Nutrition Review Glossary
1. Amino Acids
Amino acids are the basic chemical building blocks of life. The body uses twenty-nine dietary amino acids to synthesize over 50,000 unique proteins and 20,000 enzymes necessary for optimal health. As long as the body has a reliable source of dietary essential amino acids it can adequately meet most of its needs for new protein synthesis. Conversely, if depleted or cut off from dietary sources of amino acids, protein synthesis is affected and serious health problems arise.
Alanine is a non-essential amino acid that can be manufactured by the body from other sources as needed. Alanine is one of the simplest of the amino acids and is involved in the energy-producing breakdown of glucose. In conditions of sudden anaerobic energy need, when muscle proteins are broken down for energy, alanine acts as a carrier molecule to take the nitrogen-containing amino group to the liver to be changed to the less toxic urea, thus preventing buildup of toxic products in the muscle cells when extra energy is needed.
Because the body easily constructs alanine from other sources, no deficiency state is known. Alanine is found in a wide variety of foods, but is particularly concentrated in meats.
Arginine is an amino acid which becomes an essential amino acid when the body is under stress or is in an injured state. Depressed growth results from lack of dietary arginine. Arginine is indispensable for certain adult mammals. When mammals who ordinarily consume an arginine-rich diet are deprived of arginine, death ensues. Arginine deficiency syndrome is observed in human babies born with a phosphate synthetase deficiency. Normal growth and development in these infants are achieved by adding arginine to their diet. Arginine deficiency leads to carbamyl phosphate overproduction in the mitochondria due to inadequate ornithine supply. Arginine-deficient diets in males causes decreased sperm counts. Free and bound arginine are found in abundance in human male sperm and arginine has been found to stimulate sperm motility.
There are two sources of arginine; arginine in the food chain and free-form arginine from supplements. Food-source arginine is found in abundance in turkey, chicken, and other meats. Non-food-source arginine is called L-arginine and is created through a fermentation process which separates arginine from all other proteins. In the presence of food and other amino acids, L-arginine will act like food-source arginine but when L-arginine is separated from its nutrient boundaries by the removal of all other amino acids, then L-arginine undertakes a different role, becoming capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier and stimulating growth hormone release secreted by the anterior pituitary.
Growth hormone serum levels peak during adolescence and begin to drop after age 23. Aging reduces natural growth hormone production, which results in added body fat, reduced muscle tissue, slowed healing, lack of elasticity in the skin, and reduced immune function.
Human pituitary growth hormone secretion is evidenced in human males, females, and children following intravenous administration of 30 grams of arginine (in 30 minutes) in adults and 0.5 grams/kilogram of bodyweight in children. Female response is somewhat higher than male response. Oral administration of L-arginine also results in the release of Human Growth Hormone. Oral ingestion of another amino acid, Ornithine, results in growth hormone release, but since arginine turns into ornithine, and ornithine does not replace arginine for growth, arginine is the superior growth hormone releasing agent.
Additionally, arginine has very low toxicity. Doses of 0.5 grams per kilogram up to 30 grams total given within 20 to 30 minutes has caused no untoward reactions and is considered safe. Patients diagnosed with renal or hepatic insufficiency and those with insulin-dependent diabetes should avoid large doses of arginine, or be medically monitored. Normal persons can tolerate 30 to 60 grams per day arginine. While food-source arginine is necessary for growth in children, free-form L-arginine is not recommended for anyone under the age of 23.
The body’s demand for dietary arginine is increased by physical trauma (of any type). Dietary supplementation of arginine:
- Increases collagen; the protein providing the main support for bone, cartilage, tendons, connective tissue, and skin.
- Increases wound breaking strength.
- Improves the rate of wound healing.
- Inhibits cellular replication of tumors.
- Increases sperm count and motility by over 100%.
- Detoxifies ammonia (The urea cycle is the metabolic detoxification process utilized by the body to eliminate toxic ammonia in which ammonia is turned into urea and excreted in the urine).
- Minimizes thymic involution that occurs with injury.
- Decreases nitrogen losses after trauma.
The demand for arginine in humans and animals occurs in response to:
- Physical trauma,
- Dorsal skin wounds,
- Physical pain registered by the skin,
- Blood transfusions (pinprick reactions as well as foreign substance reaction),
- Tumor burden and malignancies,
- Dental procedures (pinprick reaction, pain, and blood loss),
- Muscle and bone growth spurts.
Tumor suppression is evidenced in the presence of L-arginine. In the Barbul study, tumors recurred in 100% of the control animals. But in the arginine-supplemented group, only about 60% of the tumors recurred and the animals with tumors survived longer
Supplementation of arginine in the diet inhibits development and increase in size of cancerous tumors, both chemically induced and naturally occurring.
Insulin can block growth hormone release, so high serum insulin levels are counterproductive to GH release. Insulin itself is capable of stimulating muscle growth, but it also strongly stimulates fat storage. Muscle growth stimulation from insulin is minuscule compared to muscle growth stimulated by growth hormone.
Adults who choose to take L-arginine supplements for growth hormone release should observe the following guidelines. The product:
- Should not be in capsule form – you cannot fit enough L-arginine in capsules to elicit a GH response.
- Should not contain Lysine. L-arginine and Lysine should not be taken together as Lysine is a direct antagonist of arginine. L-arginine taken near food can interfere with Lysine metabolization thus causing potential reactivation of an already existing herpes virus.
- Should not contain competing proteins or amino acids.
- Should not contain insulin stimulating (high glycemic) ingredients.
- Should contain the correct synergists.
- Should include explicit directions in regard to timing and contraindications (ie diabetics)
In Italy, Arginine Pyroglutamate is used to treat senility, mental retardation, and alcoholism. Arginine pyroglutamate is simply an arginine molecule combined with a pyroglutamate molecule. Arginine alone does not produce cognitive enhancing effects. It is likely that pyroglutamate is the active ingredient of arginine pyroglutamate.
No serious adverse effects from the use of pyroglutamate, or from the use of arginine pyroglutamate, have been reported. Arginine and pyroglutamate are amino acids found commonly in natural foods and consumed by most people on a daily basis.
Asparaginine is a non-essential amino acid that was first isolated from sprouting soybeans. Structurally similar to aspartic acid, with an additional amino group on the main carbon skeleton, Asparaginine aids in the metabolic functioning of brain and nervous system cells. When the extra amino group is removed by the brain, the resulting aspartic acid acts as an excitatory transmitter. Aspartic acid has been used to help with fatigue and depression, and may be a mild immune stimulant as well. In the body, removal of asparaginines extra amino group allows it to be used interchangeably with aspartic acid in basic protein building. It is easily supplied in normal diets and no toxic effects are known.
Aspartic acid a non-essential amino acid that the body can make from other sources in sufficient amounts to meet its needs. It is a critical part of the enzyme in the liver that transfers nitrogen-containing amino groups, either in building new proteins and amino acids, or in breaking down proteins and amino acids for energy and detoxifying the nitrogen in the form of urea.
Recent studies have shown aspartate and arginine supplements either alone or in combination may help relieve chronic fatigue. Both amino acids are also helpful in treating decreased fertility in men caused by decreased sperm count or mobility. Aspartic acid and potassium aspartate were also helpful in treating heart attacks and preventing irregular rhythms.
Its ability to increase endurance is thought to be a result of its role in clearing ammonia from the system. In one study, 85% of 145 patients with chronic fatigue who were given the potassium and magnesium salts of aspartic acid, felt significantly more energetic. Athletes also use it to promote stamina and endurance. It helps form the ribonucleotides that assist in the production of RNA and DNA, and assists in energy production from carbohydrate metabolism.
Aspartic acid is one of two major excitatory amino acids within the brain (The other is glutamic acid). At small doses these amino acids stimulate nerve cells to higher levels of activity. At higher doses they may overexcite these nerve cells, causing cell damage or death. This is thought to happen in strokes, when large amounts of excitatory neurotransmitters are released by the damage and may contribute to further damage. Some research has shown that aspartic acid might be useful in opiate withdrawal. It was found more useful in this context than some major tranquilizing drugs.
