The word sarsaparilla rings a bell in many peoples mind. It is a common, and popular herb in both western and traditional Chinese herbalism, and is one of the key ingredients in the traditional root beer recipe... But what exactly is sarsaparilla? What is it used for, and is there any evidence?
Altitude sickness, otherwise known as acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a condition caused by the low oxygen concentration that comes with high elevations. There are a number of different strategies available for reducing the instances of altitude sickness for the mountaineer.
Here we discuss how AMS occurs, and ways to treat or prevent it when venturing high into the mountains.
We love caffeine... we drink it every day in our coffee, tea, and yerba maté... pretty much all day actually. But it's a common misconception that caffeine will make you smarter. Here we look at the chemistry and pharmacology behind caffeine and why is doesn't make us smarter... fortunately, it does give us something however...
Why We Need To Stand Up For Science In the Face Of Trumps America
The Sunlight Experiment aims to investigate the science behind natural and botanical medicines. The founder, Justin Cooke, spends a lot of his time filtering through scientific literature to bring you insights and up to date information on the topic. Over the years, he has learned to value the processes set in place by the scientific community. Not only in medical research, but in philisophical terms. how to think, and how to learn.
Scientific discovery is the reason why the majority of surgeries don't result in death, and why our life expectancy has more than doubled in the past 2 centuries. It's also why scientifically orientated minds tend to be less closed off to criticism of ideas, and cemented in their opinions. Science promotes a culture of curiosity, healthy skepticism, and constant improvement.
Recently, a new administration in America has threatened scientific advancement in the country and has lead to a "post-fact era". This is increasingly becoming a time where your own opinions or the opinions of others are taken as fact without question, and rather than logical skepticism, the rebutle is simply another uninformed opinion yelled back at the face of others.
It's important to support the growth of scientific discovery, and remain open (and skeptical) towards the claims or theories made therein. The whole point of science is to question everything, and attempt to prove it wrong until you fail to do so. This is when something becomes accepted as fact.
There is a growing trend of ignorance in the world that chooses to follow a system of biased opinions without logical skepticism.
Climate change is no doubt the face of the issue, and the most significant at this current moment. That said, all science is now in jeopardy in the United States. If we can pick and choose what science we want to believe, then it simply isn't real science... it's ignorance.
Throughout history, scientists have made new and controversial discoveries, this discovery is met with skepticism, and is investigated from a non-biased perspective. It's tested again and again to ensure it can be recreated, and people come together from different viewpoints to try and prove it wrong. It's only when it can't be proven wrong that it is accepted as fact.
The difference with the current administration and an incredibly high amount of subscribers is that instead of trying to prove a fact wrong, they try to prove that it's right. This is fundamentally flawed because you can "prove" absolutely anything to be correct.
A perfect example of this that I have spoken about in the past a Harvard Study that was paid by sugar company executives to manipulate study data to "prove" that fat is the leading cause of all heart disease (rather than sugar). This was blatantly false information that these researchers were able to "PROVE" correct by manipulating and blurring the study parameters. Since that study, countless other papers have been published showing the exact opposite, working together to debunk the Harvard Study and uncover which facts were indeed true. .
Anything can be "proven", but if it isn't truth it will easily be disputed and contradictions or unbiased study parameters can be found (see the flat earth theory for example), which is riddled with contradictions and skewed information). Only true facts can withstand the rigorous tests of the scientific method.
This has become quite acceptable with the current president elect, and his administration of benighted civil servants, many of whom have actively denied climate change, fought for the removal of the theory of evolution from schools and promoted anti-vaccine fallacy. We seem to be entering into a modern day Narnia where magic and contradiction are accepted as truth.
If science can so easily be disregarded on matters as large as climate change, what's going to happen with smaller discoveries? Are we going to accept only what interests us and disbelieve everything else based on opinion?
There are plenty of intelligent minds in the world, and the problem doesn't lie with the way they conduct research, it lies in the abandonment of scientific acceptance in the greater community.
Currently, in the United States, the policies moving forward abandon the value of science in the greater community. This will ultimately threaten our very existence, and ability to think for ourselves. Intelligent minds all over the country are in the process of backing up scientific data, in fear of a Trump administration order for deletion. This is coming from a country who until this point has been a leader of the pack in scientific research and discovery. Some of the most intelligent minds this world has ever seen come from America, yet their opinion in this current moment appears to mean very little.
Can We Do Anything To Stop This?
In the States (and elsewhere in the world), there's a movement fighting the policies that the incredibly atrocious administration heads are coming up with. If you're not sure what I'm talking about, this article by Scientific American lays it out fairly well.
