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Can Elderberry Help You This Cold and Flu Season?

Elderberries have been proven to be a great way to boost and balance your immune system from the flu, common colds, bacterial, and viral infections. The widely known antiviral herb is best known for its natural healing properties and abilities. With cold and flu season quickly approaching, adding elderberry to your supplement routine can be extremely helpful. Even if you’ve received a flu shot or generally have a great immune system, the beneficial properties that elderberries provide should not be overlooked.

Specifically, Elderberries contain a chemical compound called anthocyanidins. Anthocyanidins have immunostimulants which are substances that stimulate the immune system by increasing activity of any of its components. Elderberry has been shown to reduce influenza if used within the first two days of onset flu symptoms. If Elderberry is taken in a timely manner it can reduce the overall duration of the flu four days sooner than without. In addition to the antiviral effects, Elderberry also possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This greatly helps with sinus infections and aiding in the recovery of the respiratory system. Healing properties within Elderberries help break down mucous while calming congestion and coughing. These properties may also help reduce swelling in mucous membranes which relieves nasal congestion.

Elderberry has a long history of being used throughout the world, so it is no surprise that historically, this plant can be traced back to prehistoric times. Elderberries importance can be seen throughout ancient Egypt, but most historians associate this antiviral herb with the Greek Father of Medicine, Hippocrates, who first acknowledged the benefits as early as 400AD. This herb was also popular among Native Americans, Europe, Northern Africa, and Asia. The elder plant itself is often referred to as the “medicine chest of the country folk” since it’s versatility can be used to make teas, syrups, jams, and medicinal wines. In reference to more modern times, in 1995 the Panama government actually employed the use of elderberries during the flu epidemic and it is accredited to aiding in the help of ending the epidemic altogether.

The most commonly used parts of the plant are the berries and flowers. Botanically known as Sambucus nigra, the tree produces cream-white flowers and blue-black berries and can reach the height of 32 feet tall. If you’re harvesting the plant from the wild, you can usually find it among moist places like riverbanks or woodlands. If harvesting this berry isn’t accessible or it’s simply not your thing, you can easily stock up at your local store with capsules, syrups, and powders.

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What is Ashwagandha and How Can It Benefit You?

Botanically known as Withania somnifera, the adaptogenic herb Ashwagandha is one of the most well researched and commonly used plants. Adaptogenic herbs are natural substances that work with a person’s body to help regulate hormone levels which can lead to lowered levels of stress and fatigue while increasing energy levels and supporting the immune system in response. Ashwagandha is also considered a “Rasayana” which means it benefits both mental and physical health. Ashwagandha can also be referred to as “Indian ginseng”, “poison gooseberry”, or “winter cherry”. With an extensive history dating back thousands of years Ashwagandha has many purposes and benefits several different parts of the body.

When harvested, both the leaves and root hold the beneficial properties of Ashwagandha. The potency and health benefits come from the active ingredient within Ashwagandha called “withanolides”. Withanolides are steroids that have been shown to have a number a benefits including fighting inflammation and stress reduction. If you’re looking to add Ashwagandha to your daily routine, always pay attention to the amount of withanolides within the product. Currently the highest concentration available is 5% HPLC. Your Ashwagandha should have the highest level of withanolides. By choosing a product rich in withanolides, you are most likely to enjoy the benefits of Ashwagandha.

Here are five health benefits of Ashwagandha:

  1. Improves Thyroid Function: Ashwagandha has been shown to support people with an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism. Research has shown that Ashwagandha improves serum thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxine (T4) levels. Since Ashwagandha increases thyroid function, it is not recommended for people with hyperactive thyroids.
  2. Aids in Reducing Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Ashwagandha is known as one of the best natural remedies for reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. Ashwagandha works by reducing inflammation, balancing hormone levels, and stabilizing moods. It is comparable to commonly prescribed pharmaceutical drugs but lacks the common and sometimes discouraging side effects such as drowsiness, insomnia, loss of sexual desire, and increased appetite.
  3. Supports Adrenal Function: Ashwagandha has been shown to support adrenal function when overcoming adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is caused after exposure to long-term stress. Your adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol in response to stress. When you have long periods of stress, your body’s reaction is to produce extra cortisol to feel better. Your body is unable to continuously produce cortisol, which can lead to adrenal fatigue.
  4. Lowers Blood Sugar Levels: With the presence of phenolic compounds, like flavonoids, Ashwagandha is said to have anti-diabetic effects. These include normalizing blood sugar levels, improving insulin sensitivity, and reducing inflammatory markers.
  5. Boosts Memory and Cognitive Function: The withanolides that are found in Ashwagandha are a naturally occurring steroid that increases brain function and improves cognitive function. Researchers found that the withanolides help improve cell outgrowth, reverse behavioral deficits, decrease plaque buildup, and reduce amyloid beta burden. Ashwagandha has also been shown to improve attention, help with information processing, and overall progress mental skills.