Depleted levels of aspartic acid may occur temporarily within certain tissues under stress, but, because the body is able to make its own aspartic acid to replace any depletion, deficiency states do not occur. Aspartic acid is abundant in plants, especially in sprouting seeds. In protein, it exists mainly in the form of its amide, asparagine. The popular sweetener Aspartame is a combination of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Aspartic acid is considered nontoxic.
Carnitine is a dipeptide – an amino acid made from two other aminos, methionine and lysine. It can be synthesized in the liver if sufficient amounts of lysine, B1, B6 and iron are available. Muscle and organ meat, fish and milk products are the best sources of carnitine in the diet. Vegetarians are more likely to be deficient in carnitine because they don’t eat meat and their diets are often low in lysine.
Carnitine has been shown to have a major role in the metabolism of fat and in the reduction of triglycerides by increasing fat utilization. It transfers fatty acids across the membranes of the mitochondria where they can be utilized as sources of energy. It also increases the rate at which the liver uses fats. By preventing fatty build-up, this amino acid aids in weight loss and decreases the risk of heart disease.
Carnitine has been shown to be deficient in hearts of patients who have died of acute myocardial infections. Supplements have recently been found to improve exercise tolerance in people with angina, possibly by increasing the ability to utilize fatty acids for energy.
Carnitine was also found to block atrial fibrillation after initial atropine administration about as well as quinidine, without many of quinidine’s side effects. It may be deficient, and supplementation may help in mitral valve prolapse and immune system depression. Muscular dystrophy, and myotonic dystrophy have been shown to lead to carnitine loss in the urine, and therefore higher requirements for it.
Carnitine is stored primarily in the skeletal muscles and heart, where it is needed to transform fatty acids into energy for muscular activity. It is also concentrated in sperm and the brain. Many athletes have noted increased endurance and muscle building with carnitine supplementation. The Physicians Desk Reference has recommended l-carnitine in the treatment of ischemic heart disease and Type IV hyperlipidema. Carnitine has been shown to be beneficial for heart problems such as angina, ischemia or arrhythmia, and poor endurance, muscle weakness or obesity.
Deficiencies may increase symptoms of fatigue, angina, muscle weakness or confusion. A low level of Vitamin c will also result in apparent Carnitine deficiency. It is contraindicated for people with liver or kidney disease or diabetes It has proven helpful in improving lipid metabolism and reducing elevated total lipids, cholesterol and triglycerides in people with cardiac problems and diabetes, but should only be taken with medical supervision in these conditions.
Citruline is synthesized in the body from ornithine by the addition of carbon dioxide and ammonia, and is a precursor of arginine. It is found primarily in the liver and is a major component of the urea cycle. Therapeutically it is used for the detoxification of ammonia, a byproduct of protein breakdown, and in the treatment of fatigue. It is also thought to stimulate the immune system. Onions and garlic contain an abundance of citruline.
Cysteine is a sulphur-bearing amino acid and a precursor to Glutathione, one of the body’s most effective antioxidants and free radical destroyers. Free radicals are toxic waste products of faulty metabolism, radiation and environmental pollutants which oxidize and damage body cells. Glutathione also protects the liver and brain from the damaging effects of cigarettes and alcohol, protects red blood cells from oxidative damage and aids in amino acid transport. Glutathione specifically helps neutralize the aldehydes produced by the liver as a by-product in the metabolism of fats, alcohol, air pollutants and some drugs. It works most effectively when taken in conjunction with vitamin E and selenium.
Through this antioxidant enzyme process, cysteine may contribute to a longer life span, as deterioative aging is thought to be mainly due to oxidation and free radical damage. Cysteine has been shown to be effective in preventing and the treatment of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, cancer, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It has immune enhancing properties, promotes fat burning and muscle growth and also tissue healing after surgery or burns.
Hair is 8% cysteine by weight, and cysteine supplements have been shown to be helpful in reducing hair loss and stimulating hair growth. It is important to take vitamin C at the same time and in three times the amount of cysteine, in order to prevent cysteine from being converted to cystine which may form damaging stones in the kidney or bladder.
Cysteine can be found in sulphur containing foods such as egg yolks, red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli and brussels sprouts. It can be helpful in hypoglycemia as it can block the harmful effects of excess insulin. Use of Cysteine is contraindicated for diabetics.
Cystine is a stable form of the amino acid cysteine. The body is capable of converting one to the other as required and in metabolic terms they can be thought of as the same. Both cystine and cysteine are rich in sulphur and can be readily synthesized by the body. Cystine is found abundantly in hair keratin, insulin and certain digestive enzymes.
As a detoxification agent Cystine has been shown to protect the body against damage induced by alcohol and cigarette smoking. One study showed its effectiveness in preventing the side effects of drinking, such as hangover, and that it prevented liver and brain damage as well.
Cystine or cysteine is needed by the body for proper utilization of vitamin B6. The metabolic steps in the formation of these two amino acids is from methionine to cystathionine to cysteine to cystine. In chronic diseases it appears that the formation of cysteine from methionine is prevented.
One element in correction of the biochemistry of the chronic disease could be the restoration of adequate levels of cysteine or cystine. Cysteine is more soluble than cystine and contributes sulphur more readily and thus achieves better results in some patients.
No single nutrient should be seen as curative for any condition. By reducing the body’s absorption of copper, cystine protects against copper toxicity, which has been linked to behavioral problems. It is also found helpful in the healing of burns and wounds, and is used to break down mucus deposits in illnesses such as bronchitis and cystic fibrosis. Cysteine also assists in the supply of insulin to the pancreas, which is needed for the assimilation of sugars and starches. However, supplements of cysteine and cystine are readily utilized carbon sources that may actually enhance Candida growth in its more pathogenic yeast form.
GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), is an important amino acid which functions as the most prevalent inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Supplemental GABA can be useful in producing a state of relaxation. GABA works in partnership with a derivative of Vitamin B-6, pyridoxine, to cross from the axons to the dendrites through the synaptic cleft, in response to an electrical signal in the neuron and inhibits message transmission. This helps control the nerve cells from firing too fast, which would overload the system.
The action of GABA decreases epileptic seizures and muscle spasms by inhibiting electrical signals in this manner. Studies have shown that the site of action in the brain of benzodiazepams, including Valium, is directly coupled to the brain receptor for GABA. GABA itself can be taken instead of a tranquilizer to calm the body without the fear of addiction. Taken with the B-vitamins niacinamide and inositol, it prevents anxiety messages from reaching the motor centers of the brain by filling its receptor site.
Glutathione is a tri-peptide composed of three amino acids: Cysteine, Glutamic Acid and Glycine. Glutathione and the enzymes it forms, such as GTH peroxidase, are essential to all life and are found in tissues of virtually all plants and animals. GTH is present in all human cells, with the highest levels found in the liver, the lenses of the eyes, pancreas, spleen and kidneys.
Glutathione acts as a powerful antioxidant, a key protector against all types of pollution and is effective in preventing aging. Glutathione also protects against cellular peroxidation caused by exposure to pesticides, plastics, benzene and carbon tetrachloride, as well as heavy metals, cigarette smoke, smog, drugs, solvents, dyes, phenols and nitrates.
Glutathione works to inhibit the formation of free radicals, dangerous agents that suppress the immune system and promote the formation of mutagens and carcinogens. Free radicals also speed up the aging process, and it is due to this antioxidant activity that Glutathione is considered useful in the prevention and treatment of a wide range of degenerative diseases.
Studies at the Louisville School of Medicine have clearly shown that Glutathione possesses unique ability to slow the aging process. While Glutathione aids in the protection of all cells and membranes, a study at Harvard Medical School found that glutathione is especially able to enhance immune system cells, protecting against damage from radiation and helping to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and x-rays and alcohol. As a detoxifier of metals and drugs, glutathione also aids in the treatment of blood and liver disorders.
