What are polyphenols?

What are polyphenols?

Polyphenols are micronutrients that we get through certain plant-based foods. They’re packed with antioxidants and potential health benefits. It’s thought that polyphenols can improve or help treat digestion issues, weight management difficulties, diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, and cardiovascular diseases.

You can get polyphenols by eating foods containing them. You can also take supplements, which come in powder and capsule forms.

Polyphenols may have several unwanted side effects, however. These are most common when taking polyphenol supplements instead of getting them naturally through food. The most common side effect with the strongest scientific evidence is the potential for polyphenols to interfere with or limit iron absorption.

Factors that influence activity of polyphenols in the body include metabolism, intestinal absorption, and the bioavailability of the polyphenol. Although some foods may have higher polyphenol levels than others, this does not necessarily mean that they are absorbed and used at higher rates.

Read on to learn the polyphenol content of many foods. Unless otherwise stated, all numbers are given in milligrams (mg) per 100 grams (g) of food.



In a 2010 study that identified the 100 foods richest in polyphenols, cloves came out on top. Cloves had a total of 15,188 mg polyphenols per 100 g of cloves. There were a number of other seasonings with high rankings, too. These included dried peppermint, which ranked second with 11,960 mg polyphenols, and star anise, which came in third with 5,460 mg.



Cocoa powder was the fourth richest polyphenol food identified, with 3,448 mg polyphenols per 100 g of the powder. It’s not a surprise that dark chocolate fell close behind on the list and was ranked eighth with 1,664 mg. Milk chocolate is also on the list, but due to its lower cocoa content, falls much further down the list at number 32.



A number of different types of berries are rich in polyphenols. These include popular and easily accessible berries like:


highbush blueberries, with 560 mg polyphenols

blackberries, with 260 mg polyphenols

strawberries, with 235 mg polyphenols

red raspberries, with 215 mg polyphenols

The berry with the most polyphenols? Black chokeberry, which has more than 1,700 mg polyphenols per 100 g.



Berries aren’t the only fruits with plenty of polyphenols. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, many fruits contain high numbers of polyphenols. These include:


black currants, with 758 mg polyphenols

plums, with 377 mg polyphenols

sweet cherries, with 274 mg polyphenols

apples, with 136 mg polyphenols

Fruit juices like apple juice and pomegranate juice also contain high numbers of this micronutrient.



Beans contain many nutritional benefits, so it’s no surprise that they naturally have hefty doses of polyphenols. Black beans and white beans have the highest number of polyphenols. Black beans have 59 mg per 100 g, and white beans have 51 mg.



Nuts can be high in caloric value, but they pack a powerful nutritional punch. Not only are they full of protein; some nuts also have high polyphenol content.


One 2012 study found significant levels of polyphenols in a number of both raw and roasted nuts. Nuts high in polyphenols include:


hazelnuts, with 495 mg polyphenols

walnuts, with 28 mg polyphenols

almonds, with 187 mg polyphenols

pecans, with 493 mg polyphenols



There are many vegetables that contain polyphenols, though they usually have less than fruit. Vegetables with high numbers of polyphenols include:


artichokes, with 260 mg polyphenols

chicory, with 166–235 mg polyphenols

red onions, with 168 mg polyphenols

spinach, with 119 mg polyphenols



Want to shake it up? In addition to high-fiber fruits, nuts, and vegetables, black and green teas both contain ample amounts of polyphenols. Black tea clocks in with 102 mg polyphenols per 100 milliliters (mL), and green tea has 89 mg.



Many people drink a glass of red wine every night for the antioxidants. The high number of polyphenols in red wine contributes to that antioxidant count. Red wine has a total of 101 mg polyphenols per 100 mL. Rosé and white wine, while not as beneficial, still have a decent chunk of polyphenols, with 100 mL of each having about 10 mg polyphenols.



There are some risks and complications associated with polyphenols. These seem to be most heavily associated with taking polyphenol supplements. More research is needed to evaluate the actual risk of these complications, which include:


carcinogenic effects


thyroid issues

estrogenic activity in isoflavones

interactions with other prescription medications


Polyphenols are powerful micronutrients that our body needs. They have numerous health benefits that may offer protection from the development of cancers, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes. It’s best to consume polyphenols through foods naturally containing them, instead of through artificially made supplements, which may come with more side effects. If you take supplements, make sure they are made from a reputable company with high quality sourcing.

Five Elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine

What Are the Five Elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Everyone experiences life differently. One of the fundamental teachings of Traditional Chinese Medicine is that each individual has a unique response to a disease based on their constitution and the energy balance of their organs. Traditional Chinese Medicine explains energy balance in terms of five elements that are balanced or imbalanced in those five organs.

The five elements are water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. They can be used to classify every aspect of a person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual health. The five elements generate and control each other. Water generates wood. Wood feeds fire. Fire creates ashes, or earth. Earth condenses into metal. Metal releases water. Water controls fire. Wood controls earth. Fire controls metal. Earth controls water. Metal controls wood. But how is this ancient scheme useful to modern, scientific people?

Modern people can use the five elements to understand how they respond to health and disease. Each of the elements is a metaphor for the way people feel. A “fire” person tends to exhibit anxiety. A” metal “person tends to experience grief and a sense of lacking purpose. A “water” person may live in a flood of emotions.

