19 Highly Alkaline Foods That Will Benefit Your Body

Is your diet “acidic” or “alkaline”?

And why should you even care?

As you know, the foods you eat have a powerful impact on your health. Eating foods that are more alkaline can be health-promoting, as we’ll learn below.

But that doesn’t mean you suddenly have to eat a “raw” or “vegan” diet, which is what we tend to think about when we think about eating highly alkaline foods.

The truth is, eating alkaline foods doesn’t require any extreme measures.

Eating high alkaline foods simply means you’re eating more of certain foods to help prevent your blood from becoming too acidic, which promotes your health in endless ways.

In fact, among other things your body has a hard time properly producing energy in an acidic internal environment, as an acidic state leaves less oxygen available to your cells for energy production (1).

It just so happens that the most alkalizing foods are plant foods, which makes them excellent food choice when you’re eating for energy. Therefore, eating energizing, alkaline foods simply means you’re eating more fruits and vegetables.

What’s so crazy about that?

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What Does Acid/Alkaline Mean?

Our bodies have what’s called a pH balance, which measures the acidity in our blood. That level can determine our overall state of health – and whether or not we’re at risk for serious illness.

pH Scale

Our blood is measured on a pH scale that ranges from 0 to 14. Zero is considered most acidic, while fourteen is highly alkaline. The ideal pH of our blood for optimal health is around 7.35, which is neither too acidic or too alkaline, but neutral.

The reason the acid-alkaline balance matters to you is because it directly impacts your state of health.

An acidic environment is considered the perfect setting for illness and disease to thrive in.

Previously, the acid-alkaline diet was thought to be some crazy, vegan hippie myth. But even Dr. Otto Warburg, who dedicated his life to researching cancer cells, won a Nobel prize for proving that cancer cells cannot survive in an alkaline environment (2).

As mentioned above, one of the primary factors that influence our blood’s pH are the kind of foods we eat.

All foods can be categorized as acidic, alkaline, or neutral. A food’s pH isn’t measured by its physical properties, but by the residue that’s left in the body once the food has been metabolized.

For example, we’d intuitively consider a lemon acidic because it has a sour taste and the ability to erode our tooth enamel. But once it’s been metabolized by the body, lemon leaves the blood alkaline. This explains why a seemingly acidic food can “turn” alkaline in the body.

To determine whether a food is alkalizing or acidic to the body, each food is measured on a PRAL scale.

What Is PRAL?

PRAL isn’t the sound a dying cat makes – rather, it stands for the “Potential Renal Acid Load” of a food. Instead of simply categorizing a food as acidic or alkaline, PRAL measures the exact amount of acidity or alkalinity of a food once it’s been metabolized (3).

Each food on the PRAL scale scores in a negative, neutral, or positive value. Any food that has a negative value is considered an alkaline food (or a base), while any food with a positive value is acidic.

For example, broccoli has a score of -1.2, which means it’s alkalizing – but not as alkalizing as eggplant, which scores at -3.4.

Lean beef, on the other hand, has a score of +7.8, which means it’s highly acidic.

To get a little more technical, PRAL measures the acidity or alkalinity of a food based on the amount of minerals, protein, and phosphorus that’s left behind in the body once it’s been metabolized.

Since protein and phosphorus break down into sulfuric acid and phosphoric acid, they are considered acidifying to the body. When an alkaline food is metabolized, it will leave behind alkaline trace minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

PRAL Chart

Click here to download the PRAL Table

The foods that rank most alkaline on the PRAL scale are fruits, vegetables, and a few nuts and seeds. The foods that rank most acidic are the foods many of us eat each day, such as chicken, grains, eggs, peanuts, fish, seafood, and dairy products.

In fact, I hate to be the messenger here, but parmesan cheese has a score of +34.2 on the PRAL scale, which classifies it as one of the most acidifying foods in our diets.

Now, you may be wondering how dairy could be classified as acidic, seeing as how it contains calcium, which is an alkaline mineral. The reason dairy is acidic is because it contains much more phosphorus (which is acidic) than calcium (4).

As a quick side note, how the PRAL table measures the acidity of a food isn’t to be confused with how our blood’s pH is measured.

If we were applying PRAL scores to the pH scale, the 7.8 score of lean beef would suggest that it’s alkaline, or neutral. Unlike the pH scale, a food with a negative score actually means it’s alkalizing to the body. Make sense?

The Problem with Being Too Acidic

We’ve briefly touched on one of the most detrimental effects of an acidic internal environment, which is the encouragement of disease – specifically cancer.

But being too acidic can come with other symptoms that occur far before a serious illness results. In fact, being too acidic can result in muscle wasting and reduced bone density. This is partially due to the fact that many acidic foods are low in nutrients that promote musculoskeletal health, such as potassium and calcium (5).

To get slightly more scientific in terms of bone health, an acidic environment has been shown to  encourage the activity of osteoclast cells. Osteoclasts are cells that break down bone.

In contrast, an alkaline environment has been shown to encourage the activity of osteoblasts, which are the cells that help build bone (6). (To learn more on the relationship between an alkaline diet and bone health in more detail, visit here.)

In addition to the long-term conditions that can result from being too acidic, there are short-term symptoms that may also suggest your body is more on the acidic end of the pH scale. These symptoms include:

  • Low energy
  • Exhaustion
  • Acne
  • Brain fog or confusion
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Frequent headaches
  • Frequent colds
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Digestive issues such as bloating

Now, the body contains natural compounds such as bicarbonate, that act as buffers to neutralize blood acidity. These buffers help prevent extreme drops in blood pH. This is an important defense not only against acidifying foods, but also against other factors that promote acidity in the body, such as chronic stress (7).

Strenuous exercise can also promote blood acidity because it encourages the release of lactic acid from the muscle tissue (8).

While your body has a natural defense system against having an acidic blood pH, it is possible for these buffers to get worn out over time – especially if several factors are present that negatively impact your pH, such as stress and a highly acidic diet.

For this reason, it’s important to support your body by including alkaline foods in your diet whenever possible.

This isn’t to say you must go raw vegan and eat only alkalizing fruits and vegetables for the rest of your life.

While it’s rare, it’s still possible for the blood to become too alkaline. But since the modern diet is typically higher in acidifying foods, including alkalizing foods into your diet each day will help neutralize your blood pH and improve your health in numerous ways.

Now, let’s go into more detail with this high alkaline foods list.

19 Highly Alkaline Foods That Will Benefit Your Body

1. Beet Greens – PRAL score: -16.7

Let’s give a round of applause to the world’s most alkaline food: beet greens.

Although beet greens aren’t the most popular green in our diets, their high alkalinity score makes them one of the best additions to smoothies or stir-fries. In addition to being high alkaline, beet greens also have a bitter quality that may help stimulate bile production to help better digest fats.

If that’s not a good enough reason to hang on to your beet tops, I don’t know what is.

Beet greens can replace any green in salads, soups or smoothies.

Apple Cider Vinegar & Greens Detox Salad

You may want to try my Apple Cider Vinegar and Green Detox Salad recipe, where you can easily substitute the spinach, kale or watercress for beet greens.

2. Spinach – PRAL Score: -11.8

Spinach is another high alkaline food that is known to benefit bone health because of the calcium it contains.

Because spinach is highly alkalizing, it’s often included in anti-cancer and cleansing juicing protocols. There are endless creative and delicious ways to eat spinach.

I recommend giving any of these Easy Green Smoothie Recipes a try. Each smoothie only has 3 ingredients, with endless flavour combinations.

3. Kale – PRAL Score: -8.3

There’s a reason kale has been labelled as the new beef.

It’s high in plant iron, calcium and vitamin K, which is said to help protect against many types of cancers. In addition to these health benefits, kale is another one of the world’s most alkaline foods.

Kale has a mild taste that can jazz up any recipe. You can easily add kale to any smoothie recipe that calls for greens, stir fries, salads and soups for a (delicious) alkaline boost.

Curried Chickpea Salad Bowl

Why not get your kale on with this delicious Kale Curried Chickpea Salad Bowl recipe? It’s packed full of flavor and takes less than 20 minutes to prepare.

4. Swiss Chard – PRAL Score: -8.1

Have you noticed a pattern yet? The world’s most alkaline foods are leafy greens. Swiss chard is another green that provides mega nutrition benefits with vitamins that support cellular health, such as vitamin K.

Swiss chard also contains phosphorus and plant protein, but based on its PRAL score, it leaves behind more alkalizing minerals than acidity when metabolized.

I recommend using Swiss chard as hearty lettuce wraps, in any recipe that calls for a grain bun or tortilla.

The Kitchn has a great recipe for Swiss Chard Taco Wraps with Cumin Lime Sauce. Although I recommend avoiding the optional cheese to keep this dish highly alkaline.

5. Bananas – PRAL Score: -6.9

Bananas, aka “Potassium Sticks,” are another highly alkaline food that you won’t want to leave out of your diet. Bananas are also a great source of fiber, which help promote digestive regularity and sweep toxins out of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

While most people tend to avoid bananas to prevent weight gain due to their high sugar content, eating a banana is far better for you than eating a granola bar or some other processed food that’s packed full of sugar and acidifying ingredients.

One of the most delicious ways to include bananas in your diet is by making banana “nice cream,” which is simply just frozen bananas blended into a creamy consistency. The best part about banana nice cream is that you can jazz it up with other alkaline ingredients, such as fresh mint leaves and berries.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, here’s a recipe for my favourite Mint Cacao Chip Nice Cream.

6. Sweet Potato – PRAL Score: -5.6

Now you can feel better about eating sweet potato fries (in moderation).

Although they’re higher in starch, sweet potatoes are an alkalizing food that provides your body with plenty of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Because sweet potatoes are so high in fiber, they have less of a negative impact on blood sugar levels, since fiber helps slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream.

Therefore, sweet potatoes are an excellent food when it comes to eating for energy and providing your body with a boost of alkaline nutrients.

3-Ingredient Sweet Potato Waffles

What better way to eat sweet potatoes, than in these 3-Ingredient Paleo Sweet Potato Waffles?

You may think of waffles as a breakfast item, but I recommend saving complex carbs for your evening meals instead. Why? Because contrary to popular belief, eating carbs at night can actually help promote weight loss and help you sleep better.

7. Celery – PRAL Score: -5.2

Aside from being alkalizing, celery has additional cleansing properties. Since it’s mostly water, celery can easily help the body flush toxins. Celery is also a “negative calorie” food, which means it takes more calories to chew and digest than the total amount of calories it contains.

I include celery in a variety of my green detox juice and smoothie recipes.

For a complete list my favourite no-fruit-added green juices, you can refer to my 7 Green Detox Juice Recipes right here.

8. Carrots – PRAL Score: -4.9

Carrots are a high-alkaline food that is famous for improving eyesight based on their vitamin A content.

In fact, 1 cup of carrots contains more than 300 percent of the daily recommended intake of beta-carotene, an antioxidant form of vitamin A. Beta-carotene can also help protect against cancer and help promote brighter, younger looking skin.

If you need some carrot inspiration, The Healthy Foodie blog has a delicious recipe with step-by-step instructions for a shredded coleslaw-esque Carrot Salad right here.

9. Kiwi – PRAL Score: -4.1

Kiwi is a high-alkaline food your cells won’t want to miss out on, because it also contains a plethora of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

And although oranges are famous for their vitamin C content, kiwi contains nearly five times the amount of vitamin C than an orange. Kiwi is also a great source of fiber for improved digestion, as well as potassium for muscle function.

Tropical Kiwi and Chia Parfait

I feature kiwi as an ingredient in my Tropical Chia Pudding Parfait right here.

10. Cauliflower – PRAL Score: -4.0

Cauliflower is an alkaline food that can also aid in hormone rebalancing when the body’s estrogen levels are too high.

This is because cauliflower contains a nutrient called Indole-3-Carbinol (or I3C) that helps the body regulate estrogen levels. We come into contact with estrogen on a daily basis through estrogenic foods (such as soy), chemicals in our environment (such as plastics) and pharmaceuticals drugs (such as oral contraceptives) (9).

High levels of estrogen are harmful to the body and can lead to weight gain, digestive symptoms such as bloating, as well as reproductive cancers and infertility.

A fun way and delicious way to eat more cauliflower is with this Slow Cooker Cauliflower Fried Rice.

11. Cherries – PRAL Score: -3.6

Cherries are known as one of the world’s best sources of antioxidants such as anthocyanins, which may help prevent cancer. Studies also support that cherries can help relieve inflammation linked to joint pain and arthritis, and may even prevent cardiovascular disease (10).

Peanut Butter and Cherry Protein Shake

Cherries blend well in smoothies, such as this blood-sugar-balancing Peanut Butter and Cherry Protein Shake. I recommend this recipe as a great post-workout shake because it contains both plant-based protein and alkalizing nutrients.

Ideally, a post-workout shake should always include alkaline foods. This is because lactic acid, a substance that naturally helps increase the body’s energy, is naturally released during intense exercise. As suggested by its name, lactic acid can make the body acidic, which is why it’s important to neutralize the acidity with alkaline foods after a workout.

