Minerals, like vitamins, are essential nutrients that must be consumed as part of a healthy diet. As such, they’re popular supplements—Trisha Sugarek MacDonald, BS, MS, Sr. Director of Research & Development at Bluebonnet Nutrition Corporation, tells WholeFoods that it’s a consistently top-selling category for the brand. “Minerals serve life-sustaining functions in the body, and can support optimal health when supplemented,” she says. It’s an unfortunate fact, she notes, that “the busy, stressful lifestyles of Americans, in combination with the typical Western diet, create the perfect storm for inadequate intake of nutrients, particularly minerals, in the diet.”
Even the healthiest plant-based customer may want to discuss minerals with their healthcare provider: “A paper written by the Nutrition Security Institute in 2006 describes that throughout the world, topsoil mineral content has been depleted,” says Sugarek MacDonald. “This depletion is due to many factors, but particularly erosion, nitrogen fertilizers, and other farming practices. These factors rob the topsoil of mineral content and of soil organisms that contribute to the formation of nutrient-dense crops. Foods grown on soils that are depleted of minerals do not contain adequate levels to maintain human health, meaning that even though Americans are well fed, they are undernourished.”
From the trendy to the overlooked, here’s an update on nine minerals our experts want to help educate consumers on:
Calcium: Everyone is familiar with it—but people are still lacking, and that’s a problem. Calcium provides nutritional support for proper function of the heart, muscle contraction and relaxation, nerve transmission, hormone functions, blood pressure, healthy bones and teeth, and colon health, says Tom Druke, Marketing Director, Human Nutrition and Pharma, at Balchem, providers of Albion Minerals. “Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body, with 99% being stored in bone tissue. When levels of calcium in the blood are too low to support metabolic functions, bone reservoirs are plundered. If too much calcium is taken from bone stores, bones and teeth become weak and brittle.” He cites a meta-analysis published in BMJ that included more than 1,500 men and women over 50 years old, which showed that calcium intake increased bone mineral density.
And those over 50 aren’t the only ones who should think about a calcium supplement. “More than 40% of the population do not meet the requirements for calcium from diet alone,” says Sugarek MacDonald. “Those most at risk include older children, adolescents, and women, and some older adults. Supplementation with calcium may be a necessity, depending on diet, lifestyle, and life stage.”
Chromium: Chris Meletis, N.D., Director of Science and Research for Trace Minerals, says that “chromium has become crucial with today’s sedentary lifestyle and the increased consumption of processed foods and access to high carb foods. Way back in the late 1950s, chromium was identified as the active ingredient in brewer’s yeast that has frequently been referred to as the ‘glucose tolerance factor.’ Thus, I routinely educate patients on the role of chromium and the action of insulin.”
Iodine: This mineral is oft-overlooked, according to Cheryl Myers, Chief of Scientific Affairs and Education at EuroPharma, Inc. “Iodine is necessary for thyroid hormone production, and we are in a thyroid crisis. Crops contain up to 50% less iodine than they did in the 1970s. People are also exposed to far more fluoride, chlorine, and bromide than in the past, which compete with iodine in the body. Iodine is necessary for both brain function and healthy metabolism. I recommend three forms of iodine: Potassium iodide is preferred by the thyroid, molecular iodine is very useful for breast and prostate tissue, and sodium iodine, which is the most absorbable form of iodine, which also boosts the absorption of the other forms. We have this formula in our Tri-Iodine.”
Iron: “The prevalence of iron inadequacy assessed by serum ferritin was 8.9% in U.S. children ages 1-5 years, 15.2% in adolescent females ages 12-19 years, and 13.2% in nonpregnant women ages 20-49 years,” says Sugarek MacDonald. This is of high importance for pregnant women and infants: “Because iron content of breast milk is low,” Sugarek MacDonald explains, “the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfed infants be given 1 mg/kg/day of supplemental iron beginning at four months of age until other foods that are iron-fortified are instituted.”
Magnesium: Settle in; get comfy. Magnesium is one of the trendiest minerals out there—and with good reason: “It’s suspected that over 46% of the general population doesn’t get the dietary magnesium they need to stay healthy,” says Yolanda Fenton, Product Development, Natural Factors. Patrick Sullivan Jr., Chief Entertainment Officer at Jigsaw Health, cites the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2000, which found that 68% of Americans consumed less than the recommended minimum daily intake of magnesium, and 19% consumed less than half the recommended daily intake.
An overview, courtesy of Fenton: “Elemental magnesium is found in high concentrations in our bones, our heart, our muscles, and throughout our network of nerves, but you can also find it working away inside every cell of our bodies.”
Expanding on this, Gene Bruno, Senior Director of Product Innovation at Twinlab Consolidation Corporation, notes that “Magnesium has multiple, evidence-based uses in dietary supplements including applicability for constipation, glucose levels and insulin response, hearing, kidney function, headaches, mitral valve health, memory/cognitive function, bone health, PMS, and healthy blood pressure.”
Perhaps most important, in this day and age: “Magnesium is Mother Nature’s original ‘chill pill,’” says Sullivan. “It’s a massage you can swallow, it’s like yoga in a bottle.” Is a customer looking to up energy? They may want to take stock of their magnesium status: Sullivan says, “The body can’t make ATP without magnesium.”
Nor is that all. “It’s commonly cited that magnesium is involved in over 325 biochemical reactions in the body,” Sullivan notes—“but that number is from the 1950s, and it was a ‘best guess’ by Harvard medical professor Dr. Burt Vallee. More recently, magnesium researcher Morley Robbins has found—based on research—that magnesium is involved in at least 3,751 biochemical reactions.”
Druke adds: “There are many studies showing a significant correlation […]
Among all the natural treatments for ADHD — exercise, behavioral therapy, neurofeedback, nutrition changes, and more — eating healthy is one of the most popular among ADDitude readers. The problem? The research is inconclusive, and keeping a close watch on what you and your family eat is incredibly hard.
Nutrition is critical to our well being and health — to our brains and our bodies. But is eating healthy, specifically, a strategy for improving ADHD symptoms like hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity? In short, there is limited evidence to suggest so.
Despite a dearth of scientific consensus, implementing an “ADHD-friendly” nutrition plan is among the most popular natural treatment approaches among ADDitude readers, according to a 2017 survey of 4,000 adults and parents of children with ADHD. Roughly one quarter of survey respondents reported that they used dietary strategies ranging from avoiding sugars and artificial colors, to increasing protein, and following an elimination diet to try to treat ADHD symptoms.
