For over eighteen years, I owned an herbal company named Raintree Nutrition, Inc. During this time, I was fortunate enough to travel the remote areas of the Amazon rainforest numerous times, working with the indigenous tribes to learn about the plants they used for their health and well-being. This resulted in my coming across quite a few highly effective rainforest medicinal plants and tribal-based herbal remedies. As a result, I launched a number of these plants into the natural products market based solely on their traditional uses and knowledge.
None of the medicinal plants I introduced had any traditional uses for weight loss, nor did I discover any such plants in my work documenting tribal knowledge. Being overweight simply isn’t an issue in hunting and gathering societies. Tribal communities in the Amazon don’t struggle with their weight because they burn as many calories hunting and gathering as they consume. Our society has evolved beyond that—and it seems to have come at a price. Still, my belief as a naturopathic practitioner and as an herbal formulator in the American marketplace has long been that weight loss or weight gain is mostly just simple math. The number of calories consumed minus the number of calories burned was the sum total of whether you lost weight or gained it. There simply was no “magic bullet” one could take that would overcome or “fix” bad dietary choices or sedentary lifestyles. If you wanted to lose weight, it was clear to me, you needed to reduce your caloric intake—do the dreaded “dieting thing”—and increase your level of activity or exercise—do the dreaded “gym thing”.
When I started to download and read all the new research on over eighty different rainforest plants with the intent of updating my book, The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs, I came across new research on one particular rainforest plant that made me rethink and re-evaluate all of my beliefs on weight loss. I was truly astounded. As I researched it further, I became really excited. Maybe there really was a magic bullet for weight loss and it is found in wet, humid forests all around the world, including my beloved Amazon rainforest.
In my previous books and in my popular online Tropical Plant Database, I have always used this plant’s Brazilian name, avenca. You may know it better by its American name, southern maidenhair fern. This pretty little plant can be found growing naturally in shady to semi-shady areas along bodies of water (such as rivers, streams, lakes, and waterfalls) in temperate and tropical forests all over the world. In fact, this species of fern can be found in plant nurseries all over the United States as a live plant sold for shade gardens and as a house plant. Like many plants growing under the shady canopy of huge trees, it doesn’t need direct sunlight to thrive.
Avenca has been long been used as a popular medicinal plant throughout the world, mostly for upper respiratory conditions like asthma, bronchitis, coughs, colds, flu, and the like. It’s been used as an herbal remedy for almost 2,000 years, yet it never generated much interest from scientists to study its actions, benefits, or even the chemicals and compounds it contained. When I wrote the first edition of my rainforest plant book in 2005, there were only a handful of insignificant studies on avenca. The full chemical analysis of compounds in the plant hadn’t been undertaken, and not a single traditional use in herbal medicine had been verified or substantiated by any kind of research.
Things have really changed since then. A great deal of new research on the plant has now been conducted, and this new research has validated just about every traditional use ever recorded on avenca. All of this research has been conducted outside of the United States, where plant-based medicines are more commonly used. This book represents the first guide to understanding and using this medicinal plant. At this point in time, there are very few sources or products of avenca in the American natural products industry. In fact, you can find a much greater supply of avenca live plants for your landscape or home than you can find herbal supplements that contain avenca. However, I believe that once people know about the amazing benefits of avenca, things will definitely change.
I am, and have long been, a dedicated researcher. My skills have been finely honed because you don’t launch forty or so unheard of medicinal plants from the depths of the Amazon jungles into the natural products industry and turn them into major herbs of commerce without doing a good bit of research. Twenty years ago, no one had ever heard of cat’s claw, graviola, chanca piedra, stevia, yerba mate, or pau d’arco. Today, these rainforest medicinal plants and many others can be found in herbal supplements manufactured by many different companies worldwide. Based on the results I’ve personally seen in the use of avenca to achieve weight loss—and all the research I’ve performed and compiled to determine why avenca is capable of achieving these results so quickly—I truly believe avenca will be the next big rainforest herb of commerce. In fact, it has the potential to be the biggest herb of commerce I’ve ever written and educated people about.
