Astaxanthin (pronounced as-tuh-ZANthin) is a type of red-orange-pink carotenoid that comes from the sea. Carotenoids are pigments that give food their color and have powerful antioxidant properties. Most of us are familiar with beta-carotene, the main carotenoid found in land plants. Well, astaxanthin is the main marine carotenoid. It is found in some types of algae as well as in some fungi and plants—and it gives salmon, shrimp, lobster and crawfish their bright color. You get some astaxanthin when you eat these foods, but most of us don't eat enough of them to benefit.

Astaxanthin is closely related to lutein, a carotenoid known to improve eye health, and it has long been used as a supplement to treat aging eyes. But recent studies are finding that this carotenoid provides many other health benefits.

In my own practice, I have found that astaxanthin can especially help patients with diabetes and heart disease. Laboratory studies also show that astaxanthin may fight cancer and enhance cognition, but these findings have not yet been tested in humans. Here's how astaxanthin can help you…

Heart Disease

Research shows that heart cells have a particular affinity for astaxanthin, which is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Studies have found that astaxanthin not only reduces inflammation but also lessens oxidative stress. This is particularly important because doctors now believe that coronary artery disease is caused by inflammation in the heart and arteries.

  • LDL cholesterol. A study published in Atherosclerosis found that astaxanthin significantly lowered triglyceride levels and increased HDL (good) cholesterol in adults who were not obese. Astaxanthin also prevents LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidizing. Oxidized LDL contributes to inflammation and the formation of cholesterol deposits.
  • Diabetes. High blood glucose levels, which can occur in people with uncontrolled diabetes, increase deposits of fatty materials on the insides of blood vessel walls. This affects blood flow and can result in clogged and rigid blood vessels, increasing the risk for heart attack and stroke. The antioxidant activity of astaxanthin helps keep blood vessels clog-free and flexible by minimizing oxidative damage to the cells that make up blood vessels.
  • Blood flow. Astaxanthin improves blood rheology—the velocity of blood moving through arteries and veins. In a small study of middle-age men, Japanese researchers showed that taking 6 milligrams (mg) of astaxanthin daily for 10 days resulted in smoother, faster blood flow. Improved rheology eases the heart's workload.
  • Heart and brain protection. Research indicates that astaxanthin can protect the heart and the entire cardiovascular system from ischemic injury. This type of injury occurs when the blood supply to an area of tissue is cut off, such as during a heart attack, stroke or other thrombotic event, including when an embolus (a mass of clotted blood) blocks a blood vessel in the heart, brain or veins. Tissue damage occurs when blood supply returns to the area after a period of absence. Reentering blood causes oxidative stress, resulting in inflammation and oxidative damage. This type of injury also occurs during open-heart surgery, when blood flow is stopped and then resumed during the procedure. Similar circulatory damage also may be involved in pressure sores and diabetic foot ulcers. Astaxanthin has not been tested in all of these situations, but it does appear to reduce these types of injuries.

An Immune Booster

In a Washington State University study, researchers gave college-age women 2 mg or 4 mg of astaxanthin or placebos daily for eight weeks. Astaxanthin increased the immune system's production of natural killer cells, which help us fight infections. The supplements also lowered the women's levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation.

My Recommendations

To boost immunity and for people with diabetes, I suggest taking 2 mg to 4 mg daily of astaxanthin. For people with coronary artery disease, I recommend taking 8 mg to 16 mg daily (the dose is determined by your weight) as part of a dietary and supplement regimen. You can speak to a holistic doctor about the amount that is right for you. There are no reported side effects. Astaxanthin is safe for everyone but should not be taken by pregnant and lactating women because it has not been studied in these populations. The supplements are derived from algae, so they are even safe for people who are allergic to shellfish (but read your label!).

One brand I like: Source Naturals (800-8152333,

Six Natural Remedies for Warts

My patients always are glad to know that there are natural treatments for unsightly or painful warts—especially because traditional treatments are hard on the body. Conventional wart treatments include applying salicylic acid to the skin (which sloughs off layers of skin and the wart), cryosurgery (freezing the wart) and standard surgical removal.

Natural solutions take a different approach. They focus on boosting immune function to suppress or eliminate the many viruses that cause warts, including about 70 types of the buman papillomavirus. First, I have all patients boost their immune systems and fight the virus with the following supplements for two to four weeks-echinacea (300 mg twice daily)...selenium (200 mcg daily)...and a mixed vitamin E supplement that contains tocotrienols and tocopherols (400 IU daily). I also have patients choose either a homeopathic remedy or a topical treatment. If one type of treatment doesn't help them, they can try the other.

  • Homeopathic remedies. It is important to choose a homeopathic remedy that matches the specific type of wart. The usual dose is two 30C pellets twice daily for two weeks. If the treatment eliminates the wart in that time period, you can stop taking it, although you can resume if the wart starts to return. Homeopathic remedies to try…
  • Antimonium crudum for hard, flat warts (including plantar warts) on the hands or feet
  • Causticum for large, fleshy and soft warts that bleed easily.
  • Dulcamara for large, smooth warts on the back of the hand or the palm.
  • Nitric acid, in homeopathic form, is recommended for hard cauliflower-like warts that cluster near the mouth, genital area or anus.
  • Thuja occidentalis for groups of large warts that often recur after conventional treatment.
  • Topical antiviral remedies. Two topical remedies can fight wart-causing viruses. You can try one for two weeks to see if it helps you. If it doesn't, then try the other.

Remedies to use: Thuja oil or garlic oil. Apply one drop of oil directly on the wart twice daily. There is no need to cover the wart.

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