The Ashtanga Vinyasa Lineage – Practice with a teacher authorized by K. Pattabhi Jois to fully embrace the practice.

The internal forms of Ashtanga yoga using bandhas, mudra and dristi with ujjai breathing are the pinnacle of Tantric technique brought to light in the broad clarifying context of Patanjali’s yoga philosophy and the non-dualism of the Upanisads. This traditional approach is recognizable in Hindu and Buddhist contemplative traditions as well as in the direct experience the practice uncovers.

These living lineages come to us directly through T Krishnamacharaya and K. Pattabhi Jois drawing the potent thread of yoga into the present from thousands of years since its formulation in Ancient India.

The current series in the Ashtanga Vinyasa system were developed by T Krishnamacharaya around the internal principles of vinyasa found in the ancient Indian text, the “Yoga Kurunta”. He instructed his student K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore, South India to master and to use these series in teaching the Ashtanga Vinyasa system.

Richard Freeman

Yogic practitioners can benefit by modifying their diet and life style relative to their predominant biological humor according to Ayurveda, so as to avoid causing imbalances in the life force.

Those who do not know their constitutions can follow the general guidelines of a sattvic diet ( a vegetarian diet, using fresh organic fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains and dairy products, along with mild sweet spices like ginger, cardamom and cinnamon. Beans except mung in moderation as well as natural sugars, salt and sour articles in moderation)

More specifically, yogic practices are part of Rasayana (rejuvination) therapy in Ayurveda… Those interested in the topic further can examine Ayurvedic teachings on Rasayana and Kaya Kalpa (transforming the physical body)

Paraphrased from Dr. David Frawleys – “Tantra Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses, Tantric and Ayurvedic Secrets”

Contact us for more information.

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From John Douillard:

According to a recent report from the Food Safety News group, more than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t honey.

Here’s the deal: standard processing of honey involves removing the pollen, meaning that most commercial sources have had all of the pollen removed.

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration states that any product that’s been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn’t honey.

Ultra-filtering is a process whereby the honey is heated, watered down and then forced through a very small filter under high pressure to remove the pollen. Who knows what happens to the good microbes in honey during this process.

Food Safety News purchased more than 60 jars, jugs and plastic bears of honey in 10 states and the District of Columbia and tested them for pollen.

They found that:

76% of the samples bought at big-name groceries had all the pollen removed. These were stores like TOP Food & Drug, Safeway, Giant Eagle, QFC, Kroger, Metro Market, Harris Teeter, A&P, Stop & Shop and King Soopers.
100% of the samples from drugstores like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy had no pollen.
77% of the samples from big box stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target and H-E-B had the pollen filtered out.
100% of the samples from small individual service portions from Smucker’s, McDonald’s and KFC had the pollen removed.

Ayurvedic Honey

Ayurveda suggests to eat only raw, unfiltered, uncooked honey. It is said that if honey is raw it can scrub impurities from the body. Once it is heated, it changes its properties and becomes an indigestible, toxic substance Ayurveda calls ama.

Beekeepers routinely spray diluted raw honey on the hive to calm the bees before managing the hive. Interestingly, in one report, when bee keepers sprayed cooked and filtered honey on the hive within 20 minutes a significant number of the bees sprayed were dead. While this was not a scientific study, it does allude to the drastic alteration that occurs in the processing of honey and concurrent removing of pollen.

Reference:

1. http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/11/tests-show-most-store-honey-isnt-honey/#.UgBxoZKTjSg

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In Michael Pollan’s new book, Cooked, he makes the case that Homo sapiens (that’s us) are here because we learned how to cook. Via Dr. John Douillard’s LifeSpa post

About 2 million years ago, with the emergence of our predecessor Homo erectus, there was a change in the size of the brains and guts in the Homo genus. Homo erectus had a smaller jaw and gut and a bigger brain compared to their mostly plant-eating ancestors.

To survive, our plant-eating ancestors—much like today’s gorillas—had to eat about half their body weight in plants each day, leaving little time for anything other than chewing.

According to Pollan, Homo erectus with their bigger brain and smaller gut figured out how to use fire to cook, allowing them to digest more nutrient-dense cooked foods quicker, leaving more time to use that bigger brain. Food was now being cooked over a fire rather than in the digestive tract, making a more moderate-sized gut plausible.

Cooking hearths dating back 1 million years BC have recently been found in Africa.

