An Intro to Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complete medical system that has been used to diagnose, treat, and prevent illnesses for more than 2,000 years. Its basic concept is that a vital force of life, called Qi, surges through the body, and any imbalance to Qi can cause disease and illness. TCM practitioners use treatments that are specific to the individual, such as acupuncture, cupping, or moxibustion, to restore this balance. In this blog, we will explore the great practitioners of TCM, along with Qi and the meridians of the body, and TCM’s use in herbal medicine, food, genetics research, and drug development. 

A Look At Traditional Chinese Medicine

China has one of the world’s oldest medical systems with acupuncture and Chinese herbal remedies dating back at least 2,200 years. The earliest known written record of Chinese medicine is the Huangdi Neijing (The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic) from the 3rd century BCE, which provided the theoretical concepts for TCM that remain the basis of its practice today.

In essence, TCM healers seek to restore a dynamic balance between two complementary forces, Yin (passive) and Yang (active), which pervade the human body as they do the universe as a whole. According to TCM, a person is healthy when harmony exists between these two forces; illness, on the other hand, results from a breakdown in the equilibrium of Yin and Yang.

Treatments to regain a Yin and Yang balance may include:

  • Acupuncture, which involves the insertion of very thin needles through the skin at strategic points on the body.
  • Moxibustion, which consists of burning dried mugwort on particular points on the body.
  • Cupping, which is a form of alternative medicine in which a local suction is created on the skin with the application of heated cups.
  • Massage, which can help to regulate the flow of energy and blood, increase blood circulation, and relieve body pain and stress.
  • Herbal remedies, which can strengthen organ function and support good health.
  • Movement and concentration exercises, such as tai chi, which include specifically-designed movements to help an individual regain balance.

Cupping, Acupuncture, Moxibustion, Tai Chi Pictured: Cupping; top left (The Thirty), Acupuncture; top right (Forbes), Moxibustion; bottom left (American institute of Alternative Medicine), Tai Chi; bottom right (Britannica)

The Great Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine

The hard work and dedication of various practitioners in ancient China have made an impact on not just Traditional Chinese Medicine, but also Western Medicine. A few great practitioners of TCM to take note of are:

Zhang Zhongjing

Zhang Zhongjing

Pictured: Zhang Zhongjing   Source: The Wandering Cloud ACM

Zhang Zhongjing (150-219 CE), the most famous of China’s physicians, lived during the Eastern Han dynasty and was known for his remarkable medical skill and significant contribution to Traditional Chinese Medicine. He wrote a medical masterpiece entitled Shanghan Lun (Treatise on Cold Damage Diseases). Zhang Zhongjing’s theory and prescriptions, such as moxibustion, acupuncture, and herbal medicine, are still of great medical value and are the standard reference work for TCM.

Hua Tuo

Hua Tuo

Pictured: Hua Tuo    Source: The Epoch Times

Another famous physician of Traditional Chinese Medicine was Hua Tuo (145-208 CE). Hua Tuo developed the use of anesthesia in surgery and further advanced the Chinese’s knowledge of anatomy. He was also the first person to use narcotic drugs in the world, preceding the West by about 1600 to 1700 years.1

Wang Shuhe 

Wang Shuhe

Pictured: Wang Shuhe   Source: The Coltons Point Times

Wang Shuhe (180-270 CE) was a Chinese physician who wrote the Maijing (The Pulse Classics), which is an influential work describing the pulse and its importance in the diagnosis of disease. Wang Shuhe’s contributions to medical science were not limited to sphygmology, though; he also made outstanding contributions to the collation of ancient literature. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qi, and the Meridians

A main aspect of TCM is an understanding of the body’s Qi, which is known as life force and literally translates to “vital breath.” Qi is universal and embraces all manifestations of energy, from the most material aspects of energy, such as the earth beneath your feet, to the most immaterial aspects, such as light and emotion.

Life, it’s said in the Chinese medical classics, is a gathering of Qi. A healthy and happy human being is a dynamic but harmonious mixture of all the aspects of Qi that make up who we are. Qi is in a state of continuous flux, transforming endlessly from one aspect of Qi into another. It’s neither created nor is it ever destroyed; it simply changes in its manifestation.2

Qi flows through invisible meridians, or channels, of the body that connects organs, tissues, veins, nerves, cells, atoms, and consciousness itself. There are 12 major meridians with each connecting to one of the 12 major organs in TCM theory. The meridians are also related to circadian rhythms, seasons, and planetary movements, which create additional invisible networks.

The Meridians

Pictured: The Meridians    Source: Dr. Huong

In acupuncture, for example, very thin needles are inserted into specific areas along the meridians. The needles stimulate the meridians and readjust the flow of Qi to balance the body’s Yin and Yang. While the meridian network can be used to alleviate symptoms, it’s also said that TCM can endow individuals with the ability to change consciousness after treatments.

To learn more about Qi, the meridians, and acupuncture, click here

Traditional Chinese Medicine’s Five Element Theory

Philosophers have questioned the origins of life and the makeup of the universe since prehistory, the time before written records existed. According to some traditions, including TCM, everything in the universe comes from the five elements: wood, fire, earth, water, and metal.

“The five elements are used in pretty much every different style of TCM to some extent to diagnose and differentiate between different illnesses, dysfunctions, and people,” says Tiffany Cruikshank, licensed acupuncturist, experienced registered yoga teacher, and founder of Yoga Medicine.

The elements are all connected; wood feeds fire, fire makes earth, earth creates metal, metal holds water, and water nourishes wood. Each element both controls and is controlled by another element. One element may manifest heavier within us than others, which is where we are strongest, yet most vulnerable.

