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Much attention and research is dedicated to understanding how we can better repair tissues of the human body. Whether it’s your bones, muscle or nerves, the body has some remarkable strategies to repair old or damaged tissues. Researchers have found that all the tissues of the body start from a general, non-specialized type of cell called a ‘stem cell.’ In this article, I will outline the role of stem cells in your health and healing as well as mention a few important herbs that may help in stem cell activation.

The Basics of Stem Cells

What’s unique about these generic cells is that they can either replicate to renew themselves, or, under specific conditions can form tissue-specific or organ-specific cells, with specific functions. There are two basic types of stem cells, derived from either an embryo (embryonic stem cells), or from adult tissues (adult, or somatic, or non-embryonic stem cells).

The Value of Stem Cells

The adult stem cells found in most tissues are part of the body’s self-repair system. For instance, it is common for bone marrow cells to regenerate through its stem cells when the regular bone marrow cells are old or damaged. This is the basis for bone-marrow transplants which have been occurring for 40 years now. It has also been found that several other human tissues and organs have their own tissue-specific stem cells, such as the digestive tract, the muscles, skin, liver, heart and even your brain cells.

It is hoped that through the use of, or stimulation of stem cells, better healing can happen. Much research is directed to helping those with diabetes or repairing damaged heart tissue from a heart attack.

Herbs that can Help Stem Cells

Among all the research includes study of the role of plant extracts, in both human and animal research. Several herbs and algae have been shown to affect stem cells from different tissues. I’ve included some interesting examples below.

stem cells 1 - brown algaeBrown algae and seaweeds – Japanese researchers published a study in 2016 showing that brown algae extracts can inhibit fat cell development from stem cells which may be a beneficial role in those prone to or with obesity. These algae also have known anti-arthritic effects as demonstrated in a human study of osteoarthritis of the knee. After 3 months, knee pain and stiffness reduced significantly. There are also anti-aging benefits to these algae; in the Journal of Cosmetic Science, researchers found that a seaweed extract improved facial skin elasticity and thickness as performed on human participants.

stem cells 2 - skullcapSkullcap – extracts from this herb have been investigated for years for it’s ability to regulate several types of stem cells. For instance, 2013 research published in the journal CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics found that skullcap extracts could stimulate brain stem cells to regenerate nerve cells in the brain of adult rats with brain damage. These animals were then found to have improved cognitive function on subsequent laboratory tests.

stem cells 3 - fo-tiFo-ti – this is a well known herb in Chinese medicine, also known as He Shou Wu, used for centuries in those with illnesses associated with aging. A 2017 study published in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine found that a Fo-ti herbal extract promoted rat stem cells to develop into bone cells that may have a benefit in situations of degenerative bone conditions such as osteoporosis.

These and several other herbs show potential promise in various clinical situations. More study is necessary though these are encouraging findings. It is recommended to work with your primary health care practitioner when making health related decisions.

Dr. Rahim Habib ND
About the Author

Rahim Habib is a registered naturopathic doctor with over 15 years of experience in general family practice. He has a special interest in helping patients comprehensively detoxifying their bodies for preventative and therapeutic benefit. He also has a special interest in children’s health, assisting kids in their learning and behavioural health with conditions such as ADHD, Autism spectrum, asthma, allergies and childhood obesity. He also helps adults with chronic conditions, such as thyroid disorders, infertility, inflammation, obesity, autoimmunity, dementia and cancer care. He is the director of the Four Seasons Naturopathic Clinic for Detoxification and Healing and can be reached at 905-597-7201 or www.FamilyNaturopath.ca.