Raw foodists, Pollan claims, have difficulty keeping weight on. He goes on to cite one study that recorded menstruation cycles of women on a raw food diet, and found that half of them had stopped menstruating.

The main premise here is that we have evolved away from eating a solely raw food diet, and without blenders and juicers we would have a difficult time getting the nutrients we need.

Ayurveda, which is perhaps the oldest system of medicine still practiced today, also suggests a diet of mostly cooked foods. The cooked foods recommended are always fresh, unprocessed, and slowly cooked over a low flame.

It should be noted that in the warmer climates south of India, more raw foods and fruits are consumed as the warm sun ripens the fresh, growing food “on the vine,” making it much easier to digest. At the same time, the traditional diets of the north almost always include more cooked foods.

To be clear, neither Pollan’s book nor I suggest a diet of just cooked foods. As I discussed in my book, The 3-Season Diet, I find it hard to ignore nature’s harvest cycles and the natural shift from more cooked foods in the winter to less cooked foods in the spring and summer, when more fresh, “cooked on the vine” produce is available.

Source:
Cooked. Michael Pollan. Penguin Group. New York. 2013

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Cultivating Prana
Robert E. Svoboda

Whoever you may be, and wherever you may live, you live your life well when you live it at the right rate. Plow your way through life and life will wear you out; poke your way along and your life will grind to a halt. Find a pace that suits you, though, and amble along it accordingly, and your world will spontaneously level a path for you.

Life requires of each of us a judicious stride, a step that causes every particle of our being to reverberate with rapport. Some of us find our stride without much effort; a few of us are even born ready to canter. But lots of us stumble along from day to day like we had two left feet, trying in vain to intellectualize our way through life when what all that life asks of us is that we let our prana do our walking forus.

Prana is the energy that drives life, the power that animates the body, enlivens the mind, spurs the soul. Prana is life’s inspiration, its foundation, its tenacity; it is the sure hand on the tiller, the wise voice of good counsel, the urge to health and harmony that craves to turn our bodies into havens where we can take shelter from the storms of the hectic modern world. Prana is at work at every instant in every cell of every living organism, seeking ever to deliver us from disease and confirm us in health, but only in those few people who are genetically fated to be healthy does prana automatically regulate its momentum. The rest of us must learn how to cultivate our prana.

Pranayama, the “control” or “regulation” of prana, is a central principle of many of the varieties of yoga that ancient India produced. Good prana management is essential for those who seek to follow the path of Ashtanga Yoga, the “eight-limbed” yoga of personal development that the ancient seer Patanjali systematized. Patanjali, who taught that “yoga is restraint of the fluctuations of the mind” (yogas chitta vritti nirodhah), sought to restrain those fluctuations by restraining the breath, which can when performed with care cultivate prana admirably. Unfortunately, ever since Patanjali many unwary students and teachers of yoga have equated pranayama with prolonged, forcible holding of the breath, which can actually ruin the body.

Wise pranayama begins with observation. When moving your body, how often do you ponder what causes your body to move? When exercising, do you exercise your muscles alone, or also the force that drives them? Do you limit yourself to the physical posture when you perform an asana, or do you perform it energetically as well? A good first step to effective prana stewardship is to alert yourself to your energy posture, your habits of holding and utilizing your energy.

Understand your natural affinity with prana and you gain insight into which method of prana cultivation will work most efficiently and effortlessly for you. Sound prana handling is methodical, and the rishis, India’s seers who spent their long lives poring over the many facets of the paradox that is life, proposed an variety of methods to encourage prana to adopt an suitable pace. They advised at the outset that we use the principles of Ayurveda, India’s life-science, to balance vata, pitta and kapha, the three energy strategies of embodied beings. These Three Doshas encourage ailments when they are permitted to struggle with one another, and work to support the organism when taught to cooperate. When the Three Doshas strive toward amity they serve to strengthen agni, or tejas, the fire of transformation that permits us to feed and nourish ourselves. Strong fire digests cleanly the prana that we consume through our breath and through our food, and strong agni and prana facilitate the development of ojas, the pure “juice” that makes living worthwhile by cementing together body, mind and spirit and fueling immunity from illness.

