Peppermint Tea May Help Relieve Headaches

Peppermint tea may be one of the most well-known and most widely consumed teas in the world, and not just because of its refreshing taste. Peppermint tea is loaded with various antioxidants and minerals, offering people a surplus of health benefits. Learn more about this tea, its history and benefits, and techniques on how you can brew your own cup.

What Is Peppermint Tea?

You've probably seen peppermint on the packages of toothpastes and gum, but this herb has actually been around for far longer than you might think, with the Romans using it to adorn their heads and dining tables for feasts and other festivities. Dried peppermint leaves were even found inside the pyramids, meaning Egyptians have put it to good use as well.1

Today, peppermint products are widely available in the market, with peppermint essential oils and peppermint tea being used to promote wellness. Peppermint tea is an infusion of the peppermint plant's leaves (Mentha piperita), the hybrid of watermint and spearmint.2 This herb is often sold as loose leaf tea or in teabags, either of which can be used to brew your daily mug or two of peppermint tea.

Check Out These 3 Peppermint Tea Health Benefits

Peppermint may be famous for its ability to put a stop to bad breath, but its benefits don't end there. Drinking peppermint tea may help regulate numerous body processes due to the surplus of active compounds it contains. Here are some health benefits you may get when you make peppermint tea part of your daily routine:

  • May protect you from harmful pathogens — Peppermint contains numerous metabolites with antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties, potentially working against numerous pathogens like Escherichia coli (E. coli), salmonella, Streptococcus thermophilus, Shigella dysenteriae and more. This means that peppermint tea may provide you with protection against infections and other problems caused by these microorganisms.3
  • May help relieve headaches — A 1994 study from the Cephalalgia journal found that peppermint oil, together with eucalyptus oil, has muscle-relaxing and mentally relaxing properties that may help alleviate headaches and other painful conditions.4
  • May assist in alleviating abdominal pain — The essential oils in peppermint have anesthetic and analgesic effects on gastrointestinal tissues. Its effect on your smooth muscles may help dampen pain caused by cramps, even for a short time.5

Nutrition Facts of Peppermint

The peppermint herb contains vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and vitamins A and C. Some of these may be carried over to the tea when brewed, but only in trace amounts.6

A good bulk of peppermint tea's health benefits are also attributed to its high content of menthol, menthone and menthyl acetate.7

Does Peppermint Tea Have Caffeine in It?

For people who are caffeine-sensitive, the good news is that peppermint tea does not contain any caffeine. If you usually have issues with falling asleep or staying asleep, drinking peppermint tea would be a good idea because it will not cause any side effects.8 Some people even drink peppermint tea before sleeping to help themselves relax.9

Here's How You Can Brew Your Own Peppermint Tea

You can use loose dried tea leaves, teabags or even fresh mint leaves to make your own peppermint tea. To help you brew your first batch, here's a recipe from the blog, Fearless Fresh.10

Peppermint Tea With Fresh Mint Leaves


  • 1 handful of fresh mint
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • Raw honey, to taste


  1. Wash and tear the fresh mint leaves.
  2. Put the leaves in a teapot. Pour the boiling water over the leaves.
  3. Steep for three to seven minutes, depending on the flavor strength you prefer.
  4. Add honey to taste. Serve.

Store Your Peppermint Correctly so You Can Benefit From It Longer

Like other tea leaves, peppermint leaves need to be prepared and stored correctly to preserve its beneficial active compounds. If you're lucky to have a peppermint plant in your garden, you can follow this guide to dry and properly store peppermint leaves:11

  1. Carefully wash the mint leaves in cold water without removing the stems.
  2. Using paper towels or other absorbent towels, dry the mint leaves.
  3. Remove the leaves from the stems once the leaves are dry.
  4. Place the leaves on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Warm them in the oven at 180 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius) for two hours. Once the timer's up, check if the leaves are completely dry. If not, continue warming them in 15-minute intervals to avoid accidentally burning them.
  5. Store dried mint in glass airtight containers. Keep them away from direct sunlight and heat to prolong their shelf life.

Watch Out for These Peppermint Side Effects and Contraindications

While peppermint offers impressive health benefits, there are certain subpopulations who need to avoid this herb to protect themselves from the possible side effects that peppermint may trigger. If you fall under any of the following categories, it's best that you steer clear of this tea as much as possible:

  • Pregnant women — Peppermint tea may contain emmenagogue properties,12 meaning they can stimulate menstrual flow even when the cycle is not yet due.13
  • People who suffer from acid reflux — Those with acid reflux may aggravate their symptoms by drinking peppermint tea due to its muscle relaxant properties. Peppermint may cause the esophageal sphincter to relax, letting bile and undigested food travel back up the esophagus.14

Sip on Peppermint Tea the Next Time You Get a Headache

There's no question that peppermint tea is popular — the multiple peppermint tea products in the grocery stores can attest to that. But if you're not fond of sipping tea, the health benefits of peppermint may just change your mind. It may even prove to be one of the best natural remedies for some of your most common daily healthy woes. The next time you get a headache or you start feeling nauseous, don't reach for those painkillers. Just get a hot cup of peppermint tea.

The EPA's Biosolids Scam Threatens Us All

The use of sewage sludge as fertilizer for your food, renamed "biosolids" by slick industry PR firms, is a growing and under-publicized threat to human health. Sewage sludge is the residue generated during the treatment of domestic waste and contains a cocktail of hazardous substances from industry, hospitals and humans — anything that is discharged into the sewage system.

Today, city sewer lines run right to the factories, allowing them to dump their waste into the city's sewage treatment plants. This saves industries a lot of money because once a regulated chemical or waste enters the sewer line, they're suddenly exempt from EPA regulation.

While many, including myself, have highlighted the serious dangers posed by wide application of sewage sludge for decades, new awareness was created by a recent report from the U.S. Inspector General's office (OIG) titled, "EPA Unable to Assess the Impact of Hundreds of Unregulated Pollutants in Land-Applied Biosolids on Human Health and the Environment."

Beware the Biosolid Scam

A recent video, "Biosludged,"1 from the Health Ranger/Natural News, added more concerns to the already recognized biosolid threats of heavy metals, drugs, hormones and antibiotic resistance, namely bioterrorism. Anyone could introduce deadly substances into the sewage system, such as the Ebola virus, which would, courtesy of wide biosolids application, be disseminated to harm a large amount of people.

What people put down their toilet comes "right back on their dinner plate a few weeks later," warns the video, citing the discovery of the blood thinner Warfarin, the toxic herbicide and endocrine disrupter atrazine, pesticides, fungicides, pharmaceuticals, recreational drugs, industrial drugs, chemical solvents, plasticizers and disinfectants in biosolids.

"If you wouldn't put it in your garden, don't flush it down toilet," says Mike Adams, known as the Health Ranger, who adds that biosolids are the greatest environmental crime in America that most people have never heard of. While there is a Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, a Clean Soil Act is sorely needed says Adams.

Adams and his website are admittedly controversial, but it's indisputable that the application of massive amounts of biosolids containing nitrogen and phosphorus, combined with other nitrogen-rich fertilizers, have contributed to the growing algae blooms along U.S. coasts. This environmental destruction harms human and animal life as well as water quality. Unfortunately, many of the southern states experience greater use of biosolids as they accept excrement exported from other cities.

Serious Questions About EPA Regulation of Biosolids

In November 2018, the U.S. Inspector General's office released a scathing indictment of how the EPA regulates — or more accurately, doesn't regulate — the biosolids industry. The OIG charged that:2

"The controls over the land application of sewage sludge (biosolids), including laws, regulations, guidance, policies or activities, were incomplete or had weaknesses and may not fully protect human health and the environment.

The EPA consistently monitored biosolids for nine regulated pollutants. However, the agency lacked the data or risk assessment tools needed to make a determination on the safety of 352 pollutants found in biosolids. The EPA identified these pollutants in a variety of studies from 1989 through 2015.

Our analysis determined that the 352 pollutants include 61 designated as acutely hazardous, hazardous or priority pollutants in other programs. The Clean Water Act requires the EPA to review biosolids regulations at least every two years to identify additional pollutants and promulgate regulations for such pollutants."

What are some of the harmful pollutants the Inspector General found in biosolids?

"Unregulated pollutants identified include pharmaceuticals (e.g., ciprofloxacin, diphenhydramine and triclocarban); steroids and hormones (e.g., campesterol, cholestanol and coprostanol); and flame retardants.

The agency also identified perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) and perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) in biosolids research ... 32 are hazardous wastes under RCRA (four of which are acutely hazardous). 35 are EPA priority pollutants. 16 are NIOSH [National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health] hazardous drugs."

Scientific Research Confirms the Dangers

Faced with the IOG's 60-page paper detailing the dangers of biosolids, the EPA had few defenses beyond, "Hazard alone does not indicate risk," and "Not all 352 pollutants found in biosolids lack data to evaluate risk. Those pollutants with sufficient data will be evaluated for risk" in the future. Is anyone relieved?

Scientific papers clearly confirm the dangers of biosolids from their persistence in the soil to their ability to enter the very crops you eat. Triclocarban, an antibiotic similar to triclosan (found in toothpaste and other consumer products) "remained years after biosolid application" says research in Environmental Science and Pollution Research.3

The antibiotics amoxicillin, ampicillin, erythromycin, oxytetracycline, sulfadimethoxine and others were detected "in sewage sludges after nearly a decade in frozen storage," says research in Science of the Total Environment.4

Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), man-made chemicals the EPA admits have "adverse human health effects"5 and flame retardants (HFRs and PBDEs) were detected in spinach, tomatoes and corn from biosolid-treated soil, according to research in Science Direct.6 Pharmaceuticals were believed to enter radish tissues according to Water Research,7 and lettuce readily absorbed estrogens, according to a study published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research.8

Antibiotic Resistance Is Also a Risk From Biosolids

It should surprise no one who reads my newsletter that using sewer sludge to grow food increases the already pressing problem of antibiotic resistance. The over-prescription of antibiotics to humans and livestock has created superbugs that kill thousands each year. The combination of human waste — which contains both antibiotics, pathogens and antibiotic-resistant pathogens — with hospital and industrial waste only worsens the deadly problem.

The accumulation of a metabolite of the antibiotic sulfamethoxazole "in the solid phase is less bioavailable and is hard to be desorbed in the existence of microbial activities ... and may lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and genes after discharge into the environment," warn researchers in Environmental Science and Pollution Research.9

"Ampicillin-resistant bacteria increased in [biosolid] amended soils four months after amendment and remained at least one log 10 higher 24 months later," says research in Science of the Total Environment. 10

The ubiquity of antibiotic use in medical, veterinary and agricultural practices "has instigated great environmental concern due to the toxicological effects associated with these compounds," says research in Environmental Monitoring and Assessment.11

"Some of the effects of antibiotics include development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, making it difficult to treat diseases, variation in natural microbial communities, and enzyme activities especially in aerobic and low and intermediate anaerobic plots due to small rates of decay."

Strong Economic Forces Are Behind Biosolids

How did the deceptive term "biosolid" replace the more accurate term toxic sewer sludge? It was coined by the Water Environment Federation, says PR Watch.12

"The Water Environment Federation (WEF), the sewage sludge industry trade group that invented the Orwellian PR euphemism 'biosolids' for toxic sludge in 1991, is now 'rebranding' sewage treatment plants as 'water resource recovery facilities.'

The PR spin conveniently glosses over the toxic sewage sludge removed from the water and then heated and dumped on land for crops and grazing as 'fertilizer' or misleadingly called 'compost.' The toxins in sludge can then bioaccumulate in the meat and dairy we eat and be taken up by the food plants that feed us."

Sludge is big business and waste giant Synagro leads the industry. According to its website:13

"[Synagro] provide[s] solutions for all aspects of biosolids and residuals management needs, from land permitting and soil analysis by our nationwide technical services team to facilities development by our in-house engineering staff. Synagro provides a comprehensive scope of customer-focused solutions. We have built a reputation as a trusted provider of breakthrough, cost-effective solutions for biosolids and residuals management needs."

Selling sludge as "fertilizer" is the least expensive way for municipalities to get rid of their biosolids and make room for more, says In These Times .14 Corporations that sign contracts with municipalities to remove and haul the sludge are also fans of the lucrative status quo, as are farmers who appreciate inexpensive "fertilizer." But some communities are resisting.

We Don't Want Your Poop, Say Community Activists

At a hearing held in November 2018 by the Pennsylvania State Council of Farm Organizations, Darree Sicher, founder of the United Sludge Free Alliance, said one of her main concerns is that biosolids are contaminated with pharmaceuticals and flame retardants, which could lead to birth defects in livestock.15 Much of Europe incinerates rather than spreads such waste, said others at the hearing.

In January, Florida state representative Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach) introduced a bill that would allow landowners to keep spreading imported biosolids if the landowner "can affirmatively demonstrate that the nutrients in the biosolids will not add to nutrient loadings in the watershed," which was greeted by citizen resistance.16

Residents in Washington state have similarly spoken out.17 "There's a saying that the biosolids flow downhill — I live downhill," said James Brigham, who lives near the proposed biosolids site. Delivery of the biosolids would involve 50 trucks, it was revealed at the meeting.

In Michigan, the application of biosolids are suspected of containing the "forever chemicals" PFAS, linked to numerous health hazards and contamination of drinking water.18

Gardeners Beware

Toxic sewer sludge is not just an agricultural risk, "Biosludged" points out. Biosolids are also sold as lawn and garden fertilizer to homeowners despite their dangerous components.

Both Dillo Dirt and Milorganite present themselves as eco-friendly and environmentally-sound soil treatments, yet both carry warnings of serious risks to human health in their fine print. Dillo Dirt contains toxic sludge from Austin, and Milorganite is made with toxic sludge from Milwaukee, says Mike Adams. Both should be avoided at all costs.

Unfortunately, companies do not have to disclose when biosolids are used in their compost or potting soil. Composted products can even have the USDA organic label on them, and still be loaded with toxic biosolids. Milorganite is just one example.

If you grow vegetables in your garden and want to avoid toxins contained in biosolids, your best bet is to buy organic potting soil and/or compost from a local nursery you know and trust that can guarantee no biosolids have been added.

Would You Volunteer to Eat Poison for the Government?

If you were around in the early 1900s, you may have looked forward to reading about “The Poison Squad” in your morning paper. Photos of the group, dressed up in their Sunday best and seated for their evening meal, were popular across the U.S., along with articles detailing their latest experiments consuming potentially poisonous food additives — and describing the resulting ill effects.

It was a time when food safety was an oxymoron, and it was commonplace to find not only adulterants in food — rock powder in flour or charcoal in coffee grounds, for instance — but also for foods to be anything but what was promised on the label.1

The Poison Squad was the name given to a group of men recruited by chemist Harvey Washington Wiley, who took part in some of the first experiments to weed out toxins in the food supply, and resulted in the creation of the first U.S. law to help protect the food supply.

Transition From Homegrown, Local Food to Industrial Food Necessitated Food Safety Laws

In the early 1800s, 95 percent of Americans still lived in rural areas, where food came from family gardens or local small farms. By 1900, only 60 percent of Americans still lived in rural locales, with 40 percent living in urban cities instead.2

This industrialization and urbanization that occurred in the 19th century led to major changes in the U.S. food supply, as many Americans, no longer able to grow their own food, looked for other sources — a need happily met by industry. As reported in The Atlantic:3

“In the late 1800s, America was changing rapidly, and so were its food systems. The country was industrializing, and as people moved into cities in search of jobs, they no longer picked their own tomatoes or churned their own butter from the milk of local cows. Food had to travel farther to reach these city dwellers, and, in an era before artificial refrigeration, it spoiled quickly.

But there was a solution, and it came from scientists working in the exciting new field of chemistry: preservatives that promised to keep food fresh for days, even weeks. By the 1880s and ’90s, Americans were consuming preservatives such as formaldehyde, borax and salicylic acid for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

Enter Wiley, who landed a job as chief chemist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1883. He had been petitioning the government for decades to look into the safety of food additives, but it wasn’t until 1902 that he was given $5,000 to conduct such studies, which were formally known as the “hygienic table trials,” but more commonly referred to as the poison squad trials.4

The Poison Squad Was Instrumental in the Creation of First US Food Safety Law

Wiley’s experiments into food safety began in 1881, when the Indiana State Board of Health asked him to look into products being sold as honey and maple syrup.