Each element describes a way of thinking, a lifestyle, or everyday health habit that is useful in moderation but toxic in excess. Each imbalance generates symptoms, but it also points to the kinds of changes in thinking, lifestyle, and habits that will bring health back into balance. Your herbalist can deal with the physical aspects of the five elements. You can deal with lifestyle changes in terms of the five elements to enjoy good health. Let’s look at examples for each element.


The Water Element

In your physical body, the water element refers to a set of processes that focus on the kidney and bladder. In your emotional life, the water element refers to hidden power and deep emotions.

Water holds hidden power. In the United States, the Colorado River is at places so shallow it is possible to wade across. But that same river has carved out a Grand Canyon that is over 1500 meters deep.

Water is the power that holds the mysteries of our lives. The kidneys house the essence called Jing, which holds the key not just to physical reproduction but also to parenthood in a spiritual sense. The body’s water element holds in the right place in the flow of life. We find our place in the flow of life by practicing stillness. When we aren’t still often enough, our lives float out of place, and our physical bodies generate the diseases associated with imbalances in the water element, such as kidney disease, bladder problems, diabetes, difficulties in having good sex, infertility, and diabetes.

At a deeper level, the water element allows us to create our lives, to manifest our dreams and insights. This power is called Zhi Wang. It is our water element that enables us to hold to our desires and achieve our goals, and it is also our connection to family and history.

Disease Caused by Imbalances of the Water Element

The Zhi Wang gives us our ability to project our will into the world, but the Jing gives us an inheritance from our ancestors. Both are functions of the water element. Just as what your grandfather and grandmother ate could have activated genes that were passed down to you, the Jing can endow you with your ancestors’ trauma. These traumas interfere with your ability to project your will and they cause diseases associated with the kidneys. As you overcome these physical diseases, you also overcome the emotional trauma that came to you on the streams of life, and vice versa. What we do echoes in our lives and in future generations, both through changes in our genes, and in the mysterious set of energies and experiences that make up the water element.

The Wood Element


The wood element is that set of physical and emotional energies, knowledge and spirit that enables adventure. The wood energy fuels adventure. Wood people are doers, usually to the point that other people regard them as pushy. They are organised. They are assertive. They get things done.

Wood is fed by water. Water is released by the force of metal, and gathered in pools by calm reflection. When “wood” people don’t spend enough time gathering their energies and making wise decisions, their energies burst out in anger and fire.

Traditional Chinese Medicine associates the wood element with the liver and gallbladder. It also associates “fiery” conditions with imbalances of the liver. Emotions that spill over into headaches and eye aches and breast pain all relate to imbalances of the liver, and treating with liver herbs and needling liver points, cures them.

Inverted Wood

“Wood” people often suffer anxiety, headaches, and outbursts of emotion when their natural need to be active and growing is thwarted. When people with this kind of temperament are faced with lifes difficulties and decide to “ride it out,” their bodies rebel. The problem is even worse if they don’t exercise. The wood energies have to be expressed of the liver’s natural flow, both physically and energetically becomes blocked.

At a deeper level, the wood element relates the ethereal soul, the Hun. A healthy Hun gives the individual power to act as needed. Action relieves emotional distress—and diseases of the physical liver. The Hun, or “liver mind,” gives the individual the ability to make accurate assessments of the situation. A wood person might naturally be the one to burst into a burning building to save a baby. The Hun gives that person the ability to look for the safest entry and exit; both hero and baby will escape the fire. Similarly, the Hun gives the wood person the ability to move around and away from emotional trauma, to live a life unencumbered by situations that cannot be changed.

The Fire Element

Every textbook of Traditional Chinese Medicine will tell you that the fire element is associated with the heart, pericardium, and small intestine, as well as the energy channel connecting them. What usually gets lost in translation is that the fire element, and the organs with which it is associated, are powered by fun.

Fire embodies movement, enjoyment, and play. “Fire” people aren’t angry people. They are naturally bubbly and spontaneous. But when they have difficulty accepting their spontaneous, playful nature, the fire element within them, they can feel shamed for being a dreamer or are told they are comedians not to be taken seriously, they can achieve healing through the realization that they can be the spark even if they aren’t the fire. They don’t have to achieve their dreams by themselves. They can be the inspiration.

The Heart As Mirror

But how can fire people be an inspiration to the world? Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches that the heart is a mirror, or more precisely, a reflecting pool. Fire people provide the reflecting pool through which other people understand themselves. However, fire people can also generate a ripple in the pool, so that other people can imagine themselves to be something new. The heart person’s joyful, playful, fun emotions create the healthy ripple that stirs the pool.

Just as the physical heart sends blood throughout the body, the spiritual heart can send joy throughout the universe. However, in some people, the heart is captured by trauma. Post-traumatic stress causes the reflecting pool of the heart to replay unhappy, unresolved traumatic memories over and over again. Water transmits shock, not joy. The energy heart is healed by making wise choices between allowing the pool to be stirred and seeking to achieve a calm, reflecting pool. When people stretch themselves to control the reflecting pool, they develop shen, the ability to reach out from their trauma to the good of themselves, their neighbors, and the world.

The Earth Element

The earth organs are the stomach and spleen. They provide “homeliness” for the spirit. They “hug” the rest of the energy body. They are the reason we have so many warm feelings associated with meals for special occasions and why we enjoy comfort food.

