At last—forget expensive creams and painful surgeries!
I recently saw a headline about a new study that was quite notable for its findings, but presented some very skewed views about how things really work in the human body.
The headline said that two of my favorite botanicals, ashwagandha and ginseng, were “found to mimic off-label anti-aging effects of two drugs”—metformin and rapamycin.
So how is this incorrect? Let me count the ways, and then I’ll tell you more about the study.
Three reasons why botanicals are superior “anti-aging” alternatives to drugs
First, botanical remedies don’t mimic the effects of drugs. It’s the other way around. Drugs typically attempt to mimic the effects of botanicals.
After all, the human body and physiology developed in a terrestrial environment surrounded by plants—which provide food, nutrients, and medicines. As a result, the whole human cellular system is “wired” to respond to phytonutrients from plants. So the best drugs work when they “mimic” the effects of botanicals—especially in the increasingly rare cases when drugs are effective and safe.
Second, “off-label” effects are meant to indicate all of the other activities that a drug has, beyond the single purpose for which it was approved by the FDA.
It’s important to note that there are always off-label effects for everything.
As my pharmacology professors (who remembered the origins of drugs from botanical remedies) taught, “Any drug can have any effect.” When those effects are negative, they’re called side effects. When they’re positive, they’re called “off-label” effects.
The same is true for plants. If one kind of human cell responds to a botanical (or drug), other cells can also respond in other ways. All of the cells in the body come from the same basic DNA, and develop in specialized ways to perform their specific roles—but still share many common functionalities.
What “anti-aging” really means
The third reason I took umbrage with the study headline is better stated as a question: What exactly are the “anti-aging” effects found in these botanical remedies that supposedly mimic metformin and rapamycin?
Usually when we hear about “anti-aging,” it’s to tout some novel product or ingredient without any real science behind it. That’s why I prefer to focus on “healthy aging” instead, which simply means staving off various chronic conditions that become more common as we age.
I always say the most basic measure of the success of any treatment is to reduce mortality, which in turn, means increasing longevity. After all, what better “anti-aging” effect is there than to live longer?
I’ve developed entire in-depth protocols around these natural disease-fighting approaches for cancer (my Authentic Anti-Cancer Protocol), heart disease (my Heart Attack Prevention & Repair Protocol), and diabetes (my Integrative Protocol for Defeating Diabetes). For more information on these online learning tools, visit learning.omnivistahealth.com or call 1-866-747-9421.
Not to mention the fact that I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a brand new protocol devoted entirely to natural approaches specifically for extending longevity—and living a longer, healthier life. (I’ll be sure to let you know as soon as it’s ready. Stay tuned to my Daily Dispatch e-letter for the latest updates.)
How certain drugs mimic botanicals’ longevity effects
Now that we know the correct order of the story at hand, there are two drugs that have “anti-aging” effects due to their ability to mimic the healthy effects of botanicals.
It’s no surprise that one of these drugs is metformin. I often report on research showing how this diabetes drug can also help prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and cardiovascular disease (along with reducing blood sugar and the complications of diabetes in the eyes, heart, kidneys, and peripheral nerves).
Metformin is originally derived from a European folk remedy called French lilac (or goat’s rue)—and that’s the reason it’s such a safe and effective “drug,” with all of its “off-label” benefits.
The new computer modeling study I mentioned earlier looked at the genetic-level actions of metformin (and the second drug, rapamycin) when used in an “off-label, anti-aging scenario,” as the researchers described it.1 (Rapamcyin is used to help prevent organ rejection in patients who have transplants, especially kidney transplants.)
The study looked specifically at what is called the mTOR pathway in the human body. This cell-signaling network is important for cellular growth and proliferation, but can cause problems in later life. If the mTOR pathway isn’t suppressed after the period of growth and development during youth, it can contribute to cellular disease and decline.
In other words, this cell pathway that is responsible for youthful vigor actually has the opposite effect later in life. Meaning that anti-aging talk about restoring “youthful” functions to your cells is often nothing more than dangerous hype. For many cells, those youthful functions are exactly what they don’t need as they get older.
Why ashwagandha and ginger promote healthy aging
When the scientists screened substances for their ability to suppress mTOR, they found that metformin and rapamcyin were effective. But so were withaferin A from ashwagandha, and ginsenoside from ginger.
Ashwagandha (which literally means “mare sweat,” from the aroma of the whole root) is an Ayurvedic remedy that’s also known as winter cherry. Ginger is a common spice from the Zingiber family, which also includes turmeric (curcumin).
I have long recommended ashwagandha as one of my three ABCs for joint health (along with boswellia and curcumin). And ginger is increasingly being studied for its gastrointestinal benefits and ability to lower blood sugar.
Other top mTOR-suppressing compounds in the study included allantoin (a healthy ingredient found in comfrey, beets, turnips, tea, coffee, and wheat) and apigenin (an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredient found in chamomile, celery, and many other plants).
Of course, the real purpose of this research was to find botanical ingredients that “mimic” older drugs, so they can then be developed as expensive new, patented drugs.
But as you can now see, the researchers had it all backwards. Stick with natural botanical remedies and ingredients, and you won’t need to rely on “anti-aging”—or any other—drugs.
As for a daily healthy aging regimen, I recommend supplementing with 400 to 500 mg of ashwagandha daily. As for ginger, be sure to keep raw ginger root in your fridge to add some tang to your cooking—I prefer to use it when cooking Asian dishes or as a garnish with fish, meat, or vegetables. Another one of my favorite ways to use raw ginger is to incorporate it into herbal teas with some honey and lemon. If you’d prefer a supplement instead, I recommend up to 2,000 mg daily of ginger root. You can easily find these botanical remedies in your local pharmacy, grocery store, or health supplement retailer.
1“Towards natural mimetics of metformin and rapamycin.” Aging (Albany NY). 2017 Nov 15;9(11):2245-2268.