According to Deborah Blum in her book, “The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century,” Wiley revealed that 90 percent of supposedly 100 percent maple syrup samples were fake and, as for the honey, “there were ‘beekeepers’ who had not, of late, been bothering to keep bees.”5

He then went on to investigate and publicize adulterated foods, including sawdust in pepper, metals in cocoa powder and whiskey made from ethyl alcohol and prune juice. Next came the now infamous poison squad trials, in which 12 men consumed questionable food ingredients to find out their effects.

While it may seem like finding volunteers to consume what could easily be poison would be difficult, men were reportedly lining up to take part (women were not allowed to participate). In exchange for risking their lives as guinea pigs, they were offered some pay along with free lodging and meals for six months, along with medical care, while they otherwise went on with their normal lives.

“Soon known as the Poison Squad, these idealistic volunteers embraced the motto on a sign in their special dining room: “ONLY THE BRAVE DARE EAT THE FARE,” The New York Times wrote.6

Fanfare for the Poison Squad Ensued While Industry Tried to Tarnish Wiley’s Reputation

As part of their regular fare, the poison squad consumed such additives as borax, formaldehyde and other preservatives while Americans eagerly awaited the outcomes. Such toxins were not necessarily added deceptively, either.

Some food companies openly advertised products like Freezine, a formaldehyde-containing substance added to rancid milk.7 Upon consuming formaldehyde, some of the volunteers went on strike because their health plummeted so badly and Wiley stopped using it in the experiment to protect them. When consuming borax, meanwhile, the volunteers complained of headaches, depression and more.

The idea that ingredients in their food could be toxic was a new one for many Americans, and one that the industry was not keen on letting out. “The National Food Processors Association and other industry groups were not pleased, to say the least,” according to The New York Times, which added:8

“For his efforts on behalf of food safety and integrity, Wiley was described in one trade journal as ‘the man who is doing all he can to destroy American business.’

Misleading articles by nonexistent journalists were circulated to harm his reputation. The newly formed Monsanto Chemical Company became one of his most persistent foes, after USDA chemists questioned the safety of saccharine and caffeine, two additives that it manufactured.”

The 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, or the ‘Wiley Act’

Wiley was able to gain allies via women’s clubs, consumer advocates and even the celebrity chef Fannie Farmer, who helped with the eventual passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, otherwise known as the Wiley Act.

“While Wiley was stumping for a law, muckraking journalists such as Samuel Hopkins Adams exposed in vivid detail the hazards of the marketplace,” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported. It helped that, around the same time, Upton Sinclair’s novel, “The Jungle,” revealed the horrible conditions of the meat-packing industry.

“In fact, the nauseating condition of the meat-packing industry that Upton Sinclair captured in ‘The Jungle’ was the final precipitating force behind both a meat inspection law and a comprehensive food and drug law,” according to the FDA.9

The 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act prohibited the interstate transport of unlawful food and drugs and prohibited the addition of “any ingredients that would substitute for the food, conceal damage, pose a health hazard, or constitute a filthy or decomposed substance.”

The Act also prohibited false or misleading food and drug labels, and 11 dangerous ingredients, such as alcohol, heroin and cocaine, had to be listed on the labels.

More Than a Century Later, You Still Don’t Know What’s in Your Food

It’s been more than 100 years since the first food safety law was passed in the U.S., but much still remains to be desired about the safety and transparency of the U.S. food supply. Foods are still commonly adulterated, for instance.

When it comes to olive oil, tests reveal anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of the olive oils sold in American grocery stores and restaurants contain cheap, oxidized, omega-6 vegetable oils, such as sunflower oil or peanut oil, or nonhuman grade olive oils.10

Further, according to a report by oceans advocacy nonprofit organization Oceana, 1 in 3 seafood samples tested in the U.S. were mislabeled.11 There are also a multitude of chemicals used in food that do not have to be in any way disclosed, as they're considered "processing aids." So, besides preservatives, emulsifiers, colors and flavors, which are generally listed, there are any number of others that are not.

Even the artificial food coloring and other food additives, such as preservatives, allowed in foods can be problematic. They’re associated with increased hyperactivity in children, for instance.12 Emulsifiers, including carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) and polysorbate 80 (P80), are another problem, with research suggesting they could be leading to inflammation, anxiety and depression in those who consume them.13

Aside from the chemicals intentionally added to your food, pathogens are also still problematic in the food supply. Raw chicken, to give one example, is a notorious carrier of salmonella, campylobacter, clostridium perfringens and listeria bacteria.14 And antibiotics are still allowed in the food supply despite the spread of antibiotic-resistant disease, which is expected to affect more people than cancer by 2050.15

GMOs and Gene Editing: Is the US Public Acting as the Next Poison Squad?

Wiley’s work set the stage to remove obvious poisons like lead and formaldehyde from the food supply, but he probably couldn’t have foreseen the current affront to food safety, which comes in the form of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and, possibly, gene-editing technologies like CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat.

In the U.S., the FDA considers most genetically engineered (GE) foods to be “substantially equivalent” to non-GE foods and, as such, categorizes them as “generally recognized as safe,” with no need for premarket approval.16 Yet, there is much we don’t know about the fate of GE foods, and GE food-derived DNA, once they enter our bodies.

Research published in Food and Chemical Toxicology revealed that DNA from food not only can survive harsh processing and digestive conditions, but “DNA fragments up to a few hundred base pairs can survive and reach blood and tissues of human and animal consumers.”17

“There is limited evidence of food-born DNA integrating into the genome of the consumer and of horizontal transfer of GM crop DNA into gut-bacteria,” the researchers added.

The first gene-edited foods are also expected to begin selling in the U.S. in 2019.18 Among the possibilities are “heart healthy” soybean oils, fiber-rich or low-gluten wheat or nonbrowning mushrooms. As for gene-edited animals, the FDA proposed to classify animals with edited or engineered DNA as drugs, prompting backlash from the biotech industry,19 which doesn’t even want such foods labeled.

As for whether or not these foods are safe to eat, no one knows, but what is known is that gene editing produces off-target edits or, in other words, unintended changes to DNA.20 Whether the government decides to classify gene-edited foods similarly to GMOs or conventional foods remains to be seen, but without labels you’ll have no way of knowing whether the food you eat has been genetically edited or not.

In many ways, the U.S. public as a whole is acting as the next poison squad by consuming an unprecedented multitude of food additives, chemicals, GMOs and gene-edited foods — not to mention chemical residues like glyphosate — in their meals on a daily basis — the ultimate health effects of which remain to be seen.

Benefits of Growing Blackberries

Blackberries have a characteristic dark color indicating a high amount of antioxidants. Like raspberries, they are not technically a berry but rather an aggregate of individual drupes held by fine hairs. Blackberries have a solid core with a sweet, slightly tart taste.

The plant grows in a bramble, or an impenetrable thicket. They are a member of the Rosaceae family, with over 237 known species worldwide, including dozens native to North America.1 The plants grow as erect thorny bushes, erect thornless or trailing thornless bushes. Some traditions believe the crown placed on Christ's head during his crucifixion was made of blackberry thorns.

The fruit is generally in season from June until September, depending upon the region and the plant grown. However, once picked, they perish within two to four days. Blackberries grow wild throughout most of Europe and are found wild in the U.S. as well.2 Prior to ripening, the fruit is red, leading to an old expression, "Blackberries are red when they're green."

Blackberries can easily be added to your backyard or container garden as they are low maintenance. When growing the erect variety, they take up little space, making them perfect for small yards. Your plants can produce berries for up to 20 years when well cared for.3

How to Grow Healthy Blackberries

Blackberries do well in full sun but can tolerate some shade in warmer climates. Your new plants will do best in soil with good drainage, so avoid heavy clay or sandy areas. In this short video you'll discover additional tips for planting your blackberry plants.

Add organic soil matter to improve aeration and remove any obvious sticks or weed growth. Compost can help amend the soil, which should be between 5.5 and 7 pH for the best results.4 When blackberries are planted they will not produce berries in the first year.5 However, they still require a side dressing of fertilizer and consistent water.

Be sure to plant your blackberries far away from wild berries that may carry viruses, spacing semi-erect plants 5 to 6 feet apart and erect plants 3 feet apart. Plants started in a nursery can be transplanted in late fall in warmer climates but should be delayed until early spring in cooler areas.

Blackberries require plenty of watering, especially when fruiting. Use mulch around the root areas to preserve moisture. Be sure the plants receive 1 inch of water each week, whether from your hose or rain.

Blackberries need pruning to remove the old canes and let new ones take their place. They should also be topped in order to allow the plant to bush and produce more fruit.6 Erect plants produce canes from the crown and benefit from summer pruning when they are about 4 feet tall. They may need to be pruned several times to avoid the cane to tipping.

The plants can also be tied to a trellis to keep them upright. If you have trailing blackberries, no pruning is necessary to prepare for the winter months. Just add some mulch for winter protection.7

Erect blackberries can be cut off just above the ground in late winter for the best fruit the next summer. Once the berries start to ripen, they must be picked daily as the fruit matures to a deep black color. The berries will not continue to ripen after being picked.

Harvest during the cooler part of the day and refrigerate the berries as soon as possible.8 Not fully ripe berries will taste sour and have less than half the anthocyanin found in ripe berries.9

Tame the Wild Blackberry

You might find the blackberry is one of the best and worst fruits you can put in your yard as while they require little maintenance and produce a large yield, they can become invasive when left alone. Thornless varieties are now available for easy picking, but wild blackberries will likely have thorns resulting in a prickly, bloody battle to keep them under control.

If you have wild blackberries, there are a few simple steps you can take to produce better berries that are easier to pick and keep the bushes contained. With a few simple management techniques you can maximize your blackberry population and reduce the potential for snakes during the summer months.10

Your best wild berries will grow away from the roadside, as those exposed to pollutants from cars may be contaminated with toxins. Before attacking your wild berry bushes, get dressed for the job using thick pants, jacket and heavy gloves unlikely to be ripped by sharp thorns. Use pruning shears or loppers to prune back the tips of young canes in upright varieties 3 to 4 feet.11

You will recognize young canes as they may be green or reddish brown, while older canes are a dark woody brown. Side dress your blackberries with balanced organic fertilizer over the roots and then blanket the ground with at least 6 inches of organic mulch. You'll also want to mulch the path you use when you harvest your crop to reduce weed overgrowth and hiding places for snakes.

Control the spread of the plants in the early spring by severing sprouts that come up out of your established perimeter. Be sure you also eliminate weeds and mulch over the area.12 The canes typically die after two years, which provides a great habitat for small critters.

It's a good idea to prune out these dead canes to minimize the potential your blackberries will acquire disease and to make picking easier the following year. Prune the dead canes to ground level.

Cultivated Blackberries Make for Easier Picking

Some of the cultivated varieties produce larger fruit and may be cold hardy, potentially adding two months to your harvest season in hardiness zones 6 to 9,13 or make harvesting blackberries possible where they are normally damaged by cold winter weather. Cultivated varieties may also be thornless, making working with the plant and harvesting a lot safer for the gardener.

Extended harvesting, longer growing season and thornless varieties make cultivated plants more enticing if you are adding blackberries to your garden. You can often get plants certified free of viruses at a nursery. Here's a sample list of varieties and their characteristics:14,15,16

Triple Crown — Adapted to grow in hardiness zones 5 to 9, this variety was released in 1996. It is an upright thornless plant, bearing heavily in late summer. Prune it to 6 feet.

Navajo — This variety was cultivated by the University of Arkansas to grow in hardiness zones 6 to 9. The upright canes bear fruit in midsummer and has received high ratings for fruit flavor and plant yield in numerous field trials.

Apache — Also from the University of Arkansas, the plant produces large fruit with high yield. The canes are erect and may be grown without a trellis when topped at 3.5 feet.

Von — This plant produces sweet, medium to large fruit with small seeds and medium acidity. The canes are erect and the plant is more tolerant to wet conditions than other varieties.

Doyle — Popular throughout the Midwest, this variety is adapted to grow in zones 4 to 9 when heavily mulched in the cold seasons. The plant is thornless with trailing canes that do well on a trellis. Regular feeding with organic matter will enhance yields of tart berries that are excellent for making wine.

Prime Jan and Prime Jim — This plant was released in 2005 and adapted to grow in limited zones from 4 to 7 with protection. The plant has thorns and can be mowed and mulched in the late fall through winter for a late summer crop.

Rosborough — Released by Texas A&M University, the plant produces fruit in early summer and adapted to grow in hot, dry climates. While the plant is thick with thorns, the fruit is sweet and firm.

Anthocyanins Lead Blackberry Health Benefits

Blackberries get their dark purple pigmentation from a high level of anthocyanin, a phytonutrient with strong antioxidant properties.17 Anthocyanin is a subclass of flavonoids, naturally occurring plant compounds in fruits, vegetables and beverages like wine and tea.

Many of the biological effects of flavonoids appear to be related to their ability to modulate cell signaling, exhibiting anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, anticancer and neuroprotective activities through different mechanisms of action.18

The richest source of anthocyanins is found in blackberries, followed by raspberries, red onions, pomegranates and tomatoes.19 There is a growing body of research claiming berries may be among the most potent cancer-fighting fruits as they're rich in substances with cancer protective properties such as elegiac acid, lignans, myricetin and cyanidin 3-glucoside.20

Interest in anthocyanins has grown as their ability to prevent neuronal diseases, cardiovascular illness, inflammation, cancer and other diseases has come to light. Anthocyanins counter oxidants, making them efficient at fighting atherosclerosis as well.21

In one study, anthocyanins were found to improve cholesterol levels and fight oxidative stress.22 Others have demonstrated the berries may offer protection against certain forms of cancer.23,24

In herbal medicine, anthocyanins have been revered for their anti-inflammatory, antiviral and anticancer benefits, and their ability to help treat high blood pressure, colds and urinary tract infections.

Benefits of Blackberries Are Tempered by Fructose Content

As with most things, more of a good thing doesn't make it great. Although the health benefits of blackberries go beyond anthocyanins, it also wise to remember the fruit contains fructose.

As you incorporate blackberries into your diet, remember to count those grams of fructose, which may contribute to weight gain and insulin resistance when consumed in excessive quantities. For optimal health, I recommend staying below 25 grams of fructose per day, including fructose from fruits and berries.

That said, there's no shortage of nutrients in this little fruit, as it's packed with vitamins A, C and K, B vitamins, fiber, and the antioxidants zeaxanthin and lutein. The combination of these nutrients offer several health benefits, including supporting:25,26

Eye sight

Immune system

Blood sugar regulation

Digestive health

Heart health

Quelling of inflammation

Oral health27

Blood clotting

Wound healing

Bone health

Cognitive function


Collagen production

Incorporate Blackberries in These Recipes

Remember blackberries are best eaten in their natural state to enjoy all their health benefits. Freezing them also preserves the nutrients, even though the texture may change. Frozen berries are easily added to homemade yogurt, smoothies or just as a snack directly from the fridge. For tasty dish, try this nutrient-packed Triple Berry Kale Salad recipe, courtesy of How Sweet Eats.28

Triple Berry Kale Salad


  • 1 head of curly kale, leaves removed from stem and torn
  • 1 cup fresh tart cherries, pitted and sliced
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 2/3 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

For the Strawberry Vinaigrette

  • 3/4 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • 1 pinch cinnamon


  1. To make the vinaigrette dressing, combine all ingredients together in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Place kale in a large bowl and add about 1/4 cup of the strawberry vinaigrette.
  3. Massage and rub dressing into kale with your hands, then let the kale sit for five to 10 minutes.
  4. Add in salt, pepper, cherries, berries and avocado, then add a few more tablespoons of dressing and toss.
  5. Finish by topping with chopped almonds.
  6. This recipe makes four servings.

Tips for Growing and Harvesting Aloe Vera

Aloe vera — of which there are about 450 species1 — is a succulent plant that thrives in tropical areas of the world and is well-known for its soothing qualities, especially for skin conditions such as burns, rashes, cuts and scrapes, but also for more serious skin conditions such as psoriasis. In one study,2 aloe vera gel had an overall antipsoriatic activity of nearly 82 percent. Aloe vera has spiky, variegated leaves, made up of:

  • The outer rind — The tough, protective layer
  • Aloin — A yellowish bitter-tasting sap between the rind and the inner gel that helps protect the plant from animals. The aloin has laxative properties and should not be ingested on a regular basis as it may cause serious health complications.3 This portion of the leaf may also exacerbate intestinal health problems such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Pulp or parenchyma tissue — The fleshy inner portion of the leaf, which includes cell walls and mucilage,4 a clear, viscous liquid within the cells

The Healing and Nutritional Benefits of Aloe Vera

Aloe vera contains about 75 potentially active compounds, including lignin, saponins, salicylic acids and 12 anthraquinones (phenolic compounds traditionally known as laxatives).

