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Functional Medicine approach to ADHD beta-test

Functional Farmacist 4 week ADHD Group Coaching Beta-Test Group

Are you interested in learning more about my integrative approach to ADHD?  I’m beta-testing a FREE 4 week group coaching program later this month where we’ll discuss my 4 “S” approach to ADHD, which includes sleep, stress, sugar and smart supplementation.  Here’s just a handful of topics that we’ll cover:

  • Food allergy testing and diet tweaks to reduce inflammation
  • Practical tips for prioritizing sleep
  • The gut-brain connection and improving gut health
  • Mineral deficiency in ADHD
  • How to reduce environmental toxins
  • Essential oils and other alternative treatments

This program is worth $2000, but for the first 8 people, will be free of charge during this beta-test if you meet and can commit to all of the following requirements:

  • Have ADHD yourself or are a caretaker of someone with ADHD
  • Be available for 4 one-hour live coaching calls (followed by 30 minutes of Q&A) on Wed 3/30, Wed 4/6, Wed 4/13 and Wed 4/20 all at 7pmET.  If not available at this time, you would need to listen to replay and provide feedback about the presentation.
  • Provide verbal feedback about the presentation, as well as input about your ideal program.
  • Submit two final online surveys upon program completion and one 4 weeks out.

Please contact Chantell at functionalfarmacist@gmail.com to confirm eligibility and availability.

6 steps to prevent cold and flu

We’re in the heart of cold and flu season here in the northeast, so I thought I would share my tips and tricks to maximize immunity & prevent sickness:

  • Wash your hands!  Whenever I come home, I always wash my hands to remove any bacteria from my hands, which can spark unwanted sickness.  Avoid soaps with triclosan, Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and parabens.  To make a very easy DIY soap, take a used old foaming soap pump, add 1 tbsp. vegetable glycerine, 4 tablespoons castile soap, 10 drops of a protective essential oils blend and fill with water.  It’s that easy!
  • Get a daily dose of probiotics – either in food form (grass-fed yogurt, raw sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, kombucha) or as a supplement to promote gut-health and strengthen immunity.  See my previous post for more about gut health and probiotics.
  • Boost your Vitamin C intake – I love to start my day with hot water with lemon and ginger – the vitamin C in the lemon and immune-boosting properties in ginger make this a powerhouse (and it also serves a gentle detox)!  For extra anti-inflammatory action, grate some tumeric or use a pinch of the powder form.  When traveling, I also take Emergen-C to get an extra 1000mg dose, and there’s also Emergen-C Kidz (Funtional Farmacist tip: I also like to use this as substitute for Gatorade).
  • Practically everyone is deficient in Vitiamin D!  Vitamin D is critical to our immune systems so get out in the sun! Just 15 minutes a day (without sunscreen can boost vitamin D levels. Check vitamin D status and consider supplementing to bring the vitamin D blood level to the middle of the “normal range.” After learning I am deficient myself, especially in the wintertime here in the Northeast, I like to use a source containing Vitamin D3. Children one year of age and above: 400 IUs per day, taken with a meal. Adult dosing can range from 1000-10,000IU/day depending on levels.
  • Take advantage of plant based medicine.  Essential oils oregano and thyme are potent natural antibiotic and antivirals. I like to use 1-2 drops diluted with a tsp of fractionated coconut oil on the feet at bedtime.  Note pregnant women and small children should not use thyme.  I also like to use a protective blend (which includes orange, clove, cinnamon, euaclyptus and rosemary).
  • Sleep like your life depends on it!  I think sleep is such a critical factor in prevention of sickness, I wrote a post about it.  Seriously one of the most important things you can do to keep your immune function running smoothly.

How about you?  Have you used any of these remedies in your personal care?  Need help with obtaining quality essential oils?  Contact me at functionalfarmacist@gmail.com.


