is native to the U.S., and also known as wild hydrangea. It’s usually grown as a hedge plant, although it can become a large shrub, sometimes reaching up to 6 feet tall. Smooth hydrangea flowers appear green upon the first opening, but whiten as the plant matures. Two popular smooth hydrangea cultivars include:

? Annabelle — This is typically used to refer to all smooth hydrangeas, and was inspired by the town of Anna, Illinois, where it’s said the first smooth hydrangea was discovered. This cultivar produces white and round flower heads resembling large snowballs, growing up to 12 inches in diameter.

? Incrediball hydrangeas5 The shrub is classified as Hydrangea arborescens “Abetwo” Incrediball. “Abetwo” is actually the cultivar name, while “Incrediball” is the trademark name. This cultivar is called “Incrediball” because of the impressive size of the plant’s rounded flower heads, which can resemble balls.

Panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) — Native to Japan and China, it’s also called limelight hydrangea.6 This plant produces white flowers at first, but as it matures, the flowers turn pink. A popular cultivar of panicle hydrangea is the grandiflora hydrangea, which can grow exceptionally large, reaching up to 25 feet tall and bloom pure white flowers.7

Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) — These are known for their leaves, which resemble those from oak trees. During fall, the leaves tend to change color and are the only known type of hydrangea to do this. In addition, the leaves are either bright red, golden orange or deep mahogany.

As for their flowers, oakleaf hydrangeas develop white cone-shaped flower heads (which can be single blossom or double-blossom) that gradually turn pink as the plant matures.

Climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea animola ssp. Petiolaris) — Native to Asia, where it’s called the “Japanese hydrangea vine,” this hydrangea is gaining popularity because of its ability to climb walls and other structures, in some instances reaching 80 feet.

Climbing hydrangeas can also be planted as shrubs when there are no supporting structures present, reaching 3 to 4 feet in height. Once the plants mature, pleasantly fragrant white hydrangeas with lacecap-like flowers will bloom.

Take note that these are just some of the most basic types of hydrangeas. There are other unique hydrangea cultivars you can consider planting:8

  • Nikko Blue
  • Zinfin Doll
  • BloomStruck
  • El Dorado
  • Madame Emile Mouillere
  • Unique
  • Cityline Mars
  • Gatsby Pink
  • Blue Deckle
  • You and Me Together
  • Miss Saori

Health benefits of hydrangeas

Historically, hydrangea has been used in various ways. Published research shows that this plant’s potential health benefits include helping:

  • Promote kidney health — A study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine notes that coumarins found in hydrangea paniculata helped improve renal function and reduce renal oxidative stress in mice.9
  • Protect the liver — Results from a 2017 study indicate that compounds found in hydrangea macrophylla have hepatoprotective properties.10
  • Manage inflammation — Research published in Frontiers in Pharmacology note that hydrangea paniculata contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may benefit people who are affected with septic acute kidney injury.11

What can hydrangeas be used for?

Hydrangeas are renowned for being ornamental plants thanks to their attractive flowers.12 In addition to being nice to look at, hydrangeas can serve other roles in your garden. The Missouri Botanical Garden considers hydrangeas as one of the best plants to use as shrubs.13

Some hydrangea varieties are valued for their healing abilities. An article from the Journal of the American Herbalists Guild states that root bark from hydrangea arborescens is an effective analgesic for people experiencing pain in the urinary tract. The article also provides instructions on how to make tea easily from this plant:14

  1. Combine one-half to 1 teaspoon of dried bark with filtered water.
  2. Steep for 1 hour. Take 4 ounces only.

How to grow hydrangeas

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, hydrangeas are best planted during spring or fall.15 If you’re set on planting hydrangeas, take note of these tips for elegant and eye-catching flowers. Planting can be done via root cuttings:16,17

1. Select a hydrangea stem at least 6 inches long — a good time is between April and August — that has no flowers and is newly grown. New-growth stems have a lighter green color. If you live in an area with a colder climate where hydrangea tends to die, the hydrangea bush or shrub may consist of new growth.

2. Cut the stem just below a leaf node, or where a set of leaves will be growing. The cutting must be at least 4 inches long and have at least one additional set of leaves above the leaf node. Snip the cutting from the stem.

