Could Ashwagandha Help With Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)?

Ashley Wyckoff, Bachelor of Science

Could a common herbal supplement help those infected with Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)? The Epstein-Barr virus is a member of the herpes virus family. Individuals with an active infection can experience fatigue, fever, and often non-specific symptoms that are generally mistaken for other common illnesses.Stress, illness, or other states of depressed immune system may activate EBV in individuals.Since ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) may help relieve stress, reduce cortisol, and improve fatigue, it could be considered a helpful option for managing the main symptoms of EBV and potentially helping to prevent viral reactivation.

Epstein-Barr Virus: Prevalence, Signs, and Symptoms

Roughly 90% of the population is infected with Epstein-Barr virus.Many people do not present with any symptoms (i.e. the virus is latent but may activate or reactivate under various conditions). The virus mostly spreads via bodily fluids (saliva, blood, sexual contact).There is no treatment or vaccine against EBV. You can help prevent the spread by not kissing, sharing food or a toothbrush, etc. with someone who is sick. If you are presenting symptoms, stay hydrated, rest, and take OTC medications for pain and fever.EBV can also cause mononucleosis (mono) and other illnesses. EBV can be hard to diagnose, because its symptoms can be associated with other illnesses.

Common Symptoms of Epstein-Barr Virus:
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue

What Causes EBV to Become Active?

A weakened immune system can cause the virus to become active. Chronic increased stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine can cause your immune system to weaken. In one study, the participants with elevated cortisol and epinephrine levels suffered from higher rates of acute EBV infection and viral reactivation compared to subjects with normal levels (P < 0.001).3 After it was observed that astronauts often suffered from depressed immune systems during/after spaceflight, researchers linked EBV reactivation to increased urinary epinephrine and norepinephrine.4

How Ashwagandha Helps Relieve Stress and Fatigue

One of the most widely known supplements, ashwagandha, has been shown to improve stress markers in several clinical trials. In one randomized controlled trial (RCT) with 98 participants, it was demonstrated that ashwagandha extract reduced stress and anxiety scores, serum cortisol levels, pulse rate, and blood pressure.In another RCT with 64 participants, it was demonstrated that ashwagandha reduced stress scores and serum cortisol levels.Recently, another clinical trial in 60 participants confirmed the anxiety- and cortisol-reducing effects of ashwagandha.Ashwagandha may also improve fatigue: in an RCT with 75 participants, ashwagandha (in combination with a multivitamin and relaxation therapy) reduced anxiety scores, fatigue, and improved quality of life more than relaxation therapy and placebo.8

ashwagandha is a plant that may help with the main symptoms of EBV

More on ashwagandha:
  • Also referred to as Indian ginseng and winter cherry
  • May also support memory and cognitive function9
  • Can cost as little as $0.22 per day
  • Classified as an adaptogen (plants known for helping people adapt better to stress)
  • Withanolides, the active components of ashwagandha, can cross the blood brain barrier and may exert neuroprotective effects10
ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root is used as a dietary supplement

The Bottom Line

There is a need for clinical studies directly linking ashwagandha and EBV, however based on the benefits of ashwagandha, it could prove to be a promising natural way to help relieve stress and fatigue connected with EBV.

About the Author: Ashley Wyckoff, B.S., is a product operation specialist at Life Extension headquarters in South Florida. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Florida. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, reading and yoga to keep her mind and body healthy. She believes in equal access to quality healthcare and it is her goal to make it a reality.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). Published 2018. Accessed 1/22/2020.
  2. Kerr JR. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) reactivation and therapeutic inhibitors. J Clin Pathol. 2019;72(10):651-658.
  3. Coskun O, Sener K, Kilic S, et al. Stress-related Epstein-Barr virus reactivation. Clin Exp Med. 2010;10(1):15-20.
  4. Stowe RP, Pierson DL, Barrett AD. Elevated stress hormone levels relate to Epstein-Barr virus reactivation in astronauts. Psychosom Med. 2001;63(6):891-895.
  5. Auddy; B, Hazra; J, Mitra; A, Abedon; B, Ghosal S. A standardized Withania somnifera extract significantly reduces stress-related parameters in chronically stressed humans: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. The Journal of the American Nutraceutical Association 2008;11(1):50-56.
  6. Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012;34(3):255-262.
  7. Lopresti AL, Smith SJ, Malvi H, Kodgule R. An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine. 2019;98(37):e17186-e17186.
  8. Cooley K, Szczurko O, Perri D, et al. Naturopathic care for anxiety: a randomized controlled trial ISRCTN78958974. PloS one. 2009;4(8):e6628.
  9. Choudhary D, Bhattacharyya S, Bose S. Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions. Journal of dietary supplements. 2017;14(6):599-612.
  10. White PT, Subramanian C, Motiwala HF, Cohen MS. Natural Withanolides in the Treatment of Chronic Diseases. Advances in experimental medicine and biology. 2016;928:329-373.

