High Blood Pressure

The Many Scientifically Researched Benefits of Black Seed Oil

I wanted to write about Black Seed Oil, also known as Black Cumin Seed Oil, since it has been gaining in popularity, though it seems to have a vagueness that surrounds it as to what it actually does.

Most articles on black seed oil seem to say that it’s “cures everything”, a claim that always makes me extremely skeptical since it brings to mind the unscrupulous snake oil salesmen of the last century.

The more I looked into black seed oil, however, I found that there has been study after study done on its benefits, with great results. Research has found it to have beneficial effects on so many different aspects of health, including metabolic syndrome (a condition characterized by excess weight and high blood sugar), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, respiratory health, skin conditions, and more. It’s impressive due to the sheer volume of studies that have been done that have shown benefit for so many vastly different things.

Here’s a link to a review on Black Seed Oil studies.

This is another review on the researched benefits of black cumin seeds.

One of my favorite benefits for black seed oil is its effect on the immune system. One of black seed oil’s natural compounds is thymoquinone, a potent immune booster that strengthens and activates the immune system’s T-cells (the white blood cells that help to identify harmful invaders like bacteria and viruses). Research has shown black seed to have antibacterial and antiviral effects against a number of infectious diseases including strep and h. pylori bacteria and viruses like hepatitis and even HIV. That isn’t to say that black seed oil is necessarily a cure-all for those conditions, but that it has been found to have beneficial antibacterial and antiviral effects against those diseases.

In addition to immune boosting effects, black seed oil has further benefits to the respiratory system itself, including being extremely helpful for asthma patients. In one study, people with asthma used black seed oil daily for three months and experienced impressive benefits in respiratory functioning and a reduction in asthma symptoms.

The interesting thing about black seed oil is that it does not just seem to have immune boosting effects, but rather has shown to have an immune modulating activity- boosting the immune system when needed, but also helping to calm down the excessive immune response seen in autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. One placebo controlled study on rheumatoid arthritis found that women who took black seed twice daily for a month found a reduction in their symptoms of RA.

Black seed oil also appears to have protective effects for a number of the body’s different systems and organs, reducing destructive, toxic effects on the brain, liver, lungs cardiovascular system, and the digestive tract. This article has more in-depth information on the significant protection black seed has from toxic damage from a variety of sources (scroll down to about halfway through to read more about black seed oil’s beneficial protective effects).

Black seed oil can also have beneficial effects on eczema and psoriasis and for those conditions can be taken both internally and used topically for relief.

I feel like I’ve gone on and on already about the benefits of black seed oil, but in truth, there are so many more and I’ve only mentioned a few. Black seed oil has a long history of use for a variety of ailments. It is native to the Middle East and Africa, and has been mentioned in both the Old Testament and the Quran. The prophet Muhammad is even quoted as saying, “Use the Black Seed for indeed, it is a cure for all diseases except death.” Suffice it to say that it has a long history of impressive benefits and use- even back to the time of the Egyptians!

The black seed oil we recommend is by a company called Talya. As many of you know, we’re particular about the brands and products we carry. We chose this brand of black seed oil specifically since it has the highest amount of the beneficial active ingredients in black seed oil and is unrefined and cold pressed. Also, Talya does third party testing on each batch of black seed oil for potency and to make sure that it is free from pesticides, herbicides, as well as other chemicals and contaminants. Talya’s black seed oil meets France’s standards for “Eco Certification” and is in the process of undergoing organic certification processes by the USDA.

The recommended dosages for black seed oil is one teaspoon twice daily for preventative health or two teaspoons twice daily, up to as much as six teaspoons a day (in divided doses) for acute needs or for recovering from an illness.

Black seed oil should be taken with food to help absorption and it’s also important to shake the bottle vigorously before using it, since its beneficial compounds can separate when the bottle sits.

We will have a representative in the store on Saturday, March 9th from 10-2 to offer samples of our Talya black seed oil and to offer further information. Be sure to stop by!


Pycnogenol for Brain Fuction, Asthma, Blood Pressure, & More

There’s a little-known supplement that has been in several scientific journals lately with some impressive results for benefits to memory and brain function. The supplement is an extract of French maritime pine bark, known as Pycnogenol (pronounced pick-nodge-eh- nol). It’s not a new supplement, but recently some remarkable results have been reported that I thought were worth sharing.

