Hi, Chris Wood here. I find it pretty amazing whenever I see ancient medicines being rediscovered by modern science. That means even though folks back then didn’t yet have our modern technology and knowledge, they did have the wisdom to know what worked.
Today, my colleague Patrick Cox will talk about two natural compounds that are now entering the sphere of life-extension research and whose efficacy is being optimized in labs. Enjoy reading!
Editor, A Rich Life
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Anti-Aging News from Ancient India
By Patrick Cox, Chief Science Officer
In the last century, scientists uncovered a number of dietary supplements that are essential for our health. Vitamin D, for example, was first manufactured in 1923.
Granted, it’s often hard to filter through the junk science and marketing hype. But cutting-edge research continues to reveal important nutritional pathways.
Ironically, scientists have found some of the most promising bases for highly effective anti-aging supplements in ancient medical practices, sometimes referred to as ethnomedicine.
While it may seem odd that modern science would take folk medicine seriously, there are many precedents:
- The traditional use of Cinchona bark led to quinine.
- Healers used molds with antibiotic properties to cure infection long before penicillin was discovered.
- The careful use of the herb foxglove, which is fatal in high doses, led to digitalis, a drug commonly used to restore adequate circulation in patients with congestive heart failure.
- Willow bark’s analgesic properties led to aspirin.
Important cancer drugs, laxatives, and painkillers have also come out of traditional folk remedies.
Aware of this history, sellers of nutraceuticals (naturally occurring compounds) offer a vast catalogue of supplements. Some are very effective. Most are overhyped by exaggerated or false claims of their benefits. Some are downright dangerous.
It’s impossible to keep up with all the claims manufacturers make about nutraceuticals. And you can’t rely on the accuracy of isolated peer-reviewed journal articles.
Here’s what I do instead: I watch what established research groups are doing. If an independent, respected institution with significant scientific resources and history takes a supplement seriously, I do too.
- That’s why I’m interested in (and experimenting with) curcumin and Bacopa monnieri.
Curcumin is part of the ginger family and widely used in traditional Indian or Ayurvedic medicine. It’s well known, and lots of people take powdered turmeric, the most concentrated natural source of the molecule.
I’ve always been skeptical about the molecule because positive results in cell and animal studies have not translated into benefits in human trials. Moreover, curcumin may interact with other drugs.
This may be due to problems with bioavailability, the degree to which a compound impacts a medical target. The human digestive system quickly breaks down curcumin, so scientists are working to improve its bioavailability.
The most interesting effort has come from the prestigious Salk Institute.
Several years ago, I wrote about J147, an analog or slightly altered version of the curcumin molecule that demonstrated partial age reversal in animal studies.
The Salk scientists were astonished to find that the curcumin-related compound actually rejuvenated animals. The results certainly warranted human trials, but J147 seemed to disappear until a human clinical trial for Alzheimer’s was announced in February.
Naturally, this has led to work by many others to improve the bioavailability of curcumin. Many of those products are already on the market, and I’m watching several others.
Another candidate, also with ancient Ayurvedic roots, is Bacopa monnieri. Traditionally, Indians used this herbal medicine for general disease prevention and longevity, but they also knew it to have nootropic (memory and cognition-enhancing) properties.
Nevertheless, we know that a lot of papers are based on sloppy or even fraudulent research. So I didn’t take Bacopa seriously until a leading neurological research group, the Roskamp Institute, did.
This June, the institute announced clinical trials for memory enhancement. Once again, bioavailability may be the issue. Fortunately, so far Bacopa appears to be relatively non-toxic. I’ve experimented with the powdered natural version because it’s easy to adjust dosage. I found that it tastes like mild, unsweetened chocolate.
I can’t tell you if Bacopa monnieri is effective—there are simply too many variables at this point. But if it can give me a mental edge, I want it, because the next few years are going to be critical.
I suggest you do what I do and closely watch the Roskamp Institute’s clinical trial.