3. Remove the lowest pair of leaves from the cutting and trim flush to the stem. Remove the topmost set of leaves, leaving the two leaves nearest the base of the stem. Take these leaves and cut them in half, crosswise. If you have rooting hormone, dip the end of the hydrangea cutting in it. Although the rooting hormone can help increase the possibility of successfully propagating a hydrangea plant, you can still propagate hydrangeas without it.

Afterward, stick the cutting into well-drained damp potting soil containing plenty of organic matter or humus.

4. Cover the pot or container with a plastic bag, making sure that it doesn’t touch the leaves of the cutting. Place the pot or container away from direct sunlight. Check the cutting every few days to make sure the soil is still damp. In two to four weeks, the cutting will be rooted and the propagation will be complete.

If you have enough space at home (whether a garden or a backyard), why not plant hydrangeas there? Here’s how to plant hydrangeas outside:18,19

1. Dig a hole approximately 2 feet across and 1 foot deep. It should be as deep as the root ball. While hydrangeas can grow without difficulty in various soils, fairly rich, porous and moist soil is highly ideal. If you think the soil is poor quality, try adding more compost.

2. Set the plant in the hole and fill it half-full with soil. Water the plant first, and after the water is drained, fill the rest of the hole with soil and water thoroughly again. If you’re planting multiple hydrangeas, space them 3 to 10 feet apart.

3. Fertilize the plant using a general-purpose fertilizer, such as 10-10-10 applied at a rate of 2 cups per 100 square feet in March, May and July. Water the plant soon after to help dissolve the fertilizer into the soil. It’s not necessary to remove mulch when fertilizing. Ideally, water the hydrangeas thoroughly once a week or more frequently.

Rich soils don’t need a lot of fertilizing. However, if the soil is light or sandy, feed the plants annually during late winter or spring. Excessive fertilizer will cause the plant to produce more leaves and fewer flowers.

4. For the first year or two after planting, and if there is any drought, make sure hydrangeas get plenty of water. If the soil is too dry, the leaves will wilt. During fall, cover the plants with bark mulch, leaves, pine needles or straw, to a depth of at least 18 inches. If possible, cover the entire plant (tip included) with cages made of snow fencing or chicken wire loosely filled with leaves. Avoid using maple leaves because of their tendency to break down quickly.

If you wish to grow a specific color of hydrangeas, determine the soil’s acidity — it’s a major factor. White blooms will always be white, while hydrangeas with naturally pink flowers tend to produce blue blooms. The closer the soil is to a balanced pH level of 6.5, the lighter the color of the hydrangeas.

Growing different types of hydrangeas

If you’re looking to plant a specific type of hydrangea, you have to take note of certain characteristics, such as the soil and weather conditions the plant can thrive in. These factors play a role in when and how long it will take for these hydrangeas to bloom:20

Bigleaf hydrangeas — They grow well in moist and well-drained soil. A little shade is preferred because too much can lead to reduced flowering. Bigleaf hydrangeas bloom in June and July. If you want to plant any of the three types of bigleaf hydrangeas, take note of these requirements:

? Mophead hydrangeas — This type tends to thrive well in areas in the U.S. with a level 6 hardiness zone. Mophead hydrangea flower buds can be sensitive to cold temperatures and may not survive winter months.

? Lacecap hydrangeas — Just like mophead hydrangeas, lacecap hydrangeas can thrive in hardiness zone 6.

? Mountain hydrangeas — They can thrive in hardiness zone 5, and can be a great choice in areas with late winter cold snaps because they have hardier flower buds.

Smooth hydrangeas — This type of hydrangea can tolerate warmer climates. Smooth hydrangeas can thrive in hardiness zones 4 to 9, with blooming time occurring between June and September.

Panicle hydrangeas — This hydrangea is said to be one of the few types of hydrangeas that require several hours of sun, and can even tolerate full sun exposure. Panicle hydrangeas are the most cold-hardy out of the hydrangea plants, thriving in hardiness zones 4 to 7 and flowering from mid- to late summer.

Oakleaf hydrangeas — These hydrangeas may survive drier temperatures and can be more winter hardy. However, oakleaf hydrangeas should be planted in well-drained soil, because they are highly sensitive to water log. Furthermore, avoid planting oakleaf hydrangeas in areas with deep shade, as this can cause the plant’s fall foliage colors to fade.

Oakleaf hydrangeas can survive in hardiness zones 5 to 9, with flowers blooming in early summer and lasting until late summer.