It also provides campesterol, β-sisosterol and lupeol, and the hormones auxins and gibberellins that help in wound healing and have anti-inflammatory action.5 The pulp contains most of the healing compounds, including:6,7

  • Polysaccharides8 such as mannose, which is great for gut health and has immune-boosting benefits
  • Essential amino acids your body needs but cannot manufacture
  • Polyphenol antioxidants
  • Sterols, which are valuable fatty acids, including campesterol, B-sitosterol, linoleic, linolenic, myristic, caprylic, oleic, palmitic and stearic acids
  • Vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C and E, choline, folic acid and B1, B2, B12 and B3 (niacin), selenium, zinc, calcium, iron, copper, manganese, potassium, magnesium and chromium

Perhaps most importantly, its wound healing abilities stem from the gel's disinfectant, antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal, antibiotic and antibacterial properties. As an adaptogen,9 aloe vera gel may also help your body adapt to stress.

Growing Aloe Vera Is Super Easy

While you can purchase aloe vera gel at most health food stores and pharmacies, if you grow your own, you'll always have fresh aloe on hand when cuts, scrapes or even psoriasis flare-ups occur.

The plant is easy to grow and care for, and thrives outdoors in grow zones 9 through 11. Indoors, it can be grown year-round in all areas, provided it gets enough sunlight. For medicinal use, be sure to select an aloe species with thick, "meaty" leaves. A good choice, and one of the most popular, is Aloe Barbadensis Miller.10 Many varieties are very thin and long, making them more difficult to use. Here are some quick basics for growing aloe vera:

Ideal soil conditions — Aloe vera prefers dry, sandy soil. If planting in a pot, cactus potting mix is a good choice. If planting in the ground, adding a thick layer of wood chips will help improve the soil quality over time by increasing the soil microbiology, which will provide needed nutrients to the plant. Aloe vera typically does not require fertilizer.

Sunlight — The plant needs plenty of sun. If using a planter, rotate the pot now and then to promote even, upright growth, since the plant will grow toward the sun. Droopy leaves, or leaves that lie flat on the ground, are an indication that it needs more sunlight.

Planter specs — If using a planter, select a medium or large pot with good drainage.

Spacing — Each plant will multiply, so leave several inches of space between the aloe vera buds if planting more than one. Once pups begin to grow, you can gently dig them up and replant elsewhere, or in another pot.

Water requirements — Water cautiously. Soil should be kept dry to damp, not soaked, as excessive wetness will promote fungal growth. If the leaves feel cool, plump and moist, the plant is getting sufficient amounts of water.

Should the leaves start to turn dry and brittle, or if they're growing in thin and curled, the plant needs more water. Just allow the soil to dry completely between waterings.

Simple Harvesting Tips for Aloe Vera

Once your plant matures, begin harvesting the outermost, most mature leaves first. Using a sharp knife, cut the leaf as close to the base as possible, being mindful not to cut the roots. Remove the spines by cutting along each side.

  • For topical use — Simply cut a 2-inch piece off, then slice it down the middle, revealing the gel, and apply it directly to your skin. Aside from soothing burns, including sunburn, or cuts and scrapes, it also works great as an aftershave for men. For sunburn, fresh aloe gel is the most effective remedy I know of, beside prevention
  • For internal use — If you're going to ingest it, you can use a potato peeler to peel off the outer rind, then scrape off the gel and place it in a small glass container. I like mixing mine with some lime juice. Simply blend together with a handheld blender for a delicious immune-boosting aloe shot.

Using Aloe Vera for Psoriasis and Other Skin Problems

Part of the discomfort from psoriasis is that skin can crack, which, pain-wise, could be described as rivaling a dozen paper cuts all in one place. A 2015 review11 of several studies found aloe vera can benefit this painful skin condition, and others as well. Among them:

  • Wound healing — Properties related to a compound called glucomannan help accelerate wound healing and skin cell growth.
  • Skin hydration — Keeping skin irritations moist and hydrated always feels better, and aloe vera gel does that. One study12 showed it to be effective even when applying it only once. However, continuous use tends to lessen its hydrating effects.
  • Reduce inflammation — A 2008 study13 showed aloe vera gel was more effective than a placebo in treating skin conditions, including UV-induced erythema or skin reddening due to the dilation of blood vessels.
  • Collagen production — Studies show aloe vera helps your skin stay firm and elastic by promoting the production of collagen.

Aloe Vera Precautions and Contraindications

While fresh aloe vera is very safe, you should not use it internally or externally if you're allergic. If you're unsure, perform a patch test on a small area and wait to make sure no signs of allergic reactions occur. As noted by Healthline:14

"If you experience an allergic reaction to aloe vera gel, discontinue use immediately and watch the area to make sure that the hives or inflammation subsides. Certain people might be at more risk for an allergic reaction to aloe vera than others. This includes people who are allergic to plants in the Liliaceae family (garlic, onions and tulips)."

Possible side effects of aloe vera include the following:15,16

While rare, burning or itching of skin may occur when applied topically

Taken internally, it may lower your blood glucose level, so avoid combining aloe vera with glucose-lowering medication. Diabetics should take care to monitor their blood glucose if taking aloe vera internally

Stomach pain and cramps may occur if taken at high doses

Long-term use at high doses may also cause diarrhea, kidney problems, low potassium, muscle weakness and heart disturbances

People taking medication such as Digoxin for abnormal heart rhythms should not use aloe internally due to the possibility of aloe causing low potassium

While rare, liver problems have occurred, so people with liver issues should not use aloe vera internally

Due to its ability to trigger uterine contractions, aloe vera gel should not be taken internally if you are pregnant and/or breastfeeding

Avoid oral aloe if you're preparing for surgery, as it may lower your body's blood clotting ability, as does certain types of anesthesia

Topically, aloe vera gel may boost absorption of steroid creams such as hydrocortisone

A Woman's Brain Looks 3 Years Younger Than a Man's of the Same Age

Recent research1,2 from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis reveals women's brains appear to be about three years younger, metabolically speaking, than men's brains of the same chronological age. The finding offers a clue as to why women tend to maintain their mental acuity longer than men. The original study3 can be viewed for free online, but is summarized by Science Daily:3

"Time wears differently on women's and men's brains. While the brain tends to shrink with age, men's diminish faster than women's. The brain's metabolism slows as people grow older, and this, too, may differ between men and women …

The brain runs on sugar, but how the brain uses sugar changes as people grow and age. Babies and children use some of their brain fuel in a process called aerobic glycolysis that sustains brain development and maturation.

The rest of the sugar is burned to power the day-to-day tasks of thinking and doing. In adolescents and young adults, a considerable portion of brain sugar also is devoted to aerobic glycolysis, but the fraction drops steadily with age, leveling off at very low amounts by the time people are in their 60s."

Gender Differences in Human Brain Metabolism

While gender differences have been found, it's still unclear exactly how brain metabolism differs between men and women, and why. The team, led by Dr. Manu Goyal, assistant professor of radiology at the university's Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, sought to determine how the brain uses sugar by studying 205 individuals (121 women and 84 men) ranging in age from 20 to 82.

Using PET scans, they measured oxygen flow, blood flow and glucose levels in the brain, and determined how much glucose was being used up in aerobic glycolysis in the various brain regions of each person. An algorithm was then used to identify the relationship between chronological age and brain metabolism.

Based on this algorithm, the women's brains were found to be, on average, 3.8 years younger, metabolically, than their actual chronological age, and this was true even for women in their 20s.

On the other hand, men's brains were found to be, on average, 2.4 years older than their chronological age. What these findings suggest is that women's brains somehow convert more glucose to energy than men do during adulthood. Goyal told Science Daily:

"The average difference in calculated brain age between men and women is significant and reproducible, but it is only a fraction of the difference between any two individuals.

It is stronger than many sex differences that have been reported, but it's nowhere near as big a difference as some sex differences, such as height. It's not that men's brains age faster — they start adulthood about three years older than women, and that persists throughout life.

What we don't know is what it means. I think this could mean that the reason women don't experience as much cognitive decline in later years is because their brains are effectively younger, and we're currently working on a study to confirm that."

High-Fat Diet Helps Keep Your Brain Youthful

While these findings are interesting, it is perplexing to speculate as to what the reason is. The primary metabolic difference between premenopausal women and men would be their iron levels. Because menstruating women lose blood every month, they keep their iron levels relatively low, unlike men.

Excess iron will lead to oxidative stress that could easily contribute to some of these differences. Even though they surveyed women well beyond their last menstrual cycle, their lowered iron levels in their younger years could easily have contributed to some of the observed differences.

However, there's no reason for men to fret as you can easily optimize your iron level, as I have discussed previously. Additionally, research clearly shows diet and other lifestyle strategies, including stress management,5 can have a significant impact on your brain's rate of aging. It's well worth noting that while your brain is known to use glucose for fuel, it's not the sole fuel for your brain.

Ketones — water-soluble fats produced by your liver during the conversion of fats into energy — are actually a preferred fuel for your brain, which is in part why a ketogenic diet is so beneficial for your brain function. In fact, a ketogenic diet has been shown to protect against Alzheimer's disease by keeping your brain healthy and youthful.

In one study,6 the researchers concluded the ketogenic diet acted as a veritable "fountain of youth," significantly improving neurovascular and metabolic functions in lab rodents, compared to those eating an unrestricted diet, and neurovascular function and integrity plays a significant role in determining your cognitive capacity.

High-fat diets have also been shown to lower your risk of dementia by 44 percent, whereas high-carb diets increase your risk by 89 percent.7 Indeed, glucose directly contributes to atrophy of the hippocampus,8 which means that even if you're not insulin resistant or diabetic, excess sugar in your diet may still be negatively affecting your memory.

Ketones Are Particularly Beneficial for Those With Diabetes, Alzheimer's and other Neurological Diseases

Ketones appear to be the preferred source of energy for the brain particularly in people affected by diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, because in these diseases, certain neurons have become insulin resistant or have lost the ability to efficiently utilize glucose. As a result, neurons slowly die off.

The introduction of ketones may rescue these neurons and they may still be able to survive and thrive. In multiple studies, ketones have been shown to be both neurotherapeutic and neuroprotective. They also appear to lower markers of systemic inflammation.

The most common circulating ketone, beta-hydroxybutyrate, is also an important epigenetic player, having significant effects on DNA expression, increasing detoxification pathways and your body's own antioxidant production. Beta-hydroxybutyrate also stimulates specific receptors on cells called g-proteins.

When these receptors are tagged by this beta-hydroxybutyrate during mild ketosis, it helps reduce the activation of pathways that lead to inflammation, and inflammation is a driver in most all chronic diseases, including dementia and Alzheimer's.

Diet Plus Exercise Can Turn Back the Clock on Your Brain's Age

Exercise has also been shown to play an important role in the aging of your brain, and together, diet and exercise is a winning combination. Recent research9 demonstrating this was published in the journal Neurology in December 2018.

According to James Blumenthal, clinical psychologist from Duke University who led the research, this was the first study to look at the separate and combined effects of diet and exercise on cognitive decline in those who are vulnerable to developing dementia later in life.

In all, 160 adults (average age 65) were recruited. All had a history of high blood pressure or other cardiovascular risks, never exercised, and had cognitive challenges in executive functioning. None had a diagnosis of dementia. 

At the beginning of the study, the average cognitive skills in the participants were similar to those of individuals 93 years old — 28 years older on average than the actual age of the participants. The volunteers were divided into four groups:

  1. The first participated in a structured aerobic exercise program for the first three months and were given exercises to do at home in the last three months
  2. The second group were asked to eat a low sodium DASH diet (which reduces processed foods and increases intake of whole foods) but did no exercise
  3. The third group were asked to exercise and change their diet at the same time
  4. The fourth group served as a control and received a 30-minute educational session over the phone on how to improve their brain health, but were asked not to change their exercise or dietary habits

Here's what they found at the end of the six-month-long study:

  • The first group, who exercised but did not change their diet, had greater improvements in executive functioning than the group who did not exercise
  • Those who followed the DASH diet with no exercise experienced no significant improvement in thinking skills
  • The group who changed their diet and exercised reversed their brain age by nine years, bringing their average mental age to 84
  • The control group's executive function declined

Muscle Strength Indicative of Brain Health

Importantly, research shows muscle strength, especially your leg muscles, impacts neurosignaling, thereby playing a role in brain deterioration.10 This connection is why neurological functioning in patients tends to decline when their physical mobility is limited. 

In her book "Sitting Kills, Moving Heals," Joan Vernikos, Ph.D., former director of NASA's life science division, describes how weight-bearing against gravity is crucial component allowing human body and brain to function optimally. Another key factor is how exercise affects brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), found in both your brain and muscles.

Exercise stimulates production of a protein called FNDC5, which in turn triggers BDNF. In your brain, BDNF preserves existing brain cells, activating them to convert into new neurons and promoting actual brain growth.

You can find a list of studies demonstrating the links between your muscles and brain in my previous article, "For Optimal Brain and Nervous System Health, You Need to Exercise Your Leg Muscles."

Grip strength is another strong indicator of the health of your brain.11 An analysis12 of data collected from over 475,000 British participants revealed the stronger an individual's hand grip, the better they performed across every brain function test the researchers used, including reaction speed, logical problem-solving and multiple tests analyzing memory.

The analysis also accounted for age, gender, body weight and education, confirming those who were stronger indeed had better functioning brains. What's more, the data was consistently strong both in individuals younger than 55 and those over 55.

Nutrients for Better Brain Health

In addition to a ketogenic diet, certain nutrients are also vital for brain health, while others can be helpful. Among the most important are vitamin D and marine-based omega-3, which contains two long-chained fatty acids that are vital for brain health: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Other nutrients known to influence your brain health and cognition include:

Choline — Recent research13 demonstrates the importance of choline for brain health and prevention of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. Choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter required for the proper function of your brain and nervous system, and helps protect against Alzheimer's by reducing your homocysteine level and inhibiting microglia activation.

Phosphatidylserine — This is another supplement that can help improve cognitive function14 and protect against Alzheimer's disease.15 Phosphatidylserine is an amino acid derivative that is highly prevalent in neural tissue and plays an important role in the cellular function in your brain.

In one study,16 supplementing with 400 mg of phosphatidylserine increased the speed of calculations done in short-term memory by 20 percent in a group of healthy adults. In another, it improved cognitive function of geriatric patients at a dosage of 300 mg per day for six months.17

Acetyl-L-carnitine — This supplement has many beneficial effects on brain metabolism, protects against neurotoxic insults, and has been shown to benefit certain forms of depression.18

Vitamin B12 — Research19 shows people with high levels of markers for vitamin B12 deficiency are more likely to score lower on cognitive tests and have a smaller total brain volume, which suggests a lack of B12 may contribute to brain shrinkage. Research20 has found that supplementing with B vitamins, including B12, helps to slow brain atrophy in elderly people with mild cognitive impairment.

MCT oil — As mentioned, ketones are what your body produces when it converts fat (as opposed to glucose) into energy, and a primary source of ketone bodies are medium chain triglycerides (MCT). While coconut oil is one healthy option, MCT oil is a more concentrated source of ketones, so it tends to be more appropriate for clinical uses. As noted by Mental Health Daily:21

"In small scale human trials,22 MCT supplementation boosted cognition in individuals with cognitive impairment and mild forms of Alzheimer's disease after just a single dose."

You can learn more about MCTs and the differences between them in my previous article, "The Many Health Benefits of MCT Oil."

Ashwagandha — Memory enhancement is one traditional use, particularly of the root. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements23 showed positive results using ashwagandha root extract to improve memory and cognitive functions in 50 people with mild cognitive impairment.

Bacopa — Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri), or moneywort, is a popular herb in Ayurvedic medicine used in India for over three centuries. The bacopa herb is commonly known as a nootropic herb, which means it can help repair damaged neurons and improve brain function. Nootropics are usually said to have the ability to "unlock" the brain when it comes to creativity and cognitive drive.24

Curcumin — A double-blind, placebo-controlled study25 included 40 adults between the ages of 50 and 90 with reported mild memory lapses but no dementia. Those who received curcumin supplementation saw significant improvements in memory and concentration, while the control group experienced no improvement.

