Integrative (Blended) Medicine

Integrative medicine blends the best of conventional with the best of alternative medicine

Need to lose weight? Black Pepper Helps Block Fat


Love black pepper?  Give the grinder another twist and enjoy! 


Ancient peoples used black pepper as medicine to treat a host of problems including pain and inflammation. Now researchers using computer models and lab tests have shown that the spicy black flakes also play a role in weight management and preventing obesity.


The new study, published in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, reports the two key factors that enable black pepper to block fat are black pepper extract and piperine.


Both inhibit fat cell development but, even better, researchers say they may also fight fat in other ways that we haven’t identified yet.


What they do know now is that piperine and black pepper extracts appear to trigger a chain reaction of events that might be comparable to posting a diet policeman on patrol in the body to make sure new fat cells do not develop.


It would be nice if we could report that means that all we have to do to lose weight or keep weight under control is simply to eat more black pepper. But that’s not the answer. All we do know now is that this study opens the door to a new and very promising line of research that may help us combat the obesity epidemic.


For those who would like to read the complete study, see:   Piperine, a Component of Black Pepper, Inhibits Adipogenesis by Antagonizing PPARy Activity in 3T3-L1 Cells


© 2012, all rights reserved

More good news about Tai Chi

It seems there’s a new report almost every day telling about another new reason why tai chi helps people feel better.  One that I just came across in a health journal described a study that was actually published last year in the Archives of Internal Medicine medical journal.


Doctors recommend exercise for people with chronic heart failure but they know how difficult it is for people with chronic heart failure to exercise. The goal of this study was to find out whether tai chi would be a safe and beneficial form of exercise for these patients, instead of putting them through the standard exercise program.


Researchers followed 100 people with heart failure as half participated in heart health classes twice a week while the others went were in tai chi exercise programs twice a week. 


After 12 weeks, they saw both groups had improved exercise capacity, which showed tai chi worked as well as the conventional program. But, even better, the tai chi group gained bonus benefits such as better quality of life, improved mood, and feeling more confident about their ability to exercise.


If you’d like to read the study, see: Tai Chi Exercise in Patients with Chronic Heart Failure.


© 2012, all rights reserved

Coming Back to Life…

As the old Big Bands song said, It’s been a long, long time…  But now, at last, Alternative Medicine For You is coming back to life.


To help start the ball rolling, this blog will be participating for the first time ever in the annual WordCount Blogathon (learn more here: The 2012 WordCount Blogathon), starting May 1, 2012.


Tomorrow, you’ll see a report on a September 2011 study on the effectiveness of saw palmetto, a popular herb that many men use to relieve the problem symptoms of enlarged prostate.

During this month, other topics we’ll cover include:

  • Acupuncture for migraine pain


  • Cancer five-year survival rates dramatically higher for cancer survivors treated with integrative medicine


  • Medicinal food research news including olive juice for antioxidants, chili pepper for cholesterol reduction, prunes for osteoporosis


  • Verdict on vitamin E: to take or not to take, that is the question


  • Resveratrol related compound in red wine and grapes wine fights fat


There’s so much news to share, so many important developments in alternative medicine to report, so many good sites to link… it’s going to be a great month!


Stay tuned … and stay healthy!


© 2012, all rights reserved

Heart Flutter Help

One of the health issues I’m interested in is atrial fibrillation, a condition that causes the upper chambers (atria) of the heart to beat irregularly. The normal rhythm of the top parts of their hearts turn into more of a quiver, or fibrillation, than heartbeat. That’s bad because when the heart doesn’t beat in normal rhythm, it can’t pump blood through the body the way it’s supposed to, which may leave people feeling woozy or out of breath.


Brief episodes. or “palpitations,” may be blamed on stress or too much caffeine and might be harmless.

But for more than two million people, atrial fibrillation is serious and needs medical evaluation and care which may include prescription medications or other treatments.

There’s a wealth of information online about this condition and the medications and treatment options that are available to help people with atrial fibrillation, but I haven’t seen credible information about natural approaches until I came across a question-and-answer column titled Alternatives for Atrial Fibrillation? by Andrew Weil, MD.

