Acacia (pronounced ‘ak-aysh-ee-a’) is a ‘prebiotic’. This is a special type of plant fibre that feed our good gut bacteria to help them flourish. So 'prebiotics' are the 'food' for our 'probiotics' (friendly gut bacteria). Prebiotics and probiotics work together to support optimal balance of gut flora. What happens if we don't feed and nurture our friendly gut bacteria? They can die off and upset the balance, making way instead for unfriendly bacteria to take hold.
Acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) is a species of palm tree (botanical name Euterpe oleracea) native to Brazil. Its highly nutritious dark purple berry fruit resembles a grape. Acai is packed with nutrients. It is especially rich in antioxidants, including vitamins A, C and E. Plus, it contains the phytonutrient anthocyanins which gives the berries its dark purple colour. It also contains essential fibre, healthy fatty acids similar to olives including omega-3, 6 and 9; a number of essential amino acids, plus electrolyte and trace minerals including magnesium, potassium, calcium, copper, and zinc. Most importantly, it provides powerful antioxidant protection to cells. Acai has around 10 times more antioxidant anthocyanins than red grapes, and 10-30 times more than red wine! So its great for the heart, brain, skin, eyes and immune system.
The natural form of Vitamin C found in food is called ascorbic acid. Vitamin C is the ‘immunity vitamin’. It helps your body build resistance to common infections, and can help to reduce your recovery time. Your white blood cells need Vitamin C to function normally and help you fight off infections. The adrenal glands, involved in the stress response, use a huge amount of vitamin C. Any stressful situation increases the need for vitamin C in the body. Collagen, the protein that gives structure and strength to skin, ligaments, tendons, bones and teeth needs vitamin C for its production. Vitamin C is crucial for wound healing and recovery from surgery or injury. Furthermore, vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that helps to protects cells from free radical damage. It also helps the body absorb iron needed by red blood cells for energy and immunity.
Ashwagandha, also known as Withania or Indian Ginseng, is one of the most well-known Ayurvedic (traditional Indian) herbs. It is highly regarded for helping the body during times of stress. Traditional use was for people who were emotionally or physically exhausted. That's because it supports relaxation, calm and assists with disrupted sleep or nervous tension. In fact, its botanical name Withania somnifera gives us this clue to its use as ‘somnifera’ is Latin for “sleep-inducing”. It has anti-stress effects that help the body cope better with stress, fatigue or burnout. It also supports immune function, the nervous system and hormones too.
B vitamins are a group of 8 essential water soluble vitamins that we need every day. They are called ‘essential’ because the body cannot make them. Instead, we must get them from our diet daily. They help boost energy, but they do so much more than this! B vitamins are necessary for the completion of many chemical processes in the body. Our adrenal glands use B vitamins to support normal function. They support appetite regulation. Our immune system also needs B vitamins to produce antibodies, and make red and white blood cells. They also help maintain healthy skin, mucous membrane and eye tissue.
Many factors can deplete your B vitamins. Being water soluble, they are easily lost through the urine. Food processing also depletes them from food. They are easily damaged by cooking, freezing, and exposure to light. High levels of stress, overwork and hard physical labour causes you to use up your B vitamins much faster. And some substances also deplete B vitamins from the body, including alcohol, sugar and caffeine. B vitamins are best taken together as they work together in the body. Depletion of one will lead to a reduced effect of others.
Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, is a one of the 8 essential B vitamins that converts food to energy. It also helps make certain neurotransmitters and hormones. High levels occur in the brain, heart, liver, kidneys and muscles. It also supports nerve transmission and muscle activity. The body only stores a small amount of thiamine, and deficiency can begin within 15-18 days of restricted intake. Certain factors also deplete B1. These include excess alcohol use, malabsorption syndromes, extreme vomiting, chronic diarrhoea or the use of some medications. Like other water soluble vitamins, light and heat damage it, with up to 85% of it lost during cooking. It is best taken in combination with other B vitamins, and avoid taking it with tea, coffee and iron supplements.
Vitamin B2 is also called riboflavin. It is involved in the production of energy, helps the body break down fats and hormones, is needed for the functioning of other B vitamins and supports immunity and the growth and repair of tissue. It can be found in organ meats, yeast products, almonds, wheatgerm, wild rice and mushrooms. Up to 75% can be lost during cooking.
Vitamin B3 is known by several names. These include niacin, nicotinic acid, nicotinamide and niacinamide. Over 400 chemical processes in the body use vitamin B3! Such as, converting carbohydrates and fats into energy the body can use. It also carries out cell functions and communication between cells. It concentrates in the liver, spleen and fat tissue. Unlike the other B vitamins, it is stable in the presence of heat with very little list during cooking. Animal foods contain the highest levels of B3, but the body can make a small amount by converting the amino acid tryptophan with the help of vitamin B2.
Vitamin B5 is an essential vitamin, and also called pantothenic acid. High concentrations occur in the liver and the adrenal glands which indicate how necessary this nutrient is for the function of those organs. B5 is essential for the production of adrenal and other hormones, and supports the liver’s detoxification processes. Most common food sources include organ and other meat, fish, Brewer’s yeasts and nuts and seeds.