In a yearlong study, seventy-seven adults aged 55 to 70 participated, and half the group was given 100 milligrams of Pycnogenol daily. At the end of the study, tests showed a seventy-two percent improvement in decision making in the Pycnogenol group (vs. a five percent decline in the placebo group). The attention span of the group that took Pycnogenol was increased by forty-one percent and memory improved by thirty-seven percent (compared to a ten percent decline in the control group). 

With such impressive results, I’m frankly surprised I haven’t been hearing about French maritime pine bark everywhere, though I haven’t, which is why I wanted to write about it here, particularly since the benefits were achieved by taking only one 100mg pill a day.
Pycnogenol also has a wide variety of other conditions it has been researched for positive results and has been the focus of over seventy different studies over the years. 

Another condition that Pycnogenol has had impressive benefits for is asthma, and was found to help both children and adults without adverse effects. Researchers gave participants 1 milligram of Pycnogenol per pound of body weight and found benefits for improved breathing after only one month. Also, the Pycnogenol group was able to rely on their rescue inhalers far less often.

Pycnogenol has also been shown to aid in lowering blood pressure, helping to normalize blood pressure readings in fifty-eight percent of hypertensive patients. Another study found that participants who took Pycnogenol were able to reduce their blood pressure medications after taking the supplement for 12 weeks.

Other double-blind studies have reported Pycnogenol’s benefit for lowering blood sugar in patients with Type 2 diabetes. After twelve weeks of taking the French maritime pine bark, it was reported that the supplement, “significantly lowered plasma glucose levels” when compared with the placebo. Pycnogenol also improved blood flow and blood vessel health.

Pycnogenol has also been studied with benefits for erectile dysfunction, ADD, deep vein thrombosis, menopause and more. I’m always skeptical whenever I read about so-called “miracle pills”, but Pycnogenol seems pretty close to that in reality. In November our

Pycnogenol by the company Solgar will be on sale for 25% off in November, so it’s a good time to try it!

pycnogenol solgar.jpeg

Supplement Spotlight: Garlic

We’re usually always excited to read about supplements that are new or “hot” at the moment, but I wanted to write instead this month about a supplement that has been around for ages, but none the less, has many benefits that deserve to be reexamined- garlic.

Most of us eat garlic occasionally, and are vaguely aware of its health benefits, but I wanted to write about its many benefits when used as part of a daily supplement regimen.

Garlic for cardiovascular health

One of garlic’s most interesting benefits is for helping to prevent atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the thickening or hardening of the arteries caused by a buildup of fats and cholesterol (plaque) on the artery walls, which then restricts blood flow. These arterial plaques can then burst, causing blood clots.

Atherosclerosis often happens with age, but it’s definitely something to be avoided! Garlic can prevent these problems by reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood, but also by inhibiting platelet stickiness.

Garlic supplementation has been found to reduce the size of plaque deposits in animal studies by fifty percent. One double blind human study found that a dosage of 900mg per day of garlic extract “significantly slowed the development of atherosclerosis when measured by an ultrasound”. Another human garlic study measured the flexibility of the aorta (the body’s main artery) in two hundred participants and reported that those who took garlic supplements had more flexibility in their arteries, which indicated a lower rate of atherosclerosis.

Garlic for preventing heart attacks

Garlic also can help to prevent heart attacks. In research, participants who had already suffered a heart attack that used garlic supplements had a reduced risk of a second heart attack, and a fifty percent lower death rate. Garlic works to prevent heart attacks by stimulating a process in the body in which blood clots are dissolved. Because of this action, garlic supplements should not be taken by people using prescription blood thinners without speaking to their doctor.

Garlic and high blood pressure

Benefits for high blood pressure have also been found after taking aged garlic extract supplements. Studies have shown that taking garlic supplements twice a day were able to lower their systolic blood pressure by twelve points.

Garlic for boosting the immune system

Garlic is great for the immune system and works in part by helping to activate the body’s macrophages- a specific type of white blood cell that literally ingests and destroys harmful microorganisms. There have been numerous studies on garlic’s benefit to the immune system, and ability to significantly increase the numbers of germ eating macrophages in the bloodstream.