This emotional comfort is necessary for rationality. The Yi of the spleen organizes rational thought. Conversely, smoothly rational thinking tonifies the stomach and spleen. When we cease to be grounded, we lose touch with our emotional home and let our emotions overpower rationality, our stomach and spleen suffer. Worry, confusion, and a lack of direction lead to cravings for comforting foods, and nausea, indigestion, excessive appetite or deficient appetite, fatigue, and bowel problems.

Rumination Causes Imbalances in the Earth Element

Ruminants are animals like cows that chew their cud. They eat grass, chew it, send it to one stomach for digestion, up-chuck it for a little more chewing, send to a different stomach for digestion, and then chew it some more.

Rumination in human beings can be the process of questioning things that have already been decided. It can be a long process of second-guessing. And it can lead to imbalances of the stomach and spleen energies that lead to actual disease of the stomach and spleen. The cure for both physical and metaphysical problems of the stomach and spleen is always to re-establish the normal flow. Well-timed rational thought, in addition to acupuncture and herbs, will help resolve stomach problems.

The Metal Element

The metal organs are the lung and large intestine. Together they balance Yin and Yang. Centuries before theory of quantum entanglement, Traditional Chinese Medicine theorised that they also process tiny bits of rock and metals from the air, water, and food that link us with all that has gone before. Metal expands, and the metal organs expand our connections with the universe into our bodies and into the world.

All of this connecting with universe makes “metal” people emotionally sensitive. They get physically sick when they cannot let go of the connections they receive. The large intestine becomes constipated. The lungs become congested. People who are constantly starting over, never able to move on from what they have received from the universe, develop problems in their lungs and large intestine.

Curing Imbalances of the Metal Element

In modern terms, the lifestyle changes that help to resolve energy imbalances of the metal element that manifest themselves in the lungs and large intestine is setting boundaries. Setting emotional limits strengthens the energy called Po. And healing physical problems of the lungs and large intestine also strengthens the limiting energy called Po.

What the Five Elements Mean for You

The five elements are a metaphor. They are symbolic representations for five aspects of our spiritual and emotional lives.

The five elements are also mnemonic. They stand for physical functions that, in a mysterious way, tie into five aspects of our life choices and life experiences.

But the five elements also provide the music of our lives. As the sage Lao Zi said, “That the musical notes and tones become harmonious through the relation to another, before and behind gives the idea of following another.”

The five elements lead each other but they also follow each other. They  drive the cycles of human experience and human health. Keeping them in balance and in motion is the foundation of a healthy life.


He Huan Pi : Cortex Albiziae

He Huan Pi is a traditional Chinese herb prepared from the bark of the mimosa tree, Albizia julibrissin.  Although this tree is native to China and Korea, it is a favorite ornamental plant in the Southwestern United States because of its feathery red and pink flowers that bloom all summer. Also known as Albizia or Cortex Albizae, this herb is in the general category of “herbs that calm the spirit.” Traditional Chinese Medicine used He Huan Pi as a “sweet” herb to make emotions sweeter. It was said to release constrained emotions that cause bad temper, and to release pain and swelling in fractures and abscesses.

Described in the Shen Nong (The Divine Husbandman’s Guide to the Materia Medica) over 1800 years ago, He Huan Pi became known as the “Tree of Happiness” for people who suffered emotional pain.Modern practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine, as well as many conventionally trained doctors in China, most often include He Huan Pi in herbal prescriptions for insomnia.[1] It’s also used in herbal formulas for treating anxiety, memory loss, confusion, and depression. The American herbalist Michael Tierra goes so far as to describe He Huan PI as “herbal Prozac.” But surely there’s no scientific evidence that this herb has any functions analogous to its understanding in ancient herbal medicine—or is there?

He Huan Pi May Stop the Spread of Cancerous Tumors

He Huan Pi is a “Yin” herb. It helps the body restain and redirect fluids, tissues, and energies that might go astray. One of the things He Huan Pi might restrain and redirect is cancer.

Angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels, is an important step in the spread of cancer. Cancerous tumors have to build new capillaries to provide them nutrients and oxygen, as well as to form a path for cancer cells to travel to other locations in the body.  He Huan Pi, the whole herb, not just a single chemical found in the herb, stops angiogenesis in laboratory tests.[2] A single chemical found in the herb called julibroside J(21) kills cancer cells inside the tumor.[3]

He Huan Pi Is Mildly Sedative

Laboratory studies confirm that He Huan Pi causes mild sedation and sleepiness.[4] It’s the kind of herb that you might take when you wanted sleep without the grogginess the next morning or the risk of sleepwalking at night. The problem is that the combination of He Huan Pi and any of the following medications for insomnia might be too much: Ambien (zolpidem), Ativan (lorazepam), Klonipin (clorazepam), or Seconal (secobarbital). It’s probably also a good idea not to combine He Huan Pi with calamus, California poppy, hops, kava, or St. John’s wort.

He Huan Pi Fights Aging and Anxiety

Scientists In Hong Kong obtained lab rats with a metabolic condition similar to type 2 diabetes in humans .When they fed the animals small doses of He Huan Pi , they noticed that the rats did not lose their whiskers as they got older. They also noticed that the rats did not lose their ability to run through several different kinds of three-dimensional mazes to get food. When they killed the rats and examined their brains, they found that He Huan Pi had an antioxidant effect that protected against the kinds of protein tangles that occur in Alzheimer’s disease. And not surprisingly, given that a large part of what rats do with their lives is to hunt for food, the ability to find food in a three-dimensional maze greatly reduced signs of anxiety.[5]

A laboratory experiment with rats is never proof that an herb or medicine works in humans. However, we’ll never have experiments that put people in three-dimensional mazes to see if they can remember the path to lunch. And it’s utterly unethical and illegal to examine human brains in this kind of experiment. However, these experiments hint that He Huan Pi might have anti-aging effects in people, especially in people who have type 2 diabetes.