Vitamin B6 is also known as pyridoxine. The immune system uses B6 to function properly, and the brain also uses it to make neurotransmitters like serotonin. Red blood cells use B6 for energy, and it helps convert food to energy. The best food sources are fish, organ meats, peas and beans, wheatgerm, nuts, potatoes and bananas. Up to 40% of B6 can be destroyed during cooking.
B9 refers to the vitamin folate. For more information, see our entry under Folate.
Vitamin B12 is another B vitamin that nerve cells need to function normally. It is used as a building block to create DNA, and also supports red blood cells. It is also important for maintaining healthy balanced moods, as it has a key role in forming neurotransmitters.
Bacillus coagulans is a very robust strain of probiotic that is naturally resistant to heat, moisture and gastric acid. This hardiness is important. It survives longer than most to get to where it's needed. It supports healthy immune and digestive function. And unlike some probiotics, it doesn’t require refrigeration.
Beta-Carotene is a natural, plant-based antioxidant. Our bodies can convert beta-carotene to vitamin A when we need more vitamin A, but not when we don't. This is useful to avoid the body storing too much vitamin A.
Vitamin A supports normal growth and development, and healthy vision, bones, hair, teeth and gums. It is also important for natural immunity against coughs, colds and other common respiratory infections.
A species of probiotic, the beneficial bacteria that live in our digestive tracts. Learn more about these health-giving bugs under our entry for probiotics.
Citrus fruit contain bioflavonoids. These are antioxidant compounds. Antioxidants protect cells from damaging unstable molecules. What's more, they also strengthen blood vessels and to help repair bruised or damaged tissue. Bioflavonoids also help to support immunity, and to calm responses to allergens.
Also known as B7, biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin that helps breakdown fats, carbohydrates and proteins from food to make energy. It supports healthy nervous system function, and is essential for cell growth. Additionally, it helps to keep blood sugar balanced, and supports digestive enzyme production. Plus it keeps skin, hair and nails strong and healthy.
Black pepper is the dried, unripened peppercorn berry from the Piper nigrum plant. It is the most widespread spice in the world. But it has other benefits, too. Black pepper enhances the absorption of other nutrients in a formulation. This effect is due to the active plant compound within black pepper called piperine. Curcumin, the active plant compound from Turmeric, is one such example of the synergy between black pepper and other nutrients. Curcumin is absorbed poorly by the body. However, research shows that piperine from black pepper increases its absorption when paired together.
New Zealand blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum) is a dark purple, antioxidant-rich berry. Antioxidants are powerful compounds that support the body’s defence against the aging effects of oxidative damage. In this process, unstable molecules known as free radicals cause a chain reaction of negative effects in cells.
Boron is a trace mineral that helps your body to develop and maintain healthy bone tissue. Boron also helps to activate Vitamin D once the body has created it.
Boswellia (Boswellia serrata) has a long history of use in traditional Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine to help ease joint pain and stiffness. It has antiinflammatory properties that make it useful for any conditions that involve either acute or chronic inflammation. Recent scientific evidence is increasingly supporting this effect. In addition, the therapeutic extract is actually the resin from the tree. It was highly prized in ancient times. In fact, its common name is Indian frankincense and it features in the Bible. It was one of the three gifts offered to Jesus at his birth by the Wise Men, symbolising divinity.
The common name for Garcinia combogia. Go to the Garcinia combogia entry for more info!
Calcium is an essential mineral that your body requires (along with vitamin D) for healthy bones and teeth. It also works with vitamin D to maintain healthy blood clotting, and heart and muscle function. On its own, calcium plays a role in transmitting nerve signals, helping muscles to contract, regulating hormones, and maintaining electrolyte balance. Like most minerals, there are a number of different forms that have different benefits and degrees of absorption.
Although choline isn’t strictly speaking a vitamin, it is an essential nutrient. Our bodies can make small quantities of it, but not enough to maintain health. So it must be obtains from the diet. Choline is necessary for making the outer structural wall of our cells. It’s also needed to help nerve transmission and communication between cells. Foods rich in choline include hen egg yolks, wheat germ, organ meats such as liver and other meat.
Chondroitin sulfate is a natural substance that occurs within cartilage. Cartilage also uses chondroitin as a building block for repair. It acts like a sponge to draw water into the joint cartilage. This increases cartilages ability to cushion bones from shocks. Chondroitin also plays a role in blocking the enzymes that cause cartilage to breakdown.
Chromium is a trace mineral. It helps maintain balanced blood sugar and triglyceride levels. Your body uses chromium to make energy from sugar. It helps the hormone insulin work better in the body, too. Plus, it also plays a role in making fatty acids and cholesterol.
Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. But it also naturally contains good levels of the fat-soluble vitamins A and D, unlike other fish oils. Many health issues benefit from Omega 3 fatty acids, such as inflammation and cardiovascular function. The vitamins A and D in cod liver oil supports immune health. Plus, healthy bones need vitamin D too!