Climbing hydrangea — Growing climbing hydrangeas isn’t for the impatient, as it typically takes three to four years to show signs of growth. This slow-growing plant can be planted in hardiness zones 4 to 8, with blooming time occurring during early to mid-summer.

How to care for your hydrangeas and keep them alive

After you’re finished planting, the main question becomes: “How do I keep my hydrangeas alive?” Here are some tips on caring for hydrangeas:21,22,23

  • Avoid planting hydrangeas in hot, dry and exposed locations. Lean on the safer side and grow hydrangeas in partial shade, as excessive shade can reduce flowering. Take note that most hydrangea varieties are susceptible to weather changes, which can lead to reduced blooms.
  • Water your hydrangeas properly. These plants enjoy deep watering at least once a week, especially during dry weather.
  • Mulch the plant to maintain cool and moist conditions for the roots.

Prune hydrangeas during the summer once flowering season finishes to ensure they grow well. Avoid pruning in the late fall, winter or spring if you want flowers. Pruning panicle and smooth hydrangeas in early summer can remove prospective flower buds. On the other hand, bigleaf and oakleaf hydrangeas flowers bloom on the previous year’s growth. Pruning these hydrangeas during the fall, winter or spring may remove impending flower buds.24,25

All old flowering shoots must be removed down to where strong growth is seen appearing. Only prune stems that produced this year’s flowers; otherwise blooms will not appear on the plants next year.26

Once your hydrangeas are in full bloom and you wish to make beautiful hydrangea arrangements, take note of these instructions from SF Gate on how to properly cut hydrangea flowers:27

1. Cut flowers that are fully mature — Petals must be fully open in the center of the bloom and color should be evenly developed across the flower head. Only cut hydrangeas in the morning the day after watering. Have a bucket of water on hand and place cut hydrangea stems in it. It’s essential for the hydrangeas to stay hydrated until they are fixed in the arrangement.

2. Use clean, standard pruning tools like bypass runners when cutting hydrangeas — Cleaning the pruning tool is important to avoid crushing the stem and to help prevent bacterial contamination. Both these factors can shorten the life of a hydrangea arrangement.

3. Hold the pruning tool in your dominant hand so the blade is against the back of stem and tilted toward it at a 45-degree angle — Place your thumb in front of the stem, directly over the knife or pruning tool. Using your other hand, pull on the stem above the knife, slightly up and away from the blade.

Maintain pressure on the stem with your dominant thumb. The knife should end against your thumb, but should not have force behind it that’ll cut your skin. Cut hydrangea stems that are slightly longer than your preferred length, and cut down to a leaf node or a lateral stem to maintain the form and health of the plant.

4. Cut hydrangeas have a vase life of six to 10 days — However, mature blossoms may wilt prematurely if air enters the stem and blocks the flow of water to the flower.

To reduce air bubbles that can reduce their life span, try recutting stems at a 45-degree angle with the ends under water, plunging the cut ends of the stems in boiling water for 30 seconds or smashing the ends of the stems with a hammer (although some sources highlight that this tip can cause problems with water uptake).

Removing foliage from hydrangea stems can be beneficial to direct more water to the flowers. It also pays to consider the size of the arrangement and the container you’ll be using — shorter containers and arrangements can make it easier for water to travel up the stem and reach the flower.

How to dry and preserve hydrangeas

Once blooming season ends, hydrangeas turn either burgundy, brown, bronze or muted shades of cream and pale green. If you find it disheartening to see hydrangeas at this stage, don’t worry. You can preserve these beautiful flowers by drying them. Lynn Couiter of HGTV shares these steps for drying hydrangeas:28

  • Allow flowers to dry naturally on the plants — This period runs from August to October. Hydrangeas are ready for drying when petals develop a “vintage” look or mature to the extent that the flowers look like parchment paper with pink or green hues. The flowers can also have a papery texture.
  • Avoid snipping hydrangeas during peak blooms or a rainy spell — There’s a tendency that stems and leaves will hold too much water, and the flowers will not be able to dry fast enough. Timing is key, as you shouldn’t wait too long or the flowers will turn brown.
  • Snip the flowers on a cool morning — Cut hydrangea stems at an angle with lengths measuring 12 to 18 inches. Remove leaves and place the stems in a jar, covering them with water about halfway. Place the jar in a cool spot out of direct light and check periodically.

