Echinacea Benefits to Support Your Health

Echinacea is a powerful and beneficial herb used by people around the world to maintain good health. Every part of the plant, from the roots to the flower petals, is bursting with vital nutrients. With a reputation as a natural cold remedy, many people enjoy echinacea in one form or another, whether as a tea, a supplement, or even the raw plant. Here, we’ll look at ten impressive ways echinacea can support your health.

What Is Echinacea?

A flowering plant native to North America, echinacea has dotted the American landscape in one form or another for hundreds of years. Initially prized by the Native American Sioux Indians as a remedy for snakebites, colic, and infections, it went on to become a wellness staple until the advent of antibiotics. Today, echinacea remains one of America’s most beloved and widely used herbs. Natural cold remedies, cough drops, and organic supplements all cite echinacea as a key ingredient.

Like other herbs, the health benefits of echinacea are owed to its diverse makeup of nutrients, which includes polysaccharides, alkylamides, flavonoids, polyphenols, vitamin C, selenium, and zinc.

10 Health Benefits of Echinacea

Americans spend millions of dollars on echinacea supplements every year to support their health. With a long history of therapeutic use, there is a treasure trove of research to support its popularity.

1. Boosts the Immune System

Echinacea can have a powerful impact on the immune system; over 14 clinical trials have confirmed its ability to encourage good health all year long. Other studies show echinacea to be among the most effective supplements for seasonal wellness.

2. Reduces Redness and Swelling

Systemic swelling, redness, and discomfort in the body can have multiple sources, including an unhealthy diet or strenuous exercise. Consuming echinacea or applying skin care products that contain echinacea essential oil can help reduce and alleviate tissue irritation.

3. Promotes the Health of Cells

Consuming echinacea promotes the health of protective cells in your body. Many of the compounds in echinacea support immune cells and encourage healthy cell growth.

4. Facilitates Oxygen Transport

Echinacea may improve oxygen levels in the blood. Echinacea increases erythropoietin production in the bone marrow, this, in turn, promotes red blood cell production and increases the capacity of the blood to transport oxygen.

5. Supports Oral Health

Echinacea has been evaluated in combination with other herbs like sage and lavender and found to reduce bad breath. It’s believed this effect is partly due to echinacea’s ability to neutralized the harmful organisms that cause bad breath.

6. Alleviates Physical Discomfort

Native Americans used echinacea to reduce aches and pains. Today, research has shown its potential for promoting comfort following surgery.

7. Encourages Normal Skin Health

Echinacea supports a normal complexion by helping to discourage blemishes and irritation. Other studies found that it helps hydrate the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

8. Promotes Upper Respiratory Health

Echinacea is among the best herbs for supporting upper respiratory health, even in children. One double-blind placebo-controlled study found that air travel passengers who took echinacea tablets before and during a flight experienced fewer respiratory issues.

9. Provides Antioxidants

Echinacea is a source of antioxidants like vitamin C, beta-carotene, flavonoids, selenium, and zinc. One study found that a particular echinacea tincture had more antioxidant activity than Gingko Biloba.

10. Supports Normal Aging

Although human research is necessary for confirmation, the results of animal studies suggest that echinacea could offer anti-aging potential. In one study, supplemental echinacea was attributed to helping extend the lifespan of aging mice.

Using Echinacea

Echinacea supplements are available in many forms. If you have access to the plant itself, you can make a pure, organic tea which doubles as an incredible home remedy for the flu.

Echinacea Tea

Below is an easy recipe for echinacea tea. Make sure only to use organic or wildcrafted echinacea that’s free of pesticides. For flavor, you can add natural sweeteners like honey, but I prefer it plain.

  1. Heat 8-16 ounces of distilled or filtered water over medium to high heat.
  2. Add a mixture of flowers, roots, and leaves.
  3. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  4. Strain and enjoy hot or cold!

Side Effects and Precautions

Echinacea is generally considered safe, however, people who are sensitive to pollen should exercise caution. Echinacea comes from the same family of plants as daisies, marigolds, and ragweed. Some common side effects include dizziness, dry mouth, and mild nausea. While it is a favorite herb taken by many women, more research is needed to determine its safety for expectant or breastfeeding mothers. Before you try echinacea yourself, consult with your trusted healthcare provider.

Oregano Oil Benefits to Support Your Health Naturally

Oregano oil is extracted from the oregano plant (Origanum vulgare), a perennial herb from the flowering plant family Lamiaceae. Thanks to its high concentration of antioxidants, carvacrol, and other critical vitamins and nutrients, the health benefits of oregano oil are truly staggering. Oregano oil may support gastrointestinal, respiratory, and skin health. Additionally, its chemical makeup is a powerful force against harmful organisms.