Many respondents reported improvements in ADHD symptoms after making nutritional changes, but a great majority noted that changes in diet were only somewhat effective in addressing symptoms, despite their serious attempts to implement an ADHD nutrition plan. Regardless of whether they saw positive results, nearly all survey respondents agreed: Eating healthy is hard, especially when your ADHD brain craves dopamine (i.e. sugar and carbs), when your child is a picky eater, when your appetite is suppressed by other treatments, when your child is sensitive to food textures, when your food budget is limited, when you’re a busy and/or single parent with scant time for grocery shopping, and when life gets in the way.
Popular books and articles offering ‘quick and easy fixes’ do nothing to help when these ADHD realities get in the way. In fact, they can do more harm than good but ratcheting up the guilt:
[ Get This Free Download: What to Eat — And Avoid — to Improve ADHD Symptoms ] “Enforcing an ADHD diet was awful,” one parent wrote. “It became a full time job to plan, maintain, shop for, etc. and there were no positive results to observe.”
One adult reader wrote: “It was very helpful, but medication was still needed to manage behavior, and it was very restrictive and hard to maintain the diet. Small mistakes in eating would ruin all the hard work.”
“It was extremely difficult because the foods we were trying to avoid were the ones she craved and would eat,” another parent wrote. “She had such a poor appetite at times that we would give in just to get her to eat anything.”
It’s true that dietary changes may improve symptoms in some cases, but eating healthy is not a guaranteed cure for ADHD by any stretch. Research confirms that nutrition is no substitute for medication and other proven therapies. Eating Healthy by Cutting Sugar
Reducing sugar consumption was the most commonly-used approach by surveyed adults with ADHD and the second most common among caregivers. Many people with ADHD believe that sugar causes hyperactivity, inattention, and sluggishness, though the science here is thin.
“Sugar increases my fidgeting and my inability to pay attention,” wrote one adult survey-taker. Another said, “I have noticed a sharp decrease in my ability to focus when I drink beverages with processed sugar.” Parents of children with ADHD observed that consuming too much sugar contributed to their kids’ poor focus, and triggered hyperactivity, irritability, and “off the rails” behavior.
Some ADDitude readers found that decreasing sugar intake made a significant improvement in ADHD symptoms. Lowering sugar “keeps my energy levels even,” one person wrote, “which allows me to have sustained focus and concentration.” One parent reported that “limiting sugar helps with [my child’s] moodiness and impulsivity.”
[ Click to Download: Your Free Guide to Delicious (and ADHD-Friendly!) Eating ]
Many people who cut back on sugar in their diets often replace it with artificial sweeteners, but this was not the case with a lot of those surveyed. Instead, they avoided artificial sweeteners for the same reasons they avoided sugar. “I had better focus and better sleep after removing artificial sweeteners,” one person explained.
The hard reality of cutting sugar, however, was yet another struggle: “Sugar is a struggle to cut out,” one parent wrote to ADDitude . “Eliminating it makes my child very unhappy.”
“Too hard to stay off sugar now — but will retry someday,” an adult survey-taker wrote.
“It is very difficult for my child to stay away from sugar, but I definitely see behavioral changes when he has sugar” another parent wrote.
What Does Research Say About Sugar and ADHD?
Though many of the adults and caregivers surveyed seem convinced of sugar’s detrimental effects on ADHD symptoms, research on the topic is less black and white.
While some studies 1 2 in the 1980s and 1990s found a link between sugar intake and hyperactivity, most were unable to show causality between sugar intake and hyperactivity in children. 3 4
Researchers even found in one study that parents rated their children as more hyperactive when told they were given sugar, regardless of whether they actually ate any sugar. 5 A 2011 study, moreover, examined available research and concluded that “the inability to document an effect of added sugars on hyperactivity…has largely discredited the sugar hypothesis of ADHD.” 6
This is not to say that sugar doesn’t have an effect on the body. It is well documented that diets high in excess sugar are associated with a greater risk of illnesses and unhealthy outcomes, including cardiovascular diseases, weight gain, diabetes and more 7 . Keeping sugar intake at healthy levels, therefore, is beneficial for all. Eating Healthy by Increasing Protein
Protein is an essential macronutrient for healthy functioning of mind and body, one that is important to growth and development in children.
Many ADDitude readers who were surveyed reported that protein consumption optimizes the brain and sustains energy levels through the day. One survey respondent said that increasing protein consumption kept her child’s “extreme reactions more even.” Another parent noted that […]
Adderall and Vyvanse are both amphetamine-based stimulant medications which are used to treat the symptoms of ADHD in both adolescents and adults. While they share many similarities, they also have a few key differences, which can affect how and why doctors use them in different circumstances. Read on to learn more about the similarities and differences in their potential side effects and dangers.
Disclaimer: This post is not a recommendation or endorsement for Adderall or Vyvanse. These medications are only FDA-approved for the treatment of certain specific medical disorders, and can only be taken by prescription and with oversight from a licensed medical professional. We have written this post for informational purposes only, and our goal is solely to inform people about the science behind these drugs’ effects, mechanisms, and current approved medical uses. What are Adderall and Vyvanse?
Adderall ( dextroamphetamine -amphetamine ) and Vyvanse ( lisdexamfetamine ) both belong to a class of drug called amphetamines .
Amphetamines act on the central nervous system (CNS) to increase levels of dopamine , norepinephrine , and serotonin [ 1 , 2 ].
Adderall and Vyvanse are both stimulants that have been officially FDA-approved for the treatment of ADHD, as well as a few other medical conditions [ 1 , 3 , 4 ].
Adderall is also FDA-approved to treat the symptoms of narcolepsy and other fatigue-related conditions, such as excessive daytime sleepiness – whereas Vyvanse is also FDA-approved to treat binge eating disorders (BED) [ 5 ].
Stimulants such as Adderall and Vyvanse are often the “first-line”, or primary, treatments for ADHD [ 6 , 7 , 8 ].
American adults who take Adderall for ADHD have increased by 90% from 2002 to 2005. Vyvanse is not as commonly used and was approved for use in children in 2007, in adults in 2008, and in adolescents in 2010 [ 9 , 10 , 11 ].
However, amphetamine use can lead to addiction and abuse. Stimulants have become the second-most abused drug by college students. This stems from a belief that stimulants like Adderall are “harmless” (they are not) [ 1 , 12 , 13 ].
Both Adderall and Vyvanse are classified as Schedule II drugs by the FDA, meaning they pose a high risk of abuse that may lead to physical and/or psychological dependence. This also means that they require a prescription in order to be legally bought and used [ 1 ].
To learn about the medical uses and mechanisms of Adderall and Vyvanse, check out this post .
Adderall and Vyvanse are both amphetamines classified as Schedule II drugs by the FDA. They increase brain dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, and they are both prescribed for ADHD.
Due to their stimulating effects, amphetamine-based drugs such as Adderall and Vyvanse are widely abused for their effects on focus and sustained attention.
According to one survey of students who abuse stimulant medications, as many as 93.5% of the students reported that they abused these drugs in order to increase their ability to study for prolonged periods of time [ 1 ].