Cilantro: Why You Should Choose This Unique, Pungent Herb

Most people typically associate cilantro with its soapy aftertaste1 or its "bedbug-infested bedclothes" odor and, for some, this could be more disgusting than appetizing even though others seem to enjoy it. In fact, as "The Curious Cook," Harold McGee, writes in The New York Times, although food can be a universal language, it can become divided as far as cilantro is concerned. He says:2

"Food partisanship doesn't usually reach the same heights of animosity as the political variety, except in the case of the anti-cilantro party. The green parts of the plant that gives us coriander seeds seem to inspire a primal revulsion among an outspoken minority of eaters."

Cilantro comes from a plant called Coriandrum sativum,3 and this herb belongs to the Apiaceae family. Also called Chinese or Mexican parsley in some areas,4 cilantro is said to be native to the Mediterranean and Asia Minor regions.5

Originally, the herb was grown in present day Greece and was utilized by ancient Egyptians and Romans, making cilantro one of the oldest known herbs in history.6 What most people do not know about cilantro, however, is that it is both an herb and a spice,7 because the plant also bears aromatic seeds — more popularly known as coriander seeds — that have their own health benefits, too.8

Read further to see how you can make the most out of cilantro. Discover what cilantro can do for you, and who knows — you might finally appreciate it, if you don't already.

The Countless Health Benefits of Cilantro

It's no surprise that adding cilantro to dishes not only enhances the flavor, but also provides health benefits. The nutritional content of this low-calorie,9 no-cholesterol herb is very impressive, since it is abundant in:10,11

  • Antioxidant polyphenolic flavonoids such as quercetin,12 kaempferol, rhamnetin and apigenin
  • Minerals like potassium,13 calcium, manganese, iron and magnesium14
  • Vitamins A,15 C and K, as well as B vitamins

Cilantro is also proven to have antiseptic, antifungal, antioxidant16 and antibacterial properties17 that can contribute to numerous health benefits, such as:18,19,20,21

  • Helping reduce swelling caused by arthritis and rheumatic diseases because of its phenolic acids and polyphenols22
  • Reducing unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels
  • Helping with bone regrowth23
  • Stimulating digestion
  • Regulating blood sugar levels
  • Assisting in preventing stomach disorders like nausea and vomiting,24 and in alleviating gas and indigestion25
  • Acting as a potent chelator to remove heavy metals and toxins from your body26
  • Helping reduce risk for vision disorders like macular degeneration
  • Lowering stress on your eyes and shielding them from free radical damage

The leaves, root and stem of cilantro have also been shown to work against certain conditions, such as:

  • Eczema27
  • Dry or dull skin28
  • Fungal infections29
  • Anemia30
  • Muscle aches and pains31

Using cilantro medicinally may have certain side effects, though, such as allergic skin reactions (hives or itching)32 and photosensitivity.33 Consult your physician before using this as an herbal remedy to ensure that you have no allergies to this herb.

What Is Cilantro Mainly Used For?

Cilantro leaves are primarily used for culinary and medicinal purposes,34 although you can utilize cilantro essential oil for aromatic reasons as well (this will be discussed further).35 Arguably, many people are familiar with cilantro as an ingredient in many recipes. It may feature prominently in some dishes across various cuisines:36

  • Middle Eastern
  • Mediterranean
  • Indian
  • South Asian
  • Mexican
  • Latin American
  • Chinese
  • African
  • Southeast Asian

Cilantro pairs well with many dishes, especially those containing beans, eggs, cheese and fish. Plus, you can add cilantro into vegetable dips or use it as a garnish for soups and salads.37

Research Has Proven Cilantro's Potential Water-Purifying Abilities

A study conducted by a group of American and Mexican researchers also revealed that cilantro can help purify water. The discovery was made by a team led by Douglas J. Schauer, Ph.D., then of IvyTech Community College in Lafayette, Indiana, along with researchers from the Universidad Politecnica de Francisco I. Madero in Hidalgo, Mexico, while studying in the Tule Valley region.

Wastewater from Mexico City is dumped in this region. However, this waste water, contaminated with heavy metals like nickel and lead, is actually being used to irrigate crops.

According to Schauer, while other filtering agents such as activated charcoal can be used to remove the chemicals from the water, they are too expensive. The researchers then tested samples of different plants ranging from cacti to flowers, and learned that cilantro is a very powerful "bioabsorbant" material in this region. An item is considered bioabsorbant when it's made from dried organic material from a plant, and can essentially replace the charcoals typically utilized in filters.

As Schauer points out in a Time interview, ground-up cilantro can be placed inside a tube where the water can pass through. The herb allows water to trickle out, while filtering out dangerous heavy metals. Another method involves placing dried cilantro in tea bags and into a water pitcher for a few minutes, allowing the herb to draw out toxins.38

Growing Cilantro at Home

Cilantro is a cool-season herb that reaches its full potential when sown either in spring or fall. Temperatures between 50 and 85 degrees F are the most ideal for this plant.39 Cilantro can also be grown in warm temperatures, but make sure to plant slow-bolt cilantro varieties like Santo and Marino40 since the plant may grow quickly once the temperature rises.41

Healthy soil is important when growing your cilantro. It thrives well in rich soils with pH levels of 6.2 to 6.8. Feel free to add organic matter to the soil too, since this is a fast-growing plant.42

Country Living Magazine notes that it's best to grow cilantro plants using seeds. Sow the seeds one-fourth inch deep into the ground and leave a half-inch of space between plants. You may also try growing these plants indoors or in a pot, provided that they receive adequate sunlight and water.43

It takes 45 to 70 days after seeding for your cilantro plants to be ready for harvesting. Leaves that are 4 to 6 inches long can be snipped off and harveted.44 If you want a steady supply of cilantro, try planting small patches of the herb every two to four weeks throughout the growing season.45

Easy Cilantro Recipes You Should Try

If you haven't used cilantro in any of your dishes yet, what are you waiting for? Purchase fresh cilantro leaves, ideally from an organic farmer. Organically grown cilantro may have better flavor and contain many vitamins and antioxidants, without the added risk of pesticides and chemicals.

Look for fresh cilantro with vibrant green leaves, without indicators of spoilage or yellow discoloration. Keep fresh stems in a glass of water, cover the opening loosely with a plastic bag and then refrigerate them. Fresh cilantro can last for a week in the refrigerator, and maybe even longer if you follow these storage tips:46

  • Recover the glass of water after cutting off cilantro leaves.
  • Change the water in the glass every two to three days.
  • Avoid washing the herb until before using it because increased moisture may cause the leaves to turn into a slimy green color.

To prepare cilantro for cooking, make sure it has been thoroughly dried, and have a sharp ceramic knife ready. The book, "Rick Bayless Mexican Kitchen," suggests the following steps for chopping cilantro:47

  1. Bunch the leafy ends of the herb together.
  2. Fold under the top portion of leaves.
  3. Slice across the cilantro very thinly, including the stems. Continue doing so all the way down the herbs until there are no more leaves left and you only have stems.
  4. Using your fingertips, "fluff" the thinly sliced cilantro multiple times so the stems fall to the bottom of the pile.
  5. Separate the fluffed and sliced leaves and transfer them onto a small dish.

Avoid using a dull knife or over-chopping cilantro, as these can "bruise" the herb and cause its unique flavor to spill onto the chopping board. Ideally, try adding cilantro raw or near the end of the cooking process. This herb is very tender and has gentle leaves, so adding it last will retain cilantro's delicate flavor and texture.48

Cilantro can hold its own ground in terms of flavor and does not need additional flavoring. Because of this, raw and fresh cilantro leaves make recipes like Sunflower Power Salad, Cabbage Crunch or Land and Sea Salad taste great.

Cilantro Essential Oil Could Be Helpful, Too

Aside from consuming fresh cilantro, you can use cilantro essential oil to your advantage if you want to gain some of the benefits the herb has to offer. There are numerous ways you can use cilantro essential oil at home:49

  • Diffusion or inhalation via a vaporizer
  • Topical application
  • Food ingredient50

Before using or consuming cilantro essential oil, make sure to dilute it in a safe carrier oil like coconut or olive oil. Consult a physician and take an allergen patch test to see if your skin responds well to the oil. If you're pregnant, nursing or have kidney issues, avoid using this essential oil since it may exacerbate certain conditions.51

Do You Get Sleepy After Eating?

Postprandial sleepiness, or feeling sleepy after you eat — otherwise known as a food coma — is a common human experience. To some extent, feeling sleepy after eating, especially in the afternoon, is normal, but it’s not a given. You can often curtail that drowsy feeling by making tweaks to your diet.

Carbohydrates are one of the greatest offenders to your energy level (and blood sugar level) after a meal. Low-net-carb foods (carbs minus fiber) like dense fruits and vegetables don’t significantly impact blood sugar, but sugars and grains, including most processed foods, are broken down into individual sugar units and absorbed into your bloodstream.

After rapidly digesting carbohydrates, your blood sugar initially spikes, followed by a sharp crash later. This crash can make you sleepy — and it’s just one of the factors that can put you into a food coma after your meals.

Eating May Increase Production of Calming Neurotransmitters

The insulin spike that occurs after you eat a high-net-carb meal causes the amino acid tryptophan to enter your brain.1 Tryptophan is the precursor for serotonin,2 which helps with controlling mood and sleep.

Ninety-five percent of your serotonin is produced in your gut, however, where it sets the pace for digestive transit and acts as an immune system regulator. Gut serotonin not only acts on the digestive tract but is also released into your bloodstream, and acts on your brain, particularly your hypothalamus, which is involved in the regulation of emotions.

Theoretically, eating tryptophan-rich foods like eggs or free range organic poultry in combination with carbs may make you sleepy, but it’s likely this has more to do with the insulin spike than the tryptophan and subsequent serotonin production.

This is because it can be quite difficult to get large amounts of tryptophan via your diet, especially if you eat primarily processed foods, a diet linked to depression. According to Dr. Robert Lustig, emeritus professor of pediatrics in the division of endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco:

"Tryptophan is the only amino acid that can be converted into serotonin. Tryptophan is the rarest amino acid in our diet. Eggs have the most. Certain poultry and other avian species have some [tryptophan]. There's very little in vegetables. Obviously, carbohydrates have virtually no tryptophan whatsoever.

It's actually pretty hard to get tryptophan into your body to start with. Take processed food on top of that, then it's even harder because it tends to be tryptophan-depleted.

[Moreover], 99.9 percent of the tryptophan you ingest either gets turned into serotonin in the gut for your gut's purposes, or it goes into your platelets to help your platelets help you clot. [So] very little tryptophan actually gets to the brain.

Top that off with the fact that tryptophan has to share an amino acid transporter with two relatively common amino acids: phenylalanine and tyrosine, which, by the way, are the precursors for dopamine. You can see that the more processed food you eat, the more dopamine you will make because you will have the precursors for that.

They will actually crowd out the ability to get tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier … Yet, serotonin is the nidus of contentment, of happiness. It explains why diet is so problematic … "

An Ancient Tie Between Sleep and Metabolism

Another speculation is that there may be an ancient tie linking sleep with satiety, which may act as a kind of switch letting a mammal know that it’s now OK to sleep, according to researchers with the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at Virginia Comonwealth University.

Writing in the journal Worm (satiety behavior in worms has surprising similarities to that in mammals, with worms also becoming sluggish after a big meal), they suggested eating a meal may induce sleep because sleep is necessary or beneficial for metabolic processes that occur after a feeding.3

It could also be that eating a meal signals safety to animals, allowing a signal that it’s time to sleep. “Secured food and full feeding might have been associated with sleep because that can be the best indication of a good environment to sleep safely,” the researchers suggested.4

Another possibility is that animals must stay alert when they’re hungry in order to find food, but once a meal is found, they can take time to sleep, with the researchers writing:5

“The third possibility is that sleep is a default behavioral state when an animal is released from alert. Hungry animals explore to seek food with constant vigil. Nutritional satisfaction could relieve animals from this alert state and have them stop seeking food. This relief might induce sleep.”

They considered this latter theory the most plausible, especially since there is an overlap between what they called vigilance signals and hunger signals. The neurotransmitter acetylcholine, for instance, plays a role in both wakefulness and signaling hunger, while orexin, a neuropeptide hormone involved in helping people stay awake, levels are increased during fasting. The researchers continued:6

“These facts suggest that while animals are seeking food, the low nutrition level keeps the animal awake by increasing the level of certain ‘alert’ or ‘wakefulness’ neurotransmitters: You have to find food to survive. If you are getting hungrier, you become more desperate to be awake.

Once the nutritional needs are fulfilled, the alert signals go away and the opposite behavior that has been suppressed, i.e., sleep, follows.”

Larger, Protein-Rich Meals May Make You Sleepier

If you’ve ever felt like you could barely keep your eyes open after a big meal, it’s probably not in your imagination. Some research suggests that larger meals may make you even sleepier than smaller meals. One study on fruit flies, in particular, found that fruit flies generally slept more after eating larger meals, as well as following meals rich in protein and salt.7

When you overeat, or eat large portions, your body must expend energy to digest the large quantity of food, which may leave you feeling sluggish. It’s long been believed that digestive demands increase blood flow to your digestive tract, which means it’s shuttled away from your brain, potentially zapping your energy.

However, some research has called into question the validity of this theory, suggesting that blood flow to the brain is maintained even during digestion. Instead, researchers suggested that feeling sleepy after eating may have more to do with the alteration of hormones, including melatonin and orexin, and the modulation of sleep centers in the brain:8

“We propose an alternative hypothesis that postprandial release of gut-brain hormones and activation of vagal afferents may play a role in postprandial somnolence [feeling sleepy after eating] through modulation of sleep centers such as the hypothalamus.

Feeding alters the milieu of hormones such as melatonin and orexins and also promotes central vagal activation. Emerging evidence suggest that these pathways are also modulators of neural sleep centers.”

There are also glucose-sensing neurons in your hypothalamus, which play a role in sleep-wake cycles and energy expenditure. It’s been found that melanin-concentrating hormone neurons, which promote sleep and energy conservation, are excited (turned on) by glucose, such that the increase in blood sugar that occurs after a heavy meal may directly correlate to feelings of fatigue.9

Cyclical Ketogenics: The Ideal Way of Eating for Most People?

Based on the nutritional science now available, there's no doubt in my mind that a cyclical ketogenic diet is ideal for most people and can help you avoid the blood sugar spikes and crashes that make many people sleepy after eating.

Cyclical ketogenics begin by following a standard ketogenic diet, which focuses on minimal net carbohydrates, moderate amounts of protein and high amounts of healthy fats. To implement a high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet, begin by eliminating packaged, processed foods.

It's important to eat real (whole) foods, plenty of healthy fats and, initially, as few net (nonfiber) carbs as possible. Foods to reduce or eliminate in this phase include all grains and any food high in sugar, particularly fructose, but also galactose (found in milk) and other sugars.

As a general rule, you'll want to reduce your net carbs to 20 to 50 grams a day or less, and restrict protein to 1 gram per kilogram of lean body mass. To make sure you're actually meeting your nutritional requirements and maintaining the ideal nutrient ratios, use an online nutrient tracker such as, which is one of the most accurate nutrient trackers available.

My tracker is actually preset for nutritional ketosis, so based on the base parameters you enter, it will automatically calculate the ideal ratios of net carbs, protein and healthy fats required to put you into nutritional ketosis. This is what will allow your body to start burning fat as its primary fuel rather than sugar, which in turn will help optimize your mitochondrial function, metabolism and overall health and fitness.

Cycle Healthy Carbs Back in a Few Times a Week

Once you reach this state, as evidenced by your ability to generate ketones over 5 mmol/l in your blood, then it is important to reintroduce healthy carbs back into your diet. Sweet potatoes would be a great example. If you fail to do this, the health of your microbiome will likely suffer.

Additionally, many experts now believe that your body develops a resistance to the benefits of ketosis unless you regularly cycle in and out of it. An example is that your insulin level could drop below the level at which it inhibits the production of glucose by your liver (hepatic gluconeogenesis).

Even though you are eating virtually no carbs, your insulin level is so low that your liver is forced into making glucose to supply fuel to your brain. In this setting, the solution is to eat healthy carbohydrates that will raise your insulin levels. This will shut down liver glucose production and paradoxically actually lower your blood sugar.

Remember, once you are able to generate ketones over 0.5 mmol/l in your blood, that is the time to start reintroducing carbs cyclically back into your diet. Typically, a few times a week works just fine. Ideally this is done on strength training days on which you actually increase your protein intake.

