The Amazon rainforest is full of plants, herbs, and wildlife. Because of this, the Amazon rainforest has gained a reputation as being one of the best natural pharmacies for not only known remedies that originate in the forest, but for its massive potential healing powers as well. The Amazon Herb Company is one organization using the power of exotic fruit to bring health benefits to its consumers.
The Amazon Herb Company produces and markets herbal remedies for all kinds of ailments. These herbal remedies emerge from various wild herbs and fruits found in the Amazon rainforests. Their products range from a Rainforest Treasure Tea, to the natural skin care product line, Lluvia, to their most popular product — Zamu — a blended drink of Amazonian fruits and herbs. The company is most concerned with environmental conservation and delivering natural health products to consumers without causing any detriment to the rainforests or its inhabitants.
The founder of the Amazon Herb Company, John Easterling, describes his products as “natural compounds [that] reinforce the body’s vitality.” Dubbed “Amazon John” because of his extensive work in the Amazon, Easterling is passionate about the natural healing properties of the plants in the Amazon and the role the rainforest plays in contributing to a healthy global future. He is especially excited about the company’s most recent offering, Zamu.
Zamu, a drink made from superfruits and herbs, is certified USDA organic and contains no preservatives. It also has a highly concentrated source of immune-boosting vitamin C, which helps to eliminate any free radicals in the body. Other benefits reported by consumers include emotional stability and mood enhancement, anti-aging properties, improved cardiovascular health, and nutrition that supports healthy skin, hair, and nails. It is important to remember, however, that although many people have experienced health benefits from the blended drink, these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
A Synergistic Blend
Each ingredient serves its own purpose in Zamu and is said to function synergistically with the others: Cacao is said to increase blood flow to the brain and is recognized for its antioxidant and mood-enhancing properties. Cinnamon helps to maintain healthy glucose levels. Pineapple contains a high level of bromelain, which has anti-inflammatory potential. And the beta carotene found in mangoes helps improve memory.
Amazonian fruits are also said to pack a powerful punch. The acai berry is said to contribute to overall good health and may assist in weight loss.
Sangre de drago is also said to promote a natural anti-aging process in the body. Sangre de drago is the Spanish name given to the Dragon’s Blood Tree, which is most commonly known by its Spanish name, even in English-speaking countries. The tree is of medium height, and was named after the red-orange sap that seeps when the tree is injured. The sap itself is particularly useful, because it has many medicinal qualities ranging from treating diarrhea to relief from insect bites. Many naturopaths claim that the sangre de drago contains beneficial anti-aging compounds called proanthocyanidins. As of June 2009, no official research has been completed by the FDA or other recognized institutions to confirm these statements.
What may sound the most foreign to consumers not from South America is the main ingredient in the Zamu drink: the Camu Camu fruit. The Camu Camu tree grows on the edge of the Amazon Basin in Peru. It is most commonly sought after for its fruit. Four months of the year, the roots of the Camu Camu trees are covered by flood waters. When the flood waters settle, so do the nutrients contained in them. These nutrients are then absorbed by the trees.
Some scientists believe that the Camu Camu fruit contains the highest concentration of naturally occurring vitamin C, approximately 30 times more than oranges. The fruit is also rich in iron, niacin, and riboflavin. Camu Camu even contains very high amounts of essential amino acids, which are not naturally occurring in the human body and need to be consumed daily.
The fruit contains significant amounts of luecine, which promotes the production of growth hormones and increases energy; serine, which supports a healthy nervous system, including brain and emotional function; and valine, which is used as a primary energy source in muscular activity and promotes mental health and emotional stabilization. It also contains limonene, a compound thought to reduce appetite, which could then aid in weight loss.
Of course, as with any new food or medicine, consumers should watch for any signs of allergic reaction, stop taking it immediately if one should occur, and consult a physician.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) certifies that Zamu is made from an organic blend of fruits. And unlike many of the companies promoting açai berry scams, the Amazon Herb Company received an A+ rating on the Better Business Bureau’s reliability report. In the past 36 months, only one complaint was submitted to the BBB about the company, and the report shows the company responded immediately to the situation.
Giving Back to the Amazon
Amazon Herb Company gives back to the rainforest in several ways. The company employs members of the Shipibo tribe to harvest the fruits and herbs. This benefits the local communities and prevents machines from destroying the land. The Amazon Herb Co. is in partnership with the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER) Foundation, a group dedicated to promoting the conservation of the Amazon Rainforest.
Easterling also said that the company gives 10 percent of its profits to other projects that benefit the Amazon rainforest and its inhabitants. The indigenous people determine how the money should be spent, whether on a new community center, mosquito netting, education, or something else that will meet the community’s needs.
