Natural Relief from Seasonal Allergies

It is that time of the year.  Flowers are blooming, trees are pollinating, and folks with seasonal allergies are starting to feel the effects.  As of 2017, just less than a third of all Canadians have an allergy of some kind (pollen, food, medicines), with 20-25% of Canadians having seasonal allergies.  Most commonly, seasonal allergies will start when we are younger but they can affect folks of all ages.  Other people can develop them or see their allergies change in adulthood and as elders.

Seasonal allergies can be serious but are mostly a nuisance, leading to disrupted sleep, worsened productivity, and general fatigue.  Reactions to inhaled substances are some of the most common concerns Canadians have, whether seasonally or all year.  That’s right, allergies can occur when the seasons change or for some all year round.  Pollinating trees and flowers are predictable seasonal causes but so are fungal spores, seen more frequently here in our moist west coast climate.

Various factors can make us more susceptible to seasonal allergies.  Addressing these factors and providing symptom relief are what I consider, as a naturopathic doctor, when creating an individualized plan for someone. 

One factor are the foods we eat, which can make us more susceptible or even trigger a reaction.  Foods like milk and egg, wheat, even citrus and pork can be culprits.  Determining which foods may be a trigger for you is key to providing relief for your seasonal allergies.

On top of that, eating more fruits and vegetables generally can lower the risk of seasonal allergies.  This is because they contain various compounds, such as flavonoids and antioxidants, that can help modulate inflammation.  Various green leafy vegetables are best, bitter ones like arugula are even better.  Healthy omega 3 fats found in fish and algae also are anti-inflammatory.

A healthy gut microbiome and the use of probiotics is another factor that can reduce susceptibility to seasonal allergies.  This is because various strains of probiotics (good gut bacteria) can help balance immune cells that are involved in allergic reactions,

Acupuncture can also support relief from seasonal allergies.  We can improve allergy symptoms by using points to stimulate the body to balance the immune system and support the sinuses and lungs.

If you are looking for other options or for a comprehensive plan to tackle your seasonal allergies, naturopathic medicine can help.  Working together with you, naturopathic doctors have multiple tools to help you manage seasonal allergies.


Dr. Shawn Peters, ND is a naturopathic doctor practicing in downtown Courtenay.

Contact Dr. Peters for a free “meet the doctor” visit to see if naturopathic medicine is right for you.

Spagyric Tinctures

Spagyric medicine is a ancient form of botanical medicine and is similar to that of homeopathic medicine, in the sense that through the process of creating a spagyric tincture the herbal remedy becomes more potent and reaches a highly energized state.1,3,4  Spagyric medicine, theory, and philosophy have much more depth than I just stated and if the reader is keen to learn more I would point them to the references listed at the end of the article.

Spagyric tinctures differ from regular botanical tinctures in that the process of creating the tincture a remedy is created that not only is in a highly energized state but also incorporates the minerals found in the herb back in to the tincture.1,2,3,4  This is a significant difference because once a regular botanical tincture is made the remaining plant material is generally discarded, including any of the constituents not extracted.

A spagyric tincture involves at least three steps, that of separation, purification, and cohobation (recombination).1,3  Separation involves an extraction with alcohol to separate various constituents, for approximately 40 days.  Purification involves a process of grinding and burning the remaining dried plant material until it becomes a white ash.  Cohobation involves recombining the white ash with the liquid extract, again for approximately 40 days.  These steps may involve heat and agitation.


Contact Dr. Peters for a free “meet the doctor” visit to see if naturopathic medicine is right for you.



  1. Junius, M. M. (2007). Spagyrics: The alchemical preparation of medicinal essences, tinctures and elixirs. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
  2. Liquid Herbal Extracts. (n.d.). Retrieved April 3, 2016, from
  3. Sinclair, J. (2013). The alchemy of herbal medicine: Spagyric tinctures, elixirs and the vegetable stone. Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine, 25(4), 188-194.
  4. What is Spagyric Medicine. (2013, April 09). Retrieved April 03, 2016, from

Herbal Bitters

Herbal Bitters

Bitters are a group of plant constituents, which are not like other plant constituents but are rather distinguishable by their taste when consumed (bitter principle).  Many believe that for bitters to induce their physiological effects they must be tasted.  This is important when considering how to use bitters, for example as a tincture or a capsule. 