Students who abuse these amphetamine stimulants also commonly report a variety of other effects consistent with the known effects of these drugs, such as elevated mood ( euphoria ), increased motivation , and increased physical and mental energy [ 14 ].
However, there are a few differences between these drugs that can affect how and why they are abused.
For example, the “euphoric” effects of Vyvanse are believed to be lower due to the time it takes to convert to D-amphetamine [ 10 , 15 ].
Similarly, one survey of 10,000 patients reported that Vyvanse was abused at slightly lower rates than both extended and immediate release Adderall – once again most likely because of the slower and steadier release of the active component by Vyvanse [ 16 ].
Some people abuse Adderall and Vyvanse to try to increase focus and motivation, while others use these drugs recreationally.
Nonetheless, in all cases, abusing these drugs without a prescription, or using them recreationally, carries serious risks and dangers.
For example, abuse of amphetamines can cause potentially serious adverse side-effects including psychosis, heart attacks, diseased heart muscle, and even sudden death. They can also cause long-term increases in heart rate and short-term increases in blood pressure [ 1 ].
Amphetamines also carry a very high risk of addiction and dependence, which can then lead to withdrawal symptoms after abuse. Withdrawal, in turn, can lead to symptoms such as [ 2 ]:
According to one study, Vyvanse may produce fewer withdrawal symptoms than other amphetamines – however, this finding may simply be due to the fact that relatively fewer people abuse this drug compared to other amphetamines, and therefore this finding does not necessarily mean that actual risks of abuse are lower than other drugs [ 10 , 15 ].
There is very little scientific evidence supporting the fact that Adderall improves cognitive performance in non-prescription users. For example, one study in 46 healthy volunteers reported that Adderall had no effect on memory, creativity, intelligence, or standardized testing, but the volunteers believed that they were improving [ 17 ].
Believing that Adderall can improve cognitive performance may, in fact, help some people simply by increasing self-confidence. In other words, many of the supposed “cognitive enhancements” from these drugs may simply be a placebo effect [ 17 ].
Amphetamines like Adderall and Vyvanse can cause serious adverse effects and carry a high risk of addiction. We strongly recommend against using these drugs without a doctor’s prescription. Keep in mind that if you have a condition that might require you to be treated with Adderall or Vyvanse, the best way to minimize your risk of adverse side-effects is to make sure your doctor is fully informed about your medical history, any other drugs you are currently taking, and other relevant factors. The most common side-effects of both Adderall and Vyvanse include [ 4 , 18 , 16 ]: Loss of appetite Dizziness Dry mouth Irritability/agitation Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea Weight loss (weight loss can be countered through other medications such as cyproheptadine or […]
Eleuthero is an eastern adaptogen that helps your body fight off a cold. It’s also packed with bioactive compounds. Unsure about its safety and the dosage you should use? Read on for our evidence-based guide. What is Eleuthero?
Also known as Siberian ginseng , eleuthero is an herb with the scientific names Eleutherococcus senticosus or Acanthopanax senticosus . Around the world, it may also be called Ciwujia, Shigoka, Goka, Ezoukogi, or Kan Jang (when combined with green chiretta). It is a staple of traditional medicine in the Far East, especially in China, Korea, and eastern Russia [ 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 ].
According to these traditions, eleuthero is an adaptogen: a substance that keeps the body functioning normally under stress [ 7 ].
Eleuthero belongs to the same plant family as Asian and American ginseng ( Araliaceae ). However, Asian and American ginseng both belong to a different genus further up the botanical tree called Panax , while eleuthero belongs to Eleutherococcus . Being a distant cousin of these other ginsengs, eleuthero contains a different set of bioactive compounds [ 8 ].
Eleuthero is a flowering shrub. Its root, bark, leaves, and berries all contain bioactive compounds that may have positive health effects [ 9 , 10 ].
Eleuthero or Siberian ginseng is an East Asian herb with a history of use as an adaptogen. It shouldn’t be confused with American and Asian ginseng, which are entirely different plants. Components
The roots, berries, and leaves of eleuthero each contain multiple bioactive compounds . The specific compounds in each part of the plant may be different, and so their health benefits may also vary. Most studies on the health benefits of eleuthero focus on the root and bark [ 10 ].
Eleuthero berries contain high levels of antioxidants and potential cancer-fighting compounds ; they are also high in important minerals like potassium , calcium , and magnesium . These berries have long been added to fermented wines in China and Russia [ 9 ]. Eleutherosides
The most important bioactive compounds in eleuthero belong to a chemical family called eleutherosides; these are eleutherosides A through E. Of these, the ones with the greatest effect are eleutherosides B (syringin) and E [ 11 ].
These two compounds are being investigated for anticancer and anti-diabetic effects [ 11 ]. Sesamin
Sesamin is an active compound that was first discovered in sesame seeds. Sesamin from eleuthero may help protect nerve and brain cells from damage . Sesamin may also improve liver function and reduce cholesterol [ 12 , 13 ]. Isofraxidin
Researchers isolated isofraxidin from eleuthero bark and consider it may have the potential to fight liver cancer [ 14 ]. Oleanolic Acid
Oleanolic acid is a common compound that is found in many plants, including eleuthero. This compound is a strong antioxidant that may also fight inflammation and improve liver function [ 15 , 16 ]. Ursolic Acid
Ursolic acid is found in many different plants, including eleuthero. It can be taken as a supplement and is reported to decrease inflammation , fight cancer , prevent diabetes , protect the heart , and lower cholesterol . Researchers are currently investigating their anticancer effects [ 17 , 18 , 19 ].
Eleuthero is packed with bioactive compounds like eleutherosides in the roots and antioxidants and minerals in the berries. Possible Mechanisms of Eleuthero
Eleuthero’s mechanism of action is complex because it contains an abundance of active compounds. Each compound may have unique effects, and these effects may add up or counteract each other. AMPK Activation
Eleutherosides may activate AMPK , an important “switch” in energy metabolism. AMPK reduces fat storage and increases insulin sensitivity . Through AMPK, eleutherosides may be able to restore insulin signaling in people with diabetes [ 20 , 6 , 21 , 22 ]. Heat Shock Protein Activation
Eleuthero may increase heat shock proteins like HSP70 and HSP72. This could help explain its ability to reverse the effects of stress: heat shock proteins protect cells and keep them alive in conditions that would otherwise damage or kill them [ 23 , 24 ].
Eleuthero extract increases catecholamines (especially dopamine and norepinephrine ) in the parts of the brain responsible for managing stress. The exact way it influences their levels and activity is unknown, but this mechanism may underlie eleuthero’s mental health benefits [ 25 , 26 , 27 ]. BDNF Activation
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF , is a protein active in the hippocampus of the brain. It helps nervous tissue grow and reorganize itself , and it protects the brain from damage . Low BDNF is linked to depression and anxiety . Eleuthero increases BDNF in the hippocampus, which could explain its reputation as a brain-boosting supplement [ 28 , 29 ].