Each element has unique characteristics and becoming aware of your elemental dominance can help explain the physiology and pathology within your body. Here’s a breakdown of the five elemental types in TCM:

  • A “Wood Personality” is someone who is athletic, energetic, and adventurous. Wood personalities tend to be anxious and angry, and may suffer from orthopedic issues, migraines, or ADD.
  • A “Fire Personality” is someone who is passionate, creative, and authoritative. Fire personalities tend to be impulsive and irritable, and may suffer from insomnia, high blood pressure, chest pains, or headaches.
  • An “Earth Personality” is someone who is nurturing, generous, and caregiving. Earth personalities tend to be worrisome and pensive, and may suffer from abdominal issues or hormonal problems.
  • A “Metal Personality” is someone who is meticulous, honest, and responsible. Metal personalities tend to be melancholy and may suffer from constipation, lung and skin issues, or allergies.
  • A “Water Personality” is an old soul that is known to be wise, reflective, and private. Water personalities tend to be indecisive, fearful, and paranoid, and may suffer from back pain, knee pain, and kidney and bladder infections.

TCM's Five Element TheoryPictured: The Five Element Theory traits and characteristics    Source: Scottsdale Acupuncture

If you want to find out your element type, you can take this quiz

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Herbal Therapy

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbs and herbal formulas are used to strengthen organ function and support good health. TCM practitioners have an understanding of the essence of various herbal components to create a healing effect that goes beyond the chemical composition and physical properties of the herbs to correctly stimulate or adjust the body’s own energy vibration.

Many TCM herbal formulas have been in use for more than 2,200 years, and are composed of ingredients chosen to function in combination with each other. In Western Medicine, medications are commonly prescribed for a specific effect, while in TCM, each herb in a formula has a different purpose or role to help the body achieve harmony. 

For a plant to be included in TCM herbal therapy, each of its parts has to be identified for a different healing purpose. The following are a few of the most used Traditional Chinese Medicinal herbs, along with their benefits:

  • ‌‌‌‌Ginkgo Biloba: Promotes Brain Health and Improved Memory
  • ‌‌‌‌Ginseng (Ren Shen): Offers Immune Support and Improved Bone Strength
  • Turmeric: Possesses Anti-inflammatory, Anti-oxidant, and Digestive Health Properties
  • Astragalus (Huang Qi): Offers Immune Support and Brain Protection
  • Cinnamon: Regulates Blood Sugar and Promotes Dental HealthGinseng; top left. Astragalus; top right (, Turmeric‌‌‌‌; bottom left (Homestead and Chill), Ginkgo Biloba; bottom right

Pictured: Ginseng; top left (Me & Qi), Astragalus; top right (EBAY), Turmeric‌‌‌‌; bottom left (Homestead and Chill), Ginkgo Biloba; bottom right (Indiamart)

Herbs can have effects on the body as powerful as pharmaceutical drugs, which is why you should consult with your doctor before taking part in herbal therapy. Additionally, you should never abandon your regular medication or alter the dose without the knowledge and approval of your doctor.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Food

Much like herbs, TCM views the healing properties of foods in the same way; different foods carry different energies that can go directly to specific organs to help them heal. Food is divided into five natures, called “siQi”: cold, cool, neutral, warm, and hot. The nature of food is not determined by its actual temperature, but rather by what effects it will have on an individual’s body after consumption. 

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, when a person continually eats one type of food, it creates an imbalance in their body and affects their immune system. Thus, one of the keys in Traditional Chinese Medicine is to keep our body “neutral.” Traditional Chinese Medicine also tells us that having food at a moderate temperature is ideal to avoid overstraining the digestive organs.3

TCM Food Chart

Pictured: Traditional Chinese Medicine Food Chart    Source: Pinterest

There’s a saying in TCM: “The five grains provide nourishment. The five vegetables provide filling. The five domestic animals provide enrichment. The five fruits provide support.” This means that a balanced diet, where foods are consumed in appropriate combinations according to their natures and flavors, serves to supplement the essence that the human body needs.4

Traditional Chinese Medicine, Genetic Research, and Drug Development

Considering the fact that Traditional Chinese Medicine is now an academic discipline in the field of medicine, there are modern developments that are worth taking note of, such as the use of TCM in genetics research.

The Yin and Yang principle can be applied to a genetic disease such as inherited breast cancer and its associated genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. According to this principle of natural law, if either of these genes is activated, somewhere in another part of the genetic code there also exists a gene to fix this action. There must be complementary programs running — one for developing the disease and one for healing it.5

In addition to genetics research, nearly 200 modern medicines have been developed either directly or indirectly from the 7,300 species of plants used in TCM. For example, ephedrine, an alkaloid used to treat asthma, was first isolated from the Chinese herb Ma Huang. Another alkaloid known as huperzine A was isolated from a widely used ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine known as Huperzia serrata, which is a type of fir moss.

Ma Huang; top, Huperzia serrata, bottomPictured: Ma Huang; top (The Plant Attraction), Huperzia serrata, bottom (HSN)

In Conclusion

Even if you aren’t familiar with all of the fundamentals of Traditional Chinese Medicine, you’re probably familiar with some of its practices. Maybe you’ve had an acupuncture session, taken turmeric for arthritis pain, or signed up at the local tai chi studio. Either way, TCM’s popularity has remained consistent throughout the centuries for improving health and wellness when used alongside conventional medical therapies.

What is your TCM elemental type? Have you ever tried a TCM treatment? Let us know in the comments!




References: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]


Aloe in Skincare

There’s a reason why Aloe has become a medicine cabinet staple – it’s been used by different civilizations for centuries for a range of medicinal and skincare purposes. A cactus plant that naturally grows in arid climates, the succulent-like leaves of the Aloe plant house a clear gel that’s home to more than 75 different active compounds, including vitamins, minerals, sugars, enzymes, salicylic acids, and amino acids. In this blog, we’ll explore Aloe’s ancient uses, its nutrient content and skincare benefits, along with the importance of using clean, safe Aloe.

What is Aloe?

The botanical name of Aloe is Aloe barbadensis miller. It belongs to the Asphodelaceae (Liliaceae) family and is a shrubby or arborescent, perennial, xerophytic, succulent, pea-green colored plant. 

