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Iris Newsletter – Late Winter Issue

Welcome to Iris Herbal’s quarterly newsletter!

After a several year hiatus, it’s time to start sharing Iris news as well as information on some of the most important research that’s being done regarding herbs, mushrooms, nutritional supplements and holistic nutrition. References include print trade and professional journals as well as on-line newsletters and data-bases. Please feel free to call (toll-free: 1-877-286-2970) or email us with suggestions about content.

Iris News

On the internet almost 10 years and finally Iris has a shopping cart! Please pass the word to your email lists. Now anyone (in the US) can shop online at Iris Herbal any time.

I continue to improve the quality of the essential oils Iris offers, both in regards to the oils themselves as well as the companies/growers/harvesters I purchase from. Almost all the oils are now certified organic, ethically wildcrafted or unsprayed (which often means they are uncertified organic). More of them are coming from co-ops, NGO projects and other fair trade type venues.

New products

For the past 4 years I’ve been developing whole plant synergies: a melding of the essential oil and aromatic hydrosol ­ the two liquid constituents resulting from plant distillation of the same herb or flower. The aromas are extraordinary and the synergies, packaged in amber spray bottles, are easy to use. Besides the 26 single and related species and 3 blends, you can also have me create your own synergy based upon your personal needs and favorite aromas.

Essential oil review

Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) is an essential oil distilled from the aged wood of an aromatic tree growing in the coastal dry forests of Ecuador. The name means “holy or sacred” wood or tree, as Palo Santo is very important in traditional ethno-botanical medicine in South America, and is even distantly related to Frankincense. Analysis of the oil indicates a medicinally active array of chemical constituents useful for dealing with anxiety and panic attacks, most respiratory issues, as well as pain and inflammation.

Energetically it can be employed to help quiet the mind and for an aid in any creative endeavor. Although Palo Santo has been seriously over-harvested throughout its range in South America, this oil comes from a distiller in Ecuador that not only very carefully ecologically harvests only dead wood, but also does extensive research and actual preservation of the Palo Santo forests.

Medicinal mushrooms update

One of the better known names in the mushroom field has a company that sells liquid medicinal mushrooms both in 1 oz. retail bottles and in bulk, and they are very expensive. A few years ago I purchased gallons of four of these mushrooms for sale both individually and as blends with other tonic herbs.

When I went to repurchase the first mushroom I’d run out of, they were out of stock. As I was looking into buying from some other company, I noticed that no one else was offering liquid mushrooms, only the powdered extract. That began my education into the science of mushroom extraction. Medicinal mushrooms are primarily only effective when both hot water/alcohol extracted (necessary to break down the chitinous cellular structure) and then low­temperature dried (to remove excess water content) and standardized as to their active constituents (to guarantee an adequate dosage of active mushroom). This is the form in which they have been used for most of the cancer studies. Maitake can also come in a liquid that is both highly concentrated and medically useful, and Cordyceps can be used for tonification in liquid form.

This is why I no longer offer liquid medicinal mushrooms or their blends on my site. If you are interested in purchasing these valuable allies, please visit for excellent research and information, and then call me (toll-free: 877-286-2970) for how to buy their products at a deep discount from Iris.

Health alert: Are you currently on statin drugs?

If so, or if your primary care physician is advocating that you start as a way to lower your cholesterol, please read this first. {Also you may want to check out an article on cholesterol on my website}. Beside the fact that the side effects can include muscle pain and weakness and sometimes severe memory loss (two issues we’re often already dealing with as we age), the use of statin drugs, which aren’t cheap, may not be all that beneficial.

There is an excellent well-researched article, “The Cholesterol Con,” by Maggie Mahar, Health Beat, that was posted on Here are the highlights: Dr. Abramson (clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School) has this to say about statin use:

“Statins show a clear benefit for one group. People under 65 who have already had a heart attack or who have diabetes. There is no evidence of any benefit for women who don’t already have heart disease or diabetes.

”According to a 2004 article published in The Journal of the American Medical Association which reviewed all trials in which women with high cholesterol had been randomly assigned to take a cholesterol-lowering drug or a placebo, there was no evidence that statins prolonged women’s lives or cut their chances of dying from heart disease. (emphasis mine)

Finally, and this may surprise you, it turns out that we don’t have any clear evidence that statins help folks with heart disease and/or diabetes by lowering their cholesterol. It’s true that the statins do lower cholesterol levels; however, many researchers are no longer convinced that this is what helps people avoid a second heart attack. Instead, it is very probable that statins work by reducing inflammation! In other words, these very expensive drugs may be doing what a daily aspirin can do (or, if you are wanting to avoid NSAIDS, what herbal anti-inflammatories might help do).

Research: Focus on inflammation

Inflammation, the redness, heat, swelling and pain that comes with most infections and injuries, is an important part of the normal healing process. When inflammation becomes chronic, however, we can experience problems in many different systems of our bodies, including impaired immunity and insulin resistance, which can then increase the risk for arthritis, cancer, osteoporosis and stroke. Heart disease, still our number one cause of mortality, turns out to be exacerbated by both vessel wall and systemic inflammation.

Some common warning signs of chronic inflammation include: joint pain, fatigue, insomnia, frequent sore throats and colds, chronic illness, fluid retention, and a waist measurement that is the same or larger than ones hips (sometimes called an “apple” shape). Since these symptoms can sometimes be vague, the best test (if you find allopathic diagnostics helpful) is hs-CRP or high-sensitivity C-reactive protein. Be aware that test results can be affected by the use of over-the-counter pain killers, hormone therapy and recent infection.

What can we do about alleviating chronic low-level inflammation? Fortunately we have four avenues of nutritional intervention that can be helpful and fairly easy to implement: food groups to avoid, food allies, helpful herbs and promising supplements.