My new book, “KetoFast: Rejuvenate Your Health with a Step-by-Step Guide to Timing Your Ketogenic Meals,” is being released April 30, 2019, and it has all the details on how to use the principles of ketogenic eating and cyclical ketosis to gain optimal health. If you struggle with feeling tired after eating, this guide can help.

It’s worth noting, too, that many people feel afternoon fatigue, which is also typically related to post-lunch hypoglycemia. By switching your body from using carbs as its primary fuel to burning fats instead, or becoming "fat adapted" via cyclical ketosis, you will virtually eliminate such drops in energy levels.

Major Plastic Problems in Oceans From Clothes

The food chain is an ordered series of organisms, each dependent on the previous as a source of food. In other words, herbivores eat plants to survive and carnivores eat herbivores and other carnivores. In the water, small fish eat plankton, and are then eaten by slightly larger fish, finally eaten by larger fish and then potentially ending up on your dinner plate.

This process has fed the planet from the beginning of time and isn’t changing anytime soon. However, what’s finally ending up on your plate is far different than it was just 70 years ago. As the Earth’s human population has grown and expanded, so have the innovations brought to market by manufacturers and large agrichemical businesses.

Unfortunately, a large portion of those innovations were developed without considering how they would impact the environment and ultimately human life. Permutations and modifications to manufacturing and agribusiness occurs at speeds far greater than safety testing can accommodate.

One consequence of material product transformation was the development of plastics, believed to be nearly indestructible. However, it wasn’t long after the invention of the first synthetic polymer in the early 1900s that we discovered just how false this belief is.

Expedition to Record Volume of Plastic and Its Impact on the Food Chain

Following multiple research studies, environmental assays and the work of activists across the world who discovered our bodies are slowly becoming contaminated with plastic, a group of scientists set out to determine exactly how large the problem of plastics has become in the world’s oceans.

The research voyage, named the “eXXpedition” in reference to an all-female 14 person crew of scientists, writers and activists, is intent on determining how plastics in the ocean are impacting marine life and the rest of the planet.

The crew mans a 72-foot vessel named the Sea Dragon that launched from Hawaii and traversed part of the Pacific North Pacific gyre known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The samples the crew collect will help scientists understand how plastics may pick up other pollutants and transfer them through the food chain.

Founder of the eXXpedition, ocean activist and sailor, Emily Penn, talks about how overwhelming sailing into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was, now two times the state of Texas:1

“When we sailed into the southern edge of the Gyre, we started to see a piece of plastic over the side of the boat every 10 seconds — a cigarette lighter, a bottle, some sort of container.

Then when you wake up the next morning, and it’s still going, and wake up seven days later, and it’s still going, and you’re 800 miles from the nearest human being — it’s that relentlessness that’s just so overwhelming.”

During the voyage, the crew collects samples of plastic from the air, water and the ocean floor to be analyzed in several labs across the world. Samples collected off the coast of Hawaii were photographed by National Geographic Explorer David Liittschwager.2 He commented on what was collected and photographed, saying, “To me, it's a little shocking how much is in relatively small samples.”

He spread the content on trays to photograph the contents up close, revealing images so dense it is sometimes difficult to discern what was plastic and what was living. While moved by these images of plastic obscuring nature for the past two decades, Liittschwager describes his mission as simply to document what's real and present today, saying, “I'd like people to see what's really there.”

Liittschwager has a history of being curious about nature. Almost 10 years ago he set about to find how many creatures would pass through a 12-inch square area in different environments on land and water, and across different temperature regions.

In total, he and a team of biologists recorded more than 1,000 individual organisms in this small area, speaking to the diversity of each environment.3 This diversity is in danger as he records the early death of albatross chicks after ingesting plastics, plankton and small fish intertwined with microplastics. A team even found plastics labeled from Japan off a remote coast of Canada.

Airborne Plastic Fibers in Marine Environments From Washing Clothes

In one sample from the trip, the team counted more than 500 pieces of microplastic. This extrapolates to half a million pieces in 1 square kilometer (a little over a half-mile) of open sea. However, this is not the total number, as the team did not account for nanoparticles showing up at the lab under a microscope. The Sea Dragon is also packed with samples of ocean air to be analyzed at King's College London.

The crew found airborne microfibers, which may pose a risk to the human respiratory system, are the result of washing clothes, allowing microfiber to enter the ocean through the sewage system. Sarah Dudas, biologist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, states, “Out of all the plastic particles we found, most of them are textile based”4 — tiny filaments of fabric from clothing made from nylon and polyester.

Much of this pollution is being driven by “fast fashion,” or cheap clothing, which some estimate is the fifth most polluting industry in the world. Although sales of clothing are at an all-time high, utilization has dramatically diminished. This essentially means that while sales have doubled from 50 billion to 100 billion units, the average number of times a garment is worn has significantly dropped.

Unfortunately, the cost of clothing and manufacturing has resulted in treating clothes as a single-use disposable item, creating a rapidly-growing waste problem. Chief among those issues is the use of microfibers that shed in your washing machine.

In one study5 commissioned by apparel maker Patagonia, data revealed a synthetic jacket may release up to 2.7 grams of microfiber with each washing. On average a garment released 1.7 grams, while older jackets released twice as much.6

Wastewater treatment plants are able to filter out just a portion of this debris and the rest inevitably sneaks through, ending up in waterways and eventually the ocean.

The irregular shapes of microfiber pollution make it harder for marine life to excrete than other types of microplastics, contributing to physical blockage in their intestinal tract and chemical poisoning, as the longer the particles stay inside, the more chemicals accumulate in the body.

This may also have ramifications for humans who eat the fish. Researchers have found nearly 25 percent of fish and 33 percent of shellfish purchased at fish markets in California and Indonesia had microfibers in their gut.7

Microfibers Act to Super Concentrate Contaminants

Once in the waterways, the bits of microfibers attract and hold other environmental pollutants, since the plastic is lipophilic. This means they attract oil-based chemicals, such as flame retardants, bisphenols and phthalates.

According to Rolf Halden, director of the Center for Environmental Health Engineering at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, plastics can concentrate these contaminants up to 100,000fold.8

In theory, the plastics may then carry these pollutants to the next creature up the food chain, potentially landing on your dinner plate. You can find plastics in virtually every area of your household, including containers, baby items, electronics and personal care products. As they are discarded, they are literally choking our oceans and polluting our food supply.

Different types of washing machines will release different amounts of microfibers and chemicals from a piece of clothing. Data finds top-loading machines release about 530 percent more than front loading machines.9 Up to 40 percent of microfibers are flushed out of wastewater treatment plants and end up in the surrounding lakes, rivers and eventually the ocean.10

To address this problem, scientists call for appliance companies to consider the addition of filters to catch microfibers. In the meantime, several companies offer products for your washing machine aimed at curbing the release of microfibers from your home.11

In a study led by researchers from the University of Barcelona,12 data quantifies the presence of microfibers on marine floors from the Caribbean Sea to the Black Sea. The results revealed the main types of microfiber were natural cellulose (cotton and linen) and regenerated cellulose (rayon), while polyester was the most common synthetic fiber found.

Anna Sánchez Vidal, lead researcher from a consolidated research group from the University of Barcelona, in collaboration with the University of Plymouth in the U.K., highlights the results of the study, saying:13

"Recent results show ingests of microplastics by different organisms and in different ecosystems, but the specific impact on the organisms is unknown.

It can depend on a wide range of factors, such as features of the microfibers (size, abundance), or chemical substances these absorbed as well as the physiology and ecology (size, feeding, whether they excrete or accumulate, etc.) of marine organisms."

Clothes Are Polluting the Food Supply

Manufacturing modifications and innovations are approved for market release without analysis of their impact on the environment, including human health. It is realistic and urgent to stop these “advancements” since new variations increase the risk the challenge to health is only getting worse.14

Microfibers start by being dumped into rivers and lakes. Sherri Mason, Ph.D., is a chemistry expert at State University of New York Fredonia. The first time she cut open a fish from the Great Lakes, she reports being alarmed by the number of synthetic fibers that seemed to be “weaving themselves into the gastrointestinal tract.”15

The size of microfibers makes them easy to be consumed by fish and the plastic has the potential to bioaccumulate, concentrating toxins higher up the food chain. Although companies like Patagonia and Polartec use recycled bottles to conserve and reduce waste, breaking plastic bottles into millions of fibrous bits of plastic may prove worse than doing nothing at all.

Mason finds plastic microfibers are found in freshwater and saltwater and they are the most common type of debris in smaller bodies of water. Her concern extends to the ability of the microfibers to absorb persistent organic pollutants and concentrate them an animal tissue.16

One of Halden’s concerns is how these tiny pieces of plastic pollution can potentially cross into human tissue and embed in organs, theoretically delivering a toxic payload over many years.17

Sustainable Fashion Is Within Reach

According to BBC investigative reporter Stacey Dooley, reporting in the BBC documentary “Fashion’s Dirty Secrets,” fashion is second only to oil on the list of top five most polluting industries in the world.

You have the opportunity to help fix this system by selecting organic fabrics, refusing to participate in “fast fashion” and only buying clothes you truly need and will wear for a long time. Although sometimes referred to as “retail therapy,” the effect of buying new clothes to help you feel relaxed and, perhaps, prettier or popular, lasts only a short time, while the pollution generated lasts a lifetime.

The results of the study from the University of Barcelona found cotton microfibers had the highest concentration on the ocean floor. Adding insult to injury is the effect nonorganic cotton has on the environment as it relates to the devastating impact on freshwater supplies.

The use of pesticides, dyes and chemicals and the immense amount of water needed to produce and process cotton further adds to the enormity of the problem. For more information about “fast fashion,” the impact on your health and strategies you may use to make a difference, see “Top 7 Ways to Support Sustainable Fashion.”

Opioid Maker Sought to Addict and Treat Addiction With Their New Pills

Opioid overdose deaths are rising as over 202,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses between 2002 and 2015, and more than 70,000 died in 2017.1 Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50,2 and chronic use accounts for 20 percent of the increase in male unemployment.3 

Narcotic pain relievers place an enormous economic burden on society, costing an estimated $504 billion each year.4 As noted by Dr. Tom Frieden,5 former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “We know of no other medication routinely used for nonfatal conditions that kills patients so frequently.”

Despite these risks, including birth defects and risks of addiction, nearly one-third of women of childbearing age are prescribed opioids,6 and more than 14 percent of pregnant women are prescribed opioids during their pregnancy.7

In April 2016, the CDC published a paper noting opioids have not been proven safe or effective beyond six weeks of treatment.8 “In fact, several studies have shown that use of opioids for chronic pain may actually worsen pain and functioning, possibly by potentiating pain perception,” the paper states.

In the most recent turn of events, a Massachusetts state court judge ruled to release an unredacted version of a complaint filed in January with the attorney general’s office naming Purdue, eight in the Sackler family and nine others currently or previously associated with the company as defendants.9

Purdue Pharma Seeks to Expand an ‘Attractive Market’

The Sackler family are owners of the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma and have a combined fortune estimated at $13 billion. The family received nearly $4 billion in profits over the past decade from Purdue, in large part due to the burgeoning sales of OxyContin, an opioid developed in the early 1990s and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1995.10

The opioid class of drugs also includes morphine and Fentanyl, as well as illicit drugs such as heroin. It's also been recently reported in the Financial Times11 that the Sackler family owns Rhodes Pharma, “one of the biggest producers of generic opioids, which never before has been linked to the family.”

This company was launched only four months after Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty in 2007 to charges of misbranding with “the intent to defraud and mislead the public,” paying $634 million in fines.12 This is 15 percent of what the company paid the Sackler family over the past decade, and from their actions, it's clear the company has not changed its ways.

According to documents from the claim in Massachusetts, in an effort to continue to profit from addiction, Kathe Sackler and her staff identified millions of opioid addicted people as their next business opportunity. They identified eight ways the company's experience in getting patients on opioids could now be used to sell treatment for addiction and wrote:13

“It is an attractive market. Large unmet need for vulnerable, underserved and stigmatized patient population suffering from substance abuse, dependence and addiction.”

Project Tango Considers Narcan

The recently released unredacted files reveal Kathe Sackler's involvement in a secret plan to expand the business from selling opioids to including treatment for opioid addiction. In these internal documents, she and her staff wrote what they had publicly denied for decades: Addictive opioids and opioid addiction are “naturally linked.”

They determined that becoming an end-to-end pain provider could help increase revenue. This meant they would reverse blaming addiction on untrustworthy patients. Called Project Tango, the patient and clinical rationale for expanding drug sales to treatment for overdose, the company wrote:14

“This can happen to anyone — from a 50-year-old woman with chronic lower back pain to an 18-year-old boy with a sports injury, from the very wealthy to the very poor.”

Project Tango was another way to profit from the opioid crisis. They first considered Suboxone and then moved to considering selling the antidote Narcan to reverse overdoses, calculating it could provide a growing source of income, eventually tripling to net Purdue $24 million in sales.15

The complaint claims documents confirm Purdue Pharma saw the opioid epidemic as a money-making opportunity and identified Narcan as a “complementary” and “strategic fit” to their opioid product. Their plan called for studying “long-term script users” to “better understand target end patients” for Narcan.

Eventually the company decided against acquiring the rights to sell Suboxone or Narcan.16 However, while those initiatives appear to have stalled, in January 2018, Richard Sackler was listed as one of six inventors on a patent issued for a reformulation of buprenorphine, shown to help those suffering with opioid addiction.17

Additionally, Purdue Pharma has separately contributed $3.4 million to a company working on the production of a low-cost naloxone nasal spray as a cheaper opioid overdose antidote. In other words, Project Tango appears to be in full swing.

Purdue Pharma Claims Persecution for Opioid Crisis, Sackler Blames Addicts

The documents allege the Sackler family engaged in a decade of deception to push OxyContin on doctors and patients despite knowing it was highly addictive, resulting in overdoses and deaths. Purdue Pharma spokesperson Bob Josephson released a statement making it appear Purdue was being persecuted, claiming the unredacted complaint filed in Massachusetts was:18

"[P]art of a continuing effort to single out Purdue, blame it for the entire opioid crisis, and try the case in the court of public opinion rather than the justice system.

Massachusetts seeks to publicly vilify Purdue, its executives, employees and directors while unfairly undermining the important work we have taken to address the opioid addiction crisis by taking out of context snippets from tens of millions of documents and grossly distorting their meaning. The complaint is riddled with demonstrably inaccurate allegations."

However, in 2001, faced with concern from executives at the company about sales tactics to gain a stronger foothold in the market, the complaint alleges19 Richard Sackler’s “solution to the overwhelming evidence of overdose and death: blame and stigmatize people who became addicted to opioids.” A confidential email from Richard Sackler read:20

“We have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible. They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals."

In 2007, when the Sacklers agreed to plead guilty to misbranding, they also entered into a series of agreements. They admitted to a Statement of Facts, which stated that for six years they intentionally deceived doctors about OxyContin, and entered a Corporate Integrity Agreement, which required the Sacklers to ensure Purdue would not deceive doctors and patients and promise to comply with rules prohibiting deception.

Under the agreement they were required to complete hours of training, report any deception and certify in writing that they had read and understood the rules. However, since 2007, the complaint alleges Purdue has continued a deceptive sales campaign and directed the company to hire hundreds more sales reps to visit doctors across the country.

Purdue Targeted Prescribers Most Susceptible to Over Prescribing

According to the complaint, multiple times when Purdue Pharma sought information about physicians, they had reason to believe they were inappropriately prescribing OxyContin. Richard Sackler asked for detailed reports of those suspected of misconduct and how much money Purdue netted from those prescriptions.

In 2012, an employee went to the company's head of sales with a request to alert health insurers of the data the company had collected about doctors suspected of illegally prescribing or abusing OxyContin.21 This list of physicians was codenamed Region Zero. The employee allegedly wrote:22

“it seems to make sense for a number of reasons for us to share the information on Region 0 doctors with payers. At a basic level, it just seems like the right and ethical thing to do.

Doing so could help those companies identify those physicians that may be of a concern, not just with respect to our products, but also other CII and CIII therapies. As a result, if it reduces abuse and diversion of opioids then it seems like something we should be doing.”

The suggestion was rejected. Region Zero remained secret and the employee behind the suggestion left the company a month later. In 2012, Richard Sackler suggested sales results were “bad” and as a result his director of sales should consider firing all sales reps in the Boston district to send a message to the rest.