Bitters have been traditionally used as a digestive stimulant, enjoyed most often as a cocktail before a meal.  Using bitters before a meal helps to stimulate digestion generally, including the flow of digestive secretions, stimulating gallbladder bile flow (cholagogue), acting as a hepatic to aid liver function, and stimulating the vagus nerve to promote intestinal peristalsis. 

Spring is a perfect time to introduce bitters to help aide in sluggish winter digestion, where most of us have been indoors and sedentary far more.  Spring is also a great season to help the liver detoxify.

Taraxacum officinale, or Dandelion leaf and root, is a great example of bitter plant that can be used fresh in salads or in soups, is abundant in spring, and promotes both digestion and liver function.  Of course it can be used as a dried leaf/root or tincture. 

Another commonly recognized bitter used as food (or beverage in this case), is Humulus lupulus, or Hops, which is found in beer.

Many plants have the bitter principle and also have secondary actions apart from the actions that I listed above, so it is important to exercise caution when using any new herb. 

Bitters are great for spring and for putting a little spring in your digestion.  See the references listed for more information.


Contact Dr. Peters for a free “meet the doctor” visit to see if naturopathic medicine is right for you.



Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Marciano, M., Dr. (2013, November 05). The Bitter Principle. Retrieved April 23, 2016, from

The Scoop on Digestive Enzyme Supplements

There are many digestive enzyme supplements available on the store shelves and it can be confusing to choose the right one for yourself or your customer.  Through my time at working at various health food stores, here are some helpful tips to weed through the confusion.

From what I can see, two main confusing elements exist when selecting a digestive enzyme supplement; one is selecting the right formula and two is comparing different formulas. 

Selecting the Right Formula

In most stores, there are generally two types of enzyme supplements and it is important to select the right type for the right job.  One formula tends to be made to reduce inflammation and one tends to aide digestion of foods.

Generally speaking, if an enzyme formula has as a majority, or is solely made up of, enzymes such as papain, bromelain, pancreatin or “proteolytic” enzymes (which break down proteins), then you are looking at an enzyme formula to reduce inflammation. 

On the other hand, a digestive enzyme formula will generally contain enzymes such as protease, lipase, amylase, cellulase, lactase, etc. to help with the breakdown of various food components (protease for proteins, lipase for fats, amylase for carbohydrates, etc.).  These ingredients are indications that you are looking at a formula to assist with digestion of food.

Comparing Different Formulas

Comparing enzyme supplements with each other is difficult for one primary reason; there is not a general standardized method for listing enzymes on a label.  Companies can list either the amount (weight measurement, such as milligrams (mg)) of each enzyme per capsule or they can list the activity (units of activity) of each enzyme per capsule.  In Canada, manufactures are required to list the mg of each enzyme and they may list the activity of each enzyme.  The confusion stems from the fact that an enzyme’s efficacy is measured by it’s activity, not by it’s weight.  To make a good comparison, we need to know a supplement’s enzyme’s activity.

It makes it difficult to compare different supplements because one, we want to know the activity of the enzyme, and two because some brands don’t list the activity.

Furthermore, when comparing activity of different supplements, different brands use different enzyme activity measurement units (FCC vs USP).  Thus, it is important to be able to convert between the different units in order to compare properly. 

How to Choose

I have been unable, as of yet, to find a complete source for comparison, nor a fully reliable one.  In the meantime, see the link below for a starting point to help you in your decision making.

See the references listed below for more information on enzymes, enzyme supplements, and comparing different formulas.


Contact Dr. Peters for a free “meet the doctor” visit to see if naturopathic medicine is right for you.



A brief overview of digestive enzyme facts [Pamphlet]. (2000). Thornhill, ON: NaturPharm.

Cichoke, A. J. (1999). The complete book of enzyme therapy. Garden City Park, NY: Avery Pub.

Haas, E. M., & Levin, B. (2006). Staying healthy with nutrition: The complete guide to diet and nutritional medicine. Berkeley: Celestial Arts.