Research connecting eleuthero and BDNF is extremely new . Only two studies have ever tested these effects – one cell study in 2013 and one rat study in 2018 – and while both have shown promising benefits, we cannot yet say that eleuthero will activate BDNF in humans [ 28 , 29 ]. Sirtuin 3 Activation
Sesamin activates a protein called sirtuin 3, or SIRT3 , which regulates energy metabolism and prevents cell death. Through SIRT3, sesamin may protect tissues from inflammation and death after an injury [ 30 , 31 , 32 ].
Scientists hypothesize that eleuthero may activate brain-protective BDNF and energy-boosting AMPK and SIRT3, but this hasn’t been proven. Eleuthero Safety & Side Effects
Overall, eleuthero is generally regarded as safe .
In mice, it takes an extremely high dose to cause death (over 25 g per kg of body weight). If translated to humans, an average adult would have to eat more than 1.5 kg of dry root for it to be dangerous [ 33 ].
Eleuthero has few side effects. Rarely, people taking eleuthero in combination with other herbal supplements may experience sleepiness , cold extremities , increased blood pressure , increased heart […]
Lipopolysaccharides or LPS are bacterial toxins that can health issues if they reach the bloodstream. Normally housed safely in the gut, lipopolysaccharides can enter the blood if you have an infection, “leaky gut”, or eat too many fatty foods.
Read on to learn about the potential health risks of lipopolysaccharides and which factors may help reduce them. Potential Health Risks of High LPS Levels
The conditions we discuss here are commonly associated with high LPS levels, but this single symptom is not enough for a diagnosis.
Because they have been studied in cohort studies, we cannot conclude for certain that high LPS levels caused these conditions.
Work with your doctor to discover what underlying condition might be causing your high LPS levels and to develop an appropriate plan to improve your health. 1) Fatigue
Fatigue is reliably caused in humans by the administration of LPS , as part of LPS-induced “sickness behavior” [ 1 ].
LPS increased fatigue and inflammation (TNF-a, IL-6) in a small trial with 11 healthy participants. Pre-treatment with citalopram (SSRI) prevented the increase in fatigue [ 2 ].
In studies of 168 patients, LPS levels were greater in those with chronic fatigue syndrome and were associated with symptom severity, including fatigue, concentration problems, and failing memory [ 3 , 4 ]. 2) Poor Memory
In a small trial on 20 healthy men, intravenous LPS impaired verbal and nonverbal memory and increased anxiety and depression . Inflammatory cytokine secretion was associated with a decrease in memory performance [ 5 ].
Administration of LPS increased anxiety, depression, cortisol , and blood norepinephrine in another trial on 34 men. Low-dose LPS impaired long-term memory, while high-dose LPS increased reaction time. The authors stated that inflammation may increase short-term alertness, although this is speculative on their part [ 6 ]. 3) Anxiety and Low Empathy
In a clinical trial on115 healthy people, LPS decreased participants’ ability to accurately understand the emotional state of a person by looking at their eyes [ 7 ].
In a small trial on 18 men, LPS administration worsened mood and increased anxiety. LPS also increased the activation of the right inferior orbitofrontal cortex in response to emotional visual stimuli. This brain region is associated with fear and anger recognition, so increased activity may have increased negative emotions towards the stimuli [ 8 ].
Scientists can experimentally induce fatigue, impaired memory, and anxiety with LPS, but more research is needed. 4) Depression and Social Disconnection
LPS administration consistently increased depression in numerous studies [ 9 ].
Injection of LPS increased feelings of social disconnection, depression , and inflammation (IL-6, TNF-a) in a trial of 39 participants [ 10 ].
TNF-alpha production is increased in the hippocampus of animals after LPS injection. This activation of immune cells in the brain is believed to contribute significantly to the selective brain cell injury associated with depression [ 11 ].
In a study of 9 participants, glucose metabolism (energy use) was increased in the insula and decreased in the cingulate cortex due to LPS-induced inflammation [ 12 ].
The insula is associated with negative emotions, while the cingulate is associated with positive mood. Thus, increased energy use by the insula and reduced energy use by the cingulate may both promote negative feelings.
LPS increased fatigue and decreased vigor and social interest in a trial on 10 healthy people [ 13 ]. 5) Inability to Experience Pleasure
Injection of LPS increased depressed mood and lowered the brain response to monetary reward cues (decreased ventral striatum activity) in a clinical trial on 39 people [ 14 ].
In animals, LPS consistently lowered preference for palatable foods, stimulation-seeking behavior, and exploration of new environments [ 9 ].
In small human experiments, LPS seems to impair mood, social behavior, and the ability to feel pleasure; large-scale data are lacking. 6) Disturbed Sleep
LPS disrupted sleep and lowered REM sleep in healthy humans [ 15 , 16 ].
LPS also lowered non-REM sleep and increased sleepiness during the day in a study of 10 men [ 17 ]. 7) Fever
Fever is a sign of elevated LPS levels . LPS stimulates the release of prostaglandins (PGE2), which bind to their receptors in the hypothalamus to raise body temperature [ 18 ]. 8) Poor Reproductive Health in Women
In a study of 45 women undergoing in vitro fertilization treatment, LPS levels were associated with ovarian inflammation and reduced progesterone production . Ovarian inflammation and progesterone deficiency indicate impaired reproductive health and are associated with infertility [ 19 , 20 ]. 9) Reduced Appetite In humans, low-dose LPS reduced food intake in the first 4 hours. Reductions in food intake were associated with blood levels of TNF and IL-6 [ 5 , 21 ].LPS is hypothesized to disturb sleep, reproductive health, and appetite, but only preliminary findings are available. 10) Low Pain Tolerance In a study of 11 healthy men, LPS administration increased sensitivity to rectal pain and lowered pain tolerance [ 22 ]. LPS also decreased tolerance to pressure, mechanical pain, and cold , in a clinical trial of 59 healthy men [ 23 ]. 11) Diabetes Elevated LPS is associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes [ 24 ].Individuals with type 1 diabetes have 235.7% higher LPS levels than those without diabetes. Similarly, people with type 2 diabetes have 66.4% higher LPS levels than non-diabetic controls [ 25 ].Impaired lipoprotein metabolism in type 2 diabetes patients reduces LPS breakdown and may increase LPS-related inflammation [ 26 ].In a study of 477 people with type 1 diabetes, high LPS activity was associated with the development of diabetic kidney disease [ 27 ]. 12) Obesity LPS activity and LPS binding protein were associated with obesity in a study on over 3,500 adults [ 28 , 29 ].LPS given to mice for 4 weeks caused a weight gain comparable to that induced by a high-fat diet [ 30 ]. 13) Metabolic Syndrome Metabolic syndrome is a group of factors that increase the risk of heart disease. These […]
Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogen with a long history of traditional use against stress, fatigue, and more. How does it work, and what are the potential side effects? Read on to find out. What Is Rhodiola rosea ?