Glutamine is an amino acid widely used to maintain good brain functioning. Glutamine is a derivative of glutamic acid which is synthesized from the amino acids arginine, ornithine and proline. Glutamine improves mental alertness, clarity of thinking and mood. It is found abundantly in animal proteins and needed in high concentrations in serum and cerebro-spinal fluid. When glutamic acid combines with ammonia, a waste product of metabolic activity, is converted into glutamine.
Glutamic acid is also a precursor of GABA, an important neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Glutamic acid helps transport potassium into the spinal fluid and is itself an excitatory neurotransmitter. Glutamic acid has been used to treat mental retardation, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy and alcoholism.
Because glutamic acid cannot cross the blood brain barrier, where most of the metabolism takes place, glutamine, which can cross this barrier, works better in supplement form. Glutamine can also be used by cells like glucose for metabolic energy. It helps to raise blood sugar and is therefore valuable in the treatment of hypoglycemia.
Research has also shown that supplementation of glutamine reduces the craving for alcohol and is now commonly used in alcoholism clinics. It also seems to reduce the craving for sugar and carbohydrates. Other noted areas of usefulness are treatment of depression, peptic ulcers, schizophrenia and senility, and behavioral problems and autism in children.
Glycine is an amino acid that is a major part of the pool of amino acids which aid in the synthesis of non essential amino acids in the body. Glycine can be easily formed in the liver or kidneys from Choline and the amino acids Threonine and Serine. Likewise, Glycine can be readily converted back into Serine as needed. Glycine is also one of the few amino acids that can spare glucose for energy by improving glycogen storage. Glycine is also readily converted into creatine, which is utilized to make RNA and DNA.
Glycine is required by the body for the mainainence of the central nervous system, and in men glycine plays an essential role in maintaining healthy prostate functions. Glycine also plays an important function in the immune system were it is used in the synthesis of other non-essential amino acids.
Studies have shown that glycine can be beneficial in cases of chronic spasticity, including multiple sclerosis, and its inhibitory action can help to prevent epileptic seizures. Glycine has also been used in treating manic psychological states and has a calming effect on the brain. Glycine can reduce gastric acidity, and in higher doses, can stimulate growth hormone release and contribute to wound healing Glycine comprises up to a third of the collagen in the human body and is required for the synthesis of the porphyrin core of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying molecule in the blood. Glycine is also a constituent of a vital bile acid, and together with cysteine and glutamic acid, makes up glutathione, a major liver detoxifier and free radical fighter.
Histidine is intricately involved in a large number of critical metabolic processes, ranging from the production of red and white blood cells to regulating antibody activity. Histidine also helps to maintain the myelin sheaths which surround and insulate nerves. In particular, Histidine has been found beneficial for the auditory nerves, and a deficiency of this vital amino acid has been noted in cases of nerve deafness.
Histidine is required for the production of histamine, and is often used in the treatment of anemia, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory reactions. Histidine also possesses vasodilating and hypotensive actions, and has an vital role in sexual responses. Research shows that the release of histamine from the mast cells is necessary for the physical action of orgasm. Women who are unable to achieve orgasm may be low in histamine and can possibly benefit from histidine supplementation. Premature ejaculation is also attributed to excess histamine and may be regulated by using methionine and calcium.
Studies show that histidine boosts the activity of suppressor T cells. One researcher reporting the finding of abnormally low levels of Histidine in the blood of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Histidine is also used as a chelating agent in some cases of arthritis and to treat tissue overload from copper, iron or other heavy metals, to remove them from the body
Histidine also acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, boosting the activity of soothing alpha waves in the brain and suporting resistant to the effects of anxiety and stress. In cases of histidine deficiency, there is an unbalancing effect on alpha rhythms, leading to greater beta wave production. Beta waves are responsible for brain activity leading to anger and tension.
Histidine is naturally found in most animal and vegetable proteins, and is especially high in pork, poultry, cheese and wheat germ. Supplements of histidine should not be larger than 1.5 grams per day, except under a doctors supervision.
Isoleucine is a essential branched chain amino acid found abundently in most foods. Isoleucine is found in especially high amounts in meats, fish, cheese, most seeds and nuts, eggs, chickens and lentils.
In the human body Isoleucine is concentrated in the muscle tissues. Isoleucine is necessary for hemoglobin formation and in stabilizing and regulating blood sugar and energy levels. A deficiency of isoleucine can produce symptoms similar to those of hypoglycemia. It has been identified as one of a group of amino acids deficient in amino acid profiles run on mentally and physically ill patients. Isoleucine is frequently deficient in the elderly, and may contribute to muscle wasting, twitching and tremors.
The branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are Isoleucine, Leucine and Valine. BCAAs are popular with body builders looking to restore muscle mass traumatized from excessive overtraining. BCAAs are also used to treat injuries and physical stress conditions , such as surgery and liver disease. The ability of these amino acids to help in abnormal conditions does not imply that they will help in healthy individuals, and no studies indicate that extra intake will help in muscle building.
Since the body cannot make this amino acid from other sources, maintaining sufficient amounts in the diet IS important. Jeffery Bland, author of Medical Applications of Clinical Nutrition, gives the range of isoleucine requirement in normal adults as being between 250 and 700 milligrams daily. The isoleucine content of animal protein is 42 milligrams per gram of protein.
Leucine is an essential amino acids which cannot be synthesized by the body but must always be acquired from dietary sources. Leucine is available in good concentrations in meat and dairy products, and to a lesser degree in wheat germ, brown rice, soybeans, almonds, cashews and brazil nuts, chickpeas, lentils and corn. Leucine stimulates protein synthesis in muscles, and is essential for growth. Leucine also promotes the healing of bones, skin and muscle tissue.
Leucine, and the other branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), Isoleucine and Valine, are frequently deficient in the elderly, and increased body requirements can occur after trauma or surgery. These branched-chain amino acids may prevent muscle wasting in these conditions, but no studies have been done to determine if extra intake will help in muscle building in healthy individuals. Because leucine cannot be made by the body from other sources, it IS important to maintain adequate amounts in the diet.
Leucine, in conjunction with two other amino acids, isoleucine and valine, appear to be quite helpful in treating and in some cases even reversing hepatic encephalopathy, a form of liver damage in alcoholics. They also help curb muscle wasting in this disease and through their actions on brain neurotransmitters, help prevent some adverse neurological effects of chronic liver disease.
A recent study shows that leucine, isoleucine and valine may be helpful in ALS, known as Lou Gehrig disease. This is a potentially fatal disease for which no other effective treatment has been found. This pilot study involved nine ALS patients, of whom eight benefitted from supplementation with these amino acids, top the extent that over the one year period of the study, they retained their muscle strength and their ability to walk. Five of the nine control subjects, who received placebos, lost their ability to walk over this period.
A study reported in the British Journal of Nutrition found that a dietary excess of leucine may be a precipitating factor in causing pellagra. This effect was only apparent when the diet also provided less than adequate amounts of nicotinamide. The right handed, or D form of leucine, has been shown to have a similar effect to that of d-phenylalanine in retarding the breakdown of the natural pain killers of the body, the endorphins and enkephalins.
Lysine is one of the essential amino acids that cannot be manufactured by the human body, but must be acquired from food sources. The best food sources for Lysine are lean meats, fish, potatoes and milk.
In the early 1980’s lysine became well known for its ability to fight the Herpes Simplex-1 virus, mouth blisters and cold sores. Since then it has been shown to have broader immune enhancing effects. Some studies have shown it effective in relieving genital herpes. High doses of Lysine stop viral growth and reproduction, and aids in the production of antibodies, hormones and enzymes.
In children lysine is needed for proper growth and bone development. Its aids calcium absorption and maintains nitrogen balance in adults. It is also instrumental in the formation of collagen, which is the basic matrix of the connective tissues, skin, cartilage and bone. According to Linus Pauling, lysine may also help reduce angina pectoris, chest pain caused by insufficient oxygen in the heart muscle. Pauling recommends 5 grams divided throughout the day for this condition. Lysine aids in collagen formation, in the repair of tissue, and helps to build muscle protein, all of which are important for recovery from surgery and injuries. It also lowers high serum triglycerides.
