or centuries, nearly every culture has searched for a way to slow and even reverse the aging process. Greek writers pursued the Fountain of Youth as far back as the fifth century BCE. India still recognizes the ancient science of longevity called Ayurveda, which is believed to add years to your life by nourishing and detoxing the body. My favorite success story of all, however, is that of a Chinese herbalist named Li Ching-Yuen, who, according to some records, was born in 1736 and died 256 years later. Regardless of whether you believe Master Li’s story is myth, reality, or a little of both, you have to admit there’s a part of you that when you hear this thinks, “I’ll have what he’s having.”
Cut to the twenty-first century, and we’re just as focused on discovering the mechanisms that prevent and reverse aging as our global ancestors were. In fact, one of the most studied proteins in the past ten years that’s been found to aid the aging process is called sirtuin, or silent information regulator. Sirtuins control the rate at which we age, and the length of our lifespan, meaning that on many levels they are our bodies anti-aging regulators. They’ve been dubbed “longevity genes,” which is also why I thought it would be a great place to begin our anti-aging supplementation program. Stimulate your sirtuins, the thinking goes, and you’ll live longer and look younger.
One of the most studied sirtuins is called SIRT1. Among other sources, it’s found in garlic, Panax ginseng, and Polygonum multiflorum, an anti-aging herbal supplement grown in China that research has shown demonstrates anti-aging properties that activate a variety of biological processes in the body. There has been some controversy recently regarding possible liver damage resulting from the internal use of Polygonum multiflorum, and for that reason I do not recommend that you use it.
But guess what? These three anti-aging herbs were an integral part of Master Li’s regimen, switching on his SIRT1 when he used them! Even if he lived half the years that sources claim, it’s still an impressive number and one that supports the longevity-enhancing properties of herbs, in a time long before science showed us how.
In this chapter, I’d like to first explain how the body ages and reinforce the importance of addressing anti-aging solutions on cellular and hormonal levels. Then I’ll discuss the power of modern-day sirtuin activating anti-aging supplements that you can add to your daily routine to help you look and feel young.
Aging Is More than Skin Deep
Aging affects every part of your body—how you look, feel, and function. It affects your hair, face, and body in more ways than you probably realize. By the end of this article,you will learn what Master Li seems to have known, too—that you can extend and even reverse your years using natural anti-aging remedies. Some of the herbs that do this are EGCG (found in green tea), turmeric, red grape juice, coffee, hawthorn, gingko, hops, fennel, fenugreek, red palm oil, as well as anti-aging supplements like nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), R-alpha-lipoic acid, ubiquinol and CoQ10, vitamins, minerals, and numerous other compounds that have the power to make a real impact on how long you live and how young you look. We will use these elements and others to improve cellular function and increase hormonal levels to stop and reverse deep changes, at every level of your body, right down to the bones.
We tend to think of aging as an effect on the skin—wrinkles, creases, and sags as far as the eye can see. But as you age, every layer of older skin is depleted and disorganized, from the outermost epidermis to the supporting muscle and the deepest fat layers. Topical anti-aging products and preparations, particularly vitamin A derivatives and natural vitamin E, can repair and plump up the epidermis, the top layer of the skin, and make the surface look smoother and less wrinkled. This is very welcome, of course.
But aging does not stop at the upper skin layers. It profoundly depletes the deeper layers, leading to unmistakable signs that no makeup can disguise and only anti-aging supplements, foods and products that work at both the cellular and hormonal levels can repair. Not even cosmetic surgery can correct some of these consequences, like pallor due to the loss of capillaries or the loss of youthful lip, eye, complexion, and hair color due to the loss of pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. In my book, Bio-Young you can learn how to repair even these seemingly irreversible changes by using safe, natural substances.
Although using natural anti-aging supplements and substances can make you look decades younger, please keep in mind that the exciting science that explains the mechanisms that underlie their actions is very young and fresh. The bulk of our knowledge about what happens as we age comes from studies that have appeared in the last ten years and have only been available, for the most part, in scientific journals.