Aloe grows mainly in the dry regions of Africa, Asia, Europe, and America. However, Aloe is also cultivated in the southern border areas of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

The Aloe plant has triangular, fleshy leaves with serrated edges, yellow tubular flowers, and fruits that contain numerous seeds. Each leaf is composed of three layers: 

  • Outer Layer: Called the rind, this is the sturdy, thorny surface of the plant that serves as a protective barrier and is not consumed.
  • Middle Layer: This layer of the Aloe leaf is found underneath the rind and houses the bitter-tasting yellow sap known as Aloe latex or aloin. This sticky substance contains anthraquinones, which are compounds that have a laxative effect.
  • Inner Layer: This is where you’ll find the clear, fleshy, and flavorless Aloe gel. Although it’s 99% water, it’s brimming with bioactive compounds.

The three layers of an Aloe leaf

Source: Baden-Württemberg

Aloe’s Nutrient Content

Aloe consists of 75 potentially active constituents: vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars, lignin, saponins, salicylic acids, and amino acids. Here’s a brief breakdown of Aloe’s nutrient content:

    • Vitamins: It contains Vitamin A, B12,C, E, choline, and folic acid. Vitamin A, C and E are antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals.
    • Enzymes: It contains a multitude of enzymes, such as alkaline phosphatase, amylase, bradykinase, carboxypeptidase, catalase, cellulase, lipase, and peroxidase. Bradykinase helps to reduce excessive inflammation when applied to the skin topically, while others help in the breakdown of sugars and fats.
    • Minerals: It provides calcium, chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, and zinc. They are essential for the proper functioning of various enzyme systems in different metabolic pathways.
    • Anthraquinones/Anthrones: It provides aloetic-acid, anthranol, aloin, isobarbaloin, emodin, and ester of cinnamic acid. Aloin and emodin acts as analgesics, antibacterials, and antivirals.
    • Saccharides: It contains mannose, glucose, L-rhamnose, and aldopentose.
    • Fatty acids: It provides four plant steroids; cholesterol, campesterol, β-sisosterol, and lupeol. All these have anti-inflammatory action and lupeol also possesses antiseptic and analgesic properties.
    • Hormones: It provides uxins and gibberellins that may have anti-inflammatory actions.
    • Others: It provides 20 of the 22 human required amino acids and seven of the eight essential amino acids. It also contains salicylic acid that possesses anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Lignin, an inert substance, when included in topical preparations, enhances the penetrative effect of the other ingredients into the skin. Saponins that are the soapy substances form about 3% of the gel and have cleansing and antiseptic properties.

Aloe in Ancient Times

The use of Aloe has a history of over 5000 years. In fact, the Bible speaks of Aloe in more than a dozen passages, referring to it as the “bitter herb.”1 Proverbs 7:17, for example, says, “I have sprinkled my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.”

The ancient Chinese and Egyptians used Aloe to treat burns and wounds, and to reduce fevers, while American Indians, who called Aloe “The Wand of Heaven”, believed that anyone touched by the inner sap, which is what we call the gel, would be cured of their skin disorders.2

The earliest record of Aloe in skincare comes from the Ebers Papyrus, which is an Egyptian medical record, from the 16th century BC. According to the Indian Journal of Dermatology, in ancient Egypt, they called Aloe “The Plant of Immortality.” with many claims of Nefertiti and Cleopatra using Aloe in their beauty treatments.3 4

In the Greco-Roman era, Aristotle, among others, used Aloe to heal wounds, boils, eye conditions, care for the skin, and prevent hair loss.5 6 The Jíbaro Indians called Aloe “The Doctor of the Sky” and “Fountain of Youth” and was considered one of their sacred plants.7 8

The benefits of Aloe were discovered again at the end of World War II after verifying that it helped cure the burns of people injured in the nuclear explosions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1968, the stabilization of the gel was made possible, which allowed it to be transported worldwide, but modern medicine and the use of synthetic drugs managed to eclipse it for a few decades.9

Today, Aloe is scientifically recognized and has re-emerged within the world of natural medicine. Currently, its main use is in cosmetics and skincare for its array of benefits.

The Benefits of Aloe

When you spot a bottle of Aloe gel, chances are you recall being slathered with it after too much time in the sun. However, Aloe’s benefits for skin span much wider than treating sunburn, especially considering that Aloe is scientifically proven to penetrate the skin up to seven layers deep.

Here are some of the ways Aloe can benefit your skin, according to dermatologists and studies:

It Can Soothe Sunburns

Aloe’s most well-known usage is soothing sunburned skin. Because of its naturally moisturizing, and subsequently healing properties, research has shown that Aloe may help heal first- and second-degree burns on the skin.10 The plant is also incredibly hydrating, which could help combat the skin peeling that usually takes effect post-sunburn.

Aloe is chock-full of antioxidants, and one antioxidant protein in particular, called Metallothionein, has been found to have a protective effect on skin that’s been exposed to and damaged by UV rays.11 12 

It Can Help Fade Dark Spots

Dark spots on the skin, also known as hyperpigmentation, can leave their mark for a variety of reasons; whether from sun exposure, acne, or just the normal aging process. However, a compound called aloesin, found in the Aloe plant, may help reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation.

According to one study, when applied four times per day for 15 days, aloesin was found to be effective in treating UV-induced and post-acne hyperpigmentation.13 Another study concluded that the topical application of aloesin can directly inhibit hyperpigmented skin from producing more melanin.14

It Can Moisturize Skin

“The leaf of the Aloe plant is rich in water, particularly in the innermost layer, so it helps to hydrate the skin and lock in moisture,” explains board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, M.D. “The sugars Aloe contains, known as mucopolysaccharides, also help to retain moisture in the skin.”

When applied topically, Aloe has been shown to increase the water content of the outermost layer of skin, which is called the stratum corneum, making it an ideal ingredient for dry skin types.15

It Can Provide Healthy Aging Benefits for Skin

Sufficient moisture can help stave off the visible signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles. In addition to its ability to help replenish and retain moisture in the skin, Aloe also stimulates the production of hyaluronic acid, collagen, and elastin fibers in the skin — all of which are necessary to keep skin hydrated, firm, and supple. 16 17

It Can Clear Up Acne

“There is data to suggest that Aloe possesses antimicrobial properties and can help acne-prone skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D. “It should not take the place of your traditional acne medications but can be used alongside them.”

