Happy Chinese New Year

This February 16 marked the beginning of the celebration of the Chinese New Year – Year of the Dog.  For the several billion Asians living throughout the world, we know this year not to be 2018 but 4716, as the traditional Chinese calendar follows a lunisolar cycle. The lunisolar calendar combines the lunar (moon) phases and the solar cycle, which is why the new year begins on different Gregorian calendar dates.

Before celebrants begin festivities, homes are thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned to symbolically remove the “old” and welcome the “new.” Then, decorations are hung – and if you have seen any Chinese New Year celebration, you see the color red is prominent. This is because the Chinese believe that red is the color of good luck, good energy, good fortune, happiness and success.

Family dinners on the eve of the Chinese New Year is a very important part of the tradition; elders are honored and the family is held sacred, so starting the new year together is an idea held closely.  At midnight fireworks are launched, and there are many Dragon Dances are part of the ceremony; the dragon is a key symbol of wealth, power and wisdom.

This new year is the year of the dog, which is the 11th animal in the 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac. The dog is, of course, man’s most loyal friend, who keenly understands our spirit, and loves us unconditionally.

At Cactus Botanics, we wish all of you a healthy and wealthy new year.


Addressing Stress for Immune Health

This winter, reports emanating from such august health agencies as the CDC have reported that flu has been particularly virulent in January. As a leading supplier in science-backed ingredients for whole body health, we have decided to launch four new ingredients that may be used successfully in a wide variety of immune-support formulas (supplements and beverages).

Immunity is an aspect of health most people take for granted as they don’t feel it working when they feel well and active. When a cold or flu (or other issue) arises, then the thought of one’s immune system becomes prominent. When wellness sets in again, many people will begin a regimen to protect themselves during outbreak seasons (winter, and spring for allergies). But what many people do not understand is the link between stress, both acute and chronic, and the onset of a cold or flu, or other conditions.

Stress causes the body to respond by releasing high levels of cortisol (“the stress hormone”), which, in specific situations is beneficial but when constant, can cause interference with the immune system. This results in inflammation and reduction in the body’s ability to create white blood cells (lymphocytes—B and T cells). This then leads to susceptibility to infection, and other issues, such as asthma and gastric distress.

And, globally, individuals of all ages feel more stressed than ever. As a result, Cactus Botanics has been inspired to focus on immune support with four new ingredients:

Honeysuckle Flower Powder Extract — Honeysuckle flower has been used as a remedy for influenza in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Main functions:

  • Supports healthy inflammatory response and lessens discomfort
  • Supports immune function and help fight seasonal assaults
  • Supports healthy blood sugar levels

Ginger Powder Extract — A highly popular culinary spice, ginger also has been used as a medicine in Asian, Indian, and Arabic herbal traditions since ancient times.

Main functions:

  • Supports healthy inflammatory response and lessens discomfort
  • Supports relief of nausea and aids in digestion
  • Supports healthy cardiovascular function

Isatis Powder Extract — Isatis is traditionally used to support against symptoms of winter ailments, and is used widely in recent years in modern Traditional Chinese clinical practices.

Main functions:

  • Supports healthy inflammatory response
  • Supports healthy immune function
  • Supports against fever

Baikal Skullcap Powder Extract —  The roots of Baikal skullcap are widely used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for a large scope of health concerns.

Main functions:

  • Supports healthy inflammatory response
  • Calms anxiety and nervousness
  • Supports against fever

Celebrate Heart Health Month by Formulating for All Women

February is Heart Health Awareness Month, and it is always a sound (and profitable) idea to formulate supplements and nutra-foods/beverages for women who fear suffering from heart disease.

At Cactus Botanics, we have several ingredients for heart health, of which you may contact us to discuss more in detail. Here, we want to present compelling facts released by the American Heart Association about how heart disease affects the multitude of women living in North America. First and foremost, it is not a man’s disease: cardiovascular disease kills more women than men, accounting for the deaths of one in three women each year – amounting to one every minute.