Rhodiola rosea is a flowering plant that grows in very cold climates and at high altitudes. Its root has been used in traditional medicine in the Caucasus Mountains, Scandinavia, China, and Russia, where practitioners believe that it can improve focus and endurance in both body and mind [ 1 , 2 ].
Other species closely related to R. rosea are also used in traditional medicine. These include Rhodiola imbricata, Rhodiola algida, and Rhodiola crenulata . Together, these herbs are best known as adaptogens: substances that help combat stress. However, Rhodiola roots and extracts are also being investigated for other potential cognitive and physical benefits [ 3 , 4 , 5 ].
For more about the potential benefits of rhodiola, check out this post .
Rhodiola has many other names: in China, it is called hóng jǐng tiān. Elsewhere, it may be called rosenroot, rose root, Arctic root, golden root, or king’s crown. In French, it is l’orpin rose [ 6 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 ].
Rhodiola rosea is a high-altitude plant whose root has been used to combat stress in traditional medicine for many generations. Active Components
Salidroside, also known as rhodioloside, is considered to be the most important bioactive molecule in Rhodiola rosea . It is likely responsible for Rhodiola’s effects on the brain [ 11 , 12 ]. Rosavin
Rosavin has many of the same properties and mechanisms as salidroside, but seems to require a higher dose to produce the same effect [ 13 ]. Tyrosol
Tyrosol is present in standardized Rhodiola rosea extracts, but it often goes unlabeled on commercial supplements. Tyrosol is an antioxidant and may also contribute to Rhodiola ’s beneficial properties [ 14 ].
The active components of rhodiola include salidroside, rosavin, and tyrosol, with salidroside believed to be the most important. Mechanisms of Action
Rhodiola is an important herb in traditional medicine in parts of Europe and Asia. According to practitioners, it helps people with stress, anxiety , fatigue, depression , brain fog , burnout, and heart problems. It’s also used to boost the immune system and increase lifespan [ 15 , 2 ].
That’s an awfully long list – does the research back it up? You might not be surprised to hear that it’s complicated [ 15 , 2 ].
In cell studies, rhodiola activates AMPK , boosts Nrf2 , and blocks the JAK2 – STAT3 pathway. Let’s take a deep dive into these important mechanisms. AMPK Activation
Many of Rhodiola’s reported effects could be attributed to a protein called AMPK . AMPK is important for energy balance and for preventing oxidative stress. It prevents insulin resistance , keeps blood sugar down , and stops fat buildup in the liver . When free radicals build up , AMPK increases the production of antioxidant proteins [ 16 , 17 , 18 ].
Nuclear factor-κB (NF-kB) controls many genes that cause inflammation, and it is very active in inflammatory diseases like arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and atherosclerosis. AMPK reduces inflammation by decreasing the activity of NF-κB [ 19 , 20 ].
AMPK may also increase the activity of PI3K , an important protein for insulin signaling [ 17 , 21 ].
Rhodiola extracts and pure salidroside both activated AMPK in cell studies [ 22 , 23 , 24 ].
In cell studies, rhodiola activates a protein called AMPK, which acts as a kind of metabolic “switch,” increasing insulin sensitivity, reducing blood sugar, and preventing fat buildup in the liver. Nrf2 Activation
Nrf2 is a protein that activates numerous important antioxidant proteins and protects against oxidative stress. In cells, rhodiola’s bioactive components increased the activity of Nrf2 and its antioxidant effects [ 25 , 26 ]. JAK2-STAT3 Inhibition
In combination, the JAK2 and STAT3 genes form a pathway that increases inflammation. Salidroside from Rhodiola blocked this pathway and thereby reduced inflammation in cell studies [ 27 , 28 ]. Safety & Potential Risks
Because of some disagreement in the scientific community about the various effects and mechanisms of rhodiola, the FDA has classified it as a poisonous plant . Furthermore, the ingredients and active compounds in commercial Rhodiola supplements may not be accurately labeled . We recommend caution when choosing to supplement [ 15 , 29 ].
Taken alone, Rhodiola is generally safe and well-tolerated in therapeutic dosages, with only mild to moderate side effects. The most common side effects in people taking this herb for anxiety were dizziness and dry mouth [ 30 ].
No studies have been conducted to determine rhodiola’s effect on pregnant or breastfeeding women ; nonetheless, this herb is given to pregnant women in traditional Georgian medicine. Until clinical studies look into these effects, we recommend strongly against supplementing with Rhodiola while pregnant or breastfeeding [ 31 , 32 , 33 , 34 ].
At a dose of 660 mg/day, combined with vitamin C , it decreased mental fatigue, increased exam scores and language-learning ability in teenagers. Rhodiola’s effects on children have not been formally studied . Rhodiola tea is traditionally given to children in the Caucasus Mountains, but we recommend against giving rhodiola supplements to children [ 35 , 1 ].
Rhodiola is classified as a poisonous plant by the FDA despite being generally well-tolerated in clinical studies. Commercial supplements may be inaccurately labeled, and the safety profile of rhodiola is incomplete in pregnant and breastfeeding women. Drug Interactions Salidroside and rosavin are highly active molecules with diverse effects in the body. As such, anyone taking prescription medication should be careful when supplementing with Rhodiola. Talk to your doctor before supplementing to avoid adverse effects and unexpected interactions Antidepressants MAOIs : Monoamine oxidase inhibitors should not be combined with any substance that increases dopamine or norepinephrine, except by a doctor’s instruction [ 36 ]. SSRIs : Selective […]
The myelin sheath helps insulate the nervous system and is vital for optimal cognitive function and brain health. Read on to learn more about its purpose and diseases associated with its loss or dysmyelination . What Is the Myelin Sheath?
The myelin sheath is a cover made out of fats and proteins that wraps around the axons (projection) of nerve cells. It insulates neurons so they can send electrical signals faster and more efficiently. This supports brain health and nervous system function [ 1 , 2 ].
Here are some quick facts about myelin: About 80% fats/cholesterol and 20% proteins.
Considered an outgrowth or extension of a type of glial cell (oligodendrocyte – CNS, Schwann cell – PNS).
Continues to grow throughout adolescence and even into our early 20s.
Myelinated axons are white in appearance, hence the term “white matter” of the brain.
Myelin improves the conduction of action potentials, which are needed to send information down the axon to other neurons [ 3 ].