In addition to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, Aloe is also a natural source of salicylic acids, which can also help with breakouts such as blackheads and whiteheads. One study found that the topical use of Aloe in combination with tretinoin cream was effective in treating inflammatory and noninflammatory acne.18

It Can Soothe Psoriasis and Eczema

Aloe is also able to stimulate new cell growth. It can help heal chronic skin problems such as psoriasis, acne, and eczema as it contains the antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamins C and E, which help firm the skin and keep it hydrated.

Additionally, skin with a broken barrier is also more prone to fungal and bacterial infections. Aloe can be considered an antiseptic acting against fungi, bacteria, and viruses. According to the Mayo Clinic, using Aloe cream on psoriasis may also help reduce the scaling, redness, and irritation caused by the disorder.19

It Can Promote Wound Healing

If you’re used to grabbing Neosporin for a minor cut, consider trying Aloe instead. Its molecular structure helps heal wounds quickly and minimizes scarring by boosting collagen and fighting bacteria.

In one study, it was found that glucomannan, a polysaccharide, and gibberellin, a growth hormone, interact with growth factor receptors on the fibroblast, thereby stimulating its activity and proliferation, which in turn significantly increases collagen synthesis after the use of Aloe topically. Due to this, it accelerated wound contraction and increased the breaking strength of the resulting scar tissue.20

Colorized vs. Decolorized Aloe

It’s important to know the difference between non-decolorized and decolorized Aloe. In fact, California’s Proposition 65, which requires businesses to provide warnings to Californians about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, lists non-decolorized Aloe.

Non-decolorized Aloe is the whole Aloe leaf including the outer skin, the outer leaf, and the gel. It’s all processed together and not filtered to remove cancer-causing and DNA damaging chemicals, such as aloin, that are naturally found in the Aloe plant. Decolorized Aloe is not listed on the Proposition 65 list considering it has been purified and filtered to remove cancer-causing chemicals.

Several commercial Aloe manufacturers filter the Aloe using the following methods:

  • Leaf Processing Method: Aloe leaf juice is obtained by grinding or macerating the entire Aloe leaf followed by purification to remove the phenolic compounds found in the latex. This purification step is usually accomplished via activated carbon filtration in a process known as decolorization.
  • Inner Leaf Processing Method: Aloe leaf juice is obtained by stripping away the outer leaf rind, rinsing or washing away the latex, and processing the remaining inner leaf material. Decolorization is also sometimes employed with this method.

A two year National Toxicology Program concluded that oral ingestion of the non-decolorized whole leaf Aloe was linked to gastrointestinal tumors in rats. However, another study in rats showed that decolorized Aloe did not cause harmful effects. This suggests that the toxic components are likely removed by the decolorization process. 

You can learn more about non-decolorized and decolorized Aloe here.

Always Use Clean, Safe Aloe 

Caution should be taken when using non-decolorized Aloe as there can be potential side effects. The Aloe latex — the yellow juice near the rind — is where most of the danger lies. However, ingredients in the more commonly used gel itself can also be harmful to some people. Always test a small amount to ensure you aren’t allergic to the plant.

Here is a list of potential side effects of using non-decolorized Aloe. When in doubt, always check with your doctor.

  • Regular use of the entire leaf — which includes the latex — can deplete potassium in the body. Electrolyte imbalances can lead to muscle weakness and cardiac problems. According to the National Institutes of Health, ingesting one gram of Aloe latex for multiple days can be fatal.
  • Products containing the latex will exacerbate intestinal illnesses such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • People with diabetes should monitor their blood sugar levels when using Aloe.
  • Ingesting any form of Aloe is not recommended during pregnancy as it may cause uterine contractions or miscarriage. Aloe should also be avoided during breastfeeding.
  • Excessive use of Aloe latex may cause kidney failure and shouldn’t be used by people with kidney problems.

Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Eye Cream Herban Wisdom Eye Cream

Aloe leaf juice is integrated into the Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Eye Cream for its ability to moisturize and restore suppleness to dry and damaged skin, along with being able to address wound-healing and skin inflammation.

The Aloe contained in Humanist Beauty formulas is decolorized and deemed safe according to California Proposition 65. Additionally, the anthraquinone content of Humanist Beauty’s Aloe is less than 50 ppm and is free of PCB/pesticides, arsenic, heavy metals, and lead in compliance with CIR restrictions.

You can shop the Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom Eye Cream here [1] [2] [3] [4],loss%20or%20alleviate%20genital%20ulcers. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20]

Schisandra: An Ancient Adaptogen

You may have heard of Schisandra as a super ingredient that is loved and praised by health enthusiasts. The adaptogen is often ingested as a supplement or added to smoothies as a way to bring the mind and body to equilibrium. Schisandra, also known as Chinese Magnolia Vine, Five Flavored Fruit, and Wu Wei Zi, is a woody vine that produces red berries in the forests of Northern China and the Russian Far East. It’s considered a Harmonizing Tonic or “King” remedy beneficial to qi in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) due to its well balanced energetic nature. In this blog, we’ll discuss the history of Schisandra, along with its medicinal and skincare benefits.

How Schisandra Gained Its Names

Schisandra berry’s Chinese name, Wǔ Wèi Zi, means “Five Flavor Fruit.” It earned this name as it’s the only fruit known to contain all five fundamental tastes — bitter, pungent, salty, sour, and sweet. According to TCM theory, this unique composition supports the five Zang Organs, or the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, and spleen. This cooperative of Zang Organs produces and stores qi, the vital energy or life force that flows through all living things.1

The western botanical name, Schisandra, comes from the genus Schisandraceae, which was named by French botanist André Michaux in his Flora Boreali-Americana, published in 1803. Sometimes it’s incorrectly spelled Schizandra, which is a misunderstanding of origin. According to the American Herbal Pharmacopeia, “The name Schisandra is derived from the ancient Greek schisis meaning “crevice” or “fissure.”