Although clinical studies have yet to be conducted that support all of the health benefit claims of the Zamu drink, in a world full of fast-food joints, you can never get enough fruit in your diet. By consuming the recommended amount of Zamu each day, you can feel good about your body and have a guilt-free conscience, knowing that the rainforest is not destroyed while creating this product. If the drink itself doesn’t give you an extra spring in your step, then knowing that you are supporting the rainforest and its indigenous inhabitants should.
Amazon Herb Company products are available for purchase from independent representatives on the web.
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)
June 4, 2009 by Sabrina Potirala
Filed under Agriculture, Blog, Cancer, Central America, Consumer Spending, Diet, Food & Drink, Front Page, Health, Nutrition, Research, Scams, Slideshow, South America
If you listen to the hype, you may begin to think that the acai (pronounced a-sigh-EE) berry is the wonder food for everything that could possibly ail you. The ads are all over the Internet, in magazines, on television. They lure you in with questionable (if not outright fabricated) celebrity endorsements, “free” sample offers, and broad claims of almost mythical proportions.
Although acai is most commonly advertised as a weight-loss product, marketers also claim that it provides increased energy levels, improved sexual performance, improved digestion, detoxification, high fiber content, high antioxidant content, improved skin appearance, improved heart health, improved sleep, and reduction of cholesterol levels.
The acai berry has been touted as one of the most highly beneficial dietary supplements on the market. And WalletPop named it the #1 hottest product of 2008, after marketers dubbed the berry a “super food.”
But despite all the hype, groups are challenging acai’s health and weight-loss claims, and warning consumers to beware of acai berry scams. With so much conflicting information, it’s hard to know what is fact and what is fiction.
What It Is
The acai berry grows in Central and South America on eight different varieties of palm trees, primarily in swamps and floodplains — areas with heavy rainfall or standing water. The berries are small, round and black-purple in color. You might find them similar in appearance to a blueberry, but with a large, inedible seed in the center. Acai palm trees are tall and slender, reaching between 50 to 100 feet. Due to recent demand for their berries, acai palm trees are currently cultivated primarily for their fruit; but their fronds can also be made into hats, mats, baskets, and brooms.
Acai is commercially available in a number of forms, including juice, pulp, powder, and capsules. It has been marketed as an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory, and an antibacterial. It’s also said to contain Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential to human health.
Acai’s other chemical contents are impressive, too:
- A concentration of 10 times more antioxidants than red grapes, and 10 to 30 times the anthocyanins of red wine, which helps combat premature aging
- Monounsaturated (healthy) fats, dietary fiber, and phytosterols to help promote cardiovascular and digestive health
- Anthocyanins and flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants that help prevent free radicals from forming in the body and starting chain reactions that damage cells
- Amino acids and trace minerals that are vital to proper muscle contraction and regeneration
Amazon Wonder Berry?
Although some people say they have more energy and feel healthier after taking acai dietary supplements, these claims are not supported by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But the medical community does agree that — like the cranberry, raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, and blueberry — the acai berry, carries antioxidants.
Claims of weight loss from acai are unfounded, however, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). “There’s no evidence whatsoever to suggest that acai pills will help shed pounds, flatten tummies, cleanse colons, enhance sexual desire, or perform any of the other commonly advertised functions,” according to a press release from CSPI.
Kristina Conner, a licensed naturopathic physician and Assistant Professor of Naturopathic Medicine at National University of Health Sciences in Lombard, Illinois, said naturopaths sometimes work with the acai berry, because it is a natural substance. But she agrees that the berry is not a one-stop, quick fix for weight loss or any of the other ailments the companies are claiming the berry can improve.
“It is important to address lifestyle things first. So supplements including something like the acai would be considered beneficial on top of making healthy lifestyle changes — like a good diet, sleep, exercise, all of that stuff. Relying on just one agent like [the acai berry], no matter what it is, is not the wisest course. If you look at things like weight loss or cardiovascular disease, it is never one cause, so it should never be one fix,” Conner said.
According to Conner, the acai berry is a reasonable alternative to drinking red wine, because the two products are both preventive substances. Because many people do not incorporate the acai berry into their normal diets, some people can see positive results where others may not.
“There is probably going to be a percentage of people who do [an acai] diet and are going to respond really well to it, but then there is a larger percentage who probably aren’t. They need to make sure they are not throwing out common sense when they try a new diet or a new product,” Conner said.