Unlike the dried leaves used in cooking, organic oregano oil provides the health benefits of both the leaf and flower in a few concentrated drops. The potency of oregano oil is due to carvacrol, the compound in the leaves and flowers that are responsible for most of the oregano’s positive health benefits. There are over fifty different types of oregano. Mediterranean varieties of oregano, like those grown in Turkey, usually have the highest amount of carvacrol. These varieties include Origanum heracleoticum and Origanum vulgare, among others.

According to Greek myth, oregano was a beloved and cherished herb of the goddess Aphrodite. She grew it in her garden atop Mount Olympus. Given this history, it’s no surprise that oregano has been studied intensely and its benefits for human health are well known. Below are the top nine you should know about.

1. Calms Lip Blemishes

Many people apply oregano oil to lip blemishes with the belief it will help soothe the area and accelerate healing time. Research is ongoing to pinpoint the validity of this use. Carvacrol may promote resistance against the harmful organisms that cause lip blemishes.

2. Helps with Food Preservation

Spices and herbs, like oregano, have a long history of food preservation and safety. Many types of food, especially raw meat, are a haven for harmful bacteria. Oregano oil may help resist harmful organisms. In one study, a concentrated application of carvacrol slowed the growth of lab cultures or caused them to stop multiplying altogether. Other studies show that essential oils, including oregano, halt the spread of organisms in spoiled fruit juice and aged meat.

3. Soothes Muscle Discomfort

Oregano itself is tremendously soothing and research shows that oregano oil may be helpful for reducing muscle discomfort. In one study, carvacrol was administered orally to mice and measured against opioid-based pain medication. The study concluded that carvacrol offered benefits similar to opioid drugs while being safer.

4. Promotes Intestinal Balance

Maintaining a proper balance of healthy bacteria in your intestines and gut is crucial for supporting good health. A healthy colony of intestinal flora encourages proper digestion and boosts the immune system. Good bacteria also support the immune system and help balance mood. Carvacrol may help promote gut health by creating an appropriate balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria.

5. Eases Bone and Joint Discomfort

Swelling and redness of the joints is an uncomfortable ailment that affects many people. Preliminary studies suggest that carvacrol may offer hope for soothing bones and joints.

6. Resists Harmful Organisms

If you travel to underdeveloped areas of the world, you’ll be exposed to organisms that can wreak havoc on your health. Avoiding the water may be insufficient. Harmful organisms in the natural environment carry a high risk, especially if the body is already in poor health. Research has shown that carvacrol may support the body’s natural response to toxic invaders.

7. Encourages Normal Yeast Balance

Yeast and fungus exist everywhere, even on and in the human body; total eradication is next to impossible. Balance, however, is both desirable and achievable with the help of carvacrol. In a study that examined the use of essential oils as a means to address fungus, carvacrol was among the most effective. Likewise, oregano oil is helpful for promoting balanced candida, a fungus that commonly falls out of balance from poor diet, stress, or antibiotics.

8. Supports Liver Health

Toxins exist in our water, food, and even the air we breathe. The ever-present barrage of toxins in our environment is extraordinary, and the burden it places on the liver is equally mind boggling. Carvacrol may support the normal function of the liver, the body’s primary detoxifying organ.

9. Boosts the Immune System

Gut health, toxins, and lifestyle all play a role in your body’s ability to stay healthy. Oregano oil supports many of the critical factors that ultimately contribute to a strong immune system. In addition to oregano oil’s ability to encourage better gut health, it supplies the body with powerful antioxidants. Eating a healthy diet rich in plants, like oregano encourages a balanced, healthy environment within your body.

Choosing the Right Oregano Oil

If you are looking for the best oregano oil, remember the importance of carvacrol. Global Healing Center has pioneered a new industry standard of high-quality oregano oil with Oregatrex™. It’s a liquid herbal extract that has a minimum carvacrol content of 80% and includes organic peppermint, cayenne, and olive oil. This potent blend supports digestive health and supports the body’s response to harmful organisms.

What About Fresh or Dried Oregano?

Like oregano oil, fresh or dried oregano is packed full of nutritional benefits. Oregano leaf is a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, iron, calcium, and potassium. Fresh oregano is loaded with beneficial antioxidants. Oregano blended with other herbs can contain as many or more antioxidants as fruit, berries, and vegetables.