The Science of Sleep and Dream Recall

Dayna Dye

Science of Sleep, Stages, REM, Dreaming, and Dream Recall
“To sleep, perchance to dream.” Or perchance not?

Although Hamlet was contemplating the “sleep” of death, sleep and its accompanying dream states remain another subject shrouded in mystery.

Think you don’t dream?

It is currently believed that everyone dreams. Except, perhaps those who are under the influence of legal or illegal drugs, or who have specific brain injuries.1 But not everyone recalls this enigmatic phenomenon, which is a nightly source of pleasure, anxiety, inspiration and self-understanding for those of us who do.

Stages of Sleep

People cycle through the four stages of sleep several times during the night. Stage 1 sleep is light and lasts several minutes, during which breathing and heartbeat begin to slow. Stage 2 sleep is similar to stage 1 and includes a drop in body temperature and cessation of eye movement. Of the sleep stages, stage 2 is the longest. Stage 3 sleep is deepest and is necessary for feeling refreshed. Breathing and heart rate further decelerate, and people are difficult to awaken during this stage.2

Rapid eye movement sleep, during which the eyes move from side to side under the lids, is the final stage of the four sleep stages and is the period in which most (but not all, according to current thinking) dreaming occurs. Time spent in REM sleep tends to decrease during aging.2 During REM sleep, which happens about an hour and a half after falling asleep, people undergo a temporary paralysis to prevent acting out of the dreams; however, among individuals with REM sleep behavior disorder, this fails to occur.3,4 Insufficient REM could impact waking life, since REM sleep has been suggested to be the stage in which information in the brain is consolidated, making it important for memory and learning.

“We are at least as dream deprived as we are sleep deprived,” remarked Dr Rubin Naiman in The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. “Many of the health concerns attributed to sleep loss result from a silent epidemic of REM sleep deprivation. REM/dream loss is an unrecognized public health hazard that silently wreaks havoc with our lives, contributing to illness, depression, and an erosion of consciousness.”5

Related Blog: Tired of Insomnia? Helpful Herbs and Sleep Hygiene

What Does it Mean if You Can’t Remember Your Dreams?

sleep research remember your dreams One study found that people who remember their dreams awoke more than twice as often during the night as those with low recall, which suggests that the brains of people who recall fewer dreams may be less reactive to sound or other stimuli. 6 In another study that compared the intra sleep awakenings of 17 men and women with a low frequency of dream recall, and 19 participants with a high frequency, those who frequently recalled their dreams experienced more awakenings and a greater number of longer awakenings from non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stage 2 sleep than the group who had less frequent dream recall.7 The amount of awakenings during REM in both groups was considered comparable, as was REM density, defined as the frequency of eye movements in REM, which is used as an index of dream production. While this small study had several limitations, the authors concluded that their findings “support the premise that inter-individual variability in dream recall frequency cannot be ascribed to differences in REM sleep parameters in healthy individuals.”

Poor dream recall may also indicate a need for a greater intake of pyridoxine (vitamin B6).8 A randomized trial that tested the effects of consuming 240 milligrams pyridoxine hydrochloride before bed for five days found that the vitamin significantly increased the amount of dream content recalled by participants but did not affect other sleep-related variables.9 In contrast, taking the full B complex before sleep may be stimulating and is better consumed earlier in the day.

Remembering Dreams: Good or Bad?

Although nightmares are often best forgotten, dream recall can have psychological benefits. Dreams provide us with clues concerning the information that our brains process and areas of anxiety that we may need to work through. Dreams can also be a source of inspiration or provide answers to important questions. In 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev, the creator of the periodic table of elements, reported, “In a dream I saw a table where all the elements fell into place as required. Awakening, I immediately wrote it down on a piece of paper.”

B vitamins including B12 and B6 may help you remember dreamsHow to Remember Dreams

Keeping a pad of paper and a pen by one’s bedside is recommended as an aide to remembering dreams because the memory of dreams is fleeting and requires a minute or so of wakefulness.

Other than taking vitamin B6 before sleep to help remember our dreams, taking 1000 micrograms vitamin B12 directly before bed has been suggested by Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw as a dream enhancer. While Pearson and Shaw noted that it doesn’t work every time, the vitamin may cause significant intensification of colors perceived while dreaming, even in people who don’t dream in color.10

About the author: Dayna Dye has been a member of the staff of Life Extension® since shortly after its inception. She has served as the department head of Life Extension® Wellness Specialists, is the author of thousands of articles published during the past two decades in Life Extension® Update, Life Extension Magazine® and on, and has been interviewed on radio and TV and in newsprint. She is currently a member of Life Extension’s Education Department.

