Thursday, May 27, 2010

ACHS President Dorene Petersen Responds to Supplement "False Claims" in the Media

Supplements are back in the news in a big way! Perhaps you caught the Today Show report on "false claims" or saw the article "Herbal supplements often sold with false claims" on the MSNBC website.

ACHS President Dorene Petersen responds to the reports on dietary supplements. Originally from MSNBC on

Let's not underestimate the importance of personal education! Everything we consume--whole foods, beverages, processed foods, and supplements alike--all affect the quality of our overall health and wellness. That is why it is very important to educate ourselves about how our foods influence our health and interact (both positively and negatively) with our lifestyle choices.

Ideally, we would all have a thorough education in nutrition, food, and meal planning, and eat mostly whole unprocessed foods, with plenty of organic fruits and vegetables (particularly choosing organic for those on the EWG's "Dirty Dozen" list), quality protein and whole grains. However, since many of the foods we are currently eating on a daily basis fall short of the daily recommended intakes, supplements are a viable addition to a healthy lifestyle: "supplement" being the key word. Supplements do not take the place of wholesome, nutritious foods and a healthy lifestyle; rather, they are intended as a support for optimal health and wellness.

It is unfortunate that some companies have chosen to prioritize marketing (i.e., curative claims) instead of educating their customers, but that is not true of all companies. Unfortunately, the current regulatory system is not designed to reward companies for putting supplements through the costly and lengthy process to approve claims. Ill-informed manufacturers and those looking to make a quick buck sometimes do make unapproved health claims: This is why the FDA already has powers under DSHEA to enforce the regulations.

The best way to address this is with education: For manufacturers, consumers, retailers, and healthcare providers. As consumers, though, it is also our responsibility to be educated consumers, to recognize a curative claim for what it is, marketing, and to understand that there is no panacea, no cure-all, for sickness and disease. As educated consumers, it is our responsibility to make good choices about what we put into your bodies for sustainable health and wellness. Dietary supplements, including herbs, have a role to play in achieving wellness and a healthy balance. Who wouldn't prefer to pick peppermint from their own herb garden and make a cup of tea to soothe an upset stomach?

It also seems important to mention that the FDA's Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) ensure that the purity and quality of nutritional supplements meet the standards similar to over-the-counter and prescription medications. But, this is an ongoing process that began with the largest companies and is "working its way down," so to speak. There is a detailed explanation of GMPs on the FDA website:

It's also important to note that dietary supplements are not the only category of products with issues related to health claims, purity, and quality. There are even graver concerns with prescription pharmaceutical quality and appropriate use. Prescribed drugs have been in the spotlight recently with several celebrities losing their lives due to a potent combination of pharmaceutical drugs. These are just the tip of the iceberg--regular people die every day from using prescription pharmaceuticals as prescribed without a blip in media coverage. Off label use is rampant--that is use of a prescription pharmaceutical for a purpose not approved by the FDA.

Another article of interest: "The How and Why of the Dietary Supplement Safety Act of 2010 Proposed by Senator McCain":

Dorene Petersen, President
American College of Healthcare Sciences

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Herbal Memorial Gardens Are A Great Way To Honor Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is observed the last Monday of May and serves as a day of remembrance for loved ones. There are many stories about the origins of the day, though it is commonly agreed that General John Logan officially proclaimed Memorial Day on May 5, 1868 and the first observance was May 30; flowers were placed on the graves of fallen soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

Today, people still visit the resting places of loved ones in honor of their service. Whether you choose to observe quietly, start your summer travels, or enjoy an outdoor gathering, Memorial Day provides is an opportunity to spend time with friends and family.

Perhaps you can recruit some volunteers to help you plant an herbal memorial garden? Memorial gardens (or memory gardens) can help you feel closer to loved ones, are a fun group activity, and also can provide fresh, nutritious herbs for use in everyday meals. We recommend planting organic! Rosemary, for example, has traditionally been used as a symbol for remembrance. Additional herbs you may consider planting for beauty, fragrance, culinary uses, and health properties include: calendula, lemon balm, mint, and sage.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Alfalfa Sprouts Recalled: Grow Your Own

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration website has listed a recall of alfalfa sprouts, which have been linked to a recent Salmonella outbreak.

