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Mix together an equal amount of dry powder of angelica (Danggui), ginseng, Salvia miltiorrhiza (Dansheng), dwarf lilyturf tuber (Maidong), and Panax (Sanqi) to provide a herbal mix. All herbs are available in Chinese grocery stores. Angelica and ginseng are essential for the recipes.   Other herbs are optional.

Mix an equal amount of honey, glycerol and water into a liquid mixture. You can replace the water with any flower water.

Add the liquid mixture into the herbal mix and blend together to provide a spreadable paste with soft consistency. If you have oily skin, add a small amount of egg white to the blend. If you have dry skin, add a small amount of whole milk.

Spread the paste over your clean face. Wait until dry. Wash off with warm water and end with a splash of cold water. Pat dry. The mask moisturizes the skin, decreases fine wrinkles, removes dark spots, and firms the skin.

Happy Friday!

Dr. Connie Wan

Cut Ginseng into thin slices. Mix glycerol with equal amount of water to make a 50% glycerol. Soak Ginseng in 50% of glycerol for 10 days to provide a ginseng enriched glycerol stock. To make a toner, dilute the ginseng glycerol with flower water at 7 parts of flower water with 3 parts of ginseng glycerol. Mix well and use as a skin toner.

Be creative when creating your own ginseng toner. You can use any flower water, essential oil or other herbal ingredients in this recipe. The toner is anti-aging and very effective in treating wrinkles.

Note: You can buy fresh ginseng from Korean grocery store or slices of dry ginseng from any Asian supermarkets. Vegetable glycerol is usually available in supermarkets.

Happy Friday!

Dr. Connie Wan

Through thousands years of herbal use, Chinese herbal doctors have accumulated precious experiences on skincare herbs. For example, the “Compendium of Materia Medica” alone has listed more than 165 herbs for beauty and skincare purpose. In this post, I am introducing you to six most common and well-recognized skincare herbs. Any of these herbs can be used either internally as healthcare supplements or externally as ingredients in your skincare products.

Ginseng: Since ancient times, Ginseng is known for its skin nurishing and beautifying effect. As early as in the “Mystic Farmer’s Herbal Handbook” from the Han Dynasty, Ginseng has long been documented for its ability to promote blood circulation in skin capillaries, increase nutrient supply to skin, moisturize skin, delay skin aging, and smooth skin tone, and remove dark spots and scars.

Ganoderma (Linzhi): Ganoderma is a bitter mushroom long used to promote health in traditional Chinese medicine. Known as “fairy grass” in China, the herb contains trace elements, polysaccharide, and antioxidants.   The herb is anti-aging, contains ingredients that can eliminate free radicals and protecting cells against aging. Used for skincare, the herb is believed to smooth skin tone, remove dark spots and scars, firm skin, and increase the skin elasticity.

Coix seed (Yiren): In ancient China, Coix seed is only used for palace meals. The herb is believed to promote skin metabolism, whiten skin tone, moisturize and smooth the skin.

Ginger: Yes, Ginger is a common herb in Chinese medicine. According to the Chinese medicine, Ginger promotes blood circulation to the skin and therefore stimulates skin cell rejuvenation, improves complexion, and smooth skin tone.

Baiji (Bletilla Tuber): Baiji is one of most common ingredients in Chinese herb formulation for skincare. The herb is believed to remove scar, moisturize and whiten skin, and smooth skin tone. It is often used in formulations for treating acne-caused scars.

Licorice: Chinese medicine believes that licorice is capable of nourishing and moisturizing skin and hair, promoting cell metabolism and repairing damaged skin cells, whitening skin tone, and removing skin blemishes. The herb is believed to have similar antioxidant effect as that of Vitamin E. Therefore, the herb also has anti-aging effect and can be used as a Sunscreen and to repair sun exposure caused skin damages.

Bailian (Ampelopsis Root): Herbal Bailian is the root of Japanese Ampelopsis. The herb is rich in amino acids and polysaccharides and is a potent skin moisturizer. A Chinese medicine classic herbal book “Herbal Secrets” noted that Bailian has the effect of whitening skin tone. Recent pharmacological study suggests that the herb extract inhibits melanin product in skin.

Baishao (White peony root): For skincare use, this herb is believed to promote blood circulation to skin cells and inhibit sebum secretion. Therefore, Chinese herbalists use the herb to treat pimples, acne, and other skin inflammations.

In my past posts, I’ve provided many tips incorporating herbs into skincare recipes and diets. Try to incorporate these herbs in your homemade creams, toners and masks, make teas and soups with these herbs – and be happy for a beautiful skin.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Connie Wan

Peeled horse chestnut 25 g, butter 2 g, beewax 1g, avocado oil 20 g, Glycerol 7g, plantain seeds 0.8 g.   Add water to bring the total mixture to100 grams. Pulverize the mixture with a blender to make a paste with a soft consistency.