The myelin sheath increases the speed of impulses in neurons. It facilitates conduction in nerves while saving space and energy [ 1 ].
Myelin helps prevent the electrical current from leaving the axon. It allows for larger body sizes by maintaining efficient communication at long distances.
When babies are born, many of their nerves lack mature myelin sheaths. As a result, their movements are jerky, uncoordinated, and awkward. Scientists think that, as myelin sheaths develop, movements become smoother, more purposeful, and more coordinated [ 4 , 5 ].
Research suggests that myelination might improve children’s cognitive performance improves as they grow and develop [ 6 ].
Additionally, when a peripheral fiber is severed, the myelin sheath provides a track along which regrowth can occur [ 7 ].
The myelin sheath enables neurons to conduct action potentials, increasing the speed of their transmission. When Does Myelination Stop?
Researchers think that myelination occurs most significantly during childhood, but some brain imaging studies suggest it may continue until 55 years of age and possibly even throughout life [ 8 ]. Oligodendrocytes vs. Schwann Cells
Oligodendrocytes and Schwann cells are types of cells that produce, maintain, and repair myelin [ 9 ].
Schwann cells normally produce myelin in peripheral nerves (outside the brain), but can enter the brain when needed [ 9 ].
On the other hand, oligodendrocytes are found solely in the brain. They are responsible for the formation of new myelin in both the injured and healthy adult brains [ 9 ]. Symptoms and Conditions Linked With Myelin Loss or Damage
Demyelination refers to myelin damage or loss. It disrupts signals between neurons and may result in a diverse range of neurological symptoms. These depend on whether peripheral (outside the brain) or central (in the brain and spinal cord) neurons are affected, and to what extent [ 10 ].
Symptoms differ from patient to patient and have different presentations, depending on the specific demyelinating disorder. The most common demyelinating disorder affecting the central nervous system is Multiple Sclerosis [ 10 ].
Thus, symptoms shown here are commonly associated with demyelinating disorders. This list is not exhaustive. The most important step is to see your doctor or other health care professional to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment [ 11 ]. Blurred vision that may affect only one eye
Loss of vision/hearing
Odd sensation in legs, arms, chest, or face, such as tingling or numbness (neuropathy)
Cognitive dysfunction, including speech impairment and memory loss Heat sensitivity Loss of dexterity Difficulty coordinating movement and/or balance Difficulty controlling bowel movements and/or urination Fatigue Tinnitus Symptoms of demyelinating disorders include complex visual and sensory changes that vary from person to person depending on the underlying cause.Multiple sclerosis is the most common demyelinating disorder. The cause of multiple sclerosis is unknown, though many contributing factors have been proposed [ 10 ].The following are more rare types of demyelinating disorders [ 10 , 12 ]: Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis Acute hemorrhagic leukoencephalitis Neuromyelitis optica Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy Central pontine myelinosis Inherited demyelinating diseases such as leukodystrophy Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease Adrenoleukodystrophy and adrenomyeloneuropathy Leber hereditary optic neuropathy Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy The exact cause of many demyelinating disorders is often an enigma. Science suggests that certain primary demyelinating disorders develop after a viral infection or vaccination against viral infection [ 10 ].Some researchers hypothesize that this might be because a virus or another substance somehow triggers the immune system to attack the body’s own tissues (autoimmune reaction). The autoimmune reaction results in inflammation, which damages the myelin sheath and the nerve fiber under it [ 10 , 12 ].However, this hypothesis holds only for specific, rare demyelinating disorders [ 10 , 12 ].HIV infection can also cause white matter abnormalities, including myelin damage [ 10 ].Multiple sclerosis is the most common demyelinating disorder. It causes progressive loss of the myelin sheath.The following are some genetic disorders of myelin [ 13 , 14 ]: Adrenoleukodystrophy Tay-Sachs disease Niemann-Pick disease Gaucher disease Hurler syndrome Canavan disease Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease Krabbe’s leukodystrophy Phenylketonuria Aside from demyelinating disorders, limited studies have linked the following disorders to white matter or myelin loss or damage: Nutritional deficiencies (such as B12 deficiency) [ 22 ] According to some theories, reduced white matter in the brain is a contributing factor to some brain-related conditions. Also, scientists think that certain conditions are caused by white matter reductions. At other times, science suggests that specific conditions themselves may cause white matter reduction [ 27 ].However, many of these links are purely investigational and lack large-scale human data as support.Additionally, the majority of studies that focused on these conditions dealt with associations only, which means that a cause-and-effect relationship hasn’t been established.For example, just because depression has been linked with altered white matter (made up of myelin) in certain brain areas doesn’t mean that depression is caused by myelin damage. Data are lacking to make such claims.Also, even if a study did find that poor myelination contributes to depression, myelin is highly unlikely to be the only causative […]
Ketamine is a medication used primarily as an anesthetic. Some early evidence also suggests that it may have the potential for treating a variety of other health conditions, although these uses have not been fully approved yet. Read on to learn more about the medical uses of and new research about this drug.
Disclaimer : This post is not an endorsement or recommendation for the use of ketamine under any circumstances, except when prescribed and used under supervision by a qualified medical professional. We have written this post for informational purposes only, and our goal is solely to educate people about the potential medical uses of ketamine, as well as the science behind its effects and mechanisms.
Ketamine – sometimes also known as Ketalar or Ketaject – is a drug that initiates and maintains anesthesia [ 1 ].
The original compound was first discovered in the early 1960s and was approved for use in the United States in 1970. Now it is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the safest and most essential drugs in the healthcare system [ 2 ].
Ketamine is considered a Schedule III controlled substance by the FDA, which means that it requires a written, oral, or electronic prescription to legally buy or possess the drug [ 3 ].
Ketamine is also classified as a “ dissociative ” drug, which means that it alters the senses, leading to hallucinations and feelings of detachment from the environment and oneself [ 1 ].
Unfortunately, these dissociative effects are why some people abuse ketamine for recreational purposes – even in spite of the many risks and dangers that are associated with ketamine abuse. For this reason, ketamine has a significant and well-documented potential for abuse and addiction [ 4 , 5 ].
Ketamine is an anesthetic drug that was discovered in the 1960s. It is a schedule III controlled substance, meaning that it requires a doctor’s prescription to legally buy or possess it.
Like any drug, ketamine has a number of potential adverse side-effects that are important to be aware of. To learn about the side effects, drug interactions, and other potential dangers of ketamine, check out this post .
Ketamine has a number of accepted medical uses for treating certain specific medical conditions and situations. Although this means that the evidence for its efficacy in these conditions is relatively solid, always keep in mind that this is a federally-controlled prescription medication that must only be used under the direction and supervision of a qualified medical professional.