Researching avenca in books, scientific chemical analyses, and published research studies was just the start of this project. This book is dedicated to my granddaughter, Macaella, because she was the first eager and willing “guinea pig” to try avenca for weight loss. It was her amazing results that kept me looking for an explanation of avenca’s effects. She’s been a great research collaborator, and through her and this research project, I’ve gathered a huge amount of knowledge about what causes weight gain and what we can do about it. I am also indebted to my other family members and friends who agreed to help me determine what effect avenca had on their dietary habits and their weight.
Although this book represents a year of research and testing on avenca, focusing on its ability to help you lose weight, you may want more complete information on the plant and its documented uses. If so, please refer to the online database file for avenca in the Tropical Plant Database at http://rain-tree.com/avenca.htm
. This online resource provides active links to the full research articles and studies referred to in this book. It also includes other in-depth data for practitioners, health professionals, and plant researchers.
With the completion of this book, I am thrilled to be able to share all this new knowledge with many others, who, just like Macaella, have struggled for years to achieve and maintain their ideal weight.
Macaella’s journey with avenca…
Each year, billions of dollars are spent on books, programs, and foods that promote the idea of personal weight loss, and for good reason. It turns out that in this country, over 160 million men, women, and children are considered obese or overweight. Worse yet, approximately 300,000 Americans die each year due to obesity related causes. Unfortunately, unless they are able to adopt sometimes stringent lifestyle changes or undergo stomach surgery, those who try dieting usually return to old eating habits and regain the weight they lost. That’s why I was stunned when I came across a study that had the potential to affect the lives of so many people who are struggling to lose weight.
As a naturopath and herbalist, I have spent my professional life looking for natural approaches to treating our most common health disorders. I have trekked through the rainforest of the Amazon, worked with patients and practitioners, and reviewed literarily thousands of studies to make sure that the appropriate science was behind the herbal remedies I prescribed. So when I learned there was relatively simple way to shed those unwanted pounds, it was crucial for me to learn as much as I could about this herb called avenca.
Avenca is a pretty little fern that grows in tropical and temperate rainforests around the world and has been used for almost 2,000 years as a remedy wherever it’s found. Only in the last few years, however, has an amazing new use for this plant been discovered. Simply put, avenca can help people lose weight. In this book, you will find all the recent studies performed on avenca as well as the supporting evidence that shows why avenca works. You will also learn how to use avenca to promote weight loss.
My own involvement with avenca began when I came across a fascinating research article that explored a property of avenca I had never read about before. In a single animal study published in 2017, it was reported that avenca was just as effective as a leading weight loss prescription drug in blocking the absorption of dietary fat and its calories. I was so intrigued that I immediately bought a couple of pounds of avenca powdered leaves to make up some capsules myself. I had to see if it might work for weight loss in humans as it had in animals.
I knew the safety profile of avenca was excellent based on its almost 2,000-year history of use as an herbal remedy in Europe and beyond without any recorded side effects. In addition, I had used avenca in the past in two formulas I developed for my company for other purposes—which were used for many years without side effects. I therefore approached six family members and friends who needed to lose some weight and asked them to try it. They all quickly agreed once I told them of the strong possibility that they could lose some weight by just taking the capsules without having to change their daily diet or exercise routines.
Of the six, two had followed specific diets. One had lost some weight but had plateaued and then given up. The other was my granddaughter, Macaella, who continued to gain weight despite following a nutritionist’s keto-diet. The other four people I approached were overweight because of their dietary and lifestyle choices and had no real plan or desire to make changes in an attempt to lose weight. Of course, their excuses were all too common—busy lifestyles with too much fast-food and junk food, and never enough time to get in some exercise time to work off all those high-calorie fast-food meals. I asked all six people to take the avenca capsules and not make any changes in diet or exercise habits, and to keep track of their weight and body measurements weekly.