A Pricey Alternative
Mark Stibich, a physician specializing in health behavior, has expressed concerns about the sudden and tremendous fame of the acai berry. “A week’s supply of acai berry juice will cost you about $40 (over $2,000 a year). For that much money, there are a lot of more proven things you can do to increase your health.” Yet Stibich said that the fruit did hold at least some promise, commenting, “It is true that the acai berry has about 10 times the antioxidants of grapes and twice the antioxidants of blueberries, but that’s not enough nutritional punch for all the claims.”
Even nutritionists are weary of the numerous health benefit claims associated with the acai berry. I spoke with 10 nutritionists and dieticians, all of whom said they were unfamiliar with the real benefits of the acai berry. None said they would recommend any acai products until they themselves became more familiar with the fruit.
Although other research studies are reportedly in progress, a recent study by the University of Florida is the only research that has been completed to investigate the benefits of the acai berry. Researchers at the University of Florida found that in a laboratory setting, acai berry extract caused a significant decrease in cultured cancer cells. During the testing, various concentrations of acai extract were applied to the cells. After a period of 24 hours, the results varied from 35 percent to 86 percent of the cancer cells dying. The acai berry stands up well in a lab setting, but this claim has yet to be tested and proven in humans.
“A lot of claims are being made, but most of them haven’t been tested scientifically,” Assistant Professor at the University of Florida Stephen Talcott said in a press release. “We are just beginning to understand the complexity of the acai berry and its health-promoting effects.”
The acai berry has just recently become popular, so not all of the claims have been researched. But with time, Talcott said that more nutritional information will be revealed.
“One reason so little is known about acai berries is that they’re perishable and are traditionally used immediately after picking. Products made with processed acai berries have only been available for about five years, so researchers in many parts of the world have had little or no opportunity to study them,” Talcott said.
Beware of Scams
Since the berry’s popularity has exploded in the past few months, offers for free acai berry trials are becoming ubiquitous online.
But remember how your parents told you, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is”? That warning is certainly applicable to any company claiming it will send you acai products for free. Free trial offers for acai berry supplements are rarely — if ever — free.
The CSPI and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) said companies offering free trials of diet pills made with the acai berries have tricked thousands of consumers using fake celebrity endorsements and blogs to lure customers into buying the acai products.
According to the Better Business Bureau, FWM Laboratories, Advanced Wellness Research, AcaiBurn, FX Supplements, and SFL Nutrition all received an F rating, which is the BBB’s lowest rating. The BBB evaluates companies on numerous categories before assigning a grade, such as the number of customer complaints and a company’s ability to adequately resolve issues.
Central Coast Nutraceuticals, FX Supplements, FWM Laboratories and Advanced Wellness Research are just some of the businesses accused of scamming customers into accepting “free” trials. These companies reportedly hook consumers by advertising a “free” bottle of acai pills, for example, and by claiming that the customer only has to pay for shipping and handling. Many customers neglect to read the terms and conditions pages, which often specify that the total price for the bottle of pills will be charged to the credit card used to pay the shipping and handling fee. Often, the companies will sign consumers up for a monthly subscription of the product and charge them for more bottles of the pills that the customers unwittingly “consented” to receiving each month when agreeing with the fine print. Each of these bottles costs approximately $80 and will be billed to a credit card every month until the customer calls and cancels the subscription.
I signed up for a “free” trial of Acai Berry Edge in order to test the scam claims. For this product, the terms and conditions specified that the customer would “Get two bottles of Acai Berry Edge free for 21 days during the trial period. You invest $3.97 s&h today then $39.95 per bottle at day 21 only if you are satisfied.” I sent both bottles back within the 21 day time frame, yet was still charged $79.90. Upon calling the company, a representative said that they had not received the bottles. Yet I intentionally sent the bottles back with a delivery confirmation receipt from the U.S. Postal Service. With the delivery confirmation number, the representatives could not dispute that the bottles had been returned. Even if you do read the fine print and return the bottles, make sure to send the product back with a confirmation number from the postal service or an express carrier. Those few extra quarters could end up saving you $80 — or more — in the long run.
Connor said people can ask the company for objective information about the product or studies published about the product to determine whether or not any health claims made about products are true. She also recommended asking a health care practitioner who knows about natural products and cautioned consumers to always be skeptical.
“If people find that it is one company offering a particular type of product no one else offers, or if it seems very expensive — more expensive than other products on the market that are like it — that always raises my suspicion level,” she said.
The Jury’s Still Out
Much is still unknown about the acai berry. And, with studies still in progress, health care professionals are understandably cautious about judging the berry’s merits as a “super food.” Nutritionists say that, for most people, taking moderate amounts of acai supplements won’t negatively impact your physical health. But it just might hurt the health of your wallet.
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