Antidepressants are even more dangerous in kids

This week in the British Medical Journal, a review was published which notes that antidepressants appear to be more dangerous for kids than previously thought.   Some of the initial published data under-reported instances of suicide and aggression.  The review included five antidepressants: Cymbalta (duloxetine), Effexor (venlafaxine), Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline).   This information is not entirely new, as back in 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about the increased risk of suicide in children and teens treated with SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), including Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft and others.  In 2007, the FDA revised this “black box warning” to include adults < 25 years old.

This new study concluded that the risk of aggression and suicide doubled in kids, which had not been previously reported.  There was no similar association found in adults.  Additionally the risks to children from antidepressants included deaths, suicidal thoughts and attempts, as well as aggression and akathisia.  The researchers also found that published reports from clinical trials appeared to mis-classify deaths and suicidal events in people taking antidepressants.  In fact, 4 deaths were misreported by a pharmaceutical company, in all cases downplaying the role of the antidepressant.  Even more alarming is that more than half of the suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts were mis-coded in the earlier trials as “emotional lability” or “worsening of depression,” which significantly downplayed these serious adverse effects.  In summary trial reports from Eli Lilly and Co., almost all deaths were noted, but suicidal attempts were missing in 90 percent of instances, and information on other outcomes was incomplete.  Lastly, the authors note that the risks to children may be even greater than what was just reported in the new analysis. Clinical data could not be obtained for all drug trials and all antidepressants, and individual listings of adverse outcomes for all patients were available for only 32 trials.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) responded to the study by noting that a revised set of principles for responsible clinical drug trial data sharing that went into effect for its members in 2014.   “While we cannot comment on the specific clinical trials of various companies, our members are committed to sharing data,” a spokesperson said.

What’s the bottom line?

Clinical data supplied to regulators cannot be totally be trusted.  Though it’s disturbing that data was manipulated, just knowing this information should empower you to be extremely cautious when considering antidepressant use in children.  An integrative or functional medicine practitioner can suggest alternative treatments, such as vitamin & mineral deficiencies, as well as modifications in diet, sleep, stress and exercise.

Want to know which essential oils are helpful in depression and anxiety?  Sign up for the newsletter or contact me at functionalfarmacist@gmail.com.

Other references:

Drug Watch.  October 12, 2015.  Accessed on January 31, 2016 at: http://www.drugwatch.com/ssri/suicide/

Listen here for more gut health info

I love learning about topics of interest by listening to podcasts.  In the functional medicine world, I’m very fond of three MDs, who have a practical approach to natural health.  Most recently I came across three excellent podcasts which highlight gut health and the thyroid, hormone balance and brain health.  For more details, please see below:

How about you?  What are your favorite health podcasts?  Message me below!


Resolve to try one of these stress reducers in the new year

Stress is defined many ways, including “the action on a body of any system of balanced forces whereby strain or deformation results” or “the physical pressure, pull, or other force exerted on one thing by another; strain.”  In this day and age, a normal amount of stress is expected, but excess stress is associated with increased risk of heart attacks, depression, insomnia, diabetes and leaky gut to name a few disorders.  Unfortunately our body doesn’t distinguish among the different types of stress:

  • Address internal causes of inflammation, such as food sensitivities.  Finding the root cause of inflammation often starts with what we’re putting in our mouths.  Consider food sensitivities or allergies (the most common being eggs, soy, dairy, wheat, and corn).  Food allergy testing though controversial, may not be completely accurate, according to Functional Medicine practitioners.  Another way to investigate if certain foods trigger an inflammatory response is to undergo an Elimination Diet.  Try removing these foods for 2-3 weeks and strategically reintroduce them, noting any triggers.
  • Focus on external sources, like environmental toxins.  See my previous post “Take Control of Environmental Toxins” to remove exposure to things like GMOs, skincare toxins and mold.  One additional thing to consider is to reduce your exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) generated by cell phones, laptops and the internet.  EMFs can disrupt sleep, cause decreased sperm counts and headaches.  Simply turning off your wi-fi overnight (by using a timer on your outlet) can help you sleep better. Bulletproof Exec also suggests using headsets or earbuds, utilizing “airplane mode” while your phone is in your pocket, and installing EMF filters.
  • Evaluate emotional/mental stress.  Lost a job?  Taking care of a sick relative? Emotional and mental stress takes an incredible toll on our bodies, including increasing production of cortisol (our stress hormone).  Chronic overproduction of cortisol can tax the adrenal glands, causing adrenal fatigue.  If you’re interested in the physiologic response to stress, read more here.