12. Eggplant – PRAL Score: -3.4

In addition to being alkaline, eggplant is a food that offers phytonutrients such as chlorogenic acid. Chlorogenic acid isn’t acidifying to the body, rather it’s a plant compound that can help promote digestion and metabolism.

Eggplant is delicious when it’s baked in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, and added to salads, or used as a substitute for pizza crust in this 10 Minute Eggplant Pizza recipe.

13. Pears – PRAL Score: -2.9

Pears are extremely high fiber and lower in sugar, which makes it a great fruit even for those who have blood sugar imbalances. Pears are also high in the antioxidant vitamin C, which helps protect cells from carcinogens.

Here’s a recipe for an easy to make Pear Walnut Salad with a Mustard Orange Dressing.

14. Hazelnuts – PRAL Score: -2.8

Most nuts have an acidifying effect, according to their PRAL scores. But hazelnuts are an exception.

So if you love nuts, they’re an ideal variety include in your diet in comparison to peanuts, which have a score of +8 and are highly acidic.

Hazelnuts are best known for their contribution to the infamous nut butter, Nutella. However, I recommend avoiding store-bought Nutella and making your own refined-sugar and additive-free version with Chocolate Covered Katie’s Healthy Nutella recipe.

15. Pineapple – PRAL Score: -2.7

Pineapple is an alkalizing food that’s so good for digestion that several supplements add it to their digestive-boosting formulas. This is because pineapple contains a digestive enzyme called bromelain. Bromelain is also said to be helpful for killing off intestinal parasites.

Super Green Cleansing Smoothie

You can add more pineapple to your diet in many different ways. It would pair especially well with the rest of the alkalizing ingredients in my recipe for this Super Green Cleansing Smoothie.

16. Zucchini – PRAL Score: -2.6

Zucchini is a great source of phytonutrients such as lutein. Lutein belongs to the same category of antioxidants as beta-carotene, which means it also has superior benefits when it comes to protecting eyesight.

Zucchini has become extremely popular as a low-carb, gluten-free and vegan pasta alternative. You can make zucchini pasta noodles using a Vegetti spiralizer that can be purchased online or found at your local home accessories store, for under $20.

My recipe for this One Pot Wonder Tomato Basil Pasta combines zucchini pasta noodles with vegetables, fresh basil and other aromatic, zesty spices. Not only is it an alkaline food recipe, but it’s also extremely easy to make (and tastes delicious, of course).

17. Strawberries – PRAL Score: -2.2

Strawberries are another extremely rich source of the antioxidant vitamin vitamin C. They also contain manganese, which is a trace mineral that’s needed to facilitate metabolic function in the body.

Banana and Strawberry Smoothie

The ways to enjoy strawberries are endless, as they can add just the right amount of sweet to any dish. I personally love using strawberries in this Strawberry Banana Smoothie recipe.

18. Apples – PRAL Score: -2.2

Apples have a reputation as one of the healthiest foods in the world, mostly because they’re so rich in detoxifying fiber and antioxidants such as vitamin C and flavonoids that protect against cancer. All of these nutrients are also essential for promoting healthy blood pressure and cholesterol.

To get even greater health benefits from apples, I recommend adding apple cider vinegar to your diet each day. When fermented to make vinegar, apples contain a nutrient called acetic acid, which offers antibacterial and antiviral benefits (11).

If you don’t like the taste of apple cider vinegar on its own or diluted with water, that’s okay. There are several ways to make apple cider vinegar taste so amazing, you won’t even notice the slightly sour taste.

This Apple Cider Vinegar Detox Soda Drink recipe is naturally sweetened with lemon and stevia, and makes the perfect healthy substitute for fizzy beverages that contain several teaspoons of refined sugar and other acidifying ingredients.

19. Watermelon – PRAL Score: 1.9

Lastly, watermelon is another alkalizing food that provides the body with essential electrolytes for cardiac function, such as potassium. Since watermelon is mostly water (hence the name), it also hydrates us more than most fruits and vegetables.

Watermelon makes a delicious snack on its own, but sometimes it’s fun to get creative.

Here’s a recipe for my Summer Watermelon Detox Juice  that is packed full of flavor with added ginger, jalapeno and honey.

Mainstream, Healthy, Alkaline Choices

As you can see, eating an alkaline diet doesn’t have to be extreme or difficult. Trying new plant based recipes, such as the ones listed above, are one of the easiest ways to start increasing the amount of alkalizing foods you incorporate in your diet each day.

From eating a highly alkaline diet, you can expect to receive more energy, better mental focus, a stronger immune system and an overall greater sense of well-being as you tackle life’s challenges each day.



Research: Frankincense & Sandalwood Essential Oils Kill Cancer Cells in Different, Complementary Ways

Frankincense Resin

The sap of Boswellia trees when dried becomes Frankincense

As reported in the Journal of Chinese Medicine,Frankincense (Boswellia carteri) and Sandalwood(Santalum album) essential oils were tested for their ability to cause the death of cancer cells and “immortalized” cells, and to examine the mechanisms by which each oil causes cancer cell death.

The research article states: “This study aims to investigate the anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic activities of frankincense and sandalwood essential oils in cultured human bladder cancer cells. It was found that “each essential oil had a unique molecular action on the bladder cancer cells”.* (Two lines bladder cells were used in these experiments).


Sandalwood heartwood is distilled into the highly-prized essential oil

Frankincense essential oilshowed a “greater potency” in causing apoptosis of the cancer cells.* Apoptosis is natural ‘programmed’ cell death, the lack of which is the hallmark of cancer cells in general. Sandalwood essential oil affected both the cancer cells and the immortalized cells equally via a different pathway.* (Immortalized cells are the in-vitroequivalent of cancerous cells, used for research purposes).

How Frankincense & Sandalwood Worked Together to Kill Cancer Cells

It is extremely interesting to see the essential oils caused cell death in complementary ways. While both caused changes in gene expression of these cells, they each affected significantly different groups of of genes. While frankincense and sandalwood essential oils have shown to kill cancer cells in laboratory research alone (Frankincense researchSandalwood research), this study appears to demonstrate the greater potential of these two oils working together.*

Frankincense and sandalwood essential oils-activated gene networks in bladder cancer J82 cells. Gene networks were composited by HV genes that were regulated (A) specifically by frankincense essential oil (red), (B) specifically by sandalwood essential oil (green), or (C) commonly by both frankincense and sandalwood essential oils (gray). Identified genes that belong to definite biological processes were highlighted.

What follows is the article abstract (summary). The complete article is available here.

Title: Differential effects of selective frankincense (Ru Xiang) essential oil versus non-selective sandalwood (Tan Xiang) essential oil on cultured bladder cancer cells: a microarray and bioinformatics study.

Published in: Chinese Medicine. 2014 Jul 2;9:18. doi: 10.1186/1749-8546-9-18. eCollection 2014.

Authors: Dozmorov MG1, Yang Q2, Wu W3, Wren J1, Suhail MM4, Woolley CL5, Young DG5, Fung KM6, Lin HK7.

Background: Frankincense (Boswellia carterii, known as Ru Xiang in Chinese) and sandalwood (Santalum album, known as Tan Xiang in Chinese) are cancer preventive and therapeutic agents in Chinese medicine. Their biologically active ingredients are usually extracted from frankincense by hydrodistillation and sandalwood by distillation. This study aims to investigate the anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic activities of frankincense and sandalwood essential oils in cultured human bladder cancer cells.

Methods: The effects of frankincense (1,400-600 dilutions) (v/v) and sandalwood (16,000-7,000 dilutions) (v/v) essential oils on cell viability were studied in established human bladder cancer J82 cells and immortalized normal human bladder urothelial UROtsa cells using a colorimetric XTT cell viability assay. Genes that responded to essential oil treatments in human bladder cancer J82 cells were identified using the Illumina Expression BeadChip platform and analyzed for enriched functions and pathways. The chemical compositions of the essential oils were determined by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.

Results: Human bladder cancer J82 cells were more sensitive to the pro-apoptotic effects of frankincense essential oil than the immortalized normal bladder UROtsa cells. In contrast, sandalwood essential oil exhibited a similar potency in suppressing the viability of both J82 and UROtsa cells. Although frankincense and sandalwood essential oils activated common pathways such as inflammatory interleukins (IL-6 signaling), each essential oil had a unique molecular action on the bladder cancer cells. Heat shock proteins and histone core proteins were activated by frankincense essential oil, whereas negative regulation of protein kinase activity and G protein-coupled receptors were activated by sandalwood essential oil treatment.

Conclusion: The effects of frankincense and sandalwood essential oils on J82 cells and UROtsa cells involved different mechanisms leading to cancer cell death. While frankincense essential oil elicited selective cancer cell death via NRF-2-mediated oxidative stress, sandalwood essential oil induced non-selective cell death via DNA damage and cell cycle arrest.

Here is the Complete Article:

Differential effects of selective frankincense (Ru Xiang) essential oil versus non-selective sandalwood (Tan Xiang) essential oil on cultured bladder cancer cells: a microarray and bioinformatics study



Frankincense (Boswellia carterii, known as Ru Xiang in Chinese) and sandalwood (Santalum album, known as Tan Xiang in Chinese) are cancer preventive and therapeutic agents in Chinese medicine. Their biologically active ingredients are usually extracted from frankincense by hydrodistillation and sandalwood by distillation. This study aims to investigate the anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic activities of frankincense and sandalwood essential oils in cultured human bladder cancer cells.


The effects of frankincense (1,400–600 dilutions) (v/v) and sandalwood (16,000–7,000 dilutions) (v/v) essential oils on cell viability were studied in established human bladder cancer J82 cells and immortalized normal human bladder urothelial UROtsa cells using a colorimetric XTT cell viability assay. Genes that responded to essential oil treatments in human bladder cancer J82 cells were identified using the Illumina Expression BeadChip platform and analyzed for enriched functions and pathways. The chemical compositions of the essential oils were determined by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.


Human bladder cancer J82 cells were more sensitive to the pro-apoptotic effects of frankincense essential oil than the immortalized normal bladder UROtsa cells. In contrast, sandalwood essential oil exhibited a similar potency in suppressing the viability of both J82 and UROtsa cells. Although frankincense and sandalwood essential oils activated common pathways such as inflammatory interleukins (IL-6 signaling), each essential oil had a unique molecular action on the bladder cancer cells. Heat shock proteins and histone core proteins were activated by frankincense essential oil, whereas negative regulation of protein kinase activity and G protein-coupled receptors were activated by sandalwood essential oil treatment.


The effects of frankincense and sandalwood essential oils on J82 cells and UROtsa cells involved different mechanisms leading to cancer cell death. While frankincense essential oil elicited selective cancer cell deathvia NRF-2-mediated oxidative stress, sandalwood essential oil induced non-selective cell death via DNA damage and cell cycle arrest.


Frankincense gum resins (known as Ru Xiang in Chinese) are obtained from Boswellia trees (family Burseraceae) and have been used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases [1] such as Crohn’s disease [2]. Extracts from Boswellia species resins exhibit anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic activities in rat astrocytoma cell lines [3], human leukemia cell lines [4], and chemically induced mouse skin cancer models [5]. The frankincense essential oil possesses anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic activities against multiple human cancer cell lines in vitro and in vivo[68]. Boswellic acids were found to be the major components in frankincense extracts, with anti-tumor activity owing to their cytostatic and pro-apoptotic properties in multiple human cancer cell lines including meningioma cells [9], leukemia cells [10], hepatoma cells [11], melanoma cells, fibrosarcoma cells [12], colon cancer cells [13], and prostate cancer cells [1416]. Some of the effects of frankincense essential oil were found to be related to the activities of sesquiterpenes and diterpenes [17].

Sandalwood (known as Tan Xiang in Chinese) belongs to the genus Santalum. The sandalwood essential oil has been used to treat skin diseases, acne, dysentery, and gonorrhea [18], and is considered an excellent sedating agent [19]. Sandalwood essential oil also exhibits anti-bactericidal activity [20] and chemoprevention in chemically induced skin papillomas and skin cancer in CD1 mice [21,22].

The genus Boswellia consists of four major species, while the genus Santalum consists of approximately 25 species. Each species of Boswellia and Santalum produces a slightly different type of aroma as a result of the soil and climate diversity. Frankincense and sandalwood essential oils are prepared from hydro- or steam-distillation of the plants [23]. Medical applications of essential oils ranging from treatments for skin conditions to remedies for cancer have been based on the historical uses of these plant products. However, the active chemical compositions and mechanisms of action remain largely unclear. We previously showed that frankincense essential oil prepared from Boswellia species with different temperatures and durations of hydrodistillation possessed different chemical constituents and biological activities [7,8].

This study aims to investigate the anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic activities of frankincense and sandalwood essential oils on cultured human bladder cancer cells using microarrays and bioinformatics. We also intended to relate the cellular activity and gene expression profile to the chemical differences between frankincense and sandalwood essential oils.