So is He Huan Pi something you need to track down at the natural products store? The truth is, no one needs to take an He Huan Pi supplement. But when it is given to you by a physician or an herbalist trained in Traditional Chinese medicine, you can be sure that it is safe and it is supportive of your good health.


[1] Chen FP, Jong MS, Chen YC, Kung YY, Chen TJ, Chen FJ, Hwang SJ. Prescriptions of Chinese Herbal Medicines for Insomnia in Taiwan during 2002. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:236341. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nep018. Epub 2010 Oct 20. PMID: 19339485.

[2] Cai W, Li Y, Yi Q, Xie F, Du B, Feng L, Qiu L. Total saponins from Albizia julibrissin inhibit vascular endothelial growth factor-mediated angiogenesis in vitro and in vivo. Mol Med Rep. 2015 May;11(5):3405-13. doi: 10.3892/mmr.2015.3228. Epub 2015 Jan 20. PMID: 25607254.

[3] Zou K, Zhao YY, Zhang RY. A cytotoxic saponin from Albizia julibrissin. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2006 Aug;54(8):1211-2. PMID: 16880673.

[4] Kang, T. H., Jeong, S. J., Kim, N. Y., Higuchi, R., and Kim, Y. C. Sedative activity of two flavonol glycosides isolated from the flowers of Albizzia julibrissin Durazz. J Ethnopharmacol 2000;71(1-2):321-323.

[5] Li R, Chan W, Mat W, Ho Y, Yeung RK, Tsang S, Xue H. Antiaging and Anxiolytic Effects of Combinatory Formulas Based on Four Medicinal Herbs. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:4624069. doi: 10.1155/2017/4624069. Epub 2017 Mar 28. PMID: 28458714.


The information and reference materials contained here are intended solely for the general information of the reader. It is not to be used for treatment purposes, but rather for discussion with the patient’s own physician. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of professional medical care.

Thanks and graduate for reading this blog if you would like to discuss your individual needs, please feel free to email info@roddsanchez.com.au or 02 8213 2888. 

Sydney Acupuncture & Sydney Chinese Herbal Medicine

Gan Cao – Licorice – Glycyrrhiza

Gan caoGan Cao – Licorice – Glycyrrhiza


Licorice / Gan Cao  in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Licorice is a common herbal tonic in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Appearing in hundreds of herbal formulas, this familiar root with the unforgettable taste comes in two forms:

Gan Cao (甘草), raw, unprocessed licorice root, and

Zhi Gan Cao (炙甘草), “honey-fried,” processed licorice root.

The distinction makes a difference in how the herbs work to support health.

Raw licorice, Gan Cao, has a “raw” effect on the movement of the mysterious energy called Chi. Raw licorice adds energy to the Spleen, which is a metaphor for the general digestive function.  When the digestive tract does not have the energy to complete the digestion of food, and is releasing undigested food through loose bowels, raw licorice gives it extra energy so that diarrhea stops. When the abdomen does not have the energy to hold its muscles in their normal relationship, raw licorice energizes them to stop spasms and pain. Raw licorice also detoxifies substances that take the body’s normal Chi. And it “guides” the energies of other herbs in a formula into their proper Chi channels.

Processed licorice, Zhi Gan Cao, is usually a “made to order” item in a Chinese herbal apothecary. It doesn’t sit around for months waiting to be sold. It’s cooked, usually in honey, for immediate use.

honey fried Gan cao

The process of “frying” the herb in honey enables Zhi Gan Cao to “harmonize” other energies, not just those of the digestive tract, but also those of the heart. Zhi Gan Cao might be added to a formula when one of the symptoms is a weak pulse, or low blood pressure. But it may also be added to a formula when one of the symptoms is melancholy, not having the “heart” to face a life situation.

It turns out that the traditional understanding of licorice in energy terms mirrors the modern scientific understanding of licorice in pharmaceutical terms.

Taking Too Much Licorice for Too Long Can Result in Hypertension and Hypokalemia

It’s well known from medical observation that taking using too much raw licorice (Gan Cao) per day or processed licorice (Zhi Gan Cao) in herbal teas can have two untoward effects. First of all, there can be high blood pressure, sometimes dangerously high blood pressure. This is the natural result of “energizing” the heart. Secondly, the body responds to licorice by lowering potassium levels. The resulting hypokalemia (low serum potassium) can result in a variety of heart-related problems, including ventricular tachycardia and in some cases ventricular fibrillation followed by cardiac arrest. Perturbations of potassium levels can cause weakness, swelling, and occasionally encephalopathy, swelling of the brain.

How much Gan Cao / licorice is too much?