Salmonella, the website explains, "is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Consumers with the above symptoms should consult their physician"

But there's no need to cut sprouts from your diet ... just grow your own! In about a week, you can grown your own fresh alfalfa sprouts to cut and use in salads, on sandwiches, and however else you like them! Sprouts are rich source of nutrients, and have also been show to include concentrated amounts of phytochemicals, which support optimal health and wellness.

To grown your own alfalfa, follow these simple steps from the Happily Domestic blog:

1. Place 2 tablespoons of seeds in a 1/2-gallon sprouting jar with three times as much water as seed and soak overnight.
2. Drain the water from the jar (either through the lid or a piece of cheesecloth) and rinse the seeds in fresh, lukewarm water. Then, drain again.
3. Lay your jar at an angle in a warm, dark place (about 70 degrees F). (70 degrees F.)
4. Then, rise and drain your seeds twice a day for 4 or 5 days. On the last day, place your alfalfa sprouts in indirect sunlight to help them develop chlorophyll. (The tiny leaves will turn green in a few hours.)
5. Remove the alfalfa sprouts from the jar and place them in a bowl; rinse well. When the sprout hulls float to the surface of the water, skim them off. Remove your sprouts from the water and shake out any excess water.
6. Alfalfa sprouts will keep for about a week. Be sure to store them in the fridge.

For more tips about how to eat sprouts and fun, family-friendly growing projects (like broccoli sprouts) download your free copy of the ACHS Wellness Guide here:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

National Women's Health Week

On May 7 President Obama released a proclamation declaring May 9-15 National Women's Health Week!

President Obama says: "We have taken steps to provide access to high-quality, affordable health care, but individuals must also lead healthy lives and set a good example for their children. From scheduling regular medical examinations to applying sunscreen, simple, everyday activities can make a positive impact on the lives of women. Regular exercise, coupled with a nutritious diet, helps prevent heart disease, obesity, and other chronic conditions."

We couldn't agree more! Health is a holistic endeavor--body, mind, and spirit--and requires a commitment to a health-promoting lifestyle including exercise, smart eating, and a positive attitude!

This week, share the message of Women's Health with the women in your life and encourage them to prioritize their good health!

To help get a jumpstart, here's a link to our free download Antioxidants and Herbs by ACHS Graduate Amanda Lattin. Learn more about the health benefits of antioxidants and how easy it is to start incorporating herbs into the daily diet. It's time to plant, after all!

You can also download and share the ACHS Wellness Guide by ACHS President Dorene Petersen, which has more than 100 pages of great tips for men and women!

>> Click here to read President Obama's Presidential Proclamation--National Women's Health Week.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Planting Your Herbs and Lemon Balm Recipes

Once you have chosen the site of your garden and planned where your herbs will go, you are ready to prepare your soil! Preparing your soil, or amending soil, often involves drainage. To improve drainage, you can add compost or gravel as needed. The type of soil in your garden will help determine what needs to be added. One thing to keep in mind: good drainage is essential!

A few additional things to keep in mind when planting your herb garden:
  • Do not put fertilizer in your planting hole.
  • Dig the hole as deep and twice as wide as the pot your herb came in.
  • Before you place your plant in the ground, break up the root ball to help the roots spread into the surrounding soil.
  • Once you fill the hole, do not mound soil around the stem of the herb, which can cause rot.
  • Water the herb gently once planted, and then determine a regular watering schedule.
For specific questions about amending the soil in your area and watering schedules, contact the local Master Gardeners' group in your area. Here's a link to search from the American Horticulture Society:

Now use your herbs daily! Herbs included in the daily diet have been shown to support optimal health and wellness, and improve the color, flavor, and variety of dishes! Lemon balm, for example, has a somewhat sweet, honeylike, citrus flavor that can easily be added to a tea blend. Its lemon-like scent also makes a good addition to fruit salads, deserts (like sorbet), and as a flavoring for grains. Traditionally, lemon balm has been used as a digestive aid and is very easy to incorporate into the diet. It's fresh, young leaves can even be added to a salad raw!

Don't have a full-sized garden? No problem. Check out "Growing Herbs in Pots" for great tips from ACHS SVP and Master Gardener Erika Yigzaw.