Nutritional Philosophy – Dr. Lindsey’s Rainforest Remedies
An introduction to some little-known (but largely efficacious!) plant therapies from the Amazon rain forest
GUARANA: NATURAL ENERGY BOOSTER
History: Native to the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, particularly the areas of Manaus and Paratins, the Guaraná is a shrub that grows up to 12 meters high and produces a small, round, red fruit that grows in clusters. As it ripens, the fruit splits and the seed emerges, giving it the appearance of an eye, which is the source of many indigenous legends.
South American tribes, especially the Guaranis (which is where the name comes from), have used this plant since long before Brazil was even discovered. The seeds were dry roasted and then mixed with water to treat various illnesses and suppress appetite during fasting. Across the rainforest, Guaraná has been used to boost energy, endurance and stamina in order to work longer, harder days. It has also been used as a pain reliever, astringent, stimulant and tonic for the treatment of diarrhea, hypertension, fever, migraine, neuralgia and dysentery.
Today this seed is used across Brazil and in some U.S. products to boost energy, support mental acuity, fight fatigue and increase stamina and physical endurance.
Healing Elements: Guaraná seeds are the richest natural source of caffeine, containing up to 8% caffeine, which is about 2.5 times the amount of caffeine found in coffee. It also contains theophylline and theobromine. The seeds also contain large quantities of alkaloids, tannins, flavonoids, terpenes, starch, resinous substances, and saponins.
The xanthine alkaloids (caffeine, theophylline, theobromine) are believed to contribute to Guaraná’s therapeutic activity. In clinical studies, theophylline stimulates the central nervous system and heart, alleviates fatigue and increases alertness. It also stimulates diuretic action and alleviates constriction of the bronchials, making it helpful for asthma. Theobromine counters the over-stimulating effect of caffeine, which makes it ideal for long-term use to boost energy. Traditional uses of the guaraná are likely explained by its caffeine content and the “feel good” effect of theobromine.
How can I get Guarana in the United States? You can get Guaraná in a powder, tincture or capsule form; it is also the main ingredient in many energy drinks and supplements currently on the market. However, you have to be very careful to read the label on the energy products you are consuming. Many companies use sugars or artificial sugars to give you an energy “high”, but these products can be doing more harm than good because with a sugar high, comes the subsequent crash. If you need a kick start to the day or a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, Dr. Lindsey recommends an energy shot with Guaraná that is naturally sweetened and properly balanced. This will give you sustained energy and none of the nasty side effects. You will also feel the effects of a liquid shot faster (3 minutes) than a supplement because your body will absorb it faster. Genesis Today’s Pure Energy Organic Energy Shot are the perfect example of a product that utilizes Guaraná as a natural stimulant, and provides the additional nutritional balance needed to support an healthy energy boost.
GRAVIOLA: IMMUNE BOOSTER
History: Graviola, also known as Brazilian Paw Paw, is an evergreen tree that is indigenous to the warmest tropical areas of South and North America, particularly the Amazon rainforest. It grows to be 5 to 6 meters high and produces glossy, large, dark green leaves and a heart-shaped edible fruit that is about 15 – 18 centimeters in diameter. The fruit is greenish-yellow on the outside, white flesh on the inside and you can find it in local markets all across the tropics. However, the most therapeutic parts of the tree are the leaves, bark, roots and seeds, which have been used by the indigenous peoples of the Amazon to treat various illnesses for thousands of years.
Healing Elements: Graviola is a natural immune booster, which has traditionally been used to kill parasites, ameliorate liver problems, reduce fevers and treat cold and flu. Scientists have studied Graviola since the 1940s and most research has been centered around Annonaceous acetogenins, a group of natural compounds which Graviola produces in its leaf, stem, bark and fruit seeds. Multiple studies have confirmed that these compounds have antitumorous properties—meaning they fight various types of cancer cells—and thus are great support to the immune system.
Annonaceous acetogenins are only in the Annonaceae family, which is the family that the Graviola belongs to. In addition to the antitumorous properties, these elements are known for their anti-parasitic, insecticidal, and antimicrobial capabilities. Purdue University has conducted significant research on acetogenins funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and The National Cancer Institute. These studies have resulted in at least nine patents on the results around the antitumorous and insecticidal uses of these acetogenins.