Reagents and chemicals

Cell culture medium (MEM and DMEM/F-12 (1:1)), fetal bovine serum (FBS), MEM vitamin solution, non-essential amino acids, epidermal growth factor (EGF), insulin-transferrin-sodium selenite (ITS) media supplement, sodium pyruvate, and penicillin-streptomycin were purchased from Life Technologies (Grand Island, NY, USA). Frankincense (B. carterii from Somalia) and sandalwood (S. album from Sri Lanka) essential oils were obtained from Young Living Essential Oils (Lehi, UT, USA) and prepared based on previously reported procedures [7]. An XTT cell proliferation assay kit was obtained from Roche Applied Science (Indianapolis, IN, USA). An RNeasy® Mini Kit was obtained from Qiagen (Valencia, CA, USA).

Chemical compositions of essential oils

The essential oil components were identified by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS), using an Agilent 7890A GC system (Agilent Technologies, Santa Clara, CA, USA) equipped with an Agilent 5975C mass selective detector (Agilent Technologies). We used either an HP-1 50 m × 0.32 mm ID × 0.5 μm film column (Agilent Technologies) or a DB-WAX 60 m × 0.32 mm ID × 0.5 μm film column (Agilent Technologies) for sandalwood essential oil, and an Rxi-5 ms 60 m × 0.25 mm ID × 0.25 μm column (Restek, Bellefonte, PA, USA) for frankincense essential oil. Retention indices were calculated by performing injections of C7-C30 normal alkanes (Supelco, Bellefonte, PA, USA) to confirm the MS identification. The detailed procedures for chemical analysis were reported previously [24].

As natural products, chemical constituents of frankincense and sandalwood essential oils varied from batch to batch and from season to season. A batch of distillation was used to establish a baseline relationship between chemical compositions and molecular pathways activation throughout the study.

Human bladder cell lines

Human bladder cancer J82 cells, derived from a poorly differentiated, invasive stage 3 transitional cell carcinoma [25], were obtained from ATCC (HTB-1; Manassas, VA, USA). J82 cells were maintained in growth medium consisting of MEM supplemented with 10% FBS, 0.1 mM non-essential amino acids, 1 mM sodium pyruvate, 2% MEM vitamin solution, and 100 units/mL penicillin-100 μg/mL streptomycin. The UROtsa cell line was isolated from a primary culture of normal human urothelium and immortalized with the SV40 large T antigen [26]. UROtsa cells were provided by Dr. Ricardo Saban (Department of Physiology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center) and cultured in DMEM/F12 supplemented with 10 ng/mL EGF, 1 × ITS media supplement, and penicillin-streptomycin. Both cell lines were maintained in a humidified cell incubator at 37°C and 5% CO2 and passaged every 3–4 days or when cells reached about 80% confluence.

Cell viability assay

Bladder cancer J82 cells and immortalized normal UROtsa cells were seeded in 96-well tissue culture plates at a density of 5 × 103 cells/well in 100 μL of their growth media to determine cell viability following treatment with frankincense and sandalwood essential oils. Following overnight incubation and adherence, an additional aliquot of growth media (100 μL) or varying dilutions of frankincense (1,400–600) (v/v) or sandalwood (16,000–7,000) (v/v) essential oil in the growth media was added to each well in triplicate. Measurement of cell viability following exposure to essential oils was performed using the XTT assay at time 0 and 24 h. During the assay, the growth medium (100 μL) was removed from each well and the XTT labeling mixture (50 μL) was added to each well. The reactions were carried out at 37°C for 4 h and the absorbance of the reaction product was recorded at 450 nm by a μQuant microplate reader (Bio-Tek; Winooski, VT, USA). Absorbance values obtained at 24 h following treatment were normalized to the values obtained at time 0 to calculate fold changes in cell viability [6].

RNA extraction and quality evaluation

Total RNA was isolated from J82 cells for microarray analysis to determine frankincense and sandalwood essential oil-regulated molecular responses at the mRNA level. Briefly, 5 × 105 J82 cells were seeded in 60-mm tissue culture plates, cultured overnight for adherence, and either left untreated or treated with a 1:1,100 dilution (v/v) of frankincense essential oil or a 1:11,000 (v/v) dilution of sandalwood essential oil in growth medium. Total RNA was isolated at 0 h (no treatment) and at 0.5, 1, 2, and 3 h after treatment using the RNeasy® Mini total RNA isolation kit. Total RNA concentration was determined using a nanodrop scanning spectrophotometer, and RNA was qualitatively assessed for degradation based on the ratio of 28S:18S rRNA using a capillary gel electrophoresis system (Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer, Agilent Technologies).

Probe synthesis and hybridization

Fluorescence-labeled probes were prepared from an aliquot (250 ng) of total RNA from each time point following essential oil treatments. First strand cDNA was reverse transcribed from total RNA in T7-oligo-dT; and cRNA was synthesized by in vitro transcription from the T7 promoter and labeled with biotinylated UTP by the Illumina Total Prep RNA Amplification Kit (Ambion; Austin. TX, USA). The biotinylatedlabeled cRNA probes were hybridized overnight to Illumina human Ref-8 version 3 BeadChips containing probes representating a total of 24,526 transcripts (Illumina, San Diego, CA, USA). Following stringent washes, microarray chips were incubated with streptavidin-Cy3 (Amersham Biosciences; Piscataway, NJ, USA) and scanned on an Illumina BeadArray Reader (Illumina).

Microarray data normalization and transformation

Normalization of the microarray datasets was performed for each array by plotting a frequency histogram of the raw expression data for all genes [27,28]. The histograms showed a right-skewed unimodal distribution curve with the mode around zero. A normal distribution curve representing the genes with low levels of expression was then fitted around the mode, mirroring the Gaussian profile of the left part of the histogram. Two parameters mean and standard deviation (SD), were defined for this distribution. The expression values of the rest of genes were then normalized to the SD of the normal distribution curve after subtraction of the mean, and log10-transformed. The arrays were then adjusted to each other by robust linear regression [29,30]. Genes with expression value < 3.0 (or 0.477 on the log10 scale) were considered to be not expressed; this was equivalent to setting a threshold at three SD above the mean of low levels expression genes.

Identification and clustering of hypervariable (HV) genes across the time course

We defined genes with statistically significant expression levels across the time points when comparing to a reference group [31] as HV genes. The reference group consisted of genes expressed above background levels but with low variability as determined by an F-test, and represented the technical variability of microarray data [27,32]. Genes whose expression levels varied significantly (P < 1/N, where N is the number of genes expressed above the background) were identified by comparing an individual gene’s variability to that of the reference group using an F-test [27]. The threshold level at P < 1/N is a modification of the Bonferroni correction for multiple hypothesis tests. These genes were further filtered to remove those with variability arising from experimental errors by comparing the variability of the residuals in the replicated group of samples with the same variability obtained after excluding the maximum and minimum, one at a time, using a modification of the ‘leave one out’ method [33]. A statistically significant decrease in variability after excluding one replicate provided evidence of possible error in that particular replicate. Once filtered, the remaining genes were denoted as HV genes [34], and were considered to be a snapshot of the dynamic biological responses following treatment with frankincense and sandalwood essential oils. The HV genes were mean-centered and clustered by hierarchical clustering using the ‘Correlation (uncentered)’ similarity metric. All statistical analyses and clustering were performed in Matlab (Natick, MA, USA).

Ontology and canonical pathway analysis

Significantly over-represented gene ontologies for the identified HV genes were analyzed using the Database for Annotation, Visualization and Integrated Discovery (DAVID, [35]. The genes of interest were uploaded as Illumina Probe IDs to DAVID; and the Illumina HUMANREF-8_V3_0_R1_11282963_A array was selected as a background. Functional annotation clustering was performed with default settings and medium stringency. Statistically significant over-representation of gene ontologies was reflected by the “enrichment score”; details of its calculation can be found on the DAVID website. Gene lists were analyzed for over-represented canonical pathways using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA; Ingenuity Systems, Redwood City, CA). Genes of interest were bound into a network using the “path explorer” tool, and the network was edited using the “path designer” tool in IPA.

Semi-quantitative and quantitative reverse transcription (RT)-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis

Total RNA samples were isolated from J82 cells treated with frankincense and sandalwood essential oils for RT-PCR. For semi-quantitative analysis, first-strand cDNA was synthesized from 2.5 μg of the total RNA with oligo (dT)12–18 primers (1 μg) (Life Technologies) and MMLV reverse transcriptase (200 U) (Life Technologies) in a total volume of 50 μL; the reaction was performed at 42°C for 2 h. Target mRNA species were amplified using a three-temperature cycle protocol: 94°C for 1 min, 55°C for 1 min, and 72°C for 1 min. PCR amplified products were separated on 1.5% agarose gels (Lonza, Walkersville, MD, USA) and stained with 0.5 μg/mL ethidium bromide (Life Technologies). Ethidium bromide-stained images were captured using a Gel Doc 1000 imaging system equipped with Quantity One® image analysis software (Bio-Rad Laboratories; Hercules, CA, USA).

SYBR Green-based quantitative PCR was used for quantifying the expression levels of target genes that are either commonly or differentially regulated by frankincense and sandalwood essential oils. Isolated total RNA was subjected to RNase-free DNase I (Qiagen, Valencia, CA, USA) (1 unit) digestion. PCR was performed using the above described three-temperature cycle with 30 s for each temperature reaction using a Bio-Rad iCycler real-time PCR detection system (Bio-Rad Laboratories) Melt-curve analysis was conducted after the final cycle to ensure the amplification of single species of PCR products in each sample; and agarose gel electrophoresis was used to confirm the presence of a single PCR band with the expected size in each reaction. We used β-actin as a reference gene to correct for sample-to-sample variations. Relative changes in JUN, DUSP1, PMAIP1, and ZNF311 expression after frankincense and sandalwood essential oils treatments were calculated based on Livak et al.[36].

Statistical analysis

The results were expressed as means (SD) from at least 3 repeats. Comparisons of cell viability following frankincense oil treatment were made using one-way analysis of variance followed by a post hoc Dunnett’s test. The Student’s t-test was used to compare levels of target gene expression between frankincense and sandalwood essential oil-treated J82 cells. P < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.


Identification of frankincense and sandalwood essential oil chemical components

Frankincense and sandalwood essential oils were characterized by polarimetry and GC-MS. One of the best chemical signatures for Boswellia carterii is alpha-pinene ranging between 33.9% and 62.5% with a distinctive negative optical rotation (−13.3° ± 4.9°) as we previously reported [24].

Sandalwood essential oil (n = 23) exhibited unique chemical compounds cis-alpha-santalol and cis-beta-santalol at high concentrations, 41.1–47.9% and 15.9–21.3%, respectively. GC-MS with nonpolar HP-1 and polar DB-WAX qualified the purity of sandalwood essential oil as the method separated these two chemical components from similar compounds [37]. It is extremely difficult to establish standards for natural products. Even though standard operating procedures are established for harvest, storage, and processing, variable including weather, soil condition, and water quality all have significant impacts on the chemical compositions of all herbal products (i.e., essential oils in this case). Therefore, this industry and scholarly publications present the chemical compositions of essential oils using a percentage range. However, with the introduction of analytical chemistry and molecular biology, we would like to relate and translate such descriptions of chemical compositions into descriptions of molecular responses, starting with the present article. Any deviation in molecular responses from the current observations will be related to changes in chemical compositions in the future. We hope that we will be able to create a “standard” for medical applications of essential oils or for all herbal products in the future.

Tumor cell-selective versus non-selective cytotoxicity

Both frankincense and sandalwood essential oils suppressed the viability of human bladder cancer J82 cells but with different morphologies (Figure 1A). At high concentrations of both essential oils (low dilution factors), no viable cells were detected, while frankincense and sandalwood essential oils significantly suppressed J82 cell viability at 1:1,100 (P = 0.008) and 1:11,000 (P = 0.012) dilutions (v/v), respectively (Figure 1B).

Figure 1

Frankincense and sandalwood essential oils-suppressed viability in human bladder cancer J82 cells. (A) Morphological changes of human bladder cancer J82 cells following frankincense (1:1,100 dilution) and sandalwood (1:11,000 dilution) essential oils

Based on the results of cell viability assays, J82 cells were more sensitive than UROtsa cells to frankincense essential oil-suppressed cell viability, similar to the findings in our previous study [6]; the IC50 values were 1:1,250 and 1:600 dilutions (v/v) for J82 cells and UROtsa cells, respectively. In contrast, both J82 and UROtsa cells responded similarly to sandalwood essential oil treatment, with an IC50 value around 11,000 dilutions (v/v) for both cell lines (Figure 2).

Figure 2

Sandalwood essential oil-suppressed viability of J82 cells and immortalized normal bladder urothelial cells. Data were presented as mean (SD) from 4 independent experiments.

Identification of HV genes in frankincense and sandalwood essential oil-treated J82 cells

Temporal changes in gene expression patterns were analyzed in total RNA samples isolated from untreated J82 cells and cells that received either frankincense or sandalwood essential oil for between 0.5 and 3 h. Full microarray data have been deposited in Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) with the accession numberGSE53171, and are accessible on the GEO web-site (

A total of 139 genes were identified to be HV genes in frankincense essential oil-treated cells, whereas 206 HV genes were identified to be regulated by sandalwood essential oil (Additional file 1: Table S1). Among the HV genes, 51 genes were commonly regulated by both essential oils with a gradual increase in their expression levels over the experimental period (Figure 3A). Although the remaining HV genes also showed a gradual increase following stimulation with both essential oils, these genes responded differently between frankincense and sandalwood essential oils. A total of 88 HV genes were specifically regulated by frankincense essential oil, but their expression levels remained relatively constant following sandalwood essential oil treatment (Figure 3B). Another 155 HV genes were classified as sandalwood essential oil-responsive genes (Figure 3C).