  1. Murri L et al. Sleep. 1985 Dec;8(4):356-62.
  2. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep.” National Institutes of Health, 13 Aug 2019
  3. American Sleep Association. “REM Sleep: Why is it important?” 
  4. Mayo Clinic. “REM sleep behavior disorder.” 
  5. Naiman R. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2017 Oct;1406(1):77-85.
  6. Ruby P et al. Front Psychol. 2013 Aug 13;4:419.
  7. van Wyk M et al. Front Hum Neurosci. 2019;13:370.
  8. Pfeiffer Carl C. Mental and Elemental Nutrients. New Canaan, CT. Keats, 1975.
  9. Aspy DJ et al. Percept Mot Skills. 2018;125(3):451-462.
  10. Pearson D, Shaw S. Life Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach. New York, NY. Warner, 1982, p 195.

Krill Oil vs Fish Oil: Why You Could Benefit from Both

Holli Ryan RD, LD/N

Krill oil and fish oil are both healthful, omega-3 fatty acid containing marine oils derived from ocean-dwelling animals. Krill (Euphausia superba) are shrimp-like crustaceans that have gained in popularity as a means of omega-3 supplementation in recent years. Omega-3 containing fish oils are sourced from a variety of fatty fish such as anchovy, pollock, cod, or salmon. Let’s compare and contrast the two sources and determine if one is better than the other.

krill oil vs fish oil

Pros of Fish Oil
  • Cost and Availability – fish oil is generally more widely available and cost effective.
  • Amount of Omega-3 Fatty Acids – fish oil offers more EPA and DHA compared to the same amount of krill oil. While some research suggests that the triglyceride (TAG) form may be better absorbed, the ethyl ester (EE) form offers the best value at the highest concentration of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • More, long-term scientific studies (especially the EE form) – Fish oil even has pharmaceutical-funded clinical trials behind it that proved its efficacy and as a result, is available as a prescription medication called Lovaza.
Anchovy is a good source of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.

Pros of Krill Oil

  • Unique Chemical Structure – the omega-3 fatty acids are primarily bound to phospholipid
    • Absorption – phospholipids may improve absorption
    • Additional Benefit - Studies show that the fatty acids found in krill oil are particularly effective for joint health.
  • Antioxidant – contains astaxanthin (reddish pigment) which may benefit cognitive health, skin health, and more.

Antarctic Krill contains omega-3 fatty acids EPA, DHA, and phospholipids.

Why supplement with omega-3 fatty acids at all? Many typical modern diets do not provide enough omega-3 fatty acids. Whether you choose fish, krill, or both as your source of omega-3, both will provide the benefits listed below if taken in the right amounts. Life Extension recommends 1400 mg of EPA and 1000 mg of DHA daily to support optimal health.

Related Article: Dangers of an Omega-6 to Omega-3 Imbalance

Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids: EPA & DHA

  • The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA work together to promote a healthy inflammatory response to support whole-body health.1
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is especially important for healthy inflammatory pathways and for cardiovascular health.2-4
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the predominant fatty acid in retinal, neuronal and brain cell membranes; it is especially important for visual and neurological (brain and nervous system) health.5-7
  • Together, EPA and DHA support cardiovascular health, heart function and normal heart rhythm.8,9
  • Omega-3 ethyl esters (EE) have been shown to lower triglyceride levels.10-12
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are important for healthy brain function and cognitive development throughout the lifespan.13-15

Benefits of Krill Oil

  • Krill is a natural source of the antioxidant carotenoid astaxanthin and EPA and DHA that are mostly bound to phospholipids (like phosphatidylcholine).
  • Approx. 60-70% of the omega-3 fatty acids in krill oil are bound to phospholipids.16
  • Phospholipid-bound omega-3s may be more efficiently absorbed than unbound.16
  • Like fish oil, krill offers benefits for cardiovascular (possibly to a greater extent than fish) and brain health.17-19
  • Krill oil may provide more targeted support for the nervous system because the omega-3s it provides are more rapidly taken up into red blood cells (RBCs) which may then be quickly incorporated into brain cells.20
  • Krill has been shown to benefit joint health.21

The Bottom Line: Krill or Fish Oil?