  • If you don’t have an underlying health problem, it is generally dangerous to take more than 20 g of licorice per day in teas for more than six weeks. If you don’t have high blood pressure, you may develop it.[1]
  • The life-threatening manifestations of licorice poisoning occur only after consumption of vastly more licorice than any practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine would ever prescribe. There is a case report of a woman who recovered from brainstem swelling and muscle breakdown after taking licorice—but she was using a pound (about 450 grams) a day, not the 5 to 15 grams a day that would appear in a professionally prescribed herbal formula.[2] It’s important to remember that licorice is a “medicine,” not a food.
  • To be on the safe side, most authorities recommend that people who already have high blood pressure should not take more than 5 g of licorice per day in teas or herbal formulas. If you have high blood pressure, a professionally trained herbalist will notice, and will not prescribe you too much. But you do need to be able to remember how much licorice you have already had in any given day before you take more. If you have memory problems, leave licorice alone.[3]

What’s Gan Cao / Licorice Good For?

Don’t let the fact that licorice has to be taken in moderate amounts discourage you from using it with professional guidance to support good health. Here are some of the evidence-based applications of the herb:gan cao

  • Licorice extracts can relieve hot flashes associated with menopause. A clinical trial in Iran found that taking 1140 mg of licorice extract a day was more effective at reducing the duration of hot flashes than estrogen replacement therapy, but that estrogen replacement therapy was more effective than licorice for reducing the frequency and severity of hot flashes. Both products work, but they work in different ways.[4] Extract taken 1140 mg a day is usually a safe dose of licorice for women who don’t already have high blood pressure.
  • Licorice creams fight eczema. Both traditional herbal teas and skin creams that contain licorice will relieve itching and redness caused by eczema or atopic dermatitis, but there’s no dangerous of overdose if you use the cream. Clinical studies prove that the creams work. In one clinical trial, applying gel formulations containing 1% or 2% licorice root extract three times daily for 2 weeks seems to reduce erythema by 35% to 61%, edema by 57% to 84%, and itching by 44% to 73%. The stronger, 2% licorice cream works better than the 1% cream.[5]
  • Licorice teas relieve indigestion. Clinical testing in Germany has shown that various herbal teas that contain licorice and peppermint as their main ingredients relieve acid reflux, belching, flatulence, vomiting, and diarrhea. What’s important to remember is that these teas don’t contain just licorice. They also contain other herbs such as the previously mentioned peppermint, and caraway, lemon balm, or the oddly named clown’s mustard. [6]Use a commercial product that has already measured out these herbs for you. Take it after meals.
  • Using deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) as a mouthwash relieves the pain of canker sores fast. The kind of licorice you use for canker sores is neither Gan Cao or Zhi Gan Cao. It’s an extract of licorice that has removed the glycyrrhizin that can interfere with potassium balance. It’s safe to swallow the mouthwash as long as it is made with DGL, not any other form of licorice. A clinical trial in India found that DGL mouthwashes relieved canker sore pain in 75% of patients in just one day, and completely healed canker sores in 75% of patients in three days.[7]
  • Licorice creams can also lighten age spots, although you won’t find an effective product that contains just Applying a topical cream (Clariderm Clear, Stiefel Laboratories Inc., Guarulhos, SP, Brazil) containing licorice, emblica, and belides twice daily for 60 days is as effective as a cream containing 2% hydroquinone for lightening the skin in patients with age spots (melasma). The advantage of this herbal product over the more commonly used hydroquinone is that the herbs remove brown pigments without the side effect (usually on people with golden skin tones) of adding blue pigment.[8]

Licorice / Gan Cao in Herbal Products Best Used Under a Doctor’s Supervision

There are also specialized uses of licorice with other herbs that get remarkable results, but you can only get these products from your doctor.

  • Stabilizing hepatitis C. Stronger Minophagen C is a prescription formulation of glycyrrhizin extracted from licorice that stops liver damage caused by hepatitis C long enough to stabilize patients so they can receive other treatments. It has to be given by IV, but it reduces mortality from hepatitis C by about 50%.[9] Used long-term, it also reduces the risk of liver cancer in people who have active hepatitis C.[10]
  • Lowering cholesterol. A preliminary clinical trial found that taking 100 mg of licorice extract every day for a month one month reduced plasma total cholesterol levels by 5%, plasma low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels by 9%, and plasma triglyceride levels by 14% compared with baseline in patients with moderately high cholesterol.[11] You could try this on your own, but don’t use any licorice product for high cholesterol for more than one month at a time, and keep your consumption of extract limited to 100 mg a day.

There are even more exciting applications of licorice in combination with other herbs that you would get through a medically trained doctor of both western and Traditional Chinese Medicine. The licorice based formula sho-saiko-to has clinically proven efficacy against hepatitis B, although it absolutely, positively must not be given to people who have had interferon treatment.  Licorice and Peony Decoction can affect not just how women lactate, but also how they relate to their babies. Dozens of formulas that contain licorice can be useful in treating inflammatory bowel disease, peptic and duodenal ulcers, and irritable bowel syndrome.

But don’t attempt to use complex formulas entirely on your own. See a specialist trained in herbal medicine. Take advantage of the best professional health to get the best results of licorice in its many forms for supporting your good health.

[1] Sigurjonsdottir HA, Ragnarsson J, Franzson L, Sigurdsson G. Is blood pressure commonly raised by moderate consumption of liquorice? J Hum Hypertens 1995;9:345-8.

[2] Chatterjee, N., Domoto-Reilly, K., Fecci, P. E., Schwamm, L. H., and Singhal, A. B. Licorice-associated reversible cerebral vasoconstriction with PRES. Neurology 2010;75(21):1939-1941.