If adding Ashwagandha to your supplements routine seems like it’d be beneficial to you, there are many options available online and in-store. You can find Ashwagandha in both capsule and powder form and easily incorporate the supplement into your diet. It is recommended to take at an increasing dosage of 750mg per day to 1,250mg with the maximum amount of withanolides, 5% HPLC. Capsules might be the best option for most people, especially if they are sensitive to smells. When translated, Ashwagandha literally means “smell of horse” which can be unappealing in powder form. If you do choose to use the powdered Ashwagandha, you can easily incorporate it with other foods and drinks.

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What is Turmeric?

Turmeric, or Curcuma Longa, is an extremely well-researched herb and spice that has been used for thousands of years. Popular and commonly found in India and Southeast Asia, the root is dried and ground, producing a unique, bright yellow powder that has an abundant amount of natural benefits. Within the actual plant, there are numerous chemical compounds called Curcuminoids. In Turmeric the active substance within the Curcuminoids is one you’ve probably heard of, Curcumin. Curcumin is a natural healing compound that also has several nutritional benefits. Turmeric is recognized as one of the most influential herbs on the planet. Not only does is carry many natural healing compounds, it is considered very safe to consume and there are hardly any known side effects to consuming Turmeric.

Here are five benefits of Turmeric:

  1. Natural Anti-Inflammatory: The active ingredient within Turmeric is called Curcumin. Curcumin is said to have the same powerful effectiveness as anti-inflammatory drugs but without the side effects. This can help reduce or prevent inflammatory diseases both internally and externally. These include inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, IBS, metabolic syndrome, and several others.
  2. Can Slow or Stop Future Blood Clots: The Curcumin from Turmeric sustainably decreases blood clot formation and possibly the future risk of future clot formation. Curcumin alters the formation of an internal process called eicosanoid biosynthesis by reducing platelet aggregation.
  3. Benefits Against Depression: There have been several studies that show Curcumin, the active ingredient within Turmeric, is as effective as taking an anti-depressant but again, it doesn’t have the negative side effects. Depression is connected to reduced levels of BNDF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and a shrinking hippocampus. This part of the brain is associated with learning and memory. Curcumin is said to increase BNDF levels, reverse potential damage, and enhance low serotonin and dopamine levels.
  4. Supports Gut Health: With the anti-inflammatory properties that Turmeric has, supplementing with Curcumin has been said to restore and heal gut health while supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria. Improving gut health can benefit more than just the digestive process. The absorption of nutrients is improved which means the body is receiving the essential nutrients it needs to function.
  5. Improves Skin Health: Again, Turmeric contains anti-inflammatory ingredients that help reduce inflammation, but it also contains antioxidants. Both properties can help revive your skin, producing a natural glow and luster. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties have been known to aid in the healing of wounds, psoriasis, acne, scabies, and a wide range of other dermatological conditions.

Turmeric can easily be added to a person’s diet. As mentioned earlier, Turmeric is a herb and spice that has been used for thousands of years. Cooking a traditional dish or adding Turmeric to your smoothie is an easy way to add this beneficial plant to your diet. If adding Turmeric directly to your diet is not an option or doesn’t appeal to you, another easy way to reap the benefits of Turmeric is to take a supplement. This can be done in powder or capsule form. It is recommended to take one that includes the ingredient black pepper. The Curcumin in Turmeric does not absorb easily, and black pepper helps aid with the absorption process.

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Five Benefits of Flaxseeds:

Flaxseeds, which are also referred to as common flax or linseed, are small seeds that are brown, tan, or golden in color. Flaxseeds have been grown and consumed for thousands of years and are a staple throughout history including ancient Babylon, Aztecs, Rome, and even the Egyptians. Flaxseeds are one of the most nutrient-rich sources of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, lignans (antioxidants), and are packed with minerals such as magnesium, thiamine, and manganese. Flaxseeds can also be eaten in a variety of ways such as unground whole seeds, sprouted and ground into flaxseed meal, or processed into flaxseed oil. With the various ways to include Flaxseed in your diet, it’s no surprise why Flaxseeds popularity has risen recently.