(2011, January 27). Rockwell Nutrition Blog. Retrieved March 12, 2016, from

Digestive Enzymes – Why are they Important?

The Scoop on Digestive Enzymes

Generally speaking, there are 3 classes of enzymes: metabolic enzymes, food enzymes, and digestive enzymes.  Metabolic enzymes are those that facilitate in performing a number of biochemical reactions in the body.  Unless one has a condition that affects how a metabolic enzyme functions in the body most people will never pay attention to these enzymes.  Food enzymes and digestive enzymes, on the other hand, are a different story.  Many people would do well to consider these categories of enzymes and the impact they have on our health.

Food enzymes are those that are found in foods and are present to assist in digesting of that food.  An important consideration of enzymes is that they are made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins, therefore enzymes are proteins.  The function of proteins is affected by a number of factors, one of which is heat.  Heat denatures proteins which in turn affects their function.  That is to say, heat affects how well an enzyme will function.  As such, incorporating raw foods in one’s diet is a great way to support the digestion of that food.  Consuming a diet of solely cooked foods (not to mention processed and refined), as many people do, may add an extra burden on the body to produce all of the enzymes required to properly digest the foods eaten and/or actually hinder the body’s ability to produce digestive enzymes effectively.

Digestive enzymes are those that are produced by the body to assist in digesting food consumed.  The majority of enzymes required for digestion are produced and secreted by the pancreas, and many elements can impact how well this happens.  Suffice it to say, many people are aided by the use of supplemental digestive enzymes. 

Digestive enzyme supplements tend to be sourced from either animals or plants.  Animal enzymes tend to be sourced from pancreatin, which is tissue from the pancreas of an animal.  This tissue, much like it does within us, is useful at providing digestive enzymes such as protease, amylase, and lipase.  Plant enzymes, while called “plant” enzymes are typically from fungal sources; most digestive enzyme formulas are fungal-based.  Other actual plant digestive enzymes include papain (from papaya) and bromelain (from pineapple). 

Digestive enzymes are useful for a number of conditions, particularly for anything related to impaired digestion.  Basic symptoms of impaired digestion include belching, bloating, flatulence and excessive full feeling after eating.  Digestion is central to all body systems and proper digestive health is core for general good health.


Contact Dr. Peters for a free “meet the doctor” visit to see if naturopathic medicine is right for you.



Bateson-Koch, C. (1994). Allergies, disease in disguise: How to heal your condition permanently and naturally. Burnaby, B.C.: Alive Books.

A brief overview of digestive enzyme facts [Pamphlet]. (2000). Thornhill, ON: NaturPharm.

Cichoke, A. J. (1999). The complete book of enzyme therapy. Garden City Park, NY: Avery Pub.

Haas, E. M., & Levin, B. (2006). Staying healthy with nutrition: The complete guide to diet and nutritional medicine. Berkeley: Celestial Arts.

Water & Filtration Systems

Importance of Water and Water Purification

The human body is composed of approximately 70% water and it is the principal component of all bodily fluids.  In fact, water is a part of nearly every function in the body, including those on the cellular, tissue, and organ levels, as well as in circulation, digestion, and elimination.  Water is also a bodily solvent that carries important minerals, such as electrolytes.

Not only does water play a crucial role in the functions and subsequent health of our bodies, but it is also plays important part in the roots of naturopathic medicine.  Important people who used hydrotherapy (water cure) to help heal others, included Vincent Priessnitz, Johan Schroth, and Sebastian Kneipp.4

In Canada, Health Canada publishes drinking water guidelines, which are established between the federal, provincial, and municipal governments.1  Unfortunately, the quality of drinking water has become a concern since many contaminants and toxic compounds are found in municipal drinking water.  Not all Canadian cities test for all of the compounds listed in the guidelines set by Health Canada, as published in an article by CBC in 2015.5  It is important to note that not all contaminants may cause immediate harm, though they may cause ill health if consumed over the long term5 or through the additive effect when compounded with other contaminants consumed in food and/or water.3  See the CBC article to check a city near you.

Fortunately, supplementing water filtration methods found in our cities’ drinking water with common household or store filtration methods can decrease one’s exposure to contaminants.

