Fungus and the Immune System

by Nick Soloway

The Fungus Formerly Known As…

Tina Beaudoin, ND

In 2007, Cordyceps sinensis was reclassified and dubbed Ophiocordyceps sinensis when molecular analysis revealed the need to create a new family, Ophiocordycipitaceae.

The diverse health benefits of this unique sac fungus are impressive. For thousands of years in Asia, traditional healers have used cordyceps for a variety of conditions, including energy, appetite, stamina, libido, endurance and sleeping disturbances as well as general tonic.1

In terms of energy and stamina, we are often looking for options to help reduce fatigue while we work with patients to identify and address the underlying factors contributing to their symptoms. Cordyceps has been shown to improve exercise performance (metabolic and ventilatory thresholds) in healthy elderly subjects after just 12 weeks.2 One possible mechanism of action could be explained in animal models that showed cordyceps extract treatment leads to an increase in the ATP/inorganic phosphate ratio (increased energy) in the liver after just three weeks.3

There are numerous studies that illustrate the benefits of cordyceps on our immune system. The anticancer and antimetastatic activity of cordyceps is well documented, specifically in breast cancer, prostate and liver cancer.4, 5,6 One study postulated that the anticancer action might be due to one of the constituents, possibly cordycepin, by a promotion of an adenosine deaminase inhibitor. The same study also found antimetastatic properties “through inhibiting platelet aggregation induced by cancer cells and suppressing the invasiveness of cancer cells via inhibiting the activity of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and MMP-9 and accelerating the secretion of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP)-1 and TIMP-2 from cancer cells.”7 In a mouse study, cordyceps administration led to decreased bacterial growth and dissemination of group A streptococcal (GAS) infection, increased macrophage phagocytosis and increased survival rates.8

While you might want to consider using cordyceps as a singular agent for those patients struggling with fatigue and low immune function, there are thousands of studies citing the efficacy of reishi, turkeytail, maitake and many others medicinal mushrooms. For this reason, mushrooms are often used in combination formulas to add multiple potential mechanisms of action to give the patient the synergistic benefits of many “fun guys.”

Nick’s comment:

Although not mentioned in the article cordyceps is effective in lowering cholesterol…

Clinical studies published in Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (involving 273 patients (in 9 hospitals) with high cholesterol level) show that Cordyceps sinensis helps to lower total cholesterol by 10–21% and triglycerides by 9–26%. At the same time, it helps to increase HDL cholesterol (‘good’ cholesterol) by 27–30%. (Zhu, JS, Halpern, GM, Jones, K. The scientific rediscovery of an ancient Chinese herbal medicine: Cordyceps sinensis. Part I. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 1998, 4(3), 289–303.)

An increase in the level of lipids, especially cholesterol, increases the chance of getting atherosclerosis.

In the double-blind placebo-controlled study involving 245 patients published by Halpern (1999), after 2 months of administration of Cordyceps at a dose of 1g/day, total cholesterol dropped by an average of 17.5% among 61% of patients (in the control group, the reduction was only 1.17% among 28.8% of patients) and ‘useful’ HDL cholesterol increased by 27.19% for 76.2% of patients. (Halpern, G.M. 1999. Cordyceps: China’s healing mushroom. New York: Avery Publishing Group.)


by Nick Soloway

Mushrooms & Health: Reviewing the Latest Data

Paul Anderson NMD

The use of mushrooms, mushroom extracts and mushroom combinations in the care of human health is thousands of years old. There are few agents in the record of human history that can rival the duration, impact or reputation of mushrooms in medicine.

In some ways, one may believe that the use of mushrooms in healthcare is so well understood that research would have stopped being done long ago. This is the case, for the most part, in regard to research on many modern pharmaceutical agents (unless a researcher wishes to try a new indication with an old drug). A very brief search of the data shows many papers published in peer-reviewed medical literature, with some as current as two months ago. In this review, I have chosen four papers published in 2016 and one—which I believe is of note—from the bygone days of 2014. As one who is involved in research using many “old” agents (and some new), I find that when communicating with a patient regarding the utility of an agent in their healthcare, some mention of active and positive research on that agent increases their desire to use it and follow the therapeutic plan I have set out. This review is intended to briefly provide that information for medicinal mushrooms.

While there are plethora of mushrooms and mushroom fractions used in medicine, I am focusing this paper on those reported on in the five publications mentioned and cited in the references.

Crohn’s Disease

Therkelsen et al1 discussed the effect of the medicinal Agaricus blazei Murill-based mushroom extract on the symptoms, fatigue and quality of life in patients with Crohn’s disease in a paper published this summer. The results show significant improvement on symptoms, for both genders, in the mushroom treated group. The patients did not report any adverse effects of the mushrooms. The authors conclude that “Crohn’s patients with mild to moderate symptoms may have beneficiary effects of [the mushroom therapy] as a safe supplement in addition to conventional medication.” The effects of the mushroom in the GI tract, as well as systemically, are likely behind the benefits noted. These mushrooms (as many do) exhibit immunomodulatory effects which are so crucial to the care of people with autoimmunity. That the inflammatory bowel diseases have both a direct gut effect and a systemic effect (as we see, for example, with curcumin) is of great therapeutic benefit.

Malnutrition and Cachexia

Llauradó et al 2  studied oral administration of an aqueous extract from the oyster mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus that enhances the immunonutritional recovery of malnourished mice. I know that mouse studies are not preferred over human studies. But gaining the mechanistic information one can from an animal study in a condition such as malnourishment can “fast track” the trial of a natural agent in humans with the same or similar condition.

As one who struggles with the treatment of patients with cachexia (mostly secondary to cancer but not always), any agent that can potentially turn the biology of these suffering patients around is needed clinically. In cachexia, we know that a multi-agent approach is always required and that the more “at the core” of the cachexia biology the agent works, the more beneficial an addition to the therapy plan it is. The authors make some very promising discoveries in this respect which—when compared to the biological “faults” created by cachexia—make this agent worth a trial in cachexic and underweight patients:

“Oral treatment with CW-P normalized haemoglobin levels, liver arginase and gut mucosal weight. CW-P increased total liver proteins and DNA and protein contents in gut mucosa. Pleurotus extract provided benefits in terms of macrophages activation as well as in haemopoiesis, as judged by the recovery of bone marrow cells and leukocyte counts. Moreover, CW-P stimulated humoral immunity (T-dependent and T non-dependent antibodies responses) compared to non-supplemented mice. CW-P extract from the oyster mushroom can be used to develop specific food or nutritional supplement formulations with potential clinical applications in the immunotherapy.”

With the caveat that malnutrition and cachexia must be treated in a well-rounded manner, it seems to me that the availability of a potentially strong synergist to nutritional therapies in an aqueous form may be potentially lifesaving to these patients.

Ganoderma (Reishi) and Cancer

Jin et al 3 reviewed the role of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) in cancer treatment. As a preface, such reviews need to have their conclusions considered in the context of the “primary question” or the endpoint the review was focused on. This is important, as I have seen such reviews say “there is no scientific data to support…” and such a review was cited, only to find out that the review was answering a totally different question than the “no data” person was speaking of. With this in mind, the review was seeking to answer this question: “Should reishi be used as a first-line therapy in cancer?” This is a pretty tall order for anything to fill (let alone a mushroom), as the therapy of “cancer” is actually many entities and there are many variations related to stage, grade and patient immunity that can affect any therapeutic outcome. That said, the authors conclusions are summarized here:
The review did not find sufficient evidence to justify the use of G. lucidum as a first-line treatment for cancer.