Combining traditional fish oil with krill oil may offer additional health benefits beyond supplementing with either alone. The two sources complement each other and offer a person more comprehensive health benefits.22 The ideal supplementation strategy would be to combine the various fish oil forms (EE and TAG) along with krill oil (phospholipid). This combination allows one to receive optimal amounts of EPA and DHA while taking advantage of the full spectrum of benefits from these three unique omega-3 forms, in addition to the antioxidant astaxanthin from krill. More studies are needed to confirm the absorption characteristics of phospholipid bound omega-3 in krill and how this relates to increasing EPA and DHA blood levels. Lab testing is a good way to determine if the type/form you are taking is raising your blood levels.

Holli Ryan is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist.
About the Author: Holli Ryan is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist, health and wellness advocate, and blogger/writer based in South Florida. She is a Florida International University graduate and member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Her focus as a dietitian is disease prevention and management of health through nutrition education and customized suggestions. Holli believes that quality dietary supplements are an essential tool that have a variety of applications, from maintaining good health to managing chronic disease.


  1. Calder PC. Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes: from molecules to man. Biochemical Society transactions. 2017;45(5):1105-1115.
  2. Ohnishi H, Saito Y. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) reduces cardiovascular events: relationship with the EPA/arachidonic acid ratio. J Atheroscler Thromb. 2013;20(12):861-877.
  3. Bhatt DL, Steg PG, Miller M, et al. Cardiovascular Risk Reduction with Icosapent Ethyl for Hypertriglyceridemia. N Engl J Med. 2019;380(1):11-22.
  4. Miller M, Ballantyne CM, Bays HE, et al. Effects of Icosapent Ethyl (Eicosapentaenoic Acid Ethyl Ester) on Atherogenic Lipid/Lipoprotein, Apolipoprotein, and Inflammatory Parameters in Patients With Elevated High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (from the ANCHOR Study). The American journal of cardiology. 2019;124(5):696-701.
  5. Singh M. Essential fatty acids, DHA and human brain. Indian journal of pediatrics. 2005;72(3):239-242.
  6. Sun GY, Simonyi A, Fritsche KL, et al. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): An essential nutrient and a nutraceutical for brain health and diseases. Prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and essential fatty acids. 2018;136:3-13.
  7. Walczewska A, Stepien T, Bewicz-Binkowska D, Zgorzynska E. [The role of docosahexaenoic acid in neuronal function]. Postepy higieny i medycyny doswiadczalnej (Online). 2011;65:314-327.
  8. Harris WS, Zotor FB. n-3 Fatty acids and risk for fatal coronary disease. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2019;[epub ahead of print]:1-6.
  9. Sokola-Wysoczanska E, Wysoczanski T, Wagner J, et al. Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Their Potential Therapeutic Role in Cardiovascular System Disorders-A Review. Nutrients. 2018;10(10).
  10. Song J, Hu M, Li C, et al. Dose-dependent effects of fish oil on cardio-metabolic biomarkers in healthy middle-aged and elderly Chinese people: a double-blind randomized controlled trial. Food & function. 2018;9(6):3235-3243.
  11. Zulyniak MA, Roke K, Gerling C, Logan SL, Spriet LL, Mutch DM. Fish oil regulates blood fatty acid composition and oxylipin levels in healthy humans: A comparison of young and older men. Molecular nutrition & food research. 2016;60(3):631-641.
  12. Shearer GC, Savinova OV, Harris WS. Fish oil -- how does it reduce plasma triglycerides? Biochimica et biophysica acta. 2012;1821(5):843-851.
  13. Zhang Y, Chen J, Qiu J, Li Y, Wang J, Jiao J. Intakes of fish and polyunsaturated fatty acids and mild-to-severe cognitive impairment risks: a dose-response meta-analysis of 21 cohort studies. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2016;103(2):330-340.
  14. Amen DG, Harris WS, Kidd PM, Meysami S, Raji CA. Quantitative Erythrocyte Omega-3 EPA Plus DHA Levels are Related to Higher Regional Cerebral Blood Flow on Brain SPECT. Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD. 2017;58(4):1189-1199.
  15. Berger ME, Smesny S, Kim SW, et al. Omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid ratio and subsequent mood disorders in young people with at-risk mental states: a 7-year longitudinal study. Translational psychiatry. 2017;7(8):e1220.
  16. Ramprasath VR, Eyal I, Zchut S, Shafat I, Jones PJ. Supplementation of krill oil with high phospholipid content increases sum of EPA and DHA in erythrocytes compared with low phospholipid krill oil. Lipids Health Dis. 2015;14:142.
  17. Ursoniu S, Sahebkar A, Serban MC, et al. Lipid-modifying effects of krill oil in humans: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition reviews. 2017;75(5):361-373.
  18. Konagai C, Yanagimoto K, Hayamizu K, Han L, Tsuji T, Koga Y. Effects of krill oil containing n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in phospholipid form on human brain function: a randomized controlled trial in healthy elderly volunteers. Clinical interventions in aging. 2013;8:1247-1257.
  19. Rundblad A, Holven KB, Bruheim I, Myhrstad MC, Ulven SM. Effects of krill oil and lean and fatty fish on cardiovascular risk markers: a randomised controlled trial. J Nutr Sci. 2018;7:e3.
  20. Lemaitre-Delaunay D, Pachiaudi C, Laville M, Pousin J, Armstrong M, Lagarde M. Blood compartmental metabolism of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in humans after ingestion of a single dose of [(13)C]DHA in phosphatidylcholine. Journal of lipid research. 1999;40(10):1867-1874.
  21. Suzuki Y, Fukushima M, Sakuraba K, Sawaki K, Sekigawa K. Krill Oil Improves Mild Knee Joint Pain: A Randomized Control Trial. PloS one. 2016;11(10):e0162769.
  22. Kidd PM. Omega-3 DHA and EPA for cognition, behavior, and mood: clinical findings and structural-functional synergies with cell membrane phospholipids. Alternative medicine review : a journal of clinical therapeutic. 2007;12(3):207-227.