Let’s start with food, and no, this is not another “new diet.”

What many research scientists and holistic nutritionists have come to understand is that we humans are healthiest when we eat foods we have co-evolved with. Originally this included fish and crustaceans, wild game, insects and grubs, nuts and seeds, eggs, wild fruits and vegetables (including seaweed), mushrooms and pure water. Around 10,000 years ago with the advent of animal domestication and agriculture, we added domestic meat and eggs, dairy products, whole grains and beans, an increased assortment of more readily available fruits and vegetables, and alcoholic beverages. Most traditional cultures on all the inhabited continents ate a significant portion of their diet raw and/or fermented. Saturated fats and high calorie meals weren’t a problem because our ancestors did a lot of physical labor.

So what are the really problematic foods and what can we substitute for them?

Trans and damaged fats: lots has been in the news lately about the evils of hydrogenation, but what most folks haven’t heard is that the high heating of liquid vegetable oils is also not healthy. French fries cooked in lard actually turn out to be slightly better for you than those cooked in soybean oil! (and neither is an ideal way to eat potatoes). If you like to fry, try using ghee (a traditional Ayurvedic Indian clarified butter) or coconut oil (great source of lauric acid) and do so in moderation. For salads, yes, extra virgin olive oil has many studies proving its worth. However, not so many folks have heard about or experienced the joy of real, old-fashioned raw butter on your cooked veggies and freshly baked bread. Because raw butter contains all its enzymes, many people who have trouble digesting fats find they can handle a moderate amount of raw butter, the eating of which enables us to feel a type of satiation that is often absent from low-fat diets, and can result in the over-eating of carbohydrates.

Too many omega-6 fatty acids: good health is not about eliminating omega-6’s (naturally occurring in all meat, dairy products, eggs, most vegetable oils and most seeds and nuts) but rather in balancing their intake with omega-3 fatty acids (naturally found in flaxseed and oil, navy and kidney beans, walnuts, green leafy vegetables, eggs from chickens fed flax, meat from animals exclusively grass-fed, and fish, especially fatty deep-ocean species). The ideal ratio of 6’s to 3’s is 3 to 1. The standard American diet gives us a ratio more like 20 to 1, and much of that is because our meat is corn and soybean fed and corn and soybean oil is ubiquitous in processed foods. Too many omega-6’s in the diet change the body’s metabolic processes, creating lots of inflammatory chemicals. Best bets for moving that ratio out of the “red zone” are to eat more of the foods high in omega-3’s, and cutting down (or eliminating if you have chronic disease) on the packaged processed foods.

Processed sugar and all synthetic sugar substitutes: sugar can lead to insulin resistance and synthetics can act as toxins in the blood stream (both of themselves and their metabolites), both of which lead to systemic inflammation. Much interesting research seems to suggest that the synthetics, far from being “diet” (despite less calories), can actually increase one’s weight! The combination of chemical additives (often going by the innocuous name of “flavorings”) and synthetic sweeteners can set up a chemically-based addiction (remember the ad, bet you can’t eat just one!). It’s called junk food for the reason that the calories are empty of nutritional value, and tend to make a person eat more food in seeking satiation. Better substitutes are moderate amounts of raw honey (with its delicate enzymes intact), unprocessed cane sugar (with its mineral content), stevia (an herb that is sweeter than sugar), agave nectar (tolerated by some who are sensitive to sweeteners), and dried and fresh fruit. Diabetics will have to be careful to choose fruits low in glycemic value so as not to increase their blood sugar too quickly.

More inflammation fighters to add to your diet:

Every food that is intensely colored: go for the rainbow in meals
5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily: accomplish this by eating fruit as snacks (with walnuts), fruits and yogurt as dessert, using carrot and celery sticks instead of crackers with dips and adding salads to both lunch and dinner. Interestingly, the latest research suggests that blood sugar levels and weight issues may be better addressed by eating what we normally eat for dinner at breakfast, eating a slightly smaller meal for lunch, and by eating a supper that is much lighter, with no snacking before bed.
Fiber and more fiber: found in beans, grains, vegetables and fruits
Helpful herbs to reduce inflammation: Common culinary herbs and spices: chives (and all the onion family, esp. garlic), basil, rosemary and parsley, cayenne, turmeric, ginger and cinnamon­all enhance the flavors of food while imparting anti-inflammatory properties.
Medicinal herbs: Willow bark (natural aspirin), Ginger and Turmeric as standardized extracts, Devil’s Claw and Cat’s Claw.

Nutritional supplement companies, many borrowing from both traditional Chinese and Indian pharmacopias, have come out with combinations of herbs that address inflammation, both arthritic and systemic.

Nutritional supplements that fight inflammation:

bioflavonoids, especially quercetin and bromelain
plant and animal enzymes (taken between meals)
flax, borage, red currant, fish and cod liver oils

Supplement Buying Club

For over ten years I’ve offered a variety of very high quality nutritional supplements at deeply discounted prices to friends, family and a few dozen mail order customers. There are currently several openings for folks to join who use supplements and want to improve the quality of what they’re taking and probably save money as well.

It costs nothing to join; “members” are called once a month to see if they want to order anything. After joining, you receive a free short consultation to determine if what the companies I purchase from offer what you want at an acceptable price. There are no minimums and you can stop participating at any time.

Companies curently represented on a monthly basis: Enyzmedica, Mushroom Science, New Chapter, Pure Encapsulations and Vitamin Research. On a bi-monthly basis: Garden of Life and MegaFood. If you already purchase from any of these companies you my find that Iris can save you money, as I strive to make available “the best at a bargain.”

Thank you for joining me in exploring avenues to better health and well-being. Feedback and questions are always welcome.

Many blessings, Cathy Hope

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