Strong tejas and ojas in a body provide prana a good seat (asana) there. Well-seated prana provides us the visceral resolve we need to perform our every action precisely, rightly, with great resolve and enthusiasm. Such a body moves not from obligation but from the joy of movement that is prana’s nature. Well-seated prana enhances immeasurably our ability to perform any yoga posture (asana). As prana becomes carefully settled through the practice of asana our bodies become fit for pranayama, which can promote control of the senses and the mind. Breath, prana and mind are mutually and inherently related; cultivate one well and the other two will fall into line. While many yogis do use breathing exercises to cultivate prana and mind, others use meditation to regulate the breath and prana. Some practice Svara Yoga, control of prana and mind by means of song, and some align breath, prana and mind by means of undiluted devotion to Divinity.

Devotion may be the supreme method for prana control, just as faith is the supreme remedy for disease. Strong faith can turn any placebo into an effective medicine as surely as doubt can render ineffectual the most powerful of remedies. While implicit devotion to Reality can compensate for misalignments in yoga practice, no quantum of technical proficiency in asana will suffice to restrain the mind’s fluctuations when that mind is plagued by doubt. Devote yourself to knowing and cultivating your prana, and your every capillary will soon swell with the exhilaration of genuine vitality. Learn to pace your prana, and your body and mind will automatically fall into step. Dedicate your yoga practice to facilitating and enhancing prana’s glide through your being, and gradually your own prana will start to direct your yoga practice. Treat prana with due respect, and you will find yourself squarely in the center of life’s flow.

Copyright © 2000
Robert Edwin Svoboda

OPINION
Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food
By JO ROBINSON
Published: May 25, 2013

WE like the idea that food can be the answer to our ills, that if we eat nutritious foods we won’t need medicine or supplements. We have valued this notion for a long, long time. The Greek physician Hippocrates proclaimed nearly 2,500 years ago: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Today, medical experts concur. If we heap our plates with fresh fruits and vegetables, they tell us, we will come closer to optimum health.

This health directive needs to be revised. If we want to get maximum health benefits from fruits and vegetables, we must choose the right varieties. Studies published within the past 15 years show that much of our produce is relatively low in phytonutrients, which are the compounds with the potential to reduce the risk of four of our modern scourges: cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia. The loss of these beneficial nutrients did not begin 50 or 100 years ago, as many assume. Unwittingly, we have been stripping phytonutrients from our diet since we stopped foraging for wild plants some 10,000 years ago and became farmers.

These insights have been made possible by new technology that has allowed researchers to compare the phytonutrient content of wild plants with the produce in our supermarkets. The results are startling.

Wild dandelions, once a springtime treat for Native Americans, have seven times more phytonutrients than spinach, which we consider a “superfood.” A purple potato native to Peru has 28 times more cancer-fighting anthocyanins than common russet potatoes. One species of apple has a staggering 100 times more phytonutrients than the Golden Delicious displayed in our supermarkets.

Were the people who foraged for these wild foods healthier than we are today? They did not live nearly as long as we do, but growing evidence suggests that they were much less likely to die from degenerative diseases, even the minority who lived 70 years and more. The primary cause of death for most adults, according to anthropologists, was injury and infections.

Each fruit and vegetable in our stores has a unique history of nutrient loss, I’ve discovered, but there are two common themes. Throughout the ages, our farming ancestors have chosen the least bitter plants to grow in their gardens. It is now known that many of the most beneficial phytonutrients have a bitter, sour or astringent taste. Second, early farmers favored plants that were relatively low in fiber and high in sugar, starch and oil. These energy-dense plants were pleasurable to eat and provided the calories needed to fuel a strenuous lifestyle. The more palatable our fruits and vegetables became, however, the less advantageous they were for our health.

The sweet corn that we serve at summer dinners illustrates both of these trends. The wild ancestor of our present-day corn is a grassy plant called teosinte. It is hard to see the family resemblance. Teosinte is a bushy plant with short spikes of grain instead of ears, and each spike has only 5 to 12 kernels. The kernels are encased in shells so dense you’d need a hammer to crack them open. Once you extract the kernels, you wonder why you bothered. The dry tidbit of food is a lot of starch and little sugar. Teosinte has 10 times more protein than the corn we eat today, but it was not soft or sweet enough to tempt our ancestors.

Over several thousand years, teosinte underwent several spontaneous mutations. Nature’s rewriting of the genome freed the kernels of their cases and turned a spike of grain into a cob with kernels of many colors. Our ancestors decided that this transformed corn was tasty enough to plant in their gardens. By the 1400s, corn was central to the diet of people living throughout Mexico and the Americas.