  • 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
  • Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease and the gap between men and women’s survival continues to widen.
  • An estimated 44 million women in the U.S. are affected by cardiovascular diseases.
  • Women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men.
  • 80% of heart disease and stroke events may be prevented by lifestyle changes and education.
  • Fewer women than men survive their first heart attack.

When considering formulating natural heart-health products for women, look at fulfilling the needs of two major ethnic groups:  hispanic women and African-American women. The statistics from AHA show that these two groups are in need of such products.

Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than non-Hispanic women, and cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of mortality in this group. Although it kills nearly 21,000 Hispanic women annually, only one in three are aware that heart disease is their number-one killer.

African-American women can also benefit from heart-health supplements – as heart disease kills nearly 50,000 of them annually. Along with products for them (and for the Hispanic community), educational efforts are really needed:  unfortunately, according to the AHA, only 36% of African-American women know that heart disease is their greatest health risk, and only 52% of them are aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

But don’t forget about physically fit and seemingly lean women. The AHA asserts that risk for heart disease among women who are physically fit isn’t completely eliminated – and many thin women may have high cholesterol, especially those who smoke and have poor eating habits.

Although formulating for efficacy is a smooth process when working with suppliers such as Cactus Botanics, we encourage you to market specifically to demographics of women who would heed the message and be motivated to develop a solid heart-healthy regimen that is anchored by your supplement line.

Get In the Know

At Cactus Botanics, we see firsthand how much information is generated at the scientific level (universities, etc.) and how much mass media stories try to translate and disseminate to consumers. However, although education is something we in the dietary supplement industry applaud, there are gaps in understanding, misperceptions and downright wrong interpretations of research. We just came across an ongoing initiative that excites us.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), part of the National Institutes of Health, has launched “Know the Science,” a consumer educational initiative, in November 2017. The aim of the program is to clarify and explain scientific topics related to health research. “Know the Science” features a variety of materials including interactive modules, quizzes, and videos to provide engaging, straightforward content for consumers to dive in and get to know the science. While complementary approaches are occasionally highlighted in examples, the materials cover topics common to all areas of health research.

At NCCIH “we’re studying approaches that are already on the shelf or used by consumers,” said David Shurtleff, Ph.D., acting director of NCCIH. “It’s part of our mission to not only inform consumers about the research, but equip them with the tools to better understand it and apply it to smart decisions about their health.”

Misinformation about health topics, especially with dietary supplements, is widespread. According to Dr. Shurtleff, “the need for stronger science literacy efforts is especially clear in the complementary and integrative health space, where many approaches are readily available in the marketplace and are often selected for self-care. Recognition of science literacy gaps and identifying opportunities to fill them, led NCCIH to conduct a series of conversations with in-house experts across NIH and well as external stakeholders in the field.”

These groups’ input, and feedback from a team from the NCCIH Advisory Council, led to the development of the Know the Science initiative that encompasses several resources such as informative guides and interactive modules. Topics include “The facts about health news stories,” and “how medications and supplements can interact.”

At Cactus Botanics, it is a mission to ensure credible science is translated clearly and compellingly to consumers who invest in our products – as well as trust in and expect them to work. We applaud the Know the Science initiative and are excited to know it will help promote health news literacy for the growing number of interested consumers.

We encourage you to visit Know the Science at https://nccih.nih.gov/health/know-science. This portal also links to informative content from the National Library of Medicine, the National Human Genome Research Institute, and other Federal resources designed to help consumers make sense of health information. NCCIH will continue to introduce new Know the Science.

Fucoxanthin for Fat Burning

Although new year’s resolution time is over, and many people already broke them, there’s still time to get back on the fitness and weight-management wagon. Fucoxanthin is a sustainably harvested seaweed active ingredient that can be used by consumers as part of an overall healthy lifestyle approach to reaching fitness goals and staying within a desirable BMI range.

Normal aging brings about the slowing down of metabolism allowing for the denser accrual of white body fat (the kind that displeases all of us). Increasing metabolic rate uses up the stores of undesirable white fat and prevents quick accrual of more.