Here are 5 benefits of consuming Flaxseeds:

  1. High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Flaxseeds contain an Omega-3 Fatty Acid called ALA, Alpha-linolenic acid. ALA is an n-3 fatty acid, which is one of two essential fatty acids that can only be acquired through diet. ALA has been shown to reduce many health complications including reducing inflammation, reducing the risk of CHD (Coronary Heart Disease), improving platelet function, improving irregular heartbeat, protecting arterial functions, and promoting healthy endothelial cell function.
  2. Low Carbs, High Fiber: Flaxseeds are low in carbohydrates, while being extremely high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Within Flaxseeds there are prominent levels of mucilage gum content. This gum is a gel-forming fiber that is water-soluble and moves easily through your gastrointestinal tract undigested. Since the fiber in Flaxseed is unable to breakdown in the digestive tract this may help with fat loss, reducing sugar cravings, and colon detoxification.
  3. Supports Healthy Skin, Hair, and Nails: As mentioned before, Flaxseeds have high levels of ALA. ALA fats provide essential fatty acids as well as B vitamins which can reduce inflammation that causes dryness, flakiness, and irritation. Since there is such a high concentration of ALA this can make your hair, skin, and nails stronger and less susceptible to damage.
  4. Lowers Cholesterol: With high levels of soluble fiber, flaxseeds are able to isolate and trap fat and cholesterol, so they are not able to be absorbed in the digestive track. Soluble fiber is also able to trap bile which is made from cholesterol in the gallbladder. When bile is excreted through the digestion, the body will produce more bile while simultaneously using up extra cholesterol in the blood system, ultimately lowering cholesterol levels overall.
  5. Aids in Digestive Health: With ALA being so prominent in Flaxseeds, one of the most significant benefits of consuming Flaxseeds is its ability to support and aid in the digestive process. ALA has been shown to help reduce inflammation and protect the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Additionally, the high fiber content found in Flaxseeds fuel good gut bacteria in your colon, therefore getting rid of waste from your body.

While the above are just some of the benefits Flaxseeds naturally has to offer, Flaxseeds can also help aid in weight loss, reduce menopausal and hormonal imbalances, and they could potentially prevent certain types of cancer. Flaxseeds are also naturally gluten-free and can be an essential addition to those who suffer from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Flaxseeds popularity has risen in recent years thanks to becoming staples in the trending Paleo and Ketogenic communities. As you can see, there are many great ways to add Flaxseeds to your diet. These include adding them to a smoothie, yogurt, or granola. Or you can bake cookies, bread, or muffins with them.

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MCTs: Are they good or bad?

Medium-Chain Triglycerides, or MCTs for short, are fats that are found in foods like coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and grass-fed dairy products such as cheese, butter, milk, and yogurt. In counter to MCTs, there are Long-Chain Triglycerides (LCTs), as well as Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs), which are both metabolized differently. Triglycerides is just another term for fat. As you can see with MCTs, LCTs, and SCFAs the triglycerides are named after the length of their fatty acid chains and chemical structure. Triglycerides are made up from a glycerol molecule and three fatty acids. Each variation of these fatty acids contains different amounts of carbons. For MCTs the four main fatty acids include:

  1. Caproic acid/Hexanoic acid (C6)
  2. Caprylic acid/Octanoic acid (C8)
  3. Capric acid/Decanoic acid (C10)
  4. Lauric acid/Dodencanoic acid (C12)

When it comes to fats in our diets, the majority is made up of LCTs. Since MCTs have a shorter chain length, they are broken down and absorbed by your body more quickly. Since the absorption process happens quicker, MCTs can be fast sources of energy while also being less likely to be stored as fat. When it comes to increasing MCTs in your diet, achieving this can be done by consuming whole foods that contain more MCTs or taking a supplement like MCT oil. Each food and supplement have different MCT compositions. To achieve the highest level of MCT intake, you should research the foods and supplements that best work in your diet.  As mentioned previously MCTs can be found naturally in foods such as coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and grass-fed dairy products such as cheese, butter, milk, and yogurt. While MCT oil has a high concentration of MCTs, it is a manufactured product achieved by removing and separating MCTs from coconut or palm kernel oil.