Not all contaminants are removed by all methods, so be sure to choose the appropriate type for you (check your local library for the references provided to decide which is best for you).

Here is a list of common water filtration methods that are useful to remove many contaminants.3 

  • Springwater – While spring water is not filtered, it is the most unprocessed and natural water available. That being said, if taken directly from the source, be sure to test the water for possible contaminants.  Spring water may be polluted, so be sure to test it.
  • Carbon – Carbon filtration is the most common household filtration system and is composed of either a solid carbon block or carbon granules. A solid carbon block of 1 micron (micrometer) efficiency is your best choice for both filtration and inhibition of bacterial growth.  Be sure to change your carbon filter regularly (~3-6 months).  Weighing both cost and overall efficiency, these systems seem to be an appropriate choice.
  • Reverse Osmosis (RO) – RO water filters are more efficient at removing contaminants than carbon due to the small filter holes. In an RO system, water is pressurized through a small membrane.  Many RO systems include sediment and carbon filters as well to enhance the level of filtration.  Unfortunately, RO systems also remove all minerals from water, which some believe is detrimental to one’s health.2,3  One further consideration is that RO systems are rather water-inefficient, meaning they produce unusable waste water.
  • Distilled – These systems essentially involve boiling water to a high point to remove many contaminants. Distilled water systems are similar to RO in efficiency and produce much less wastewater, though they require more energy.  Like RO, minerals are removed.


Contact Dr. Peters for a free “meet the doctor” visit to see if naturopathic medicine is right for you.



  1. Canada, Health Canada. (2015, January 27). Drinking Water. Retrieved February 27, 2016, from
  2. Gaby, A. (2011). Nutritional medicine. Concord, N.H: Fritz Perlberg Publishing.
  3. Haas, E. M., & Levin, B. (2006). Staying healthy with nutrition: The complete guide to diet and nutritional medicine. Berkeley: Celestial Arts.
  4. Lloyd, I. (2009). History of naturopathic medicine: A Canadian perspective. Toronto: McArthur & Company
  5. Moore, H. (2015, June 19). Drinking water in Canadian cities not always tested for all CBC News. Retrieved February 27, 2016, from  always-tested-for-all-contaminants-1.3111908      

5 Key Supplements for High Stress

5 Key Natural Medicines to Help our Bodies Handle Stress

Temporary moments of stress are a normal part of life.  In fact, our bodies are well equipped as humans to respond appropriately to stressors around us.  It is when stressors are excessive or prolonged over time that we can start to feel the adverse impacts of stress. 

The impacts of stress can affect both of bodies and minds.  Those with mental health concerns may feel more on edge.  Burnout and our ability the perform cognitively can worsen.  Our sleep and energy can become impaired.  Weight gain can increase and inflammatory markers can rise.

Stress affects us all, young and old, whether we are students, families, or elders.  Life as a student can be a very exciting time, though not without challenges.  This is true for any student and especially those in demanding programs or during challenging exam periods. Isolation, loneliness, and anxiety are felt by many of us these days.  This may be particularly true for some of the more vulnerable folks around us, certainly as the pandemic continues to linger.  Many elders may feel particularly isolated, which can be a stressor.  Families may be feeling stress with balancing the demands of work, partners, and children, especially through changing times.

For many of us, here are some of the key considerations to help handle stress:

(As always, before using any herb or nutrient consult with a healthcare professional first).

  • Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids: Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are those healthy fats that the body itself cannot produce so we get them from foods or supplements. What makes EFAs so important is their role in both brain and nervous system health. EFAs can be found in fish, chia seed, flaxseed, nuts and seeds, and algae, as well as supplements.
  • B-Complex (particularly B5): B-vitamins play a critical role in many bodily processes, including many energy pathways. B-vitamins also play a role in supporting our ability to deal with stress, particularly vitamin B5 which is thought of as the ‘anti-stress’ vitamin.
  • Vitamin C: This important vitamin is known for its role as an antioxidant. Many free radicals can be produced during times of stress and vitamin C can help to stop free radicals. Vitamin C is used by our bodies to a greater extent under stressful conditions.
  • Ashwaganda: This stress supportive herb is considered a calming adaptogen (calms us while helping us to adapt to stress). Herbs that are adaptogens help the body deal with stress by moderating our responses to stressors.  Ashwaganda also helps to support insomnia caused by stress and can be effective for reducing anxiety.
  • Bacopa: Bacopa is also an adaptogen. Specifically, it helps with short- and long-term memory, as well as assisting general cognitive abilities, such as focus and learning.