Lysine supplements stimulate the liver to produce higher levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Lysine deficiencies can result in lowered immune function, loss of energy, bloodshot eyes, irritability, hair loss, retarded growth, and reproductive disorders, increases urinary excretion of calcium, and increases the risk of kidney stones in susceptible people. Lysine has no known toxicity.
Methionine is an essential amino acid that is not synthesized by the body and must be obtained from food. It is one of the sulphur containing amino acids and is important in many body functions. Through its supply of sulphur, it improves the tone and pliability of the skin, conditions the hair and strengthens nails. The mineral sulphur also protects the cells from airborne pollutants, such as smog, slows down the aging process in the cells, and is involved with the production of protein.
Methionine is essential for the absorption and transportation and bioavailability of selenium and zinc in the body. It also acts as a lipotropic agent to prevent excess fat buildup in the liver, and is an excellent chelator of heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium and mercury, binding them and aiding in their excretion from the body.
It can help fatigue and may be useful in some cases of allergy because it reduces histamine release. It has also been used in the treatment of rheumatic fever and toxemia resulting from pregnancy. Recent studies show methionine deficiencies may be associated with the development of age related cataracts, and supplements may delay their development. In Parkinson’s disease patients taking L-Dopa, it was found that additional supplements with L-Methionine may further decrease the tremors and rigidity that limit normal activities.
The best food sources are beef, chicken, fish, pork, soybeans, eggs, cottage cheese, liver, sardines, yogurt, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and lentils. The range of human need for methionine is estimated at between 800 and 3,000 milligrams per day. This represents a 3.7 fold variation, based on a sample of 29 individuals.
Ornithine is made from the amino acid arginine and in turn is a precursor to form glutamic acid, citruline, and proline. Ornithine’s chief therapeutic value lies in its involvement in the urea cycle and its ability to enhance liver function, protect the liver and detoxify harmful substances. It has been used in the treatment of hepatic coma states. It also helps release a growth hormone that metabolizes excess body fat when combined with arginine. This growth hormone is also an immune stimulant.
In animal studies arginine and ornithine have improved immune responses to bacteria, viruses and tumor cells. One study on mice showed both of these amino acids were able to block formation of tumors in mice inoculated with a cancer causing virus. A one percent arginine or ornithine supplement to their food increased the animals thymus weights and lymphocytes in both the inoculated mice and the non inoculated control group, and markedly extended the life span in the animals receiving the virus.
Ornithine has been shown to aid in wound healing and support liver regeneration. It is found in milk products and meat, especially chicken. It may cause insomnia, and is contraindicated for schizophrenics. Growth hormone releasers should not be used by anyone who has not grown to their full height unless advised by their physicians. Excess growth hormone will cause the skin to become coarser and thicker, this is reversed when excess GH is withdrawn. Very excessive growth hormone over an extended period of time can cause irreversible enlargement of the joints and lowering of voice pitch due to larynx growth, and may cause a pituitary form of diabetes.
Phenylalanine is one of the amino acids which the body cannot manufacture itself, but must acquire from food. It is abundant in meats and cheese. Phenylalanine is a precursor of tyrosine, and together they lead to the formation of thyroxine or thyroid hormone, and of epinephrine and norepinephrine which is converted into a neurotransmitter, a brain chemical which transmits nerve impulses. This neurotransmitter is used by the brain to manufacture norepinephrine which promotes mental alertness, memory, elevates mood, and suppresses the appetite very effectively.
In one study, 100-500 milligrams of phenylalanine taken every day for two weeks completely eliminated patients depression. These people where depressed from a variety of causes, including drug abuse and schizophrenia and some from no apparent cause, and the amino acid seemed to work especially well for them all.
Along with another amino acid, tryptophan, phenylalanine governs the release of an intestinal hormone called cholecystokinin, known as CCK. This hormone signals the brain to feel satisfied after eating. People given CCK stop eating and feel full sooner. Various studies have shown Phenylalanine’s ability to decrease chronic back and dental pain and the pain associated with migraines and menstruation in a non-toxic and non-addictive manner.
Phenylalanine comes in two forms which are mirror images of each other: L-phenylalanine which has a nutritional value, and D-phenylalanine which has painkilling and depression alleviating properties which are attributed to its ability to block the breakdown of enkephalins, the brains natural pain killers. A third form, DL-phenylalanine, is a 50/50 mixture of these two forms. Phenylalanine activity is enhanced by additional Vitamin B 6, especially in studies on depression.
Phenylalanine deficiency can cause bloodshot eyes, cataracts and behavioral changes. Nutritional researchers recommend keeping intake of supplemental forms of phenylalanine to no more than 2.4 grams per day. Overuse of phenylalanine supplements can cause anxiety, headaches and hypertension, and are contraindicated for pregnant woman, those who suffer from anxiety attacks, high blood pressure, PKU, pigmented melanoma, or anyone taking an anti-depressant containing MAO inhibitors.
Proline is synthesized by the body from the amino acids glutamine or ornithine. The best food sources for Proline are dairy products and eggs, and in lesser amounts meats and wheat germ. It is one of the main components of collagen, the connective tissue structure that binds and supports all other tissues. It is most effective in this regard when combined with vitamin C supplementation.
Proline improves skin texture and studies have shown that collagen is neither properly formed or maintained if Vitamin C is lacking, so proline is most effective when adequate Vitamin C is supplied at the same time.
Pyroglutamate is an amino acid naturally found in vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and meat. It is also normally present in large amounts in the human brain, cerebrospinal fluid, and blood. After oral administration, pyroglutamate passes into the brain through the blood-brain barriers and helps stimulate cognitive functions. Pyroglutamate improves memory and learning in rats, and has anti-anxiety effects in rats.
Pyroglutamate has also been shown to be effective in alcohol-induced memory deficits in humans2, and more recently, in people affected with multi-infarct dementia3. In these patients, the administration of pyroglutamate brought about a significant increase of attention and an improvement on psychological tests investigating short-term retrieval, long-term retrieval, and long-term storage of memory. A statistically significant improvement was observed also in the consolidation of memory.
In human subjects, pyroglutamate was compared with a placebo in a randomized double-blind trial for assessing its efficacy in treating memory deficits in 40 aged subjects. Twenty subjects were treated with pyroglutamate and 20 with a placebo over a period of 60 days. Memory functions were evaluated at baseline and after 60 days of treatment by means of a battery made up of six memory tasks. The results show that pyroglutamate is effective in improving verbal memory functions in subjects affected by age-related memory decline.
In Italy, arginine pyroglutamate is used to treat senility, mental retardation, and alcoholism. Arginine pyroglutamate is simply an arginine molecule combined with a pyroglutamate molecule. Arginine alone does not produce cognitive enhancing effects. It is likely that pyroglutamate is the active ingredient of arginine pyroglutamate.
No serious adverse effects from the use of pyroglutamate, or from the use of arginine pyroglutamate, have been reported. Arginine and pyroglutamate are amino acids found commonly in natural foods and consumed by most people on a daily basis.
Serine is synthesized by the body from the amino acids glycine or threonine. Its production requires adequate amounts of B-7 (niacin), B-6, and folic acid. It is needed for the metabolism of fats and fatty acids, muscle growth and a healthy immune system. It aides in the production of immunoglobulins and antibodies. It is a constituent of brain proteins and nerve coverings. It is important in the formation of cell membranes, involved in the metabolism of purines and pyrimidines, and muscle synthesis. It is also used in cosmetics as a skin moisturizer.
Serine is abundant in meats and dairy products, wheat gluten, peanuts and soy products, all of which are common allergens. There is some concern that elevated serine levels can cause immune suppression and psychological symptoms as in cerebral allergies.
Taurine is one of the most abundant amino acids in the body. It is found in the central nervous system, skeletal muscle and is very concentrated in the brain and heart. It is synthesized from the amino acids methionine and cysteine, in conjunction with vitamin B6. Animal protein is a good source of taurine, as it is not found in vegetable protein. Vegetarians with an unbalanced protein intake, and therefore deficient in methionine or cysteine may have difficulty manufacturing taurine. Dietary intake is thought to be more important in women as the female hormone estradiol depresses the formation of taurine in the liver.
