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From the Townsend Letter
January 2007


Breakthrough Solutions in Herbal Medicine
Adaptogenic Formulas: The Way to Vitality

by Donald R. Yance, CN, MH, AHG, and Ben Tabachnik, PhD

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Page 1, 2, 3, 4, Notes

Phenolic-Rich Herbs as Companion Adaptogens
Many common herbs that are consumed regularly by humans contain thousands of phenolic compounds. The effects of dietary polyphenols are currently of great interest due to their antioxidative, antimutagenic, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, lipid and immune modulating, antiviral, detoxifying, and possible anti-aging activities.88 Herbs such as green tea (Camellia sinensis), turmeric (Curcumin longo), ginger (Zingiber off), grape seed & skin (Vitis vinifera), elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), and hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha) contain a wide range of polyphenols including catechins, curcuminoids, resveratrol, quercetin, OPCs, and other flavonoids. These plants are therefore classified as companion adaptogens because they act in such broad, beneficial, and diverse ways and offer superior protective capabilities when compared with vitamin supplements.10

Epidemiological studies suggest a protective effect against human cancer risk and cardiovascular risk due to the consumption of polyphenolic-rich herbs. The phenolic antioxidants are known to stop lipid peroxidation of cell membranes, a prominent free radical chain reaction among unsaturated fatty acids that is carcinogenic by virtue of being both mutagenic and mitogenic.90

Green Tea (Camellia sinensis)
Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world today, and its medicinal properties have been vastly explored. Green tea extract (GTE) has recently undergone extensive medical and clinical research, especially in regards to its antioxidative and anticancer capability. The main catechins in green tea are epicatechin, epicatechin-3-gallate, epigallocatechin, and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). In addition to these catechins, the activity and medicinal value of the catechins in GTE are complemented by other compounds including theanine, caffeine, carotenoids, and chlorophyll. GTE has demonstrated significant antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, thermogenic, probiotic, and antimicrobial properties in numerous human, animal, and in vitro studies.93

EGCG, the most abundant phenolic compound found in GTE, in combination with all the other catechins, compared to EGCG alone, has shown greater antioxidant, antiviral, and anticarcinogenic effects, both in in vitro and in vivo studies.91 GTE increases detoxification enzymes, including cytochrome P450, glutathione peroxidase, glutathione reductase, glutathione transferase enzyme, catalase, and quinone reductase. These detoxifying enzymes are vitally important to our ability to cope with the diversity of stresses we are under, including the ever-expanding levels of toxic exposure. GTE has shown a diversity of mechanisms involved in its anticancer effects. These include inhibition of various tumor promoting growth factors: vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF),142,143 protein kinase C,143 ornithine decarboxylase,144 topoisomerase I,145 tissue-type plasminogen activator (t-PA),146 collagenases,148 PG 2,149 matrix metalloproteinase,150 and NF-kappaB.147 GTE also modulates androgen and other hormones,92 enhances the effectiveness of certain chemotherapeutic drugs,94 is anti-inflammatory, via the cyclooxygenase (COX)- and lipoxygenase (LOX) pathways,95 possesses lipolytic activity,97 reduces lipids and lipoproteins,98,99 inhibits muscle wasting,102 and is antiviral.100,102 And its medicinal effects act synergistically when combined with turmeric.96

Turmeric (Curcumin longo)
Turmeric is best known for its culinary use as a major component of curry powder. It has been widely used for centuries in the Chinese and Ayurvedic systems to treat many inflammatory conditions and diseases and works as a companion adaptogen in a variety of ways. In India, turmeric has traditionally been used primarily for arthritic and muscular disorders, while in China, it has been used as a topical analgesic and for conditions ranging from flatulence, colic, and ringworm to hepatitis and chest pain.107,108 Turmeric's active constituents are yellowish orange volatile oils called curcuminoids. Curcumin, as well as other curcuminoids present in turmeric, have been extensively researched recently and are thought to be responsible for this plant's liver protective and antioxidant properties.103 Turmeric is non-toxic, antithrombotic (it preferentially inhibits platelet aggregation induced by platelet-activating factor and arachidonic acid),104 antihepatotoxic,107 anti-inflammatory (inhibition of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2),105,109 radiation protective,114 cholesterol-lowering,115 anti-cancer, anti-angiogenic,106 and anti-oxidative.124