The Ultimate One-Two Punch: Cellular + Hormonal Function
To achieve true anti-aging effects, you must activate cellular mechanisms, plus biochemical and hormonal anti-aging pathways, and restore them to youthful functioning. So it’s important to understand how the combination of certain anti-aging supplements, foods and herbs can promote deep and long-lasting effects.
Why this approach? When you improve cellular function, every one of your cells operates better, and this yields great results. When you improve cellular function through natural anti-aging supplements, you reverse your age in a real, biological sense. Your cells are younger, and you look younger.
But cellular improvement isn’t enough. Take the power of vitamin C. Applying this to your face as a serum will increase collagen levels there. Taking it internally will rejuvenate mitochondrial function in your skin and heart. Cellular function acts on the level of every cell, improving energy production, repair, and clearing of cellular debris. All of these mechanisms become slower and less efficient as we age. Improved cellular function very effectively reverses this decline, making you biologically younger at the cellular level. This is visible on the outside! Because there are many changes that aging causes in your body, some are not corrected, or reversed, by only optimizing your cellular mechanisms and require special anti-aging supplements and foods. Think of it this way: a healthy thirty-year-old has great cellular function and hormones working at peak performance. So to look truly young past thirty, and to continue doing so, you must rejuvenate at cellular and hormonal levels. And since vitamin C can only increase the muscle and fat atrophy that shrivels our skin as we get older, we have to add hormones to the picture for deep, and highly visible, anti-aging results.
Varicose veins are a great example of an aging concern caused by cellular and hormonal factors and should be addressed that way, as well. With age, your leg muscles atrophy, skin thins, and your blood vessel walls become weaker. Hormonal factors play a part, since women, particularly during pregnancy, are more likely to develop this condition. So thickening the skin, strengthening the muscles, and increasing elastin in the blood vessel walls bring about great improvement. But how do we do this naturally with anti-aging supplements? Bioflavonoids such as lemon peel and bilberry are very helpful, as they work on a cellular level by strengthening the blood vessel walls.
But many people do not experience varicose vein relief with bioflavonoids alone—you must cure this at the hormonal level by increasing elastin directly in the vein through the use of natural anti-aging foods dill seed essential oil. Because dill is estrogenic, it produces the beneficial effects of this hormone in your body and is known to tighten saggy areas, too.
Dill seed essential oil is just one natural anti-aging supplement that has a positive estrogenic effect on the body, which can also protect you from certain cancers and heart disease. Raising your hormones with safe, natural means can lead to truly astonishing, visible results, because estrogen is a dominant hormone in a woman’s body. As we age, more and more effects of declining estrogen appear, including the decline of elastin, collagen, muscle, and fat. Even the sudden appearance of dry skin after age thirty is due to declining estrogen, which causes a decrease in ceramides and hyaluronic acid, substances responsible for keeping skin moist, supple, and hydrated.
A Note about Hormone-Affecting Substances
It’s obvious that male hormones should be kept low when women are trying to restore their youthful, girly curves and glow. At the same time, raising your female hormones, particularly those in the estrogen family, will not lead to concerns about hormonally sensitive cancers. By using the safe anti-aging supplementation methods outlined in my book Bio-Young, you can rest assured that your risk will not be increased.
However, some of the most well-known hormonally active and oft-suggested anti-aging remedies can actually harm your hormone function. One of these remedies is soy, which has been touted as a cure-all for women of a certain age. The problem is that soy has been shown to lower certain estrogens and can produce detrimental effects, particularly when a woman has reached menopause. In some women soy may lower thyroid function, leading to weight gain and a dramatic loss of energy.
Wild yam is another hormone-affecting anti-aging herb known for producing contradictory effects in women. Wild yam, or Dioscorea villosa, is not related to the yams, or sweet potatoes, that you buy at the grocery store. Dioscorea villosa is thought to work by raising progesterone, though there is a good deal of controversy surrounding this idea, since it’s unclear how the human body could convert diosgenin, the compound found in wild yam, to progesterone.