Although they didn't fire all the reps, those who failed to meet their sales objectives were placed on probation. The complaint alleges one sales rep was ordered to visit 10 prescribers twice a week to increase prescriptions by 43 percent; another was ordered to increase prescriptions by 62 percent.

Purdue reportedly issued a plan to another sales rep that said,23 “Anticipated Challenges: Dr. trying to cut down on opioid prescribing due to abuse.” “Action Steps: Sell for patients they are willing to Rx opioids … (elderly).”

Purdue Kept a List of ‘Super Core’ Prescribers

The complaint goes on to allege the Sackler family discussed threats to their finances, as data from long-term opioid use indicated danger to patients. Sales dropped and the staff recommended increasing the number of sales visits to doctors.

The company hired global consulting firm McKinsey & Company to recommend strategies to boost sales and polish the image of the company, in order to offset emotional messages from mothers whose children had overdosed.24

McKinsey allegedly urged Purdue to direct sales reps at the most prolific opioid prescribers, “because prescribers in the most prolific group wrote 25 times more OxyContin scripts than the less prolific prescribers.”25 This group of physicians were classified as “Super Core.” Purdue allegedly ordered sales reps to make visits to these prescribers every week.

The complaint claims that within the notes of the sales reps are recorded more than 1,000 visits to providers, in which the reps recommended pitching opioids to elderly patients with ailments such as arthritis. The complaint goes on to describe how the consulting firm recommended sales reps convince doctors to prescribe opioids:26

“McKinsey had reported to Purdue on opportunities to increase prescriptions by convincing doctors that opioids provide ‘freedom’ and ‘peace of mind’ and give patients ‘the best possible chance to live a full and active life.’ McKinsey also suggested sales ‘drivers’ based on the ideas that opioids reduce stress and make patients more optimistic and less isolated.”

Philanthropic Gifts Being Returned

While the Sackler family’s role in the opioid epidemic has been exposed during litigation, historically they have been known for their philanthropic efforts. The family has donated a wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, gifted a wing at the Louvre, a courtyard at Victoria and Albert Museum, a center for feminist art at the Brooklyn Museum and an Arts Education Center at the Guggenheim Museum.27 

Their profits from Purdue Pharma have funded educational programs, medical research and professorships at Cornell, Stanford, and Columbia Universities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale Cancer Center.28

However, as the family faces continued pressure and litigation following complaints and lawsuits surrounding their role in the growing opioid crisis, many of these same institutions are facing their own pressure to return the gifts and remove the family name from their institutions.

Patrick Radden Keefe, investigative journalist for The New Yorker, notes that, considering the depth and breadth of the family donations, there is a conspicuous lack of philanthropic donation in funding addiction treatment.29 Daniel Weiss, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, suggests they will revisit the Sacklers’ support, saying:30

"The Sackler family has been connected with the Met for more than a half century. The family is a large extended group, and their support of the Met began decades before the opioid crisis. The Met is currently engaging in a further review of our detailed gift acceptance policies, and we will have more to report in due course."

Struggling With Opioid Addiction? Please Seek Help

Regardless of the brand of opioid, it's vitally important to realize they are extremely addictive drugs and not meant for long-term use for nonfatal conditions. Chemically, opioids are similar to heroin. If you wouldn't consider shooting up heroin for a toothache or backache, seriously reconsider taking an opioid to relieve this type of pain.

The misconception that opioids are harmless pain relievers has killed hundreds of thousands, and destroyed the lives of countless more. In many cases you’ll be able to control pain without using medications. In my previous article, “Treating Pain Without Drugs,” I discuss several approaches to consider that may be used separately or in combination.

If you've been on an opioid for more than two months, or if you find yourself taking a higher dosage, or taking the drug more often, you may already be addicted. Resources where you can find help include:

  • Your workplace Employee Assistance Program
  • Contact the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration31 24 hours a day at 1-800-622-HELP

Why Was Scientific Freedom Award for Discovery of Glyphosate’s Role in Chronic Kidney Disease Rescinded?

Since 1980, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) — the world's largest scientific society and publisher of several journals, including Science — has presented an annual award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility to "scientists, engineers or their organizations, whose exemplary actions have demonstrated scientific freedom and responsibility in challenging circumstances." As explained on the AAAS website:1

"The types of actions worthy of this award include acting to protect the public's health, safety or welfare; focusing public attention on important potential impacts of science and technology on society by their responsible participation in public policy debates; or providing an exemplary model in carrying out the social responsibilities of scientists, engineers or in defending the professional freedom of scientists and engineers.

Some awardees have risked their freedom and even physical safety by their actions, while others have been honored for their advocacy and their leadership."

2019 Award Winners

This year, the AAAS was slated to present the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility award to two human health researchers who have published papers linking glyphosate exposure to chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology (CKDu) in Sri Lankan farmers:

  • Dr. Sarath Gunatilake,2 professor of health science at the University of California, whose areas of expertise includes occupational and environmental health research.
  • Channa Jayasumana, Ph.D.,3 a faculty member of Medicine and Allied Sciences at the Rajarata University of Sri Lanka, who conducts research into nephrotoxins (kidney toxins) and the causes and treatments for chronic kidney disease.

Their paper "Glyphosate, Hard Water and Nephrotoxic Metals: Are They the Culprits Behind the Epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology in Sri Lanka?"4 was published in 2014, followed by "Simultaneous Exposure to Multiple Heavy Metals and Glyphosate May Contribute to Sri Lankan Agricultural Nephropathy,"5 and "Drinking Well Water and Occupational Exposure to Herbicides Is Associated With Chronic Kidney Disease in Padavi-Sri Pura, Sri Lanka,"6 in 2015.

In the third paper listed, the team found people who drank water from wells where glyphosate and heavy metal concentrations are higher had a fivefold increased risk of CKDu.

Award Winners Are Both Outspoken Critics of Glyphosate

Both Gunatilake and Jayasumana have previously taken a strong stance against glyphosate-based herbicides, highlighting the dangers of herbicide adjuvants. In a 2018 Daily Mirror article,7 Gunatilake noted that adjuvants added to glyphosate-based herbicides "are 1,000 times more toxic than glyphosate itself." He went on to say:

"The point I'm trying to raise is that glyphosate without adjuvants is not very useful. Therefore, manufacturers have added these toxic chemicals into glyphosate and nobody is talking about them! Over the last 25 years, the pesticide industry had us hoodwinked by referring only to glyphosate and not to the adjuvants or additives included in these herbicides."

Jayasumana, meanwhile, provided testimony8 at the yearlong International Monsanto Tribunal,9 which began December 2015, asserting that glyphosate use has resulted in ecocide.

In its February 4, 2019 press release,10,11 (which has since been removed from its website12), AAAS stated Gunatilake and Jayasumana "faced death threats and claims of research misconduct while working to determine the cause of a kidney disease epidemic that has claimed tens of thousands of lives in their home country of Sri Lanka and around the world. Ultimately, their advocacy led to the culprit, an herbicide called glyphosate, being banned in several affected countries."

Jessica Wyndham, director of the AAAS Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program, said:13

"To right a wrong when significant financial interests are at stake and the power imbalance between industry and individual is at play takes the unique combination of scientific rigor, professional persistence and acceptance of personal risk demonstrated by the two scientists recognized by this year's award."

2019 Award Retracted Amid Controversy Over Glyphosate's True Danger

According to Gunatilake and Jayasumana, consumption of glyphosate-contaminated water may contribute to chronic kidney disease by facilitating the transport of heavy metals such as arsenic and cadmium into the kidneys.14

The AAAS award announcement incited a rash of critique by defenders of glyphosate, leading the AAAS to issue another statement just two days later, saying the organization is "taking steps to reassess the 2019 Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility, after concerns were voiced by scientists and members. This award will not be presented … as originally planned while we further evaluate the award selection."

(Incidentally, AAAS CEO Rush Holt announced his retirement on that same day.15) One outspoken critic was Kevin Folta — a pro-GMO University of Florida professor caught intentionally hiding his funding from Monsanto — who stated that the pair's 2014 paper merely "presented a hypothesis. There were no data. There were no experiments. It was a semi-well-crafted hypothesis that could be tested."16 In a recent article, rebuts Folta's claims, saying:

"Folta's claim that there are 'no data' in the paper is false. There are plenty of data in this and the authors' follow-up papers — from epidemiological and case-control studies, as well as geographical surveys — that support the idea that glyphosate herbicides should be withdrawn from use as a precautionary measure until they can be proven safe.

Are these data conclusive? No. They point to an association. It's true that the link between glyphosate exposure and chronic kidney disease will always remain a 'hypothesis' until it is proven in controlled long-term animal feeding studies …

The truth is that they are unlikely to be done, due to the massive expense and the unwillingness of industry and governments to fund studies that could show that they were responsible for exposing people to poisons over many years."

Should Scientific Freedom Award Be Revoked Based on Controversial Findings?

True, Gunatilake and Jayasumana's theory is just one of dozens of hypotheses for what might be causing chronic CKDu.17,18,19 (Cadmium toxicity is on that list, though.) Overall, it doesn't appear as though any one given influence can explain all, or even most, cases of CKDu, so the search for answers continues.

The problem with the AAAS' revocation is that whether the research findings are absolutely "true" is not entirely relevant for this particular award. As tweeted by Jack Heinemann,20 a professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, whose research topics include horizontal gene transfer, GMO risk assessment, conflicts of interest in research and sustainable agriculture:21

"Whether or not the link between glyphosate (or formulation) and kidney disease is right misses the point. A scientific freedom award is given for persecution. If you only give it for proven science, it would be delayed decades and it would only benefit those who persecute."

Gunatilake and Jayasumana are relatively cautious in their own conclusions, describing the link between glyphosate and CKDu as follows:22

"A strong association between the consumption of hard water and the occurrence of this special kidney disease has been observed, but the relationship has not been explained consistently. Here, we have hypothesized the association of using glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the disease endemic area and its unique metal chelating properties.

The possible role played by glyphosate-metal complexes in this epidemic has not been given any serious consideration by investigators for the last two decades … Although glyphosate alone does not cause an epidemic of chronic kidney disease, it seems to have acquired the ability to destroy the renal tissues … when it forms complexes with a localized geo environmental factor (hardness) and nephrotoxic metals."

Former AAAS President Is Now Biotech Shill

While it may seem cynical to cry foul at every turn, industry influence and conflicts of interest have become so commonplace these days that it simply cannot be ignored. In a recent tweet, science journalist Paul D. Thacker23 (who also had a hand in writing the Open Payments Act, which mandates the disclosure of compensation from the pharmaceutical and medical industry) noted:24

"If you ever worried that science was being warped by corporate interests, this backpedal by AAAS in giving an award to pesticide researcher [sic] should lay that to rest. Answer seems to be 'yes.'"

In a series of tweets, Thacker also points out links between former AAAS president Nina Fedoroff and the biotech industry, which has become well-known for pressuring medical journals and other organizations to revoke and discredit undesirable research and/or journalism.25

In 2015, Fedoroff, a plant molecular biologist, joined the OFW Law firm — which lobbies for the agrochemical industry — as senior science adviser for agriculture policy, global food security and government affairs.26

She was also present at the 2017 release of "Little Black Book of Junk Science,"27 a book by the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), a chemical industry front group that I've written about on several occasions, and was a chosen speaker at a GMO Answers symposium cosponsored by Scientific American in 2016.28

GMO Answers was created by the PR firm Ketchum, which works on behalf of the Council for Biotechnology Information to improve the public image of GMOs. U.S. Right to Know has previously called attention to a video ad in which the firm talks about how it doubled positive GMO coverage using online social media monitoring.29

AAAS Has 'Mixed Record on Public Interest Issues'

Considering how strong professional ties can be, even when officially severed, it doesn't seem farfetched to suspect Fedoroff's association with AAAS and the agrochemical industry might have an influence. GM Watch also notes:30

"The AAAS has a mixed record when it comes to public interest issues. In 2013 the AAAS' board of directors issued a statement opposing the labeling of GM foods in the U.S. … The AAAS was at the time chaired by Nina Fedoroff, who has close ties to the GMO industry.

But in an incident that showed that the AAAS is not monolithic but contains scientists who do not toe the GMO lobby's line, a group of scientists and physicians that included many long-standing AAAS members condemned the AAAS board of directors' statement as 'an Orwellian argument that violates the right of consumers to make informed decisions.'

They pointed to evidence showing that Roundup, the herbicide used on most GM crops, could pose risks that consumers might reasonably want to avoid. Sadly, the AAAS board seems more likely than its membership to have the power to decide on the fate of the award that was to be given to the Sri Lankan scientists."

Latest GMO Monopoly Driven by Fear

While glyphosate-based herbicides still dominate the global market, rapidly mounting weed tolerance has led to the introduction of dicamba-based herbicides and a new crop of genetically engineered (GE) plants designed to withstand it. Dicamba is an incredibly potent toxin, and dicamba drift damaged or destroyed an estimated 3.6 million acres across the U.S. between 2016 and 2017 alone.

This included not only fields growing non-dicamba-resistant crops but also trees. In response, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency placed some restrictions on dicamba usage. For instance, special training is required to apply the herbicide, and its application is prohibited when wind speeds are greater than 10 mph. Farmers are also asked to assess the risk that spraying could have on nearby crops, as well.

Despite this, reports of damage from dicamba drift continued through 2018. What's worse, many farmers report feeling they have no choice but to buy Monsanto-Bayer's GE dicamba-tolerant seeds, or else they risk having their crop destroyed by dicamba drift from their neighbors.

Randy Brazel, a soybean grower, tells NPR31 he had little choice but to switch to dicamba-tolerant soybeans after one of his neighbors called saying he was making the switch. NPR writes:

"[D]icamba fumes from fields of Xtend soybeans have curled up the leaves of sycamore trees and millions of acres of traditional soybeans across much of the Midwest and South. Brazel wasn't willing to take the risk of that happening to his crops.

He canceled his entire order and bought the new dicamba-tolerant soybeans instead. 'Then I have to get on the phone and call every other neighbor and say, 'Listen, I did not want to do this. But I am going to be forced to go dicamba.' Well, then that forces all those neighbors to call all their neighbors. And eventually what you have is a monopoly,' he says."

In some parts of the U.S., protecting your crop from dicamba damage from neighbors is part of the sales pitch for the dicamba-resistant Xtend soybeans, NPR reports. In response to this mounting pressure to switch or lose your farm, a lawsuit has been filed against Monsanto on behalf of farmers, arguing the dicamba-tolerant seeds violate antitrust law.

As noted by NPR, "The lawsuit claims that the company understood that the risk of drifting dicamba could drive competitors out of the market." Bayer (which bought Monsanto in May, 2018) has asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed. A decision from the court is still pending.

Substantial Amounts of Glyphosate Found in Food

The sad fact of the matter is, if you're eating nonorganic foods, especially processed food, then you're eating glyphosate on a regular basis. Farmers apply nearly 5 billion pounds (over 2 billion kilograms) of glyphosate to farm crops each year, worldwide.32 Approximately 300 million pounds are applied on U.S. farmland.

Testing has revealed 70 percent of Americans had detectable levels of glyphosate in their system in 2016; between 1993 and 2016, the glyphosate levels in people's bodies increased by 1,208 percent.33 A recent investigation by journalist Carey Gillam34 revealed Roundup has been found in virtually all foods tested, including granola and crackers.

The Health Research Institute Labs (HRI Labs) has also conducted glyphosate testing, finding the chemical in Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Other foods typically contaminated with glyphosate include grains, legumes, beans, orange juice and wine.

HRI's testing also reveals people who eat oats on a regular basis have twice as much glyphosate in their system as people who don't (likely because oats are desiccated with glyphosate before harvest). Meanwhile, people who eat organic food on a regular basis have an 80 percent lower level of glyphosate than those who rarely eat organic.

Glyphosate May Affect Your Health in Several Ways

Glyphosate actually has a glycine molecule as part of its structure (hence the "gly" in glyphosate). Glycine is a very common amino acid your body uses to make proteins. As a result, a senior scientist at MIT, Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D., believes your body can substitute glyphosate for glycine, which results in damaged proteins being produced.