Plantain seeds are a well-known Chinese herb. The popularity of the herb has grown in western countries. Nowadays, you can buy this herb (both the leaves and seeds) readily from many online stores. Rich in antioxidants, tannins and saponins, plantain is considered an astringent herb that has diuretic, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It is healing, controls bleeding and fights bacteria infections.

This recipe can be used as a skin treatment mask. Use regularly for an acne-free skin.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Connie Wan

Longan fruit is a common Chinese herb prescribed to women for its blood warming and beautifying effect. The fresh fruit is juicy and sweet with a round black shiny seed inside surrounded by white succulent pulp. Because the fruit resembles the eye of legendary dragon, hence the fruit is named “Dragon’s eye” in China.

Dried longan fruit is used for medicinal purpose. The fruit is picked in the summer when mature. Then, the shell and pit are removed and the remaining fruit pulp is dried. Nutrition wise, dry pulp contains 21% of glucose, 4.5% of protein, 19% insoluble fibers, fruit acids, amino acids, vitamins B, C, and P, minerals including calcium, phosphorus and iron, adenine, and an abundant of antioxidants.

Longan has been used for medical purpose as early as the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE). The China’s first pharmacy monograph “Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic” prescribes longan for weight loss and anti-aging application.   According to the record in The Chinese Materia Medica, longan fruit is warm in properties, tonifies heart and spleen, replenishes qi and blood, and therefore could be used to encourage circulation, warm the blood and promote a healthy and rosy complexion. The herb is often used to treat a sallow facial complexion due to deficiency of blood, irregular menstruation, and uterine bleeding. Suggested dosage is from 10 to 15 grams, or even 30 to 60 grams in large dosage, in decoction, soaked wine, cream, pills, and powder.

Here are a few beauty recipes using longan fruit:

  1. Longan fruit can be formulated with American ginseng. Blend two herbs together with small amount of water to make a paste. Consume daily, the paste is know to nourish blood, anti-aging, and promote a healthy complexion.
  2. Soak Longan fruit in a jar of liquor to make longan wine. The wine is used to invigorate spleen and stomach and warm the blood.
  3. Dilute the longan wine with twice amount of water, a small amount of glycerin and a few drops of essential oil to make a longan fruit toner. The toner promotes micro-capillary circulation on the skin and supports a well-nourished skin.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

I am a night owl — meaning midnight snack is a must. Various surveys showed that about 20-30% of the US population operates on a night owl schedule. If you are a night owl who plans to sunbath the next day, you might want to think again before reaching for that midnight snack bowl. A resent study by researchers from the UC Irvine suggest that eating at abnormal times disrupts the biological clock of the skin, which leads to the reduced ability of certain skin enzyme to protect us against the sun’s harmful UV radiation.

In the study, the mice were fed only during the day — an abnormal eating time for the otherwise nocturnal animals. The animals were exposed to UV radiation day and night. The result showed that the group sustained more UV-caused skin damage during the day than during the night. This means that the animals’ skin is more UV sensitive during the day, which should not be the case naturally.

Further investigation showed that this outcome occurred because an enzyme that repairs UV-damaged skin — xeroderma pigmentosum group A (XPA) — shifted its daily cycle to be less active in the day. The shift was caused by the abnormal feeding time. In comparison, mice that fed only during their usual evening times did not show altered XPA cycles and were better protected against daytime UV rays.

Although further research is needed, the finding suggests that eating late at night could cause a harmful shift in your skin clock and reduce skin’s ability to protect against UV radiation.

Human circadian rhythm (also known as sleep/wake cycle or body clock) is a natural, internal system that’s designed to regulate feelings of sleepiness and wakefulness over a 24-hour period. Previous researches have shown that eating schedules affect the circadian rhythm, which in turn affects liver functions and energy metabolism. For example, it is observed that the time of day food is eaten is more critical to weight loss than the amount of calories ingested. This study by UV Irvine researchers is the first one affirmatively linking the eating time, circadian rhythm and skin functions.

What’s the take home message? Eating late at night may make you more vulnerable to sunburn and consequently other detrimental longer-term effects such as skin aging and skin cancer. I know that I am going to skip that midnight ice cream today.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

Journal Reference: Hong Wang, Elyse van Spyk, Qiang Liu, Mikhail Geyfman, Michael L. Salmans, Vivek Kumar, Alexander Ihler, Ning Li, Joseph S. Takahashi, Bogi Andersen. Time-Restricted Feeding Shifts the Skin Circadian Clock and Alters UVB-Induced DNA Damage. Cell Reports, 2017; 20 (5): 1061 DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.07.022

Ok, I admit I lied – at least twice – as being 29 when being well passed twenty-nine. Twenty-nine is that magic age for woman when we are at our most attractive and charming with our still youthful, but acne free and not yet wrinkled complexion combined with our maturity, confidence, just enough wisdom gained through life, but not yet hardened by the hard living. We all have our regrets at 21, but 29 is perfect and pure magic!