The carotenoid fucoxanthin, found in brown seaweeds, has been shown to help do just that. It is a non-stimulatory ingredient that accelerates thermogenesis and improve inflammatory response. It helps thermogenesis by activating mitochondrial uncoupling protein 1 (UCP 1), which focuses on “burning” stored fat.

In animal model study (Maeda H, et al. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2005 Jul), Japanese researchers found that the subjects showed expression of UCP 1 in white adipose tissue in those that were supplemented with fucoxanthin; UCP 1 is normally found in brown fat, a type of fat that generates heat, is dense, and is considered to be the “good” fat. The researchers speculated that perhaps fucoxanthin can trick the white fat into mimicking brown fat’s thermogenesis activity, thereby accelerating metabolic rate and fat loss. Relatedly, other studies on both animals and humans showed that fucoxanthin may help increase resting metabolic rate.

According to Miyashita et al, in their chapter,Therapeutic Effect of Fucoxanthin on Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes” in the 2012 book, Nutritional and Therapeutic Interventions for Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome, “Fucoxanthin is effective in subjects with obesity and with metabolic disorders, and is devoid of any activity in lean subjects. In addition, the molecular mechanisms underlying the effects of fucoxanthin have been characterized and its biological effect can be improved by the selective accumulation of fucoxanthin metabolites in the target organ, visceral WAT. Fucoxanthin will be a desirable nutraceutical to alleviate obesity and metabolic disorders.”
Fat burning products will be sought by millions of consumers who want to get into great shape before summer, “bikini season.” Fucoxanthin is a desirable ingredient for shape-promoting formulas. Cactus Botanics offers fucoxanthin for a variety of health products. Please contact us for more information – info@cactusbotanics.com.

Linoleic Acid May Lower Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is caused by several biochemicals, one being C-reactive protein (CRP). And, as we have been told for a while, too much omega-6 fatty acids in the diet can increase low-grade inflammation. But a new study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that one omega-6 – linoleic acid – in serum appears to lower CRP, thus lessening inflammation in the body.

C-reactive protein, or CRP, levels were measured from 1,287 healthy men aged 42 to 60 at the onset of the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study in 1984-1989 at the University of Eastern Finland.

The study found that a low serum linoleic acid level was associated with higher serum CRP levels. According to the study authors, when participants were divided into four groups based on their serum linoleic acid levels, the probability for an elevated CRP was 53% lower in the highest quarter compared to the lowest one.

This study supports the results of earlier trials, which have shown that even a very high intake of linoleic acid does not increase inflammatory responses. The body converts linoleic acid into various compounds that alleviate inflammation. Linoleic acid, which is an essential omega-6 fatty acid, has been linked with a lower risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes type 2, wherein low-grade inflammation is a significant risk factor. Serum linoleic acid level is primarily incurred by diet — the main sources of linoleic acid are vegetable oils, plant-based spreads, nuts and seeds.

While linoleic acid is a “good guy” omega-6, when omega-3 to omega-6 ratios in serum are about even, other omega 6 fatty acids, such as arachidonic acid, gamma-linolenic acid or dihomo-y-linolenic acid are largely benign, and previous studies show they are not associated with CRP levels.

Omega-e EFAs, meanwhile, are essential for maintaining good health, and we recommend that, as Americans still tend to have heavily imbalanced ratios of omega-3 to omega-6, formulating with ingredients such as seaweeds that contain omega-3 EFAs is something to consider.

Virtanen et al. “The associations of serum n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids with serum C-reactive protein in men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/s41430-017-0009-6

Botanical Marketplace Enjoyed a Strong 2017

We are happy to report that, according to the esteemed American Botanical Council (ABC) of Austin, TX, the herb market was very robust in 2017 – showing a deepening consumer interest and manufacturing innovation catering to that demand.

ABC’s journal, HerbalGram, published its annual herb market report, which tallied total sales of herbal dietary supplements at approximately $7.5 billion in 2016, which was expected to increase to about $8 billion in 2017.