[3] Janse A, van Iersel M, Hoefnagels WH, Olde Rikker MG. The old lady who liked liquorice: hypertension due to chronic intoxication in a memory-impaired patient. Neth J Med 2005;63:149-50.

[4] Menati L, Khaleghinezhad K, Tadayon M, Siahpoosh A. Evaluation of contextual and demographic factors on licorice effects on reducing hot flashes in postmenopause women.Health Care Women Int. 2014 Jan;35(1):87-99. doi: 10.1080/07399332.2013.770001. Epub 2013 May 10. PMID: 23663094.

[5] Saeedi, M., Morteza-Semnani, K., and Ghoreishi, M. R. The treatment of atopic dermatitis with licorice gel. J Dermatolog Treat 2003;14(3):153-157.

[6] Madisch A, Holtmann G, Mayr G, et al. Treatment of functional dyspepsia with a herbal preparation. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial. Digestion 2004;69:45-52.

[7] Das SK, Das V, Gulati AK, and et al. Deglycyrrhizinated liquorice in aphthous ulcers. J Assoc Physicians India 1989;37(10):647.

[8] Costa, A., Moises, T. A., Cordero, T., Alves, C. R., and Marmirori, J. Association of emblica, licorice and belides as an alternative to hydroquinone in the clinical treatment of melasma. An Bras Dermatol 2010;85(5):613-620.

[9] Acharya SK, Dasarathy S, Tandon A, et al. A preliminary open trial on interferon stimulator (SNMC) derived from Glycyrrhiza glabra in the treatment of subacute hepatic failure. Indian J Med Res 1993;98:69-74.

[10] Arase, Y., Ikeda, K., Murashima, N., Chayama, K., Tsubota, A., Koida, I., Suzuki, Y., Saitoh, S., Kobayashi, M., and Kumada, H. The long term efficacy of glycyrrhizin in chronic hepatitis C patients. Cancer 1997;79(8):1494-1500.

[11] Fuhrman, B., Volkova, N., Kaplan, M., Presser, D., Attias, J., Hayek, T., and Aviram, M. Antiatherosclerotic effects of licorice extract supplementation on hypercholesterolemic patients: increased resistance of LDL to atherogenic modifications, reduced plasma lipid levels, and decreased systolic blood pressure. Nutrition 2002;18(3):268-273.



The information and reference materials contained here are intended solely for the general information of the reader. It is not to be used for treatment purposes, but rather for discussion with the patient’s own physician. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of professional medical care.

Thanks and graduate for reading this blog if you would like to discuss your individual needs, please feel free to email info@roddsanchez.com.au or 02 8213 2888. 

Sydney Acupuncture & Sydney Chinese Herbal Medicine

Dang Gui – Angelica Sinensis

Dang Gui – Angelica Sinensisdang gui

Some people speak of the traditional Chinese herb Dang Gui (Dong quai) as if it had mystical properties. And in Traditional Chinese Medicine, it does.

Dang Gui, which is the root of a plant known to botanists as Angelica sinensis, was considered in traditional herbal medicine to be a Yin herb. It helps the body contain energies that otherwise would be misdirected. As a treatment for hot flashes, for example, it helps the body channel the energy that otherwise would be used to generate unwanted heat. As a “sweet” herb, it adds a measure of sweetness to emotions and the experience of life. As an “acrid” herb, it wakes up the senses, but in a way that enlightens rather than upsets. And as a warming herb, it helps energies and blood move up in body when they naturally sag down. It redirects the vital energy known as Qi and blood flow back to the heart and brain and away from frivolous uses in the torso.

The legendary applications of Dang Gui have corresponding actions in modern medicine, but how would a pharmacologist look at the herb?

Dang Gui Modifies the Body’s Use of Estrogen

Dang Gui isn’t really a “plant estrogen.” There are plants that make actual estrogen, but Dang Gui is not one of them. Instead, this herb is more “estrogenic” than “estrogen.” The ferulic acid in estrogen occupies some of the same receptor sites as estrogen on the outer membranes of cells in the breast and uterus. It activates these cells in the same way as estrogen, even when there isn’t actual estrogen in circulation.[1] However, it can also activate cells in the breast and uterus that don’t have estrogen receptors.[2] In this way, the ferulic acid in Dang Gui is a kind of “super estrogen” that counteracts some of the effects of menopause. This property also means, however, that it should not be used by women who have breast or uterine cancer, whether or not their cancers are estrogen-receptor positive.

Dang Gui Has a Unique Effect on the Immune System

There are complex sugars (polysaccharides) in Dang Gui that modulate the immune system without necessarily stimulating or suppressing it. These polysaccharides fit into different kinds of receptor sites on white blood cells to activate them to fight infection. This effect occurs specifically in T cells. It’s known to occur when dong quai is brewed into a hot-water tea.[3]

However, Dang Gui also contains compounds that keep specialized mast cells from breaking open to release histamine. In this way one compound in Dang Gui  activates the immune system to fight infection, but another compound in Dang Gui stops allergies.[4]

Dang Gui Relaxes Breathingdang gui 2

About 1-1/2% of the total weight of dong quai is a compound called ligustilide. This chemical relaxes the smooth muscles around the bronchial passages.[5] It relieves asthma, although this makes dong quai an herb you don’t want to take if you have COPD.