So, what can we do about it?  Try 1 of these 4 (free) tips to help manage your stress:

Breathe.  Dr. Andrew Weil has a quick and easy remedy, the 4-7-8 breath. Repeat several times and watch the stress begin to melt away.

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).  In this YouTube video, Julie Schiffman demonstrates the benefits of EFT “tapping” for stress relief.  Use this practice whenever stress has the better of you!

Meditation or prayer.  Take the first 10-20 minutes of your day to read some scripture or cultivate a meditation practice.  Fun fact: meditation can be better than sleeping!  Get the award-winning Headspace app here.

Take a bath.  Fill a tub with hot water and add 1-2 cups of Epsom (magnesium) salts.  Magnesium deficiency can cause anxiety, so replenishing your stores can do wonders to relieve stress.  For additional relaxation, add 10 drops of lavender oil.

Not free, but very effective:

Essential oils.  Lavender has been the most studied essential oil for anxiety and sleep.  Dr. Axe also recommends rose, vetiver, ylang ylang, bergamot, chamomile and frankincense.  Inhale them using a diffuser, topically on the skin with a carrier oil.  See my “Essential Oils 101” blog post for more information.

Heart Math.  Using devices and tools to track things like heart rate variability can be helpful to train the brain and nervous system. For example, the Tinké plugs into phone and measures heart rate variability from the thumb. HeartMath’s Inner Balance sensor,uses an earlobe clip and a plug-in phone sensor to measure heart rate variability.  Learn more at the Heart Math Institute.

What’s your “go-to” stress reducing technique or tool?  Tell me below.

Additional resources:

Asprey, D.  Step 7: Identify and Remove Toxins That Limit You.  Accessed on January 3, 2016 at:  https://www.bulletproofexec.com/remove-toxins/

Kresser, C.  9 Steps to Perfect Health. #6 Manage your stress.  Accessed January 3, 2016 at: http://chriskresser.com/9-steps-to-perfect-health-6-manage-your-stress/

Mercola, J.  Chronic Stress Doesn’t Stay in Your Head.  March 2015.  Accessed January 3, 2016 at: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/03/12/chronic-stress.aspx

Orecchio, C.  The Five Most Common Food Sensitivities.  Accessed January 3, 2016 at: http://thewholejourney.com/the-five-most-common-food-sensitivities

Randall, M. The Physiology of Stress: Cortisol and the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis. February 2011; Accessed on January 3, 2016 at: http://dujs.dartmouth.edu/fall-2010/the-physiology-of-stress-cortisol-and-the-hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis#.VomaeVmfJpk

Shah, R.  7 Fascinating Facts about Meditation.  Huffington Post; January 7, 2013. Accessed on January 3, 2016 at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/15/7-fascinating-facts-about_n_899482.html

Antipsychotic use increases 50% in 2 year olds

Back in July, I reported on almost half of preschoolers taking medication for ADHD.  Last week, a front page New York times article noted that antipsychotic use in 2 year olds increased 50% from last year.  Use of the antidepressant Prozac increased 23% in the same age group, according to IMS data.  Not surprising when you consider that headline news from last month that almost 60% of adults use a prescription. Most of these drugs aren’t FDA approved for children under 5.

What is sparking this increase?  The author assumes that problematic, troubling behavior like depression, lethargy, nonverbal, or temper tantrums has worried parents inquiring about treatment and well-meaning physicians prescribing these drugs.  It’s certainly concerning when you’re the parent of a child experiencing these “symptoms”, but note that these drugs are not benign.  Common adverse effects include fatigue or insomnia, Parkinson-like effects, increased appetite, weight gain, diabetes and neuromuscular/skeletal.  It’s also important to note that in the older population, there is a “Black Box” or very serious warning for increased risk of death in elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis.  The article also notes an example of a child given an antipsychotic for a side-effect of an anti-seizure medication, which was subsequently discontinued because of these types of adverse effects noted above.