To get the most from our bodies and minds, and maintain good health during periods of stress, it is important to work in exercise, proper sleep, and a diet rich in whole foods.  Doing so can pay off not only in our health but in our mental performance.  As a naturopathic doctor, this is true in my own life, and I see the results in my patients.

Contact Dr. Peters for a free “meet the doctor” visit to see if naturopathic medicine is right for you.


  1. Haas, E. M., & Levin, B. (2006). Staying healthy with nutrition: The complete guide to diet and nutritional medicine. Berkeley: Celestial Arts.
  2. Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
  3. Marciano, M., Dr. (n.d.). The Naturopathic Herbalist. Retrieved February 20, 2016

Smoothies vs Juicing

What is a smoothie?

A smoothie is a drink mixed of frozen or fresh fruit and/or vegetables blended to a desired consistency.  Anything else can be added to a smoothie to change the flavor or incorporate nutrient-dense foods in a fun and delicious way.

What is a juice?

Essentially a juice is a concentrated version of a smoothie, though often with nothing else added other than fruits and vegetables.  Typically, a juice is made by using a juicer and juicing any fruit or vegetable on their own or in combination.  Meghan Telpner suggests an inventive way to get around not having a juicer by blending the same fruit or vegetable combinations in a blender then straining them through a fine sieve or nut-milk bag (cheese cloth).1

How does a smoothie differ from a juice?

A smoothie is a thicker, blended drink that is larger in volume and often high in the macronutrients (protein, fats, and carbohydrates) as well as the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and enzymes, etc.  A big distinction is that a smoothie retains all of the fiber.  Much of the protein and fat in a smoothie comes from the added nutrient-dense ingredients, like hemp seeds, nut butter, and protein powder, or flax seeds, chia seeds, and various healthy oils.

A juice, on the other hand, is smaller, less thick, drink that is high in the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as enzymes2, naturally-occurring sugars, and other phytonutrients.  A juice does not retain any of the fiber and tends to be lower in protein and fat.  Juicing is often very good for producing enzyme-rich juices.

When to use a smoothie or a juice?

A smoothie is a quick and easy way to jam pack nutrition in to an easy and, most importantly, delicious drink.  Because one can add almost any food or powder, such as those containing protein, healthy fats, fiber, and crucial phytonutrients, in to a base of fruits and vegetables, anyone can tailor a smoothie to what they need and like.

A juice (using a juicer, particularly) is more time consuming but concentrates most of the important nutrients and enzymes from fruits and vegetables in to a small volume.  Essentially, juicing is an extremely efficient way to consume more fruits and vegetables in a small serving. 

Concentrated amounts of phytonutrients obtained from juicing different fruits and vegetables is supportive of optimal function for many body organs.3  Also, juicing can be used in conjunction with other treatments for conditions such as arthritis, allergies, and osteoporosis3, as well as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and high cholesterol.2

What it all comes down to is not the difference of smoothies versus juices as if they are a competing pair, but how can one incorporate more fresh fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods in to one’s diet for optimal health.  Both smoothies and juices are a fantastic way to do this.


Contact Dr. Peters for a free “meet the doctor” visit to see if naturopathic medicine is right for you.



1.     Meghan Telpner Inc. (2013). Smoothie on up, juice it on down [Brochure]. Author. Retrieved January 31, 2016, from

2.     Cichoke, A. J. (1999). Maximizing enzymes in your diet. In The complete book of enzyme therapy (p. 30). Garden City Park, NY: Avery Pub.

3.     Haas, E. M., & Levin, B. (2006). Detoxification and cleansing programs. In Staying healthy with nutrition: The complete guide to diet and nutritional medicine (pp. 779-780). Berkeley: Celestial Arts.