Top 12 Anti-Inflammatory Spices and Herbs

Holli Ryan RD, LD/N

Top Spices with Anti-Inflammatory PropertiesLike fruits and vegetables, many spices and herbs have been shown to have biologically active compounds that benefit human health. One major benefit is attributed to their ability to reduce inflammation. The inflammatory process is complex, but many health experts agree that chronic inflammation is a common denominator among many chronic diseases.

Cooking with Anti-Inflammatory Spices and Herbs

Since many spices and herbs have anti-inflammatory properties, the bioactive compounds found in plants are often included in dietary supplements and standardized to ensure an amount that has been researched to show benefit. Cooking with these same spices and herbs that are used as supplements, tinctures, teas, and oils can contribute to your overall intake of these healthful plants. There are probably some of these anti-inflammatory seasonings in your spice cabinet right now, but before you get cooking, we have outlined some information on this topic to help you learn more:

What are Spices?

A spice is a plant substance used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food. Turmeric is a spice that is commonly used in the condiment mustard and can play all of the roles just mentioned. Parts of the plant that are used as spices:

  • Seed
  • Fruit
  • Root
  • Bark

What is an Herb Versus a Spice?

Herbs are also plants, and like spices, they are also used for flavoring or as a garnish. Certain herbs such as rosemary are also used for preserving food because of their antioxidant properties. The terms ‘spices’ and ‘herbs’ are sometimes used interchangeably but are distinct botanically and in culinary use. Parts of the plant that are used as herbs:

  • Leaves
  • Flowers
  • Stems

3 Common Herbs with Anti-Inflammatory Properties:

1. Rosemary1
2. Basil2
3. Sage3

What are Anti-Inflammatory Spices?

Anti-inflammatory spices contain active compounds that have been shown to reduce one or more markers of inflammation. Some markers and mediators of inflammation used in research and diagnosis include:

TNF-α, NF-κB and interleukins are cytokines (signaling proteins involved in triggering the inflammatory response). For example: fat tissue, especially the type of abdominal visceral fat seen in obesity, can secrete pro-inflammatory cytokines leading to systemic inflammation in people with obesity.

9 Spices with Anti-Inflammatory Properties:
  1. Sesame has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties in preclinical and clinical studies.4,5 
  2. Turmeric (and its main bioactive constituent, curcumin) is a very popular anti-inflammatory spice with many studies demonstrating efficacy. Clinical and preclinical studies indicate that turmeric and curcuminoids like curcumin may help manage atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and more.6-8
  3. Ginger was shown to reduce CRP and inflammatory cytokines in participants with diabetes and osteoarthritis.9-11
  4. Saffron has demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects in preclinical studies.12 In participants with allergic asthma, saffron reduced CRP levels.13
  5. Garlic has anti-inflammatory activity in preclinical and clinical studies.14 In a study of overweight and obese women with osteoarthritis, garlic improved pain and reduced the pro-inflammatory adipocytokine (a cytokine produced by fat cells) called resistin.15
  6. Caraway has some data that it may be beneficial in inflammatory bowel conditions like colitis.16
  7. Cardamom has several clinical and preclinical studies demonstrating anti-inflammatory effects. In obese participants with fatty liver disease, cardamom reduced levels of CRP and inflammatory cytokines.17 In overweight and obese pre-diabetic women, cardamom reduced CRP.18 Cardamom may exert its anti-inflammatory effects through inhibiting the NF-κB pathway.19
  8. Nutmeg has some preclinical data indicating it may have potential as a pain reliever due to its inhibition of COX enzymes, a mechanism similar to some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.20,21
  9. Paprika prevented an inflammatory response from UV damage to skin in people.22 Paprika also suppressed TNF-α and resistin in adipocytes (fat cells).23

sesame anti-inflammatory spice
turmeric curcumin anti-inflammatory spice
ginger anti-inflammatory spice

caraway anti-inflammatory spice
garlic anti-inflammatory spice
saffron anti-inflammatory spice

paprika anti-inflammatory spice
cardamom anti-inflammatory spice
nutmeg anti-inflammatory spice