Avoid crowding hydrangea stems in the container. The different lengths of stems will enable good air circulation. Hydrangea blooms can be ready in around two weeks. If they’re still not mature, pour a little more water and give the plant more time.29

You can also hang the stems upside down individually or in small bunches in a cool and dry spot out of direct sunlight. Check these stems periodically for dryness. Placing hydrangea stems inside a plastic container and covering them with silica or white sand is another way to dry the flowers. After two to four days, shake them gently until clean.30

Ashwagandha may reduce anxiety and stress

Known as a multipurpose herb and “rejuvenator” used in ancient Ayurvedic1 and Chinese medicine for thousands of years, ashwagandha2 (Withania somnifera) is a plant native to India with a host of bioactive functions.

Ashwagandha is one of the few true adaptogenic herbs that helps your body adapt to stress3 by balancing your immune system,4 metabolism and hormonal systems.5 As noted in the medical review, “Scientific Basis for the Therapeutic Use of Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha)”:6

“Studies indicate ashwagandha possesses anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antistress, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, hemopoietic, and rejuvenating properties. It also appears to exert a positive influence on the endocrine, cardiopulmonary, and central nervous systems … Toxicity studies reveal that ashwagandha appears to be a safe compound.”

While some adaptogens are stimulants in disguise, this is not the case with ashwagandha. It can give your morning exercise a boost, yet when taken before bed it can help you get a good night’s sleep as well. It’s also capable of “intelligently” upregulating or downregulating your adre­nal cortisol as needed, which makes it a valuable adjunct against stress and anxiety.

Ashwagandha shown to reduce stress, depression and anxiety

In one placebo-controlled clinical trial,7 published in 2012, volunteers with a history of chronic stress who took 300 milligrams (mg) of a highly concentrated full-spectrum ashwagandha extract twice a day for 60 days reported significant reductions in stress, compared to controls who received a placebo.

While perceived stress scale (PSS) scores in the control group declined by a modest 5.5% over the 60 days, the treatment group receiving ashwagandha had a 44% reduction in PSS scores. And, as reported by the authors:8

“Furthermore, the decrease in the stress measure over the study period of 60 days was considerably higher in the Ashwagandha group than in the placebo group … In the Ashwagandha group, by Day 60 there was a significant reduction in scores corresponding to all of the item-subsets:

76.1% for the ‘Somatic’ item-subset, 69.7% for the ‘Anxiety and Insomnia’ item-subset, 68.1% for the ‘Social Dysfunction’ item-subset, 79.2% for the ‘Severe Depression’ item-subset.

In contrast, in the placebo control group, the corresponding reductions in scores were much smaller: 4.9%, 11.6%, –3.7% and –10.6%, respectively. As can be readily seen, the difference is at least 58 percentage points and as high as 89 percentage points.”

Blood testing also revealed the cortisol levels of the treatment group decreased by an average of 27.9% after 60 days of supplementation, while the placebo group had a reduction of just 7.9%. In conclusion, the researchers stated:9

“The findings suggest that high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life. High-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract can be used safely as an adaptogen in adults who are under stress.”

Other studies showing antianxiety benefits of ashwagandha

Similar results were found in a 2009 study,10 in which patients diagnosed with moderate to severe anxiety lasting longer than six weeks who were treated with 300 mg of ashwagandha root for three months reported “significantly decreased” symptoms compared to those undergoing standard psychotherapy.

Beck anxiety inventory (BAI) scores decreased by 56.5% in the ashwagandha group after 12 weeks of treatment, compared to 30.5% in the psychotherapy group. According to the researchers:

“Significant differences between groups were also observed in mental health, concentration, fatigue, social functioning, vitality, and overall quality of life with the [naturopathic care] group exhibiting greater clinical benefit.”

A systematic review11 of five human trials published in 2014 also concluded that treatment with ashwagandha “resulted in greater score improvements (significantly in most cases) than placebo in outcomes on anxiety or stress scales.”

However, while all five studies supported this conclusion, the authors noted that “Current evidence should be received with caution because of an assortment of study methods and cases of potential bias.”