There's been a surge in the creation of "rogue" government accounts, protesting the danger a Trump administration poses on facts and real information. Check out @RogueNASA for example, or @AltUSEPA. These accounts are run by the staff of these government organizations who see the value and importance of real information rather than uninformed opinions and "magic".
If you would like to join the discussion, follow the Twitter hashtag #ScienceMarch or #ScienceNotSilence to stay up to date. Leave a comment below if there are others you know about that I have missed.
In some of my recent articles, I talked about the role of cholesterol in heart disease. We know that high cholesterol levels are a marker for heart disease, and we know heart disease is the leading cause of death in the developed world. It makes logical sense then that we should consider the ways we can lower our cholesterol levels.
Natural or Pharmaceutical?
Just because something is "natural" doesn't make it better. Plenty of things that are unnatural are better than their natural alternatives. In terms of cholesterol, by far the most popular option is statin medications. These medications will be discussed in much more detail in next weeks article. Basically, they work by inhibiting an enzyme involved in cholesterol synthesis (HMG-CoA reductase). If this enzyme is inhibited, cholesterol production slows, thus reducing overall cholesterol levels.
These medications do reduce cholesterol levels, but come with a myriad of side effects, some mild, and some severe.
The difference between using what we would call a "natural" method of cholesterol reduction and a "pharmaceutical" one, in the case of statins, is that natural methods tend to reduce cholesterol through excretion in the digestive tract and toning of the liver and blood vessels. They tend to work in a broader sense and affect more than a single process. Pharmaceuticals on the other hand, statins included, tend to work on a very specific process in the body to cause its effects.
As far as natural cholesterol reduction methods go, the main ideas are to coax the body into reducing cholesterol levels on its own. This means it's much slower, but doesn't tend to have nearly as severe or frequent side effects. The effects also tend to last much longer, even after the treatment is stopped.
Whether you should use natural or pharmaceutical methods to reduce your cholesterol levels depends entirely on the severity of the condition. If you have a blood cholesterol level that is very high (6 mmol/L of LDL or more), statin medications are a great option. When cholesterol is this high, there is clearly an issue, and you are now at a substantial risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Even in herbal medicine, with cholesterol this high the first line of treatment will be a cholesterol synthesis inhibitor.
For very high cholesterol, the best option is to combine the statins with natural methods like an improved diet and herbal supplements. From here you can slowly aim to wean yourself off the statins medications as cholesterol levels are reduced.
What Does natural Cholesterol Reduction Even Mean?
When we say we're aiming to lower cholesterol levels naturally, what we're really talking about is the use of herbs, nutrition, and lifestyle choices to reduce serum cholesterol levels.
There are a few methods of reducing cholesterol with diet, and herbal medicines:
- Eliminating trans-fat from the diet
- Increasing fiber content in the diet
- Drinking plenty of water
- Consuming more bitter foods and beverages
- Taking specific daily herbal supplements
- Reducing sugar intake
- Eat plenty of antioxidants
Dietary Considerations for Cholesterol
Dietary measures should be the first line of treatment for high cholesterol levels. In the past it was thought that cholesterol was mainly obtained from the diet, which lead to the demonizing of foods like eggs that are naturally high in cholesterol.
We now know that this is false, and only a very small portion of the cholesterol we consume is absorbed through the gut. The majority of it is processed in the liver and where it is then sent to the rest of the body.
What is important in dietary methods of cholesterol reduction is fiber intake. Fiber is a type of sugar chain, that can't be broken down in the digestive tract. Cellulose from plants is the main fiber we as humans eat on a daily basis. This can be found in all vegetables, especially those where the stem is eaten like celery.
Fiber has a potent ability of binding to the bile salts, which are high in cholesterol, and flushing them through the system. In order to conserve cholesterol, the body has a system in place to recapture the bile from the gut after it has been used towards digestion. It is recaptured, processed, and used again to make bile. By eating a diet high in fiber, we can effectively reduce the amount of bile recaptured from the gut. Since less cholesterol is reabsorped for new bile, we now have to take this cholesterol from other parts of the liver, thus reducing cholesterol levels.
A common belief with heart disease is that fat is a leading contributor to its progression. This idea has proven to be outdated and incorrect, yet is still the standard recommendation in modern hospitals. To be fair it takes decades for protocols to adapt to new research across the board.
Recommendations usually involve advising you to take the low fat options, lean meat, low fat cheeses and yogurts, and definitely no butter. This idea is coming from research done in the 60’s which has recently been confirmed as a scam. Harvard researchers were paid off by sugar industry executives to change the data to show fat as the bad guy instead of sugar (carbohydrates). They linked it to heart disease among others which has lead to some seriously wrong medical and nutritional opinions in the medical and public communities. .