Curcumin has caused apoptosis in various cancer cell lines and animal tumor cells. In rats and mice, dietary Curcumin has demonstrated preventive activity against carcinogenesis in the skin, colon, forestomach, breast, prostate, pancreas, and duodenum. Case reports of decreases in p24 antigen with the ingestion of 2.5 g of Curcumin daily for seven days led to a study of Curcumin in 60 patients with HIV infection.110 A recent study involving nitric oxide demonstrated the potent free radical-scavenging effects of curcumin present in turmeric. Curcumin reduced the amount of nitric oxide generated from sodium nitroprusside. Because this compound is implicated in inflammation and cancer, the therapeutic properties of Curcumin against these conditions might be at least partly explained by its free radical-scavenging properties, including those directed at nitric oxide. Nitric oxide appears to be critical for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which is a positive angiogenesis regulator.119

Curcumin and the catechins from green tea extract (GTE) synergistically inhibit cancer.111,112 Curcumin and GTE had inhibitory effects against oral carcinogenesis at the post-initiation stage, and such inhibition may be related to the suppression of cell proliferation, induction of apoptosis and inhibition of angiogenesis.112 Another study involving Curcumin and green tea extract found the invasion of B16F-10 melanoma cells was suppressed by inhibiting metalloproteinases, thereby inhibiting lung metastasis.111 Curcumin also blocks the NF-kappaB cell survival pathway and suppresses the apoptotic inhibitor, XIAP. Since melanoma cells with mutant p53 are strongly resistant to conventional chemotherapy, Curcumin may overcome the chemoresistance of these cells and provide potential new avenues for treatment.113 Curcumin was found to decrease the Ehrlich's ascites carcinoma cell number by the induction of apoptosis in the tumor cells.126

Curcumin inhibits proliferation, induces apoptosis, and inhibits angiogenesis of LNCaP prostate cancer cells in vivo.118 Curcumin has shown to inhibit breast cancer. Genes that are associated with cell proliferation and apoptosis may be playing a role in the chemopreventive action of curcumin.120,121,124,128 Another study demonstrated that curcumin inhibits the transcript levels of two major angiogenesis factors: VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) and b-FGF (basic fibroblast growth factor). Curcumin and its derivatives demonstrated significant inhibition of bFGF-mediated corneal neovascularization.127 Curcumin is a potent anticancer agent that has potent COX-2 inhibitory activity117 and inhibits the production of proinflammatory cytokines by tumor cells, including IL-6 and 8. One study found that the duel modulation of multidrug resistance and P-glycoprotein (Pgp) function was inhibited by the Curcumin. Curcumin may be an attractive new agent for the chemosensitization of cancer cells.116 Curcumin has shown to protect the heart from Adriamycin toxicity122 and reduce the damage caused by myocardial infarction.125 Curcumin also shows promise for the prevention of Alzheimer's disease122 and may block the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS).123

Grape Seed & Skin (Vitis vinifera)
Grape seed extract (GSE) is a rich source of anthocyanidins, proanthocyanidins, and oligomer proanthocyanidins (OPCs). Grape seed OPCs have been reported to possess a broad spectrum of pharmacological and medicinal properties against oxidative stress. Their free radical-scavenging effects are 20-50 times greater than vitamin C or E. GSE provides excellent protection against free radicals in both in vitro and in vivo models.133 OPC-rich herbs including GSE possess a broad spectrum of pharmacological and medicinal properties against oxidative stress.139

Within the grape skin is another health-promoting phenolic compound called resveratrol. Resveratrol is a potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antitumor agent that has been shown to inhibit COX-2 expression, inhibit cell proliferation, and enhance cell-mediated cytotoxicity and cytokine production. The mechanism of resveratrol's anti-inflammatory effects is in part due to the ability to inhibit NF-kappaB activation.140,141,142