When European colonists first arrived in North America, they came upon what they called “Indian corn.” John Winthrop Jr., governor of the colony of Connecticut in the mid-1600s, observed that American Indians grew “corne with great variety of colours,” citing “red, yellow, blew, olive colour, and greenish, and some very black and some of intermediate degrees.” A few centuries later, we would learn that black, red and blue corn is rich in anthocyanins. Anthocyanins have the potential to fight cancer, calm inflammation, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, protect the aging brain, and reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

EUROPEAN settlers were content with this colorful corn until the summer of 1779 when they found something more delectable — a yellow variety with sweeter and more tender kernels. This unusual variety came to light that year after George Washington ordered a scorched-earth campaign against Iroquois tribes. While the militia was destroying the food caches of the Iroquois and burning their crops, soldiers came across a field of extra-sweet yellow corn. According to one account, a lieutenant named Richard Bagnal took home some seeds to share with others. Our old-fashioned sweet corn is a direct descendant of these spoils of war.

Up until this time, nature had been the primary change agent in remaking corn. Farmers began to play a more active role in the 19th century. In 1836, Noyes Darling, a onetime mayor of New Haven, and a gentleman farmer, was the first to use scientific methods to breed a new variety of corn. His goal was to create a sweet, all-white variety that was “fit for boiling” by mid-July.

He succeeded, noting with pride that he had rid sweet corn of “the disadvantage of being yellow.”

The disadvantage of being yellow, we now know, had been an advantage to human health. Corn with deep yellow kernels, including the yellow corn available in our grocery stores, has nearly 60 times more beta-carotene than white corn, valuable because it turns to Vitamin A in the body, which helps vision and the immune system.

SUPERSWEET corn, which now outsells all other kinds of corn, was born in a cloud of radiation. Beginning in the 1920s, geneticists exposed corn seeds to radiation to learn more about the normal arrangement of plant genes. They mutated the seeds by exposing them to X-rays, toxic compounds, cobalt radiation and then, in the 1940s, to blasts of atomic radiation. All the kernels were stored in a seed bank and made available for research.

In 1959, a geneticist named John Laughnan was studying a handful of mutant kernels and popped a few into his mouth. (The corn was no longer radioactive.) He was startled by their intense sweetness. Lab tests showed that they were up to 10 times sweeter than ordinary sweet corn. A blast of radiation had turned the corn into a sugar factory!

Mr. Laughnan was not a plant breeder, but he realized at once that this mutant corn would revolutionize the sweet corn industry. He became an entrepreneur overnight and spent years developing commercial varieties of supersweet corn. His first hybrids began to be sold in 1961. This appears to be the first genetically modified food to enter the United States food supply, an event that has received scant attention.

Within one generation, the new extra sugary varieties eclipsed old-fashioned sweet corn in the marketplace. Build a sweeter fruit or vegetable — by any means — and we will come. Today, most of the fresh corn in our supermarkets is extra-sweet, and all of it can be traced back to the radiation experiments. The kernels are either white, pale yellow, or a combination of the two. The sweetest varieties approach 40 percent sugar, bringing new meaning to the words “candy corn.” Only a handful of farmers in the United States specialize in multicolored Indian corn, and it is generally sold for seasonal decorations, not food.

We’ve reduced the nutrients and increased the sugar and starch content of hundreds of other fruits and vegetables. How can we begin to recoup the losses?

Here are some suggestions to get you started. Select corn with deep yellow kernels. To recapture the lost anthocyanins and beta-carotene, cook with blue, red or purple cornmeal, which is available in some supermarkets and on the Internet. Make a stack of blue cornmeal pancakes for Sunday breakfast and top with maple syrup.

In the lettuce section, look for arugula. Arugula, also called salad rocket, is very similar to its wild ancestor. Some varieties were domesticated as recently as the 1970s, thousands of years after most fruits and vegetables had come under our sway. The greens are rich in cancer-fighting compounds called glucosinolates and higher in antioxidant activity than many green lettuces.

Scallions, or green onions, are jewels of nutrition hiding in plain sight. They resemble wild onions and are just as good for you. Remarkably, they have more than five times more phytonutrients than many common onions do. The green portions of scallions are more nutritious than the white bulbs, so use the entire plant. Herbs are wild plants incognito. We’ve long valued them for their intense flavors and aroma, which is why they’ve not been given a flavor makeover. Because we’ve left them well enough alone, their phytonutrient content has remained intact.