It remains uncertain whether G. lucidum helps prolong long-term cancer survival.

However, G. lucidum could be administered as an alternative adjunct to conventional treatment in consideration of its potential of enhancing tumour response and stimulating host immunity.

1.   lucidum was generally well tolerated by most participants with only a scattered number of minor adverse events. No major toxicity was observed across the studies.

Future studies should put emphasis on the improvement in methodological quality while further clinical research on the effect of G. lucidum on long-term cancer survival is needed.
It is no surprise that Reishi didn’t have the data to take first place in the therapy of “cancer”—very few agents could claim that. It is also no surprise that it had excellent safety, enhanced host response and tumor immunity and was, by the reviewers, recommended for consideration as an adjunct in the care of a person with cancer.

Mechanisms of Immunological Benefit

Chang et al4 (the eldest paper reviewed, from way back in 2014) looked at Ganoderma lucidum stimulating NK cell cytotoxicity by inducing NKG2D/NCR activation and secretion of perforin and granulysin. Their conclusion was that Ganoderma, in their research, showed a cellular and molecular mechanism to account for the reported anticancer effects of G. lucidum extracts in humans. Of note, this was also an aqueous extract.

This mechanism actually has crossover from oncology effects to infectious disease as well. Perforin and granulysin are two cytolytic molecules that natural killer cells use to kill (hence the name of the cell type) any cell without “self” surface receptors. This includes things such as cancer cells, virally infected cells, bacteria and others.  Enhancement of natural killer cell function is well established in the basic immunology sciences as enhancing “surveillance” immunity and lowering infections and oncogenesis.

The Form of an Extract Does Matter
Lu et al5 in their paper published this summer, “Immunomodulatory properties of medicinal mushrooms: differential effects of water and ethanol extracts on NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity,” make an excellent point regarding the form of a mushroom extract and its effect on the mechanism and actual immunologic effect of the agent.

Through the same mechanisms mentioned above4, these researchers showed that aqueous extracts (note: most papers reviewed above used this form) allow these natural killer cell benefits and alcohol extracts block it. From the conclusions: “Water extracts enhance NK cell cytotoxic activity against cancer cells, whereas ethanol extracts inhibit cytotoxicity.” This difference in extraction processes is well known in herbal medicine and generally in botanical medicines and herbalism, the “method” of extraction is highly respected as to clinical outcome. This paper, and the fact that the majority of the studies presented today used aqueous extracts, enhances the notion that such extracts are likely superior to alcohol extracts in the case of immune responses of mushroom-based agents.

Implications for Practice

Medicinal mushrooms have a great pool of data supporting their use in modern times. They are also some of the most treasured agents in healthcare in the thousands of years of recorded history we have. My common thought is that if an agent has “stood the test of time” (and we know it to be effective), the science will not only prove that out, but also repeatedly support and elucidate more and more mechanisms explaining the clinically noted outcomes.


Brain Cancer

by Nick Soloway

Brain Cancer Patient Beats the Odds With
a Therapy I Thought Was a Hoax

January 2017
Volume 27    |   Issue 1
Dr. Frank Shallenberger

BUY CBD here

If you live long enough, you just might start to become more than a little cynical about this world. I’ve been working in medicine for over 40 years now and the experience has made me more than just cynical. It’s made me a hearty believer in something called Sturgeon’s Law.

Theodore Sturgeon is a world famous science fiction author. In his later years, Sturgeon developed Sturgeon’s Law. It’s really quite simple. It goes like this: “90% of everything is crap.” And in my time in medicine, I can tell you that Sturgeon’s Law is pretty accurate. But notice that Sturgeon didn’t say 100%.

There are a lot of things out there that at first glance appear to be in the 90% category, but then turn out to be the real thing. Something happened to me about three years ago that has led me to a place I would never have guessed I would go. And what I’ve learned since then just might be the most important message I send out all year (and it’s only January). That’s why I’m kicking off the New Year with this – and dedicating almost the entire issue of this month’s Second Opinion to one topic. And all of this started with Barry.

I’ve known Barry for years. His son grew up with my son. But since the kids grew up, I hadn’t seen him for a long time. Then one day about three years ago, Barry called me up and told me he was in trouble. Barry had started to have headaches and was losing his balance. A few scans later, he found out he had brain cancer. It was a solitary tumor, so the first thing his doctors did was to take it out surgically. He was immediately better, but you can guess what happened six months later. The symptoms returned and the scans showed that the cancer was back. At this point, his doctors told him that the next step was radiation. So that’s what he did.

The radiation knocked the tumor back a few notches and his symptoms disappeared again. But he was having such a hard time with the side effects of the radiation that he called me to see if there was something I could do. Now here’s the thing. I wish he would have called me right away when he first had the diagnosis. I would have treated him with ozone therapy before and after the surgery and the radiation therapy. His odds for a cure would have been much better. And the side effects from both treatments would have been minimal. In my world, there’s no way that a patient should have surgery or radiation therapy without a course of ozone therapy before and after. But that bridge was already crossed and so we had to deal with what was at hand. Barry still had brain cancer and he was now sick from radiation damage.

He immediately started a course of ozone therapy combined with intravenous vitamin C therapy. Within a few days he was already feeling better. Ozone treatment is the only treatment I have ever found that can turn radiation damage around. We continued the treatments along with some immune-stimulating supplements and a special diet. Barry was looking good a month later. And that’s when we had the talk. I told him that although this plan was a good one, there was no way that it would be able to stop the cancer. He needed something else. That’s when I lost track of him. He told me he was going to do some investigating. I figured that would likely be the last time I saw him this side of heaven. But I was wrong.

Barry’s doctors had given him about six months to live. So imagine my surprise when I was driving to work one morning about a year later and the cell phone rang and it was Barry’s number. My first thought was that he had died and one of his sons was using his phone to call me up to let me know. But it was Barry’s voice. And he sounded great, like the same old Barry I had known for years. He told me that he started taking a special oil and had really tightened up on his diet. The result? He was feeling great. And unbelievably enough, his scans not only showed that his cancer had completely stopped growing, but they also showed that the cancer had actually shrunk! Of course, the first thing out of my mouth was, “What in the world have you been doing?”

“I started taking hemp oil,” was the answer. Now I thought that hemp was just another word for the same remedy that Mick Jagger and hippies all over the world have in their medicine cabinets — marijuana. But don’t break out your old Jimi Hendrix records yet. Although hemp oil is very similar to marijuana, it’s significantly different. Hemp and marijuana are versions or strains of the same plant — cannabis. The difference has to do with special substances in both hemp and marijuana called cannabinols.

Cannabis has more than 100 different cannabinols. But two of them stand out. One of them is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Marijuana has the distinction of having a very high content of THC. THC is the only cannabinol that gets you high. Too much THC and you can’t think straight and become disoriented. But there’s another cannabinol that’s also found in high amounts. It’s called CBD (cannabidiol). CBD does not produce a high. But as you will soon see, the effects of CBD on the human body are nothing short of amazing.