What should you do if you or your child are experiencing these symptoms?  Consider that these children (2 years and under) are still rapidly growing and their brains are not fully functional.  If you’re interested in finding the root cause of the behavior (instead of using a non FDA approved medication, I suggest finding a functional medicine practitioner to help find alternatives.  I have compiled a list of online resources and practitioner sites.  This type of practitioner may help with behavioral, diet and other lifestyle modifications that can help your child.  It may take some trial and error, but with some patience, may help mitigate the need for a prescription.



WebMD.  Antipsychotic Medication for Bipolar disease.  Accessed at: http://www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/antipsychotic-medication

Schwarz, Alan.  Still in a Crib, Yet Being Given AntipsychoticsNew York Times; December 10, 2015.  Accessed at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/11/us/psychiatric-drugs-are-being-prescribed-to-infants.html?ref=health&_r=0

Essential oils 101 recap

We had a great turnout for the Media Library’s Essential Oil 101 overview last week.  Thanks to all who braved the weather.  For those who missed it, I’ll be doing another program there after the holidays.  In the interim, please contact me for a personal overview and consultation.  In this post, I’ll review some of the most frequently asked questions and select pictures.

What are Essential Oils (EOs) and how are they made? Essential oils are volatile liquids, which rapidly evaporate in the form of vapor.  They are extracted from plants (including the leaves, roots, bark, seed, fruits, flowers and trees).  The process begins by planting high quality plants in nutrient dense organic soil native to their natural environment.  The plants should be harvested when their healing compounds are most available.  EOs are created through two different processes.  The “steam distillation” process separates the oil and water based compounds of a plant.  Oils made by “cold expression” are extracted through mechanical pressure which “presses” the oils out of the plant material.  The cold press method is most commonly used in the making of citrus oils.  Finally, the oils should be bottled in dark glass containers to protect from oxidation and sunlight.

How can I choose quality oil? Since EOs are a wholly natural product, they cannot be patented.  This means the essential oils market is totally unregulated.  Importantly, not all essential oils are created equally.  Synthetic or altered oils are considered the lowest grade of oil and are created in a laboratory.  Natural and “pure” oils are the most common type found in the market, but they are still overly processed, so they lose their healing properties.  Wellness grade essential oils are steam distilled; however, they may or may not have been sprayed with pesticides.  Certified therapeutic grade (CTG) oils are medicinal-grade and are the highest grade of essential oils with greatest healing properties.  When purchasing EOs, consider buying therapeutic grade, organic oils whenever possible.  These products should also require third party testing, which ensures the highest quality.  The CTG oils are the only ones I feel are safe for internal ingestion.

Are essential oils studied for their therapeutic use? In the scientific literature, there are thousands of studies referencing the therapeutic effects of essential oils.  A simple search on PubMed reveals that EOs are being used studied for use in everything from peppermint oil in irritable bowel syndrome and headaches, oregano for infections, vetiver in ADHD and frankincense (i.e. Boswalia) in cancer.  Combinations of lavender and rosemary have been shown to affect cognition and mood. Even hospitals like Vanderbilt University have studied oils for their use in the treatment of anxiety, depression and infections in hospitalized patients.

How long have EOs been around? EOs have been used for thousands of years.  The Egyptians are credited with being the first to use oils like frankincense, myrrh, cedarwood, juniper, and coriander.  Other early adopters include China, Greece, Rome, Israel, Arabia and Europe. What is the relation of EOs to Aromatherapy?   Aromatherapy uses plants, plant essential oils and other aromatic compounds to change mood and wellbeing.  Lavender, peppermint, grapefruit, chamomile, lemon, ylang-ylang can improve mood and are commonly used for things like massage.