In an exclusive article appearing on www.nutraingredients-usa.com (“For herbs, 2017 was a very good year,” December 20, 2017), ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal highlighted how botanical study activities support academic and medical interest in the viablity of using herbs to address human health.

Blumenthal summarized key studies of herbs and their influential impact on a variety of aspects of human health. In fact, 2017 witnessed an increase in scientific investigations in this area with more published systematic reviews, meta analyses as well as randomized, controlled human clinical studies.

Blumenthal provided some examples:  a meta-analysis on the venerable mood regulator, St. John’s Wort concluding that the extract is indeed more effective than placebo in individuals with mild to moderate mood issues (“depression”), and in some cases is as effective as common anti-depressant drugs.  And, in 2017, a systematic review and meta-analysis of 28 trials concluded that cranberry supplements may be recommended by physicians for patients concerned about supporting urinary tract health.

And, in one momentous published study in 2016, essentially a systematic review of 10 systematic reviews on ginkgo biloba’s viability of use in individuals with mild cognitive impairment, the authors concluded that 240 mg daily seemed to be the most effective dose over lower doses and, of course, placebo.

As industry – and consumers – become more aware of potential adulterants sneaking into their herbal supplements, Blumenthal reports that the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program (BAP) has grown to include more than 200 underwriters and supporters. Collectively, they encouraged the release in 2017 of six new Botanical Adulterant Bulletins discussing adulteration challenges in cranberry, rhodiola, St. John’s wort, tea tree oil, grapefruit seed extract and saw palmetto. All these herbs are very familiar to millions of health-conscious consumers, so we at Cactus Botanics believes it is essential that industry ensure rigid following of QC protocols and transparency.

Energy Drinks Shown to be Dangerous: Eliminate Caffeine, Increase Ginseng

It’s not news – many studies have shown that conventional mass energy drinks are dangerous. Those typically contain high amounts of caffeine, which can cause rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), and is a central nervous system stimulant.

This is confirmed by a new review which finds that the energy kicking benefits that are short-term are frequently orverridden by serious health risks, such as elevated blood pressure, kidney damage, mental issues, and even increased risk-seeking behavior. The study, published in Frontiers in Public Health, also emphasizes that there is a need to seriously examine typical mass energy drinks’ advertised benefits, nutritional content and any negative effects on public health.

“We summarize the consequences of energy drink consumption, which include heart, kidney, and dental problems, as well as risk-seeking behavior and poor mental health,” says Dr. Josiemer Mattei, study co-author. “The evidence suggests they are harmful to health and should be limited through more stringent regulation by restricting their sales to children and adolescents, as well as setting an evidence-based upper limit on the amount of caffeine.”

Most energy drinks consist of similar ingredients — water, sugar, caffeine, certain vitamins, minerals and non-nutritive stimulants such as guarana, taurine and ginseng. Some can contain up to 100 mg caffeine per fluid ounce, eight times more than a regular coffee at 12 mg. A moderate daily caffeine intake of up to 400 mg is recommended for adults, but little research exists on tolerable levels for adolescents and children.

“The energy drink industry has grown dramatically in the past 20 years, culminating in a nearly $10 billion per year industry in the United States. They are often marketed as a healthy beverage that people can adopt to improve their energy, stamina, athletic performance and concentration, but our review shows there are important health consequences, and little is known about many of their non-nutritive stimulants such as guarana and taurine,” says Dr. Mattei.

The health risks associated with energy drinks are mostly attributed to their high sugar and caffeine levels.

And although some energy drinks contain ginseng, this herb in higher concentrations may be a healthier addition for an energy drink. Ginseng  is an adaptogen known to help adrenocortical function, which leads to improved energy levels. The herb also dilates blood vessels, increasing blood flow (and thus oxygen) to the brain, providing a refreshed feeling and increased mental energy. Its ginsenosides are responsible for its revitalizing action.