One of the biggest reasons MCTs have gained popularity recently is they are claimed to aid in weight loss by reducing calorie intake, increasing the feeling of fullness, less likely to be stored as fat, and increasing the bodies capability to burn fat and calories.  While some claim increasing MCTs aids in weight loss, studies have found the results to be indifferent. One of the main health benefits that has been proven with MCTs is the ability to increase mitochondrial function. Mitochondria are rod-shaped organelles found in every complex organism. They are considered the power generators of cells by converting oxygen and nutrients into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which in return is used as a source of energy. When it comes to mitochondria the preferable source of sustenance is MCTs, not sugars or glucose from carbohydrates. Therefore, most people feel “sluggish” after eating foods high in carbohydrates. MCTs can also aid in lowered cholesterol levels, increased gut health/better digestion, improved mood, and improved immunity.

Overall, MCTs are considered “good fats”. Many people who follow a standard western diet are believed to be deprived of MCTs. One of the main reasons for this is many people simply do not eat fresh, whole foods on a regular basis. Most of us are also led to believe that all forms of saturated fats can be bad for us. While this statement is simply not true, there is a substantial difference between “good fats”, like MCTs, and “bad fats”, like foods high in sugars, and ultimately how your body uses them. MCTs have many possible health benefits and it’s easy to incorporate them into your diet. If you’re not sure where to begin, try adding MCT Oil to your coffee. It’s a fantastic way to boost your energy and increase focus. Substituting coconut oil for other cooking oils is also a great way to add MCTs to your diet. Additionally, whole food sources have several overall benefits that are not found in MCTs.

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What is Sacha Inchi?

Sacha Inchi, a food source for over 3,000 years in the Amazon rainforest, has become a staple ingredient in the nutritional industry and plant-based lifestyle.  With other names like Sacha Peanut, Mountain Peanut, Inca Nut, and Inca Peanut, it’s among one of the best plant sources for protein, Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9 essential fatty acids, alpha tocopherol vitamin E, carotenoids (vitamin A), and fiber.

Sacha Inchi is usually described to have a mild nutty taste with a buttery finish that compliments a wide range of foods. The small star-shaped fruit is usually filled with 4-7 pods. When ripe, the fruit becomes green. More commonly, the fruit is dried, leaving an easier seed extraction process. While you can’t eat the seeds raw, roasting the seeds is an easy way to make a nutritious snack. You can also find Sacha Inchi in oil and powder form. Sacha Inchi has a long list of health benefits. It is widely referred to as the new “superfood” which is described as a nutrient-rich compound that benefits a person’s health and well-being.

So, what exactly are some of the benefits of Sacha Inchi?

  • Controls Cholesterol and Improves Blood Circulation: Sacha Inchi reduces LDL cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol) and raises HDL cholesterol levels (good cholesterol) because of the high levels of potassium. Having high LDL cholesterol levels is associated with coronary heart disease and plaque build-up in the arteries. With lower LDL levels, cardiovascular concerns are reduced, and blood circulation usually improves.
  • Supports Brain Function: As previously stated, Sacha Inchi is abundant in Omega and healthy fats. Inflammation is one of the main causes of cognitive disorders and complications. Sacha Inchi helps the brain to defend inflammation. As a result, this can reduce the risk of headaches, depression, fatigue, memory issues, and neurogenerative diseases.
  • Diabetes Preventer: High levels of Omega-3 have been associated with lowering glucose (sugar) levels in the body which is something a person with diabetes constantly has to monitor. It also is known to lower triglycerides levels. Triglycerides are a chemical compound that provides energy for metabolism. People with diabetes generally have high triglycerides.
  • Stress Reliever: Sacha Inchi is high in tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps the brain to release the hormone called serotonin (aka the “feel good” hormone). With the increase in tryptophan, serotonin is released more quickly, which will ultimately make you feel better. Once again, with such high Omega-3 levels, Sacha Inchi reduces brain inflammation which could result in lower stress-levels, while countering less headaches, mood shifts, and more.
  • Promotes Better Sleep Quality: With the significant levels of tryptophan mentioned above, if you combine this with the magnesium found in the fruit, it can bring on an increased feeling of relaxation. Increasing magnesium has been found to help people struggling with sleep disorders and insomnia.
  • Improves Vision Health: Sacha Inchi is abundant in alpha tocopherol vitamin E and carotenoids vitamin A. Both vitamins help with a person’s overall vision health. Vitamins E and A prevent macular degeneration and slow down the process of cataracts and deterioration that can come along with age.
  • Hair and Skin Care: Having healthy fats in your diet are a necessity when it comes to healthy hair and skin production. Sacha Inchi is high in Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids. For hair this helps stimulate growth and repair, locks in moisture, and eliminates inflammation (which can cause dandruff). For skin, Omega-3 and Omega-6 improves the overall appearance by reducing blemishes, wrinkles, and reducing inflammation (which can cause eczema and psoriasis).
  • Digestive Aid: Sacha Inchi is also claimed to help improve digestion and aid in weight loss due to its high levels of fiber. Dietary fiber is a vital part in the normal digestive process. Fiber can help by satisfying your appetite and prevent overeating due to feeling full.