The interesting thing is that any negative effects are entirely absent when other sources of diosgenin, such as fenugreek or sarsaparilla, are used instead of wild yam. Anti-aging creams that contain pharmaceutical doses of estrogens, such as estradiol, have been shown to produce visible anti-aging effects in as little as one week. But most women are wary of using pharmaceutical estrogens, as some of the estrogen from the cream will be absorbed by the body, which may result in undesirable side effects like nausea, bloating, breast lumps, headaches, unusual vaginal bleeding, and increased blood clotting, which can lead to strokes. How amazing, then, that these results can be obtained using certain fragrant essential oils that act in a very similar way, but without any of the health concerns.
Finally, bio-identical hormones on the market also come with a degree of risk. Both the more commonly used hormonal replacement preparations and the newer, bio-identical hormones are manufactured in a laboratory and possess marked hormonal activity. Bio-identical hormones resemble the hormones found in your body more closely than the pharmaceutical ones regularly dispensed by doctors, but because they are equally powerful, they can also cause pronounced imbalances in the body that are negative. Supplying your body with hormones leads to reduced glandular function and gland atrophy, and this applies to all hormone-producing glands, including the ovaries and the testes. That is why I only recommend using safe, natural anti-aging supplements, foods and herbs found in nature.
When Natural Choices Are Full of Good Surprises
All that said, when it comes to anti-aging treatments, natural substances are the way to go. They stimulate the beneficial processes that help you look and feel young, while preventing DNA damage and disease. The results can even surprise you in the best way.
The most remarkable example of this occurs in the treatment of blood pressure through natural means—and a stable blood pressure in many ways is essential to healthy aging. Panax ginseng, for example, has been shown to both raise and lower blood pressure, depending on the individual’s needs. In other words, if you take Panax ginseng and your blood pressure is too high, it will lower it. If your blood pressure is too low, ginseng will raise it. In each case, blood pressure will be normalized and brought into a normal, healthy range. This kind of effect can only be achieved if the mechanisms that led to the imbalance in blood pressure, whether high or low, are corrected. Drugs cannot do this, because their pharmaceutical actions are highly specific and unidirectional. They will either raise blood pressure, and do this in all people, at all times, or they will lower blood pressure, and, again, do this regardless of the starting blood pressure of the person who takes the drug, lowering it even if the person’s blood pressure is already too low, and resulting in dangerous side effects. Good natural anti-aging supplements, herbs and foods, however, have balancing effects like ginseng, which work no matter what end of the spectrum you find yourself on.
Another anti-aging remedy for lowering blood pressure will have an effect both while you take it and after you’ve stopped the supplement. This is not the case with most pharmaceuticals. This plant is called hawthorn and has this effect, in part, by inhibiting angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE). This mechanism is the basis of drugs used to lower blood pressure, the ACE inhibitors. But one of the unfortunate side effects of ACE inhibitor drugs is kidney damage, a side effect completely absent when using natural hawthorn. I should also mention that natural hawthorn clears your arteries, strengthens the heart muscle, offers antioxidant protection, and prevents your body’s tendency to lay down fat stores, all beneficial for anyone on an anti-aging supplementation protocol. Not bad for side effects, right?
Many Actions, Many Pathways
Researchers estimate that there are more than one hundred fifty anti-aging pathways active in the human body. It is then necessary to focus on the most effective mechanisms that deliver the most visible results. It is important to remember that every natural substance has many actions, often influencing several anti-aging pathways at the same time, in various beneficial ways. Just as there are so many anti-aging pathways, so there are hundreds of natural anti-aging substances that affect them. There isn’t one anti-aging superfood or one supplement that can do it all, no matter how effective it is.
Because nothing in your body occurs in isolation, activating life-enhancing, anti-aging sirtuins will produce beneficial effects on many other anti-aging pathways. For example, in a model of breast cancer, resveratrol has been shown to activate SIRT1 and, at the same time, inhibit a protein called survivin, in this way preventing the growth of breast cancer cells. Inhibition or disruption of the survivin pathway suppresses tumor growth, so we see that stimulating SIRT1 produces a very beneficial effect on another pathway that plays a role in remaining youthful and disease-free.