Collagen is one of the most abundant protein fibres in the human body. It gives strength and resilience to body tissue. Supplemental collagen provides important nutrients that assist your body's own skin repair processes. It also plays a role in forming strong, healthy hair and nails.
Copper is an essential trace mineral that is vital for health. All body tissue contain some copper, but it is most concentrated in the liver, brain, heart, kidney's and muscle tissue. Copper works with iron, helping with iron absorption and helping iron form red blood cells. It is necessary for making collagen, and without sufficient copper, the body cannot replace damaged connective tissue. It also helps maintain healthy bones, blood vessels, nerves and immune function.
Coenzyme Q10 is a fat-soluble vitamin-like substance. Most cells in the body make use of it. Tissues and organs with the highest energy requirements have high levels of CoQ10, such as the heart. This is because CoQ10 plays an important role in energy production. CoQ10 provides powerful antioxidant protection to help protect our cells from the harmful effects of free radicals. These are unstable molecules which can cause damage to our cells. Our production of this nutrient naturally declines with age. But it can also decline due to a poor diet, illness, exposure to toxins and through the use of certain medications, including statins, beta-blockers and antidepressants. When our natural levels are too low, problems with the heart, fatigue and muscle weakness often occur.
Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpum) are small, bright red, antioxidant-rich berries. Historically, Native Americans used them both as food and medicine. This traditional use included support for urinary tract infections. They contain proanthocyanidins, special plant compounds that can help fight infection-causing bacteria from attaching to the bladder wall thereby helping to maintain a healthy urinary tract and bladder.
Curcumin is the active plant constituent within the root or rhizome of the herb Turmeric. It's one of the parts that has an effect on the body. For more information, see our entry for Turmeric.
See Vitamin E
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) has a long history of use as a digestive and liver tonic. It helps to stimulate bile flow from your liver. Your body needs bile to digest fats, so dandelion may help with nausea or indigestion from fatty foods. Dandelion has also traditionally been used to help with gall bladder problems. Plus, it is full of essential nutrients, containing a wealth of vitamins and minerals. The root also contains a special type of fibre that supports beneficial gut bacteria! So next time you spot that so-called ‘weed’ in your garden, consider the powerful nutritional and medicinal punch dandelion has for your health!
DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid)
See Fish oil
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea, E. angustifolia), also called purple cone flower, is a herb first used by Native American herbalists to fight infections. Today, we understand the powerful immune supporting properties of the herb due to extensive research. This shows that it helps prevent and aid recovery from illness. It is also a useful herb to help heal and clear skin conditions like acne, boils or cold sores.
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid)
See Fish oil
Ester-C® is a patented form of vitamin C that lasts longer in the body than regular vitamin C. It uses a water-based process that combines non-acidic vitamin C with threonic acid. Threonic acid is a metabolite of vitamin C that forms when its broken down in the body. Ester-C® standardises threonic acid as calcium threonate. What's more, researchers have discovered that the calcium threonate is responsible for many of the benefits of Ester-C®. Such as the fact that Ester-C® absorbs twice as fast as regular vitamin C. Plus, it also lasts much longer, up to 24 hours, in the body compared with regular vitamin C.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening Primrose seeds contains high levels of an important Omega 6 fatty acid called gamma linolenic acid (GLA). This is important because our body uses GLA to produce a compound called “prostaglandin E” (PGE1). This compound is responsible for Evening Primrose Oil’s benefits on hormonal balance. Not only that, it also supports breast, skin, respiratory and joint health. Our bodies can create GLA from other fatty acids, but several factors can block our ability to produce it. These include high levels of saturated or trans fats, low nutrient levels, alcohol, aging, and radiation or viral infections.
Europeans discovered this versatile yellow-flowered herb centuries after Native Americans who used it for food and medicine. Today, we use the oil from its seeds for conditions ranging from PMT and menopause through to dry, flaky skin and asthma. Cold-pressing the oil helps to preserve this essential fatty acid.
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a traditional Ayurvedic (Indian) herb. It soothes inflamed mucous membranes of the sinuses, nose and throat. It also supports digestive function, and supports the metabolic system by improving blood sugar and cholesterol balance.
Fish Oil is one of nature’s richest sources of important Omega-3 essential fatty acids. Omega 3 includes EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) fatty acids. They are classed as 'essential' because the body can’t make them itself. The EPA and DHA in fish oil help maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels to support heart and circulatory health. Not only that but research also shows that EPA & DHA can help to reduce inflammation, such as with sore, stiff joints. If that weren't enough, its also supportive of stress, mood and hormonal balance. Our fish oil comes from a mixture of sustainably-harvested small species cold-water fish. It is extensively purity tested for heavy metals, pesticides and other pollutants.
Flaxseed is a rich source of all three fatty acid families: Omegas 3, 6 and 9. Fatty acids are essential nutrients the body needs in much the same way as it needs vitamins and minerals. Flaxseed oil is very rich in alpha linolenic acid (ALA). Our bodies convert ALA into EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), the same fatty acid found in fish oil. EPA supports heart and joint health. It also helps to reduce inflammation. Flaxseed Oil supports normal blood clotting, as well as healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It also helps to nourish and moisturise your hair, skin and nails from the inside. This means it can be especially helpful for dry, flaky skin conditions. Finally, flaxseed oil can help support a healthy liver. Heat can destroy the fatty acids in flaxseed oil, so it is important to ensure that your flaxseed oil supplement is cold pressed oil and never subjected to heat.
Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is one of the essential B vitamins, and found in many foods. Red blood cells, the oxygen carrying cells of the body, need folate for their creation. DNA replication and cell division also requires folate. It supports heart health and mental health. Women of child-bearing age need a high intake of folate if they are planning on becoming pregnant as it’s essential for the development of a baby. Folic acid is the supplemental form of folate, which is more stable and better absorbed. In fact, folic acid has two times the uptake in the gut compared to natural folate. Food preparation and processing can destroy up to 100% of naturally occurring folate as it is very sensitive to light and especially heat.
GLA (gamma linoleic acid)
A fatty acid found in Evening Primrose oil, as well as blackcurrant seed oil, borage oil and hemp seed oil. For more information, see our entry on Evening Primrose oil.
Garcinia cambogia is a fruit native to Indonesia and grown throughout India, Southeast Asia, and some parts of Africa. Also known as Brindleberry, Garcinia has a long history of culinary use. In fact, its a favourite for making into chutneys and for use in curries. Garcinia cambogia extract comes from the peel of its pumpkin-like fruit, which is rich in hydroxycitric acid (HCA). Scientific studies have shown that 1200mg of HCA per day may help support weight management alongside a calorie-controlled diet and exercise programme. HCA interacts with a liver enzyme which converts excess carbohydrates to stored fat. HCA also helps support serotonin levels that supports balanced moods.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is one of the world’s oldest natural remedies. It is also one of the most well researched plants on the planet! It helps many kinds of immune challenges. Not only does it help reduce the risk of getting sick, it also reduces the duration and severity of illness when you are sick. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it's called a ‘hot’ herb that is ideal for chills and conditions with clear mucous. It also comes with a host of other benefits besides the immune system. Garlic supports the cardiovascular system, helping to thin the blood. This makes it move more easily and with less resistance through the circulatory system. It also helps maintain healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
The remarkable Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) tree is one of the oldest tree species alive on earth. It's thought that ginkgo even predates the dinosaurs! What's more, they can live for around 3000 years. It is also one of only a handful of living species to survive a nuclear bomb blast. Ginkgo is well known for supporting the brain, as well as memory. It does this by its action on the circulatory system and improving blood flow. The leaves of ginkgo contain rich amounts of antioxidant nutrients called flavonoids and proanthocyanidins. These nutrients help to maintain circulation through your blood vessels, especially in the extremities – hands, feet, and head. Boosting oxygen and nutrient rich blood to the brain and eyes supports its action in these areas.
Your body produces glucosamine naturally from nutrients it takes in from your diet. It uses this glucosamine as a building block to help repair damaged cartilage. Glucosamine is a source of specific protein-carbohydrate compounds that help to nourish the cartilage tissues in your joints. But as we age, or if we get injured, the body produces lower amounts of natural glucosamine. So, this is where getting supplemental glucosamine can be important. Glucosamine comes from shrimp, prawn or crab shells. In many supplements, glucosamine occurs as 'glucosamine sulfate'. This is where a molecule of glucosamine binds to sulfur, which helps keep the glucosamine stable. Sulfur is also important for the body, particularly our joints. Research supports the use of glucosamine sulfate for joint pain. It can also help to ease joint swelling and inflammation, and may reduce joint stiffness.
L-Glutamine is an amino acid. It has a strong affinity for both the gut and the brain. In fact, it is the only amino acid that can cross the blood-brain barrier! In the brain, glutamine converts to glutamic acid. This is important brain fuel! It also helps to form the neurotransmitter called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA has a calming effect on the brain, body and mood. It is also the preferred fuel source for the cells that line the digestive tract helping to keep them healthy and intact.
Goji berries, also sometimes called wolf berries, are native to China. They belong to the nightshade plant family which also includes potatoes, tomatoes and peppers. They have been used in Asian traditional medicine systems for many centuries. As red coloured berries, they contain the pigment compound anthocyanins which are potent antioxidants. Antioxidants are important because they help to protect against damaging free radicals. These are unstable molecules which cause damage to cells. The antioxidant and nutritional content of Goji supports healthy immune function, as well as the health of eyes and skin.
Grape seeds contain high levels of a plant-based antioxidant flavonoid compound called oligomeric proanthocyanidins, or OPCs. OPCs are important because they scavenge free radicals in the body, which are unstable molecules that cause damage to cells. OPCs found in grape seed support blood vessel walls and assist with circulation throughout the body. They also support the health of our eyes, protecting the delicate cells of our retina from damage.
Guarana (Paullinia cupana) is a small brownish-red berry. It's natural habitat is the Amazon basin. It is naturally high in caffeine, which helps to provide an immediate energy lift. Brazillian Indians traditionally used guarana as a stimulating hot drink to fight fatigue, much like coffee or tea. Today, people often use guarana when they want to stay focused and alert. It's also great when you need help concentrating or an energy boost!