A fourth study,12 this one published in 2015, found “empirical evidence to support the traditional use of [ashwagandha] to aid in mental process engaging GABAergic signaling.” According to the authors:

“Our results provide evidence indicating that key constituents in [ashwagandha] may have an important role in the development of pharmacological treatments for neurological disorders associated with GABAergic signaling dysfunction such as general anxiety disorders, sleep disturbances, muscle spasms and seizures.”

Main bioactive compounds in ashwagandha

Flavonoids and other compounds are the active ingredients that give ashwagandha its many powerful properties. These include but are not limited to:

Withanolides — naturally occurring steroids — have been shown13 to suppress pathways responsible for several inflammation-based illnesses, including arthritis, asthma, hypertension, osteoporosis14 and cancer.

Withanolides in ashwagandha also have immunomodulating properties,15 described as substances that can either stimulate or suppress your immune system to help fight infections, cancer and other diseases.

Somniferin — One of the alkaloids in ashwagandha, helps promote relaxation and sound sleep. A study16 at the University of Tsukuba in Japan also found it relieves related problems such as insomnia and restless leg syndrome.

Triethylene glycol — Found in the leaves of the ashwagandha plant, this compound has also been shown to induce sleep and combat insomnia.17

Ashwagandholide — a dimeric withanolide found in ashwagandha root — has been shown18 to inhibit growth of several types of cancer (including gastric, breast, central nervous system, colon and lung). It also inhibits inflammation by inhibiting activity and lipid peroxidation of cyclooxygenase-2,19 an enzyme that speeds up production of inflammatory prostaglandins.20

The many health benefits of ashwagandha

If you suspect ashwagandha might be beneficial for other ailments beside anxiety and stress, you’d be absolutely correct. It’s not considered one of the most important herbs in Ayurvedic medicine for nothing. Importantly, a number of studies have shown it can treat several diseases and disorders better than medications, without all the side effects.

For example, studies show ashwagandha has antitumor and blood production (hemopoietic) capabilities, and benefits the cardiopulmonary, endocrine and central nervous systems, all “with little or no associated toxicity.”21 Ashwagandha has also been shown to:22,23,24,25,26,27,28

Support healthy levels of total lipids, cholesterol and triglycerides that are already in the normal range

Enhance radiation therapy effects29 by reducing tumor GSH levels.30 It also reversed paclitaxel-induced neutropenia (low neutrophil count, a type of white blood cell) in mice31

Counteract osteoporosis32 (reduced bone density)

Protect your brain from oxidative stress,33 and lower your risk of Alzheimer’s 34,35

Improve memory and cognitive function by slowing down the deterioration of brain cells, repairing brain cell damage and rebuilding neuronal networks and synapses

Stimulate proper thyroid function36 and treat subclinical hypothyroid — In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study,37 ashwagandha was pitted against some of the most popular drugs targeted for hypothyroid patients. The study involved 50 participants with elevated serum thyroid hormone (TSH), all between the ages of 18 and 50.

Divided into two groups, each was given either ashwagandha treatments or starch as a placebo for eight weeks. According to the researchers, ashwagandha effectively and significantly normalized serum thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), T3 and T4 levels, compared to placebo, stating such treatment may be beneficial for hypothyroid patients.

As explained by Thyroid Advisor,38 ashwagandha “directs THS hormone to travel to the pituitary. TSH triggers the thyroid gland to produce sufficient amounts of T4 and T3.” Improved thyroid function will also help stabilize mood39

Reduce blood pressure40

Inhibit inflammation — In animal studies, ashwagandha was found to be more effective against inflammation than phenylbutazone41 or hydrocortisone42

Protect nerve function and oxidation43

Provide natural pain relief44

Nourish and protect your liver

Increase red blood cell production

Improve adrenal function45

Increase energy and endurance

Promote healthy immune function

Treatment aid for ADHD

Improve incontinence

Treatment aid for Type 2 diabetes as it helps restore insulin sensitivity

Improve conjunctivitis

Treatment aid for vitiligo

Ease symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

Improve hyperglycemia

Promote longevity46

Improve cardiovascular health — Ashwagandha helps maintain your heart health through its regulation of blood circulation. It helps prevent blood clots, and helps keep blood pressure levels within the normal range, which prevents the stress from burdening your heart47

Maintain youthful appearance of skin — Ashwagandha increases your estrogen levels, which in turn triggers the production of collagen. This allows the skin to keep its youthful appearance and helps in the production of natural oils. It also fights off free radicals that cause wrinkles, dark spots and blemishes48