Remember Master Li’s sirtuins—aka our “longevity genes,” which control the rate at which we age, and the length of our life span? A part of that anti-aging effect includes anti-cancer effects, brain protection, and younger skin and hair. Adding sirtuin activators to your healthy diet and beauty regimen also gives you the type of expanded lifespan that researchers have seen with landmark concepts like calorie restriction (CR), which was the first means ever found to prolong life across a variety of species, including rats, yeast, fish, mice, dogs, and even monkeys. That being said, there have been no human studies on calorie restriction, and there are a few reasons for that. First, it’s not possible to restrict human calorie intake for a reasonable length of time under experimental conditions, even though we have data concerning oxidative stress, metabolic rate, insulin sensitivity, endocrine, and sympathetic nervous system function, and these point strongly to an anti-aging effect of calorie restriction in humans. In addition, we have “negative” data, that is, data from overfed, obese individuals, which show accelerated aging in all aspects of this process. Second, there are obvious ethical problems with restricting calories from infancy or childhood, or during adulthood, under experimental conditions for a significant length of time. Good thing sirtuins mimic the effects of calorie restriction without producing any negative effects at all! And luckily these can be activated with affordable, natural anti-aging supplements and foods.
Eat Your Way to Sirtuin Stimulation: 12 Anti Aging Foods for Longevity and Health
So far, seven sirtuin proteins have been identified in the human body, each one with a slightly different mode of action. An easy way to activate your sirtuins every day is to choose anti-aging foods from the following list. All of these contain compounds that will stimulate your sirtuin longevity pathways.
1. Red Grape Juice
4. Pomegranate Juice
5. Cacao Powder
Where to get it: Organic Ecuadorian Fair-Trade Cacao Powder
6. Tart Cherry Powder
Where to get it: Organic Tart Cherry Powder Concentrate
7. Green Tea
Where to get it: Organic Green Tea Extract
Where to get it: Organic Curcumin (Turmeric) Extract
9. Onions (especially red)
10. Apple Juice
11. Tomato Paste
Eating these special anti-aging foods, drinking the juices, and using concentrated freeze-dried anti-aging supplement powders or other concentrated product will provide you with a much higher concentration of sirtuin-activating compounds than the fresh fruit or vegetable, and do wonders for how young you look, how great you feel, and how long you live. These complex anti-aging plant sources will activate not only a variety of the magnificent seven sirtuins, but many of the other one hundred fifty anti-aging pathways so far discovered. This is the cellular function revolution at its best. By eating a variety of specially chosen, concentrated anti-aging supplements, you achieve a level of mitochondrial rejuvenation that truly reverses aging.
The Top 5 Herbal Anti-Aging Supplements
I’d now like to focus on five sirtuin activators from the above list that pack a noticeable punch and illustrate the power of this naturally occurring science—resveratrol, green tea, garlic, gotu kola and ginseng. You can enjoy them naturally or consume them as anti-aging supplements, as I suggest at the articles end.
Resveratrol is a sirtuin-activating, anti-aging compound that’s found in red wine and may provide an explanation to what’s known as the “French paradox”—that is, the finding that the French, who eat a diet full of saturated fat, have surprisingly low levels of heart disease. Resveratrol, one of the most potent sirtuin activators discovered so far, is found in red wine. In March 2013, Harvard researchers found that resveratrol is capable of slowing aging. This has important implications for human longevity as Resveratrol is readily available as an anti-aging supplement.
Resveratrol, or trans-3, 5, 4’-trihydroxystilbene, is an anti-aging antioxidant found in the skin of many fruits, including blueberries, peanuts, and, when eaten with the thin, papery red skin, even rhubarb. It is particularly found in the red grape, and in the red wine made from these grapes. Levels of resveratrol in red wine vary according to grape type and country of origin. The highest levels are found in wines from cooler countries, with the highest being from Bordeaux, and lower levels found in red wines from California. The pinot noir grape produces the highest levels of resveratrol, but cabernet sauvignon from the cooler regions and Italian sangiovese are also very high in this anti-aging compound.