Besides THC and CBD, there also are a host of other cannabinols in much smaller amounts in cannabis. But almost all the research on cannabis has looked at the effects of THC and CBD. The difference between hemp and marijuana has to do with THC. Hemp contains very little THC – less than 0.3%. Marijuana can contain anywhere from 5-30%. And there’s another big difference. Hemp and hemp extracts, unlike marijuana, are legal in all 50 states. Other than the fact that hemp has almost no THC, the two plants are the same. All of the other cannabinols are present in both plants. So what is the effect of CBD, and why did it work so well in Barry’s case?

Here’s a remarkable fact that I would never have guessed. Research has shown that our bodies actually make their own cannabinols. The cannabinols that we make are called endocannabinols. And in order for the body to use the endocannabinols it makes, it has its own cannabinol receptors. These receptors are special molecules that occur on the surface of cells that allow the endocannabinols to work. One absolutely amazing fact is that there are more cannabinol receptors in the human body than any other receptor system. That shows you just how important these molecules are for our health.

Multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, neuropathic pain, cancer, atherosclerosis, stroke, diabetes, myocardial infarction, hypertension, glaucoma, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis are just some of the diseases in which alterations in the endocannabinol system play a role. And that’s where the magic of CBD works. CBD (and also THC) interacts with our cannabinol receptors. In that sense, CBD works much more like a nutrient than a drug. And what it does when it interacts with the cannabinol receptors is nothing short of wonderful!

The receptors that CBD interacts with are found in large amounts in the peripheral nervous system, the internal organs, the skin, the muscles, the ligaments, and in the immune system. And when CBD acts on these cells, it decreases inflammation, decreases pain, decreases tension and anxiety, increases energy levels, and stimulates the immune system. So how did that help Barry? First of all it made him feel better, more relaxed, less pain, and more energy. But it also had a very obvious direct anti-cancer effect. How did it do that? In three ways.

First, almost all cancers require inflammation in order to survive. In fact, inflammation is so important to cancer that cancer cells activate a special pathway called the NF-kB (NF-kappa Beta) pathway that causes inflammation. CBD decreases inflammation by deactivating the NF-kB pathway. And in this way, it decreases the ability for cancer cells to grow and spread.

Secondly, CBD stimulates the immune system. When patients get cancer, their immune systems are often in need of help. And when they have surgery, radiation, and chemo, they need even more help. CBD can have a profoundly positive effect on the immune response. But that’s not all. Like certain chemotherapy drugs, CBD is an angiogenesis inhibitor.

Angiogenesis is the process that cells use to form new blood vessels and improve blood flow. Since cancer cells don’t die and are constantly growing, they have an ever-increasing need for more blood. So to provide the extra blood flow, cancer cells produce pro-angiogenic factors that act to promote angiogenesis. This allows them to grow and spread without restraint. Scientists have discovered that CBD acts as an angiogenesis inhibitor by preventing cancer cells from producing these pro-angiogenic factors and also by directly affecting blood-vessel growth.

And if that’s not enough, CBD has a direct anti-cancer effect on tumors. By interacting with the cannabinol receptors on tumor cells, it inhibits tumor growth and leads to apoptosis. As most of my readers know by now, the reason that cancers are so problematic is that they refuse to die. Normal cells go through a process called apoptosis in which they eventually die. But cancer cells have found a way to avoid apoptosis. So they don’t die! This leads to uncontrolled growth and all of the problems associated with that. CBD helps to undo that by stimulating apoptosis in cancer cells.

But CBD does more than only stimulate apoptosis through the cannabinol receptors. It also has a direct anti-cancer action that has nothing to do with the receptors. Because of its uncontrolled growth, cancers often kill their victims by invading into and destroying healthy tissues and organs. But when scientists looked at the effect of CBD on the ability of glioma cancer cells to migrate and invade into surrounding tissues, they discovered something marvelous.

The researchers found out that CBD directly impaired the migration and invasion of these cancer cells in a dose-dependent way. That means that the more CBD they added to the cancer cells, the less they were able to invade other tissues. And when they blocked the CBD receptors, they saw the same effect. That proves that the effect was not through the receptors, but instead was a direct anti-cancer effect. The authors concluded, “These results reinforce the evidence of anti-tumor properties of CBD, demonstrating its ability to limit tumor invasion….” Oh, and by the way, Barry’s cancer is a glioma. So it’s no wonder it worked so well.

But what about studies on cancers other than glioma? Other studies show that CBD has anti-cancer activity in lung cancer, hormonal cancers, melanoma, leukemia, colon cancers, thyroid cancer, prostate cancer, and both estrogen positive and estrogen-negative breast cancers. In all of these cancers, CBD weakens cancer cells, making them more susceptible to chemo and radiation. And it decreases their ability to grow, invade, and metastasize. Additionally, every one of these studies shows that CBD does no harm to healthy cells.

So if you’re battling cancer, no matter what course of therapy you decide to use, I can think of nothing easier and better for you than making CBD therapy a part of your plan. I’ve been using it routinely in all my cancer patients for the last 18 months. I have to say that my results are even better than they were before. And if you’re like me and don’t have cancer, I can’t think of anything better to take than some CBD just for prevention. You will also sleep better, be calmer, have more energy, and have fewer aches and pains. Fighting cancer is only the tip of the iceberg for this therapy.

I’ve found that CBD is great for virtually anything that ails you. The list includes Crohn’s disease, chronic pain, drug and alcohol addiction, chronic anxiety, insomnia, seizures, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases, depression, high blood pressure, spasticity, migraines, Tourette’s syndrome, glaucoma, and autism.

CBD is available from here

Paola, Massi, Marta Solinas, et al. “Cannabidiol as potential anticancer drug.” Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013 February; 75(2): 303–312.

Shohami, E. and M. Horowitz. “Cannabinoids in Health and Disease.” J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 2016 May 1;27(3):175-9.

Vaccani, A., P. Massi, et al. “Cannabidiol inhibits human glioma cell migration through a cannabinoid receptor-independent mechanism.” Br J Pharmacol. 2005 April;144(8):1032-6.

8-Hour Sleep Myth

by Nick Soloway

Busting the 8-Hour Sleep Myth: Why You Should Wake Up in the Night

Natalie Wolchover in 

More than one-third of American adults wake up in the middle of the night on a regular basis. Of those who experience “nocturnal awakenings,” nearly half are unable to fall back asleep right away. Doctors frequently diagnose this condition as a sleep disorder called “middle-of-the-night insomnia,” and prescribe medication to treat it.

Mounting evidence suggests, however, that nocturnal awakenings aren’t abnormal at all; they are the natural rhythm that your body gravitates toward. According to historians and psychiatrists alike, it is the compressed, continuous eight-hour sleep routine to which everyone aspires today that is unprecedented in human history. We’ve been sleeping all wrong lately — so if you have “insomnia,” you may actually be doing things right.

The flip of a light switch

“The dominant pattern of sleep, arguably since time immemorial, was biphasic,” Roger Ekirch, a sleep historian at Virginia Tech University and author of “At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past” (Norton 2005), told Life’s Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience.


“Humans slept in two four-hour blocks, which were separated by a period of wakefulness in the middle of the night lasting an hour or more. During this time some might stay in bed, pray, think about their dreams, or talk with their spouses. Others might get up and do tasks or even visit neighbors before going back to sleep.”

References to “first sleep” or “deep sleep” and “second sleep” or “morning sleep” abound in legal depositions, literature and other archival documents from pre-Industrial European times. Gradually, though, during the 19th century, “language changed and references to segmented sleep fell away,” said Ekirch. “Now people call it insomnia.”