Modern Science Confirms Dang Gui’s Use as a “Detoxifier”

Traditional Chinese Medicine uses Dang Gui in tonics to “purify” the blood. What actually happens is that complex carbohydrates, the previously mentioned polysaccharides, lock on to receptor sites on a set of white blood cells known as macrophages. These are large white blood cells that can surround and “eat” germs. They patrol the body looking for bacteria and other microorganisms. Dang Gui polysaccharides stimulate them to patrol more of the body to look in more places for germs.[6]

Dang Gui also plays a role In “liver tonics.” Some plant chemicals in the herb activate the Kuppfer cells, which are the liver’s immune system.[7] Other plant chemicals in the herb prevent the process of apoptosis, also known as cell suicide, when liver tissue is exposed to toxins. They keep the liver alive even when it’s been shocked by exposure to a poison. It’s the whole herb, not a chemical extract, that has this protective effective on the liver, and it’s the whole herb soaked in beverage alcohol (wine in Traditional Chinese Medicine) that helps the liver recover after toxic exposure.[8]

Dang Gui Has Anti-Ulcer Effects

One of the modern uses of Dang Gui formulas in China is the treatment of ulcerative colitis. The herb doesn’t stop the process of ulcer formation, but it accelerates tissue repair.[9] This is a benefit that would be noticed after taking an herbal tea.

Dang Gui Is Helpful for Some Men, Too

Traditional Korean herbal remedies for premature ejaculation usually focus on dang gui. It contains phytochemicals that raise the “vibratory threshold” for ejaculation, so that sex has to last longer and has to be more vigorous for the man to climax.[10]

The Best Known Use of Dang Gui Is In an Herbal Formula

Clinical researchers in universities as far apart as China and Texas have done extensive studies of a traditional formula that combines dong quai with other ingredients, especially white peony root. This Dang Gui and Peony Decoction, also known as Dang Gui Shao Yao San, or Toki-shakuyaku-san (TJ-23) in Japan, or Dangguijakyak-san (DJS) in Korea, or Tang-Kuei and Peony in most English-speaking countries, is showing considerable promise as a treatment for Alzheimer’s.

Researchers at the University of Texas noticed that when they gave elderly women this formula for hormone-related problems, they became mentally sharper and their memories improved. This led to a series of clinical trials all over the world involving both men and women to see if the formula could be a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.[11]

Japanese clinical trials have found that Dang Gui  and Peony Decoction can be used to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment caused by multiple-infarct dementia.[12] It may also prevent dementia and memory loss In Parkinson’s disease.[13]

And this formula may stop the Alzheimer’s-like complications of “type 3” diabetes. Dang Gui and Peony Decoction counteracts the effects of harmful free radicals, like those that are released when blood sugar levels are too high. [14]

The benefits of Dang Gui for the brain are not obtained from the use of Dang Gui by itself. It has to be combined with the other herbs of the traditional Chinese formula. These herbs act synergistically with Dang Gui for the formula’s combined effects.[15] But this profound effect of an unpatented, ancient, traditional herbal medicine may provide more benefits for Alzheimer’s patients that any other pharmaceutical treatments.

Dang Gui Isn’t a Miracle Herb, But…

angelica sinensis dang gui

Dang Gui is an especially useful herb, but that doesn’t mean it’s a cure-all. It’s very useful for treating women’s problems that are caused by a lack of estrogen. It can be very helpful for men who are concerned about premature ejaculation. And it’s a possible wonder-drug for preventing Alzheimer’s and the dementia that follows tiny blood clots in the brain.

Just don’t give up on traditional medicine to use Dang Gui. All herbs are best used with the best medicines your doctor can prescribe. Herbs don’t replace medicine. Be honest and open with an honest and open-minded doctor to get the best results from using Dang Gui or any other herb.


[1] Eagon PK, Elm MS, Hunter DS, et al. Medicinal herbs: modulation of estrogen action. Era of Hope Mtg, Dept Defense; Breast Cancer Res Prog, Atlanta, GA 2000;Jun 8-11.

[2] Lau CBS, Ho TCY, Chan TWL, Kim SCF. Use of dong quai (Angelica sinensis) to treat peri- and postmenopausal symptoms in women with breast cancer: is it appropriate? Menopause 2005;12:734-40.

[3] Kumazawa, Y., Nakatsuru, Y., Fujisawa, H., Nishimura, C., Mizunoe, K., Otsuka, Y., and Nomoto, K. Lymphocyte activation by a polysaccharide fraction separated from hot water extracts of Angelica acutiloba Kitagawa. J Pharmacobiodyn. 1985;8(6):417-424.

[4] Wei-An Mao, Yuan-Yuan Sun, Jing-Yi Mao, et al. Inhibitory Effects of Angelica Polysaccharide on Activation of Mast Cells. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2016;2016:6063475 doi:10.1155/2016/6063475.

[5] Zhao KJ, Dong TT, Tu PF, et al. Molecular genetic and chemical assessment of radix Angelica (Danggui) in China. J Agric Food Chem 2003;51:2576-83.

[6] Wang, Y. and Zhu, B. [The effect of angelica polysaccharide on proliferation and differentiation of hematopoietic progenitor cell]. Zhonghua Yi Xue.Za Zhi 1996;76(5):363-366.