Tips for Growing Oregano

Can’t find the right organic, non-GMO oregano? Then maybe it’s time to grow your own. Like many herbs, it’s easy. With a little bit of work, you’ll be harvesting home-grown oregano in no time.

To start growing oregano, you need some oregano seeds (if you are using cuttings or container plants you can skip these first steps). The variety you should choose depends on your intended use. For a high carvacrol content, Mediterranean varieties are your best bet. Search for the Origanum vulgare variety, which is sometimes referred to as “Greek” oregano. Shop around for a trusted seed supplier who can provide organic, non-GMO seeds. The designation of “heirloom seeds” may assure that the seeds are non-GMO.

Once you have found your seeds, plant this perennial herb in early spring following the last frost of the year. Oregano does best in full sunlight. Check your soil and make sure it’s well drained and has a good mixture of sand, clay, and decaying organic material. If you are not sure if your soil is right, ask a local greenery for compost and fertilizer suggestions.

When your planting location is prepared, it’s time to plant. Place small groups of seeds approximately ¼ inch down and 10 inches apart. Next, cover the seeds with soil and water. Check your plants often. When the soil is dry to the touch, it’s time to water thoroughly.

You may see sprouting after just five days, but exact timing may vary. Oregano leaves will be ready to harvest once the plant reaches about four inches in height, but you may want to wait until they are around eight inches high before taking the leaves. Don’t wait too long to harvest. The best flavors for culinary use come from the leaves before the plant flowers, usually sometime in early July. Instead of taking off individual leaves, harvesting may be done by cutting off whole stems with the leaves still attached.

After harvesting, ty the stems together and hang upside down in a cool, dry environment—preferably indoors—to dry. After 5-7 days, the oregano leaves should be ready. Remove the leaves and store them in an airtight, glass container for up to one year.

Winter Wellness

How to Stay Healthy During Winter

Winter is a busy, festive time of year. It’s also a time when more people tend to get sick. What exactly is it about this time of year that encourages aches and sniffles? “Catching a chill” has long been suspected as a cause of winter ailments and, for just as long, has been dismissed as folklore.

Can You Get Sick from Cold Weather?

It is true that exposure to cold temperatures constricts blood vessels and reduces blood flow. Conceivably, this could weaken the immune system since it means fewer protective white blood cells make the rounds. But, cold weather alone will not make you sick. Harmful bacteria and viruses are to blame, although some are easier to catch and spread during cold, dry weather.

Human behavior is more responsible for the transmission of illness than cold weather. Human behavior facilitates the transmission of the common cold and flu. During the winter, we travel en masse and stay indoors, in close contact, with our friends and families. As a result, common winter concerns such as a cold, sore throat, asthma, stiff joints, cold sores, dry skin, and the flu are simply easier to catch.

Common Winter Health Concerns

Seasonal ailments are many and diverse. Let’s look at a few of the most common and their symptoms and causes.

The Cold

The common cold affects millions of people. In fact, the average adult will catch it at least two or three times per year. Colds are caused by viral infections, and the most common are human rhinoviruses or HRVs. They result in upper respiratory infections with symptoms like a runny nose, sore throat, cough, headache, or mild body aches.

Sore Throat

A sore throat, par for the course during the winter, is usually an early sign of an upper respiratory infection.

Asthma

Asthma isn’t a seasonal ailment but asthma can be exacerbated by the cold, especially a sudden drop in temperature (such as when you step outside during the dead of winter). Additionally, an asthma attack, which can cause coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath, can be brought on by other conditions, such as a cold or flu.

Norovirus

Norovirus is a contagious gastrointestinal illness that can cause nausea, projectile vomiting, and watery stool. It’s especially troublesome in densely populated buildings like schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and cruise ships. Touching contaminated surfaces (like counters or doorknobs), eating food that’s been handled by an infected person, or even inhaling viral particles can spread the virus.

Painful Joints

 

The relationship between stiff, sore joints and cold weather is a strange one. It seems counterintuitive that cold weather would exacerbate inflammation, but a sudden drop in temperature is usually preceded by a drop in barometric pressure. People with inflamed joints are more attuned to changes in atmospheric pressure and may feel more pain in injured areas. Stiff joints might also hurt more in the winter because people are more sedentary when it’s cold outside.

Cold Sores

Cold sores are the result of the highly contagious HSV-1 virus. The virus remains dormant in the body’s nerve cells until activated. Many factors, including stress or a compromised immune system, can trigger an outbreak. To prevent transmission to other people or parts of the body, avoid touching cold sores, don’t share food or utensils, and wash your hands frequently.

