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All Posts Tagged: immune system

Spirulina

Spirulina is a blue-green algae that nutritionists are calling the superfood of the future. It is an easily produced, non-toxic species of Arthrospira bacteria.
You probably never thought you would be adding algae powder from tropical lakes to your smoothies, but spirulina is becoming quite the popular addition for many health-conscious eaters. Even though this superfood is in the spotlight right now because of its nutritional profile, bright green color, and bounty of health benefits, spirulina has been a superfood long before 21st-century nutritionists began adding it to their smoothies.
Spirulina is quite possibly one of the oldest life forms on Earth. The first people to ever use this algae as a food source is unclear, but Aztecs for sure and African natives may have consumed the algae in their daily diet many centuries ago in the shape of cakes and broths.


Similar to other sea vegetables, like kelp and chlorella, as far as its nutritional makeup, spirulina is grown around the world, from Hawaii to Mexico and Africa.
Dried spirulina contains about 60 to 70 percent protein. It’s actually considered one of the few plant-based sources of “complete protein,” meaning it contains all essential amino acids your body needs but can’t produce on its own (other foods in this category: quinoa, buckwheat, hummus, soy, hump and chia seeds). It’s also a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamins A, E, and K.
Spirulina may be more beneficial for vegans or vegetarians that lack adequate iron and vit.B12 in their diet (even though vit.B12 in not absorbed well after ingestion). Touted as a “superfood,” health claims surrounding the blue-green algae include its ability to boost immunity, fight inflammation, and reduce fatigue. It was also proved effective in fighting allergies (allergic rhinitis).
Human evidence suggests that spirulina can improve lipid and glucose metabolism, while also reducing liver fat and protecting the heart. Animal studies are very promising as well, as spirulina has been shown to be of similar potency as commonly used reference drugs, when it comes to neurological disorders. These effects also extend to arthritis and immunology. Given its high antioxidant content, spirulina has often been praised as an immune system booster.


Spirulina has a few active components. The main ingredient is called phycocyanobilin, which makes up about 1% of spirulina (and gives spirulina its deep bluish/greenish hue). This compound mimics the body’s bilirubin compound, in order to inhibit an enzyme complex called Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide Phosphate (NADPH) oxidase. By inhibiting NADPH oxidase, spirulina provides potent anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects.
Spirulina – like any blue-green algae – can be contaminated with toxic substances called microcystins. It can also absorb heavy metals from the water where it is grown. For these reasons, it is important to buy spirulina from a trusted brand.
The easiest way to utilize spirulina is to mix it into various foods. While you could simply mix a spoonful into a glass of water, many people find its pungent taste rather off-putting, but adding it to a smoothie, fruit juice, soup or other foods, even dips, can be a great way to take advantage of its many benefits without suffering through the experience. Enjoy!

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Cordyceps: the killer fungus!

Cordyceps sinensis is a very interesting medicinal mushroom that has been used for medicinal purposes in Asia for centuries. It is used mainly to restore lost energy and vigor and to stimulate a fatigued immune system acting like a general tonic for the body.

In addition to the English term “caterpillar fungus” there are other interesting names of this killer fungus. In Tibetan it is referred to as Yartsa gunbu. The Chinese name is dong chong xia cao (meaning “winter worm, summer grass”). The Latin name cordyceps means “club head”, and sinensis is “from China”. According to the recent DNA review of the genus Cordyceps, the new name for Cordyceps sinensis is actually Ophiocordyceps sinensis.

It grows only in the mountains of Himalaya, on the Tibetan plateau, at the altitude of 3,000-5,000 m in cold snowy marsh lands of China (Tibet), Nepal, India or Bhutan.

This fungus is also known for its unique way of reproducing. It sprouts from the body of dead caterpillar in the wild, entering the body of a live caterpillar while it is in the larval form of a large moth (Thitarodes spp.) native to the region. Upon infection from the spores, strands of filaments called “hyphae” begin to sprout from the spores that then leads to the death of the caterpillar. That’s a parasite with no scruples! The hyphae grow longer and multiply and develop into a relatively large stalk-like fungal fruiting body that emerges from the insect’s carcass after having sapped the caterpillar’s body of all nutrients thus killing and mummifying the remains. This horror movie action makes Cordyceps one of the coolest mushrooms around!

The killer fungus in action!

The fruiting body is usually up to 4 inches (around 10 cm) long and 0.3 inches (1/2 cm) wide. Unlike a typical mushroom, these are curved and finger-shaped like a small cane. They’re usually orange or brown. It can be a very important source of income for people living in rural Tibet.