Many writers have incorrectly written this as Schizandra presumably from the Greek schizo meaning “split” or “separate” which has resulted in inconsistencies in the literature. This is further confused as the Manual of Cultivated Trees, which was published in 1954, reported that the name Schisandra was in fact based on the verb schizo.”2

Schisandra Fact Sheet

Source: The Alchemist’s Kitchen

The Historical and Cultural Significance of Schisandra

Indigenous peoples of the Asian continent have used Schisandra berries medicinally and ceremonially since before recorded history – over 2,000 years. To make use of all the benefits, the Schisandra berries were most commonly dried in the sun and consumed as part of food and medicinal practices. 

TCM says that Schisandra berries “calm the heart and quiet the spirit.” Indigenous Siberian hunters, known as the Nanai, have traditionally consumed the Schisandra plant’s berries to help improve stamina and reduce fatigue in the rugged terrain during the long winter months.3

Recorded use of Schisandra dates back to the Tang dynasty, described in China’s first known herbal encyclopedia: Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, or The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica, written and compiled between about 200 and 250 CE. It’s considered one of “50 Fundamental Herbs” in TCM. Chinese, Korean, and Russian cultures have used its berries in a number of ways; in beauty tonic blends, as an ingredient in soups and stews, and infused into wines. 

Awareness of Schisandra reached the European and American countries relatively recently; the first monograph on it can be found in The American Pharmacopoeia from 1999.4 Today, Schisandra is a popular ingredient in skincare products and foods, shining a light on the berries’ myriad of benefits.

Medicinal Benefits of Schisandra

Schisandra berries are known to have a wide range of health benefits and have been used in traditional medicine to treat a number of illnesses. From helping to heal yourself by clearing toxins out of your body to aiding with specific maladies, the medicinal benefits are nearly endless.

Schisandra can: 

Aid Those Suffering From Alzheimer’s Disease

Schisandrin B is a mineral found in Schisandra berries, which may have a positive effect on Alzheimer’s disease. A recent study found that Schisandrin B has the ability to block the formation of peptides in the brain.5

The specific peptide, amyloid-beta, is found in excessive amounts in all Alzheimer’s sufferers. Schisandrin B is an anti-inflammatory mineral, which can assist further to reduce neurotoxicity and the severity of Alzheimer’s disease.6

Increase Physical Health

Schisandra was studied by Russian scientists and shown to provide an increased physical working capacity. The study’s findings found that Schisandra can create a stress-protective effect in animals. This included protection from heat shock, frostbite, immobilization, irradiation, and heavy metal intoxication.7 

Reduce Blood Pressure

Schisandra has been used for centuries in oral form as a relaxant. Studies conducted showed an increase in blood circulation by relaxing cardiac blood vessels. This results in lower blood pressure and ties in with a reduction in stress.8

Be Effective Against Liver Damage

One study showed that the Schisandra Chinensis Pollen Extract (SCPE) had an antioxidant effect on carbon tetrachloride (CCI4) toxins in the liver. The higher antioxidant activities and the abundance of polyphenols found in SCPE was also proven to be effective against liver damage caused by Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.9,10

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) can be the result of numerous liver diseases, such as hepatitis and cirrhosis. There are more fatty acids and inflammation of the liver in people with NAFLD. Researchers found that Schisandrin B reduced these fatty acids, while also acting as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.

Reduce Menopause Symptoms

A randomized controlled trial completed at the end of 2016 showed that Schisandra can reduce the severity of menopausal symptoms. It concluded that Schisandra is effective and safe at minimizing hot flashes, sweating, and heart palpitations.11

Be Effective Against Asthma

A study from Korea published in 2014 found that Schisandra berries exert anti-asthma properties. The berries do this by inhibiting immunoglobulins, which are antibodies that incite allergy reactions. The berries also temper hyper-responsiveness by the body. This hyper-responsive effect to allergens is what causes airways to spasm and close, creating asthma attacks.12

Work As An Energy and Adrenal Tonic

Schisandra has long been prized for its energizing and vitality-enhancing properties. Countless studies have shown the measurable increased physical performance of subjects taking it. Since it’s a tonic herb, it can strengthen and tone many organs in the body, benefiting the flow of qi.13

Schisandra can increase the contractibility of the heart and enhance the exchange of oxygen in the tissue cells. This ultimately means your muscles will enhance the utilization of oxygen and improve the gaseous exchange in the lungs and in peripheral cells to reduce the production of acidic metabolic waste while simultaneously increasing the removal of acidic waste in the cells, blood, and lungs.14

Combats Stress and Depression

There is a significant amount of evidence, in conjunction with its long-standing traditional use as a tonic, that as an adaptogen, Schisandra can be effective against stress and depression. Adaptogens are substances believed to reinforce the nonspecific resistance of the body against physical, chemical, or biological stressors.

Schisandra is most well-known in the West as an adaptogen facilitating a response to unproductive stress by modulating endocrine and immune functions. As an adrenal-cortical restorative, Schisandra can overcome the chronic loss of stamina, fatigue, over-work and chronic illness.15

Promotes Longevity and Vitality

For millennia, Schisandra has been known as a herb that promotes longevity and acts against aging. Schisandra’s berries are rich in antioxidants, but they also have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Both of these actions help to improve cellular function and promote a longer life. In TCM, the ability of Schisandra to promote longevity and vitality is attributed to its tonification of the three treasures: qi, Jing (essence), and Shen (spirit).

Schisandra in Skincare

Schisandra has an array of medicinal benefits that have been touted for centuries; however, it has also been highly regarded for its potential skin benefits in China, especially among the wealthy. The berries were used to promote beautiful skin and provide protection from sun and wind damage. 

Packed with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, including key vitamins C and E, Schisandra’s strong astringent qualities enable the skin to hold in moisture for more fullness. Additionally, its action on the liver can largely be attributed to improvements in skin issues including hives and eczema. 