Experiment with using large quantities of mild-tasting fresh herbs. Add one cup of mixed chopped Italian parsley and basil to a pound of ground grass-fed beef or poultry to make “herb-burgers.” Herbs bring back missing phytonutrients and a touch of wild flavor as well.

The United States Department of Agriculture exerts far more effort developing disease-resistant fruits and vegetables than creating new varieties to enhance the disease resistance of consumers. In fact, I’ve interviewed U.S.D.A. plant breeders who have spent a decade or more developing a new variety of pear or carrot without once measuring its nutritional content.

We can’t increase the health benefits of our produce if we don’t know which nutrients it contains. Ultimately, we need more than an admonition to eat a greater quantity of fruits and vegetables: we need more fruits and vegetables that have the nutrients we require for optimum health.

Jo Robinson is the author of the forthcoming book “Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health.”

Ayurvedic Heart Theory

The heart is one organ that receives all the stress signals of the body. If a bear or a moose or a butterfly is chasing you, the heart must be the first one to get the message in order to pump the necessary blood to the limbs for a potential fight or flight escape plan. In today’s world, “being chased” may be stressing to meet deadlines or rushing to get the kids to school, as the stress response in the body is comparable.

The stress receptors in the heart have the job of processing the stress signals and then getting rid of the waste products from the signaled stress. Those waste products are drained into the heart’s lymphatic vessels and then pumped into circulation by the heart.

If the lymph system is congested and the stressors keep coming, soon there will not be enough available stress receptors in the heart to cope with the stress. This can cause stress on the heart and compromise heart health.

Over time, the inability of the heart’s lymph vessels to drain the waste products of stress may cause more undue stress and lymph congestion for the heart.

The combination of excess stress, sluggish lymph drainage, and an epidemic of high cholesterol and arterial damage makes for the perfect storm for heart issues, which affect 1 in 5 Americans.

While this may be prevented if more folks exercised and ate a non-processed whole food diet, the vast majority of Americans haven’t yet realized that the American diet of processed foods is bad for the heart.

Arjuna’s Role in Heart Health

In Sanskrit, the word arjuna means “bright,” “silver” or “shining,” expressing the shining quality of the bark of the very tall deciduous arjuna tree that grows up to 90 feet. Once a year the bark naturally molts or peels, making this beneficial bark accessible for harvest.

Arjuna is also the name of the hero of Hinduism’s great battle, the Mahabharata. Arjuna was the protector of his family in this battle. The herb Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) was named for its traditional role of protecting the vitality and heart health of those who take it.

Traditional Use as a Lymph Tonic for the Heart

From the Ayurvedic perspective, Arjuna is a lymph mover for the heart. Under the protective shiny layer of the bark lie reddish, more active constituents. If you have read my articles on lymph, you know that most of the herbs that were traditionally used to dye things red are considered to be natural lymph movers.

Note: Other classic herbal lymph movers are Manjistha and Red Root, but raspberries strawberries, blueberries, beets and cranberries support antioxidant activity and move lymph as well.

As I mentioned, it is understood in Ayurveda that when the lymph around the heart gets congested, the ability of the heart to pump in a healthy fashion weakens. Arjuna was used for millennia to support the heart’s lymph drainage, a strong heart muscle, encourage healthy muscular contractions of the heart, and healthy arterial blood flow.

Energetics of Arjuna

According to Ayurveda:

Taste: Astringent and Bitter
Balances: Kapha (supports clear mucus passages) and Pitta (cooling), but also good for Vata
Energy: Cooling

Western Science Explores Arjuna

Recently, researchers have found that Arjuna supports the muscle tone of the heart, therefore supporting healthy blood flow through the heart. Arjuna also promotes a stronger contraction of the heart muscle, allowing the heart to function efficiently (3).

Like many of the western herbs for the heart, like Hawthorn berry, Arjuna is loaded with a group of heart-healthy polyphenols and flavonoids such as arjunone and arjunolone that classify it as a cardio-tonic (2).

Healthy Arteries

One study showed that, when 500mg of Arjuna bark was taken, it supported healthy cholesterol levels (4). In another study in which smokers were given 500mg of the extract of Arjuna, it supported healthy arterial function, meaning that their arteries were able to expand and contract in a normal fashion – a difficult task for smoker’s arteries (5).

Another study suggests that Arjuna may support relief from occasional chest discomfort. When Arjuna was used alone and in combination with the standard western medication (isosorbide mononitrate), occasional chest discomfort was reduced by 50% when patients were taking 200-500mg of Arjuna daily (6).

