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Ginkgo biloba has a long history of use in treating blood disorders and memory issues.  In Chinese traditional medicine, Ginkgo biloba is often used for cognitive enhancement or to alleviate cognitive decline.  The extract of the Ginkgo biloba is rich in antioxidants such as flavonoids and terpenoids.  Laboratory studies have shown that the extract improves blood circulation by opening up blood vessels and making blood less sticky.

A recent study, published in Neural Regeneration Research, provides one additional explanation for the herb’s cognitive enhancing function.  It seems that Ginkgo biloba is capable of promoting neural stem cells growth and therefore combat cognitive decline and impairments due to old age.

Led by Professor Jiwei Wang from Weifang Medical University, the research team studies the effect of Ginkgo biloba extract using a rat model with vascular dementia.  In the experiment, rats were supplemented with Ginkgo biloba extract at 50mg/Kg per day for a period of time.  Over the course of the treatment, the rats learning and memory abilities were assessed using the water maze.  In addition, the endogenous neural stem cells in rats’ brain were measured.

Researchers found that Gingko biloba extract significantly improve learning and memory in the rats.  In addition, the analysis showed that the number and proliferation of neuronal stem cells were significantly higher in rats given the extract. The researchers concluded that Ginkgo biloba extract may be used to treats memory loss and cognitive impairments in patients with senile dementia.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

Journal Reference: Wang JW, Chen W, Wang YL. A ginkgo biloba extract promotes proliferation of endogenous neural stem cells in vascular dementia ratsNeural Regeneration Research, 2013; 8 (18): 1655-1662 DOI: 10.3969/j.issn.1673-5374.2013.18.003

Goji berry, also called Lycium barbarum, Fructus lycii or Gouqizi, has been used as a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for thousands of years.  In TCM literature, the herb is known for balancing “Yin” and “Yang” in the body, nourishing the liver and kidney and improving visual acuity.

Goji berry fruits have a variety of biological activities and pharmacological functions.  The herb has been used in TCM for preventing and treating various chronic diseases including diabetes, hyperlipidemia, cancer, hepatitis, hypo-immunity function, thrombosis, and male infertility.  The amazing medicinal property of the herb causes the Ministry of the Public Health of China to approve this delicious berry fruit to be marketed as a botanical medicine.

Modern research has revealed various active compounds in goji berry, including goji berry polysaccharides.  Previous studies have shown that goji berry polysaccharides can enhance exercise endurance capacity, reduce fatigue and exhibit antioxidant activity in vitro and in vivo.

Regular physical exercise has many health benefits.  Extensive research has shown that regular exercise lowers mortality, delays brain aging and reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.  However, strenuous physical exercise is known to dramatically increase oxygen uptake, which leads to increased generation of free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as superoxide and hydrogen peroxide.  The free radicals and ROS are known to cause lipid peroxidation in cell membranes, DNA damage, and decreased antioxidant levels in muscle tissues and blood, leading to cellular and muscle damage.

Antioxidants are substances that help reduce the severity of oxidative stress either by forming a less active free radical or by quenching the oxidative reaction.  Research suggests that dietary antioxidants may prevent muscle damage because they are able to detoxify some peroxides by scavenging ROS produced during exercise.  Therefore, it only made sense that goji berry polysaccharides, due to their amazing antioxidant properties, may treat exercise-induced oxidative stress.   It turns out that the animal studies showed exactly that.

To investigate such hypothesis, the researchers divided testing animals into four groups, i.e., one control group and three goji berry treated groups. The animals received the treatment for 28 days.  On the day of the exercise test, animals were required to run to exhaustion on the treadmill.  Body weight, endurance time, as well as oxidative stress indicators were measured.

The results showed that the body weight in goji berry treated groups were not significantly different from that in the control group before and after the experiment.  After exhaustive exercise, the endurance time in goji berry treated groups was significantly prolonged compared with that in the control group.  The oxidative stress indicators in the goji berry treated groups were significantly reduced compared with that in the control group.  The collective results indicate that goji berry was effective in preventing oxidative stress after exhaustive exercise.

The take home message is that – do consider including goji berry in your exercise dietary regime.  The herb not only tastes delicious but also may do wonders to your sports performance.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

Journal Reference: Xiaozhong Shan, Junlai Zhou, Tao Ma and Wiongxia Chai, Lycium barbarum polysaccharides reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 2011; 12(2): 1081-1088.   doi:  10.3390/ijms12021081

Human age—this fundamental rule of life is for the sake of species survival; and no —no one can stop it.  Yes—we all know this at an abstract level.  However, when it comes down to the individual level, none of us wants to age.   For me personally, it’s really just about feeling great and looking great for as long as I can so I don’t have to face the reality of aging.

To slow down the aging process, we need to understand the process of aging first.  Unfortunately, there isn’t one slam-dunk theory capturing the “truth” of aging.  There are many scientific theories.   In the next few posts, we will discuss each theory.  This post is about the free radical theory of aging—the most popular of them all.

The free radical theory of aging:  Free radicals, or Reactive Oxygen Species (ROD), are the toxic byproducts of normal cell metabolism in an oxygen-rich world, which is a world we are living in.  Natural substances within cells such as antioxidants can clean up and neutralize the dangerous free radicals.  Those free radicals that escape the cleanup process damage DNA, proteins and mitochondria (organelles within cells that produce energy).  The resulting damage, which is called oxidative damage, accumulates over time, leading to genome instability, and is considered the primary cause of the aging process.

Many skincare and anti-aging products are developed based on the theory that  oxidative damage is the most important aspect of the aging.  Check out a drug store shelf—you will find tons of products with the word “antioxidant” in the product description.  The common antioxidants in skincare products are Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Q10, and various phyto-antioxidants such as flavonoids, flavones, and polyphenols.  All are effective with proper dosage and with regular consumption.

To counter oxidative damage caused aging, do load up antioxidants in your daily diet.  Many fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants—because antioxidants are the plants’ natural defense against the oxidative damage to them.  My personal favorite? Cocoa, i.e., dark chocolate!  Dark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols, catechins, among others. One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate contained more antioxidant activity, polyphenols and flavanols than other fruits they tested including blueberries and Acai berries.1  Therefore, indulge in delicious taste of dark chocolate and fight the free radical caused aging as the an added benefit.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Connie Wan

Journal Reference:

1. Crozier, SJ et al. Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit”: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products, Chemistry Central Journal 2011; 5:5 DOI: 10.1186/1752-153X-5-5