GSE is useful as an anti-inflammatory, used as treatment for hemorrhoids, swollen joints, athletic injuries,137 post-surgical edema, and post-surgical lymphodema.130 It has demonstrated effects on cancer inhibition134 and cardiovascular tonification and has general age-inhibiting abilities. GSE possesses collagen-stabilizing ability, improving connective health and skin health.131 GSE has shown to improve vision and protect the eye from age-related diseases.132

GSE inhibits platelet aggregation and enhances the production of nitric oxide, which activates peripheral vasodilatation.136 GSE shows a synergistic effect when combined with niacin at lowering cholesterol. Furthermore, GSE showed a significant ability at inhibiting the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.135 Another study found a synergistic effects occurs between the seeds and the skin of grape. A combination of grape seed and skin extract was much more potent at inhibiting platelet aggregation than either tested separately.129 GSE is highly bioavailable and may serve as a potential therapeutic tool in protecting multiple target organs from structurally diverse drug- and chemical-induced toxicity.138

Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha)
In both the East and West, hawthorn has been used as both a food and a medicine. The leaf, fruit, flower, and bark of this shrub, or small tree, have been used in medicine mostly as a heart remedy. The leaf, fruit, and flower all contain an abundant amount of active constituents including flavonoids, catechins, triterpene saponins, amines, and oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs); however, the primary cardiovascular protective activity of the plant is generally attributed to its flavonoid content, particularly the OPCs. Hawthorn's mechanisms of action demonstrate significant antioxidant activity.151 In addition, it increases coronary blood flow, enhancing oxygen flow and utilization by the heart. Hawthorn extract enhances the integrity of the blood vessels. Hawthorn extract also exerts considerable collagen stabilizing effects.152 Hawthorn extract prevents elevation of plasma lipids, such as total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL- and VLDL-fraction.153,160,161 It also prevents the accumulation of cholesterol in the liver by enhancing cholesterol degradation to bile acids, promoting bile flow, and suppressing cholesterol biosynthesis.154

Research indicates administration of Hawthorn provides subjective and objective benefits in individuals with signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure. Over a period of eight weeks, supplementation with Hawthorn resulted in a clear improvement in the performance of the heart. Patients reported improvement in subjective symptoms, such as reduced performance, shortness of breath, and ankle edema.155 In a separate study of patients with stage NYHA II cardiac insufficiency, oral supplementation improved blood pressure, heart rate, and the change in heart rate in response to exercise under standardized loading on a bicycle ergometer.156 Hawthorn extract exerts mild blood pressure-lowering activity, which appears to be a result of a number of diverse pharmacological effects. It dilates coronary vessels, inhibits angiotensin converting enzyme, acts as an inotropic agent, and possesses mild diuretic activity.157,158 Hawthorn extract has shown to relieve symptoms of coronary heart disease, including its influence on stress tolerance, more effectively than an ACE inhibitor.159

In TCM, Hawthorn is used to treat digestive weakness (food stagnation), including bloating, dyspepsia, and diarrhea, and is often prescribed to treat obesity and cardiovascular disease.183 Hawthorn extract is very safe and a good tonic for children. It is often recommended to help relax hyperactive children and promote better attention span.

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
Elderberry extract has demonstrated an effective ability to inhibit the growth of several strains of viruses including the flu. Israeli scientists tested an elderberry extract on 40 people and found that it caused a significant improvement in symptoms of the flu or a complete cure in approximately 90% of cases within two to three days, compared to six days for a control group.162 The berries are rich in vitamin C and flavonoids.