Aid wound healing — Ashwagandha root powder can be used topically as a poultice to help treat wounds. Mix the powder with water to make a smooth paste, and apply to the wound. It will help fight off bacteria, alleviate pain and speed up the healing process

Treat arthritis — Ashwagandha has been noted in Ayurvedic manuscripts as well as modern medicine as being an effective remedy for rheumatoid arthritis (Amavata) and osteoarthritis (Sandhi-gata Vata).49

According to one study,50 “Patients of rheumatoid arthritis receiving Ashwagandha root powder showed excellent response. Their pain and swelling completely disappeared. A double-blind placebo controlled study, combining Ashwagandha, turmeric and zinc showed significant improvement in pain and inflammation”

Support sexual and reproductive health in men and women — In men struggling with infertility, ashwagandha has been shown to balance their luteinizing hormone,51 which controls reproductive organ function in both men and women. Ashwagandha can also help boost testosterone levels in men,52,53 which can have a beneficial effect on libido and sexual performance.

In one placebo-controlled trial,54 men between the ages of 18 and 50 were given either a placebo or 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract twice a day in addition to participating in a strength training program. After eight weeks, those taking ashwagandha had greater increases in testosterone, muscle size and strength, compared to those taking a placebo.

It’s also been shown to improve the quality of semen in infertile men,55 in part by inhibiting reactive oxygen species and improving essential metal concentrations, including zinc, iron and copper levels. Other research56 suggests ashwagandha improves semen quality by regulating important reproductive hormones.

In otherwise healthy women, ashwagandha has been shown to improve arousal, lubrication, orgasm and overall sexual satisfaction.57 In addition, ashwagandha’s ability to rebalance hormones (including thyroid hormone, estrogen and progesterone) has been shown to improve polycystic ovary syndrome58 and relieve symptoms associated with menopause.59

Possible side effects and contraindications of ashwagandha

While generally safe, well-tolerated and nontoxic, side effects can still occur. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center cites case reports showing side effects from ashwagandha may include:

  • Nausea, headache, stomach irritation and loose stools
  • Drowsiness 
  • Overactive thyroid
  • Burning, itching and discoloration of skin/mucous membrane
  • Irregular heartbeat, dizziness

While ashwagandha appears to be beneficial for thyroid problems, if you have a thyroid disorder, use caution and consult with your doctor, as you may need to tweak any medications you’re taking for it. Ashwagandha is also contraindicated60 for, and should not be used by:

  • Pregnant women, as it may induce abortion
  • Breastfeeding women, as it may have an effect on your child
  • People taking sedatives, as ashwagandha may augment the sedative effects

Beware of adulterated ashwagandha products

Needless to say, making sure you’re getting a high-quality product is of utmost importance. To ensure effectiveness, I recommend using 100% organic ashwagandha root, free of fillers, additives and excipients.

Ashwagandha oil61 is another form of ashwagandha that offers a wide variety of medicinal and practical uses. It’s usually mixed with other essential oils (or diluted in a safe carrier oil). Ashwagandha oil has antioxidant properties, and may be used for topical pain relief for those with arthritis and rheumatism.

Unfortunately, adulterated ashwagandha products have been found on the market, so buyer beware. A bulletin62 by the Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program reveals many ashwagandha root powders and root extracts manufactured in India are being adulterated by adding leaves, stems and aerial parts of the plant, without declaring this on the label.

In some tests, up to 80% of products were found to be adulterated in this manner. The fraudulent addition on undeclared plant material is a cost-saving strategy that results in an inferior product with questionable efficacy. The take-home message is, when buying ashwagandha, it’s worth doing your homework to make sure you’re getting a quality product.

Addressing anxiety without drugs

Getting back to anxiety, it’s important to realize there are many ways to address this now pervasive problem.63 Ideally, drugs would be your last resort, not your first, as many can cause other severe problems.

