Walking through a health food store can sometimes be overwhelming, there are so many different kinds of vitamins and herbs that promise health and healing. Most of you know that I'm attending acupuncture school, where we're also learning about different herbals companies. One in particular offers a bit more than just your run of the mill herb and I wanted to tell you about it. Its called Gaia Herbs and I came across it in the health food shop, it looked like all the rest, except for its green bottle. I've since researched and found that putting vitamins and herbs in green bottles prevents vitamins and herbs from going "stale" and losing some of their effectiveness! So thats one plus for Gaia:) Gaia herbs began in 1986 and has their herbs grown organically on 250 acres of farmland in North Carolina along with 49 other crops, such as Valerian, Nettle and Hawthorn. Yes you read that right, they are all organic! And as herbs go, organic is the best quality out there. Even the facility where the herbs are processed is healthy, created using Vedic Architecture, made with non-toxic construction materials using principles in harmony with nature. Within their facility is a Research Lab that uses industry standard methods to validate the whole purity, strength and efficacy of every batch. Scientists in their facility also screen every finished product microbial contamination and heavy metals. The final herbal product that Gaia Herb's harvests actually ends up yielding bio-activities of major active constituents in a range 2-10 times higher than the same crops harvested from other soils, which is a good thing! That means you'll need less echinecea tea for the same immune building effects or less hawthorn tea to lower blood pressure, which means buying these products actually saves you money too!
I tried their Quick Defense Echinecea in their 100% vegetarian pill form. This herb is said to help boost the immune system and, during a time when the flu can be deadly, I wanted a little extra help for us. So I got it. The directions say, to take 2 pills 5 times a day with water for 2 days at the onset of a cold, or sickness. I used one per day with the rest of our vitamins, and I didn't do an experiment or anything, but we haven't been sick yet! Echinecea is most commonly used for treatment and prevention of the common cold and flu. For a little extra help this winter from the cold and flu, try some!
I had the opportunity to interview Gaia Herbs Medical Director, Dr. Keri Marshall about her role at Gaia, how she started out in Naturopathic Medicine and how she feels about natural medicines in todays world. (because this was a phone interview with no recorder, just my fastest pen, the interview is not in quotes)
Q: What were your favorite courses and how did you go about finding your path of studying at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland Oregon?
A: This was a second career, it was neat to be surrounded by different types of people. I had worked in hospitals and research since the age of 12, worked as a candystriper and overseas and through I would study osteopathic medicine. I became disgruntled with conventional medicine. I was a sufferer of mirgraine headaches and engaged in diet changes, herbs and guided imagery. After these changes and doing the imagery, my migraines were gone, and never came back. I was trying to figure out a career path where I'd still be able to see patients. I had one of those aha! moments, got an application, applied and started school. My first year we studed all the basic sciences. I was able to take an elective thankfully called Northwest Botanicals where we studied herbal teas and tincture making. It was an amazing class and my only reprieve from regular science classes.
Q: As a nutrition expert to children in public schools, what are your thoughts on the nations growing obesity epidemic in children?
A: I am very aware of the need for healthy foods in public schools. My son is on the youth advisory committee, created for kids to teach other kis about obesity and I am also on the Parental Advisory Board. There are great groups to get involved with to help spread awareness.
Q: This is an alternative idea that is pretty new out there, where people are using bees to sting patients with multiple sclerosis on specific acupuncture points. Have you heard about this new idea and any thoughts?
A: Yes I have heard about the bee stings idea for treatment. In school actually my nutrition teacher practiced it. He purchased the vials of just the bee venom though and does his own injections.
Q: What do you hope for Gaia herbs in the future?
A: To bring more awareness for quality assurance measures created around sustainability issues. Community assisted organic farms are out there and they help organic sustainability. For example, when Kava Kava is bought from Vanuatu, the money is used to build schools and community assistance there.
Q: Do you have any herbal recommendations for people to ward off the flu this year?
A: To help support the immune system a recommendation would be our Whole Body Defense product made from immune polysaccharides which give strenth and support to the immune system. Botanicals, elderberry is very good. Recent studies are looking into elderberry and how this herb relates to treatment of the common flu and H1N1 virus. Gaia Herb's also sells Black Elderberry Syrup and Black Elderberry Phytocaps.
Q: I read on the Gaia Herbs site that Gaia herbs come from your 250 acre farmland, how did the idea to create this farm come about?
A: The founder and president of Gaia Herbs, Ric Scalzo is a medical herbalist and was practicing in Boston, making his own elixers and there was such a demand for his products that he decided to open more stores. Eventually he chose North Carolina for the farmland so that he could expand the herbal practice to a larger scale. 80% of crops grown in US can grow in North Carolina, including Asian plants. Alot of Gaia's herbs start as whole herbs but are made into extracts. Gaia does its own liquid extraction process, where we bring in the whole plant and we do a whole process of tests on them to make sure of their purity and strength. Gaia has its own full lab on site.
Q: How was the Quick Defense product created?
A: Quick Defense was created after a 5 year federally funded study where scientists looked at echinecea, its different parts and how it can help with the immune system. There are different parts of the echinecea plant that may be cheaper but also less effective, and when to harvest it is important to. We harvest the roots of phytochemicals at the full end of growing season and this helps with initial onset of inflammatory response. For more info on Quick Defense
Look out for Gaia Herbs Quick Defense along with Gaia's research on Echinecia featured on the show "Healing Quest"on PBS in January and February of 2010!
Thanks for stopping by and a big Thank you to Dr. Keri for talking to us about Gaia Herbs!