You can blame the shift in your sleeping habits on Thomas Edison’s lightbulb and the Industrial Revolution.

Ekirch explained that in the past, and especially during winter, darkness spanned up to 14 hours each night. Except for those affluent enough to burn candles for hours, folks were left with little to do but go to bed early, and this gave a great deal of flexibility to their nightly sleep requirements. Segmented or biphasic sleep patterns evolved to fill the long stretch of nighttime, and as observed by anthropologists, segmented sleep continues to be the norm for many people in undeveloped parts of the world, such as the Tiv group in Central Nigeria.

In places with electricity, though, artificial lighting has prolonged our experience of daylight, allowing us to be productive for longer. At the same time, it has cut nighttime short, and so to get enough sleep we now have to do it all in one go. Now, “normal” sleep requires forgoing the periods of wakefulness that used to break up the night; we simply don’t have time for a midnight chat with the neighbor any longer. “But people with particularly strong circadian rhythms continue to [wake up in the night],” said Ekirch.

In the 1990s, a sleep scientist named Thomas Wehr discovered that everyone sleeps biphasically when subjected to natural patterns of light and dark. In Wehr’s well-known study, he subjected participants to 14 hours of darkness per night, and found that they gradually shifted to a routine of taking two hours to fall asleep, then sleeping in two four-hour phases separated by about an hour of wakefulness—a pattern that exactly matched Ekirch’s historical findings.

Wehr concluded that biphasic sleeping is the most natural sleep pattern, and is actually beneficial, rather than a form of insomnia. He also inferred that modern humans are chronically sleep-deprived, which may be why we usually take only 15 minutes to fall asleep, and why we try our best not to wake up in the night.

One benefit of biphasic sleeping may be that it makes it easier to recall and access dreams. Wehr’s study subjects normally awakened from REM sleep, which is the deep sleep stage during which dreams occur. According to Ekirch, the historical evidence bears that out. “Waking up directly after dreaming afforded people a pathway to their subconscious,” he said. “With morning dreams we don’t have the opportunity to let our dreams settle. The light goes on and we get out of bed immediately. So in short, we have lost what people in the past regarded as a critically important part of their lives – their dream life.”

Sleepers set in their ways

Wehr’s and Ekirch’s results are becoming more and more widely known, and psychiatrists and sleep specialists are beginning to implement them. However, the behavioral paradigm shift has been slow to take hold. According to a recent article in Psychiatric Times  by Walter Brown, a psychiatrist at Brown Medical School, “Working against the clinical application of [Wehr’s and Erkich’s] findings is the extent to which they fly in the face of current thinking. The general public seems to regard 7 to 8 hours of unbroken sleep as a birthright; anything less means that something is awry. Sleep specialists share this assumption.”

But, Brown wrote, this is changing. Clinical psychiatrists are finding that if they can make their insomnia patients stop seeing their sleep as problematic, their condition becomes more tolerable. “If they perceive interrupted sleep as normal, they experience less distress when they wake at night, and fall back to sleep more easily.”

In other words, if you wake up in the night, don’t worry about it. “Waking up after a couple of hours may not be insomnia,” wrote Wehr. “It may be normal sleep.” Ekirch added, “If people don’t fight it, they’ll find themselves falling asleep again after roughly one hour.”

How Do We Fall Asleep?

Natalie Wolchover  

Falling asleep is a routine yet mystifying process. Like trying to see the 3D image in a Magic Eye poster, the more you focus on it, the less likely it is to happen. It shies away from scrutiny and is best approached with an air of detached disinterest; so, though most of us fall asleep every night, we can’t say exactly how we do it.

Even neuroscientists are still struggling to understand the mechanisms the brain uses to switch from a state of wakefulness to unconscious sleep, but research reveals that the transition is a lot more gradual and tumultuous than the flip of a light switch.

According to recent work by neuroscientists at Washington University in St. Louis, during the pre-sleep stage of the process — the period when you’re in bed with the lights off and your eyes closed, slowly “letting go” of the trials of the tribulations of the day — your brain waves exhibit what’s known as alpha activity, typically associated with quiet wakefulness.

“It is in this period that the brain progressively disengages from the external world,” Linda Larson-Prior and her colleagues wrote in a 2011 paper. “Subjects slowly oscillate between attending to external and internal thoughts, with the majority of internal thoughts being autobiographical or self-referential in nature.”

Then, at some crucial moment, you enter the transitional sleep stage, known as stage 1. Brain waves slow down, shifting to a form known as theta-band activity, but are still punctuated by brief bursts of alpha activity. These hiccups give you the sense that you’re still awake, said Scott Campbell, director of the Laboratory of Human Chronobiology at Weill Cornell Medical College, citing a landmark sleep study performed in the 1960s.


“Investigators asked subjects aroused out of various stages of sleep whether they considered themselves asleep. Only about 10 percent of those aroused from stage 1 said that they had been asleep.”

Think of what happens when you doze off while watching a movie: You remember bits and pieces of scenes for quite a while before conking out completely. Those excerpts — picked up during the short bursts of alpha-band activity in your brain — give you a sense that you’re awake, though you’re actually well on your way to dreamland.

Next, your brain moves on to stage 2, the start of “true” non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, when those bursts of alpha activity die down. All neuroscientists agree that this stage is sleep, though you still might not know it. In that same 1960s study of sleep arousal, “about 60 percent believed that they had been asleep when aroused out of stage 2,” Campbell told Life’s Little Mysteries. The other 40 percent would tell you they hadn’t fallen asleep yet.

This makes sense in light of a 2010 study by Taiwanese neuroscientists. They demonstrated that sleep stage 2 is associated with further reductions in the perception of external stimuli. Though we’re asleep, we might still hear a word or two of dialogue from that movie; it gradually fades away.

Next, we enter slow wave sleep (also known as deep sleep, delta-band activity, or stages 3 and 4), and finally, experience REM sleep — the stage when we dream. While stages 1 and 2 are difficult to perceive, 90 percent of people recognize themselves as having definitely fallen asleep when aroused after entering stages 3 or 4. That means we’ve completed the transition. From then on, we spend the rest of the night cycling between non-REM stages 2, 3 and 4, and REM sleep.

Sleep onset really does abhor attention. “For most people, the harder they try to fall asleep, the less success they have,” Campbell said. “One dramatic example of this is Sleep Onset Insomnia. People with SOI are often so worried about the consequences of not falling asleep (i.e., exhaustion the next day), that they keep themselves awake by obsessing about falling asleep.”

Of course, it’s not just thinking about falling asleep that keeps us awake; obsessing about anything is likely to interfere. Campbell said, “That’s why ‘counting sheep,’ or thinking about anything with little emotional content can help the sleep onset process.”


by Nick Soloway


Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO
for more great articles by the author go here:

One could say that great minds think alike. It might be more accurate to say that eccentric minds sometimes get lost in similar parallel universes.

My colleague Mark Davis, the naturopath of dubious fame for being the fecal transplant expert, was our houseguest for a few days last November.

Over morning coffee, we realized that both of us had been engaged in a similar experiment, mixing dried saffron filaments with honey and adding the mixture to our morning coffee. We had both independently thought that this would be a great idea. If you stir 1 gram of saffron into half a cupof honey, each teaspoon will, in theory, provide about 30 mg of saffron. One could make a cup of saffron tea by simply adding a spoon of this saffronized honey to hot water and end up with a decent dose of saffron in it. We were both past drinking saffron tea; we were stirring our saffron-laced honey into our morning coffee.