If there is one thing that has the potential to stop or turn back the clock to help us be Forever 29, that would be the miracle herb Astragalus. As a herb used in China for thousands of years, Astragalus has the health benefits well researched and proven by modern sciences including boosting immune system through its polysaccharides compounds, strengthening cardiovascular system by relieving symptoms, lowering cholesterol levels and improving heart function, anti-bacteria and anti-viral, and counteracting oxidative damages through its anti-oxidants.

Astragalus shot to the fame in the western world in 2009 because of a research suggesting the herb’s anti-aging effect. In an article titled “Anti-aging pill targets telomeres at the ends of chromosomes,” Scientific American reported that extract from Astragalus is capable of activating the enzyme telomerase (hTERT). Telomerase is an enzyme in our body in charge of maintaining or lengthening telomeres. Telomeres are short DNA sequences that act as protective caps at the tip of our DNA. When cell replicates (as we grow and age), telomere shortens through each replication cycle. Eventually, the telomeres will get to the point that it is too short to support stable replication of the cells. That’s when we will see the increased incidences of age-related diseases. Of course, when most of our cells loss their ability to replicate, we die of old age.

Telomerase (hTERT) is usually inactive in adult cells, except in immune cells, egg and sperm, and in tumor cells. The enzyme is in fact the same enzyme that allows cancer cells to stop aging and become immortal. The Scientific American article suggested that, by maintaining or slowing down the shortening of telomeres, astragalus extract may have the potential to slow down and delay aging. Later research further suggested that two compounds from Astrataglus, astragaloside IV and cycloastragenol, strongly activate telomerase in various cell lines.

In Chinese medicine, Astragalus is usually taken in herbal extract form at an equivalent of 8-15 grams raw herb effective dosage per day. The common use of the herb in its extract form over thousands of years does not seem to indicate any significant side effect at the recommended herbal consumption level. Until the pharmacological and toxicological data prove the safe use of the isolated compounds, staying with thousands years of user experience would be wise especially considering the fact that, in addition to activating telomerase, the herb’s amazing health benefits on immune system, heart, liver, lung and spleen could synergistically contribute to maintaining the vitality of being Forever 29.

Happy Friday!

Dr. Connie Wan

Eat more fiber. You’ve probably heard it before. But have you wondered why and how the fibers are good for you?

Fiber is a carbohydrate that our body cannot digest. Fiber comes in two varieties: soluble and insoluble. Both are good for you. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, slows digestion and helps to lower glucose levels and cholesterol. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and helps move food through your digestive system. 

Most Americans don’t get the daily-recommended amount of fiber in their diet, which is 25 grams of fiber per day for women and 38 grams per day for men.  Now, there is a one more reason that you should load up with fiber-rich food.  A study published on the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that dietary fibers may assist in weight loss when made part of a long-term, daily diet.

In the study, 20 healthy men with an average fiber intake of 14 grams a day were given snack bars to supplement their diet. The control group received snack bars that contained no fiber; a second group ate snack bars that contained 21 grams of polydextrose, which is a common fiber food additive; and a third group received snack bars with 21 grams of soluble corn fiber.  Fecal samples were collected from the participants and the bacterial genetic information in the fecal microbiome is examined.

The results showed that the ratio of Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes shifted toward more Bacteroidetes in the gut microbiome samples from the group with the fiber supplements.  This shift is important because other researches have shown that the individuals with higher Bacteroidetes tend to be leaner, whereas individuals with higher Firmicutes tend to be more obese, and that having a higher fiber diet is protective against obesity.

The researchers further reported that, though there were significant “good” shifts in the gut bacterial populations with fiber supplements, populations seemed to go back to where they were before when the supplements were stopped.  Therefore, taking the fiber supplements everyday is essential in maintaining a healthier gut.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

Journal Reference:

H. D. Holscher, J. G. Caporaso, S. Hooda, J. M. Brulc, G. C. Fahey, K. S. Swanson. Fiber supplementation influences phylogenetic structure and functional capacity of the human intestinal microbiome: follow-up of a randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2014; DOI: 10.3945/%u200Bajcn.114.092064

Source: Informed Nutrition

Caloric restriction has been touted as an effective anti-aging strategy since mid 1990s. Scientific American did multiple articles over the years and the juries are still out on whether the correlation is a sound scientific hypothesis or an urban myth.

A study published in Molecular & Cellular Proteomics threw more scientific weight behind the hypothesis and offered one glimpse into how cutting calories impacts aging inside a cell. It seems that ribosomes — the cell’s protein makers –plays a key role. The researchers found that when ribosomes slow down, the aging process slows too. The decreased speed lowers protein production, but gives ribosomes extra time to repair themselves.