Are there any safety concerns for using EOs? EOs are very concentrated oils.  To put into perspective, it takes 150 pounds of lavender plants to make 1 pound of EOs.  As a general rule, a little goes a long way.  They are generally safe, but can produce skin reactions for some with sensitive skin.  I recommend applying 1-2 drops of EO to a patch of skin such as the forearm. Observe that area of skin over the course of 1-2 hours for any noticeable reaction; usually reactions occur within 5-10 minutes. If you experience a hot or burning sensation or if you develop a rash, add a “carrier” oil like coconut, jojoba, olive or grapeseed oil to the site.  Never use water, as it can add to the discomfort.  It’s especially important to dilute “hot” oils, like cinnamon, clove, lemongrass, peppermint, oregano, thyme, which could be irritating to skin.  Simply combine them with a carrier oil.  Some oils are generally recognized as safe to use undiluted and include lavender, German chamomile, tea tree, sandalwood, and rose geranium.  Additionally, for infants and children, I always suggest dilution of oils.  Use 1 drop of oil in a tablespoon or more of carrier oil for infants and children.  If you are pregnant, always consult with your physician before using any oil.  Aniseed, cedarwood, chamomile, cinnamon, clary sage, clove, ginger, jasmine, lemon, nutmeg, rosemary, sage should be avoided, especially in the first trimester.  For more safety information, the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy houses a comprehensive database of injury reports for essential oils.

What are some easy ways to start using EOs at home? There are 3 easy ways to get started using EOs: using topically, inhaling or diffusing and ingesting.

1. My favorite way is to put a few drops of an oil or a blend in a diffuser and inhale the oils.   A diffuser disperses essential oils in the air in your home or office, allowing you and your family to easily inhale the oils (for immune boosting, stress relief, etc.) and naturally and effectively disinfect the air.

2. Additionally, EOs are well absorbed through the skin and can be used topically.  Because EOs are super-concentrated as noted above, it’s usually best to mix 1-2 drops of a concentrated EO with a “carrier” oil like coconut, olive, jojoba or grapeseed oil.  This combination makes the skin less likely to react, but the oil’s effectiveness won’t be diluted.  The oils can be applied to the back of the neck, wrists, bottom of the feet or behind the ears, where the oils can be easily absorbed.

3. I only recommend ingesting oils, when you can find a certified therapeutic grade of oils.  Do not take essential oils wintergreen and eucalyptus internally.  A drop or two of high quality lemon or orange in a glass of water can refresh and detoxify the body.  A drop of peppermint in a glass of water can settle an upset stomach.

What are your “go-to “ EOs?

  • I love diffusing a combination of lemon, lavender and peppermint (3 drops each).  It lightens the air and is very refreshing. 
  • Peppermint is good for mental alertness, headaches, fever and digestion. 
  • Orange can improve mood, decrease anxiety, and purifies the air. 
  • Melaleuca (tea tree) can be helpful for acne and hair care (dandruff), and in cleaning products. 
  • Lavender is great for minor burns and cuts,  for anxiety, sleep, and relaxation. 
  • Lemon is known for lifting moods, as an antibacterial in cleaning products, or in skincare products for oily skin. 
  • Frankincense provides natural immune support, spiritual awareness, and is beneficial for skin. 
  • Clary sage is helpful for irritability during premenstrual syndrome.

Where can we find out more about you and essential oils?   For more information on where to find quality essential oils, please email me directly at functionalfarmacist@gmail.com

What are your favorite resources?  

Aromatic Science.  Accessed at: http://www.aromaticscience.com/ Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy.

Accessed at: http://www.atlanticinstitute.com/injury-report-2014

Modern Essentials: A Contemporary Guide to the Therapeutic Use of Essential Oils.  6th ed.  By AromaTools, 2014.

Modern Essentials app

Disclaimer: This information should not be treated as advice. The medical information in this article is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied. This information is not intended to be patient education. The information does not create any patient-physician or patient-pharmacist relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. You should consult your doctor or other healthcare provider if you have any specific medical questions.