It turned out that both of us had notice the saffron studies published over the past few years. The papers that initially grabbed our attention focused on psychological effects.
Agha-Hosseini reported back in 2008 that taking 30 mg/day of saffron improved premenstrual syndrome symptoms (PMS). Improvements were seen in the Total Premenstrual Daily Symptoms and Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. It did take 3 to 4 menstrual cycles to see results, though.1

Four earlier human clinical trials had shown that saffron significantly relieved depression. Two of these studies, one by Akhondzadeh and a second by Noorbala, both published in 2005, used 30 mg of saffron a day in 6-week trials. Akhondzadeh compared saffron against placebo, while Noobala compared saffron effect against the fluoxetine [Prozac], Saffron worked better against depression than the placebo and better than the Prozac.2,3

These researchers reported similar results in 2006 and 2007 but used stigma and flower petals rather than just the stigma. In November 2006, Moshiri reported that petals (30 mg/day) were more effective than placebo.4 In March 2007, Akondzadeh reported that in an 8-week trial, petals (30 mg/ day) were as effective as fluoxetine (10 mg/day) in treating mild to moderate depression.5

A review by Kazdair et al. published in September 2015 lists a range ofactions:
Saffron has been suggested to be effective in the treatment of a wide range of disorders including coronary artery diseases, hypertension, stomach disorders, dysmenorrhea and learning and memory impairments. In addition, different studies have indicated that saffron has anti-inflammatory, anti-atherosclerotic, antigenotoxic and cytotoxic activities. Antitussive effects of stigmas and petals of C. sativus and its components, safranal and crocin have also been demonstrated.

The anticonvulsant and anti-Alzheimer properties of saffron extract were shown in human and animal studies. The efficacy of C. sativus in the treatment of mild to moderate depression was also reported in clinical trial. Administration of C. sativus and its constituents increased glutamate and dopamine levels in the brain in a dose-dependent manner. It also interacts with the opioid system to reduce withdrawal syndrome.6
Another review, published a few months earlier in July 2015, combined data from 12 earlier clinical trials “examining the effectiveness of saffron (Crocus sativus L.) on psychological and behavioral outcomes.” The conclusion: “Saffron may improve the symptoms and the effects of depression, premenstrual syndrome, sexual dysfunction and infertility, and excessive snacking behaviors.”7

The idea that saffron has value in treating depression is certainly quite old. In Greek mythology, Crocus was a mortal youth who became overly enamored with the nymph Smilax. He was left forlorn when she grew bored with him. The gods turned him into the crocus flower that we obtain saffron from. Smilax was also turned into a flower, one that we call bindweed.8

In yet another meta-analysis, this one from September 2014, Lopresti and Drummund combined data from six randomized placebo-controlled trials and concluded, “Saffron had large treatment effects and, when compared with antidepressant medications, had similar antidepressant efficacy. Saffron’s antidepressant effects potentially are due to its serotonergic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuro­endocrine and neuroprotective effects.”9


Obviously, using whole flowers would be more cost effective than stigmata. Fukui tested an even more cost-effective idea in 2011. Study participants were asked to simply smell a tincture of saffron several times a day. The saffron was dilute enough that the participants could not detect whether they had the tincture that contained saffron or the placebo. This no-cost intervention nevertheless significantly changed cortisol and other serum markers.10 Fukui’s study encouraged Dr. Davis and me to favor saffron tea over capsules, as it might act in part via an aromatherapy effect.

Saffron’s effect on cancer is of great interest. Most if not all cancer patients will experience some degree of depression, and the idea that an effective antidepressant might also provide benefits against cancer is attractive. An October 2011 study reported that a molecular constituent of saffron called crocetin “significantly enhanced the cytotoxicity induced by vincristine” against cervical, NSCLC, ovarian, and breast cancer cell lines.11Another October article described using saffron in a liposomal form to increase cytotoxic action against HeLa and MCF-7 cells.12 A May 2011 paper reported that “saffron exerts a significant chemopreventive effect against liver cancer through inhibition of cell proliferation and induction of apoptosis.”13 An April 2011 paper reported that crocetin “affects the growth of cancer cells by inhibiting nucleic acid synthesis, enhancing anti-oxidative system, inducing apoptosis and hindering growth factor signaling pathways.”14 Papers from both May 2011 and 2010 suggest a potential benefit against lung cancer, the more recent telling us, “Saffron could decrease the cell viability in the malignant cells as a concentration- and time- dependent manner… [and could] be considered as a promising chemotherapeutic agent in lung cancer treatment in future.”15


An October 2010 paper had reached a similar conclusion: “The extract exerts pro-apoptotic effects in a lung cancer-derived cell line and could be considered as a potential chemotherapeutic agent in lung cancer.”16 A January 2011 paper reported that “Crocetin inhibits invasiveness of breast cancer cells through downregulation of matrix metalloproteinases.”17 Other papers have suggested possible utility in treating pancreatic cancer and lymphoma.18″20

Hosseni et al. reported in September 2015 the results of their small clinical trial in which 13 patients with cancer metastasized to the liver were divided into two groups. Both groups received standard chemotherapy treatment. Patients in one group received 50 mg of saffron in a capsule twice a day during chemotherapy, while the second group received placebo. Of the 13 patients who started, only 7 finished the study. Two of the 4 patients who took saffron showed a partial and complete response. No response was seen in the placebo group. Admittedly, the sample size is too small for this study to be convincing. On the other hand, most of us would probably volunteer to get the saffron if we were offered it and not the placebo.21


A September 2015 article published in Oncotarget by Rangarajan and fellow researchers at Kansas University describes an experiment in mice which suggests that saffron extracts strikingly inhibit pancreatic cancer cell growth in both cell cultures and in mice. “The mice who were given the crocetinic acid demonstrated a 75 percent reduction in their tumor growth, while the mice in the control group, which didn’t receive the crocetinic acid, actually saw a 250 percent increase in tumor growth.”22

Saffron continues to appear quite safe to use, even in high- risk patient populations. A September 2015 paper by Mousavi et al. reported on a double-blind, placebo-controlled study performed on patients with schizophrenia. A total of 66 male patients were divided into three groups. While receiving their normal treatment, they also received a 12-week treatment with an aqueous extract of saffron (15 mg twice daily), crocin (15 mg twice daily), or placebo. Sixty-one patients completed the trial; none of them reported a serious side effect. White blood cell counts increased significantly in patients receiving saffron aqua extract, but it was within the normal range and had no clinical significance. Other hematologic components, markers of thyroid, liver, and kidney, or inflammation markers had no statistically significant difference among the groups.23

Recent publications suggest that saffron has benefit for a range of other conditions. Human clinical trials have been published in the last year or two, suggesting a benefit in depression, Alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and erectile dysfunction.24-29

Studies on depression have advanced, moving from treating patients with mild to moderate depression in 2014 to a study on treating major depressive disorders in 2015.30,31

I used to tell patients interested in taking saffron that they should make a water alcohol extraction, adding half an ounce of boiling water to a gram of saffron, lettng it steep for a few days and then adding an equal volume of vodka and dosing it by the drop. While that method remains sound, both Mark Davis and I apparently simultaneously tried the same experiment; we both mixed a gram of saffron into half a cup of honey. Dr. Davis isn’t the only colleague who shares my interest in saffron; I’ve been trading abstracts and full text articles on saffron with Dr. Davis Lamson, the other “Davis” in my world.