Taurine seems to inhibit and modulate neurotransmitters in the brain. There have been reports on the benefits of taurine supplementation for epileptics. It has also been found to control motor tics, such as uncontrollable facial twitches. Taurines’ effectiveness in epilepsy has been limited by its poor diffusion across the blood-brain barrier.
In Japan, taurine therapy is used in the treatment of ischemic heart disease. Low taurine and magnesium levels have been found in patients after heart attacks . Like magnesium, taurine affects cell membrane electrical excitability by normalizing potassium flow in and out of heart muscle cells. Supplements decrease the tendency to develop potentially lethal abnormal heart arrythmias after heart attacks.. People with congestive heart failure have also responded to supplementation with improved cardiac and respiratory function.
Another role played by taurine is maintaining the correct composition of bile, and in maintaining the solubility of cholesterol. It has been found to have an effect on blood sugar levels similar to insulin. Taurine helps to stabilize cell membranes and seems to have some antioxidant and detoxifying activity. It helps the movement of potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium in and out of cells, which helps generate nerve impulses.
Taurine is necessary for the chemical reactions that produce normal vision, and deficiencies are associated with retinal degeneration. Besides protecting the retina, taurine may help prevent and possibly reverse age-related cataracts. Low levels of taurine and other sulphur containing amino acids are associated with high blood pressure, and taurine supplements have been shown to lower blood pressure in some studies.
Other possible uses for Taurine supplementation include eye disease, cirrhosis, depression and male infertility due to low sperm motility and hypertension. Possible symptoms of toxicity include diarrhea and peptic ulcers. For those considering taurine supplements, taurine is known to have a calming or depressant effect on the central nervous system, and may impair short term memory. Taurine is present in meats and animal products, but not in plant products.
Threonine, an essential amino acid, is not manufactured by the body and must be acquired from food. It is an important constituent in many body proteins and is necessary for the formation of tooth enamel protein, collagen and elastin. It is a precursor to the amino acids glycine and serine. It acts as a lipotropic in controlling fat build-up in the liver.
One researcher considers Threonine, along with B vitamins, magnesium, ascorbic acid, iodine, potassium, tryptophan, lysine, inositol and glutamic acid, as being essential in the treatment and prevention of mental illness. Another states that Threonine “is very useful in indigestion and intestinal malfunctions and prevents excessive liver fat. Nutrients are more readily absorbed when threonine is present.” Preliminary studies in patients with the degenerative neuromuscular disease ALS showed definite symptom improvement with L-threonine supplements. Since there is no other treatment for this disease, it may prove useful in allowing these people a better quality of lifestyle.
There are good levels of threonine in most meats, dairy foods and eggs and moderate levels in wheat germ, many nuts, beans and seeds and some vegetables. Threonine is an immune stimulant-it promotes thymus growth and activity. L-threonine deficiency in rats has been associated with weakened cellular response and antibody formation. In humans, deficiency results in irritability and generally difficult personality, according to one researcher. The range of human requirements is stated to be between 103 milligrams and 500 milligrams daily .
Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, is one of the amino acids which the body cannot manufacture itself, but most acquire from food. It is the least abundant in proteins and also easily destroyed by the liver. Tryptophan is necessary for the production of the B-vitamin niacin, which is essential for your brain to manufacture the key neurotransmitter serotonin. Scientists have linked low serotonin levels with insomnia, anxiety and depression. It helps control hyperactivity, relieves stress, suppresses the appetite and enhances the release of growth hormones.
More than forty studies have shown the effectiveness of Tryptophan for insomnia. It has been shown to enable people to fall asleep more quickly, and to increase sleep time without the hangover effect of regular sleeping pills. Studies have also found it effective for jet lag. In one study at the University of California School of Medicine, fifty one marines were flown across eight time zones. Half received tryptophan and the other half placebos. Those who got the amino acid were able to sleep more and responded better on performance tests and reaction times.
Other studies show tryptophan to have anti-anxiety effects and control aggressive behavior in some individuals. Used in combination with drug therapy, Tryptophan has helped previously unresponsive depressed patients. Another study showed it’s anti-depressant effect to be of longer duration than the popular anti-depressant drug Imipramine.
Some evidence shows that this amino acid may also be effective for people suffering from chronic pain. Sensitivity to pain is partly affected by the serotonin levels in your brain. People taking Tryptophan in addition to their standard pain medications, reported fewer painful, debilitating symptoms than when they used the pain drugs alone. Tryptophan decreases amphetamine craving in animal studies and it may also have a role in alcohol withdrawal. Preliminary studies of combined Vitamin B-6 and tryptophan show that they may reduce the severity of hyperventilation and the panic attacks it may produce.
The best food sources of Tryptophan are pineapple, turkey, chicken, yogurt, bananas and unripened cheese. Combining these foods with some carbohydrates, such as pasta, cereal or bread etc., will enable your brain to absorb the tryptophan more effectively, where it is used to manufacture serotonin.
Although Tryptophan has a long history of safe use, in December 1989 the FDA reported over 600 cases of a flu-like syndrome associated with a blood abnormality in those taking the amino acid. Although the problem was traced to a contaminated batch, Tryptophan is no longer available in supplement form. Because of potential adverse reactions, tryptophan supplements are not recommended in pregnant women, asthmatics or people with auto-immune disorders like Lupus or Scleroderma.
Tyrosine is an amino acid synthesized from phenylalanine in the body. It is a precursor of the important brain neurotransmitters epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine, which transmit nerve impulses and are essential to prevent depression. Dopamine is vital to mental function and seems to play a role in sex drive.
Tyrosine is also used by the thyroid gland to produce one of the major hormones, Thyroxin. This hormone regulates growth rate, metabolic rate, skin health and mental health. It is used in the treatment of anxiety, depression, allergies and headaches. Animals subjected to stress in the laboratory have been found to have reduced levels of the brain neurotransmitter norepinephrine. Doses of tyrosine prior to stressing the animals prevents reduction of norepinephrine.
Human trials have been performed with soldiers placed in various forms of stress. Those soldiers receiving Tyrosine were found to perform better on a variety of tests. They were more efficient, alert and had fewer complaints. Clinical studies have shown that tyrosine can be helpful in reducing the irritation, tiredness and depression of PMS sufferers, as well as being an effective antidepressant in some more major forms of depression.
Tyrosine is used with the amino acid Tryptophan, to aid in the treatment of cocaine abuse, with some success. In one study the two amino acids were used in conjunction with the anti-depressant Imipramine to treat chronic cocaine abuse with a reported 75-80% success rate. Most of the people in the study reported that this combination blocked the cocaine high and warded off the severe depression that typically accompanies withdrawal.
Intake of Tyrosine is contraindicated for people taking antidepressants containing monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors, people with high blood pressure or skin cancer. It may trigger migraine headaches. The main sources of tyrosine in the diet are meats, dairy products and eggs.
Valine is one of the amino acids which the body cannot for manufacture itself but must acquire from food sources. Valine is found in abundant quantities in most food. Valine has a stimulant effect. Healthy growth depends on it. A deficiency results in a negative hydrogen balance in the body.
Valine is used by bodybuilders, in conjunction with leucine and isoleucine, for muscle growth, tissue repair and as an energizer. There is little scientific evidence to support these claims, though studies have shown that these three substances might be able to help restore muscle mass in people with liver disease, injuries, or who have undergone surgery, but no studies have shown them to be effective for healthy people. Because valine cannot be produced by the body, healthy people should ensure that they are obtaining at least the recommended amount in their diet.
Valine can be metabolized to produce energy, which spares glucose. A deficiency may affect the myelin covering of the nerves. Recent studies indicate that valine, as well as leucine and isoleucine, may be effective in treating or reversing hepatic encephalopathy, or alcohol related brain damage. It may also be useful in degenerative neurological conditions. Main food sources of valine are soy flour, raw brown rice, cottage cheese, fish, beef, lamb, chicken, almonds, brazil nuts cashews, peanuts, sesame seed, lentils, chickpeas and mushrooms.