Figure 3

Hierarchical clustering of HV genes-regulated by frankincense and sandalwood essential oils in bladder cancer J82 cells. (A) Temporal expression profiles of genes that were commonly regulated by both frankincense and sandalwood essential oils. (B) Genes

Ontological comparison of essential oil-regulated genes

The 139 and 206 HV genes regulated by frankincense and sandalwood essential oils, respectively, were subjected to DAVID analysis with Gene Ontologies (GO) of the over-represented HV genes. Four groups of genes were categorized into the GO terms of transcription factor activity, histone genes, negative regulation of biological process, and apoptosis (Table 1). Transcription factor activity was the most significantly over-represented class of genes regulated in frankincense and sandalwood essential oil-treated J82 cells. The expression of some transcription factors, such as ATF3, DDIT3, EGR1, FOSB, JUN, JUNB, and MYC, was modulated by both essential oils. Other transcription factors such as FOS (Finkel–Biskis–Jinkins murine osteogenic sarcoma virus) were specifically modulated by frankincense essential oil, whereas sandalwood essential oil modulated the expression of several inhibitors of DNA binding (ID1, ID2, and ID3), along with members of the zinc finger family. In addition, all identified histone core genes, except for HIST1H3D, were commonly modulated by both essential oils.

Table 1

Ontologies of frankincense and sandalwood essential oils-regulated genes in J82 cells

Negative regulation of biological processes categorized by IPA was more pronounced in sandalwood essential oil-treated J82 cells. Among the most notable HV genes, growth arrest genes (GADD45A, GADD45B, and PPP1R15A) and pro-apoptotic genes (CASP9 and ING5) were specifically up-regulated by sandalwood essential oil. As part of the negative regulation of biological processes, several pro-inflammatory interleukins (IL1A, IL6, and IL8) were up-regulated by both essential oils.

Specific genes modulated by frankincense or sandalwood essential oil

The 51 genes commonly regulated by both essential oils were excluded to identify over-represented genes specifically modulated by either frankincense or sandalwood essential oil in J82 cells. The remaining 88 and 155 HV genes specifically modulated by frankincense and sandalwood essential oils, respectively (Figure 3B and C), were analyzed by DAVID. Heat shock proteins (HSP), including three members of DNAJ family (HSP40 homolog), were the main over-represented call of HV genes following frankincense essential oil treatment (Table 2). In addition to the histone core family genes (Table 1), three other members of this family were significantly over-represented among the HV genes identified in frankincense essential oil-treated J82 cells.

Table 2

Ontologies unique to frankincense or sandalwood essential oil-regulated genes

Transcriptional regulation was identified as the most over-represented class of genes that were specifically modulated by sandalwood essential oil in J82 cells. Among these transcription factors, members of the zinc finger family of proteins were predominantly identified (Table 2). In addition, cell death-related genes were over-represented in sandalwood essential oil-treated cells, specifically epithelial membrane protein 1, immediate early response 3, and myeloid-associated differentiation marker.

Canonical pathway comparison of genes modulated by frankincense and sandalwood essential oils

The HV genes modulated by frankincense and sandalwood essential oil treatments in J82 cells were analyzed by IPA to identify canonical pathways through connecting both essential oil-modulated genes in a single network (Figure 4). Consistently, cell death genes (67/84 genes, P = 8.27E-33) and apoptotic genes (62/84 genes, P =1.69E32) represented significantly enriched ontological categories.

Figure 4

Frankincense and sandalwood essential oils-activated gene networks in bladder cancer J82 cells. Gene networks were composited by HV genes that were regulated (A) specifically by frankincense essential oil (red), (B) specifically by sandalwood essential

Pathways including the p38 MAPK, p53, IL6, and HMGB1 signaling pathways were commonly represented by HV genes modulated by both essential oils (Table 3). IPA also identified canonical pathways that were specific for either frankincense or sandalwood essential oil treatment. For example, aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) signaling and NRF2-mediated oxidative stress response genes were the two main canonical pathways over-represented by the HV genes regulated by frankincense essential oil. In contrast, ATM signaling was uniquely over-represented by the HV genes identified in J82 cells treated with sandalwood essential oil.

Table 3

Canonical pathways induced by frankincense and sandalwood essential oils treatment

Analysis of transcript expression by RT-PCR

Microarray and RT-PCR analysis provided consistent results for these genes. Although both JUN and DUSP1 were up-regulated by both essential oils in J82 cells (Figure 5A), the levels of DUSP1 were significantly elevated in frankincense essential oil-treated cells (P = 0.011), whereas there was no statistical significance for JUN (P = 0.282) at 2 h following treatment (Figure 5B). DNAJB4 was up-regulated by frankincense essential oil (P = 0.043), whereas PMAIP1 (P = 0.032) and ZNF311 (P = 0.035) transcripts were specifically up-regulated in sandalwood essential oil-treated J82 cells at 2 h after stimulation.

Figure 5

Confirmation of genes expression identified in microarray by RT-PCR. Limited number of genes identified to be regulated by frankincense, sandalwood essential oils or both from microarray results were confirmed by RT-PCR. (A) Representative images of RT-PCR


In this study, we generated GC-MS profiles for hydrodistilled frankincense (B. carterii from Somalia) and steam-distilled sandalwood (S. album from Sri Lanka) essential oils and compared their anti-cancer activities in human bladder cancer J82 and immortalized normal human urothelial UROtsa cell lines.

A genome-wide gene expression analysis differentiated the genes and pathways that were modulated by frankincense and sandalwood essential oils in J82 cells. We compared comprehensive transcriptome expression patterns between frankincense and sandalwood essential oils based on their distinctive chemical compositions. Sandalwood essential oil contains the highest percentages of hydroxylated sesquiterpenes, such as santalols (47–56%) [38]; frankincense essential oil consists of high percentages of monoterpenes, such as alpha-pinene (60–80%) [7,24].

These two essential oils had different chemical profiles [24,39], but elicited similar cellular responses leading to activation of activator protein 1 (AP-1). AP-1 activation can be induced by environmental stresses, growth factors, and cytokines [4042], and is implicated in cell proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, and transformation [43,44]. Several pro-inflammatory cytokines, including IL1A, IL6, and IL8, commonly regulated by both essential oils, have been implicated in the p38 MAPK pathway and might be responsible for subsequent AP-1 activation [45]. However, differential expression of AP-1 components following essential oil exposure was observed. Several AP-1 subunits, FOSB, JUN, and JUNB, were regulated by both frankincense and sandalwood essential oils, while FOS expression was specifically affected by frankincense essential oil. The composition of the AP-1 heterodimer might determine the AP-1-regulated proliferative or apoptotic activities [44]. Unique FOS regulation by frankincense essential oil might cause differential effects of AP-1 activation. FOS forms stable heterodimers with JUN and enhances AP-1 transcriptional capacity [46], but is not required for apoptosis [47]. The AP-1 stability owing to FOS expression following frankincense essential oil treatment might protect normal cells against the essential oil’s cytotoxicity.

In addition to AP-1 transcription factor, EGR1 is another transcription factor that is involved in the negative regulation of biological processes [48]. Other transcription factors, such as CEBPB, ENO3, ID2, ID3, and IRF1, specifically regulated by sandalwood essential oil, are negative regulators of biological processes, suggesting that sandalwood essential oil suppresses cancer cell viability via an array of multiple transcription factors activities. A large number of histone core genes were regulated by both frankincense and sandalwood essential oils, suggesting that both essential oils alter chromosome structure and the accessibility of DNA to transcription factors.

MYC expression was up-regulated by both frankincense and sandalwood essential oils in J82 cells. Although MYC sensitized cells to undergo apoptosis [49], frankincense essential oil up-regulated a MYC partner MXD1 (MAX dimerization protein 1, or MAD). MXD1 might antagonize MYC transcriptional activity by forming a DNA-binding complex with MAX in the core sequence 5′-CAC[GA]TG-3’ [49].

Aryl hydrocarbon signaling was specifically overrepresented in J82 cells treated with frankincense essential oil, as evidenced by the up-regulation of AhR mRNA. Activated AhR regulates downstream gene expression, including xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes and phase II metabolizing enzymes, as well as growth factors and p53 target genes such as p21CIP1 (CDKN1A). Activation of AhR signaling may be a consequence of an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen and the detoxification of reactive intermediates in frankincense essential oil-treated J82 cells, as reflected by possible activation of the NRF2-mediated oxidative stress response pathway. Two regulators of NRF2 transcription factor, FOS and JUN, as well as NRF2-regulated stress response genes (DNAJ heat shock proteins), were specifically up-regulated by frankincense essential oil. The selective cancer cell death induced by frankincense essential oil could be a result of oxidative stress.

The effect on ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) signaling was unique to sandalwood essential oil-treated J82 cells. ATM protein is a key regulator of multiple signaling cascades following damage and subsequent DNA repair. The expression of RAD50 was up-regulated in this study, and RAD50 might activate ATM. RAD50 protein is involved in DNA double-strand break repair; and its expression might be a result of DNA damage induced by sandalwood essential oil. The ATM activation was evidenced by up-regulations of multiple p53 substrates, including the GADD45 (growth arrest and DNA damage) complex and CDKN1A. Up-regulation of GADD45 and CDKN1A, which can lead to cell cycle arrest at the G2/M checkpoint with subsequent apoptosis [50,51], was observed in sandalwood essential oil-treated J82 cells. Additionally, the involvement of p53 activation in sandalwood essential oil-treated J82 cells was evidenced by CASP6 and PMAIP1 (NOXA) expression in the apoptosis branch of the p53 pathway. The sandalwood essential oil-induced cytotoxicity might be a result of DNA instability, chromatin remodeling, and DNA double stranded breaks.

High mobility group box-1 (HMGB1) signaling, which is an integral component of oxidative stress and downstream cell survival or death, including apoptosis and autophagy [52,53], was identified as a common canonical pathway activated by both frankincense and sandalwood essential oils. HMGB1 is involved in the assembly of nucleoprotein complexes to maintain nucleosome structure and regulate gene transcription, and is secreted by cells after stimulation with endotoxins and cytokines, including IL1, IL6, or IL8 [54]. HMGB1 might act synergistically with oxidative stress induced by frankincense essential oil. The expression of the receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE) that binds to HMGB1 [55] was specifically regulated in sandalwood essential oil-treated cells. HMGB1 has been demonstrated to induce apoptosis via the RAGE-p38 MAPK/ERK signaling pathway [56]. Thus, sandalwood essential oil-induced HMGB1 signaling might occur synergistically with p38 MAPK signaling through the RAGE receptor and result in non-selective cell death.

Frankincense essential oil may represent a candidate on a growing list of natural compounds selectively eradicating cancer cells via oxidative stress [5759]. To our knowledge, this is the first report suggesting that the NRF2-mediated oxidative stress response pathway might be involved in the tumor cell-specific anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic activities of frankincense essential oil. In contrast, sandalwood essential oil appears to be a non-tumor cell-specific agent inducing DNA damage and cell cycle arrest. Further studies are required to confirm the involvement of these pathways in relevant biological systems, e.g., whether the redox status of HMGB1 induced by frankincense essential oil is involved in cancer cell-specific activity.


The effects of frankincense and sandalwood essential oils on J82 cells and UROtsa cells involved different mechanisms leading to cancer cell death. While frankincense essential oil elicited selective cancer cell deathvia NRF-2-mediated oxidative stress, sandalwood essential oil induced non-selective cell death via DNA damage and cell cycle arrest.


AhR: Aryl hydrocarbon receptor; AP-1: Activation protein 1; ATM: Ataxia telangiectasia mutated; DAVID: Database for annotation, Visualization and Integrated discovery; EGF: Epidermal growth factor; GADD45: Growth arrest and DNA damage; GO: Gene ontology; HMGB1: High mobility group box-1; HSP: Heat shock protein; HV: Hypervariable; IER: Immediate early response; IPA: Ingenuity pathway analysis; RT: Reverse transcription; SD: Standard deviation; TCC: Transitional cell carcinoma; FOS: Finkel–Biskis–Jinkins murine osteogenic sarcoma virus.

Competing interests

CW and GY are employed by the company Young Living Essential Oils. Other authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

MS, CW, GY, KMF, and HKL conceived the study and designed the experiments. QY, WW, HYL, MD and JW performed the experiments. MS, CW, GY, KMF, HKL, MD and JW interpreted the experimental results. All authors prepared the manuscript preparations and approved the final manuscript.

Supplementary Material

Additional file 1: Table S1:

Genes that are regulated by frankincense and sandalwood essential oils in J82 cells.