Additionally, none of these medical uses should be interpreted as general “benefits” for health! For all of the cases described below, any reported medical benefits only apply to contexts in which ketamine is being administered by qualified medical professionals in a controlled setting. There is no reason to expect any beneficial or therapeutic effects if ketamine is abused recreationally or taken outside of a conventional medical setting.
In medical settings, ketamine is most commonly used as an anesthetic (i.e. to make people unconscious during medical procedures). It is officially approved for this purpose by the FDA and is widely used both by itself and in combination with other anesthetic drugs [ 3 ].
Ketamine is also sometimes used – usually at lower doses – as a fast-acting sedative [ 3 ].
For example, when ketamine was administered intravenously in 30 children, all patients experienced sedation within 2 minutes [ 6 ].
In another study of 431 children, ketamine was administered through the muscles. In this study, 98% of patients experienced rapid sedation [ 7 ].
In a medical setting, ketamine is most often used as an anesthetic. It may also be used as a fast-acting sedative. Off-Label Medical Uses of Ketamine
Occasionally, doctors will prescribe medications to help treat conditions that fall outside of the official uses approved by the FDA – also known as “ off-label ” drug use [ 8 ]. Usually, this is done because there is actually decent evidence that the drug may help, although this evidence might not be quite strong enough to get full FDA approval (which generally has very strict requirements).
As always, however, always remember that the decision to use medications in this way can only be made by a licensed medical professional.
In addition to its official use as an anesthetic, ketamine also has a number of effects that can significantly reduce the perception of pain (i.e. an analgesic effect). Because of this, it is frequently used by doctors – albeit “unofficially” – to help control and manage pain. In this context, ketamine can be used either by itself or in combination with other pain-killing drugs [ 3 ].
For example, when administered by doctors, ketamine may potentially aid in reducing chronic pain . In a study of 12 male volunteers, low doses of ketamine were reported to activate portions of the brain that are believed to be involved in the inhibition of pain (such as the prefrontal cortex and certain areas of the brainstem) [ 9 ].
In one 11-week double-blind randomized controlled trial of 60 female patients with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), a steady 100-hour intravenous infusion of ketamine was reported to significantly relieve pain. This effect was even reported to last up to 3 months following treatment [ 10 ].
Additionally, a study of 12 cancer patients with severe cancer pain reported that patients required 50% less morphine to reduce their pain after prolonged use of ketamine [ 11 ].
Ketamine also reportedly enhanced the effectiveness of spinal cord (“ intrathecal ”) injections of morphine treatment in a double-blind randomized control trial in 20 cancer pain patients [ 12 ].
Some preliminary evidence suggests that ketamine may also be especially effective at reducing pain when combined with certain other medications. For example, a combination of ketamine and a local anesthetic ( bupivacaine ) reduced post-operative pain in a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial of 53 amputee patients [ 13 ].
When used as a local anesthetic with diazepam (a benzodiazepine), meperidine (also known as Demerol – a narcotic pain-killer medication), and nitrous oxide , […]
Once declared the “best food for the future” by the World Health Organization, this blue-green algae is a protein-rich antioxidant that may support and maintain your immune system. Read on to learn more about spirulina. What Is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a dried supplement made from two species of blue-green algae, Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima . The Kanembu tribe in Chad call it dihé ; the Aztecs who lived in the valley of Mexico called it tecuitlatl [ 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ].
The algae naturally grows in warm freshwater lakes like Lake Texcoco in Mexico and Lake Chad, which sits on the border of Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon. Locals traditionally harvest the algae and dry it in “cakes” [ 4 ].
Once it’s been dried, spirulina contains up to 70% protein, is a nutrient-rich antioxidant, and takes less land, water, and energy to produce than staple crops like corn and soy . Farmers use it to enrich their animal feeds and improve the quality of meat they produce. It pulls huge quantities of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and it may even be used to convert city sewage back to clean water [ 1 , 5 ].
Spirulina gathered attention as a possible pharmaceutical in the 1940s and 50s. In 1974, the World Health Organization declared it the “best food for the future” to combat malnutrition, especially in children [ 4 ].
To learn more about spirulina’s nutritional value and how it might work, check out this post .
Spirulina is a dried blue-green algae that contains 70% protein once dried. It is considered an important “food for the future” by the WHO. Snapshot of Spirulina
High in protein and full of nutrients
May reduce the risk of heart disease
May reduce inflammation, especially in allergies, and boost immunity
May lower blood sugar
May possibly prevent fatigue
May protect the liver, brain, and kidneys
Some potential benefits have been insufficiently investigated
May cause rare allergic reactions
Occasional contamination with other cyanobacteria
May interact with some medication
Health Benefits of Spirulina
Spirulina supplements have not been approved by the FDA for medical use and generally lack solid clinical research. Regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective. Speak with your doctor before supplementing. Effective For
1) Antioxidant Activity
When free radicals build up, they disrupt structures, machinery, and even DNA inside cells. This process is linked to a great many diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and arthritis [ 6 , 7 ].
The most robust benefit of spirulina is probably its antioxidant effect . Multiple cell, animal, and human studies have demonstrated its ability to reduce oxidative stress; furthermore, spirulina contains diverse active compounds with antioxidant activity. It may contribute to whole-body health and, when combined with diet and lifestyle choices, delay or prevent disease onset [ 8 , 9 , 1 ]. Likely Effective For
2) Heart Health A review of 12 human clinical studies suggested that spirulina may protect the heart not only through its antioxidant properties, but also by lowering cholesterol , triglycerides , and blood pressure [ 9 ]. Blood Pressure Multiple clinical studies revealed that spirulina lowers blood pressure . In particular, the diastolic blood pressure – the lower of the two numbers, measured when the heart is resting between beats – is significantly decreased in people taking spirulina supplements [ 10 , 11 , 9 ]. Cholesterol and Triglycerides High levels of cholesterol and triglycerides increase a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke [ 12 , 13 , 14 ].In animal and human studies, spirulina decreased total cholesterol, LDL (the “bad” cholesterol), and triglycerides in the blood. These markers may increase as we age; spirulina may, therefore, have key benefits in elderly people or in those prone to high levels [ 15 , 9 ].The existing evidence suggests that spirulina reduces the risk of heart disease. Although spirulina supplements are not FDA-approved for this purpose, you may discuss with your doctor if they may be helpful in your case. Possibly Effective For 3) Inflammation Inflammation, like oxidative stress, is linked to many different conditions. Inflammatory diseases include everything from depression to IBD to arthritis [ 16 , 17 , 18 ].Spirulina contains multiple bioactive compounds that are known to reduce inflammation. Taken as a supplement, spirulina blocks the activity of molecules that stimulate the inflammatory response . In both human and rat studies, it reversed an age-related increase in inflammatory cytokines [ 1 , 8 , 15 ]. In Allergic Rhinitis Allergic rhinitis is the most common allergic reaction to environmental allergens like pollen; it is also a major part of asthma. In one clinical study on 150 people, spirulina decreased all measured symptoms of allergic rhinitis compared to placebo [ 19 , 20 ].Although limited, the evidence suggests that spirulina may help with allergic rhinitis and other inflammatory conditions. You may try spirulina if your doctor determines that it may help. Never take it instead of what your doctor recommends or prescribes. 4) Boosting Immunity Animal and human studies have demonstrated spirulina’s immune-boosting properties. By activating white blood cells and the tissues that produce them, it may help the body defend against bacteria, viruses, and even tumors without causing excessive inflammation [ 21 ].In a clinical trial on 169 HIV-infected people, daily supplementation with spirulina (along with a balanced diet) i ncreased the levels of immune cells (CD4) and reduced the viral load after 6 months [ 22 ].Similarly, spirulina reduced viral load and liver damage in a trial on 30 people with hepatitis C [ 23 ].Spirulina extract improved natural killer cell activity in 2 small trials on14 healthy people [ 24 , 25 ].In a trial on 19 rowers, supplementation with spirulina p rotected against the deficit in immune function caused by strenuous exercise (increased Treg over natural killer cell proportion) [ […]
Cordyceps doesn’t stop to fascinate. It naturally grows in the mountainous regions of Asia by invading insect larvae and growing out of their body. Folks have been using it for centuries to boost energy and libido. Find out how cordyceps supplements are commercially produced and used and what side effects they can cause. What Is Cordyceps?