For centuries green tea has been highly valued as a soothing drink to calm the body and soothe the soul. Now new research has discovered the biochemical key to green tea’s deeply soothing effects—the amino acid L-theanine, which is found almost exclusively in the leaves of green tea (Camellia sinensis). L-theanine has been shown to have a deeply relaxing effect, reducing stress and anxiety, but without the sedating effects of other relaxing agents. In fact, many people find L-theanine actually increases energy levels while reducing anxiety.
Researchers have found that L-theanine works by supporting the formation of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an inhibitory neurotransmitter that blocks the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin to promote a state of deep relaxation and calm, while increasing sensations of pleasure.
L-theanine has also been found to directly stimulate the production of alpha brain waves, which are associated with deep states of relaxation and enhanced mental clarity.
In a recent study, Japanese researchers also revealed that—in addition to promoting a deep state of relaxation—L-theanine may also support healthy blood pressure levels, enhance concentration and learning, promote mental clarity and strengthen the immune system.
In human studies L-theanine has been shown to exert profound relaxing effects, 30 to 40 minutes after ingestion, including:
- Relaxation without drowsiness
- Generation of calming alpha-waves
- Improved learning ability, and
- Enhanced sensations of contentment and pleasure
Vitamins are natural organic substances essential for the proper regulation of reproduction, growth, health, and energy production. Humans are unable to manufacture most of the necessary vitamins and these must be obtained from dietary sources, either as whole foods or supplements.
Beta Carotene, a naturally occurring orange pigment found in plants such as carrots, squash, and pumpkins, is a powerful fat-soluble antioxidant that heps neutralize free radicals, prevents cancer, and fights infectious diseases. Beta carotene, referred to as provitamin A, is transformed into vitamin A in the body. This unique feature means that beta carotene is non-toxic at doses ranging as high as 500,000 iu, whereas vitamin A retinol can produce toxic effects in relatively low doses.
Adequate intake of beta carotene has been shown to help prevent Xerophthalmia (night blindness). In addition to promoting good vision, beta carotene also protects the heart and cardiovascular system, boosts immune functions, speeds recovery from respiratory infections such as colds and flu, and promotes wound healing.
Researchers are now focused on beta carotene’s impressive ability to quench singlet oxygen free radicals, leading to a greater understanding of its role in slowing down the aging process, preventing the formation of tumors, and possibly reversing the course of certain forms of cancer. A recent study presented at an American Cancer Society seminar found that beta carotene was able to reduce by half the number of precancerous mouth lesions in over 53% of test subjects diagnosed with precancerous mouth lesions.
NEW RESEARCH: Beta carotene is a nutrient found in the most abundance in yellow and dark green fruit and vegetables-foods like apricots, squash, cantaloupe, broccoli, spinach, and sweet potatoes. Its ability to prevent heart attacks came as a surprise to Dr. Charles Hennekens of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who was really interested in studying beta carotene’s cancer-fighting capacity. In 1990, nearly halfway through a 10-year study, Hennekens looked specifically at the data from 333 of the 22,000 men in this Physicians’ Health Study. These men were selected because they all had evidence of coronary artery disease, including angina, (the chest pain that occurs when the arteries that serve the heart are obstructed) at the start of the study.
After 6 years, 27 of the 333 men had suffered heart attacks: 10 in the group taking 50 mg (83,350 IU) of beta carotene every other day, and 17 in the group taking the placebo, representing an almost 40% lower risk for the beta carotene group. Among the men taking both beta carotene and aspirin, there were no heart attacks at all. In fact, Hennekens reported, those men taking the 50-mg dose of beta carotene had about half the number of heart attacks, strokes, cardiac arrests, or operations to open or bypass clogged arteries.1
It seems to be beta carotene’s antioxidant capacity — specifically its ability to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol — that explains its protective role in heart disease. Recent evidence has shown that cholesterol is most dangerous after it has been oxidized or damaged, thus releasing free radicals into the bloodstream, where they can damage delicate arteries. These sites of damage attract the fatty deposits that eventually clog the arteries. Free radicals may also oxidize low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), which makes the macrophages transporting the LDL turn into foam cells that form atherosclerotic plaques.
Folic Acid is a water soluble nutrient belonging to the B-complex family. The name folic acid is derived from the latin word “folium”, so chosen since this essential nutrient was first extracted from green leafy vegetables, or foliage. Sometimes referred to as vitamin M, folic acid was originally extracted from spinach in 1941 and was found to be an effective treatment for macrocytic anemia.
Among its various important roles, folic acid is a vital coenzyme required for the proper synthesis of RNA and DNA, the nucleic acids that maintain our genetic codes and insure healthy cell division. Adequate levels of folic acid are essential for energy production and protein metabolism, for the formulation of red blood cells, and for the proper functioning of the intestinal tract.
Of great import are recent studies connecting folic acid intake with the incidence of spinal closure problems in newborn babies. Health workers have long known that folic acid is required for the proper regulation and development of embryonic fetal nerve cells during the early stages of pregnancy. Now researchers have found an almost complete reduction in the incidence of spinal closure problems such as spina bifida in babies born to women with a daily folic acid intake of at least 400 micrograms.
Folic acid may also prove to be effective in the prevention and treatment of uterine cancer. A deficiency of folic acid causes cellular damage resembling the initial stages of uterine cervical dysplasia. Researchers discovered that women taking folic acid supplements have fewer precancerous cervical cells compared to women with low intake of folic acid. Evidence suggests that folic acid works by inhibiting the progression of abnormal cells into cancer cells and may even help return the damaged tissues to healthy condition.
Folic acid deficiency affects all cellular functions, but most importantly it reduces the body’s ability to repair damaged tissues and grow new cells. Tissues with the highest rate of cell replacement, such as red blood cells, are affected first, leading to anemia. Folic acid deficiency symptoms include a sore tongue, cracking at the corners of the mouth, gastro-intestinal distress, diarrhea, and poor nutrient absorption and malnutrition leading to stunted growth, weakness and apathy.
The current Recommended Daily Allowance for folic acid is 180 to 200 micrograms per day. This allowance is controversial as it is based more on politics than science. Studies have consistently shown that the average American gets less then half the previously recommended RDA of 400 micrograms per day for adults and 800 micrograms per day for pregnant women. Unable to make the great leap to suggest that people should take supplements to confer the protection offered by folic acid, government officials instead simply decided to lower the RDA.
Folic acid deficiency is a common vitamin deficiency that can develop within a few weeks to months of lowered dietary intake. Those with the greatest need for increased folic acid intake include people under mental and physical stress, including disease, alcoholics, and people taking oral contraceptives, aspirin, and anticonvulsants. Foods highest in folic acid include barley, beans, beef, bran, brewers yeast, brown rice, cheese, chicken, tuna, milk, salmon, wheat germ, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables.
Though not generally regarded as toxic, large doses of folic acid can cause allergic skin reactions, and should be avoided by people being treated for hormone related cancers. High doses of folic acid can also cause problems convulsions in people taking the drug phytoin for a convulsive disorder.
Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin and member of the B-complex family. Originally isolated in 1901, over the years numerous researchers attached different names to this nutrient, referring to it alternately as bios, vitamin H, protective factor X, and coenzyme R. Today the scientific name for this sulfur-bound vitamin is biotin.
Biotin is an essential nutrient that is required for cell growth and for the production of fatty acids. Biotin also plays a central role in carbohydrate and protein metabolism and is essential for the proper utilization of the other B-complex vitamins. Biotin contributes to healthy skin and hair, and may play a role in preventing hair loss.
A biotin deficiency of is rare, as biotin is easily synthesized in the intestines by bacteria, usually in amounts far greater than are normally require for good health. Those at highest risk for biotin deficiency are people with digestive problems that can interfere with normal intestinal absorption, and those taking antibiotics or sulfa drugs, which can inhibit the growth of the intestinal bacteria that produce biotin. Consuming raw eggs in large amounts over a prolonged period can contribute to biotin deficiency, as eggs whites contain a protein called avidin, that binds to biotin and interfere with its absorption. This is not a problem when consuming cooked eggs, which are a good dietary source of biotin.