Cooking with spices and herbs is a great way to add flavor to your food and expand your palate beyond table salt. Different cultures often have a set of spices associated with the particular cuisine. In addition to isolated spices, you can find spice blends designed for seasoning specific types of cuisine or proteins in your grocery store, at your local farmers market, or even at dedicated spice stores.

About the Author: Holli Ryan is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist, health and wellness advocate, and blogger/writer based in South Florida. She is a Florida International University graduate and member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Her focus as a dietitian is disease prevention and management of health through nutrition education and customized suggestions. Holli believes that quality dietary supplements are an essential tool that have a variety of applications, from maintaining good health to managing chronic disease.

  1. de Oliveira JR, Camargo SEA, de Oliveira LD. Rosmarinus officinalis L. (rosemary) as therapeutic and prophylactic agent. J Biomed Sci. 2019;26(1):5.
  2. Li H, Ge Y, Luo Z, et al. Evaluation of the chemical composition, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of distillate and residue fractions of sweet basil essential oil. J Food Sci Technol. 2017;54(7):1882-1890.
  3. Poulios E, Giaginis C, Vasios GK. Current Advances on the Extraction and Identification of Bioactive Components of Sage (Salvia spp.). Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2019;20(10):845-857.
  4. Afroz M, Zihad S, Uddin SJ, et al. A systematic review on antioxidant and antiinflammatory activity of Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) oil and further confirmation of antiinflammatory activity by chemical profiling and molecular docking. Phytotherapy research : PTR. 2019;33(10):2585-2608.
  5. Khadem Haghighian M, Alipoor B, Malek Mahdavi A, Eftekhar Sadat B, Asghari Jafarabadi M, Moghaddam A. Effects of sesame seed supplementation on inflammatory factors and oxidative stress biomarkers in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Acta Med Iran. 2015;53(4):207-213.
  6. Hay E, Lucariello A, Contieri M, et al. Therapeutic effects of turmeric in several diseases: An overview. Chemico-biological interactions. 2019;310:108729.
  7. Li C, Miao X, Li F, et al. Curcuminoids: Implication for inflammation and oxidative stress in cardiovascular diseases. Phytotherapy research : PTR. 2019.
  8. Kocaadam B, Sanlier N. Curcumin, an active component of turmeric (Curcuma longa), and its effects on health. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 2017;57(13):2889-2895.
  9. Shidfar F, Rajab A, Rahideh T, Khandouzi N, Hosseini S, Shidfar S. The effect of ginger (Zingiber officinale) on glycemic markers in patients with type 2 diabetes. J Complement Integr Med. 2015;12(2):165-170.
  10. Mohd Sahardi NFN, Makpol S. Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) in the Prevention of Ageing and Degenerative Diseases: Review of Current Evidence. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM. 2019;2019:5054395.
  11. Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Naderi Z, Dehghan A, Nadjarzadeh A, Fallah Huseini H. Effect of Ginger Supplementation on Proinflammatory Cytokines in Older Patients with Osteoarthritis: Outcomes of a Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. J Nutr Gerontol Geriatr. 2016;35(3):209-218.
  12. Zeinali M, Zirak MR, Rezaee SA, Karimi G, Hosseinzadeh H. Immunoregulatory and anti-inflammatory properties of Crocus sativus (Saffron) and its main active constituents: A review. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2019;22(4):334-344.
  13. Hosseini SA, Zilaee M, Shoushtari MH, Ghasemi Dehcheshmeh M. An evaluation of the effect of saffron supplementation on the antibody titer to heat-shock protein (HSP) 70, hsCRP and spirometry test in patients with mild and moderate persistent allergic asthma: A triple-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial. Respir Med. 2018;145:28-34.
  14. Shang A, Cao SY, Xu XY, et al. Bioactive Compounds and Biological Functions of Garlic (Allium sativum L.). Foods (Basel, Switzerland). 2019;8(7).
  15. Dehghani S, Alipoor E, Salimzadeh A, et al. The effect of a garlic supplement on the pro-inflammatory adipocytokines, resistin and tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and on pain severity, in overweight or obese women with knee osteoarthritis. Phytomedicine. 2018;48:70-75.
  16. Keshavarz A, Minaiyan M, Ghannadi A, Mahzouni P. Effects of Carum carvi L. (Caraway) extract and essential oil on TNBS-induced colitis in rats. Res Pharm Sci. 2013;8(1):1-8.
  17. Daneshi-Maskooni M, Keshavarz SA, Qorbani M, et al. Green cardamom increases Sirtuin-1 and reduces inflammation in overweight or obese patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. Nutrition & metabolism. 2018;15:63.
  18. Kazemi S, Yaghooblou F, Siassi F, et al. Cardamom supplementation improves inflammatory and oxidative stress biomarkers in hyperlipidemic, overweight, and obese pre-diabetic women: a randomized double-blind clinical trial. Journal of the science of food and agriculture. 2017;97(15):5296-5301.
  19. Souissi M, Azelmat J, Chaieb K, Grenier D. Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activities of cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) extracts: Potential therapeutic benefits for periodontal infections. Anaerobe. 2019:102089.
  20. Zhang WK, Tao SS, Li TT, et al. Nutmeg oil alleviates chronic inflammatory pain through inhibition of COX-2 expression and substance P release in vivo. Food & nutrition research. 2016;60:30849.
  21. Zhang CR, Jayashre E, Kumar PS, Nair MG. Antioxidant and Antiinflammatory Compounds in Nutmeg (Myristicafragrans) Pericarp as Determined by in vitro Assays. Nat Prod Commun. 2015;10(8):1399-1402.
  22. Nishino A, Sugimoto K, Sambe H, Ichihara T, Takaha T, Kuriki T. Effects of Dietary Paprika Xanthophylls on Ultraviolet Light-Induced Skin Damage: A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study. J Oleo Sci. 2018;67(7):863-869.
  23. Maeda H, Saito S, Nakamura N, Maoka T. Paprika Pigments Attenuate Obesity-Induced Inflammation in 3T3-L1 Adipocytes. ISRN Inflamm. 2013;2013:763758.