Researchers at Badische Anilin und Soda Fabrik (BASF) have also discovered that Schisandra berry extracts, at the molecular level, specifically target two chemical processes linked to skin anti-aging. The extract stimulates the synthesis of these “tension molecules,” called collagen XVII and ladinin-1.16

In general, Schisandra’s benefits on the skin can include:

  • Rejuvenating and revitalizing the skin
  • Reducing the skin’s natural inflammation and the vascular swelling produced by anxiety and stress
  • Protecting against external damage like wind, sun rays, and pollution
  • Improving skin strength and resiliency
  • Promoting overall skin wellness

The Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Eye Cream The Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Eye Cream

Schisandra berry extract is integrated into the Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Eye Cream for its adaptogenic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, tonic, and astringent properties to promote overall skin wellness and to keep your skin looking and feeling its absolute best.

Remember: Your eyes are the windows to your soul, so take special care of them so they can convey the happiness and joy you feel inside.

You can learn more about the Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Eye Cream here.


References: [1] [2] [4] [3] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13][14] [15] [16]

Coriander Seed Oil: The Ancient Ingredient That’s Amazing for Skin

While Coriander spice is a culinary staple, Coriander Seed Oil deserves a place in your wellness and skincare routine. Coriander Seed Oil, derived from the ripe seeds of the Coriander plant, has an intriguing history of being used medicinally and topically for its health and beautifying benefits.

Coriander Seed Oil is extracted from the Coriandrum sativum plant through steam distillation. It is native to regions spanning from Southern Europe and North Africa to Southwestern Asia. However, the crop is widely distributed throughout the world. The entirety of the Coriandrum sativum plant is edible. Its leaves, commonly known as cilantro, have a delicious, lemony flavor that accentuates Mexican and South Asian cuisines. Coriander seeds, on the other hand, are used in Indian food for their warm and spicy flavor.

With promising antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-oxidative properties, Coriander Seed Oil is garnering attention in the beauty industry as a beneficial skincare ingredient.

The History of the Coriander Seed

Coriander seeds have been found in ancient ruins that date as far back as 5000 BC. The Egyptians used the seeds as an aphrodisiac and as an ingredient in perfumes. Additionally, the tombs of pharaohs contained Coriander seeds as a suspected symbol of eternal love.1 The Romans and Greeks used it to flavor their wine, while Indians used the seeds in natural remedies.

According to folklore, the Persians grew coriander seeds around 3,000 years ago to provide a pleasant fragrance in the hanging gardens of Babylon.2  Also, within the Bible, coriander seed is mentioned in Exodus 16:30 when God supplied manna to the Israelites in the wilderness.

Traditional Chinese Medicine’s Coriander Concepts

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the coriander plant is known to belong to the ‘Warm/Acrid’ family of herbs that release ‘Exterior’ ailments.3  These herbs purportedly treat early-stage diseases that affect the upper respiratory tract, eyes, ears, nose, throat, and skin. TCM believes that Exterior conditions disrupt the Wei Qi (immune system) and that Warm/Acrid herbs induce sweating that can expel these ailments.

Practitioners believe that Coriander can help bring balance within the body by restoring Yin and Yang, a key concept in TCM. Since Coriander is known to be Warm, it tends to help those who have too much Cold in their body. Having too much Cold means one either has a Yin Excess (Yin is Cold) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot). 4

Benefits of Coriander Seed Oil

Coriander Seed Oil is renowned for a multitude of health benefits. Taken internally, the oil has been used to aid in digestion due to its soothing quality. It possesses antibacterial and antifungal properties and has been taken orally for halitosis. Additionally, it has been used as a calming agent to address shock, trauma, and stress.

Coriander Seed Oil consists of three main components: monoterpenols, monoterpenes, and ketones. These elements give Coriander its cleansing, antioxidant, and wellness-boosting properties.

Coriander Seed Oil is replete with key antioxidants and active agents that provide amazing benefits, such as:

  • Terpinene: antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties
  • Quercetin: a flavonoid with antioxidant properties
  • Tocopherols: a form of vitamin E, absorbs UV rays, helps prevent UV-induced free radical damage
  • Linalool: antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties
  • Terpinolene: antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial properties, acts as a sedative when mixed with linalool
  • Cineole: anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial
  • Phellandrene: antifungal, antibacterial
  • Dipentene: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-stress

If you want to explore more of the antioxidants and active agents within Coriander Seed Oil, check out our ingredient glossary.

Coriander Seed Oil in Skincare

Coriander Seed Oil was first used in lotions and skincare products for its deodorizing benefits. However more recently, it has become more widely used for its skin-caring antioxidant potency.

The benefits of Coriander Seed Oil for the skin are impressive:

  • It’s rich in vitamins. This includes Vitamin C, which promotes skin brightening as well as Vitamin E.
  • It’s anti-inflammatory. Can help soothe and calm sensitive or irritated skin.
  • It protects skin cells from oxidative stress. Antioxidant power helps prevent collagen fragmentation and skin diseases including cancer.
  • It supports skin wellness. Helps promote a clear complexion and improve oily skin.

DIY Uses of Coriander Seed Oil at Home

With your medical practitioner’s approval, there are many ways you can use Coriander Seed Oil at home – topically, aromatically, or even ingested. Here are some ideas for at-home DIY uses:

  • Mix a few drops of Coriander Seed Oil with water to combat bad breath.
  • Blend a few drops into a carrier oil like jojoba or MCT and use it as a massage oil to help relieve stiffness and promote circulation.
  • Add two drops to your bath to help increase libido.
  • For a refreshing and calming scent, add a few drops in a burner or diffuser. Coriander Seed Oil blends well with Bergamot, Cinnamon, Grapefruit, Ginger, Neroli, Lemon, Lime, Orange, and other citrus fruit oils.
  • Apply it directly to your back for digestive difficulties. Or take it internally with honey and water.
  • If you have sensitive skin, apply it neat to promote a clear complexion and address oily skin.

Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom Facial Oil

Coriander Seed Oil is integrated into the Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom Facial Oil for its aromatic properties and as a tonic to promote a feeling of well-being.