Arjuna for Vitality

In some cases, the heart struggles to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. As the heart works harder and harder to do so, it becomes bigger and the heart muscles stretch. Eventually this reaches a point where the heart cannot keep up or contract efficiently.

In the same study, subjects with issues of this nature who were unable to carry out any physical activity without discomfort (basically bedridden) took 500mg of Arjuna every eight hours. One hundred percent of the subjects evaluated progressed to a point where they were able to perform normal activities without discomfort. After 4 months, 75% of them were able to perform normal activities with only slight limitations. No subjects in the placebo group saw such improvement (6).

Treat Your Heart like the Ruler that it is!

In many traditions, the heart is considered the ruler of the body. Ironically, it is often a body system that is overlooked until it is in crisis. Treat your heart like the ruler that it is by practicing a heart-healthy lifestyle.

References:
1. J Assoc Physicians India. April 1994.
2. Alternative Med Review.
3. J Ethnopharmacol. Feb 1997
4. J Assoc Physicians India. Feb 2001.
5. J Assoc Physicians. March, April 1994.
6. Int J Cardiol. May 1995

Maitake Mushroom
From the American Cancer Society
Other common name(s): maitake D-fraction, maitake, maitake extract, beta-glucan,

Scientific/medical name(s): Grifola frondosa

Description
Maitake is an edible mushroom from the species Grifola frondosa. Maitake D-fraction® is an extract of this large mushroom native to the mountains of northeastern Japan. The maitake mushroom is eaten as a food, and maitake-D fraction is marketed as a dietary supplement in the United States and Japan. The substance in the maitake mushroom is thought to be active in humans and is called beta-glucan.

Overview
Research has shown that maitake D-fraction has effects on the immune system in animal and laboratory studies. There is no convincing clinical evidence to date in available peer-reviewed medical journals reporting that the maitake mushroom is effective in treating or preventing cancer in humans, although some human research is now underway.

How is it promoted for use?
Promoters claim that maitake mushroom extract boosts the immune system and limits or reverses tumor growth. It is also said to enhance the benefits of chemotherapy and lessen some side effects of anti-cancer drugs, such as hair loss, pain, and nausea.

What does it involve?
Maitake D-fraction is available in liquid extract, tablet, and capsule in health food stores, although the amount of beta glucan contained in each form may vary. The usual dosage of dried mushroom is between 3 and 7 grams daily. Maitake mushrooms are also available in grocery stores and can be eaten as food or made into tea.

What is the history behind it?
For thousands of years, Asian healers have used certain edible mushrooms in tonics, soups, teas, prepared foods, and herbal formulas to promote health and long life. Until recently, the healing properties of mushrooms have been the subject of folklore only. In the past few decades, however, researchers in Japan have been studying the medicinal effects of mushrooms on the immune system, cancer, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.

The Japanese word “maitake” means “dancing mushroom” because people in ancient times were said to dance for joy when they found these mushrooms, which were literally worth their weight in silver. Modern research on the maitake mushroom and its D-fraction extract began in Japan in the mid-1980s and has only recently spread to the United States.

As of the early 21st century, much has been written about maitake and its purported magic healing qualities. This has sparked a great deal of interest in its use for various human illnesses.

What is the evidence?
Maitake mushrooms and the maitake D-fraction prepared from them contain a type of polysaccharide (a large molecule formed by multiple sugar molecules linked together), called beta glucan (sometimes called beta glycan). Beta glucan is found in several mushrooms, yeasts, and other foods. A polysaccharide is a large and complex molecule made up of smaller sugar molecules. Beta glucan is believed to stimulate the immune system and activate certain cells and proteins that attack cancer, including macrophages, T-cells, natural killer cells, and interleukin-1 and -2. In laboratory studies, it appears to slow the growth of cancer in some cell cultures and in mice.

Most of the research on maitake D-fraction has been done in Japan using an injectable form of the extract. A 1997 study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science found that maitake D-fraction was able to enhance the immune system and inhibit the spread of tumors in mice implanted with breast cancer. In a 1995 report published in the same journal, researchers concluded that maitake D-fraction was able to activate the immune systems of mice that had been injected with liver cancer cells. The extract seemed to prevent the spread of tumors to the liver and prevent the development of cancer in normal cells. A nonrandomized study of fifteen dogs with lymphoma did not find any evidence of benefit from the use of maitake extract.