Glycine also plays a role in quenching inflammation, as explained in "Glycine Quells Oxidative Damage by Inhibiting NOX Superoxide Production and Boosting NADPH," and is used up in the detoxification process. As a result of glyphosate toxicity, many of us may not have enough glycine for efficient detoxification. According to research published in the journal Entropy in 2013, the main toxic effects of glyphosate are related to the fact that it:35,36

  • Inhibits the shikimate pathway, found in gut bacteria in both humans and animals
  • Interferes with the function of cytochrome P450 enzymes, required for activation of vitamin D in the liver, and the creation of both nitric oxide and cholesterol sulfate, the latter of which is needed for red blood cell integrity
  • Chelates important minerals, including iron, cobalt and manganese. Manganese deficiency, in turn, impairs mitochondrial function and can lead to glutamate toxicity in the brain
  • Interferes with the synthesis of aromatic amino acids and methionine, which results in shortages in critical neurotransmitters and folate
  • Disrupts sulfate synthesis and sulfate transport

Glyphosate also disrupts, destroys, impairs or inhibits:37

  • The microbiome, thanks to its antibiotic activity
  • Sulfur metabolism
  • Methylation pathways
  • Pituitary release of thyroid stimulating hormone, which can lead to hypothyroidism

How to Test Your Glyphosate Level and Eliminate It From Your System

The chemical has also been linked to an increased risk of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and lung cancer.38 Considering the possible dangers of glyphosate, it would make sense to minimize your exposure, and if you have high levels already, to take steps to detoxify it.

HRI Labs has developed home test kits for both water and urine, and if you have elevated levels, you can drive out the glyphosate by taking an inexpensive glycine supplement.

Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt recommends taking 1 teaspoon (4 grams) of glycine powder twice a day for a few weeks and then lowering the dose to one-fourth teaspoon (1 gram) twice a day. This forces the glyphosate out of your system, allowing it to be eliminated through your urine.

The Hill Says Vaccine Injuries Are Exaggerated Personal Anecdotes

Political newspaper and website The Hill has become the latest to belittle people interested in vaccine choice and safety, and practically deny adverse events after vaccination.1

They start out by acknowledging that "internet censorship is anathema to Americans, whose free speech is protected by the First Amendment," but then go on to discuss what can be done to silence those who question vaccine safety or speak about their own experiences with adverse vaccine reactions.

To be clear, the article is written by Rachel Alter, a graduate research assistant at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, and Dr. Irwin Redlener, president emeritus and co-founder of the Children's Health Fund, and published by The Hill.

A disclaimer at the top reads, "The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill." Still, even the headline — Time to Dispel Vaccine Myths Spreading on Social Media — reeks of censorship. The beginning paragraphs go so far as to call personal adverse vaccine reactions "exaggerated personal anecdotes":2

"[W]hat can be done about the growing amount of harmful misinformation intended to influence thousands of people to make decisions that put not only their lives, but the lives of their and others' children, at risk?

Such is the situation for the anti-vaccination, or 'anti-vax,' community, thousands of whose members flock to social media pages where they promptly remove 'pro-vax trolls,' and post fear-mongering memes and exaggerated personal anecdotes."

Are Vaccine Injuries 'Exaggerated Personal Anecdotes'?

The authors of this piece in The Hill are only the latest to downplay or deny that vaccine injuries occur. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), recently did the same in an interview with CBS News.3

"[T]he lack of safety and adverse events, things like autism … that issue is based purely on fabrication and that's been proven … there is no association whatsoever between the measles vaccine and autism," he said. The reporter questioned Fauci's claims that there are no studies showing vaccines may cause harm and asked if he were perhaps not looking at the right studies.

"That's just not true … that's just not true, period," Fauci said, refusing to even entertain the notion that vaccines may cause adverse reactions in some people, and that parents of vaccine-injured children may be justified in their hesitation to vaccinate their other children.

So what's the truth? Every vaccine comes with a risk of adverse reactions, including death, and it's up to each person to decide if that risk outweighs the benefit of the vaccination.

"For example," Dr. K. Paul Stoller, fellow, American College of Hyperbaric Medicine, wrote in Acta Scientific Paediatrics, "it has not been proven that the MMR vaccine is safer than measles," continuing:4

"The nonprofit organization Physicians for Informed Consent (PIC) recently reported in The BMJ that every year an estimated 5,700 U.S. children (approximately 1 in 640 children) suffer febrile seizures from the first dose of the MMR vaccine — which is five times more than the number of seizures expected from measles.5

This amounts to 57,000 febrile seizures over the past 10 years due to the MMR vaccine alone. And, as 5 percent of children with febrile seizures progress to epilepsy, the estimated number of children developing epilepsy due to the MMR vaccine, in the past 10 years, is 2,850."

$4 Billion Paid Out to Victims of Vaccine Injuries

To deny that adverse vaccine reactions occur is the fabrication. There is, in fact, a federally operated vaccine injury compensation program (VICP) available to victims of vaccine injuries. Congress created VICP under the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act as an alternative to a vaccine injury lawsuit, which acts as a shield from liability to vaccine manufacturers.

In their latest release of data and statistics, the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) revealed that approximately $4 billion has been paid out to vaccine-injured victims since 1988 — in response to only 31 percent of the filed petitions.6

"There is no telling how much more money the taxpayer-funded program might have shelled out if the court had not chosen to dismiss the remaining petitions (56 percent) — possibly doing so fraudulently in at least some cases," Children's Health Defense, which is working to end childhood health epidemics by eliminating harmful exposures, explained.7

One in 168 — Not 1 in 1 Million

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that vaccines are safe, and serious adverse reactions are rare. For serious allergic reactions like anaphylaxis, they state such reactions occur "at a rate of approximately 1 per million doses for many vaccines."8

However, serious adverse events occur far more common than publicly admitted, with 1 in 168 children requiring emergency room admittance following their 1-year wellness check when vaccines are given, according to Canadian research.9

One in 730 children ends up in the emergency room after their 18-month vaccination appointment, as well, and researchers noted an additional 20 febrile seizures occurred for every 100,000 vaccinated at 12 months.

"There are significantly elevated risks of primarily emergency room visits approximately one to two weeks following 12- and 18-month vaccination. Future studies should examine whether these events could be predicted or prevented," the researchers concluded.10

Research from Shanghai, China, also provided some insights into the frequency of vaccine adverse reactions among children. The Shanghai study, based on reported pediatric adverse drug reactions (ADRs) for 2009, found that 42 percent were caused by vaccines, with reactions ranging from mild skin rashes to deadly reactions like anaphylaxis.

Of all the drugs causing adverse reactions among children, vaccines were the most commonly reported.11 The vast majority of reports came from physicians, pharmacists and other health care providers, with less than 3 percent coming from consumers.

In the U.S., underreporting of adverse reactions to vaccines is common, with an estimated 99 percent of such reactions never reported to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). As noted in 2011 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality:12

"Adverse events from vaccines are common but underreported, with less than 1 percent reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Low reporting rates preclude or delay the identification of 'problem' vaccines, potentially endangering the health of the public. New surveillance methods for drug and vaccine adverse effects are needed."

Refusing Vaccination 'Silly'

In their belittling of people who value informed consent and choose to refuse one or more vaccinations, The Hill article calls such personal choice "silly":13

"If it were only a matter of putting oneself at risk by refusing vaccination, we would not necessarily be called to action. After all, a personal choice is just that, regardless of how silly it may seem to outsiders. But people who refuse vaccines for themselves and their families are putting the most vulnerable members of their community at risk of severe illness or death."

They're invoking the commonly parroted idea that vaccines confer herd immunity if a high-enough percentage of people in a population are vaccinated. However, vaccines do not work in the same way as natural immunity, and there is evidence that vaccine-induced herd immunity is largely a myth.

In his book, "Vaccines, Autoimmunity, and the Changing Nature of Childhood Illness," Dr. Thomas Cowan explains how vaccines cause a distortion in the two branches of your immune response — the cell-mediated immunity (innate) and the humoral immunity (adaptive). This, in turn, radically increases your risk of immune dysfunction, including development of autoimmunity and even cancer.

When you get a viral childhood disease, the virus enters your body and infects your cells. The subsequent disease process involves your cell-mediated immune response, which activates white blood cells and chemicals that attract them to the site of infection in order to clear the virus.

During recovery, your humoral immune system kicks in and starts generating antibodies against the virus to help prevent the same kind of disease process from occurring again in the event you're exposed to the virus again at a later date.

As long as the cell-mediated immune system is activated first, and the humoral immune system is activated second, you will have a longer-lasting, qualitatively superior immunity against that disease. Vaccines, however, circumvent the possibility of creating robust herd immunity in a population, as they often avoid a cell-mediated immune response, provoking a humoral response instead.

Vaccination triggers the creation of vaccine-strain antibodies, but since vaccination skips the cell-mediated response, it only confers an artificial temporary immunity.

This is also why most vaccines, especially inactivated vaccines, require booster shots to try to extend artificial immunity. (Live attenuated viral vaccines, such as measles vaccine, are thought to more closely mimic the natural disease process, but even live virus vaccines confer an artificial immunity that is not identical to natural immunity.)

Open Discussion Into Vaccine Safety — Not Name-Calling — Is Urgently Needed

In the vaccination debate, what happens all too often is not an open, scientifically based discussion but rather inappropriate name-calling and threats. A scathing article in the Los Angeles Times even labeled unvaccinated people "cockroaches."14 Many parents are also left feeling belittled or threatened by their children's doctors should they so much as question the U.S. CDC's vaccination schedule.

At least one study has found the vaccination schedule may put premature babies at increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders,15 but should parents question their pediatrician about it, they may risk being rejected from the practice and left without a source of medical care for their child. Barbara Loe Fisher, founder of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), explained:16

"These days, a well-baby checkup can be a frightening and gut-wrenching experience for a new mom bringing her baby to the pediatrician's office.

That is because, with the approval of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), many pediatricians have taken the hardline position that they do not have to discuss vaccination with parents or, if they do, they can threaten them with dismissal from the practice for not obeying a direct order."

The ability to make informed, voluntary vaccine choices for yourself and your children must be protected, because vaccines are not a one-size-fits-all-solution, nor is the U.S. public as a whole a one-size-fits-all population. Stoller also questioned whether vaccine policy is really about safeguarding the public, and his stance deserves consideration:17

"In the U.S., the pharmaceutical industry is the largest campaign donor to politicians and the largest advertiser in all forms of media, but even that level on influence should still yield to safeguards on human rights and bioethics.

For when a medical intervention becomes shielded from liability and is then mandated by governments who are often in an unholy partnership with the corporations responsible for that intervention then we are all in peril.

When coercion becomes part of the equation, a crime against humanity is being perpetrated. The intellectual and social suppression of views, research and information inconvenient to vaccine stakeholders and proponents is no different today than it was for those who opposed the practice of bloodletting and dosing patients with mercury.

The difference today are the economic factors, for it is projected that by 2020, global vaccine revenues exceed $60 billion, so with that amount of money in play vaccine and public health policies have been made to support the desires of a criminal cabal where informed consent is perhaps the only remaining firewall."

Public Health Warning Issued for Fluoride Toothpaste

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention1 (CDC), 40 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 6 use potentially dangerous amounts of toothpaste.

The CDC and American Dental Association (ADA) recommend using no more than a pea-sized amount for children in this age group, and those younger than 3 should use no more than the size of a rice grain on their toothbrush.

The problem with using excessive amounts of toothpaste has to do with the fluoride it contains. If you look closely, you’ll find fluoride-containing toothpastes have a warning on their label stating that “If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional help or contact a poison control center immediately.”

This warning was made mandatory for fluoride-containing dental products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in April, 1997.2 Ironically, while swallowing toothpaste is recognized as a cause for concern, we’re supposed to believe that drinking fluoridated water at any quantity is not only safe but beneficial for our teeth.

Too Much Fluoride Causes Dental Fluorosis

The fact of the matter is that fluoride is a toxic substance with no known biological imperative. Researchers have even questioned its efficacy as a topical anticaries prophylactic.3

Dental caries is caused by demineralization of your teeth by the acids formed during the bacterial fermentation of dietary sugars. Demineralization is countered by the deposit of minerals from your saliva. However, the remineralization process is a slow one, and fluoride is said to prevent dental caries by enhancing this remineralization.

The problem is, your teeth do not actually rely on fluoride for remineralization. What’s more, research4 has concluded that the protective shield fluoride forms on teeth is up to 100 times thinner than previously believed. It has long been believed that fluoride changes the main mineral in tooth enamel, hydroxyapatite, into a more-decay resistant material called fluorapatite.

However, the researchers found that the fluorapatite layer formed in this way is only 6 nanometers thick — meaning it would take almost 10,000 such layers to span the width of a human hair. As noted by the authors, “it has to be asked whether such narrow … layers really can act as protective layers for the enamel.”

Meanwhile, fluoride has been shown to cause significant systemic harm when ingested, which is part and parcel of the CDC’s new warning against using too much toothpaste. As reported by the Chicago Sun Times:5

“Brushing with too much toothpaste can damage enamel, as children could swallow too much fluoride while their teeth are developing, the CDC says. This can cause dental fluorosis, white marks and discoloration of teeth.”

However, dental fluorosis is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fluoride damage. For example, evidence shows fluoride is an endocrine disruptor that can affect your bones, brain, thyroid gland, pineal gland and even your blood sugar level.6 Importantly, it’s a known neurotoxin, shown to lower IQ in children.7

Most US Kids Have Fluoride-Damaged Teeth

According to research8 presented at the April 2017 National Oral Health Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 57 percent of youth between the ages of 6 and 19 years have dental fluorosis, a condition in which your tooth enamel becomes progressively discolored and mottled.

When Fluoride Action Network (FAN) researchers analyzed the same set of data, they found over 21 percent of adolescents had moderate fluorosis and 2 percent had severe fluorosis.9

According to FAN, "The data suggests that up to 24 million adolescents now have some form of dental fluorosis, with over 8 million adolescents having moderate fluorosis, and 840,000 having severe fluorosis." Incredibly, the situation is still worsening. According to the most recent data, which has yet to be published, the dental fluorosis rate in the U.S. may now be a staggering 65 percent.10

In stark contrast, when water fluoridation was first started in the U.S. in 1945, it was promised that only 10 percent of people would suffer from mild dental fluorosis at the then-recommended levels.11 Clearly, they were wrong.

In 2011, concerns over escalating fluorosis rates prompted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to lower the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water, from a previously recommended range of 0.7 to 1.2 mg/L to 0.7 mg/L.

However, adverse effects, including reduced IQ, behavioral alterations, neurochemical changes, hypothyroidism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been demonstrated even at that lower level, so while it reduced exposure for many, the most serious risks remain.

What’s more, reduced IQ has been seen in study participants with higher urinary fluoride concentrations even when no dental fluorosis was present, which suggests the doses of fluoride that impair cognitive ability are far lower than those that cause severe dental fluorosis.12

Fluoridated Water Likely a Far Greater Concern Than Excessive Toothpaste

Unfortunately, public health officials often brush off fluorosis as a purely aesthetic issue, one they believe is an okay trade-off for the supposed benefits of fluoride. In reality, dental fluorosis is an outward sign that fluoride is damaging the body in other ways as well.

Research has found impairment in cognitive abilities among children with fluorosis (even mild fluorosis) compared to children with no fluorosis, for example. Studies have also found that children with higher levels of fluorosis have increased rates of cavities13,14 — a finding that suggests more is definitely not better, not even when it comes to protecting against cavities.

Importantly, the CDC completely ignores the role fluoridated water plays in this epidemic, as toothpaste is by far not the only source of fluoride for young children, and probably isn’t the most significant source either.

In a January, 2019 study15 in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry, the prevalence of dental fluorosis among 10- to 12-year-olds in three Ecuadorian provinces was nearly 90 percent. According to the authors, “A positive statistical relationship and statistical significance was detected between dental fluorosis and consumption of bottled beverages.”

A “low negative” relationship between fluorosis and brushing with adult toothpaste without help suggests fluoridated water (used in bottled beverages) is likely to be a greater risk factor than toothpaste exposure, although toothpaste ingestion may still play a role.

CDC and Mainstream Media Ignore the Elephant in the Room

In response to the CDC’s toothpaste warning, FAN writes:16

“A spate of news stories … focused on kids swallowing too much toothpaste. But according to Paul Connett, Ph.D., FAN Director, ‘The defenders of water fluoridation are missing the real story. Dental fluorosis is a biomarker of over-exposure to fluoride and the 'elephant in the room' is what damage fluoride is doing to other tissues.’

Recent scientific research indicates that exposure to fluoridated water may lower thyroid function17,18 and 350 published studies indicate that fluoride can damage the brain … While it is understandable that die-hard promoters of fluoridation should be fixated on any study dealing with teeth, it is less understandable why the media should ignore fluoride's impact on the brain.