If you’re interested in experiencing Herban Wisdom Facial Oil for yourself, try a free sample. Along with your purchase, you’ll receive a $10 off promo code. At $100 per ounce, this sample is worth $16.67 by itself, which is an amazing deal. While supplies last. [1] [2] [3] [4]

Black Cumin Seed Oil: The Miracle Ingredient You Should Know About

Black Cumin Seed Oil has long been prized as a key therapeutic medicinal herb in Ayurveda. With a history full of mystery, the ancient oil has been utilized in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia for thousands of years.

According to researchers, Black Cumin Seed Oil was first used by the Assyrians in ancient Egypt, with renowned figures like Cleopatra and Nefertiti adopting the ingredient into their skincare routines, beautifying baths, and medicines. Additionally, Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen was buried alongside the oil.

While the benefits of Black Cumin Seed Oil are plentiful, the oil is relatively new to American skincare. However, with consumers demanding more naturally effective skincare, discovery of ancient ingredients such as Black Cumin is sure to only increase.

What is Black Cumin Seed Oil?

Black Cumin Seed Oil is cold-pressed from seeds of the Nigella sativa plant, which is native to eastern Europe and western Asia. Over time, the annual flowering plant has naturalized over a larger area consisting of parts of Europe and northern Africa.

Black Cumin Seed Oil has been utilized in traditional medicine for over 2,000 years due to its therapeutic properties and numerous applications of health. Also, in Ayurveda, Black Cumin is also called kalonji, upakuncika, karavi, and krishnajiraka. It is believed to increase the Pitta dosha. This medicinal oil is among the top-ranked evidence-based herbal medicines. It has been used to combat neurological and mental illnesses, cardiovascular disorders, cancer, diabetes, and inflammatory conditions. It has also been used to address infectious diseases due to bacterial, fungal, and parasitic, and viral infections.

The key constituents of Black Cumin Seed Oil and their advantages are:

  • Thymoquinone: acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory for the skin
  • Palmitic Acid – the most common saturated fatty acid with emollient properties
  • Stearic Acid – cleansing and softening
  • Oleic Acids (Omega-9) – anti-aging, boosts immunity, maintains the softness, suppleness, and radiance of the skin
  • Linoleic Acids – anti-inflammatory, slows the look of aging by sustaining skin’s elasticity, soothes acne, and reduces the chance of future outbreaks

The Benefits of Black Cumin Seed Oil in Skincare

Applied topically, Black Cumin Seed Oil helps to nourish, moisturize, and protect skin from oxidative stress, which supports skin wellness. The oil is ideal for even the most sensitive skin, as its softening and firming qualities are known to reduce the appearance of scars.

Black Cumin Seed Oil is known for its “Three A” properties: anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial. Incorporating Black Cumin Seed Oil into your skincare regime can be beneficial. Here’s why:

  1. It reduces the signs of aging. Black Cumin Seed Oil keeps skin’s elasticity intact while fighting free radicals that can cause wrinkles and fine lines.
  2. Its anti-inflammatory properties reduce redness and irritation. This oil is a holy grail for those suffering from eczema or psoriasis as it can help tame inflammation and it is a strong astringent that can help fight skin infections.
  3. It fights acne. Acne breakouts result from an overproduction of oil that collects in pores. Black Cumin Seed Oil is full of fatty acids that can help flush out the oil by surfacing healthy skin cells that dissolve fat pockets within pores.
  4. It fades dark spots. Vitamin A, fatty acids, and amino acids within Black Cumin Seed Oil work as a team to regenerate skin cells, resulting in neutralized dark spots.

DIY Black Cumin Seed Oil Uses

If you’re into DIY skincare, you can try adding Black Cumin Seed Oil to your regimen. If your skin is not sensitive, applying the oil neet can help treat visible skin ailments while hydrating and diminishing the look of fine lines. You can also add two drops of Black Cumin Seed Oil to your preferred face cream for added benefits.

DIY Face Mask

Try this homemade face mask recipe made with a dash of Black Cumin Seed Oil. It can help brighten, address the look of blemishes, and help purify skin (note that this recipe is not vegan):

    1. Make sure your face is cleansed, ensuring that all makeup has been removed.
    2. Mix 1 Tbsp. of Black Cumin Seed Oil, 3 Tbsp. Raw Organic Honey, and 3 Tbsp. Super-Finely-Ground Apricot Shell exfoliant in a small bowl.
    3. Using your fingertips, gently apply 1 Tbsp. of the mixture to your face and neck.
    4. After 10 minutes, rinse thoroughly.
    5. Finish off by moisturizing your skin with 2 drops of Black Cumin Seed Oil.

DIY Face Moisturizer

Here’s a DIY face moisturizer recipe that includes Black Cumin Seed Oil (this one is vegan):

    1. Combine 30 ml Jojoba Oil, 30 ml Sweet Almond Oil, 20 ml Borage Oil, 15 ml Rosehip Oil, 6 ml vegan Vitamin E-liquid, and 9 ml Black Cumin Seed Oil.
    2. After mixing the ingredients, rub 6 to 8 drops of the blend between your palms to warm the elixir.
    3. Gently massage onto your face and neck while avoiding the eye area.

Black Cumin Seed Oil for Medicinal Use

If you’re having respiratory issues and your medical practictioner approves, you can try diffusing Black Cumin Seed Oil. It is said to help enhance the wellness of your respiratory system, as its potency may alleviate symptoms of asthma and bronchitis.

Additionally, diffusing Black Cumin Seed Oil can help with stomach gas/pain, bloating, and gastrointestinal disorders. The oil has a carminative property, which enhances digestion and reduces discomforts. Be sure to consult with your doctor before trying anything new such as this, and be especially careful if you are pregnant.

Humanist Beauty Herban WisdomFacial Oil

Black Cumin Seed Oil is incorporated into the Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom™ Facial Oil to boost levels of antioxidants while providing a skincare experience like no other.

Adding a few drops of this Facial Oil to your nighttime skincare regimen will leave your skin visibly recharged with a balanced natural glow. Plus, the Herban Wisdom Facial Oil can also be used on pulse points and other skin externalities to soothe your mind, body, and soul.