The botanical name for Hops. To learn more, see our entry under Hops.
HCA (hydroxycitric acid)
The active component of the herb Garcinia cambogia. For more information, see our entry Garcinia cambogia.
Hemp seed oil
Hemp seed oil is one of the richest sources of Omega 3, 6 and 9 essential fatty acids (EFAs). We need EFAs to support everyday health and wellbeing. It also contains small amounts of gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and oleic acid, which contribute to its unique makeup. Hemp seed oil is made by cold pressing hemp seeds. The process is similar to how olive oil is made by pressing whole olives. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are vital for health but our bodies can’t make them so we need to get them from the food we eat or from supplements.
Hops (Humulus lupulus) has a long history of use as a tension relieving and sleep-inducing herb. In fact, it combined well with another sedative herb, Valerian. Scientific literature also validates this combination for its effectiveness in supporting sleep. Hops contain plant compounds called flavonoids that have a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These flavonoids also have a role in helping to manage healthy weight, normalize cholesterol levels and balance blood sugar. Hops also benefits menopausal women contending with symptoms associated with menopause.
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is a hot, pungent herb that has a long history of use. It's excellent for relieving mucous congestion associated with respiratory conditions. It also supports the body’s fight against infection and inflammation in the airways. To do this, it breaks up mucous to make it easier to expel. Horseradish also has a history of use in supporting joint discomfort and tissue inflammation.
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is a rich natural source of the organic mineral silica. Organic silica comes from from living plant material. Whereas, inorganic silica comes from non-living material, usually sand. The body absorbs organic silica more easily than than inorganic silica. This is important because skin, hair, nails, and all other connective tissue in the body rely on silica. It helps this tissue maintain its strength and structure. Horsetail is also rich in minerals including potassium and manganese. Plus, it has fifteen different types of flavonoids, which nourish the tissues underlying the skin, and support skin repair.
Iron is necessary to shuttle oxygen around our body to all our cells. Our body uses iron to produce haemoglobin. This is the oxygen-carrying molecule we need for energy. This is why low iron levels can lead to chronic tiredness, difficulty concentrating and low immunity. Our body also uses iron as a building block for creating mood-related neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. So low Iron levels can sometimes affect mood balance. Iron is critically important during pregnancy where the body’s need for essential nutrients increase. Iron supports healthy energy levels throughout pregnancy and is vital for a baby’s normal growth and development.
Iodine is an essential trace mineral our thyroid gland needs. This butterfly shaped gland is located in our neck. The thyroids's job is to regulate how our body functions. This includes regulating our body temperature, our energy levels and a host of other actions. New Zealand soils are low in iodine, so if you don’t eat enough seafood or use iodised salt, you may have low iodine levels. Iodine is important during pregnancy to support mum’s thyroid gland and energy production. It’s also essential for baby’s healthy growth and development, especially for their brain and cognitive abilities.
Inositol is part of the B group family of vitamins but it's not a vitamin per se. Rather, its a vitamin-like nutrient, and is sometimes called Vitamin B8. It’s not an essential vitamin since the body can make it out of glucose. The brain and the heart have the largest concentrations in the body. Inositol is often used to support healthy mood balance and relieve feelings of nervous tension. It is also used to support brain and cardiovascular health.
Isomalt-oligosaccharide is a naturally occurring carbohydrate which is resistant to digestion and thus has a ‘prebiotic’ action in the body. Prebiotics are a special type of plant fibre that the good bacteria in our gut (probiotics) like to eat. This ‘food’ helps the good bacteria to flourish in our digestive tracts, supporting not only digestive health but also healthy immune function too. Prebiotics and probiotics work beneficially together for optimal gut flora balance.
Kelp is a seaweed that is naturally rich in several minerals, but especially in iodine. Our body uses iodine to maintain healthy thyroid gland function and make thyroid hormones. Thus kelp can help support energy, healthy weight and fluid levels, immunity and general wellbeing. New Zealand soils are particularly low in iodine, so unless you use Iodised salt, your diet may be lacking in this mineral. Kelp is also rich in several other minerals that can keep your skin, hair and nails strong and healthy. Kelp also contains compounds called “alginates”, which can absorb a high volume of water. This means they can act as a natural bulking laxative, which may assist with a sluggish bowel.
The skins of kiwifruit have a high concentration of vitamins C and E, powerful antioxidants that help to protect it from free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules that cause havoc throughout the body and contribute to aging. Like any fruit or vegetable, the skin contains a good proportion of the fruit’s nutrients and kiwifruit are no exception. The skin provides a great source of fibre, as well as a multitude of vitamins and minerals. The antioxidant properties of kiwifruit skin help to support our own skin health especially in regards to aging.
Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) is native to the mountain forests of Korea and China. In fact, the traditional medicine systems of China and Korea has used Korean ginseng for thousands of years. The herb has a long tradition of use as an energy enhancer, as well as supporting immunity and acting as an aphrodisiac. Today, we know Korean ginseng best for supporting the body’s ability to cope or adapt to stress. It assists in maintaining balance in the adrenal glands. Plus, it support the immune system, and helps to maintain healthy nervous system function.