Garlic for cancer prevention

Garlic can also aid in cancer prevention since it has compounds which stop tumor formation as well as inhibiting the spread of tumors. Garlic has been shown to reduce the occurrence of a variety of cancers, including colon, prostate, and stomach cancer.


Even with all these benefits, however, no one wants to reek of garlic.  Eating too much raw garlic can cause stomach upset and may keep people from wanting to stand too close to you. Thankfully, there are odorless garlic supplements available that can impart the benefits of garlic without your neighbors knowing about it. My favorite garlic supplements are the aged garlic supplements by Kyolic. Aging garlic removes its odor while retaining its health benefits; in fact, aged garlic has been shown to be significantly higher in active beneficial compounds than raw garlic. I take Kyolic garlic on a regular basis, and can absolutely attest to it being odor free.

Olive Leaf Extract for Blood Pressure and Immune Health

I wanted to write about olive leaf, since it’s a little known supplement that deserves a bit more recognition.  Olive leaf’s two main benefits are for blood pressure and immune function, though it also has benefits for lowering cholesterol, cancer prevention, and reducing cognitive decline.

Blood Pressure

The beneficial extract in olive leaf is oleuropein.  Oleuropein works extremely well for lowering blood pressure.  One recent study measured olive leaf supplementation against the blood pressure drug Captopril and found that olive leaf extract worked just as well as the prescription.  After eight weeks both groups had significantly lowered blood pressure and there was no significant difference between the two groups.  The study used 500mg of olive leaf extract twice daily for lowering blood pressure.  Since olive leaf extract is so effective at lowering blood pressure, if you are on blood pressure medication you may want to speak to your physician before starting the supplement.

Olive leaf also has been shown to prevent the formation of arterial plaque in the body, which helps to prevent heart attack and stroke.  It also works to prevent platelet clumping, which reduces the chance of blood clots forming.

Immune Benefits

Olive leaf has potent antibacterial and antiviral properties, which is very helpful during cold and flu season.  In in-vivo studies, nearly every virus was inactivated when exposed to the active ingredients in olive leaf extract. It was also shown to be beneficial against harmful bacteria and yeasts.  Additionally, olive leaf extract helps to contain viral infections by stopping viral replication inside the cell, which helps to prevent viruses from gaining a foothold and becoming a full-fledged illness.

Olive leaf is also a wonderful antioxidant, which in turn helps with boosting the immune system.


Foods High in Potassium

Potassium is an incredibly important mineral, and almost all of us are not getting enough.  The RDA of potassium for adults is 4,700mg.  Low potassium levels can lead to high blood pressure, and can also help to balance sodium levels since a balance of potassium and sodium is so important (scientists have even said that potassium sodium balance is even more important than reducing overall sodium intake).

Apricot, dried,10 halves, 482mg
Avocado, 1, 1204mg
Banana, 1, 455mg
Figs, dried, 10, 1332mg
Grapefruit juice, 1 cup, 400mg
Orange juice, 1 cup, 496mg
Papaya, 1, 780mg
Prunes, 10, 626mg
Prune juice, 1 cup, 706mg

Amaranth, 1 cup, 714mg
Barley, 1 cup, 832mg
Oats, 1 cup, 670mg
Rice, wild, 1 cup, 683mg
Quinoa, 1 cup, 1258mg

Lentils, cooked, 1 cup, 730mg
Lima Beans, cooked, 1 cup, 969mg
Peas, split, cooked, 1 cup, 709mg
Pinto beans, cooked, 1 cup, 800mg

Carrot juice, 1 cup, 787mg
Potato, 1 cup, 611mg
Spinach, 1 cup, 558mg
Squash, winter, 1 cup, 945mg
Tomato juice, 1 cup, 552mg
Yams, 1 cup, 1508mg

Chuck roast, 1 lb, 1374mg
Corned brisket, 1 lb, 1348mg
Porterhouse steak, 1 lb, 1305mg
Rib roast, 1 lb, 1180mg
Port shoulder, 1 lb, 1325mg

Almonds, 1 cup, 1098mg
Brazil nuts, 1 cup, 1001mg
Hazlenuts, 1 cup, 950mg
Pistachios, 1 cup, 1399mg
Pumpkin seed, 1113mg
Sunflower seed, 1 cup, 1334mg

The above values are from the fantastic book, The Nutrition Almacac by John D. Kirschman

Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure

Q: It seems I have high blood pressure!  I am healthy, I exercise and eat right, but I’ve been getting high blood pressure readings for the past several weeks.  At first I ignored it since I thought, “I’m healthy, I can’t have high blood pressure!”, but since those high readings have stayed consistent, I have to come to grips with reality.  Do you have any suggestions of natural things I can do to lower it?  I just can’t believe it!