For those who don’t already know that name, Dr. Weil is a medical doctor and integrative medicine (blending of conventional, or Western, medicine with alternative, or holistic, natural, or Eastern, medicine) expert and is the founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine.

(Disclosure:  I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Weil several years ago when one of his new natural health books was released.)

In his column, Dr. Weil suggests steps people can try – in addition to taking medications prescribed by their physicians – that may have a positive effect on atrial fibrillation and overall heart health. 

If you’re interested in this condition or in heart health, this column is worth reading.

© 2011, all rights reserved

Study explores benefits of Tai Chi

Studies exploring the benefits of Tai Chi show this form of alternative medicine helps reduce stress, anxiety, depression and mood disorders and also helps raise self-esteem.

Although Tai chi   is fairly new here in the US,  the popularity of this mind-body exercise is growing.  Tai chi is an ancient martial art that has been practiced in China for centuries.  From an alternative medicine point of view, Tai chi is a low-impact therapy to improve health and fitness that includes deep breathing and  “moving meditation.”  Many Tai chi studies been done and published.

A team of researchers led by Chenchen Wang, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Tufts Medical Center, Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts, selected 40 Tai Chi studies involving 3,817 subjects (people participating in the studies) from English and Chinese databases for analysis.

Of the 40 selected studies for review, 17 were randomized controlled trials. The rest were less rigorous and the researchers say most of the studies lacked these important key elements:

  • rigorous (strictly accurate) research 
  • prospective research (a "prospective" study is one that follows the same group of people over time)
  • well controlled study (a controlled study compares the treatment that is being tested to a known treatment – for example, if the study looked at depression, it might compare the test treatment, Tai Chi, to a known treatment such as a leading antidepressant prescription drug)
  • randomized (participants are randomly selected, which means that to make the comparison as fair as possible, people who participate in the study are assigned at random to be in the group that tries the test treatment or the group that tries a known treatment)
  • used validated measurements of outcome (showed their results using tried-and-true methods that could be confirmed by others)

Bottom line 

So what’s the bottom line? 

At this point, we know Tai chi is a very promising therapy that could open the door to new ways to improve both physical and psychological health –  including treating chronic conditions – but before we can say exactly how it helps, what conditions it helps or what it is best for, we need more detailed research.

The study by Dr. Wang’s team was published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, an open access journal of original peer-reviewed research articles. If you’re a fan of alternative medicine research and want to keep up on the latest research, bookmark this journal.

Want to read the details of this study?  You’ll find it online here:

Tai Chi on psychological well-being: systematic review and meta-analysis, Chenchen Wang, Raveendhara Bannuru, Judith Ramel, Bruce Kupelnick, Tammy Scott, Christopher H Schmid
BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2010, 10:23 (21 May 2010)

If you’re interested in the fascinating history of Tai chi and its many applications, click this link go to the  Tai chi chuan page on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia online.




(c) 2010, all rights reserved.

Who uses Alternative Medicine? Some answers from a University of Michigan Health System Study


Ever wonder who is using alternative medicine?  A new study from researchers at the University of Michigan Health System, found that a third of people who have chronic pain seek relief from complementary and alternative medicine therapies such as acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic, and physical therapy.

In fact, a U-M news release about the study says: “Chronic pain has been found to double the odds of seeking alternative services.”

Race and age also played a role. The U-M study showed that elderly people and whites used AltMed more than younger people or blacks and AltMed users have higher levels of education and income.

The income part of that finding makes sense when you think about how much herbs, supplements, a nutritious diet, and treatments such as acupuncture and chiropractic can cost if they’re not covered by health insurance. 

As evidence from scientific studies supporting the use of alternative therapies grows, coverage may improve and cost may become a less important factor in deciding whether AltMed is right for you.

The U-M study was published in Vol. 11, No.1, of  the January 2010 journal Pain Medicine.

To read the U-M news release about the study, click on this link:

  U-M study: Alternative medicine use for pain increases with age and wealth

To read another News report about the study from Alternative Therapies in Health And Medicine – A Peer-Reviewed Journal, click this link: 

Study: Use of Alternative Therapy for Pain Treatment Increases With Age and Wealth

(c) 2010, all rights reserved.