Dry Skin

In many places, the humidity drops during the winter; less moisture in the air can lead to dry skin. Don’t use harsh, drying soaps or bathe in water that’s too hot–both can dry your skin. Moisturize your skin by applying a rich lotion after showering. You can also invest in a humidifier for your bedroom.

The Flu

Flu symptoms and cold symptoms are similar but flu symptoms are more severe and include fever, chills, body aches. If it escalates, the flu can lead to more serious health problems like pneumonia; it can even become life-threatening. It’s important to be especially vigilant since you can catch the flu from up to 6 feet away by droplet transmission. Infected people are usually contagious for a day before symptoms appear and up to 7 days after.

If you get sick, stay home. Stay hydrated, get a lot of rest, and let yourself recuperate, don’t spread it around your workplace. You’re not at your best when you’re sick, and you can greatly hinder productivity even further by getting your coworkers sick.

Winter Allergies

For many people, winter time means spending more time indoors… with the mold spores, pet dander, chemical cleaners, and dust mites. When you consider that most homes are sealed up tight and ventilation is lacking, it’s no surprise that allergies can flare up during the winter months.

How to Avoid Getting Sick

Prevention is the best strategy for avoiding winter bugs. The following are tips for protecting yourself and keeping your immune system strong.

Follow a Healthy Diet

Eating poorly can significantly affect your health by changing the composition of your gut microbiome, leaving you open to attack from harmful bacteria. Conversely, consuming lactic acid bacteria naturally found in raw food like fruits and vegetables supports gut health. Probiotics like lactobacilli support normal respiratory health.

Many of the traditional, seasonal comfort foods offer little nutritional value. Studies show that concentrated glucose consumption without antioxidants causes oxidative stress in the blood and puts you in a pro-oxidative state, which compromises your immune defenses. Combat the effect by eating plenty of leafy greens, beans, and citrus.

Exercise and Stay Active

When it’s cold and the days are short, working out might be the last thing you feel like doing, but exercise supports the immune system and may actually prevent you from getting sick. Aerobic exercise helps circulate white blood cells throughout your body so they can find and fight harmful microbes. Exercise lowers stress hormones and combats seasonal affective disorder.

Manage Your Stress

 

Stress is inevitable, and occasional stress is actually good for you. But, prolonged stress weakens the immune system. One of the many effects of stress is a shrunken, atrophied thymus. The thymus is the small organ in the lymphatic system that makes T-cells, which are highly specialized immune cells that target specific types and strains of microbes, like viruses.

Control your stress levels this winter and mitigate your stressors to support your immune system. Make time for yourself and avoid overcommitting to social engagements. Sometimes it’s difficult to say “no” but rest and recuperation are essential for strong immune defenses.

Sleep Well

A lack of sleep affects the immune system and consistent sleep deprivation causes the body to enter a proinflammatory state–in as few as 8 days. Because immune cells are most active during the sleep cycle, a good night’s rest is essential. If you feel you’re coming down with something, get some rest–it strengthens the immune response.

Wash Your Hands

Regular hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent infection. Shared surfaces like handrails, doorknobs, and elevator buttons are a conduit for pathogens. We then infect ourselves when we touch our faces. Most people touch their face an average of 4 times an hour, and they touch shared surfaces about 3 times an hour. Always wash your hands after touching shared surfaces.

Protect Your Skin

Skin can be especially sensitive to extreme temperatures. Bathing and showering in hot water can make dry skin worse, even prone to cracking. Cold, dry air wreaks havoc on skin, too. Moisturize your skin by applying organic skin care lotion immediately after getting out of the shower.

Gargle

Gargling is a great way to prevent yourself from getting sick. Though it’s great for soothing a sore throat, it turns out that gargling salt water is an effective way to discourage upper respiratory infections. You can even try gargling green tea. According to one study, gargling with green tea is more effective than plain water at preventing fevers in children.

Stay Warm

Exposure to cold weather causes vasoconstriction. Dress appropriately for the weather and keep the immune defenses in your air passages strong and well supplied with white blood cells

Should You Get A Flu Shot?

The decision whether or not to get a flu shot is controversial but personal. Everyone needs to consider all the information and risks and decide for themselves. Find a non-biased, trusted health provider who is willing to have an honest conversation. Read and understand the warnings that accompany whichever flu shot you may be considering. Understand that the flu shot is not a magic shield and it won’t protect against anything other than specific flu strains, and even then the action may take up to two weeks to develop. Everyone and everybody is different, know that you can still get sick from the represented flu strains in the vaccine because effectiveness can vary from person to person.