A:  High blood pressure is often called “The Silent Killer” because it can occur without any symptoms. Risk factors for high blood pressure are obesity, lack of exercise, a diet high in salt, stress, smoking, as well as a family history of high blood pressure. 

High blood pressure is a common problem, but it’s important to not ignore it because of that.  High blood pressure can damage and narrow the arteries, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.  Over time high blood pressure can even cause an aneurysm, which can rupture and cause life threatening internal bleeding.

The first thing I would look to is the amount of salt in your diet.  There is sodium in everything, particularly canned and prepared foods, so it could be that you don’t realize the amount of salt you’re eating.  Some people are especially sensitive to salt, and you could be one of those people.  Excess salt in the diet increases the amount of sodium in the bloodstream.  This puts a strain on the kidneys since the kidneys as they work to maintain the body’s water and salt balance, which in turn raises blood pressure.

Start taking note of the nutrition facts on the foods you’re eating, adding up the sodium content.  At first, aim to have your daily sodium count under 2,300 mg.  If you do this for two weeks without noticing a change in blood pressure, reducing it to a number of 1,500 or below may be necessary to see results.

Some scientists content that salt in the diet is not the problem, but rather an imbalance in a person’s sodium/potassium balance.  Increasing the amount of potassium in the diet may help to lower blood pressure.  The daily recommendation of potassium per day is 4,700mg, a number most Americans don’t get anywhere near.  Potassium works to balance the effect of sodium on the body, so reducing sodium in the diet while increasing your daily potassium content is especially helpful.  Many common foods are high in potassium, including oats, barley, quinoa, avocado, bananas, lentils, pinto beans, potatoes, and spinach to name a few.  We have a great list of potassium containing foods on our website, so be sure to look there for a more complete listing. 

There are also supplements which can help with lowering blood pressure.  The first I would recommend is CoQ10, a nutrient best known for its benefit to heart health.  CoQ10 is often taken for cardiovascular health and for improving heart function, but recent research has extended its long list of benefits to include the ability to lower blood pressure.  A review of 12 different clinical studies on CoQ10 reported that supplementation with CoQ10 was able to lower blood pressure on an average of 17 for the top number (systolic blood pressure) and 10 for the bottom number (diastolic blood pressure).  CoQ10 must be taken consistently for its benefits, and scientists say it may take anywhere from one to three months to see the full difference the supplement makes.

CoQ10 may also help to lower cholesterol, balance blood sugar, and reduce periodontal disease, so it is  a fantastic supplement for anyone to take.  It’s important to note that CoQ10 must be taken with food for maximum absorption.  For people with compromised absorption, or severe high blood pressure, the ubiquinol form of the vitamin would be a good idea.  It’s more expensive than regular CoQ10, but it is significantly better absorbed.

Hibiscus tea is also a nice adjunct for people with high blood pressure.  Studies have showed a modest, but impressive ability to lower blood pressure for people who drink three cups per day, with an average of about a 7 point reduction.  Hibiscus tea is caffeine free, absolutely delicious, and good hot or iced.  Republic of Tea has several flavored varieties which are especially amazing that contain a little stevia for added calorie free sweetness (I’ve tried almost all of the ones they have, and they are among my favorite teas).

Stress can also be a big factor for people with high blood pressure, especially chronic or constant stress.  There are many very effective supplements which can help to reduce stress and anxiety.  Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, is one that I especially recommend.  Theanine helps to encourage a calm, relaxed state without tiredness.  It can be taken on a regular basis, or just when you know you’ll be going in to a stressful situation.  Interestingly, theanine has also been shown to increase focus and attention, something most everyone would like to have more of. 

Finally, I’d suggest buying a new blood pressure monitor.  Most doctors recommend replacing blood pressure monitors every three years to ensure the most accurate readings.  Keeping a daily blood pressure log can also be helpful to monitor changes and to show your doctor; it’s also an easy way to monitor the effectiveness of the changes you make.