Essential Oil Educator podcast episode 028

Take a listen to the latest episode of the Essential Oil Educator podcast 028: Chantell Reagan, Functional Farmacist.  Marv Johnson of the Essential Oil Educator podcast interviews me about my career as a pharmacist and how it integrates with functional medicine.  We also discuss the following:

  • Hear what a pharmacist thinks about the good and bad of the pharmaceutical industry.
  • What does a pharmacist think about the side effects of prescribed medication?
  • What does the phrase “non-pharmacological options first” mean?
  • What prompts a trained pharmacists to look into non-pharmacological options for her family.

If you’re not familiar with Marv’s Essential Oil Educator blog and podcast, check it out here.  He does an exceptional job of interviewing practitioners, health professionals, and scientists which can help you transform your picture of wellness.

59% of American adults use a prescription drug

Just published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, three out of five US Americans take a prescription.  This statistic went up from 51% in 2000 to 59% in 2012.  Results came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). data.  The increase is likely due to obesity, as well as the aging Medicare population.  Of note, more people are using medications in 11 drug classes including cholesterol-lowering, antidepressants, proton-pump inhibitors, and muscle relaxants.  The study showed that approximately 8% of adults take cholesterol lowering drug Zocor (simvastatin).  Additionally, 15% of adults are taking 5 or more drugs.  If you’re looking for more natural ways to approach chronic disease, here’s a roundup of some suggestions to address the conditions noted above:

High cholesterol:

  • Understand the risk of statins, including their ability to inhibit glutathione and Coenzyme Q, two powerhouse antioxidants.  Check out what fellow pharmacist Suzy Cohen has to say in “Taking Statins: Beware” and Ross Pelton’s “Statins are Stupid“.
  • In this YouTube video, Dr. Hyman also discusses 6 steps to healthy cholesterol, including the importance of cholesterol, getting the right testing, using diet (increasing healthy fats and decreasing flour and sugar), exercise, decreaing stress and smart supplementation, like fish oil and others.
  • Work with fellow pharmacist, Dr. Anh, a functional medicine practitioner who specializes in treating cholesterol naturally.


  • Address underlying inflammation in the gut.  Dr. Perlmutter explains how depression is an inflammatory process and that SSRI’s used to treat depression are actually antidepressants.  Chris Kresser also has an excellent blog post summarizing this connection.  Using probiotics can help to treat leaky gut, as I explain in this post.
  • Check micronutrient levels.  90% of women with post partum depression have high copper levels, noted by Dr. Walsh.  Magnesium can also be a great tool to promote energy, relaxation and sleep, per Dr. Dean.
  • Learn about top foods to add into your diet and which ones to avoid, in Dr. Axe’s 5 Natural Remedies for Depression.  He also talks about using fish oil, vitamin D, adaptogenic herbs, B-complex, and St. John’s Wort.
  • Using essential oils like lavender, bergamot, roman chamomile and ylang ylang can also be helpful.

Proton pump inhibitors (heartburn/acid reflux):

  • Heartburn and reflux are conditions of low-stomach acid.  PPIs like Nexium and H2 antagonists like Zantac block acid and contribute to the overall problem. They can also lower B-12 levels.  Dr. Mercola explains that switching from processed to whole foods should be the first step in a natural approach.  Use a probiotic (notice a common theme here?)
  • Dr. Hyman notes 3 simple steps to eliminate heartburn and reflux: get rid of the bugs like H. pylori, yeast or bacterial overgrowth, change the diet, and supplementation (with digestive enzymes, probiotics, glutamine, etc)

Muscle relaxers:

  • Pharmacist Suzy Cohen explains that natural anti-inflammatories like boswellia, curcumin and bromelain are very effective, but might take longer to work compared to NSAIDs like Motrin or Advil.  Other potential agents include MSM topical products, malic acid, magnesium and capsaicin.
  • Dr. Axe provides a list of healing foods and top remedies like magnesium, potassium and green superfoods.  Peppermint and cypress essential oils can also help significantly with muscle ache.

What about you?  Are you taking any of these drugs?  Are any of the natural suggestions helpful?  As always, DO NOT stop your medications without discussing with your physician.