Boosting Serotonin for Weight Loss

Juanita O. Enogieru MS, RD

When it comes to human body composition, there are multiple factors involved in weight loss, weight gain, weight management, and weight regain. And when it comes to nutrients for weight management, it is important to note that nutrients work on different pathways that may address dysfunction and promote weight loss. Let's explore:

Factors Involved in Weight Gain:

  • Slow metabolism
  • Underactive thyroid
  • Cravings/Increased appetite
  • Lack of exercise 
  • High blood glucose levels
  • Insulin resistance
  • Imbalanced sex hormones 
  • Depression

It can be overwhelming to select the best nutrients for your body type because there is no “universal” or “best product” for weight loss. Every person is biochemically unique and has distinct needs, and therefore, responds differently. So, it is essential first to pinpoint the cause(s) of your weight gain or difficulty losing weight, to create the best regimen. The best approach is to address the biochemical and behavioral factors that contribute to weight gain in your body. One common concern is emotional eating and a subsequent increase in weight. In this article, we will discuss how increasing serotonin levels, enhancing lean body mass and fat metabolism, and boosting insulin sensitivity are vital factors for promoting weight loss.

How Does Serotonin Influence Weight Loss?

Suboptimal levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin can lead to impulsive and emotional eating along with cravings for carbohydrates.

Neurotransmitters are brain-signaling chemicals that allow the brain and neurons to communicate throughout the body. Have you ever noticed that lack of sleep seems to lead to an increase in cravings? Interestingly, serotonin is eventually converted to melatonin, the sleep hormone, in the body. Serotonin has many functions in the body including regulation of circadian rhythms, neuroendocrine function, mental processes, mood, and cognition, and has an inhibitory effect on feeding behavior.1-4

All of these functions play crucial roles in supporting a healthy weight and promoting weight loss. Serotonin is a key brain chemical, and the signs of serotonin depletion can vary. They can include insomnia (or irregular circadian rhythms), cravings for sweets and other carbohydrates, frequent muscle aches and pains, impulsive behaviors, moodiness, especially sadness, anxiety, and irritability, feeling emotionally sensitive or vulnerable, feeling insecure, lacking self-confidence, and low-stress tolerance.

Why Supplement with Serotonin Precursors?

It is well known that we eat to live, but when the desire to eat is based on cravings, then obesity, eating disorders, and non-compliance with dietary restrictions can occur. Making it even more difficult is the inability to distinguish between nutritional needs and food cravings.5 Brain-derived serotonin (BDS) acts as a neurotransmitter, while gut-derived serotonin (GDS) acts as a hormone and regulates a wide variety of processes. While platelets, gastrointestinal cells, and other non-neurologic cells synthesize more than 98% of the body's total serotonin, that serotonin does not penetrate the blood–brain barrier.2 Supplementing with precursors such as L-tryptophan, 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), and/or nutrients shown to boost brain levels of serotonin like saffron may be ideal for mitigating symptoms and losing weight.