Some symptoms of biotin deficiency are depression, lethargy, eczema, dermatitis, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, inflammation of the tongue, and muscle pain. Infants with seborrheic dermatitis, evidenced by dry and scaly face and scalp, may also be suffering from a biotin deficiency.
The adult Recommended Daily Allowance for biotin is 300 micrograms. Natural sources highest in biotin include liver, egg yolks, brewer’s yeast, salt-water fish, milk, soybeans, and rice. Biotin is also found in virtually all B-complex supplements in doses ranging from 25 micrograms to 300 micrograms. There are no known toxic levels or symptoms for biotin.
Vitamin A is a vital fat-soluble nutrient and antioxidant that can prevent night blindness, maintain healthy skin, and confer protection against cancer and other diseases. Vitamin A is commonly found in two forms; as preformed vitamin A, also referred to as retinol, and as provitamin A, or beta carotene.
Vitamin A deficiency can lead to Xerophthalmia or night blindness, a deficiency disease that most commonly affects children in third-world countries. Early signs of Vitamin A deficiency are gradual loss of night vision, roughened skin and defective formation of bones and teeth. If left untreated Xerophthalmia can result in complete blindness.
In addition to promoting good vision, other recognized major benefits of vitamin A include its ability to protect the heart and cardiovascular system, boost the immune system, speed recovery from respiratory infections, promote wound healing, slow down the aging process, and prevent and possibly reverse the course of certain forms of cancer. Vitamin A also plays an important role in maintain healthy skin. Most current popular acne and psoriasis treatments on the market, such as Retinol and Accutane, are based on vitamin A or its derivatives.
Retinol is derived from animal sources, primarily fish liver oils, and is easily destroyed by exposure to heat, light, and oxygen. When examining your vitamin formula to determine Vitamin A levels expect to see vitamin A referred to in its palmitate or acetate forms, which are preferred by manufacturers.
The Recommended Daily Intake of vitamin A is 5,000 International Units or 1,000 Retinol Units. As a supplement, vitamin-A is available in capsules ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 iu or International Units. Excessive intake of vitamin A can lead to dangerous toxic symptoms, including hair loss, nausea, scaly skin, bone pain, fatigue, blurred vision, and liver enlargement. For this reason many prefer to take Beta Carotene, also referred to as provitamin A, which offers all the proven benefits of vitamin A with none of the adverse side effects.
Vitamin B-1, also called thiamine, is a nutrient critical for maintaining a healthy central nervous system. Addequate thiamine levels can dramatically affect mental functions by helping us maintain a positive mental attitude and by enhancing our learning abilities. Conversely, inadequate levels of B1 can lead to eye weakness, mental confusion, and loss of physical coordination.
Vitamin B1 is required for the production of hydrochloric acid, for forming blood cells, and for maintianing healthy circulation. It also plays a key role in converting carbohydrates into energy, and in maintaining good muscle tone of the digestive system and the heart.
Like all the B-vitamins, B-1 is a water soluble nutrient that cannot be stored in the body, but must be replenished on a daily basis. B-1 is also synergistic, meaning that it is most effective when taken in a balanced complex of the other B vitamins.
A chronic deficiency of thiamin will lead to a beriberi, a devastating and potentially deadly disease of the central nervous system. Due to improved diets and widespread use of inexpensive supplements, beriberi is extremely rare in the developed nations, with one important exception. Beriberi symptoms are frequently found in chronic alcoholics due to the destructive effect alcohol has on B1. Thiamine levels can also be affected by ingestion of antibiotics, sulfa drugs, caffeine, antacids, and oral contraceptives. A diet high in carbohydrates can also increase ones need for B1.
Food sources high in thiamin include dried beans, eggs, brewers yeast, whole grains, brown rice, and seafood. In supplemental form, B-1 is generally found in a combination with vitamins B-2, B-3, B-6, pantothenic acid, and folic acid. There are no known toxic effects from vitamin B-1, and any excess is simply excreted from the body. The Recommended Daily Amount for B-1 is 1.5 milligrams, though more typical daily intake ranges from 50 to 500 milligrams per day.
Vitamin B-2, also known as Riboflavin, is an easily absorbed, water-soluble micronutrient with a key role in maintaining human health. Like the other B vitamins, riboflavin supports energy production by aiding in the metabolization of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Vitamin B-2 is also required for red blood cell formation and respiration, antibody production, and for regulating human growth and reproduction. Riboflavin is known to alleviate eye fatigue, prevent and treat cataracts, increase energy levels, and aid in boosting immune system functions. It also plays a key role in maintaining healthy hair, skin and nails, and in combination with vitamin B-6, forms part of an effective treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome.
A deficiency of vitamin B-2 may be indicated by the appearance of cracks and sores at the corners of the mouth, a swollen and sore tongue, reddening of the lips, and the appearance of scaly, oily, inflamed skin. Use of oral contraceptives can dramatically increase the need for riboflavin, as does strenuous exercise. Pregnant women need to pay particular attention to assure they have adequate levels of B2 which are critical for the proper growth and development of the baby.
Foods high in vitamin B2 include beans, cheese, eggs, fish, meat, milk, poultry, spinach, and yogurt. In supplement form, B-2 is usually found in a complex combined with vitamins B-1, B-3, B-6, pantothenic acid, and folic acid.
Recommended Daily Intake for B2 is 1.2 mg. to 1.7 mg. per day. For pregnant women, the RDA is 1.6 mg per day, and 1.8 mg. per day for the first 6 months of nursing. RDA’s aside, the common doses available on the market range from 100 to 300 mg per day. There are no known toxic effects for B-2, but large doses can lead to tingling in the extremities and an increased sensitivity to sunlight.
Vitamin B-3, also called Niacin, Niacinamide, or Nicotinic Acid, is an essential nutrient required by all humans for the proper metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, as well as for the production of hydrochloric acid for digestion. B3 also supports proper blood circulation, healthy skin, and aids in the functioning of the central nervous system. Because of its role in supporting the higher functions of the brain and cognition, vitamin B3 also plays an important role in the treatment of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. Lastly, adequate levels of B-3 are vital for the proper synthesis of insulin, and the sex hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone.
A deficiency in vitamin B-3 can result in pellagra, a disorder characterized by malfunctioning of the nervous system, gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, dementia, depression, and severe dermatitis and skin leasions. Recently Niacin has been embraced by the medical community for its ability to safely lower elevated blood cholesterol and triglyceride serum levels without harmful side-effects. Due to the large amounts of niacin used, it is best to undertake such a proram only in close partnership with your physician.
High doses of niacin may result in a niacin flush, a natural allergic reaction that is harmless, but can be uncomfortable if inexpected. A niacin flush will generally result in a burning, tingling, and itching sensation, accompanied by a reddening flush, that spreads across the skin of the face, arms and chest. This effect is harmless and will pass within 20 minutes to an hour. Drinking a glass of water will also speed relief if too much niacin has been consumed.
High amounts should be used with caution by those who are pregnant and megadoses of pure niacin may aggravate health problems, such as stomach ulcers, gout, glaucoma, diabetes mellitus, and liver disease. Again, check with your physician before taking doses of niacin greater than 1,000 mg. per day. Natural food sources for Vitamin B3 include beef, broccoli, carrots, cheese, corn flour, eggs, fish, milk, potatoes and tomatoes.
Vitamin B-5 (Pantothenic Acid) is a B vitamin named after the Greek word pantos, meaning “everywhere” because it is found in both plant and animal food sources. Pantothenic acid is a water-soluble B vitamin that cannot be stored in the body but must be replaced daily, either from diet or from supplements.
Pantothenic acids’ most important function is as an essential component in the production of coenzyme A, a vital catalyst that is required for the conversion of carbohydrates, fats, and protein into energy. Pantothenic acid is also referred to as an antistress vitamin due to its vital role in the formation of various adrenal hormones, steroids, and cortisone, as well as contributing to the production of important brain neuro-transmitters such as acetylcholine. In addition to helping to fight depression Pantothenic acid also supports the normal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract and is required for the production of cholesterol, bile, vitamin D, red blood cells, and antibodies.