Resveratrol supplementation from foods or otherwise activates the sirtuin anti-aging pathway. This pathway is a chain of biochemical reactions, which, when activated, actually slows down aging. This stimulation is complex and appears to require resveratrol in its natural state, with many cofactors intact—as it’s found in plants. It is far less active in its chemically purified form. What’s more, every one of your cells contains an energy-producing factory called a mitochondrion (plural, mitochondria), and optimal mitochondrial function is essential to long life, energy, and a youthful appearance—and sure enough, resveratrol stimulates the sirtuin that affects aging mitochondria.
But there is a big problem here: alcohol is aging. It damages your body on every level, from your liver, to your skin, to your brain. It’s wonderful to learn that resveratrol is found in the glass of red wine you might occasionally have to relax, but it’s not an everyday option. Nor can you safely indulge in large enough quantities if you want to achieve dramatic anti-aging effects. Fortunately, resveratrol is found in a whole range of other tasty, easily accessible anti-aging foods, supplements and herbs, all of which are safe to eat every day in effective quantities that give you the anti-aging benefits of sirtuins.
Since sirtuins have such powerful and far-reaching anti-aging effects, and because resveratrol is so highly effective at activating these amazing enzymes, there is, as you would expect, an ongoing and feverish hunt for the most effective resveratrol-type anti-aging drug. Scientists estimate that the effect of such a drug would be an increase in the normal, healthy human lifespan to one hundred fifty years!
And while sirtuin activating anti-aging supplements have become one of the hottest topics in cosmeceuticals, which are cosmetic products with biological ingredients so highly active they require a special category to themselves, purified resveratrol results have been disappointing. One of the problems with resveratrol is that it degrades very rapidly and is metabolized within half an hour or so, which gives it a very short time to act. But if you ingest it from a natural anti-aging food or supplement rather than apply it, you can reap the benefits of resveratrol at any age—even if you begin taking it at middle age and/or add it to a Western high-fat diet. So long as you add resveratrol-rich anti-aging foods to your life every day, you will reap significant anti-aging benefits.
Where to get it:
Super Strength Organic Resveratrol Concentrate
Natural Factors offers a highly concentrated, organic resveratrol supplement made from red grapes and japanese knotweed (the two most concentrated food sources of resveratrol on the planet) that contains all of the natural cofactors, 100% intact as they are found in the plants for maximum anti-aging effects and sirtuin activation.
2. Green Tea
Green tea is another powerful sirtuin activating, anti-aging supplement with multiple benefits. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a component of green tea, has been shown to lengthen telomeres—an essential part of human cells that affect how they age—in damaged heart cells. This is an extraordinary finding, since this process prevents cell death. EGCG also protects the skin from UVB- and UVA-induced sun damage and protects collagen from degradation by collagenase, an enzyme responsible for collagen breakdown. Levels of collagenase increase as we get older, leading to a loss of collagen, thinner skin, sagging, and wrinkles. What’s more, EGCG promotes hair growth in hair follicle cultures, depletes fat accumulation, and stimulates lipolysis in human adipocytes. In plain English, this means that the marvelous anti-aging compound gets rid of fat from your fat cells, effectively and safely. It will improve your heart, boost your brain function, and smooth your skin. EGCG has been shown to prevent bone loss, ward off tooth decay, and protect against all kinds of cancer, including leukemia and melanoma, making it one of the best anti-aging supplements.
And for anti-aging purposes, here’s what’s truly impressive: compounds from green tea have been shown to stimulate the mitochondria, or energy cells, in your brain, skin, all over. They stimulate cellular function and make every one of your cells young, and in doing so will expand your lifespan. On a hormonal level, green tea’s anti-aging compounds decrease dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, a form of testosterone known to increase with age in both men and women. DHT is responsible for many of the signs of old age women hate—thinning hair or baldness, prostate problems, and unwanted facial hair.
Where to get it:
Organic High EGCG Green Tea Extract
An ultra-high quality, organic green tea extract rich in polyphenols, catechins and ECGC. Cold-water extracted to preserve sensitive compounds in the tea leaves, this affordable green tea extract is a highly potent anti-aging supplement.