The fetal brain is under attack from several environmental toxins19 but only one, fluoride, is deliberately added to our water. There are safer ways to prevent dental caries than exposing the fetus to a neurotoxicant … Repeating the dogma that fluoridation is "safe and effective" many times does not make it so.

Connett urges more scientists to overcome this dogma and intimidation and review the brain studies themselves … fluoride-brain studies are readily accessible.20 Connett added that, ‘I believe that the intellectual ability of future generations depends on their willingness to do this. Neither intimidation nor dogma has a place in science or public health.’"

Protecting Your Dental Health Has Nothing to Do With Fluoride

When it comes to good oral hygiene and preventing cavities, it’s important to realize that drinking fluoridated water and brushing with fluoridated toothpaste is not the answer. It's far more important to address your nutrition and basic oral care. Here’s a five-step plan that can help you improve your oral health, without the use of toxic agents such as fluoride:

1. Reduce your net carbohydrate intake to meet your insulin level requirement. I suggest you reduce your overall net carbs (total grams of carbohydrates minus your grams of fiber intake) if your fasting insulin level is over 5.

Aside from sugar, avoid carbs like beans, legumes and grains such as rice, quinoa and oats, as well as highly-processed grain products like bread, pasta, cereal, chips, bagels and fries. These begin digestion in the mouth and impact the health of your teeth the most.

Limit your daily fructose intake to 25 grams or less. Even fructose found in fresh fruit should be limited until you’ve normalized your insulin and leptin levels. If you’re already struggling with Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance, consider restricting your total fructose to 15 grams per day until your insulin sensitivity has been restored.

Focus on eating a diet of fresh, whole foods, including grass fed meats and organic and fermented vegetables. This helps ensure you get plenty of minerals for strong bones and teeth. If needed, consider adding one or more nutritional supplements to support your oral health.

2. Brush twice or three times a day, 3 to 6 minutes after drinking and/or eating.

3. Use nonfluoridated toothpaste, or make your own. For example, you could simply mix coconut oil and baking soda with a pinch of Himalayan salt. High-quality peppermint essential oil can be added for flavor and cavity prevention. Start with a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil and baking soda, and add more of one or the other until you get an agreeable consistency. (Slightly firmer consistency tends to be easier to use.)

If buying non-fluoridated toothpaste, be sure to check the ingredient list for other harmful ingredients such as triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate, propylene glycol, diethanolamine and parabens.

4. Floss daily.

5. Pull with coconut oil once a day, ideally first thing in the morning, for five to 10 minutes to reduce bacterial growth, strengthen your teeth, reduce bad breath and lower your risk of gum disease.

To Protect Your Child’s Teeth, Bones and Brain, Avoid Fluoride From All Sources

For instructions on how to brush and floss properly, as well as oil pulling guidelines, see “Dental Dedication: Improve Your Oral Health.” In the video above, Bill Osmunson, a practicing dentist and staunch advocate against fluoride, also discusses some of the variables that contribute to good oral hygiene (summarized above).

Remember, by avoiding sugars and processed foods, you prevent the proliferation of the bacteria that cause decay in the first place. Following up with proper brushing and flossing and getting regular cleanings with a mercury-free biological dentist will ensure that your teeth and gums stay healthy naturally.

Many natural substances, such as vitamins C and K2, Coenzyme Q10 and homeopathic tissue salts such as silica, calcarea fluorica (calcium fluoride, not to be confused with sodium fluoride found in toothpaste), calcium phosphate and calcium carbonate, also have the power to improve the health of your teeth and gums.

Fluoride really has no major advantage, only hazards. And those hazards go far beyond the visible signs of dental fluorosis. Far worse is the damage that occurs inside the body, which you cannot see.

So, in addition to teaching your children about proper nutrition and oral care, be mindful about limiting their fluoride exposure from all sources, including toothpaste and other dental products, fluoridated water, fluoridated pesticides (and hence pesticide contaminated foods), bottled beverages such as juices and teas, fast food packaging, non-stick pots and pans, fluorinated drugs, fluoridated table salt and mechanically deboned chicken.

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100 Percent of Oat Products Tested Positive for Glyphosate

Oat-based foods, such as oatmeal, cereals and bread, are considered by many to be a healthy dietary addition, but if you eat such foods know that you’re probably getting herbicide residues along with them.

In testing done by Friends of the Earth (FOE), 100 percent of oat cereal samples tested positive for residues of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide.1 While there are multiple reasons to reconsider the health value of oats, including their lectin content, the rampant use of glyphosate on this crop as a desiccant just prior to harvest, and their subsequent glyphosate contamination, is worthy of attention.

All Oat Cereals Tested Contained Glyphosate

FOE, looking to uncover how many pesticides and herbicides residues are in commonly eaten foods, tested store-brand cereal, beans and produce from the top four food retailers in the U.S.: Walmart, Kroger, Costco and Albertsons/Safeway.

Altogether, 132 samples of house brand samples were tested, from more than 30 U.S. stores in 15 states. Residues of glyphosate and pesticides — neonicotinoids and organophosphates — were found, with glyphosate being detected in 100 percent of oat cereal and pinto bean samples tested.

The average level of glyphosate in cereal samples was 360 parts per billion (ppb), which FOE noted is more than twice the level set by Environmental Working Group (EWG) scientists for lifetime cancer risk in children. Some of the cereal samples contained residues as high as 931 ppb.

As for pinto beans, levels were found up to 1,128 ppb, although average glyphosate levels were 509 ppb — 4.5 times higher than EWG’s benchmark for lifetime cancer risk in children. According to FOE:

“EWG determined that a 1-in-a-million cancer risk would be posed by ingestion of 0.01 milligrams of glyphosate per day. To reach this maximum dose, one would have to eat a single 60-gram serving of oat cereal with a glyphosate level of 160 ppb or a 90-gram serving of pinto beans with a glyphosate level of 110 ppb.”

Oat-Based Foods Marketed to Children Contain Glyphosate

EWG also commissioned independent laboratory tests to determine how much glyphosate is lurking in the U.S. food supply. Forty-three out of 45 food products made with conventionally grown oats tested positive for glyphosate, 31 of which had glyphosate levels higher than EWG scientists believe would be protective of children’s health.2

Examples of foods with detectable levels of glyphosate include Quaker Dinosaur Eggs instant oatmeal, Cheerios cereal, Nature Valley granola bars, Quaker steel cut oats and Back to Nature Classic Granola. Further, out of 16 organic oat foods tested, five contained glyphosate, although at levels below EWG’s health benchmark of 160 ppb.

Follow-up testing of another 28 samples of oat-based cereal and other oat-based foods marketed to children found glyphosate in all the samples tested, with 26 of them coming in above EWG’s health benchmark of 160 ppb.

Glyphosate was detected in General Mills’ Cheerios and a host of Quaker brand products such as instant oatmeal, breakfast cereal and snack bars. The highest glyphosate level — 2,837 ppb — was found in Quaker Oatmeal Squares breakfast cereal. According to EWG:3

“These test results fly in the face of claims by two companies, Quaker and General Mills, which have said there is no reason for concern. This is because, they say, their products meet the legal standards.

Yet almost all of the samples tested by EWG had residues of glyphosate at levels higher than what EWG scientists consider protective of children’s health with an adequate margin of safety.”

Why Do Oats Have Glyphosate Residues?

Nearly 300 million pounds of glyphosate are used in the U.S. each year, with usage being heaviest in the Midwest due to extensive production of genetically engineered (GE) corn and soy. In fact, more than 90 percent of corn and soy grown in the U.S. is genetically engineered, and these ingredients are common in processed foods.4

Oats, although not GE, are a common source of glyphosate residues because the chemical is used as a desiccant on many non-GMO crops. In northern, colder regions farmers of wheat, oats and barley must wait for their crops to dry out prior to harvest.

Rather than wait an additional two weeks or so for this to happen naturally, farmers realized they could spray the plants with glyphosate, killing the crops and accelerating their drying (a process known as desiccating).

In some cases, non-GMO foods may be even more contaminated with glyphosate than GMO crops, because they’re being sprayed just weeks prior to being made into your cereal, bread, cookies and the like.

Researchers from University of California San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine noted in JAMA that Roundup is “applied as a desiccant to most small nongenetically modified grains.” So for both GE crops and non-GE grains, glyphosate “is found in these crops at harvest.”5 As an aside, beans are also desiccated using glyphosate, which is likely why FOE’s testing found such residues in all the pinto bean samples tested.

Glyphosate is the only systemic herbicide registered for use prior to harvest of dry beans. When applied preharvest, glyphosate moves to both the growing points and storage structures (including roots and seeds) of plants to target EPSP synthase, which prevents production of certain amino acids and diverts energy from essential plant processes.

This process affects the entire plant causing death and necrosis of green material. In fact, it’s the only systemic herbicide registered for use prior to the harvest of dry beans, and although it’s not a true desiccant, it’s the “product of choice for many dry bean growers,” according to the Alliance of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science Societies.6

However, the article stresses that the timing of application is crucial to prevent excessive residues of herbicide in the final product, stating:7

[W]hen relying on this herbicide alone or when using it with other desiccants, application timing should be delayed to limit glyphosate accumulation in bean seed … But desiccation is a science that requires finesse.

Regardless of the product(s) being used, agronomists and growers must ensure proper application to maximize desiccant efficacy while limiting negative impacts to quality, including unacceptable herbicide residue levels.”

Glyphosate Linked to Pregnancy Risks

Herbicide use is on the rise in the U.S. Midwest, where corn and soy crops are prolific, and researchers are concerned exposure could be harming pregnant women and children in the area.

In a study of pregnant women in central Indiana, glyphosate was detected in the urine of 93 percent of the participants, with higher levels found in those living in rural areas and those who consumed 24 ounces or more of caffeinated beverages per day.8

Further, higher levels of glyphosate in women’s urine was significantly associated with shortened pregnancy lengths. Study author Dr. Paul Winchester, medical director of the neonatal intensive care unit at the Franciscan St. Francis Health system and professor of clinical pediatrics at Riley Hospital for Children in Indiana, said in a news release:9

“In our study, which is ongoing, mothers with relatively higher levels of glyphosate were more likely to have shorter pregnancies and deliver babies with lower birth-weight, outcomes that everyone should be concerned about. Shorter pregnancies with relatively lower birth weights have been linked to lower cognitive ability later in life and higher risk of metabolic syndrome.”

As for the higher glyphosate levels among rural residents, none of whom were farmers or directly involved in Roundup application, it’s believed the exposure may have come from inhalation of contaminated air or dust.

It’s also possible that consumption of caffeinated beverages may be associated with higher glyphosate levels because some caffeine-containing beverages, such as coffee, tea and soft drinks, may contain glyphosate residues, although the study didn’t test for this.10

Even Diapers Contain Glyphosate, Which Could Pose Long-Term Health Risks

A French study of disposable diapers revealed glyphosate was found in the material, along with about 60 other chemicals. Although the levels of glyphosate were low, Anses, the French agency for food, environmental and occupational health and safety, said it and other chemicals “could migrate through urine, for example, and enter into prolonged contact with babies’ skin.”11

They gave diaper manufacturers 15 days to develop a plan of action to remove harmful substances from the products. Although the specific diaper brands weren’t named, they’re said to provide a representation of the market and include some that are sold in multiple countries. Anses, while suggesting that no immediate risk was present, said long-term health effects could exist:12

“There is no epidemiological research allowing us to prove the health effects linked to the wearing of nappies. That said, dangerous chemical substances have been found in the nappies … there is evidence the safety thresholds for several substances have been crossed.

At the current time and from what we know at the moment, it is not possible to exclude a health risk linked to the wearing of disposable nappies.”

Eating Organic Reduces Cancer Risk

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined that glyphosate is a "probable carcinogen" in 2015. In August 2018, jurors ruled Monsanto (which was taken over by Bayer in June 2018) must pay $289 million in damages to DeWayne “Lee” Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who claimed the company’s herbicide Roundup caused his terminal cancer.13 

The award was later slashed to $78 million,14 but it’s not an isolated case. Thousands of people across the U.S. have filed lawsuits alleging that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, and others containing the active ingredient glyphosate, caused them to develop cancer.

There are many routes of exposure to this likely carcinogen, including via your drinking water, but diet is among them. The featured study also found residues of another potentially carcinogenic pesticide — organophosphates — were widespread in applesauce, apples and spinach samples they tested.15

Eating organic is one simple way to avoid these toxins, and research shows that doing so could reduce your risk of cancer. In a study of nearly 70,000 adults, those who ate primarily organic foods had a lower risk of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and postmenopausal breast cancer compared to those who rarely or never ate organic foods.16

EPA Petitioned to Prohibit Glyphosate’s Use as a Desiccant

Choosing organic oat products may be especially important to avoid glyphosate, as EWG’s studies suggest that glyphosate levels may be higher in oat products than they are in even wheat and corn. Further, “real dietary exposure” is not limited to oat products. Children (and adults) are being exposed to glyphosate from a variety of sources, with potentially devastating effects.

EWG and other consumer groups have petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce the amount of glyphosate residues allowed in oats from 30 parts per million (ppm) to 0.1 ppm, as well as prohibit the use of glyphosate as a preharvest desiccant.17

The 0.1 ppm limit for glyphosate on oats was actually the legal limit in 1993 — it has since been raised 300fold, in response to a petition from Monsanto around the time farmers began to widely use glyphosate as a desiccant late in the season.18

If you’re concerned about glyphosate residues in your food, you can help to prompt change by reaching out to the companies that make your food. Let them know that you prefer foods without glyphosate residues — and are prepared to switch brands if necessary to find them.

In addition to voicing your opinion to food companies, contact the EPA and encourage them to restrict preharvest applications of glyphosate in order to reduce the amount of this toxic chemical entering the food supply.

Weekly Health Quiz: Exercise, Hypnosis and Facebook

1 The following lifestyle factor has been scientifically shown to be as potent a risk factor for premature death as smoking:

  • Lack of grounding
  • Sun avoidance

    An estimated 12 percent of all U.S. deaths may be linked to inadequate sun exposure, and sun avoidance is as potent a risk factor for death as smoking. Learn more.

  • Electromagnetic field exposure
  • Having a body mass index below 35

2 These three factors have a far greater influence on your cardiovascular disease risk than high cholesterol:

  • Low insulin, low iron and high saturated fat intake
  • Vitamin D toxicity, magnesium deficiency and glyphosate insufficiency
  • Iron overload, insulin resistance and chronic inflammation

    High cholesterol is not a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Three factors that have a far greater influence on your CVD risk are iron overload, insulin resistance and chronic inflammation. Learn more.

  • Sedentary behavior, low wireless radiation exposure and high sun exposure

3 Two former Snopes employees reportedly quit after discovering Facebook was paying Snopes and pushing fact-checkers to:

  • Incite riots by tagging inflammatory articles as True
  • Influence political processes in the U.S. and elsewhere
  • Help sell confidential user data
  • Debunk information that might hurt its advertisers

    Two former Snopes employees quit after discovering Facebook was paying Snopes, and pushing fact-checkers to debunk information that might hurt its advertisers. Learn more.

4 The following has been established as the best available treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — a type of depression that strikes during winter months and resolve during spring and summer:

  • Light therapy

    Light therapy has been established as the best available treatment for SAD. Learn more.

  • Antidepressants
  • Placebo treatment
  • Sauna therapy

5 As you get older, the following form of exercise becomes increasingly important, as it promotes healthy bone strength and good posture, and helps normalize hormone production:

  • Aerobic exercise such as walking or jogging
  • Resistance training such as weightlifting

    Strength training only becomes more important with age. Working your muscles helps maintain healthy bone mass, prevents age-related muscle loss, improves perimenopausal symptoms in women and counteracts postural deficits that occur with age. Learn more.

  • Low-impact exercises such as yoga or Tai Chi
  • High-intensity exercises such as sprinting

6 How long does it take a plastic bottle to break down in the ocean?

  • 100 years
  • 15 years
  • 450 years

    It’s estimated that a plastic bottle can take 450 years to break down in a marine environment. But even then, it never goes away. It simply breaks down into smaller pieces that may persist in the environment forever. Learn more.

  • 250 years

7 Hypnosis puts you into a state of:

  • Hysteria
  • Ignorance
  • All-knowing
  • Suggestibility

    Most meditation takes you into alpha brainwaves. Hypnosis takes you into theta, an even slower brainwave and a state in which you become highly suggestible, yet fully awake and aware of what you’re doing. Learn more.



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