This work was supported in part by NIH grant 5P20RR020143-06 to JDW and MD.


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Want True Energy? Here Are 5 Superior Caffeine Substitutes

Last year, I interviewed Yuri Elkaim on a podcast about energy, and during that podcast, Yuri talked about how millions of people struggle with fatigue every day.

They feel groggy, have brain fog, don’t sleep well enough or long enough, and they may even lack the the energy for the basic tasks of daily living, like going up and down stairs or cleaning the garage.

Sound familiar?

What’s worse, the most popular drug on the face of the planet, caffeine (the drug most people rely upon to combat that fatigue and to give them energy), has daunting side effects, most significantly including extreme addiction (1).

Sure, while a nice cup of coffee is likely to be harmless, large doses can result in caffeine toxicity or overdose side effects – especially when it’s in combination with the sugar and other additives you’ll find in everything from carbonated energy drinks to the fancy coffee beverages at your local coffeeshop.

What you’re about to learn will likely surprise you:

Caffeine and coffee don’t provide actual chemical energy, but simply fool your body into producing fake energy. 

In a nutshell, they temporarily squeeze huge amounts of adrenaline from your adrenal glands, resulting in a longer-term drop in your energy levels and even greater dependence on these compounds for getting you through the day (2).

Caffeine and Addiction

But don’t worry. We will go over some tactics for caffeine substitutes – like eating for energy and making smart swaps – so you’ll be feeling more energy than you imagined possible.

Why Caffeine Substitutes Beat “Fake Energy”

So how exactly does caffeine give you this “fake energy”?

One of caffeine’s primary mechanisms of action is achieved by boosting the levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine (3).

How do these types of neurotransmitters work?

Let’s take dopamine as an example.

Dopamine affects levels of concentration by blocking adenosine receptors in your forebrain, receptors that would normally signal your brain to be tired when it’s supposed to be tired, like when it’s time to go to bed. That’s just one way caffeine works with (or against) your body chemicals to make you stay up at night.

Additionally, caffeine increases the release of catecholamines such as adrenaline, which stimulates your “fight and flight” sympathetic nervous system to make your heart beat faster, sends more blood to your muscles and induces your liver to release sugar into the bloodstream for energy, a process known as liver glycogenolysis.

This is why people who eat low amounts of sugar or carbohydrate, but drink copious amounts of coffee, can still have high blood sugar.

But caffeine can do more than this.

For example, it can help muscles to contract by causing the sarcoplasmic reticulum in muscle fibers to release calcium ions, it has been shown to reduce the percentage of maximum exertion that any given level of exercise requires, and even increases circulating and intracellular glucose and fatty acid availability (4).

Research also shows that the amount of caffeine we consume matters (5).

The relatively normal and sane consumption of three milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight (equal to about one to one-and-a-half cups of brewed coffee in a day) appears not to produce some of these “fake energy” effects.

But once you get up to three, and especially when you get as high as six milligrams per kilogram, you begin to experience not only the “fake” boost in energy, but also many of the deleterious side effects of excess caffeine.

You can do the math: that means that if you’re drinking three or more energy drinks, coffees or caffeinated beverages per day, you’re likely not doing your energy systems any favors.

That may seem like a lot of coffee, but when you look at the line coming out of Starbucks or the cars wrapped around the drive-thru of a coffee shop on a typical lunch break, it’s actually close to what many people are consuming on a daily basis.

But What about Those Studies … ?

Now, it is certainly true that, depending on your family history and personal genetics, caffeine consumption can be linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, and this may feel like a bargain that works in your favor.

Caffeine Substitute Green Juice

But here’s something to consider: there are so many non-caffeinated ways to reduce the risk of chronic disease – such as antioxidant rich juices andsmoothies, darkly colored fruits and vegetables, anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, and other natural dietary methods – that it makes sense to not rely upon coffee as your sole source of antioxidants.

And it certainly makes sense to avoid forms of caffeine – like energy drinks and caffeine pills – that provide no antioxidant benefits at all.

So let’s get down to some more reasons why you should consider implementing caffeine substitutes.

How Constant Coffee Decreases Your Ability to Produce Energy

Society’s infatuation and addiction with coffee and caffeine-based drinks is especially a concern for women, considering that high caffeine consumption is linked to greater bone loss.

But the problems with caffeine go far beyond bone loss. Caffeine is a highly addictive substance, and many of us wind up craving the “fake energy” it provides and consume it in large amounts.

The problem with caffeine is that the energy it gives you is short-lived, and you’ve no doubt experienced the up-and-down energy swings that are associated with a big cup of coffee or an energy drink. Every caffeine high is followed by a bounce-back low, and typically, the low prompts you to ingest more caffeine.

So what exactly happens to your energy levels each time you drink a cup of coffee? 

First, your brain sends a message to the pituitary gland, and the pituitary then releases a hormone that tells your adrenal glands to produce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol – which basically triggers the exact same stress response your body would use if you are in imminent physical danger (6).

[Related: 3 Startling Ways Stress Causes Weight Gain]

With just the occasional cup of coffee, your adrenals can handle this type of stimulation. But if you are drinking many cups of coffee each day, and find yourself relying upon coffee for any meaningful source of energy, you will find you need more and more to “get a reaction.”

This isn’t just a tolerance to caffeine, and can instead mean your adrenals are weak and less able to respond to coffee. The adrenals can become, in a word, drained.

This “adrenal fatigue” action of caffeine has been demonstrated in research.

In one study, researchers gave three groups of subjects a 0mg, 300mg or 600mg dose of caffeine each day for five days (7).

Then on a sixth day they gave each subject a morning and afternoon dose of caffeine, and measured the cortisol response. The subjects who had been abstaining from caffeine saw big spikes in cortisol on the sixth day.

But those who had been ingesting caffeine each day saw no cortisol response at all in the morning of the sixth day, and a reduced response in the afternoon.

If you find yourself having trouble with energy levels, then giving up a morning cup of tea, coffee, energy drink or caffeinated soda might sound daunting, but can be a crucial part of beginning to once again create natural energy, especially when combined with the caffeine substitute tips below.

Fortunately, the short-term withdrawal symptoms from caffeine are generally gone within just a few days to a couple weeks.

Try These Caffeine Substitutions to Get Energy

So if you don’t want the potential for adrenal fatigue, withdrawal, addiction, bone loss and the damaging “fake energy” that coffee and caffeine provides, what’s the alternative?

It all comes down to understanding how your body makes true energy: energy derived from sources other than simply a surge in cortisol or adrenaline, and energy derived from something other than a big dump of blood glucose from your liver in response to stress.

Your body’s true chemical energy currency is adenosine triphosphate, also known as ATP.

I have a great discussion about how cells can communicate using ATP in my podcast interview with Dr. Todd Schlapfer at “How to Get Your Cells to Communicate with Lightning Speed” (8).

Fatigue, both mental and physical, can be traced to insufficient levels of the tiny battery-like ATP molecules, which are derived and created in the cells from food that you eat. By maintaining adequate ATP levels, you keep your true energy levels elevated and your batteries charged.

How to Increase Your ATP

There are a variety of strategies for increasing ATP. Many supplements and herbs and wild plant extracts are traditionally used for this and can easily be used as part of your caffeine substitute game plan.

For example, the adaptogenic herbs cordyceps and ginseng both naturally increase ATP levels and energy (9).

Cordyceps and Ginseng for True Energy

Cordyceps sinensis is a medicinal fungi from China that has historically been used in traditional Chinese medicine for its metabolic and energy-producing effects.

The cordyceps fungi live on insects, and when the insect dies, replaces the dead insect’s tissues with fungal structures.

Studies show that cordyceps can increase energy in muscle and other tissues by increasing levels of ATP. Mice given cordyceps supplements have demonstrated more than an 18 percent increase in liver ATP levels, with a drop in the building blocks of ATP, indicating that the body was using these building blocks to create new ATP molecules  (10).

Cordyceps has also been demonstrated to increase both immune cell production, and heart muscle mitochondrial ATP production (11).

It also seems to be especially effective at increasing ATP under conditions of stress. For example, in animals with iron deficiency anemia (a common cause of fatigue in humans) cordyceps has been shown to significantly increase ATP (12).

Like cordyceps, ginseng also has a history of traditional use in China, where it is considered to have “qi-increasing” properties.

The concept of “qi” is considered to be “energy flow” or “vital energy”  and in Chinese medicine, a deficiency of qi is associated with heart disease and lethargy.

Studies show that ginseng increases ATP production in the mitochondria due to antioxidant effects  (13).

It has also been shown that ginseng activates multiple enzymes in the tricarboxylic acid cycle (Krebs cycle), enabling mitochondria to extract maximum amounts of ATP from glucose in the presence of oxygen (14).

Ginseng is a perfect example of how increasing ATP production and fighting fatigue involves protecting and supporting the cells’ mitochondria.

Simple Action Steps to Boost Energy

So in addition to including extracts like cordyceps and ginseng in your diet, what are some other ways to get true energy?

Water and True Energy

7 other strategies to accomplish this same type of mitochondrial protection and ATP production include:

  1. Minimize exposure to environmental toxins such as heavy metals cigarette smoke, alcohol, toxins, processed and fatty foods.
  2. Drink plenty of high quality water, because the cells require significant amounts of water to produce ATP.
  3. Exercise regularly to stimulate movement in the body’s tissues.
  4. Get enough B vitamins, since vitamin B-2 supports energy metabolism, B-3 and B-6 aid in ATP production, B-5 helps form mitochondrial enzymes and B-12 is essential for the delivery of oxygen to the cells.
  5. Include quality sources of vitamin C, because this antioxidant protects cells from damage, which can increase ATP production.
  6. Supplement with milk thistle extract, an antioxidant that has been shown to strengthen the outer wall of liver cells, which are necessary for making and storing ATP  (15).
  7. Prioritize getting high quality sleep, as sleep is when a large amount of cellular repair and ATP production occurs.

Build Your Body’s Energy Naturally

Adaptogens, detoxification, hydration, B and C vitamins, care for your liver and quality sleep … check these boxes, and you’ll need far less coffee than you may currently think you need, and you’ll find that you have true, lasting energy in the form of chemical ATP.

So if you are one of the millions of people who struggle with fatigue or you have a battery that seems chronically run down, I’d highly recommend you make smart caffeine substitutes – choose a safe and non-addictive energy boost and the ATP-producing strategies described above, rather than relying on that “fake” caffeine energy.

Sure, fatigue can sometimes be linked to an underlying illness, such as Lyme disease or a parasite or diabetes, etc. but often the fatigue is simply due to the fact that you are overstimulating your adrenals with caffeine, and the solution is not medical treatment or adding medications, but rather taking care of the natural mechanisms in your body that manufacture ATP, a true source of energy.



3 Simple Things You Can Do to Avoid the Dreaded Afternoon Slump

You know that mid-afternoon crash you feel an hour or so after eating lunch?

That’s when you start feeling a little bit woozy and maybe even as if you could fall asleep at your desk.

I’m going to outline three easy ways to help you avoid that dreaded afternoon slump.

When you take measures to find balance in your routine – eating for energy, avoiding extremes in blood sugar, and focusing instead on nourishing your brain – you will find your energy stays high through the day.

3 Tips to Avoid the Afternoon Slump

1. Ditch the Sugar and Caffeine

First and foremost, we want to avoid sugar and caffeine.


Essentially, they spike your blood sugar, causing it to rise. But shortly afterward, after insulin surges into your system to remove it from your blood, your blood sugar bottoms out.

That leaves you feeling tired and sleepy.

Caffeine does the same thing: It gives you an initial pick-me-up, because it stimulates your adrenal glands. In turn, that leads to even more breakdown of sugar in your blood, giving it the same effect as sugar with the resulting dip in energy.

Many people turn to beverages such as Red Bull and Coke as a pick-me-up.

That’s unfortunate because they’re not very good solutions.

A 20-ounce bottle of Coke contains 65 grams of sugar. Let’s multiply that by four, because there are four calories per gram of sugar. By drinking a bottle of Coke, you’ve taken in 260 calories in liquid and getting next to no nutrition in return.

I will give you a full disclosure about Red Bull.

A while ago I was in California and and we arrived late at night. We still had about two hours to drive to where we were staying.

Because I’m from the East Coast, my body was operating as if I was in a different time zone – I was three hours ahead, so my body thought it was 2 a.m.

I was literally falling asleep at the wheel because I was so tired.

In order to save myself and my family, I had to pull over at a gas station, and, yes, I caved in and got a Red Bull.

Did it work? Sure, it worked; it kept me awake at the wheel for about another hour, and we were able to safely get to our destination.

It’s the only time I’ve ever used Red Bull in the past decade. I would probably never use it again – but I thought I should tell you this in full disclosure.

What should you use instead?

2. Eat (or Drink) Your Greens

The number one thing you can do to boost your energy is to incorporate more greens into your overall diet.

Salads, smoothies, and juices are all ways of getting great nutrition into your body and, more importantly, raise the alkalinity of your blood.

Apple Cider Vinegar and Greens Detox Salad

ACV & Greens Detox Salad

If you’ve been eating too many foods like breads, pastas, cereals, or heavy meals, your blood can become very sluggish because it becomes more acidic.