Garlic, known unfairly as the stink bulb, is reputed for its ability to help fight infections, but this herb also activates SIRT1. This means it is a heart protector, energy giver, skin saver, and lifespan extender. One of its primary benefits is as an infection fighter. Steering free of infective illness is vital for a long lifespan. Your immune system declines with age unless you take steps to prevent this, and many people succumb to lung infections and flus that could have been prevented with this common, highly affordable anti-aging food and supplement.
4. Gotu Kola
Gotu kola—known in Latin as Centella asiatica or Hydrocotyle asiatica—also activates SIRT1, and with no negative side effects, making it one of the best anti-aging supplements in existence. Gotu kola has been shown to protect the brain, increase collagen production, and strengthen hair follicles. For centuries, gotu kola extract was used topically for hair follicle stimulation, wound healing, and increasing collagen. When taken internally, it activates the sirtuin pathways, exhibiting powerful anti-aging effects for the whole body. It has been shown to be highly neuroprotective, preventing glutamate-induced neurotoxicity, which kills brain cells.
Gotu kola contains ursane triterpenes, complex organic molecules with anti-cancer effects that are also powerful stimulators of collagen synthesis, with or without vitamin C. The ursane triterpenes and many other remarkable compounds make gotu kola one of the most potent wound healers around, and one of the most effective anti-aging wrinkle treatments. It works if you take the anti-aging supplement powder internally, and it works if you apply it as a tea or extracted in an oil base. So you truly can look great, with smooth, firm skin, even at an age when others will be showing theirs.
Ursane and related compounds are also found in rosemary oil, which accounts for many of the plant’s extraordinary neuroprotective and anti-aging properties. Here’s the bottom line: nature simplifies it for you by mixing up many powerful compounds in one plant, and by giving natural substances many varied, beneficial anti-aging actions. So as you read about these compounds, please enjoy the fact that all you have to do is take gotu kola powder or use an anti-aging essential oil like rosemary, mixed into a cream, for all the mitochondrial stimulation, collagen synthesis, and anti-aging power you need!
Where to get it:
Banyan Botanicals Organic Gotu Kola Powder
Banyan Botanicals offers high-quality, fair trade, organic Gotu Kola supplement grown and harvested sustainably in India. This is a versatile bulk powder ideal for getting the greatest medicinal anti-aging effects from the plant. It has a very mild taste and can be added to water, smoothies or made into a tea.
The other Chinese herb I love for SIR1 activation and all around anti-aging supplementation is called Panax ginseng, or Asian ginseng, and known in Chinese as ren shen, man root. It is one of the royal herbs in Chinese herbalism. Once considered so valuable that wars were fought over the right to the areas it grew in, ginseng does deserve its reputation. Among its many anti-aging properties, ginseng is a highly effective activator of SIRT1 in every cell of your body. In fact, this extraordinary root stimulates cellular function, and at the same time increases all hormones, particularly the sex hormones, which are so vital to looking young.
Where to get it:
Wildcrafted Panax Ginseng Extract
Herb Pharm offers an ultra-pure, highly potent, wildcrafted (grown in the wilderness, not on farms) panax ginseng extract for easy consumption, absorbability and maximum anti-aging effects. Take daily for best results.
Fruit sirtuin: Choose resveratrol-packed fruits from this article for daily use. Or you can use four to six teaspoons of an anti-aging fruit supplement powder added to smoothies and yogurts.
Gotu kola: Take four capsules of this anti-aging herb a day.
Ginseng: Take two spoonfuls of the tincture or six capsules of the powdered herb daily.
Garlic: Use liberally in cooking, raw, and in salad dressings.
Yeast: Dissolve baking yeast in warm water and apply directly to your skin as mask, but not around your eyes, since the skin here is sensitive and the yeast preparation is drying. I like to use coconut or red palm oil to moisturize the face afterward.
This article on the anti-aging supplements and foods is excerpted with permission from Bio-Young: Get Younger at a Cellular and Hormonal Level by Roxy Dillon.