Research has shown that Korean ginseng helps to increase vitality, support immunity and enhance physical and mental performance. Korean ginseng is stimulating. Thus, it is best taken for short periods of time with a break rather than long-term consecutive use.
Lecithin is a compound that allows fats to emulsify or mix with water. It naturally exists in every cell in your body, and is important for a healthy liver. It contains an important type of fat molecule called phospholipids which is what forms the membrane of all cells. Because lecithin makes fats more soluble, it may help to support healthy cholesterol levels. It could also prevent an unhealthy build-up in arteries and other organs. It’s thought that low lecithin levels in bile fluid may be part of the reason why gallstones form. In the body, lecithin breaks down into a substance called choline, which is vital for many important functions. See our entry for choline for more information.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a member of the mint family. It has a calming effect on the body. It not only supports restful calm but also assists with clarity and focus. It's excellent for those who have a busy mind or are ‘tired but wired’. In herbal medicine, lemon balm is known as a ‘calminative’. This is the group of herbs that provide soothing relief for the digestive system and also the nervous system too. The ultimate gut-brain herb! Lemon balm supports an overactive thyroid, and topically, it is also useful for viral conditions like cold sores.
Lutein is a carotenoid, a yellow-coloured plant pigment. In fact, this pigment is what gives fruits and vegetables a yellow, orange or red colour. It is important because of its potent antioxidant activity. You can find it in foods like egg yolks, sweet corn and, funnily-enough, even some dark leafy greens like spinach and kale! For commercial use in making supplements, however, it is more commonly extracted from the petals of marigold flowers. Lutein supports healthy vision. It also helps to maintain a healthy macula. This is the small, sensitive region at the back of the retina that is responsible for the central visual field.
Magnesium has hundreds of uses in the body – it is essential for life and health. Often called the ‘relaxation mineral’, magnesium is best known to support nervous system relation and emotional balance. If you are under stress, magnesium is your go-to mineral. But it’s not only nervous tension that magnesium helps, it also supports muscle tension and spasms. Magnesium helps balance calcium in the body. It helps with its absorption from the diet and is thus essential for healthy bones and teeth. It also keeps calcium soluble to prevent stone formation. Diets high in sugar, coffee, fat and alcohol can deplete your magnesium levels. What’s more, excessive exercise, dehydration and stress all increase your requirements for magnesium. There are different forms of magnesium with different degrees of absorption but all have a benefit in the body to keep it healthy.
Manganese is needed for the production of blood. Our bodies also use it to break down fats and carbohydrates. It’s also needed to make certain hormones, such as sex hormones. It's also needed to make thyroid hormone, which helps to regulate weight and energy levels.
Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) is a wonderful herb for soothing irritation. It contains gel-forming substances that coat the membrane lining of the nose, throat, sinuses and digestive tract. This is important because the coating provides a protective barrier to help nourish the tissue beneath. It also prevents allergens and other substances from irritating or inflaming this delicate tissue
The botanical name for lemon balm. For more about this helpful herb, see our entry under lemon balm.
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum), also commonly called St Mary’s thistle, is a powerful and well research liver-protecting herb. It provides a potent antioxidant compound called silybin. Silybin helps to prevent free radical damage in your liver cells, and is one of the most effective liver-protecting compounds that scientists know about. It also helps to increase the amount of glutathione – an important protective amino acid – in your liver. Plus, it helps to prevent your liver from forming substances that can lead to inflammation. Finally, Silybin may help to protect your liver cells against damage from alcohol or other chemicals. Other compounds in Milk Thistle stimulate your liver to produce new cells. These replace old damaged cells, improving your overall liver function.
Also known as vitamin B3. See our entry under B3 for more information.
See individual entries for cod liver oil, evening primrose oil, fish oil, flaxseed oil and hemp seed oil.
See our entry under Blackcurrant for more information.
The olive tree (Olea europaea) is one of the oldest known cultivated tree species in the world. Its use dates back to antiquity. But its still widely used today, most commonly for its fruit crop of olives and its oil. The leaf is also important, used for its medicinal compounds. Olive leaf contains a natural compound called oleuropein, which is the active factor that supports immunity. It has been widely studied for its benefits for both the cardiovascular system, as well as its immune properties. In fact, it does double duty to naturally support immune function against colds and other common viral infections as well as supporting a healthy heart and blood pressure levels.
The botanical name for Korean ginseng. For more information, see our entry under Korean ginseng.
For more information see our entry under B5.
Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) is a gentle relaxation and sleep-promoting herb. Traditionally, it supported those who had physical symptoms associated with a psychological or emotional component. This could include, for instance, an upset tummy due to worry, stress or nervous tension. Or perhaps someone suffering from emotional and physical shock, for example. So, it's ideal for anyone who has difficulty sleeping, is restless, or tense or under stress.
The active component of Black pepper. See our entry under Black pepper for more.