While genetics, brain chemistry, personality and life events play a role in the development of anxiety disorders, stress is a common trigger. Anxiety is a normal response to stress, but in some people the anxiety becomes overwhelming and difficult to cope with, to the point that it affects their day-to-day living.64

A number of other situations and underlying issues can also trigger or exacerbate anxiety. This includes but is not limited to the following, and addressing these issues may be what’s needed to resolve your anxiety disorder. For more information about each, please follow the links provided:

Traumatic life events — Research published in 2015 concluded traumatic life experiences were the single largest determinant of anxiety and depression, followed to a lesser extent by family history of mental illness and other social factors. In the link provided, you’ll find guidance on how to reprogram your body’s reactions to traumatic events using a simple tapping technique

Exposure to microwave radiation — Common sources include devices like cellphones, Wi-Fi routers, portable phones, smart meters, baby monitors and cellphone towers. Lowering your exposure to electromagnetic fields and microwaves is an important step if you’re struggling with anxiety or depression as it has been shown to have a direct impact

Food additives and food dyes — Food dyes of particular concern include Blue #1 and #2 food coloring; Green #3; Orange B; Red #3 and #40; Yellow #5 and #6; and the preservative sodium benzoate

GMOs and glyphosate exposure through your diet — Most nonorganic foods are contaminated with glyphosate these days, and glyphosate has been shown to produce anxiety and depression-like behaviors in mice by affecting gut microbiota65

Gut dysfunction caused by imbalanced microflora

Low vitamin D66

Lack of animal-based omega-3 — Research has shown a 20% reduction in anxiety among medical students taking omega-3s67

Lack of magnesium — Anxiety is one of a myriad symptoms of low magnesium, and as noted in the 2018 paper,68 “The Role of Magnesium in Neurological Disorders”:

“Magnesium is involved in several physiological processes in the psychoneuroendrocrine system and modulates the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, along with blocking the calcium influx of NMDA glutamatergic receptors, all of which help prevent feelings of stress and anxiety.”

Use of artificial sweeteners

Excessive consumption of sugar and junk food

Improper breathing

Exposure to toxic mold

Robert David Steele: Q, ETs, Icke, Deep State & Adrenochrome – Prepare For Change

Robert David Steel Interview Graphic

Prepare for Change speaks to Robert David Steele on May 28th in a long and winding interview that sees Robert passionately presenting his take on subjects from Q, Deep State and Adrenochrome to his recent review of David Icke’s book Everything You Need to Know But Where Never Been Told. The conversation leads to thoughts on spirituality, ETs, Reptilians, the Pope and more controversial topics that are coming up in our emerging times. He also gives an opinion on what may have happened regarding earth around 2012.

An eye-opening interview and plenty of passionately provided information from one of the USA’s most “in-the-know” insiders, followers of RDS will hear something new in this entertaining interview.

Prepare for Change is presenting a new format for the first time – a video interview. So, see Robert’s real impact on screen.

Robert served with the United States Marine Corps for 20 years in both the infantry and civil service capacities, as an intelligence agent and trainer. He is an author, writer and book reviewer who has written eight books on intelligence and electoral reform and has published over 2,500 reviews of non-fiction writings.

Along with intelligence reform, he champions election reform through his #UNRIG Election Reform website, which he originally set up with 6 term Georgia House of Representative Cynthia McKinney.

He has created a 501c3 organization called Earth Intelligence Network that seeks to promote and teach holistic analytics and open source everything engineering. He also has a public intelligence blog called His passion for exposing the human trafficking and paedophilia infection in our political and religious systems has empowered him to be a Chief Counsel for the treaty-mandated International Tribunal for Natural Justice. Most importantly he is an outspoken critic of The Deep State and all of its’ dark and controlling programs.

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Bill Maher: “Political Correctness is a Cancer”

Talk show host Bill Maher says that “political correctness is a cancer on progressivism” and that the “vast majority” of liberals in America hate it.

During an appearance on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time last night, the Real Time host complained that he was constantly on the receiving end of criticism for asking tough questions of Democratic politicians.

“When you talk to Trump supporters, they’re not blind to his flaws but they always say he’s not politically correct,” said Maher.

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Elementary Kids Get ‘Special Surprise’: Erotic Drag Queen Performance at School Talent Show

Kiddie choirs. Children’s piano recitals. And a full-on, erotic drag show complete with gyrations, tongue gymnastics and a flashed G-string.

Families at a Manhattan public school talent show got an unexpected lesson in human sexuality when a grown man took the stage in a black, sequined dress and flaming red wig and performed a raunchy drag number where he grinded the stage and spread his legs.

The official public school Learning Expo held May 25 in an auditorium at the Museo del Barrio was billed as a talent show for students from across Manhattan’s District 4 to show off what they learned in school.

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