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Proflax Natural Superfood Part Four: Skin & Coat

Part four of the Proflax Natural Superfood series is available now. Written by Naturally Healthy Dogs, this blog entry details our very own Skin & Coat supplement - have a read below.

Proflax’s Skin & Coat blend contains a 25% herbal blend to support a glossy coat, reduce shedding and maintain healthy, problem-free skin, especially in dogs that suffer from seasonal allergies or are prone to dry, itchy or flaky skin. Supplementing from a young age with this preparation is a brilliant preventative approach to managing skin conditions that many dogs suffer with, especially in dry, warm weather or when grasses have been treated with chemicals.

Today I am going to cover the benefits of each Herb used in this preparation.

The Herbs used are:

  • Urtica Dioica (Wild Nettle)
  • Sarsaparilla
  • Chamomile
  • Skullcap
  • Milk Thistle
  • Ginkgo
  • Liquorice Root

Urtica Dioica (Wild Nettle)
Wild Nettle has been used for centuries for a variety of ailments in both animals and people. Widely known as an Adaptogenic Herb, the Seeds are closely associated with regulation of the HPA-axis (Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal). Some of its properties are well understood and others rely more on anecdotal evidence of efficacy. Due to its high Iron content, Wild Nettles can be very useful in the management of Canine Anaemia. In the treatment of Arthritis, Rheumatism and other Chronic Inflammatory Conditions, the presence of compounds that block an Inflammatory pathway called NF-kB, make it a potent Anti-Inflammatory.
Some of the Anti-Histamine properties can be attributed to the high presence of Nicotinamide (a form of Vitamin B3), which has been shown to be effective against Allergy related Inflammatory Skin conditions, as well as the presence of lesser compounds such as Adenine, Synephrine and Osthole, all of which have been shown to have Anti-Inflammatory effects. Osthole is also known to have Neuroprotective, Immunomodulatory, Anti-cancer, Hepatoprotective and Cardiovascular Protective properties. Wild Nettle has a great Vitamin and Mineral base, it is high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron and contains a decent range of Fatty Acids whilst also providing a high level of Protein.

Sarsaparilla
The root of Smilax Ornata (also known as Jamaican Sarsaparilla) has been used in India for over a century to treat skin conditions such as Psoriasis and arthritic conditions. Although generally used as a flavouring for drinks, such as Root Beer, in the early 1800’s Sarsaparilla made its way into the British Pharmacopoeia as an anti-inflammatory. It was later discovered that it does this by effectively blocked the COX-1 inflammatory pathway, a target for most NSAIDs on the market today. The main constituents of Sarsaparilla are:
Sarsaponin: Is also found in high concentrations in the Yucca root and has been shown to exhibit potent Anti-oxidant properties.
Sarsapogenin & Smilagenin: These two steroidal compounds are used as a base to create many of the steroids used today. They have been shown to have Anti-diabetic properties as well as mitigating some neurological damage associated with Alzheimer’s (Canine Cognitive Dysfunction is likened to Alzheimer’s).
Sitosterol & Stigmasterol: These two plant sterols have been used for almost a century to reduce Cholesterol, they do this by competitive inhibition of Cholesterol absorption in the intestines. Although this is a beneficial way of reducing cholesterol, without an adjuvant to protect the Cardiovascular system, long-term use can lead to other problems.

Chamomile
Chamomile has been used as a calming and soothing aid in people for centuries, it is approximated that over one million cups of Camomile tea are consumed every day. Chamomile exerts its therapeutic actions through the combination of several classes of Bioactive compounds: Sesquiterpenes, Flavonoids, Coumarins and Polyacetylenes. The Oil of Chamomile has a number of derivatives of Sesquiterpenes, most known for their Anti-inflammatory, Antiseptic and Spasmolytic (able to relieve spasms of smooth muscle) properties. Its complex structure (made up of over 120 chemical constituents) makes it a versatile plant with many therapeutic uses.
It’s most common uses are as an:

  • Analgesic
  • Antiallergic
  • Anticancer
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antimicrobial
  • Antistress
  • Anxiolytic
  • Hepatoprotective
  • Immunomodulatory

For a full list of uses, including references, see Table one here.

Skullcap
Skullcap is widely used as an Anxiolytic, Antistress, Sedative and Antispasmodic. It also exerts Anti-inflammatory, Anticancer and Antioxidant activities through inhibiting the production of multiple compounds associated with inflammation and cell oxidation. In a water-based decoction, it has been shown to have immunomodulatory properties. Most of its therapeutic actions are believed to be caused by a combination of Flavonoids, in combination with each other these provide:

  • Anti-inflammatory effects – Inhibition of COX inflammatory pathways.
  • Anti-cancer effects,
  • Anti-Ischemic effects (Cardioprotective),
  • Protects against Brain Inflammation,
  • Antioxidant effects,
  • Antivirus and Antibacterial properties.

Milk Thistle
Milk Thistle is widely used in humans and Canines to support liver function and treat Liver Disease. Most commonly, Milk Thistle is used in Canines to mitigate Liver damage from the commonly used epilepsy medication – Phenobarbitol. Although many practitioners advocate that long-term use can be detrimental to Liver function, there is not much literature to support this, care should still be taken when considering this herb for long-term supplementation. The benefits of Milk Thistle are:

Hepatoprotective: The ability to prevent damage to the Liver. Milk Thistle has been shown in preclinical trials to have multiple hepatoprotective actions. The Antioxidant properties and the increase in healthy cell regeneration as a by-product of increased protein synthesis are of the most interest in this area. It has also been shown to protect Liver Cells from injury caused by Ischaemia, Radiation and Viral Hepatitis.

Cytoprotective: The Cytoprotective activity of Milk Thistle can be attributed to its high flavonoid content. Flavonoids are good Antioxidants and scavenge free radicals quite readily. Milk Thistle components can also interact directly with Cell Membranes to prevent any abnormalities in the membrane contents. This is also applicable in the case of some early stage Cancers.

Anti-Inflammatory: Extracts of Milk Thistle have been shown to inhibit Inflammation of Immune Cells, providing a reduction in Lymphotoxicity, enhancing our Lymphatic systems ability to effectively mount an immune response when challenged. It has also been shown that the active components of Milk Thistle – Silymarin and Silibinin – can have inhibitory effects on the production of Leukotrienes and enhance the conversion of Lymphoblasts to Lymphocytes, further enhancing our Immune response.

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo is one of the oldest plants in the world, having survived relatively unchanged since the Cretaceous period (over 66 million years ago) it is also one of the oldest recorded plants with medicinal benefits. In traditional Chinese medicines over 5000 years ago it was used to treat Asthma, whilst more recent studies have highlighted its use as a protective agent in Cardiovascular health, this is due to the high flavonoid content, one of these flavonoids – Ginkgolide B – has been found to inhibit the excess production of a compound called Platelet-activating Factor (PAF), the reduction in production of PAF has a positive effect on endothelial cells (cells that line blood vessels), strengthening them and in turn, reducing inflammation and increasing circulation. This increase in circulation also has a knock on effect for Brain function, an increase in the oxygen-rich blood means an increase in general cognitive function. In one study, Ginkgo extract was shown to maintain a healthy flow of blood to the Optic nerve whilst also having a protective effect. The study showed that patients with Glaucoma that took a Ginkgo extract supplement had an increased field of vision, this highlights Ginkgo’s potential use in other Ischaemic eye disorders.

Liquorice
For thousands of years, Liquorice has been used to aid in Digestive disorders, provide respiratory relief and to strengthen the Liver and Kidneys. It has Hepatoprotective, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-depressant, Anti-viral and Antioxidant properties. It is also classed as an Adaptogen due to its ability to modulate the stress hormone Cortisol.

Digestive Aid: Liquorice root has a range of Antacid compounds that are known to relieve Heartburn, Indigestion, Stomach and Intestinal Ulcers, Acid Reflux and is useful in managing symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). It essentially coats the Digestive tract with a mucous layer, protecting the walls and decreasing recovery time from damage/injury. Due to also being a potent Diuretic and a mild Laxative in higher doses, it can also help in reducing Bloating, water retention and Constipation.

Respiratory support: Liquorice has been shown to increase the Mucous production throughout the Bronchial System, contrary to logical thought (that an increase of mucus production would be detrimental to respiratory function), the production of fresh, healthy Phlegm actually has a protective effect against contracting viruses that cause respiratory illness and can reduce Lung spasms associated with coughs and colds.

Hepatoprotective: One of the active compounds in Liquorice root – Glycyrrhizin – is a potent free radical scavenger, especially in the Liver and has been found to prevent damage from Alcohol and over the counter painkillers. Liquorice is also effective against the Virus that causes Hepatitis, in turn reducing Hepatitis related inflammation of the Liver.

Antidepressant: Liquorice has been found to have 8 different Antidepressant compounds, known as Monoamine Oxidase. One of the most potent is Glycyrrhizin, responsible for breaking down Cortisol – the stress hormone, some of the others are Isoflavan and Isoflavene – Both have been shown to be effective at treating all types of depression.

To summarise, the Skin and Coat formula from Proflax will help to alleviate any inflammatory seasonal allergy and even if your dog doesn’t suffer from seasonal allergies, it will certainly help maintain healthy skin and promote a glossy, shiny, healthy coat.

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