Rosehips (Rosa canine)
Rosehip extract is a nutrient-rich food that contains four-percent natural vitamin C (one of the richest sources). The vitamin C is organically bound, different from synthetic ascorbic acid, to the polyphenolic compounds that increase the intracellular concentration by enhancing absorption. Rosehip contains a variety of flavonoids and carotenoids. Rosehip is used in TCM to stabilize the kidneys and retain essence. It is also used to treat spermatorrhea, urinary incontinence, vaginal discharge, and chronic diarrhea.180

Ginger (Zingiber off)
Ginger is an almost universal agent, almost too well-known to require description. Ginger relieves chills, coughs, indigestion; counteracts nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and arthritis. Ginger is a well-known synergistic herb that potentiates, harmonizes, and improves the deep circulation of other herbs.163

Ginger, because of the ability to influence prostaglandin metabolism, is a potent inhibitor of thromboxane synthesis, significantly inhibiting platelet aggregation and inflammation.164,165 Ginger has recently been found to have a thermogenic effect, possibly being useful in weight management programs.166,167 Ginger significantly reduces serum and hepatic cholesterol levels and possesses potent cardiotonic activity,168,169 antioxidant effects,170-172 and antineoplastic.173-177

Adaptogens: A Major Component of an Overall Wellness Regimen
Adaptogenic formulas that include primary, secondary, and companion adaptogens can be used beneficially by virtually everyone of all ages and all states of health. Adaptogenic formulas can be a major component of an overall wellness regimen. Adaptogens balance and rejuvenate the yin (inward) and yang (outward) energy. They can maintain antioxidant function under normal conditions and can raise our antioxidant abilities when under stressful conditions. Therefore, adaptogens hold great promise for optimum wellness and prevention of chronic illness due to their ability to enhance our resistance to a variety of adverse influences. Our adaptive capability is critical, not only in our ability to resist disease, but also in our ability to thrive and be full of zest and zeal. The future of adaptogenic formulations is colossal!

Donald R. Yance Jr. MH, CN, AHG, SFO
Donald Yance, Jr. is a practicing Clinical Master Herbalist and Certified Nutritionist, specializing in the use of nutritional and herbal approaches to cancer, heart disease, and other chronic health conditions, as complementary and/or primary therapies, and in the prevention of these diseases. His training as a Secular Franciscan (SFO) equips him with the breadth and wisdom to touch on the spiritual aspects of healing. Through the conscientious application of herbal, nutritional, and emotional counseling, Donald has helped clients overcome health care challenges that other systems of medicine have been unable to successfully address. Donald's mastery of the Eclectic Herbal Tradition, his wide readings in modern herbal research, and his effective usage of nutrition all contribute to his unique ability and success.

Mr. Yance is the author of Herbal Medicine, Healing and Cancer, a comprehensive program for prevention and treatment, offering natural approaches to healing, from herbs and nutrition, to lifestyle and spirituality. He has also co-authored Dr. Earl Mindell's Russian Energy Secret, a Basic Health Guide about herbal adaptogens that increase energy, endurance and vitality, enhance immune function, and slow the aging process. He writes and reviews articles for several medical, nutritional, and herbal journals and lectures extensively on herbal and nutritional medicine.

Ben Tabachnik, PhD
Dr. Tabachnik has dedicated more than 30 years to his work as a leading sport scientist and as a coach for elite professional and collegiate athletes. His experience includes implementing scientific discoveries in physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, and nutrition into the training programs of top level athletes, members of the Soviet National Olympic Team (sprinting). In 1985, while working as a coach for the Soviet Olympic Team, Dr. Tabachnik developed alternatives to anabolic steroids, including innovative training techniques and the use of herbal adaptogens. He then immigrated to the US in 1990, where he established himself as a sport expert by consulting with professional teams such as the Denver Broncos, Detroit Pistons, and Chicago Bulls.

While in Russia, Dr. Tabachnik published more than 150 articles and books on enhancing sport performance, many of which have been reprinted internationally. Shortly after his immigration, he published his first book in English, Soviet Training and Recovery Methods.

Mr. Yance and Dr. Tabachnik have recently co-authored a book, Adaptogens - Breakthrough Solutions for Stress Defense and Energy Enhancement.

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