While animal and laboratory studies may show a certain compound holds promise as a beneficial treatment, further studies are necessary to determine whether the results apply to humans. In 2002, a group of Japanese people with different types of cancer were given maitake D-fraction and maitake powder in addition to standard cancer treatment. Although the researchers thought some patients showed improvement, the study did not include a control group. Because of limitations in the study design, no reliable conclusions can be drawn. It is impossible to say for certain whether any effect was caused by the maitake treatments or standard cancer treatments the patients also received. More scientifically designed studies are needed to determine maitake’s potential usefulness in preventing or treating cancer.

The National Cancer Institute is sponsoring a very early (Phase I) study at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to learn whether beta glucan can increase the effectiveness of rituximab (a drug used for treating some types of lymphoma and leukemia) by increasing cancer cells’ sensitivity to it. This clinical trial is studying the side effects and best dose of beta glucan when given with rituximab. It will look at young patients with relapsed or progressive lymphoma, leukemia, or similar disorders.

In another clinical trial, beta glucan is being tested together with other drugs to learn whether they increase the effectiveness of a monoclonal antibody (3F8). Combining different types of biological therapy may kill more tumor cells. This is a small open label trial (so called because both patients and researchers know which treatment is being administered) in patients with neuroblastoma that has not responded to treatment. A trial of maitake extract as treatment for breast cancer is also in progress.

Are there any possible problems or complications?
This product is sold as a dietary supplement in the United States. Unlike drugs (which must be tested before being allowed to be sold), the companies that make supplements are not required to prove to the Food and Drug Administration that their supplements are safe or effective, as long as they don’t claim the supplements can prevent, treat, or cure any specific disease.
Some such products may not contain the amount of the herb or substance that is written on the label, and some may include other substances (contaminants). Actual amounts per dose may vary between brands or even between different batches of the same brand.
Most such supplements have not been tested to find out if they interact with medicines, foods, or other herbs and supplements. Even though some reports of interactions and harmful effects may be published, full studies of interactions and effects are not often available. Because of these limitations, any information on ill effects and interactions below should be considered incomplete.
The maitake mushroom itself has been used as food for centuries and is generally presumed to be safe. So far, studies have not shown any adverse effects from maitake D-fraction or beta glucan, but human studies of their effectiveness in treating cancer have not yet been completed.

In animal studies, beta glucans of the type in maitake mushrooms lowered blood sugar and should be used with caution in people with low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or those who are on medicines to reduce or control blood sugar. Beta glucans also reduced blood pressure in animals and may have a similar effect in people. Additional studies are needed to find out whether these effects occur in humans.

Allergies to many types of mushrooms, including maitake, have been reported. Relying on this type of treatment alone and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer may have serious health consequences.

Additional resources
More information from your American Cancer Society

The following information on complementary and alternative therapies may also be helpful to you. These materials may be found on our Web site (www.cancer.org) or ordered from our toll-free number (1-800-ACS-2345).

Guidelines for Using Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Dietary Supplements: How to Know What Is Safe

The ACS Operational Statement on Complementary and Alternative Methods of Cancer Management

Complementary and Alternative Methods for Cancer Management

Placebo Effect

Learning About New Ways to Treat Cancer

Learning About New Ways to Prevent Cancer

References
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Griessmayr PC, Gauthier M, Barber LG, Cotter SM. Mushroom-derived maitake PETfraction as single agent for the treatment of lymphoma in dogs. J Vet Intern Med. 2007;21:1409-1412.

Hong F, Yan J, Baran JT, et al. Mechanism by which orally administered beta-1,3-glucans enhance the tumoricidal activity of antitumor monoclonal antibodies in murine tumor models. J Immunol. 2004;173:797-806.

Ko YT, Lin YL. 1,3-beta-glucan quantification by a fluorescence microassay and analysis of its distribution in foods. J Agric Food Chem. 2004; 252:3313-3318.

Kodama N, Komuta K, Nanba H. Can maitake MD-fraction aid cancer patients? Altern Med Rev. 2002; 7:451.

Kodama N, Murata Y, Asakawa A, et al. Maitake D-Fraction enhances antitumor effects and reduces immunosuppression by mitomycin-C in tumor-bearing mice. Nutrition.2005; 21:624-629.

Konno S. Potential growth inhibitory effect of maitake D-fraction on canine cancer cells. Vet Ther. 2004; 5:263-271.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute. Maitake. Accessed at: http://www.mskcc.org/mskcc/html/69294.cfm on June 10, 2008.