Potassium is important for healthy muscles, both skeletal muscle and the heart, plus kidney function and the nervous system. It balance sodium in the body and is our most abundant electrolyte. Potassium supports healthy blood pressure and cardiovascular health, bone and muscle strength and supports health acid-alkaline balance in the body. Too little potassium can lead to fatigue, weakness and constipation. We need at least 100mg of it per day to support key body functions, but global guidelines recommend we need much higher levels to promote optimal health. Sadly, in the majority of cases, the typical western diet doesn’t support our daily needs for potassium.
Prebiotics are the food that fuels our beneficial gut bacteria. It usually comes in the form of indigestible fibre which often takes the form of many-chained sugar molecules. Fibre is essential for good gut health, so getting much more of it in our daily diet will benefit us. Not only will our healthy gut bacteria thrive and flourish, promoting health; we will also support healthy weight management.
Probiotic bacteria are friendly bacteria that live inside us. And they play an important role in supporting our immune and digestive health. In fact, trillions of them from over 500 species live in the human digestive system. Most of these are located in the large intestines. Probiotics support digestion by helping the body absorb a full range of nutrients. They also help to support normal bowel function, and produce some of the B vitamins we need for health too. Probiotics can support our immune function too. Some do this by using up the nutrients and resources that harmful bacteria need. Others produce compounds that support a healthy bacterial & yeast balance.
See the entry for B6 for more information.
See our entry for B2 for more information.
Selenium is another trace mineral that acts as a powerful natural antioxidant protecting the body from free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules that cause havoc in the body and contribute to aging. Selenium is also a necessary nutrient to support glutathione activity, the body’s own ‘master antioxidant’. Thyroid hormone production, healthy fertility and reproduction and our immune systems all need selenium. Our skin also needs selenium to help maintain its elasticity, and to heal cuts, wounds and common skin conditions. Plus, selenium supports the formation of healthy bone. New Zealand soils are low in selenium, so it is hard to get your recommended selenium intake through diet alone.
Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is a wonderful herb that supports the body during times of stress. It is not a true ‘ginseng’ of the Panax variety, such as Korean ginseng, but it shares similar properties. It helps the body adapt better to both physical and mental stress. So, it's ideal to use when you are under pressure or overwhelmed to keep your performance on par. But it is also useful for supporting the body’s resilience and recovery when fighting physical stressors such as an illness. Research also confirms Siberian ginseng’s role in supporting vitality, healthy immunity and improved physical performance. Interestingly, it has traditionally been used as an aphrodisiac by promoting energy and vigour.
Skullcap (Scutelleria lateriflora) is a member of the mint family. It has relaxing properties making it suitable for any states involving nervousness, restlessness, irritability and tension, including muscle tension and spasms. This muscle relaxation property makes it suitable also for headaches, menstrual discomfort and involuntary tremors. It promotes calmness and relaxation, and supports restful sleep. As a nervous system tonic, it helps to renew and revive the body. It’s particularly useful for those suffering from stress, exhaustion or shock, such as following a bereavement.
Sodium ascorbate is a ‘buffered’ form of ascorbic acid, aka vitamin C. Thus, sodium molecules attach to ascorbic acid which helps to reduce its acidity. This is important because it’s easier on the stomach for those who are sensitive to regular ascorbic acid. For more on vitamin C, check out our entry under Vitamin C.
Spirulina is a blue-green algae, and provides a complete, vegetarian-friendly source of all the essential amino acids. In fact, each serve contains 65% protein! It’s an excellent source of iron too – it’s ten times richer in iron than spinach. It is also a great source of B vitamins. So, combined with its high iron content, it can be useful for fatigue or when we’re run down. Like other blue-green algae species, spirulina helps to naturally detoxify and cleanse the body. Some research has also shown that spirulina may help to balance the way your body processes fat and cholesterol.
St John's wort
The ancient Greeks were some of the first to use St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum). Indeed, they saw it helped to 'rid the body of evil spirits'. In fact, one of its common names is ‘devil’s scourge’. But while we know now that mood disorders aren't a sign of being 'possessed buy the devil', we are aware of the heavy toll depression can have. St John’s wort has been extensively studied for its use in this regard. Research repeatedly shows it to be useful in supporting mood imbalances. St John’s wort interacts with neurotransmitters and enzymes in the brain. This helps promote a better balance of ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters which results in improved mood and outlook.
Taurine is a special amino acid with many uses in the body. Most amino acids are building blocks for making proteins. But not taurine - it’s important for other reasons. Such as, supporting detoxification processes in the liver and helping make neurotransmitters in the brain. It helps to form bile acids. It is essential for healthy heart and cardiovascular function, and supports nerve function and growth. Taurine also supports muscle energy and recovery from exercise, as well as improving athletic performance.
See our entry for B1.
Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris), sometimes known as Bindii, has a long history of use as an aphrodisiac. However, it is probably best known for its effect on sexual and reproductive function. Research demonstrates its beneficial effect on sexual function, including libido, in both men and women. Not only that, but it also supports sperm production and quality in men. And in post-menopausal women, it helps supports sexual response. But it has other benefits as well. In traditional Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine, it supports kidney health. It has also shown supporting activity for cardiovascular function. Additionally, tribulus supports energy levels and stamina, and may also be useful in supporting muscle growth and development.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) belongs to the ginger family. It’s commonly used as a spice in Indian, Chinese & Middle Eastern cuisine. In traditional medicine, its used to support digestive, liver and intestinal health. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory so it’s useful for supporting joint health, comfort and mobility. Not only that, turmeric also aids digestive health especially to come inflammation in the GI tract. Curcumin is turmeric's active ingredient. This is what helps provide its anti-inflammatory action. But, on its own, turmeric doesn't absorb well because its large molecules can't pass easily into the blood stream. Using black pepper, or its component called piperine, makes turmeric more easily absorbed. Encapsulating turmeric or its active curcumin into a fatty acid sphere called a phospholipid also improves absorption.
L-Tyrosine is an amino acid. The body uses it to make several hormones, including those involved in the 'fight or flight' (or stress) response. Together with several vitamins and minerals, tyrosine helps make dopamine, noradrenalin and adrenalin – our ‘fight or flight’ hormones. It also helps make thyroid hormone which supports our ‘metabolic rate’. This is the measure of how quickly or slowly our bodies convert food into energy for our body’s use. Tyrosine also has antioxidant properties that protect cells from damage.
A form of CoQ10. See our entry CoQ10 for more information.
Valerian (Valerian officinalis) is a natural sedative herb that helps the body relax and fall asleep. It’s useful during times of stress, nervousness and over-excitement. In times gone by, its uses included sleeplessness, nervousness, trembling, palpitations and headaches. But now, it is most common use is supporting restful sleep. It does this by increasing levels of the calming, sleep-promoting neurotransmitter GABA. GABA also helps reduce feelings of nervousness and anxiety. Additionally, valerian also supports muscle relaxation and cramps. Therefore, it can be helpful for women experiencing PMS as well as supporting post-menopausal women experiencing hot flushes.
Your body uses Vitamin A to help form collagen, a key protein in our skin, nails and hair. Beta-carotene is a natural plant compound that our bodies convert into Vitamin A as needed. This is important so we avoid storing too much Vitamin A. Vitamin A supports normal growth and development, plus healthy vision, bones, hair, teeth and gums. Vitamin A also helps to maintain our natural immunity against coughs, colds and other common respiratory infections.
Vitamin C is the ‘immunity vitamin’. It helps the body build resistance to common infections, and can help to reduce our recovery time. Our white blood cells, part of our immune system, need Vitamin C to function normally and fight off infections. But it’s not just our immune system that needs vitamin C. Our adrenal glands, involved in the stress response, use a tremendous amount of vitamin C. Any stressful situation, which includes physical stressors as well as mental ones, means we need more vitamin C. A physical stressor could be a sudden change in temperature, an illness or exposure to toxicity.
In fact, our whole body needs vitamin C. It’s a critical component of collagen, the protein that gives body tissue structure and strength. Such as skin, ligaments, tendons, bones and teeth. Vitamin C is essential for wound healing and recovery from surgery or injury. If that weren’t enough, vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that protects our cells from injury. It also helps us absorb iron which is needed to transport oxygen around the body in our blood and supports our immunity.
Vitamin D is not only a vitamin, in our body it also acts like a hormone. It’s needed for healthy immunity, as well as strong teeth and bones. In fact, vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, and also helps move it to the bones and not soft tissue like arteries where it can be damaging. There are two major forms of vitamin D. D2 is the plant-based form found in mushrooms. It needs to be converted to the active form of D3 for use in the body. Animal foods contain the active form, D3 and this is also the form we make in our skin from exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is especially important as we get older as it supports heart and muscle health. Low levels of vitamin D in the body is associated with poor health outcomes long-term.
Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin. It acts as a natural antioxidant to protect our cells from free radical damage and early aging. This can help with healing skin, and support immune system health. Vitamin E also works with selenium to create a powerful antioxidant called glutathione. This is known as our body’s “master antioxidant”. Glutathione is important for healthy immunity and healthy bone density.
We need to constantly replenish our vitamin E levels from our diet because the body uses it up so quickly.It supports heart health, maintaining health blood consistency and flow, and strengthening blood vessels. The body also uses Vitamin E to produce reproductive hormones. Thus, it can help hormonal imbalance such as occurs in PMT, menopause, or other menstrual problems. Finally, vitamin E also helps to protect skin cell membranes, nourish dry skin, and may help to prevent raised scar tissue from forming.
The botanical name of the adaptogenic herb Ashwagandha. For more information, see our entry Ashwagandha.
Hundreds of processes throughout the body rely on zinc. It necessary for the absorption and use of B complex vitamins. Together with vitamin A, it helps form collagen, a key fibrous protein that gives strength to skin, nails and hair. Zinc is crucial for building a strong immune system. It’s also necessary for the reproductive health of both men and women. In men, its needed for healthy sperm production and a healthy prostate gland. Low levels of zinc in men has been associated with prostate enlargement. For women, it supports cervical health and is fundamental for a healthy pregnancy and breastfeeding. It protects a mothers healthy during pregnancy and also supports the growth and development of the baby.