If you’ve read this far, congratulations! Here’s a special promocode for 30% off your next order of Herban Wisdom™ Facial Oil: BLACKCUMINSEEDOIL. Limit one promocode use per customer.

Otherwise, you can pick up a free deluxe sample of the Herban Wisdom Facial Oil here. And when you receive your sample, you’ll get a promo code for $10 off your next $50 purchase.

Sacha Inchi Skin Benefits

Superfoods aren’t just for eating. Some of them are also highly beneficial when applied topically to the skin. Enter Sacha Inchi (plukentia volubilis), an extraordinary plant that grows on vines native to the Peruvian Amazon. You could say Sacha Inchi is the new health nut for health nuts. But what makes this exotic botanical seed so special?

A Brief History of Sacha Inchi

The earliest accounts of Sacha Inchi use dates back to the Peruvian Mochica and Chimu civilizations some 3000 to 5000 years ago, confirmed by ceramic artifacts discovered from this era. It continued to be used and grown by the Chancas and then the Incas. Also known as Sacha Peanut, Jungle Peanut, or Inca Peanut, depictions of the plant have been discovered on Incan tombs.

Sacha Inchi remained a local secret until 1976. That’s when the Peruvian Minister for Agriculture opened an investigation on the Amazonian region’s potential for new types of food crops. Once Sacha Inchi’s impressive nutritional profile was recognized along with its ability to be sustainably harvested, the spotlight shone on its opportunity for growth as a functional food. Sacha Inchi was first exported to Switzerland from Peru in the mid 2000s. In January 2013, the European Union approved Sacha Inchi oil for sale as a novel food. In October 2014, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Sacha Inchi as Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS).

A picture of sacha inchi pods unripened and a cross section of sacha inchi pods ripened and opened sitting atop a mound of dried sacha inchi nut seeds

Sacha Inchi Health Benefits

Sacha Inchi seed oil is obtained by cold press extraction using mechanical pressure. The seeds (nuts) are considered a superfood due to their impressive nutritional profile. They possess a high concentration of unsaturated fatty acids (94%), rich in Alpha-linolenic (Omega 3, 45-60%) and Linoleic (Omega 6, 25-37%) polyunsaturated fatty acids. They also contains Oleic (Omega 9, 8-12%) monounsaturated fatty acid plus Palmitic (3-5%) and Stearic (1.5%) saturated fatty acids. Sacha Inchi is also a robust source of antioxidant Vitamin E.

The human body does not produce Omega 3 or Omega 6, yet these nutrients are essential for optimal body and skin health. Omega 3 in particular is a potent anti-inflammatory essential fatty acid. Sacha Inchi seeds possess about 10 times more Omega 3 by gram weight than salmon and about 3 times more Omega 6 by gram weight than flaxseeds.

A study published in a 2011 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry noted that Sacha Inchi contains very high levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that supports the production of serotonin, the body’s natural feel-good hormone and mood stabilizer. Sacha Inchi has also been shown to help balance cortisol levels, the body’s stress hormone. Since Sacha Inchi has the capability of influencing hormone levels, aiding the body with its adaptive response to stress, it is considered to be an adaptogenic herb.

A picture of dried ripened Sacha Inchi seeds

Sacha Inchi Supports Healthy Skin

Recent studies show that the body can effectively absorb essential fatty acids like Omegas through the skin and into the blood stream. When applied topically, Sacha Inchi oil nourishes the skin to help support cell membrane integrity, encourage cell regeneration, and increase skin elasticity. By reinforcing skin’s lipid balance, it also helps to prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL), increasing skin moisture levels. Sacha Inchi oil is readily bio-available, and requires no preservative as it natural has the ability to fight oxidation.

The Skin Science

According to GREENTECH, the company that supplies Humanist Beauty with Sacha Inchi seed oil (Organic Lipactive Inca Inchi® WO) for its Humanist Beauty Facial Oil formula:

“Linoleic and linolenic acids are essential to the formation of the epidermal lipid barrier. They are cell membrane structural fatty acids. These polyunsaturated fatty acids are eicosanoid precursors, antagonists of inflammatory reactions. Linoleic acid also contributes to reducing black heads and the associated skin irritation.”

It supports its claims by way of clinical and sensory studies.

First, an in vitro keratinocyte regeneration simulation supporting +19% improved cell regeneration vs. control at 95% confidence level:

Chart showing cutometer results: skin suppleness: +66% vs. control. Radar chart showing sensory test results: Comfort 83%, Flexibility 88%, Softeness 94%, Moisturization 85%.

Next, an in vivo cutometer study supporting 66% increased skin suppleness after 28 days and a sensory test indicating improved perceived skin aesthetics:

Keratinocyte Regenration Simulation: +19% vs. Control. Reconstructed epidermis microscopic imagery vs. control.

GREENTECH has also conducted skin safety tests to determine that its ingredient is non-irritating, hypoallergenic, non-mutagenic and non-pro-mutagenic, and non-phototoxic.

Sacha Inchi Cultivation

While many other botanical oils are produced through plantations, Sacha Inchi is a forest crop, thriving in heavily forested areas. Its seed oil is produced through eco-friendly harvesting that encourages reforestation. In 2003, an Inca Inchi cultivation and industrialization development program was initiated in Peru called OMEGA Programme. This program supports the reforestation of the Amazon and operates in the context of fair and sustainable trade. This helps thousands of families living in the Peruvian Amazon, and GREENTECH is a founding member of this initiative. Hence, the Sacha Inchi oil used in Humanist Beauty products is both sustainably sourced and fair trade.

In addition to the OMEGA Programme, there are other charitable and fair trade initiatives fostering sustainable Amazonian Sacha Inchi cultivation. Your purchase of Herban Wisdom Facial Oil not only helps support the local Amazonian indigenous people, it contributes to the greater movement towards building a regenerative economy founded upon positive social and environmental impact.

If you’d like to receive a sample of Herban Wisdom Facial Oil, click here to order. The sample is free, there’s just a small charge for shipping and handling.