Foods that Lower Cholesterol
Avocado is a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids, protein, and is low in sugar. This is a perfect combination for promoting a steady source of energy, low free radical damge, and increased fluidity of the cell membranes.
Oats and barley
These grains contain high levels of omega fatty acids as well as other polyunsaturated fatty acids. Be sure to get the whole grain versions as they have the best source of fiber. This fiber (known as beta-glucan) binds to the cholesterol released into the digestive tract as bile, and flushes them out of the system for good.
Nuts are a rich source of amino acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and fiber. Again, all great compounds for reducing cholesterol levels naturally.
Salmon is one of the richest sources of omega-3 around. This fatty acid has a strong connection with reducing heart disease.
I’m not talking about those sugary chocolate bars you find in the waiting line at the supermarket. I’m talking about real chocolate.
Dark chocolate, with the fat included, is one of the best antioxidants on the face of the earth. As mentioned earlier, antioxidants are far more effective as a means of treating the problem of high cholesterol at its source than dealing with the aftermath. It comes to no surprise then that chocolate has been shown to reduce LDL levels and improve HDL levels through antioxidant, and immunomodulatory actions .
Vitamin B3 for Cholesterol
Vitamin B3 (niacin), has been found to be effective in reducing LDL levels in the body, while increasing HDL. Many doctors will prescribe this vitamin alongside the use of statins for this reason.
Herbs That Lower Cholesterol
There are a number of plants that have the ability to inhibit cholesterol synthesis, increases its excretion, reduce the oxidative damage that initially causes the cholesterol plaques to form, and reduces the oxidation of the plaques themselves which go on to cause heart attacks, and strokes.
Puerh tea actually comes from the same plant that gives us green and black tea. The difference is in how the leaves are processed. For puerh, the leaves are compressed into bricks, and allowed to ferment over many years in a stable, humid environment. Traditionally this meant leaving the bricks in caves in China for 25 or more years. More modernly however it involves fermenting them over the course of 3-6 months in a specially controlled environment... basically a lab.
During the fermentation process, organisms like bacteria and fiungi slowly convert the chemistry of the leaves into other molecules. This drastically changes the flavor, which is actually quite agreeable. It is somewehre between coffee and green tea.
The fermentation process changes the chemistry of the puerh in a way that directly reduces cholesterol. There are a group of natural statin medications that are produced in the tea leaves of fermented puerh. These molecules work in the same way as pharmaceutical grade statins, only on a much gentler, scale. As a result we have less side effects, and more protective antioxidant and choleretic properties that come with a bitter tea. These additional actions enhance the cholesterol reduction process by reducing the need for it in the body.
In my other article on cholesterol, I discuss how antioxidants can protect us from cholesterol induced damage, and why bitter herbs are useful as well. Puerh is special because it has all of these qualities in rich supply.
It makes a great daily beverage for anybody at risk of high cholesterol or heart disease in general.
Artichoke is delicious vegetable, as well as a potent anti-cholesterol herb. The part eaten is the unopened flower. The tops are picked just before they open, and are eaten as a delicacy or desert. They were incredibly popular by ancient Mediterranean cultures where they grew native. The Romans and Ancient Egyptians were huge fans, serving them at nearly every feast or celebration.
Though the tops are also beneficial for cholesterol levels, it is the leaves that are most valued as medicine. Traditionally this was mainly for liver complaints like jaundice (yellowing of the skin as a result of a weak liver), hepatitis (swollen liver), and indigestion (the liver is a key organ of digestion).
Inside the artichoke plant, exists a highly bitter substance known as cynarin, and another known as luteolin. These is thought to be the active constituent of the artichoke plant in terms of liver and cholesterol levels. It's been shown in numerous clinical trials since the early 1970's to have an anti-cholesterol action. The effects are mainly due to an inhibition of cholesterol synthesis itself, but also through an increase in the secretion of bile, which is made from cholesterol in the liver. This bile is concentrated cholesterol, which is then injected into the gut to aid digestion of fats and proteins. Thus eliminating excess cholesterol from the liver.
To take artichoke, purchase capsulated leaves, or an extract of the leaves like a tincture or liquid extract.
There are plenty of other herbs for reducing cholesterol levels. Some of these include chinnamon, garlic, and schisandra. Stay tuned as we will be discussing these herbs in more detail in the near future.
The Sunlight Experiment
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This ia a basic overview of some of the different forms of heart disease.
Alzheimers is a cognitive disorder where the neurons of the brain become damaged over time. This condition is widespread and costly both emotionally and financially. Understanding this disease mey better help us in preventing its ocurrance.
The Hippocampus is a special region of the brain, crucial for memory development, and imagining future events. We discuss the functions of the hippocampus, what makes it special, and tips to optimising memory storage using the specialties of this brain region.