How can I get Graviola in the United States? Graviola extract is most commonly sold in U.S. health foods stores in tincture, powder or capsule form. You can also drink your Graviola, as many stores sell Graviola tea bags or Graviola powder, which can be brewed into a tea. Dr. Lindsey’s favorite way to consume Graviola is by mixing it into a shake with other herbs and juices.
ACAI BERRY: AGE FIGHTER
History: Acai is actually a type of palm tree that grows over 15 meters in height. Native to the Amazon rainforest region, Acai is particularly prevalent in the Brazilian state of Pará.
Brazilian natives discovered the healing properties of the Acai berry early on, as they found they’d feel more energized when they ate Acai regularly. Because of its extraordinarily high nutritional value, tribes also used Acai to treat various ailments and support a quick recovery. Today, the most common form of Acai is the juice, which Amazon inhabitants make by macerating the ripe berry—seeds, stems and all!
Many Brazilians refer to locally made Acai berry juice as “poor man’s juice” because it’s so readily available. The Acai berry is even said to have sustained natives of the Amazon during times of famine because of its extremely high nutrient content, unlike any other on earth.
Among many other benefits, Acai has antioxidants which fight aging and promote a healthy appearance. The aesthetic benefits of Acai include healthy hair, strong finger nails and clear skin; the internal nutrient profile of Acai is what produces the benefits which manifest on the outside of the human body!
An Acai berry has more grams of protein than an egg (!), and it contains Omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, which improve the look and texture of your hair, skin and nails. Brazil is said to have an incredibly beautiful population, and research is beginning to attribute this to high levels of Acai berry consumption in Brazilian culture for thousands of years.
Healing Elements: There is a particular antioxidant in Acai called anthocyanin, which is the driving force behind Acai’s free-radical and age-fighting powers. It’s common in fruits with rich red and purple colors, like grapes and berries, but Acai has far more than any other food.
Its reputation as a “beauty berry” comes from a combination of the antioxidants (like anthocyanin), amino acids and omega fatty acids (healthy fats) which all help slow the aging process by boosting immune and metabolic function. They also support great skin, hair and nails. Acai has all the vitamins and minerals of most fruits, but also has unique plant chemical compounds like epicatechin, which studies show supports healthy heart and brain function.
How can I get Acai in the United States? Acai is the most readily available of these rainforest remedies in the U.S, but you have to be mindful of what type of Acai products you’re buying. Many Acai-based juices have added sugar and very little pure Acai. Dr. Lindsey suggests option for a liquid form of Acai, like Genesis Today Acai100, which is 100% pure—just like Brazilians drink it. Genesis Today also makes Acai Berry Juice, which is ready-to-drink and delicious.
CAT’S CLAW: PAIN FIGHTER
History: The Cat’s Claw, which is known locally in South America as the “uña de gato” is a powerful, woody vine that gets its name from the claw-like thorns that grow on the vine. The plant is very strong and resilient; it’s this type of plant—with the ability to fight with and dominate other plant species—that gives it exceptional healing capabilities. The “laws of the jungle” definitely apply here, as Cat’s Claw has the same properties when fighting pain in the human body as it does when fighting for dominance in the jungle.
Indigenous to the Amazon rainforest, the vine can reach over 30 meters high up into the rainforest canopy. The Cat’s Claw has been used medicinally by multiple indigenous tribes for thousands of years, with the earliest written documentation taking place about 2,000 years ago by the Ashaninka Indian tribe in Peru. This tribe remains the largest commercial source of Cat’s Claw in Peru today.
The Ashaninka use the plant to treat arthritis and bone pain, cure deep wounds, control inflammation and temper gastric ulcers. Because it has been relied upon for so long to treat pain and inflammation, Cat’s Claw is traditionally said to “normalize the body.”
Healing Elements: Cat’s Claw has several medicinal compounds that account for its many uses. One of the most studied is a group of chemicals called quinovic acid glycosides that have been documented for their anti-inflammatory and antiviral actions. Additionally, antioxidant chemicals (catechins, procyanidins and tannins) as well as plant sterols (campesterol, stigmasterol and beta-sitosterol) account for the plant’s anti-inflammatory properties. A group of compounds known as carboxyl alkyl esters has been documented with immunostimulant, anti-inflammatory, anticancerous, and cell-repairing properties.
How can I get Cat’s Claw in the United States? Cat’s Claw is native to the Amazon, but it also grows in the U.S., and it has been known to takeover gardens because of its aggressive growth. You can find dried Cat’s Claw vine in the raw at herb shops, or you can buy it in a tincture or capsule supplement form in health food stores.