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Note: This information may not cover all possible claims, uses, actions, precautions, side effects or interactions. It is not intended as medical advice, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultation with your doctor, who is familiar with your medical situation.

Last Medical Review: 11/01/2008
Last Revised: 11/01/2008

Is Organic Better? Ask a Fruit Fly
By TARA PARKER-POPE

When Ria Chhabra, a middle school student near Dallas, heard her parents arguing about the value of organic foods, she was inspired to create a science fair project to try to resolve the debate.

Three years later, Ria’s exploration of fruit flies and organic foods has not only raised some provocative questions about the health benefits of organic eating, it has also earned the 16-year-old top honors in a national science competition, publication in a respected scientific journal and university laboratory privileges normally reserved for graduate students.

The research, titled “Organically Grown Food Provides Health Benefits to Drosophila melanogaster,” tracked the effects of organic and conventional diets on the health of fruit flies. By nearly every measure, including fertility, stress resistance and longevity, flies that fed on organic bananas and potatoes fared better than those who dined on conventionally raised produce.

While the results can’t be directly extrapolated to human health, the research nonetheless paves the way for additional studies on the relative health benefits of organic versus conventionally grown foods. Fruit fly models are often used in research because their short life span allows scientists to evaluate a number of basic biological effects over a relatively brief period of time, and the results provide clues for better understanding disease and biological processes in humans.

For her original middle-school science project, Ria evaluated the vitamin C content of organic produce compared with conventionally farmed foods. When she found higher concentrations of the vitamin in organic foods, she decided she wanted to take the experiment further and measure the effects of organic eating on overall health.

She searched the Internet and decided a fruit fly model would be the best way to conduct her experiment. She e-mailed several professors who maintained fly laboratories asking for assistance. To her surprise, Johannes Bauer, an assistant professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, responded to her inquiry.

“We are very interested in fly health, and her project was a perfect match for what we were doing,” Dr. Bauer said. Although he would not normally agree to work with a middle-school student, he said, Ria performed on the level of a college senior or graduate student. “The seriousness with which she approached this was just stunning,” he said.

Ria worked on the project over the summer, eventually submitting the research to her local science fair competition. The project was named among just 30 finalists in the prestigious 2011 Broadcom Masters national science competition. Dr. Bauer, following his lab’s policy of publishing all research regardless of outcome, urged Ria, then 14, to pursue publication in a scientific journal. Dr. Bauer and an S.M.U. research associate, Santharam Kolli, are listed as co-authors on the research.

Now a sophomore at Clark High School in Plano, Tex., Ria said she was excited to see her work accepted by a scientific journal. “I had no idea what publishing my research meant,” said Ria, who last week was juggling high school exams, a swim meet and a sweet-16 party. “My mom told me, ‘This is a pretty big deal.’”

Ria has continued to work in Dr. Bauer’s lab. For her 10th-grade science fair project she created a model for studying Type 2 diabetes in fruit flies. The work will be presented in a few weeks. She plans to build on that research by studying the effects of alternative remedies, like cinnamon and curcumin, found in turmeric, on diabetes in fruit flies.

Ria said she was only just beginning to think about applying to colleges and is intrigued by Brown University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, although she has not ruled any school in or out. Dr. Bauer said that he was happy to have her working in his lab and that her biggest problem was that “she has too many ideas for her own good.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Bauer said the study of organic foods and fruit fly health has raised some important questions that he hopes can be answered in future research. The difference in outcomes among the flies fed different diets could be due to the effects of pesticide and fungicide residue from conventionally raised foods.

Or it could be that the organic-fed flies thrived because of a higher level of nutrients in the organic produce. One intriguing idea raises the question of whether organically raised plants produce more natural compounds to ward off pests and fungi, and whether those compounds offer additional health benefits to flies, animals and humans who consume organic foods. “There are no hard data on that, but it’s something we’d like to follow up on,” he said.

Dr. Bauer said he’d love to keep Ria around S.M.U. but realizes that she would have her pick of colleges around the country. “She is really extraordinary,” he said. “If she was a graduate student in my lab, she would be tremendous.”

While far more study needs to be conducted to determine the possible benefits of organic foods on human health, the debate has been settled in the Chhabra household, where Ria’s parents no longer argue about the cost of organic food. “All of our fresh produce is organic,” she said.

Try Agni Sara:

http://www.himalayaninstitute.org/yoga-international-magazine/asana-articles/agni-sara-video-practice/

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