It’s easy to see why Sacha Inchi has gained such popularity. You can consume this plant protein in  numerous ways: as a roasted nut, in a powder form, or in an oil form. You can add the powder to smoothies, baked goods, oatmeal, etc. With the oil, you can utilize it in everything from your beauty routine to salad dressing. Not only is Sacha Inchi vegan/vegetarian friendly, it’s gluten free, and allergen friendly. With the list of benefits Sacha Inchi has, by adding it to a well-balanced diet it can enhance your overall health and well-being.

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Collagen 101:

You may have noticed recently collagen has been booming in the nutrition industry. With such a wide range of benefits that have been documented numerous times, the supplement is taking off. Usually when people think of collagen they think of it as an additive to lotions and other supplements. While it can be used as an additive, collagen can also be taken by itself resulting in an increase of several benefits. So, what exactly is collagen?

In our bodies collagen is found in our muscles, bones, skin, blood-vessels, the digestive system, and tendons. As we age, our bodies natural collagen production rate begins to slow down. Therefore, we start to get wrinkles, joint pain, and sagging skin. While age is just one of the degenerative processes, other factors like smoking, sun exposure, and certain diets can also reduce the collagen levels in our bodies more rapidly.  As mentioned before, collagen has a wide range of benefits. These include but are not limited to:

  • Reduces joint pain
  • Slows down the degenerative process
  • Improves skin, our largest organ
  • Strengthens hair, nails, and teeth
  • Supports gut health
  • Builds muscle and repairs tissue
  • Increases metabolism, muscle mass, and energy levels
  • Protects cardiovascular health
  • Reduces cellulite and stretch marks

Next, we need to recognize that there are multiple types of collagen with different benefits within each:

  • Type 1: Type 1 collagen is the most abundant in our bodies and helps tendons, ligaments, organs, skin, bones, and can also be found in your gut.
  • Type 2: Type 2 collagen mainly helps build the cartilage in our connective tissue.
  • Type 3: Type 3 collagen is mostly found in reticular connective tissues which can be found in the kidney, the spleen, lymph nodes, bone marrow, blood vessels, and tissue in the heart.
  • Type 4: Type 4 collagen forms basal lamina, which is found in endothelial cells that form tissue surrounding our organs, muscles, and fat. Basal lamina can also be found in our digestive organs, respiratory surfaces, as well as the space between the top layer of skin and tissue, and the deepest layer.
  • Type 5: Type 5 collagen helps build the surface of our cells, hair strands, and tissue found in women’s placentas.
  • Type 10: Type 10 collagen helps form articular cartilage and new bone formation.

There are various sources of collagen: Bovine (beef or cow) collagen, Chicken collagen, Fish (marine) collagen, and Egg shell membrane collagen. Each protein source provides different benefits from their collagens. Bovine collagen is made up of mostly Type 1 and Type 3 collagens. Chicken collagen is typically made up of Type 2 collagen. Fish collagen is normally Type 1 collagen. Lastly, Egg shell membrane collagen is mostly Type 1 collagen, but can also include Type 3, 4, and 10. Depending on your needs, certain collagens may alleviate or help specific symptoms you’re experiencing due to a decrease in collagen. Bovine and Fish collagens both seem to take the lead in the collagen market.

Introducing collagen to your diet is relatively easy. You can simply add it to a soup, coffee, or smoothie. With the numerous benefits it’s easy to see why this supplement has taken off. People are also becoming more aware of their overall health and are on a constant search to simply feel better. When you take into consideration the rapid decline in your body’s collagen production, adding collagen to your diet seems like an easy solution with long-term benefits and hardly any risks.

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