There is something emotionally touching to find both “Davis Senior” and “Davis Junior,” the former being more than twice the age of the younger, fascinated by the same herb. It brings a sensation of confluence; we have all independently adopted the same therapy at the same time into our practices. To my amusement, Davis Lamson’s method of calculating the dose of milligrams saffron per teaspoon of honey suspension was far more complicated and involved convoluted conversions of cups to milliliters then back to teaspoons, while Mark Davis and I took the simple route of simply dividing 1000 mg/gm by 24 tsp/ half-cup honey; we all ended up with about 42 mg saffron/ tsp honey.

In the end, this honey suspension experiment did not work as well as Dr. Davis and I had hoped. Saffron is so very light; despite how viscous honey is, the saffron floats to the top of the honey. Dr. Davis has already modified his approach and meticulously hand-grinds the saffron filaments with a mortar and pestle before mixing it in. I take a simpler approach; when the saffron floats to the top, I just stir it back in. It isn’t a big deal.

I find myself feeling quite pleased with this saffron business. Perhaps it is all the saffron I’ve consumed of late. I think it is something else. The idea that Dr. Davis, Dr. Lamson, and I have wandered along our own paths to arrive at much the same place at the same time is pleasing. It is nice to find oneself in such fine company.

Coenzyme Q10

by Nick Soloway

Coenzyme Q10 and atrial fibrillation


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a condition in which the smaller chamber of the heart does not beat regularly, but merely quivers with no rhythmic contraction. This leads to reduced heart function, but because the atrial beat contributes only about 20 percent of the blood to the left ventricle (the rest passes passively through the mitral valve) it is usually not a debilitating condition. However, because the chamber is not contracting, the blood is more likely to coagulate while collecting in the intricate channels of the atrial wall. For this reason, patients who are in persistent AF are usually put on anticoagulants, such as warfarin (Coumadin), or some of the newer agents used for the same purpose, to prevent a dislodged clot from causing a stroke or other tissue damage.

Patients with heart failure often develop AF, and they may be at a higher risk of more severe cardiac arrhythmias, depending on the severity of their heart failure. In a new study, 102 heart failure patients were given either a combination of the usual heart failure drugs with a placebo, or the same drugs plus a daily supplement of 30 mg of coenzyme Q10. The subjects included 72 men and 30 women aged 45 to 82 years. They were evaluated at the start of the study by electrocardiogram, Holter monitor for 24 hours, and blood levels of inflammatory substances that are markers for heart risks. They were then evaluated again after 6 months and 12 months.

At both follow-up evaluations, those subjects in the coenzyme Q10 treatment group had a significantly lower incidence of AF. At 12 months, the incidence of AF was 6.3 percent in the group treated with coenzyme Q10, compared with 22.2 percent in the control group. The heart muscle function (ejection fraction) was significantly better in the treatment group (24 percent increase) at both follow-up evaluations compared to the control group (19 percent increase). In addition, the inflammatory markers were markedly lower in the coenzyme Q10 treatment group than in the controls. For example, the decline in C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in the medication-only group was 20 percent, but in the coQ10 group the decline was 40 percent. (Zhao Q, et al., Effect of coenzyme q10 on the incidence of atrial fibrillation in patients with heart failure. J Investig Med. 2015 Jun;63(5):735-9.)

Practical guidelines:

Coenzyme Q10 is essential for energy production in muscle cells, and the heart requires more than any other muscle. Levels are often too low in heart patients, and treatment with statin drugs can lower it further. The dose of coenzyme Q10 in this study was very low compared to typical treatment levels (30 mg as opposed to 100 to 400 mg, or even higher in heart patients with more severe disease).

It is easy to design a study to fail, and I am surprised that this study showed such statistically significant benefits with such a small dose and with a relatively small group of subjects. In the citations found with this study, only one article gives the specific dose of coenzyme Q10, and in that one the dose averaged 100 mg per day, so I am surprised that they chose to treat with only 30 mg. My recommendation is a dose of 100 to 200 mg per day (I take 400 mg) and ubiquinol (the reduced form) is likely to be better than the more common ubiquinone (the oxidized form), although this is converted in the body to ubiquinol.

Nick’s Comment:  Another treatment is using a mixture of Lecithin and vitamin B5 which helps increase the neurotransmitter that regulates heart rate.Read the article about this treatment here

Acupressure Improves Sleep Among Menopausal Women

by Nick Soloway

Acupressure Improves Sleep Among Menopausal Women


By MASSAGE Magazine October 1, 2015


To complement the Research Reports in the October 2015 issue of MASSAGE Magazine. Summary: In a recent study, self-administered acupressure significantly improved sleep quality among menopausal women experiencing sleep difficulties.


The consistent use of acupressure, applied at home as a self-care technique, resulted in a significant improvement in sleep quality among menopausal women, according to recent research.


The study, “The effect of acupressure on sleep quality in menopausal women: a randomized control trial,” involved 120 menopausal women ranging in age from 41 to 65, with a score higher than five on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index.


The women were randomly assigned to either the acupressure group, the sham acupressure group or the control group. Those in the acupressure and sham acupressure groups were trained to use circular massage covering about one centimeter in diameter on specified points with about three to four kilograms of pressure. The women in the control group had a health-based conversation once a week.


Acupressure techniques assigned


Subjects in the acupressure and sham acupressure groups were asked to perform the techniques at home for 10 minutes two hours before going to sleep. They were instructed to do so every night except Fridays for four weeks in a row.


According to the researchers, women in the acupressure group were trained to massage four acupoints: Shenmen on the wrist crease; Sanyinjiao point (SP6) on both feet; Fengchi on the hairline at the back of the neck (occipital area); and Yintang at the top of the nose on the centerline between the eyebrows. Women in the sham acupressure group were instructed to massage four sham acupoints.


( You can find the points with these instructions…..Shenmen On the front of the wrist toward the inner end of the wrist crease just inside of the small prominent bone, Sanyinjiao three fingers above the inner ankle bone behind the tibia, Fengchi in the soft spot at the back of the neck, one and a half fingers from the midline and just below the margin of the skull bone, Yintang at the midpoint between the inner ends of the eyebrows. Find the most tender spot in the area and massage the point until the sensation reduces)


The results


The main outcome measure for this study was sleep quality, as measured by the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. Results of the research showed a significant improvement in sleep quality among the women in both the acupressure group and the sham acupressure group as compared to the control group. However, the improvement in sleep quality was much greater among women in the acupressure group as compared to the sham acupressure group.


“The total improvement of [Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index score] in comparison to baseline was 41 percent in the acupressure group and 17 percent in the sham acupressure group,” stated the study’s authors.The researchers concluded that acupressure is effective when it comes to improving sleep quality among menopausal women.


Nick’s comment:  Even though this study was done with menopausal women the treatment can be used by anyone and at any age.


About the Authors


Authors: Zahra Abedian, Leila Eskandari, Hamid Abdi and Saeed Ebrahimzadeh.


Sources: Evidence-Based Care Research Centre, Department of Midwifery, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Sheikh Hospital, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran; Health Center, Semnan University of Medical Science, Semnan, Iran. Originally published in the July 2015 issue of the Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences, 40(4), 328-334.



by Nick Soloway

Is Acne Due To Sugar, Dairy Products, And Bad Fats?