Understand that when you eat more vegetables, more plant-based foods, the quality of your blood improves.

If your blood is able to flow freely, then the oxygen in your blood is able to get to your cells, and that’s how you produce energy. Getting more greens into your diet is really important for many reasons, just one of them being avoiding the afternoon lull.

If you don’t have access to fresh greens for salads, juices, or smoothies, the next best thing you can do is use a greens powder, like the one I’ve created, called Yuri Elkaim’s Energy Greens.

This is a combination of eight awesome superfoods that you can stir into water and enjoy as a refreshing drink. We formulated this specifically to be the tastiest, most premium-quality greens powder you will ever find.

Nonetheless, even if you’re using your own greens powder, the whole idea is that you want to have this in the afternoon – or a green juice or green smoothie – instead of sugary, caffeinated drinks.

We want to energize through nourishment as opposed to energizing through stimulation, which is what most people do.

3. Snack on Healthy Fats and Protein

Another thing you can do to beat the mid-afternoon slump is to add more healthy fat and protein to your diet.

Walnuts are a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for the health of your heart and for your brain. A little tip: Anything that’s good for your heart is also good for your brain.

walnut looks like a brain

Photo of a walnut on the left and a brain on the right.

Did you ever notice that when you look at a whole walnut, it looks like your brain? That’s indication that it’s actually good for your brain.

The other benefit of walnuts is that they are a good source of protein.

The omega-3 fatty acids and the protein will help stabilize your blood sugar so you don’t have feel that energy crash.

Another option would be almonds. Almonds are an even better source of protein than walnuts, and they’re a very good source of vitamin E.

Grab the Good Stuff, Avoid the Bad Stuff

The whole idea is that, in the afternoon, after you’ve had your lunch and are feeling a little bit tired, you avoid foods and drinks containing caffeine and sugar.

And instead, reach for some type of greens – a greens powder or a greens juice – as well as very small amounts of protein in the form of almonds or walnuts.

That’s a simple way to avoid the crash.

If you’re addicted to sugar and caffeine, yes, you’re going to feel crappy the first couple days you go without them.

But as you recalibrate your body with more of this awesome stuff, you will no longer feel the mid-afternoon slump.

3 Simple Things You Can Do to Avoid the Dreaded Afternoon Slump


5 Biggest Myths On How to Squat

Squatting is a fundamental movement pattern that we’re all born with. While there’s no shortage of articles and videos on squats, the reason why I’ve written this article is because there’s also no shortage of confusion and misunderstanding around how to squat, that it’s keeping people stuck and afraid to do something we’re born to do.

I was especially compelled to bust 5 of the biggest myths on how to squat properly that are so pervasive in the fitness world that many trainers and coaches are perpetuating these falsities.

The benefits of squats include the obvious ones such as maintaining mobility in our hips, knees and ankles and building functional lower body strength, but squats also benefit our digestive and elimination systems via pumping and massaging the stomach and intestines to help keep things moving.

And the deeper we squat, the greater the benefits.

But we’re not going to cover different squat variations or the intricacies of program design to improve your squat 1RM here…

My goal with this article is to help you understand how to squat more completely so you no longer succumb to the common myths that I’m sure you’ll continue to hear and ultimately, help you squat deeper and with less restriction (both mental and physical).

And we’re not going to go into squat anatomy or biomechanics at all.

To do a basic squat properly, you don’t need to understand exactly what muscles are firing or the exact amount of shear force at the knee when at parallel with 135 pounds on your back.

How do I know?

Well, my daughter Livia can squat pretty good and she has no clue about all this stuff:

The Best Example on How to Squat

The bottom line is that you should be able to smoothly get your ass to grass, hang out for a bit, then smoothly come back up while keeping a decently tall posture.

Forget about all of the details (for now) and let’s see if we can see the forest first before we start to analyze the leaves on the trees.

So, what are we going to cover then?

These 2 things:

  • The 5 Biggest Myths Around Squats
  • Key Takeaways on How to Squat for Health and Performance

Let’s get started, shall we?

Squat Myth #1
There’s A “Right” Way To Squat

There's no right away to squat

Should your feet be lined up straight or turned out?

Should your feet be shoulder width, wider, or narrower?

Should I put the bar on my upper traps (weightlifting/bodybuilding style) or lower down my upper back (powerlifting style)?

Should I even use a barbell or are dumbbells or kettlebells better or just bodyweight?

The answer is…


It depends on the your individual set of hips.

It depends on your goals.

It depends on your available equipment.

There’s no sole right way to squat.

Once you understand that, you’re free to do whatever feels right to you.

Here’s a great place to start to find your squat stance:

  • Jump and wherever your feet land, that’s the width you test
  • Feel free to turn your toes out up to 30°
  • Try a squat and see how it feels, if it feels fairly natural, use it for whatever squat variation you want (Back Squat, Front Squat, Goblet, Double KB, etc)
  • If it feels unnatural, adjust width in or out by a couple of inches and keep trying until you find something that feels good

This method of finding squat stance has worked well enough for my clients over the years so if you’re at all unsure of where to start, try it for yourself and go – don’t get lost in the details.

From there, if you’re looking to use squats to build strength and/or muscle, here are the form tips I suggest you pay attention to the following points:

Basic Squat Form Tips

  • Keep good posture with shoulders back and chest out
  • When you descend, push your knees out so that your thigh (femur) points in the same direction as your feet
  • Inhale on the descent, you can hold your breath during the transition, then exhale on the way up
  • Look straight ahead not up to maintain spinal alignment

Those are the basics of a typical fitness squat that will help you build strength and stay injury-free so I suggest you use them.

And if you’re going to squat with weight but depth is an issue, I suggest you start with the Goblet Squat because it’s easier to get deeper while maintaining posture.

Build up your strength there until you’re doing at least 6 good reps with a 45 pound dumbbell, then transition to barbell variations as that’s a perfect segue since a barbell weighs 45 pounds.

Video from the Olympic Lifting Mastery Course

This progression allows you to build strength and mobility before getting to the more difficult (from a mobility/technical perspective) Back and Front Squats.

So there’s where you start.

Good to go?

WHOA not quite yet – we’ve got more myths to bust!

Squat Myth #2
Butt Wink (and/or Lumbar Flexion) is BAD

One comment I often hear is that people are afraid of the “butt wink” phenomenon occurring when they squat, preventing them from going deep.

So, they do half-ass squats all day long in hopes of preventing low back pain.

Let’s first define butt wink, then we’ll address this myth.

What the heck is “butt wink”?

Butt wink is the term used to describe what occurs during the squat when your pelvis goes from an anterior to posterior tilt, which you can see in the diagram below as the yellow line indicates more posterior tilt in the second image.

Example of butt wink during deep squats

Try this – make the motion of grabbing the pelvis in the image with your hand (not your own pelvis, perv!) and rotate it counter-clockwise – this is posterior pelvic tilt and when this happens during a squat is called butt wink.

Here’s a random video of somebody who posted their butt wink on YouTube so you know exactly what we’re talking about:

Maintaining a neutral lumbar spine and preventing things like butt wink is a concept that like many valid concepts in fitness, has been taken too far.

In particular, my old university prof Dr. Stu McGill has popularized the neutral spine approach to low back pain rehabilitation.Proper Squatting Posture

The problem is when this approach is applied to healthy or athletic populations.

Sure, it’s a safer bet to simply maintain a neutral spine at all times, but the reality is that movements in sport and life require varying degrees of motion from the spine, whether it’s flexion, extension, side bending, rotation or a more complex movement and if the spine and its tissues aren’t ready for these movements, pain and injury can result.

For example, unless you’re at least 6’3” tall, retrieving a baby from a crib is going to result in flexion of your spine and if you’ve never flexed your spine while lifting a squirmy 20 pound baby, you may be in for some back pain.

I’m 6’ tall and despite my best efforts and rescuing Livia when monsters were attacking her, I could not maintain a neutral spine.

And a quick look at some MMA fights will show you that flexion of the spine is a common occurrence that fighters will never be able to avoid, especially when the fighters are grappling (like my man Demian Maia):

So, like everything with the body, we either use it or lose it.

All tissues in the human body get stronger by adapting to stress and get weaker when they are not stressed.

We all understand this concept with respect to muscles, but it’s also true for tendons, ligaments, intervertebral discs and even nerves.

When we go into lumbar flexion, spinal ligaments are loaded and intervertebral discs are stressed posteriorly.

Spine When Squatting

If these tissues aren’t ready for the loads you throw at it, damage and pain could result.

When we train these tissues through proper intensity and volume over time, they’ll adapt, strengthen and you’ll have built a more resilient spine.

But if we avoid any and all lumbar flexion like the plague, when we do have to perform this movement in life or sport, tissues can be damaged even from the tiniest amount of stress because they’ve atrophied since they’ve never been used.

Makes sense, right?

The most basic exercise to train flexion-extension of your spine is the Cat/Camel.

This movement will maintain range, but won’t do too much to strengthen the tissues, because the load is so low.

From there, Rounded Back Deadlifts aka Jefferson Curls can be used, starting with bodyweight only and adding weight very slowly.

There are too many things I love about that video to describe here.

Note that passive tissues like ligaments and tendons adapt and strengthen much slower than muscles, so add load slowly and steadily and always play it conservatively because an injury to these tissues can take months to heal.

Anyway, the main point I want to make is that many things in the fitness industry labeled as “bad” are usually not so i.e. slow, steady state cardio.

The key is understanding what is actually happening in the body and if the exercise, movement or technique will help you move closer to your goals.

If you don’t have the deep understanding, you need to find sources you trust and NOT just follow what’s popular.

Now, with respect to this myth, let me give you a couple of clear takeaways:

  • Butt wink or lumbar flexion are BAD if you’re doing a very heavy Back Squat or Deadlift or you’ve never properly conditioned lumbar flexion before.
  • Butt wink or lumbar flexion are BAD if you’re doing a very heavy Back Squat or Deadlift or you’ve never properly conditioned lumbar flexion before.

Squat Myth #3
Butt Wink Is All About Hamstring Flexibility

Let’s say you want to squat some heavy loads but you’ve still got butt wink.

What to do?

Whenever I’m faced with a question like this, I consult Google.

But in this case, you’ll find the majority of articles and videos talk about hamstring flexibility.

Unfortunately, this advice is misguided.

Hamstring flexibility being the cause of butt wink is the most common myth likely due to a lack of full understanding of the anatomy and biomechanics of the hamstrings.

The hamstrings can create posterior pelvic tilt.

So if they’re tight, they’re pulling the pelvis more into posterior tilt and this is why tight hamstrings cause butt wink as you get deeper into the squat, right?


The thing about the hamstrings is that they are a two joint muscle, meaning they cause movement at two joints, the hips and knees, unlike most muscles that work at only one joint.

The hamstrings cross both the knee and the pelvis (except the short head of the Biceps Femoris, which only acts at the knee), causing knee flexion and hip extension, respectively.

Anatomy of Squats

When you squat, yes, the hip goes into extension, increasing tension on the hamstrings, but the knees simultaneously go into flexion, decreasing tension on the hamstrings.

The net effect is negligible, based on the fact that the hips flex about as much as the knees do when you squat, so biomechanically, hamstring length cannot be the culprit.

But if you don’t believe me, you can quickly rule it out by doing a simple test, which I call the Supine Squat Test:

  • Lie on the floor with your lumbar spine in neutral (lumbar spine in slight extension)
  • Bring your legs as far up as you can into the position they’d be when you squat without flexing your lumbar spine
  • When in this position, feel your hamstrings with your hands
  • Now do a reverse curl where you lift your pelvis off the floor using your abs and feel your hamstrings again

If they’re tight, they’ll feel the same as when you do a hamstring stretch.

If this is the case, you have SUPER tight hamstrings that might be contributing to butt wink and need to be addressed.

But if you’re like myself and everyone else who I’ve had perform this test, you’ll see that your hamstrings aren’t tense at all in either Step 3 or 4.

So let’s just rule out hamstring flexibility as the chief cause of butt wink and we’ll come back to this later, because right now we’ve got more myths to bust.

Squat Myth #4
Brace Your Core Tight Whenever You Squat

core muscles, bracing the core when you squatI love working with clients who have had trainers in the past.

It always helps justify in the client’s mind why I charge significantly more than the average trainer.

I was assessing one such client and I asked him to do a simple bodyweight squat and saw that he got really tight in the core before going down – the kind of tight you get when you’ve eaten too many protein bars and you’re sitting there working at it but things still aren’t moving.

“What did you do right there before you started the squat?” I asked.

“I tightened up my core to protect my back.”

Ah so!

This is a common cue given to people when they Squat, but it’s problematic because the nuance has never been properly taught.

Yes, bracing the core is an effective strategy to help keep your lumbar spine in neutral and add core stability.

However, here’s the key point: the amount of bracing used should be relative to the amount of stability needed.

This is a critical concept to understand and applies to every exercise where core stability is required.

If you’re doing a bodyweight squat, you don’t need much core stability whereas if you’re doing a 1 rep max, you need a lot and should brace appropriately.