To my surprise—and, I guess, to theirs—avenca worked in my family and friends just as it had in the animal studies. All six people lost weight and inches without changing their diets or exercise levels or doing anything different. And the amount of weight they lost was significant—especially considering that they did not diet and that some of them ate high amounts of fast food. On average, they lost three to five pounds a week, and went down a dress or pant size in a month or less. Some lost more inches than pounds, comparatively, and not surprisingly, those with the more sensible diets lost more.
At the end of the second month of the experiment, with everyone experiencing positive results, I contacted my colleague Ann Louis Gittleman, an expert in nutrition and weight loss. I told her about avenca and explained how my friends and family were responding to its use. I then asked if she would put some of her clients on avenca to see if she could confirm and verify my results. She was intrigued. After providing her with all the research I had gathered, she agreed to put some of her diet-noncompliant and very slow-to-lose clients on avenca. Within a few weeks, she was just as shocked as I had been: All of her clients had lost weight without changing their diets or exercise levels.
It was amazing. It was also pretty evident that the results we were seeing were due to more than just the blocking of fat absorption. Something else was surely going on. A thorough investigation of the natural compounds found in avenca revealed a host of beneficial natural compounds that were confirmed to block fat, as well as others that blocked starches and sugars, as well. When starches, sugars, and fats suddenly become much harder to absorb in each meal, the total calories in the meal are greatly decreased. This means that you can lose weight without eating less, since all meals become lower in calories through avenca’s calorie-blocking triple action.
When reviewing research, I also learned that when blocked fat, starch, and sugar molecules travel through the digestive system unabsorbed, they provide a great appetite-suppressant effect. This was confirmed by avenca users, who reported that they actually ate less and experienced much less hunger when taking the plant. Avenca’s triple blocking action also explained why it didn’t have the negative side effects associated with a weight-loss drug that blocks only fat. (You’ll learn more about this in Chapter 2.) A complete review of avenca’s natural plant compounds also revealed some rather stunning new causes and contributors of weight gain in general, and how avenca was providing other benefits that help people lose weight more efficiently and effectively.
Have you always been overweight, even as a child? Have you tried diet after diet without anything working for you? Have you struggled to lose weight—only to gain it all back? The research offered in this book explains why this has happened and teaches you about the silent and hidden “deregulations” that have been working against you— the very things that have caused you to fail to reach your ideal weight and maintain it. The research also helps explain why you may have gained excess weight in the first place.
The vitally important and potentially life-changing information provided in the following pages can be used with nearly any diet plan or diet product—or by itself—to help you address the underlying causes of gaining weight. You’ll learn why weight issues are not the result of laziness, lack of commitment, or absence of willpower, but rather hidden deregulations that cause you to fail. Most exciting, this book will teach you how a single rainforest plant called avenca can help you address all of these deregulations and get back to losing weight.
If after reading this introduction, you feel the urge to run out and buy a bottle of avenca, I suggest you hold off until you’ve read the book. The more you know about avenca and understand how it works, the better prepared you well be to use and benefit from it. Because avenca is not yet widely distributed in this country, it is vitally important to be an informed consumer, which is a topic I cover in Chapter 6. And if you have pre-existing medical conditions or you are using prescription medications, it is critical that you check with your healthcare professional should you have any questions.
In closing, consider this: The healthcare crisis we find ourselves in is not entirely due to inadequate insurance or the high price of drugs. It is also due to the growing number of people who are crowded into doctors’ offices because they suffer from obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, and clogged arteries. Fortunately, losing weight can now be so much easier than it’s been in the past. I hope that the information provided in the following pages turns discouragement into encouragement and helps you lose the weight you need to lose for greater health and happiness.
1. What Is Avenca?
2. Understanding Fat, Starch and Sugar Blockers
3. The Inflammation Factor
4. Your Gut Bacteria and Weight Loss
5. A Buyer's Guide to Avenca
6. The Avenca Weight-Loss Plan
7. Using Avenca for Other Health Benefits
Anti-AGE and Anti-Aging Benefits
Antibacterial Actions and Infections
High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Urinary Tract Infections
About the Author
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