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Are Superfoods the Right Choice for You?

8 min read time Sep 17, 2020


A Master Herbalist’s Perspective on Nutraceuticals

If you have read any of my previous articles you know one thing for sure; I am a big believer in the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

As a Master Herbalist and someone who has worked in the nutraceutical industry for a long time, there are times when I struggle between isolated nutraceuticals vs. whole herbs and superfoods.

In the end, I always go back to my core values: herbs and superfoods.

Nutraceuticals are fractions of the whole superfood. They are isolated parts of what you find in superfoods. There is no denying, that nutraceuticals have their place and work very well in specific situations. The real question is whether using nutraceuticals over the long term is the solution or

Do whole nourishing foods (which include herbs and superfoods) win the race?

While I believe the first line of defense should whole foods, I have often found that with everything in life there is a middle ground and this is more often than not where the answer is found.

Using My Nutrition Protocol as an Example

As the main topic for this article, I wanted to show you how I bring balance to a nutraceutical brain protocol, based on my brain scan results (July 2017) from the Amen clinic in New York City.

The protocol below is based on clinical studies for their effectiveness at nourishing the brain.

My Amen Clinic Brain Nutraceutical Protocol:

  • Fish oil - 3 grams, 2 times daily (1)
  • Pharma Gaba - 300 mgs, 3 times daily (2)
  • Sun theanine - 300 mgs, 3 times daily (3)
  • Neuromag - 2 caps 3 times daily (4)

Brain and Body Boost - 2 caps 2 times daily (Ingredients and total mgs/mcg per 4 capsules are listed below)

  • Acetyl l-carnitine - 666 mgs (5)
  • Ginkgo biloba - 80 mgs, (6)
  • Vinpocetine- 10 mgs (7)
  • Huperzine A 100 mcg  (8), (9)
  • Phosphatidylserine 100 mgs (10),(11),(12),(13),(14)

Focus and Energy is their adaptogen formula which includes the herbs below. I like to use my adaptogens individually so I can get the specific amounts and effects I am looking for. Here is my personal program of the adaptogens listed below:

  • Rhodiola- 300 mgs Morning & Afternoon (15) (Full spectrum standardized extract) Capsule
  • Eleuthero- 1000 mgs Morning (16) (Full spectrum standardized extract) Tincture
  • Holy Basil- 500 mgs Afternoon (17) (Combo standardized isolated and full spectrum extract) Capsule
  • Ashwagandha- 1600-2400 mgs before bed (18) (Full spectrum extract) Capsule

My functional foods and food grade herbs

  • Maca 2 tablespoons daily (19)
  • Cacao 2 tablespoons daily (20)

My own mushroom blend

My own berry blend- (All ingredients in equal parts) 2 tablespoons daily

My own prebiotic mix 2 tablespoon daily - All ingredients in equal parts

1.) Not far off the beaten path:

Sometimes you need to look outside of the box, but you don’t need to look too far to see ways that may compliment your belief system. While nutraceuticals are not the ideal answer compared to herbs and superfoods, they are still more natural, less toxic, and a better choice over pharmaceuticals. Nutraceuticals in some ways stand alone because they can give you the best of both worlds. They provide a targeted approach (like a pharmaceutical) and at the same time bring a level of balance in order to support the body in healing itself. I think a big reason why so many people gravitate towards nutraceuticals is because the principle of how they are used is in line with allopathic medicine and familiar, convenient habits.

When you look at herbs you need to see the big picture in order to understand them. If you only see things as a reductionist, you will never truly get it. Reductionists look at individual components and how they affect specific functions, or rather, aspects of function. This point of view ignores how the whole system has come to bare on that particular functional aspect. By bringing the entire system into balance you will repair this particular malfunction and strengthen the entire system. Now, the body is able to properly do its job and heal itself. This is why, if the herb is prepared as a standardized isolate, this point of view will not work. Therefore, you will need to combine the isolate with whole or full spectrum standardized preparations in order to achieve balance.  

2.) Can you make the parts into the whole?

The simple answer is no. But you can do specific things in order to make the effects of what you are doing more balanced. A while back I did an article called “Gateway Herbs” which discussed the best herbs and what forms to use them in to see optimal results for beginners. I specifically discussed the idea of combining whole herbs with full spectrum standardized or isolated standardized herbs which would not only allow for faster results but would bring balance to the end results. The principles in that article can be used to explain this exact situation when trying to find balance in a nutraceutical program.

There is no reason why whole nourishing superfoods could not be added to a nutraceutical program in order to bring balance, extra nourishment and support to help with a positive outcome.

The top foods on this list would include food grade herbs and functional foods like:

Cacao, Maca, freeze-dried super berry powders (acai, maqui, blueberry, acerola ), adaptogens (rhodiola, ashwagandha, holy basil) algae powders (chlorella, spirulina), seeds (flax, hemp, chia) and if you feel the need, restorative tonics (tongkat ali, wild oats milky seed).

Once again, the objective is to support, balance and boost nutritional value of the program.

I am sure you must be wondering why I didn’t add any brain tonics like bacopa, gotu kola or mucuna. I didn’t feel they would have brought greater value to the table. The brain boost supplement suggested to me by the Amen clinic is to support a targeted approach for cortical atrophy and ventricular enlargement. In the end, I saw greater value in adding foods like cacao and maca with specific adaptogens to support the actions of the formula. As an herbalist, this made much more sense to me.

One specific change I made to this program was to break down their adaptogen product called Focus and Energy, and put my own together in order to get my desired and equivalent response. Their product is made up of mostly standardized isolated extract herbs like rhodiola, ashwagandha, green tea and korean ginseng. I used most of these herbs in my formula, but I chose full spectrum extracts. I eliminated the Korean Ginseng and replaced it with Eleuthero. I know from past experience that I respond much better to Eleuthero or American Ginseng versus the Korean variety. If this item didn’t contain Korean Ginseng, I probably would have used it and just added smaller amounts of the full spectrum or whole herbs to bring more balance to the formula. This doesn’t have to be hard or complex. These simple changes are giving me great results.       

3.) It all begins with food:

This is a message that I will preach until my last breath on earth.

I think there is no greater lesson to be learned if your goal is achieving optimal health then using your food as medicine. If you are not nourishing your body with real whole foods, anything else you do will only produce minor results.

When I speak of real wholesome and nourishing foods, herbs and superfoods are a big part of this list.

Real wholesome nourishing food should always be the foundation for all healing programs. Remember, you should never build on top of a weak foundation.

About Michael Stuchiner

Michael Stuchiner is an experienced Master Herbalist, the Head of Education for Z Natural Foods, a teacher and an accomplished author.  With a 16-year specialization in medicinal herbs, Mike also has a vast knowledge in tonic and adaptogenic herbalism. Mike has enjoyed a 25-year career as an elite-level competitive powerlifter where he learned to heal his ‘mind and body’ as an avid user of herbal remedies.

       As an “in-the-trenches” herbalist, Mike has done more than 85 speaking engagements, consulted with clients ranging from young to elderly, worked with athletes in virtually all sports and with clients who have “dis-ease” states of a wide variety. Mike also mentors student Master Herbalists and will continue to teach the next generation to grow a deeper wisdom of the human body through appropriate herbal remedies.

For Bulk inquiries and custom formulations click here: https://www.znaturalfoods.com/pages/bulk



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