If you’re doing a plank, you only need as much activation as necessary to maintain position – if you consciously contract your abs as hard as you can, you’re creating an inefficient motor program since the level of activation exceeds the demands of the exercise.

If you’re just a fitness buff, then it’s not such a big deal if you try to contract maximally during an exercise that doesn’t require it.

But if you’re an athlete that participates in any team sport where you’ve got toreact in the moment (basketball, hockey, football, soccer), you need to develop your ability to unconsciously create the proper movement pattern and if you’re always consciously overriding it, you’re working against this unconscious competence development.


So the point of me talking about this is to teach you that to move efficiently, to move PRECISELY, you want to use the amount of muscular contraction needed to properly execute the technique and no more – because any more is a waste of energy.

Squat Myth #5
Don’t Let Your Knees Go Over Your Toes

If you believe this myth, you will NEVER get into a deep squat position because it’s impossible to get in a deep squat without the knees traveling past the toes.

And unless you’ve got an extremely short femur, it’s near biomechanically impossible to achieve a decent depth without this happening, especially when doing a back squat.

When you do a back squat, the bar must always be over your feet, otherwise you’ll lose your balance.

Here’s a simple diagram, where I used the exact same limb lengths for both models and just changed the angles to show you what keeping the knees behind your toes looks like:

How to do a squat

The yellow circle represents a weight plate, so the centre of this circle is the barbell.

As you can see, when forced to keep your knees behind your toes, you must go into significantly more hip flexion than knee flexion and the movement looks more like a Deadlift than a Squat.

When the knees are allowed to travel forward, the amount of hip flexion and knee flexion is very similar.

This means more glutes/hamstrings/low back activation and less quad if you’re doing the knees behind toes version.

Not right or wrong, just different.

The problem is that you’ll never go any deeper than parallel keeping your knees behind your toes.

Watch me alter the above diagram in Photoshop so you know the limb lengths don’t change to show you what it would look like to be in a deep squat position with your knees behind your toes.

If that video alone didn’t make this blog post worth your time, well, we can’t be friends.

“But it’s safer for the knees if they don’t go past the toes!” you may have heard.

If you’ve heard this, refer back to the previous “All Lumbar Flexion/Butt Wink is BAD” myth for my philosophical thoughts on this, but the bottom line is that very few exercises are inherently safe or unsafe – how safe a movement is is determined on the person’s readiness to do that movement.

But to further illustrate this point, let’s go through a thought exercise and assume that when we’re kids, we’re born with perfect mobility…

And let’s assume that a kid is being trained as early as possible to do an exercise that requires a deep squat position, such as a Clean & Jerk.

Thus, their mobility won’t restrict them.

If our goal is to build them up to become an Olympic champion, they need to do the technique properly, otherwise they’ll never make it.

So what do you think, would we train them to keep their knees behind their toes?

Well, we don’t have to assume.

Let’s just take a look:

This kid is 8 years old, weighs 95 pounds and did a Clean & Jerk with 165 lbs, with his knees going way past his toes at the bottom of the squat.

Biomechanically there’s no way he could get his bum to heels if he tried to keep his knees behind his toes and his knees didn’t explode, did they?

So again, if you’ve never trained the range of motion of your knees going past your toes when you squat, you might want to start off by doing bodyweight only.

Then, you can work your way up – here’s an example of me doing a 1RM test, where I hit 265 pounds on the Back Squat, knees going well past the toes (and proud of it):

Even if you’re currently squatting with hundreds of pounds, if you’ve been doing so with your knees behind your toes, you need to start light because the passive tissues will be stressed in a different way that they’re not adapted to and you don’t want to injure them.

Key Takeaways to Squat for Health and Performance

So, you’re still here on your computer or phone and you’ve read everything up to this point and because of it, the following myths about squats have been busted:

  • There’s a “RIGHT” way to squat
  • Butt wink and/or lumbar flexion is bad
  • Butt wink is all about hamstring flexibility
  • Brace your core tight whenever you squat
  • Don’t let your knees go in front of your toes

This is awesome and with respect to knowledge about how to squat, reading this article puts you ahead of 99% of people who do squats in their workouts, which is pretty much everyone who works out.


Now, I just want to make sure you get those other key points that I shared within the article that I don’t want you to miss:

  • Be suspicious of black and white rules in fitness (and life in general)
  • It’s not just muscles, passive tissues can and should be strengthened too
  • Passive tissues must be strengthened slowly and conservatively
  • The amount of muscle activation you generate should be relative to the need of the movement or technique, otherwise you’re building a dysfunctional motor pattern

That’s enough for today.

I’ve spent upwards of 8 hours writing and assembling this article for you because it’s my mission to “Empower you to move with PURPOSE and PRECISION” and I hope I’ve achieved that goal and with the depth and explanations I’ve provided, I’m sure you understand more about squats than before you read it.

But wait, there’s more!

FIRST, I don’t want you to leave empty handed, so I’d like to hook you up with the a great Squat Warmup Mobility Routine.

Just click the button below, enter your details and it’s yours along with a handy PDF cheatsheet showing all of the exercises (you won’t be taken off this page, so go ahead and do it now so you don’t forget):

get the squat mobility routine

The second thing I’ve got for you is a video where I answer questions I received from my powerDOJO VIP Newsletter Subscribers that I gathered as I was writing this article to ensure I covered the most popular questions from my practitioners.

All About Squats [VIP QnA]

So that’s it.

Blog post done.

I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

I’d appreciate if you shared this post using one of the options below to help me get this article out to people who could also benefit from it.

Talk soon,





By Meghan Kahnle
Last updated: Oct 21, 2014

Many health-conscious individuals don’t partake in the tradition of sipping summer cocktails, but that doesn’t mean anyone has to get stuck with water. Here are 7 fun and delicious BCAA mocktail recipes!
People say there is a time and a place for everything, but depending on your training goals, there may be no time for alcohol and no place to get away from it. I feel your pain, and I’ve found a fun solution! Just because you’ve made the healthy choice to not to drink doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with your drinks!

Don’t worry: these drinks look like they’re harder to make than they actually are. I like to use a lot of color and make things pretty, but you can make any of these in your shaker bottle—you just need to spend a little extra time preparing more ingredients.

One of the best parts about these branched chain amino acid (BCAA) mocktail recipes is that they’re easy to double or triple, so you can share them with a group. Even your non-fit friends and family will have to agree that they’re delicious!

Get creative, have fun, and share your own concoctions in the comments section below!

Whoever decided that adding mint to a beverage was a good idea is a true hero. Combining mint with the always-yummy lemon-raspberry duo makes for a doubly yummy treat. It’s difficult to make your BCAAs taste any better than this.

6 raspberries
8 mint leaves
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 scoop Optimum Nutrition Raspberry Lemon Pro BCAA
Muddle raspberries and mint leaves.
Add 8 oz water.
Add lemon juice.
Stir in BCAAs.
Pour over ice.
Raspberry-Lemon Mojito PDF (25.9 KB)
Make this delicious beverage, and you’ll imagine sitting on a front porch swing enjoying the evening breeze. Or, you might imagine how the BCAAs are helping your muscles grow. Put the two images together and you have yourself a swole 1940s gentleman suitor!

1 tea bag
Sweetener of your choice
3 lemon wedges
1 scoop Foundation Series BCAA Powder
Brew a cup of your favorite tea in about 6 oz of water. I use black tea.
Add the sweetener of your choice while the tea is still hot.
Add a handful of ice to tea.
Stir in 1 scoop of BCAAs and add lemon wedges.
Summer Tea PDF (26 KB)
Order sangria at a restaurant and you’ll get a bunch of sugar with your alcohol. Make a healthier choice and try this low-calorie option. It tastes just as good but doesn’t include all of the junk!

18 oz soda water
12 oz water
1 peach
1 mango
1 apple
1 scoop Optimum Nutrition Peach Mango Pro BCAA
Add 1 scoop of BCAAs to 12 oz of water in a pitcher.
Cut up peach, mango, and apple into bite-sized pieces and add them to the pitcher.
Add the soda water.
Peach-Mango Sangria PDF (26 KB)
BCAAs usually taste great on their own, but adding real fruit to your refreshing cup of muscle-building aminos just makes a good thing better. If you like kiwi and strawberry, then you’ll love this delicious drink. Bottoms up!

1 kiwi
2 strawberries
Juice from 1/2 lemon
4 oz water
6 oz soda water
1 scoop Gaspari Nutrition Kiwi-Strawberry Aminolast
Add 1 scoop of aminos to 4 oz of water in a glass.
Cut up strawberries and kiwi and add them to the glass.
Add lemon juice and ice.
Top it off with soda water if you like bubbles.
Kiwi-Strawberry Blitz PDF (26.1 KB)
You can stir all these ingredients together in a regular cup, but it’s way more fun and special to mix them up in a martini (or protein) shaker and pour the result into a fancy glass. James Bond would wholeheartedly approve.

8 oz water
1 strawberry
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 scoop BPI Sports Blue Raspberry Best BCAA
Add 1 scoop BCAAs to 8 oz of water.
Add the fresh juice from 1/2 a lemon.
Pour into shaker with ice and shake.
Pour into glass and garnish with a strawberry and lemon twist.
Blue Martini PDF (26 KB)
Rosemary and cinnamon add adult complexity to your drink’s flavor profile. Say goodbye to your super sweet BCAAs and enjoy something different. This is a recipe you can double or triple and bring to a party—it’s really that good.

4 oz water
4 oz soda water
1/4 orange
2 rosemary stalks
1 tsp cinnamon
1 scoop Optimum Nutrition Orange Cooler AmiN.O. Energy
Chop rosemary stalks into small pieces.
Mix cinnamon and rosemary into water. Pour into ice-cube trays. Let freeze.
Stir 1 scoop of BCAAs in 4 oz of water.
Cut up orange and add it to glass.
Add soda water.
Pour drink over cinnamon and rosemary ice cubes.
Instead of making ice cubes, you can boil rosemary and cinnamon in water with your choice of sweetener to make simple syrup, and then add that to your beverage. Or, you can just add rosemary stalks and a cinnamon stick to your drink!

Orange Rosemary Cooler PDF (26.7 KB)
Missing your Monday margarita? Now you can make it without having to feel guilty! This recipe is fun to drink, super easy to make, and tastes great. It’s the perfect fix for any nutrition-conscious margarita connoisseur.

8 oz water
Juice from 1/2 lime
Rim salt
1 scoop Cellucor Cor-Performance Lemon-Lime Beta-BCAA
Blend water, ice, BCAAs, and fresh lime juice until you have a slushy consistency.
Use a lemon wedge to wet the rim of a glass, and then dip the glass in a plate of salt.
Carefully pour the BCAA slushy into the salted glass and enjoy!
Lemon-Lime Margarita PDF (26.1 KB)


Sponsored By

Your summer menu isn’t complete without one of these cold, delicious drinks served over ice in a glass (or shaker bottle). Doll up your aminos with fresh fruit and herbs, and prepare to have your mind blown!
Mocktails using branched-chain amino acids as a mixer are one of the great “why didn’t I think of that?” treats of the fitness world. After all, what could be better than your favorite cold, sweet amino drink? The same flavor, only garnished with fresh fruit, fizzed up with soda water, and turned up to 11!

This summer, don’t feel left out drinking plain water while others indulge in a crisp, refreshing beverage. Join the fun and whip up one of these easy-to-make creations for an invigorating burst of muscle-building flavor.

Sangria is a popular summer party drink not only for its alcohol content, but also for the way it packs a one-two punch of flavor and texture. It’s a sweet cocktail bursting with tons of little surprises—real fruit! This version is a dead ringer for the drink you’d find yourself sipping—and refilling—at a pool party. Shell out for a fancy ginger ale or ginger beer (both are non-alcoholic) made with real ginger to add even more tang to your new favorite drink!







Add all ingredients to glass, shaker or jug in the following order: water, amino acids, berries ginger ale.
Stir or shake, serve chilled, and enjoy! Makes two servings.

When you combine the sweetness of Icy Blue Razz aminos with a hint of lemon and bubbles, you’ll immediately feel as if you’re laying out in the sun. Plus, it’ll help keep you moving toward that beach bod you desire!






Add all ingredients to glass, shaker, or jug in the following order: water, amino acids, crushed ice, soda water.
Add lemon juice.
Stir or shake and enjoy! Makes one serving.

Cellucor: Alpha Amino

This luscious lemon-lime twist will satisfy that sweet-and-sour concoction you desire without the splurge of calories. Serve it “up” in a martini glass, with some sort of powdered sweetener on the rim of the glass; a number of companies make inexpensive lemon-and-sugar combos expressly for this purpose. If sweet-and-savory is more your thing, use salt!






Salt or sweeten the rim of a martini glass by dipping the edge in water first, and then coating.
Add water and then aminos to glass.
Garnish with lemon and lime slice, and enjoy!

This refreshing recipe will bring you to a happy place no matter how your day has been. Fresh fruit and fresh mint go hand in hand, and you can further enhance the combo by unlocking the flavor of the mint through shredding or muddling. The easy method is simply to tear the leaves by hand and rub them lightly between your fingers before putting them in the glass.