Cordyceps is the name for a group ( genus ) of fungi , all of which are parasites of various insects or other fungi . There are over 750 species of Cordyceps fungi around the world. They primarily grow in South Asia, Europe, and North America [ 1 , 2 ].
With so many mushroom species, it becomes hard to say exactly which one someone is referring to when they talk about “cordyceps.”
The most well-known and studied one is Cordyceps sinensis . In 2007, scientists discovered that this species is unrelated to most of the others and placed it in an entirely new genus ( Ophiocordyceps ). Although its name has been changed to Ophiocordyceps sinensis , it is still commonly referred to as C. sinensis, or just cordyceps [ 3 , 4 ].
Cordyceps is no typical mushroom . The way it grows in nature has fascinated scientists for a long time and earned it the nickname “ caterpillar fungus .”
Namely, the spores of the fungus infect moth caterpillars. These tiny spores then grow into a large fungal mass called mycelium that spreads throughout the insect body, eventually killing the larvae. A thin stalk called a fruiting body then sprouts from the corpse, releases spores, and continues the cycle [ 5 ].
In fact, the fungus-caterpillar combination is among the most famous traditional Chinese medicines. It has been used for hundreds of years in tinctures and teas to boost libido, reduce fatigue, and fight lung and kidney diseases [ 2 , 6 , 7 ].
More broadly, cordyceps is considered a general tonic claimed to increase vitality and longevity . Standardized extracts are even used in medical clinics throughout China and some are classified as drugs [ 2 , 6 , 7 ].
Unlike any other mushroom, cordyceps grows in nature by invading and killing moth caterpillars. It’s traditionally claimed to be a tonic and aphrodisiac. Cordyceps Sinensis vs. Cordyceps Militaris
While C. sinensis is by far the most valued and studied Cordyceps species, others have also been used for their potential health benefits. Among these, Cordyceps militaris is the most well-known and researched one.
Despite their longstanding popularity and use, few clinical trials have been conducted on either C. sinensis or C. militaris, and no human studies have investigated the other species [ 4 ].
C . sinensis is found exclusively in the Tibetan plateau , the world’s highest plateau that covers most of Tibet and some of the neighboring regions. Its average altitude is astonishing, reaching 4,500 m or 14,800 ft. Cordyceps is an important part of traditional Tibetan medicine and the Tibetan economy. Harvesting of wild C. sinensis accounts for nearly 40% of the income in rural Tibet and 9% of the region’s GDP [ 6 , 8 , 9 ].
C. sinensis caught the attention of the world in 1993, when Chinese long-distance runners broke several world records in the Chinese National Games. Their coach credited their success to a daily tonic containing the fungus [ 10 ]. Active Components
The two most important active components found in both C. sinensis and C. militaris (and a few other Cordyceps species) are cordycepin (3’-deoxyadenosine) and D-mannitol (also known as cordycepic acid) [ 11 , 1 ].
Cordycepin is very similar to the molecule adenosine , which plays a role in helping fall asleep and increasing blood flow. Adenosine is also part of ATP, the body’s main energy currency [ 11 ].
D-mannitol is a sugar alcohol used clinically as a diuretic in people with fluid buildup (edema) due to kidney disorders and to decrease swelling in the brain after trauma or stroke [ 12 ].
Other active components found in C. sinensis and C. militaris include [ 11 , 1 , 13 , 14 , 15 ]: Polysaccharides (CPS-1, CPS-2, CS-F30, CS-F10, beta-glucans, and mannoglucan)
Nucleosides (adenosine and thymidine)
Sterols (ergosterol and beta-sitosterol)
Others: peptides, amino acids, sugars, fatty acids, and enzymes
Cordyceps contains many active compounds, the most important ones being cordycepin (that acts on energy levels) and polysaccharides (that support the immune system). How Does Cordyceps Work?
Anti-diabetic D-mannitol acts as a diuretic, helps maintain the balance between fluids inside and outside cells, and reduces inflammation [ 12 ].Carbohydrates in Cordyceps may have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumor, and cholesterol – and blood sugar-lowering effects. They may also help boost the immune system [ 23 , 24 , 25 , 26 , 27 , 28 , 29 ]. Cordyceps Supplement Facts, Combinations & Dosage How Are Cordyceps Supplements Made? Because it is adapted to a specific host, geography, and climate, wild C. sinensis is scarce and impossible to mass-produce using its natural life cycle . This, coupled with increasingly high demand, has led to skyrocketing prices. In 2017, high-quality C. sinensis pieces were being sold for more than $63,000/lb ($140,000/kg) in Beijing, over 3x the price of gold at the time! [ 30 ]. Due to overharvesting , wild C . sinensis is now classified as an endangered species . To fulfill the demand that can’t be satisfied by harvesting the wild form, artificial cultivation methods have been developed. Thanks to these methods, large-scale manufacturing of both C. sinensis and C. militaris is now possible [ 31 ].There are two main ways to mass-produce Cordyceps .One involves the fermentation of the fungus in a liquid medium containing yeast, sugar, and other nutrients, set at a specific temperature and pH. Once the mycelium (non-reproductive part of the fungus) has fully grown, it is extracted and purified. This method allows you to grow Cordyceps quickly and is popular with Chinese manufacturers [ 9 , 32 ].Different strains of wild […]