Acne is clearly associated with diet. Strongly linked to acne is a diet high in refined carbohydrates, dairy, and the wrong type of fats. In Westernized societies, acne is a nearly universal skin disease afflicting 79% to 95% of teenagers. In men and women older than 25 years, 40% to 54% still have some degree of facial acne. In contrast, acne is extremely rare in societies consuming healthful traditional diets.


Despite the now overwhelming scientific evidence linking diet and acne, many dermatologists still cling to the myth that diet has no impact on acne. They are wrong. It is now time for these doctors to apply the knowledge of nutrition with their patients by stressing the avoidance of the offending foods, especially refined carbohydrates.


Background Data:


Over the past few years the role of diet in acne has been strengthened because of a deeper knowledge of the underlying disturbances in the skin that contribute to acne. While acne is related to the metabolism of testosterone, there is another cofactor that is extremely sensitive to diet. This hormone, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), is the major growth hormone of puberty and is one of the key reasons why acne affects teenagers. The level of IGF-1 correlates with the severity of acne, not testosterone or increased conversion to the more powerful form dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The effects of IGF-1 on the skin which promote acne are clearly are related to dietary factors, especially too much refined sugar.


A high sugar intake is one of the strongest dietary links to acne. A high intake of sugar influences IGF-1 and testosterone metabolism in the skin in a manner that promotes excessive sebum production and acne. It clearly worsens the severity of acne based upon both experimental and clinical studies. In contrast, a diet that restricts refined carbohydrates and has a lower glycemic load reduces sebum production and favorably effects acne.


A number of other dietary factors have been identified as major contributors to acne. For example, milk and other dairy products are a significant problem for many acne sufferers. In addition to detrimental fats, dairy products contain hormones that can impact sebum production, as well as promotes an increase in IGF-1.


New Data:


To further evaluate the role of IGF-1 in acne researchers examined 60 acne cases and 40 gender- and age-matched, healthy subjects, representing the control group. Examination included skin biopsies.


Results showed that IGF-1 levels were higher in all acne lesions as compared to normal skin in all areas of the skin. Interestingly, there was also a significant association between a strong intensity of IGF-1 and high body mass index (BMI) values. Individuals with acne that had a BMI ≥ 30, a clear sign of obesity, had stronger IGF-1 intensity compared to those with a low (< 30) BMI value. In addition, dairy product intake was also strongly linked to acne severity.


The researchers concluded with “The significant association between strong IGF-1, high BMI, and severe acne underscores the value of dietary intervention in the management of AV.”




What this study really signified was that acne maybe a sign of localized insulin resistance in the skin. That is why acne severity correlated with the degree of obesity. In the early 1940s some dermatologists began referring to acne as “skin diabetes.” The reasons were very interesting. Although results from oral glucose tolerance tests in acne patients showed no differences from controls in blood glucose measurements, when researchers looked at the levels of glucose within the skin through repetitive biopsies, it revealed that the acne patients’ skin glucose tolerance was significantly disturbed.


Here is my take: anything that leads to a transient increase in skin sugar levels can worsen acne. This obviously includes ingesting a high sugar beverage or meal, but can also include the effects of stress (cortisol); deficiency of nutrients necessary for proper utilization of insulin and glucose; and other factors that adversely effect blood sugar control (e.g., abdominal obesity).


In addition to eliminating sugar and dairy, another key factor that I have found to be important in many patients with acne is to eliminate foods high in salt (most salt is “iodized”; this means that it has iodine added to it). The reason is that many acne sufferers are extremely sensitive to too much iodine – and that can lead to acne lesions.

I also recommend eliminating fried foods and foods containing trans-fatty acids (milk, milk products, margarine, shortening and other synthetically hydrogenated vegetable oils). These fats should be avoided as they increase inflammation in sebaceous glands.

In regards to nutrients required in acne, zinc is absolutely critical and has been shown to produce fantastic results in many cases in double-blind studies. Dosage is 30-45 mg per day. Use a highly absorbable form such as zinc picolinate.


High-chromium yeast is known to improve glucose tolerance and enhance insulin sensitivity and has been reported in an uncontrolled study to induce rapid improvement in patients with acne. Other forms of chromium may offer similar benefits. Dosage 400 mcg per day.


Finally, I think it is entirely appropriate to refer to acne as “skin diabetes.” It drives home important points about the underlying cause and its treatment.


by Nick Soloway

An Unexpected Superfood: All About Eggs




About 40 years ago, excessive dietary cholesterol was labeled a public health concern. Specifically, it was thought that there was a causal link between consumption of cholesterol-laden foods and increased risk of heart disease.1 As a result, for many years, one of the healthiest and most convenient food options suffered from a smear campaign that boosted sales of “egg alternatives.” But as happens so often, the truth  eventually comes out. In the case of eggs, the reality is they’ve gotten a bad rap.


Cholesterol: Good and Bad


The original confusion regarding egg consumption stemmed from their cholesterol content. The average large egg contains more than 200 mg of cholesterol, which accounts for about two-thirds of the recommended daily allowance. Since high cholesterol was linked to heart disease, it seemed logical to suggest limiting any foods with a high cholesterol content. Thus, eggs became a food to be avoided at all costs, resulting in about a 30 percent per-capita drop in egg consumption among Americans.2


Then scientists began to recognize the difference between “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol.” Healthy foods with “good fats” will raise HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or goodcholesterol levels, which is beneficial.3 Suddenly, eggs weren’t so bad after all.


Healthy and Nutritious


The reality is that eggs are an amazing source of protein, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. While once considered a health risk, the egg can actually be called a “superfood.”4 Yes, the yolk does contain the lion’s share of cholesterol, but it also contains almost 3 grams of protein and is a great source of vitamins A, D, B6, B12 and iron. Consuming only the egg white eliminates many of the nutrients and all of the antioxidants found in eggs.4-5


Eggs (yolk and white) contain vitamins A, B2, B5, B6, B12, D, E, and K, calcium, folate, phosphorus, selenium and zinc. As a whole, the egg has 77 calories, 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of healthy or good fats, and omega-3 fatty acids, which lower triglycerides (a well-known risk factor for heart disease).4-5


This amazing food also contains the cell membrane-building nutrient choline, which is lacking in almost 90 percent of diets. Choline is important from a health perspective because it promotes normal cell activity, liver function and nutrient transportation in the body. Then there’s the nine essential amino acids the egg contains.5


Last, but not least, eggs can actually be beneficial for eye health, since they contain the important antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which have shown to help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.4


Convenient and Versatile


With all its amazing nutritional and health benefits, the egg is a great meal or snack. Whether boiled, poached, scrambled or fried, it can be part of any meal, and when you’re on the run, it is probably one of the most healthy items to eat on the go. With zero carbs, no sugar, no gluten and 6 grams of protein, an egg should be a dietary staple.5


Organic or Non-Organic?


As with many food items, it is my recommendation that the best source is always going to be organic. Surprisingly, the omega-3 levels in eggs can actually be affected by the hens’ diet and can be increased in either organic or conventional eggs. However, clearly a healthier diet and better care are provided to hens that lay eggs labeled organic.6


A primary concern in non-organic eggs may be contamination. However, while chicken meat has tested positive for arsenic and other contaminants, a study in 2011 tested 497 egg samples and found no residue of pesticides, contaminants or veterinary drugs including antibiotics. A poultry scientist from Auburn University, Pat Curtis, says that this shouldn’t be surprising, as chemicals are not typically given to laying hens, and when they are, there is a “mandated withdrawal period” before their eggs can be sold.6


While this may be comforting, I suggest that to avoid any risk of contamination by pesticides or other chemicals, organic will always be the best source.