Al-Shaar, et al.. “Health Effects and Public Health Concerns of Energy Drink Consumption in the United States: A Mini-Review.” Frontiers in Public Health, 2017; 5 DOI: 10.3389/fpubh.2017.00225

Cactus Botanics Supports CRN’s Supplement OWL®

At Cactus Botanics, we have been devoted to the full health and wellness of people worldwide since our inception. Providing tools as ingredients for our brand partners to craft efficacious and safe supplements has always been our mission.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) is a venerable association that has done tremendous work in protecting the interests of dietary supplement industry and consumers. Its project, The Supplement OWL® (Online Wellness Library) is described as an “an important self-regulatory initiative that starts with a simple premise: regulators need to know what ingredients and products are in the dietary supplement marketplace and who sells them. Companies who manufacture and market dietary supplements have a responsibility to share this basic information with regulators to help them get a better handle on the size and breadth of the dietary supplement marketplace. A responsible industry wants the legal requirements already in place to be enforced to promote a level playing field for all participants, and regulators need to be able to see the participants to effectively enforce the law. As an industry-created and industry-managed initiative, the Supplement OWL provides that visibility and allows the industry to maintain control of the registry.”

When we self-regulate as an industry, we demonstrate commitment to our own health and longevity, as well as responsibility; we are also demonstrating transparency, which leads to improved trust in our consumers.

For those of our brand marketer partners who sell supplements to retailers, consider having your products available for them and their customers to review on Supplement OWL; as, according to CRN’s website, it “provides retailers with an authoritative database to examine and evaluate labels of products on the market. In particular, Tier 2 of the Supplement OWL will offer retailers access to a wealth of information to help them make more informed decisions when determining which products they have confidence placing on their store shelves. Additionally, the registry offers retailers a new decision point for improving their reputations as responsible vendors. As the Supplement OWL gains traction with retailers, product labels that are not in the registry may raise questions as to why these products are missing.”

We at Cactus Botanics applaud this initiative and support CRN’s efforts.

Dietary Supplement Consumption Keeps Rising

The Council for Responsible Nutrition recently released a report that is a boon to the industry and validates what we at Cactus Botanics know and believe in:  more Americans are taking dietary supplements than ever; consumption is at an all-time high, as per CRN’s annual survey – “2017 CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements.”

Seventy-six percent of adults reporting they consume dietary supplements, an increase of five percent from last year’s results; the same percentage also perceive that dietary supplement industry as trustworthy, up three percent from last year. The new survey also found that nearly nine in 10 (87 percent) US adults have confidence in the safety, quality and effectiveness of dietary supplements overall.

CRN also queried respondents about the types of supplements they like to take regularly. The survey showed that vitamins and minerals comprise the most common supplement group (this is consistent with data from previous CRN surveys); in fact, 75 percent of respondents stated they have taken vitamins and/or minerals in the 12 months leading to the survey. The second most popular supplement category was “specialty supplements, with 38 percent stating they have taken these, and then 29 percent who said they have used herbs/botanical supplements. And, 22 percent had taken sports nutrition, followed by 15 percent who used weight loss supplements in the previous 12 months to the survey.

Overall health support and achieving and sustaining wellness is the primary reason many respondents gave for using supplements (46 percent); while three in 10 (30 percent) use supplements to purposefully fill in nutrient gaps in their diets. A significant percent, 28 percent, said that energy is the top reason they use supplements. Meanwhile, of those respondents who said they have not taken supplements in the previous year, said they might consider using supplements if a doctor recommended they do so.

These survey results are very positive, as we are poised to end 2017 and enter 2018. Nancy Weindruch, vice president, communications, CRN, is equally enthusiastic. She summarized, “Seeing more than three quarters of Americans taking supplements is an indicator of our industry’s success in bringing products to the marketplace that are valued by the majority of Americans for their role in health and wellness.”

At Cactus Botanics, we offer a variety of specialty supplements, herbs and supplements that help provide energy, weight loss and sports nutrition. Please contact us – website, phone or email – to find out more.