Cordyceps sinensis – sprouting from buried caterpillars

BBC News reported a few years ago that some Himalayan villagers make their living by collecting the fungus along the mountainous regions of Tibet to sell to a Chinese market that can be as high as tens of thousands of dollars per kilogram. In fact, the money to be made is so lucrative that it resulted in multiple homicides as villagers from one region tried to prevent outsiders from cashing in on their limited supply. It was estimated that the price of Cordyceps sinensis on the Tibetan Plateau rose dramatically by 900% between 1998 and 2008 due to the demand from the Western hemisphere and Europe Today, in order to meet this demand, Cordyceps is grown in climate-controlled greenhouses within a grain-based substrate.

Tibetan mountains

Cordyceps fungus has a long history of use in traditional medicine in China and now worldwide. It has numerous bioactive compounds, including polysaccharides and nucleosides (organic molecules that will be converted into building blocks of the genetic material DNA) which have been studied for their broad range of biological activities. Its main constituents are Unsaturated fatty acids, Amino acids and Adenosine, Adenine, Uracil, Uridine and Cordycepin (3′-deoxyadenosine). It is usually standardized to 4% cordycepic acid and 0.25% adenosine (Metagenics). Cordycepin is known as a nucleotide analogue, due to its structural similarities to adenosine.

It is sweet in flavor, slightly warm in nature and in Traditional Chinese Medicine this fungus mainly manifests its therapeutics actions in the Lung and Kidney meridians (enhances Kdnney Yang and replenishes Essence, invigorates the Lungs, stops bleeding and dissolves Phlegm).

In the Western medical world, the health benefits of Cordyceps sisnesis are:

  • Stimulation of the immune function
  • General adaptogen, resulting in more energy, strength and stamina
  • Anti-tumor properties (good for cancer)
  • Anemia (builds bone marrow)
  • Persistent cough (reduces excess phlegm and increases oxygenation in the lungs)
  • General sexual tonic and libido/performance enhancer (“Viagra” of Asia)
  • Reduces cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL, VLDl and increases HDL
  • Improves Arrhythmia
  • Improves Tinnitus
  • Hypoglycemic effects (reduces blood glucose and benefits insulin resistence)
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Immunotherapy in Cancer: a new concept?

Cancer. A dreadful word. People shrug in dislike when they hear it. For some it evokes the closeness of death and the fear of the great unknown. For others it is just a word that need to be fought against and conquered.

Where did this word, by the way, cancer, come from?

It means crab, from the Latin karkinos and it was first named like this by Hippocrates, the father of Medicine. Initially he described the many tumors he encountered as being hard as a rock and reminded him of the hard shell of a crab. It was later translated as cancer (the Latin equivalence of crab) by the two other famous Ancient doctors in medicine, Celsus and Galen, whom, upon inspection and dissection, noticed that all the veins and tributaries of malignancy around that mass of tumor cells look just like a crab’s legs extending outward from every part of its body. And so the term really stuck in Medicine.

The term Oncology is another Hippocratic term and it originated from onkos, is a Greek word, and it simply means masses. I think that’s probably a lot better word than cancerologist!

Now, there is a growing body of research in the field of cancer called immunotherapy and it’s on the rise these months. Simply explained, Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is a type of cancer treatment designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses substances either made by the body or in a laboratory to improve or restore immune system function.

There are several types of immunotherapy, the most promising being: Monoclonal antibodies; Non-specific immunotherapies; Oncolytic virus therapy; T-cell therapy and Cancer vaccines.

And even though the medical establishment is saying that this approach is new and promising, I can’t stop thinking that we, the complementary healthcare practitioners, we were way ahead of them on this! Seriously? It is mostly what we do! The most of the bulk treatments we offer to our patients are, by this definition, immunotherapies! And they are as old as Medicine itself!

What else was the employment of herbal medicine in Ancient Greek? Of the use of Acupuncture in Ancient China? Or the water treatments in Europe 100 years ago? If not immunotherapy, what else? It was always in the philosophy of the ancient healers to Strengthen the terrain!…Alkalinize the body!…Improve the functioning of the body!…Detoxify and purge the systems!…to have a better chance of surviving when confronted to all kinds of malignancies, cancer included. These are all immunotherapies!

Immunotherapy as a concept is not new, my dear medical doctors colleagues. It has been used at least by naturopaths in last 100 years with good results. Our forefathers, from Priessnitz, father Kneipp, Felke, to Otis Carroll, Benedict Lust and Henry Lindlahr, all preached these concepts and improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in their time through immunotherapies!

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