So what causes ribosome production to slow down in the first place? According to the animal study, reduced calorie consumption. The researchers from the Brigham Young University observed two groups of mice. One group had unlimited access to food while the other was restricted to consume 35 percent fewer calories, though still receiving all the necessary nutrients for survival. The researcher observed that, when calorie consumption is restricted, there’s almost a linear increase in lifespan. In addition to living longer, the calorie-restricted mice are better at maintaining their bodies as they are more energetic and suffered fewer diseases – basically, they’re younger for longer as well.

Ribosomes are important — they use 10-20 percent of the cell’s total energy to build all the proteins necessary for the cell to operate. Like cars, ribosomes are complex machines — they need periodic maintenance to replace the worn out parts, which enables them to continue producing high-quality proteins. This top-quality production in turn keeps cells and the entire body functioning well. It seems that, caloric restriction slows down the workload for the ribosomes and allow them time to self-repair and maintain.

It should be noted that caloric restriction as an anti-aging strategy has not been tested out extensively in human. If you choose to practice such strategy, eat less but be sure to have enough protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. Or, if you are like me, fast periodically but pop a few vitamin supplements to ensure you are still getting essential nutrients.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

Journal Reference:

Andrew D. Mathis, Bradley C. Naylor, Richard H. Carson, Eric Evans, Justin Harwell, Jared Knecht, Eric Hexem, Fredrick F. Peelor, Benjamin F. Miller, Karyn L. Hamilton, Mark K. Transtrum, Benjamin T. Bikman, John C. Price. Mechanisms of In Vivo Ribosome Maintenance Change in Response to Nutrient Signals. Molecular & Cellular Proteomics, 2017; 16 (2): 243 DOI: 10.1074/mcp.M116.063255

Source: Informed Nutrition

At the Seattle Gummy’s lab, scientists often try different flavor combinations for the new products in the pipeline. Every once in a while, we office folks will get a batch of products with different flavors and are asked to vote for the best flavor. And, every single time, ginger flavor wins!

Originated in Asia, ginger is used both as a spice and condiment to add flavor to food and extensively in herbal medicine for treating various age related diseases. Specifically, ginger can in found in formulations for treating degenerative disorders such as arthritis and rheumatism, cardiovascular disorders such as atherosclerosis and hypertension, inflammatory disorders such as gastritis, esophagitis, cancer, diabetes, and for general prevention or delay of aging.

Ginger is becoming increasingly popular in US in recent years and its health-promoting effects are becoming increasingly known. The health benefits of ginger have been attributed to its rich phytochemicals, which can be grouped into volatile compounds and non-volatile compounds. The volatile compounds provide the distinct aroma and taste of ginger. The non-volatile compounds are responsible for the pungent taste of ginger.

Modern pharmacological studies have confirmed ginger’s has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-oxidative properties:

Anti-oxidative properties: Studies showed that ginger has an equal antioxidant effect to that of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).  Animal modeling showed that ginger scavenges free radicals, significantly lower lipid peroxidation, and raise the levels of antioxidant enzymes. These results suggested that ginger could have similar or better anti-aging effect as vitamin C.

Anti-inflammatory effects: Ginger is believed to strengthen immune system.  Studies have shown that compounds in ginger can inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokines, down-regulate inflammatory gene expression and inhibit the excessive production of inflammatory factors in human body.  Because of its potency in inhibiting allergic reactions, ginger may be useful for treating and prevention of allergic diseases. In addition, several studies suggested that ginger might be useful in treating Parkinson’s disease.

Anti-cancer effects:  Studies has shown that several compounds in ginger exhibit anti-cancer activities.  These studies suggested that ginger and its bioactive molecules may be effective in preventing colorectal, gastric, ovarian, liver, skin, breast, and prostate cancers.

Anti-diabetic effects: Some studies have proven the effectiveness of ginger against diabetes and its complications.   Researchers have shown that ginger significantly lower blood glucose, serum total cholesterol, LDL, VLDL, and triglycerides, and raised HDL in hyperglycemic and diabetic animal models. For example, Bhandari et al. showed that ginger extract fed orally for 20 days produced a significant anti-hyperglycemic effect in diabetic animal models.  Nammi et al. showed that ginger extract reduced body weights and levels of glucose, insulin, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, free fatty acids, and phospholipids in people with high-fat diets.

Now, I hope that I’ve gotten you all wind up on the greatness of ginger.  Start drinking ginger tea, sprinkle ginger into your soups and dishes, and of course incorporating this nature given miracle into your skin care regime. You won’t regret it.

Happy Friday!

Dr. Connie Wan

Journal Reference:

Nafiseh Shokri Mashhadi et al. Anti-Oxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Ginger in Health and Physical Activity: Review of Current Evidence, Int. J. Prev. Med