Nutritional Supplements

Good nutrition is a foundation of good health. If you’re not getting the complete spectrum of nutrients your body requires, nutritional supplements can help fill the gaps and support a strong immune system.

Keep these tips in mind to keep your immune system strong this winter. Have yourself some happy healthy holidays!

Doctors call for single-payer health reform, cite need to move beyond the Affordable Care Act

The American Journal of Public Health publishes physicians’ call for sweeping single-payer reform with detailed proposal signed by over 2,200 doctors nationwide.

The unveiling of proposal coincides with heightened debate on ‘Medicare for All’ in presidential primaries.

In a dramatic show of physician support for deeper health reform – and for making a decisive break with the private insurance model of financing medical care – 2,231 physicians called today [Thursday, May 5] for the creation of a publicly financed, single-payer national health program that would cover all Americans for all medically necessary care.

Single-payer health reform, often called “Medicare for All,” has been a hotly debated topic in the presidential primaries, thanks in part to it being a prominent plank in the platform of Sen. Bernie Sanders. The new physicians’ proposal is strictly nonpartisan, however.

The proposal, which was drafted by a blue-ribbon panel of 39 leading physicians, is announced today in an editorial titled “Moving Forward from the Affordable Care Act to a Single-Payer System” published in the American Journal of Public Health. The editorial links to the full proposal titled “Beyond the Affordable Care Act: A Physicians’ Proposal for Single-Payer Health Care Reform” and the names of all the signers, and it appeals for additional physicians to add their names as endorsers. The proposal currently has signers from 48 states and the District of Columbia.

“Our nation is at a crossroads,” said Dr. Adam Gaffney, a Boston-based pulmonary disease and critical care specialist, lead author of the editorial and co-chair of the Working Group that produced the proposal.

“Despite the passage of the Affordable Care Act six years ago, 30 million Americans remain uninsured, an even greater number are underinsured, financial barriers to care like co-pays and deductibles are rising, bureaucracy is growing, provider networks are narrowing, and medical costs are continuing to climb.

“Caring relationships are increasingly taking a back seat to the financial prerogatives of insurance firms, corporate providers, and Big Pharma,” Gaffney said. “Our patients are suffering and our profession is being degraded and disfigured by these mercenary interests.”

Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a co-author of the editorial and proposal who is a professor of public health at the City University of New York’s Hunter College and lecturer at Harvard Medical School, commented: “We can continue down this harmful path – or even worse, take an alternative, ‘free-market’ route that would compound our problems – or we can embrace the long-overdue remedy that we know will work: the creation of a publicly financed, nonprofit, single-payer system that covers everybody. Today we’re saying we must quickly make that shift. Lives are literally at stake.”

Dr. Marcia Angell, a co-author of the editorial and proposal, co-chair of the working group, member of the faculty of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School and former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, said: “We can no longer afford to waste the vast resources we do on the administrative costs, executive salaries, and profiteering of the private insurance system. We get too little for our money. It’s time to put those resources into real health care for everyone.”

Under the national health program (NHP) outlined by the physicians:

  • Patients could choose to go to any doctor and hospital. Most hospitals and clinics would remain privately owned and operated, receiving a budget from the NHP to cover all operating costs. Physicians could continue to practice on a fee-for-service basis, or receive salaries from group practices, hospitals or clinics.
  • The program would be paid for by combining current sources of government health spending into a single fund with modest new taxes that would be fully offset by reductions in premiums and out-of-pocket spending. Co-pays and deductibles would be eliminated.
  • The single-payer program would save about $500 billion annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of insurance firms, and the massive paperwork they inflict on hospitals and doctors.
  • The administrative savings of the streamlined system would fully offset the costs of covering the uninsured and upgraded coverage for everyone else, e.g. full coverage of prescription drugs, dental care, and long-term care. Savings would also be redirected to currently underfunded health priorities, particularly public health.
  • The “single payer” would be in a strong position to negotiate lower prices for medications and other medical supplies, yielding additional savings and reining in costs.

Surveys show strong, rising support for single-payer national health insurance among physicians. A 2008 survey of physicians found that 59 percent supported “legislation to establish national health insurance,” up from 49 percent five years earlier.

Article: Moving Forward From the Affordable Care Act to a Single-Payer System, Adam Gaffney, M.D.; Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H.; David U. Himmelstein, M.D.; Marcia Angell, M.D., American Journal of Public Health, doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2015.303157, published online 5 May 2016.

Physicians’ Proposal: Beyond the Affordable Care Act: A Physicians’ Proposal for Single-Payer Health Care Reform

Source: Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP)