The Humorous Herbalist |

The Humorous Herbalist

Dear Humorous Herbalist,

I am a 54-year-old male who recently quit smoking and have subsequently put on a great deal of weight around my belly. My stress level is high and I tend to placate myself with bread, chips, pasta and sugar. I know this is not healthy and is contributing to my problems. My question has to do with an herbal product called Relora. The information I read talked about Relora addressing stress-related eating and weight gain around the belly. Is this product safe and does it do what it says it does? Thank you for your advice.

Don (via e-mail)

Dear Don,

Relora is a patented standardized herbal formula of two herbs, phellodendron and magnolia bark, that works to reduce excess cortisol production.

Cortisol, a stress hormone, is needed in small amounts by the body to control carbohydrate metabolism, inflammation, and cardiovascular function. (Cortisol is also known as the “fight-or-flight” hormone.) However, when the body produces too much cortisol due to external stress, signals are sent to increase food consumption and then store it as fat around the belly.

The foods that most reach for are carbohydrates and sugar products which provide short-term energy and comfort, but do more harm in the long run.

A large-scale 2003 study conducted by nutritional epidemiologists at Boston’s Tufts University revealed that subjects who ate diets heavy in refined grains and low-fiber breads experienced three times the increase in waist size when compared to a control group who ate more fibrous whole grains and fruits instead.

This study demonstrated that weight gain from an increase in belly-fat heightens the risk of heart disease significantly more than weight gain in other zones of the body. The Tufts research also supported the theory that “abdominal fat cells are more sensitive to insulin’s effects than fat cells in other body locales.” Thus, the bigger your “spare tire,” the more at risk you may be for diabetes.

This is where Relora may help you. Clinical research data has proven that Relora significantly lowered cortisol levels by 37 percent and increased the hormone DHEA by 227 percent. (DHEA is another marker for stress and anxiety.)

In addition, subsequent trials with Relora concluded that “8 out of 10 stressed individuals felt more relaxed, 7 out of 10 enjoyed more restful sleep, and 9 out of 10 said it was gentle on the stomach.” Best of all, as the cortisol levels evened out, the desire and cravings for carbohydrates and sugar was moderated in test subjects.

My personal experience with Relora has been positive. I have suggested Relora to at least seven clients, and each has benefited from it. However, there are mitigating factors to consider. Relora will not work if you continue to eat cheap carbohydrates (refined grains, pasta, sugar, etc.) and/or refuse to exercise.

I have found that if you reduce or eliminate sugar and white flour and exercise daily (walking, pilates and yoga are three of the best choices), you will see results with Relora after about two to three weeks. It’s not so much weight loss, by the way, as the loss of inches around the waist.

The initial clinical dose was 300 milligrams, twice a day. Now they are saying that better results can be found by taking 250 milligrams, three times a day. I have seen excellent results with the initial clinical dose and suggest you start with that amount and then work up to the higher dose if necessary. If there is no improvement in weight and/or stress reduction after four to six weeks, discontinue Relora.

Dear Humorous Herbalist,

I have found that clary sage essential oil is very helpful against hot flashes (not just smelling it, but massaging it into the insides of my elbows, on my wrists, and behind my ears). Plus, it grows in many gardens in our area. How can I use my garden plants to help menopausal symptoms?

L.M.C. (via e-mail)

Dear L.M.C.,

I have no experience using the herb out of the garden but I have lots of experience using the distilled essential oil. Primarily, I’ve used it successfully to treat jet lag by smelling the aroma periodically during a long flight.

However, clary sage is getting more popular lately as the essential oil “for those over age 50.” Jeanne Rose, an expert aromatherapist and author, writes that “clary sage should be inhaled to reduce tension (whether menopausal-related or not), to relieve depression and for ‘grounding’ one’s emotions.”

Rose also suggests placing clary sage in a home electrical diffuser that can be set on 20 minute bursts of operation for hot flashes, menopause symptoms, adrenal problems and heat waves for people who use steroids.”

One unusual side-effect of clary sage should be noted: the essential oil can dramatically increase the physical effects of drunkenness. I’ve never witnessed this personally. But to be on the safe side, leave your bottle of clary sage at home if you are in a celebratory mood.

E-mail your questions to The Humorous Herbalist at

The information in this column is not meant to take the place of your physician, nor is it intended to treat, diagnose or prescribe. Pregnant or nursing women should consult their doctor before using herbal therapy.

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