[7] Wang J, Xia XY, Peng RX, Chen X. [Activation of the immunologic function of rat Kupffer cells by the polysaccharides of Angelica sinensis]. Yao Xue Xue Bao. 2004 Mar;39(3):168-71. Chinese.

PMID: 15171648.

[8] Niu C, Wang J, Ji L, Wang Z. Protection of Angelica sinensis (Oliv) Diels against hepatotoxicity induced by Dioscorea bulbifera L. and its mechanism. Biosci Trends. 2014 Oct;8(5):253-9. PMID: 25382441.

[9] 48430 Cho, C. H., Mei, Q. B., Shang, P., Lee, S. S., So, H. L., Guo, X., and Li, Y. Study of the gastrointestinal protective effects of polysaccharides from Angelica sinensis in rats. Planta Med 2000;66(4):348-351.

[10] Choi HK, Jung GW, Moon KH, et al. Clinical study of SS-Cream in patients with lifelong premature ejaculation. Urology 2000;55:257-61.

[11] Fu X, Wang Q, Wang Z, Kuang H, Jiang P. Danggui-Shaoyao-San: New Hope for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Aging Dis. 2015 Dec 20;7(4):502-13. doi: 10.14336/AD.2015.1220. eCollection 2016 Aug. Review.

PMID: 27493835.

[12] Kitabayashi Y, Shibata K, Nakamae T, Narumoto J, Fukui K (2007). Effect of traditional Japanese herbal medicine toki-shakuyakusan for mild cognitive impairment: SPECT study. Psychiatry Clin Neurosci, 61: 447-448.

[13] Matsuoka T, Narumoto J, Shibata K, Okamura A, Taniguchi S, Kitabayashi Y, et al. (2012). Effect of toki-shakuyaku-san on regional cerebral blood flow in patients with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, 2012:245091.

[14] Fu X, Wang Q, Wang Z, Kuang H, Jiang P. Danggui-Shaoyao-San: New Hope for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Aging Dis. 2015 Dec 20;7(4):502-13. doi: 10.14336/AD.2015.1220. eCollection 2016 Aug. Review.

PMID: 27493835.

[15] Yang WJ, Li DP, Li JK, Li MH, Chen YL, Zhang PZ. Synergistic antioxidant activities of eight traditional Chinese herb pairs. Biol Pharm Bull. 2009 Jun;32(6):1021-6. PMID: 19483308.



The information and reference materials contained here are intended solely for the general information of the reader. It is not to be used for treatment purposes, but rather for discussion with the patient’s own physician. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of professional medical care.

Thanks and graduate for reading this blog if you would like to discuss your individual needs, please feel free to email info@roddsanchez.com.au or 02 8213 2888. 

Sydney Acupuncture & Sydney Chinese Herbal Medicine

Six Stages to effective Hamstring Rehabilitation

6 Stages to Effective Hamstring Rehabilitation

hamstring 1

Rian Kenny Chiro, wanted to present his thoughts at a more in depth look at one of the more common presentations at the clinic, Hamstring Strains!

From a slight strain or a ‘twinge’ to a more serious grade ‘tear’ it is unfortunately an injury that often reoccurs especially if a thorough rehabilitation program is not completed.


A systematic review performed in the UK and published in the 2009 Strength and Conditioning Journal 31(1) concluded; there are 6 key steps or stages that need to be addressed in order to properly rehabilitate and reduce the chance of reoccurrence.

hamstring 3

1. Initial Treatment

The general RICER protocol should be followed during the first 48 hours of any acute soft tissue injury. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation and Referral (To a qualified professional)

2. Restoring Range of Motion

A stretching protocol involving a minimum of 4 stretching session each day using a combination of 3-4 stretches held for 30-45 seconds each. It was suggested that the early increase in range of motion is essential in reducing scar tissue formation.

3. Initial Strengthening

Along with stage 2, Resistance training (very light to no resistance) is introduced incorporating use of available range of motion. Exercises such as Deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts and light leg curls will target the hamstring group.

4. Slow Eccentric Strengthening

Eccentric movement is defined as a muscle lengthening under a load, for example during a squat going from a standing position to squat position is eccentrically utilising muscles and from squat to stand is a concentric action. It has been shown that eccentric action is essential for muscular hypertrophy (cell size) and hyperplasia (cell number). So this stage requires introduction of slow lowering exercises such as Deadlifts, Nordic Hamstring Lowers, back extensions and lunges, with most focus on the lengthening or eccentric phase of the exercises.

5. High Speed Eccentric

As above but introducing more plyometric (jumping) based exercises and sports specific drills at greater speeds, for example; split jumps, depth jumps from a bench and other bounding drills.

6. Sports Specific

The last phase of a full rehabilitation program involves taking the athlete from straight line activities to dynamic change of direction tasks with different surfaces and body positions e.g. single leg bounding, acceleration drills, zig-zag running and hopping activities.

It is essential each phase is carefully monitored to avoid aggravation of the condition. If you have been struggling with a hamstring injury and finding it a frustrating recovery come and have a chat with one of the team..hamstring 2

Book with Rian Here






The information and reference materials contained here are intended solely for the general information of the reader. It is not to be used for treatment purposes, but rather for discussion with the patient’s own physician. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of professional medical care.

Thanks and graduate for reading this blog if you would like to discuss your individual needs, please feel free to email info@roddsanchez.com.au or 02 8213 2888.