Allergy Information


According to the Mayo Clinic, eggs are one of the most common food allergen for children, with symptoms manifesting as early as infancy.7 While allergic reactions may vary from one person to another, they will generally occur soon after exposure and can include the following: skin inflammation or hives; nasal congestion, runny nose and sneezing; digestive symptoms such as cramps, nausea and vomiting; and asthmatic signs and symptoms such as coughing wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath.7-8


One of the easiest ways to test for food allergens is to keep a food or dietary journal. Parents can track what their child eats and when they have an allergic reaction; then remove eggs from the child’s diet to see if there is a reduction or elimination of symptoms.9


If your child patient is allergic to eggs, it helps if parents are aware of potentially hidden sources of egg in the child’s diet such as: marshmallows, mayonnaise, baked goods, breaded foods, processed meat, salad dressings, most pastas and even pretzels, as they are typically dipped in an “egg wash” before being salted. Additionally, there are manufacturing terms that can indicate the presence of eggs, including albumin, globulin, lecithin, livetin, lysozyme, vitellineand words starting with the prefix “ova” or “ovo,” such as ovalbumin or ovoglobulin.7-8


The Vaccine Link


Some vaccines actually contain egg proteins and may pose a risk of triggering an allergic reaction. While some sources say the risk is minimal and that informing the pediatrician of the egg allergy can avoid any complications, it is wise to consider these concerns and make sure parents are informed.8-10 The following vaccines are produced with eggs or egg protein:8-10

§  Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccines are produced using eggs.§  Flu (influenza) vaccines sometimes contain small amounts of egg proteins.

§  Yellow fever vaccine can provoke an allergic reaction in some people who have egg allergies.

§  Other vaccines are generally not risky for people with an egg allergy, but it is always best to discuss concerns with a doctor, as they can test for allergic reactions.


An Egg a Day


Eggs are one of the most beneficial food items available for consumption. They are incredibly filling and high in protein, which is by far the most filling macronutrient. Eggs score high on the satiety index, which measures the ability of foods to induce feelings of fullness and reduce subsequent caloric intake. When all is said and done, for any meal or snack, you can’t beat an egg.


Getting Kids to Consider Eggs


Little ones can be extremely picky eaters, particularly during the first 10 years of life, but introducing the egg early may help foster a healthy protein habit. A simple way of using the egg for breakfast is creating an egg burrito, which also gives parents the opportunity to fill gluten-free tortillas with finely chopped veggies. For Paleo families, a lettuce wrap will substitute for grain products. Half a hard-boiled egg with a slice of apple or avocado can serve as a balanced snack.


For the sneak approach, scrambled eggs, finely chopped and added to spaghetti sauce, can do the trick. And a raw egg (presuming you know the source of your eggs) added to a smoothie will never be noticed.



by Nick Soloway

Migraine headaches are one of the most common causes of pain and can vary from a minimal impact on activities of daily living to even incapacitating. Numerous over the counter and prescription drugs exist for acute migraine headaches but problems abound with poor satisfaction in many cases and varied side effects in others. In addition, some migraine sufferers have very frequent chronic and recurrent attacks, necessitating the frequent use of some of these acute intervention drugs and thus again, side effects can become an issue. An effective herbal intervention for acute pain relief would be a welcome addition to the list of options.


This double-blind randomized controlled clinical trial compared the efficacy of ginger to sumatriptan, a standard conventional prescription treatment, in the treatment of common migraine. Study subjects were randomly delivered either one ginger capsule of 250 mg upon onset of headache or 50 mg of sumatriptan. Questionnaires were completed for each headache attack, recording time of headache onset, severity, timing of drug taking and response self-assessments at 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes and 24 hours. Any adverse effects were also recorded. The overall study duration was one month.


One hundred sufferers of common migraine headaches, from a Hospital in Iran were the study subjects. The average age of participants was 35.1 in the sumatriptan group and 33.9 in the ginger group. Women comprised 68% of the sumatriptan group vs. 74% of the ginger group. The average duration of a migraine diagnosis was similar in both groups at approximately 7 years. The average number of headache attacks in the sumatriptan groups were 5.8 and 4.9 in the ginger treated group. Inclusion criteria for the study included a confirmed diagnosis of migraine without aura by a neurologist, 18 years and older, high school diploma or higher and a frequency of 2 to 10 headaches/month.


Both sumatriptan and ginger powder decreased the mean severity of common migraine attacks within 2 hours of use. No significant difference existed between the two treatments. Before taking the medication, 22% of the sumatriptan group and 20% of the ginger group had severe headaches. The mean headache severity at 2 hours after sumatriptan or ginger use demonstrated similar effectiveness for both groups. There was 4.7 unit reduction in the headache severity in the sumatriptan group and a 4.6 reduction in the ginger group. Favorable relief was achieved in 70% of the sumatriptan treated headache individuals and 64% of the ginger treated patients at 2 hours following intake. Both the sumatriptan and ginger significantly provided pain relief and no significant differences were achieved.


There were more side effects from sumatriptan using including dizziness, sedation, vertigo and heartburn. The only clinical adverse effect of ginger was dyspepsia.




Ginger products have a long tradition of use for joint pain, nausea and vomiting, motion sickness, lipid lowering and a broad range of anti-inflammatory implications. For migraines, a previous study in 2005 demonstrated that ginger completely alleviated migraine headache in 48% of individuals and partially in 34% of individuals within 2 hours. Another study demonstrated that the ginger treated group had a higher pain relief rate at 65% for ginger versus 36% for the placebo.


I am quite impressed that the current study reveals both sumatriptan at 50 mg and ginger powder at 250 mg decreased the mean severity of a common migraine attack and within 2 hours of use. Pain relief and patient satisfaction did not show any significant difference, although side effects due to ginger were far less than those with sumatriptan.

In my experience, the natural medicine strategies for reducing the frequency and severity and duration of migraines are quite effective and include basic lifestyle and nutritional plans, but more robustly involve a multi-factorial approach using riboflavin, ginger, feverfew, 5-HTP, butterbur, magnesium, CoQ10, and sometimes cyclic estrogen patches in women with menstrual migraines. I have never felt very optimistic about acute intervention with these supplements or others in reducing the severity of an acute migraine. I am encouraged by this study, that acute use of ginger capsules for acute migraines may provide pain reduction, with an overall 44% palliation in all headache attacks within 2 hours.




Maghbooli M, Golipour F, Esfandabadi A, Yousefi M. Comparison between the efficacy of ginger and sumatriptan in the ablative treatment of the common migraine. Phytotherapy Res 2014;28:412-415


Nick’s comment:  I have treated many people with severe migraines and after several treatments they are significantly reduced or eliminated completely. The main culprit besides either a short leg or short pelvis is a trigger point in the lower trapezius that initiates the migraine process.  Once lifts are used to correct the short anatomy the trigger point is eliminated and then… no more headaches.  I had migraines since I was in elementary school and have used lifts and had the trigger point treated,  I haven’t had any kind of headache for 15+ years.