Circumin (For Pain and Inflammation)
Circumin is the active ingredient in turmeric and is a potent painkiller and anti-inflammatory. It can be used in place of Ibuprofen for minor injuries, inflammation, and chronic pain. A widely used herb in many Chinese Formulas it is considered to “move blood, open channels and collaterals, and reduce swelling.”
It is generally thought to act stronger on the upper body making it especially good for shoulder pain. However I have seen it used with success in all sorts of situations from back pain to hip bursitis. Biochemically it demonstrates powerful anti-inflammatory, pain killing, and anti-platelet (clot reducing) effects.
Circumin t is very safe to take. Be sure to take a high quality, highly absorbable circumin supplement as turmeric by itself has extremely low absorption in the absence of piperine from black pepper. It is sometimes combined with bromelain to increase it’s effectiveness. Those taking blood thinners such as warfarin (coumadin), heparin, or even aspirin should use with mild caution.
I recommend circumin made by Thorne Research.
Seriphos (For Insomnia)
Seriphos or Phosphorylated Serine can be incredibly useful in cases of insomnia that are a result of elevated nighttime cortisol levels. If you are the type of person that gets a second wind late at night or wakes up between 1am-4am and can’t get back to sleep you may be suffering from a cortisol imbalance.
One way to find out for sure is to get a diurnal cortisol test that will give you a snapshot of cortisol levels throughout a 24 hour period. Seriphos is safe to take and is an amino acid that acts on the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis to rebalance cortisol levels. If you have trouble falling asleep and you wake up periodically at night you will want to try taking 1000 mg just before dinner and another 2000 mg by 10 pm.
If you are able to fall asleep but wake up very early then start with 2000 mg before 10 pm. Do not take Seriphos for more than 90 days and always take at least 24 hours off each month. However the good news is that Seriphos usually has done it’s job after about thirty days.
A word of caution: No supplement is a substitute for good sleep hygiene. Be sure to turn the lights down and avoid screens for a minimum of 1-2 hours before bed. Don’t hit your bed running. Relax into sleep. (One word of caution for Seriphos is that a very small percentage may react negatively to it. In this case, discontinue.)
Xiao Yao San (PMS, Irritability, Stress)
If there is one Chinese formula you should know and/or try it is Xiao Yao San. Known as Rambling Powder or Free and Easy Wanderer Xiao Yao San is one of the most widely used modern (about 600 year old) formulas. It is a combination of six herbs and is especially useful for women experiencing any signs and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome such as irritability, breast tenderness, pain or irregular menses.
Xiao Yao San should primarily be taken on the second part of the menstrual cycle (just after ovulation) and can be taken into the first few days of menstruation. I can’t tell you how many women have told me over the years how much of a life saver this formula can be.
There is also a modified version of the formula that is excellent for men who are under regular mental or physical stress called Jia Wei Xiao Yao San (JWXYS). I have taken JWXYS on numerous occasions and am always impressed by the results.
Probiotics (Digestion, Intestinal Health, Immune Function)
For most of us probiotics can be taken daily and are especially important if you have taken any antibiotics in the last few years. Antibiotics don’t just kill all the bad bacteria that are making you sick but also all the good bacteria that keep your body and your immune system functioning.
There is also ample evidence pointing to the importance of gut flora in maintaining a healthy and happy outlook on life. If your gut flora is ever compromised by antibiotics is imperative to replenish your intestinal bacteria balance with a wide spectrum probiotic. If you or a loved one are prone to UTI’s, probiotics are an essential daily supplement.
I recommend this one by Renew Life. It can be purchased at Whole Foods or Amazon.
Curing Pills (Upset Stomach, Indigestion)
Curing pills (Kang Ning Wan in Chinese) are a staple in my travel kit. Used for any stomach discomfort, indigestion, nausea or heartburn, Curing can be a lifesaver.
The formula was designed for what Acupuncturists call “food stagnation.” It calms the stomach, and increases peristalsis in the intestine. It can also be used after eating way too much at that Thanksgiving dinner to help move all that stuck food through the digestive tract.
These are just a few of my favorite herbs and supplements. Stay tuned for more herbs and supplements that I will describe in detail.