If you’ve got some bartending chops, put the mint leaves in the bottom of the glass along with the amino powder and grind them lightly with a muddler or the end of a rolling pin until they’re fragrant.








Add all ingredients to glass, shaker, or jug in the following order: water, amino acids, berries, mint leaf, soda water, and ice.
Garnish with mint leaves as desired, and enjoy!

No backyard barbecue is complete without a refreshing drink in hand. The combination of in-season watermelon and crisp cucumber is amazingly good on its own, but even better with a little fresh basil. Plus, watermelon is one of the world’s premiere sources of the amino acid citrulline, so slugging down this drink pre-workout might even give you a better pump!







Add all ingredients to glass, shaker, or jug in the following order: water, amino acids, watermelon, cucumber, basil leaf, soda water, and ice.
Garnish with additional cucumber as desired, and enjoy!


9 Herbs That Naturally Kill Parasites

Herbs Parasites


There are many powerful herbs that are used to treat parasite infections; however, taking them without adhering to the basics of a healthy lifestyle is like putting the wagon before the horse.

Before we dive in, know that it is not advised to take any herbs unless you’ve been working with a professional or, even better, a functional medicine doctor with experience in parasitic infections. It’s ideal if you have been practicing a holistic lifestyle for some time. That is because the first and most critical step for healing an infection is getting your immune system up and functioning optimally.

(Read: 21 Signs You Might Have a Parasite – And What To Do About It)

From there, one of the very last steps is going to be experimenting with herbs. To help this process, if you suspect you have an infection or are running a routine yearly cleanse, here are some of the best natural food and herbal remedies for parasites.

The Best Herbs & Their Benefits

Fresh Garlic 

Herbs for Parasites

This might come as a surprise, but do not underestimate this common household herb. It is actually among the most effective herbs for ridding the body of any unwanted organisms. Garlic is able to slow and kill over 60 types of fungus and 20 types of bacteria, as well as some of the most potent viruses.

Garlic has a history of killing parasites and controlling secondary fungal infections. It also detoxifies while gently stimulating elimination, and has antioxidant properties to protect against oxidation caused by parasite toxins. The active components in garlic that kill parasites are allicin and ajoene. (1) These compounds can kill amoebas including one-cell varieties, as well as pinworms and hookworms.

Allicin is not present in garlic in its natural state. When garlic is chopped or otherwise damaged, the enzyme alliinase acts on the chemical alliin, converting it into allicin, the active component contributing to its success for killing parasites.

To get the most out of garlic, be sure to use it crushed or juiced. Start off with 1 clove and work your way up to as many as you can stomach. (2)

Cucumber Seeds

Cucumber seeds have been used as an all-natural treatment to remove tapeworms within the digestive tract. The powder of cucumber seeds can be used to treat tapeworms but also consumed even if you do not have a parasite, as a preventative measure.

That is because cucumbers are of course are also a vegetable. They are effective due to enzymes within the cucumber and seeds that kill tapeworms. Look for heirloom cucumber seeds, grind into a powder and add 1 tsp. to a smoothie daily during your cleanse. (3)


Sugary, tropical fruit is typically not advised when dealing with parasites. However, this particular fruit has a strong ability to destroy many parasitic worms, including most intestinal worms and tapeworm. The most powerful part of the fruit is actually the seed.

The University of Maryland Medical Center advises a mixture of honey and papaya seeds, which has been found to clear stools of parasites. If you are going to consume the fruit for its benefits, it is best to remove the skin and ferment in apple cider vinegar for one day. You will want to eat eight ounces of the cultured papaya and drink 2 ounces of the brine for 4 days.

When it comes to papaya, the most powerful part of the fruit is actually the seed.

Chaudhary MD, a neurologist and practitioner of Ayurveda, suggests this papaya smoothie recipe: Take the seeds from an average-sized papaya and grind them in a coffee grinder. Next, add a tablespoon of organic virgin coconut oil. Then add about a cup of coconut milk and the rest of the papaya; finally, blend until smooth. Drink the smoothie each morning for at least 7 consecutive days. (4)


Clove Essential Oil

Cloves contains the most powerful germicidal agent in the herbal kingdom, known as eugenol. It also contains caryophyllene, which is a powerful antimicrobial agent. These components travel through the bloodstream, killing microscopic parasites and parasitic larvae and eggs.

Cloves are tremendously effective in killing malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, scabies and other parasites, viruses, bacteria and fungi, including Candida. Cloves also destroy all species of Shigella, Staphylococcus, and Streptococcus. It is best consumed with black walnut hulls and wormwood. (5)

Raw Pumpkin Seeds

These are able to kill eggs, and they contain a natural fat that is toxic to parasite eggs. Curcurbitin in pumpkin seeds has shown anti-parasitic activity, since it has the ability to paralyze worms so they drop off the intestinal walls.

Chinese scientists used pumpkin seeds to treat acute schistosomiasis and tapeworm infestations. Many parasite formulas contain pumpkin seed, but it doesn’t do much in just a few capsules. You need half a cup at a time to really work. Grind in coffee grinder and add to salads or smoothies. (6)


Turmeric Spice

This is perhaps one of the most powerful herbs and is helpful for just about everything. It boasts powerful properties. it is an anticancer, anti-inflammatory, wound-healing, worm-expelling, and an overall body purifier. This is a very safe herb to consume regularly for maintaining health as well as to use medicinally. Pair with coconut oil and black pepper for improved absorption. (7,8)


Ginger Herb

A family member to turmeric, ginger has many similar qualities. It also increases circulation and helps all digestive issues. It is particularly good for gas and nausea associated with parasite die-off. It also improves stomach acid production, which kills parasites and protects us from getting infected in the first place. Fresh ginger is better for eliminating mucus, while ground ginger is better for warming the digestive system. Take both. (9,10)


This hot pepper is a powerful anti-fungal. The best cayenne has the ability to destroy fungus, mold & parasites on contact! It increases circulation and health, and also increases effectiveness of other herbs when used in combination with them. Try sprouted pumpkin seeds seasoned with ginger and cayenne for a delicious snack and a medicine for treating intestinal bugs! The best is African Cayenne. (11)

Green Hulls of Black Walnut

These have been shown to have powerful effects on killing many varieties of parasites. The dried and ground green hull of the black walnut contains tannin, which is organic iodine, as well as juglandin.

Black walnut has been used for centuries to expel various types of worms, including parasites that cause skin irritations such as ringworm. It oxygenates the blood, which also helps kill parasites.

You can find black walnut growing in the wild in abundance.

Black walnut is very effective against tapeworms, pinworms, Candida albicans (yeast infections) and malaria. It is also effective in reducing blood sugar levels, and helping the body rid itself of toxins. Best of all, you can find these babies growing outside in the wild in abundance. I have a tree in my front yard that gives more than I can use! Your best bet is to take an alcohol tincture of it three times a day. (12)

Pin-9-herbs-naturally-kill-parasitesDon’t Forget Probiotics

Remember to take probiotics at the end of the day during a parasite herbal protocol because parasite-killing herbs knock out everything, including good bacteria. The best probiotics are food-based, such as sauerkraut, kefir and raw yogurts.

(Read: The Ultimate Guide to Probiotics)

Also, remember to get plenty of rest while on a parasite cleanse. First of all, sleep is incredibly healing and needed for repair and rebuilding. You will also want to drink plenty of clean water. Any activity that promotes rest, relaxation and builds energy is a wise move for boosting the immune system!

9 Herbs That Naturally Kill Parasites








Summer Detox Juice

In the heat of summer, it’s not uncommon to crave far less than you do during the cold seasons where comfort food is a focus. Listen to your seasonal cravings!

When your body is begging for hydration, smaller portions, and fresh or even raw foods, it’s likely asking you to give it what it truly wants. Toss those hot dogs and hamburgers, and forget the eat-until-you’re-stuffed meals. Summertime is a great time to allow your body to naturally reset to a lighter way of eating.

[Free 1-Day Detox Plan: Bust Sugar Cravings, Restore Youthful Energy, and Drop Belly Bloat]

Summer Watermelon Detox Juice

This simple summer detox juice is a great way to hydrate and fuel your body without stuffing it full of hearty, filling foods. An awesome post-workout refresher, this “juice” smoothie also makes a great no-booze cocktail for hot summer evenings, and you might find it’s all you need for dinner on some nights.

A chilled glass is packed with vitamins A, B6 and C, lots of lycopene, antioxidants and amino acids. Plus, even though I’m calling it a Detox “Juice” you actually make it in your blender — no juicer needed!

Blend up a whole head of romaine, add some sweet watermelon, a squeeze of fresh lime, and give this juice a try. We love rimming our cups with a little honey and salt for extra flavor. It tastes incredible with the melon!

Watermelon Detox Juice

 Summer Detox Juice

Summer Watermelon Detox Juice
Serves 2
When your body is begging for hydration, smaller portions, and fresh or even raw foods, turn to this refreshing summer detox juice recipe.
  1. 4 cups watermelon chunks, chilled
  2. 4-5 romaine lettuce leaves
  3. 1 lime, freshly squeezed
  4. 1/2″ fresh ginger, peeled (optional)
  5. 1 tablespoon fresh-chopped mint (optional)
  6. 1/2″ piece jalapeno (optional)
  7. 2 teaspoons honey
  8. 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  1. Place watermelon, romaine, lime juice, ginger, mint, and jalapeno (if desired) in a blender. Blend until pureed.
  2. Rim two glasses with honey, dip in salt. Pour juice into prepared glasses. Sip immediately and enjoy.
  1. If making for breakfast, be sure to include 2 Tbsp of hemp seeds to bump up the protein!
By Yuri Elkaim

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Summer Watermelon Detox Juice



Green Smoothie Bowl with Blueberries and Acai

Who says you have to drink your healthy smoothies? Turn your morning sipper into a vibrant, violet-colored spooner with this delightful superfood smoothie bowl!

You may have seen the acai bowl becoming all the rage at your local coffee shops and health food joints. Chock full of nourishing acai, these smoothie bowls are an awesome swap for cereal.

[Get My Secrets for Making the Perfect Green Smoothie Every Time]

That said, why buy them when it’s so easy (and more affordable) to blend them up at home?

They’re ridiculously tasty and the health benefits are definitely worth the initial investment in a bag of acai powder (which can run between $17-40 per pouch).

What Makes This Acai Smoothie Bowl so Great?

If you’re new to acai powder, it’s time to give it a try! Tangy and delicious when paired with other fruits and veggies, it’s so easy to add to your daily diet. This simple smoothie bowl recipe is proof of that.

The acai berry has a high capacity for neutralizing free radicals, and contains more than double the antioxidant level of blueberries. Add a little of the powder to your smoothies every day for a faster recovery time after workouts.

The super seed mix adds a delicious crunch to the top of your smoothie bowl, and has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that help ward off a host of chronic diseases.

This mix also has a high fatty acid profile that helps to stabilize insulin levels and promotes healthy cell growth.

On top of that, this smoothie bowl is also high in fiber, which is important for ahealthy digestive system and to keep you feeling full after eating.

Switch Up Your Green Smoothie Routine

Super Seed Sprinkle

Smoothies can get a bit boring every now and then, so a smoothie bowl is definitely a fun way to go if you want to chew instead of slurp. Plus, you can top it with fruits and seeds which can really liven it up.

Rather than granola (which is traditionally high in sugar), top your smoothie bowl with a sprinkling of super seeds.

Packed with antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds and sunflower seeds have a natural concentration of important nutrients and provide a broad spectrum of nutrition not found in many other foods.

Plus, they just add a satisfying crunch and great flavor.

I’ve included my recipe for my own “Super Seed Sprinkle” below. This stuff is awesome. It’s like a healthy, quick and simple homemade granola, chock full of so many seeds you need in your life.

Mix up a big batch and sprinkle this stuff on everything from smoothies to salads. You can even add it to cookies or mix it into shakes.

This super seed sprinkle is a simple way to supercharge just about any meal with plant-based protein and serious nutrients.

I hope this smoothie bowl recipe excites you. Blend one up tomorrow and kick your day off right!

Acai and Blueberry Green Smoothie Bowl

 Green Smoothie Bowl with Blueberries and Acai

Green Smoothie Bowl with Blueberries and Acai
Serves 1
Start your morning with this delicious smoothie bowl that’s made to optimize your health.
For the Acai Bowl
  1. ½ frozen banana
  2. 1∕3 cup frozen blueberries
  3. 1∕3 cup frozen strawberries
  4. 3­4 leaves kale, de-stemmed and chopped
  5. 1∕4 cup almond milk
  6. 1 tablespoon acai powder
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  8. ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  9. ½ cup fresh blueberries (optional)
For the Super Seed Sprinkle
  1. 1 teaspoon chia seeds
  2. 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  3. 1 teaspoon hemp seeds
  4. 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
  5. 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
  6. 1 teaspoon ground flax seeds
  1. In a blender, blend frozen banana, blueberries, strawberries, kale, almond milk, acai powder, vanilla and cinnamon. Top with fresh blueberries and and super seed sprinkle.
By Yuri Elkaim

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