Promoting Weight Loss with L-Tryptophan, 5-Hydroxytryptophan, and Saffron

When the main building blocks for serotonin synthesis, 5-HTP and L-tryptophan, are removed, serotonin levels may drop significantly lower than normal ranges.5 Since serotonin is involved in regulating appetite and food intake, it makes sense that low serotonin levels are linked to weight gain.6

Treatment with 5-HTP, as well as preferential 5-HT(2C) receptor agonist mCPP, has been shown to produce weight loss in obese adults .7 Furthermore, 5‐HTP supplementation was shown to activate brain areas associated with healthy weight and preference for protein-rich foods, as opposed to carb and calorie-rich foods. It is also associated with decreased appetite, early satiety symptoms, and weight loss.5 5-HTP is a calming supplement that boosts serotonin levels and can support sleep so that you feel less stressed, which can also help with weight loss. A typical dosage of 5-HTP used is 50-100 mg up to three times daily.

When L-tryptophan was administered to healthy subjects in a small randomized controlled trial (RCT), it regulated appetite and modified plasma insulin levels.8 During conditions of metabolic dysfunction, several hormones secreted from fat cells, such as leptin and adiponectin, can become dysfunctional. Insulin resistance can lead to uncontrolled blood glucose levels and can impair leptin from signaling the brain that you are full. Therefore, optimizing fat cell signaling by increasing insulin sensitivity is another important aspect of any comprehensive weight loss strategy.9 Many people prefer using tryptophan combined with its essential cofactors lysine and niacinamide instead of 5-HTP. If 5-HTP converts to serotonin in the blood, this serotonin will not cross the blood-brain barrier. Tryptophan remains stable in the blood and crosses the blood-brain barrier, where it is converted to serotonin. Dosages of 500-1500 mg daily are suggested to encourage healthy neurotransmission and hunger signal responsiveness.

Saffron is used traditionally to flavor food, but it is ideal for individuals who crave carbs. In clinical research, two active constituents of saffron (safranal and crocin) reduced the desire to snack and enhanced mood. Saffron reduced snacking frequency in mildly overweight women and contributed to weight loss by increasing feelings of satiety and improving emotional well-being .10 Reductions in snacking can assist with supporting a healthy weight. Data pooled from 10 studies (662 participants) showed a significant effect of saffron on diastolic blood pressure, body weight, and waist circumference. Furthermore, a subgroup analysis of several studies showed a significant reduction in fasting plasma glucose levels.11 It is proposed that saffron increases the time that serotonin remains in the brain.12,13 Dosages of 176 mg of saffron daily are suggested to promote healthy hunger signal responsiveness.

Nutrients shown in research to promote healthy insulin sensitivity, manage carbohydrate cravings, encourage a balanced mood, and support a healthy sleep cycle are highly useful for promoting weight loss and preventing weight regain. Depending on your biochemical needs, think about including 5-HTP or L-tryptophan and saffron in your weight loss regimen.

For more information, please visit the Life Extension Weight Loss Protocol.

About the author: Juanita Enogieru is a Registered Dietitian and Life Extension wellness specialist working with the community to build healthy and balanced nutritional habits. While pursuing an education in medicine and attempting to help her body heal, it became apparent that there was a gap in medical practices with regard to nutrition and an abundance of misinformation about balanced nutritional practices. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Health Education from the University of Florida, she worked with non-profit organizations to deliver nutrition education to community members. Wanting to learn more about nutrition and how herbs could be used to help the body heal, she pursued a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition and shortly began working with Life Extension. With the understanding that everyone has a unique biochemical individuality, it is vital to address each individual based on their specific needs and biochemical make-up. Her mission now is to offer guidance, support and education to individuals based on balanced nutritional insights that address the mind, body and spirit.

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  4. Behav Brain Res. 1996;73(1-2):37-42.
  5. Brain Behav. 2017 Jan; 7(1): e00594.
  6. Mol Cells. 2015 Dec;38(12):1023-8.
  7. Curr Drug Targets. 2005 Mar;6(2):201-13.
  8. Sci Rep. 2016 Oct 20;6:35727.
  9. Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2019 Mar 1;24:890-934.
  10. Nutr Res. 2010 May;30(5):305-13.
  11. Pharmacol Res. 2019 Jan;139:348-359.
  12. J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2018 Oct-Dec; 10(4): 173–180.
  13. J Integr Med. 2013 Nov; 11(6): 377–383.

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