Nutritional Outlook

Nutritional Outlook, April 2018

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■ NUTRITIONAL OUTLOOK 46 Botanicals/Herbs APRIL 2018 Knowledge Is Power Ironically, consumers' chief aid in returning to those basics is the anything-but-basic web of resources on the Internet—which, says Quirk, "has given consumers a huge database of information about the natural healing that can come through herbs and other supplements." Majeed agrees, adding that consumers today "have access to so much more infor- mation" and can educate themselves about herbal and botanical benef ts "far beyond the information legally allowed on labels and in marketing materials." Such open access to knowledge has also brought consumers closer to the real, live sci- ence substantiating herbals' and botanicals' ef ectiveness. As suppliers invest in research and distribute their f ndings through new media, "consumers become more informed about the ingredients in products," Luna says. T e more substantiated claims that manufacturers make, the more consumers "feel comfortable toward natural products when they have vital information on how the botanicals work, and what to expect." Healthy Future So, what can we expect in the future for these extracts from the past? "T e industry is wit- nessing an inf ux of lesser-known ingredi- ents" that remain in "relative obscurity in the West," Majeed says. "However, we expect that these are 'ready-to-trend' in the coming year and will catch the attention of formulators and consumers alike." T eir ascendance is by no means a done deal, as scandals in the herbal and botanical industry—"generally in the form of a badly designed clinical study widely reported, or inappropriate testing methods failing sam- ples," Majeed says—could still scuttle con- sumer conf dence. Yet, such scandals don't always precipi- tate a drop in sales. Why? "Consumers are usually getting the results they expect," Ma- jeed states. "T e best way to gain the repeat customers and the resulting word of mouth that grows sales is by ensuring that consum- ers get quality products in the amounts that research indicates will provide the benef ts they're expecting." So, with copalchi and curcumin already household names, we asked the botanical category's boosters which under-the-radar ingredients they have their eyes on, and why. Nothing to Be Bitter About Practitioners of Ayurveda, India's traditional medicine, built an impressive library of bo- tanical ingredients over millennia. Only now are many popping up on Western radars. Take Andrographis paniculata—"one of the most extensively used plants in traditional systems of medicine like Ayurveda and Unani," says Majeed. English speakers, if they know of it at all, might know it as creat or "the king of bitters," and its traditional ef ects run from anti-inf ammatory and cardiopro- tective to diuretic and carminative, Majeed says. "According to India Herbal Pharma- copoeia 1 and World Health Organization monographs 2 ," he adds, "this plant is ef ec- tive in bacterial dysentery, carbuncles, coli- tis, tuberculosis, malaria, herpes, ulcer, and venomous snake bites." More recent studies suggest utility in managing upper respiratory tract infections 3–4 , maintaining healthy blood glucose levels 5 , liver health 6 , and joint health 7 . Marrying Up Any herb with a name that, roughly translat- ed, means "a woman possessing a hundred husbands" deserves attention. And that's just what shatavari, or Asparagus racemosus, is getting. Like a hundred husbands diving into the next chore on their weekend to-do lists, shatavari's purported benef ts are myriad. Ayurvedic practitioners use it "to help bal- ance the female hormonal system," Majeed says, and it's also believed to promote posi- tive emotions while calming "f ery" ones. It qualif es as a "rasayana herb" in Ayurveda and has found extensive use as an adapto- gen against what Majeed calls "a variety of stresses." With contemporary studies "throw- ing some light on its medicinal properties," he adds, its actions on everything from milk production in lactating mothers 8 to ulcers 9 , immune 10 , and gastric health 11 are being dis- covered anew. Stone Cold Researchers have only recently learned what inhabitants of the Amazon Basin have known all along: It's a veritable goldmine of well- ness-giving plants. One that Ramon Luna, marketing coordinator, Ecuadorian Rainfor- est (Belleville, NJ), is watching is chanca pie- dra (Phyllanthus niruri). T e whole plant can serve as a source of medicinal compounds, and WebMD states that its mode of action may be through "chemicals that might re- lieve spasms and fever, increase urine, and have activity against bacteria and viruses. It might also lower blood sugar" 12 . Luna notes that some studies 13 have "eyed it as a natural way of dealing with kidney stones." But don't drop your Rx just yet: "Although some studies do look promising," he says, "there still needs to be more testing on the ingredient." Never- theless, chanca piedra still contains a heap of antioxidants, "making it an overall excellent choice for nutrition." Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) SHUTTERSTOCK.COM/ ARTPHOTOCLUB; SHUTTERSTOCK.COM/ WASANAJAI; SHUTTERSTOCK.COM/ WUTTICHOK PANICHIWARAPUN Chanca piedra (Phyllanthus niruri) Andrographis paniculata

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