There is no specific deficiency disease associated with inadequate intake of pantothenic acid, though under severe dietary conditions a lack of B5 can lead to a variety of symptoms including hypoglycemia, skin disorders, fatigue, depression, digestive problems, lack of coordination and muscle cramps. The current RDA for pantothenic acid is 10 mg.
Pantothenic acid is found in a wide variety of foods including beans, beef, liver, salt-water fish, chicken, cheese, eggs, whole grain breads and cereals, avocados, cauliflower, green peas, beans , nuts, dates, and potatoes. Most common B-complex formulas contain from 10 to 100 mg. of B5, though daily doses up to 1000 mg are not uncommon, especially for treatment of arthritis and allergies.
Vitamin B-6, also called Pyridoxine, refers to a family of closely related water soluble substances that include pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine. Vitamin B6 is a water soluble nutrient that cannot be stored in the body, but must be obtained daily from either dietary sources or supplements.
Vitamin B6 is an important nutrient that supports more vital bodily functions than any other vitamin. This is due to its role as a coenzyme involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Vitamin B6 is also responsible for the manufacture of hormones, red blood cells, neurotransmitters, enzymes and prostaglandins. Vitamin B6 is required for the production of serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter that controls our moods, appetite, sleep patterns, and sensitivity to pain. A deficiency of vitamin B6 can quickly lead to insomnia and a profound malfunctioning of the central nervous system.
Among its many benefits, vitamin B6 is recognized for helping to maintain healthy immune system functions, for protecting the heart from cholesterol deposits, and for preventing kidney stone formation. B6 is also effective in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, night leg cramps, allergies, asthma and arthritis.
Common symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency can include depression, vomiting, anemia, kidney stones, dermatitis, lethargy and increased susceptibility to diseases due to a weakened immune system. Infants suffering from vitamin B6 deficiency can be anxious and irritable, and in extreme cases may develop convulsions.
Supplemental B6 is a commonly used as a treatment for nausea, morning sickness and depression. Pregnant women have an increased need for supplemental vitamin B6, as do patients suffering from heart disease or those undergoing radiation treatment. Persons on high protein diets require extra vitamin B6, as do those taking antidepressants, amphetamines, oral contraceptives, and estrogen.
Natural foods highest in vitamin B6 include brewers yeast, carrots, chicken, eggs, fish, avocados, bananas, brown rice, and whole grains. The RDA for vitamin B6 is 2 mg per day. Most B-complex formulas contain between 10 to 75 mg. of vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6 is one of the few vitamins that can be toxic. Doses up to 500 mg per day are uncommon but safe, but doses above 2 grams per day can lead to irreversible neurological damage unless under the treatment of a physician. Vitamin B6 supplements should not be taken by Parkinson’s disease patients being treated with L-dopa as vitamin B6 can diminish the effects of L-dopa in the brain.
Vitamin B-12, also referred to as cobalamin and cyanocobalamin, is a water-soluble compound of the B vitamin family with an unique difference — unlike other B-vitamins that must be replaced daily, vitamin B12 can be stored for long periods in the liver and kidneys.
Vitamin B12 is a particularly important coenzyme that is required for the proper synthesis of DNA which controls the healthy formation of new cells throughout the body. B12 also supports the action of vitamin C, and is necessary for the proper digestion and absorption of foods, for protein synthesis, and for the normal metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. Additionally, vitamin B12 prevents nerve damage by contributing to the formation of the myelin sheath that insulates nerve cells. B12 also maintains fertility, and helps promotes normal growth and development in children.
A deficiency of vitamin B-12 can result in a potentially fatal form of anemia called pernicious anemia. Since vitamin B12 can be easily stored in the body, and is only required in tiny amounts, symptoms of severe deficiency usually take five years or more to appear. When symptoms do surface, usually in mid-life, it is likely that deficiency was due to digestive disorders or malabsorption rather than to poor diet. The exception to this would be strict vegetarians who do not consume any foods of animal origin, since B12 only comes from animal sources.
Due to its role in healthy cell formation, a deficiency of B12 disrupts the formation of red blood cells, leading to reduced numbers of poorly formed red cells, leading to a anemia. Symptoms of anemia include fatigue, loss of appetite, diarrhea and moodiness. B12 deficiency can lead to improper formation of nerve cells, resulting in irreversible neurological damage, with symptoms ranging from disorientation, delusions, eye disorders, dizziness, confusion and memory loss.
The RDA for vitamin B12 is 2 micrograms for adults, 2.2 micrograms for pregnant women, and 2.6 micrograms for nursing mothers. Vitamin B12 is not found in vegetables, but can be found in pork, blue cheese, clams, eggs, herring, kidney, liver, seafood, and milk.
Vitamin B12 is available in supplement. Due to poor absorption in the stomach, B12 isusually taken as a sublingual or in injection form. Supplements range in strength from 50 micrograms to 2 milligrams. There are virtually no known toxic symptoms for megadoses of vitamin B12, and any excess is simply excreted from the body.
While often referred to as Vitamin B15, pangamic acid is not generally recognized as a vitamin, since there is neither an established essential need nor a well defined deficiency model for this natural water soluble compound. Originally introduced into the American nutritional market based upon research conducted by Soviet sports scientists, little if any research has been conducted in the U.S. Consequently, pangamic acid has come under scrutiny due to the controversial claims made for its effectiveness in the treatment for a wide range of diseases such as cancer, alcoholism, heart disease, drug addiction, diabetes, glandular and central nervous system disorders.
What research does exist suggests that pangamic acid acts as an antioxidant that acts synergistically when taken with vitamins A and E. This purported antioxidant property may help explain why pangamic acid is so highly touted for its ability to confer protection against urban air pollutants, extend cell life, stimulate increased immune system response, lower blood cholesterol levels, protect the liver from the ravages of alcohol, cure fatigue, ward off hangovers, and assist in the regulation of hormones.
Natural sources for pangamic acid include brewers yeast, whole brown rice, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds. Supplemental pangamic acid obtained from apricot pits is commercially available, though FDA analysis of many commercial products claiming to contain vitamin B15 indicate that many contained no pangamic acid at all.
Common use is 50 to 150 milligrams per day. There are no known toxic effects from pangamic acid, though some users report experiencing nausea initially. This can be avoided by taking with food, preferably the largest meal of the day.
Vitamin B17, also called amygdalin, and more commonly laetrile, is one of the most controversial vitamins of the last few decades. Laetrile was originally developed in 1952 by biochemist Ernst Krebs. Krebs originally isolated laetrile from apricot pits, and with his son, began to promote it as a cancer preventative and a wonder cure, Extensive testing of laetrile by the National Cancer Institute found laetrile to be of no value as a cancer treatment, and it was further rejected by the Food and Drug Administration on the grounds it might be poisonous due to its cyanide content. This led to bitter charges by Krebs that the medical establishment and the FDA conspired in a campaign to keep his miracle compound out of the public domain.
Later reclassified by Krebs as vitamin B-17, chemically, laetrile is a compound of two sugar molecules called an amygdalin. Though it is referred to as vitamin B17, laetrile falls short of meeting established standards for consideration as a vitamin, as there there is no established metabolic need for laetrile, and there are no known deficiency symptoms when laetrile is absent from the diet.
Laetrile is a naturally occurring compound that can be found in small amounts in the seeds and pits of apricots, apples, cherries, peaches, plums, and nectarines. Laetrile contains approximately 6% cyanide, which is an extremely toxic substance. Taking excessive amounts of laetrile is dangerous, and used improperly, can be lethal.
While there is ongoing research, to date, there has been no effective proof that laetrile helps prevent or cure cancer. The main medical criticism commonly directed at laetrile is that people with potentially curable cancer may choose to take laetrile while avoiding conventional treatments, waiting until it is too late to gain benefit from effective therapy.
Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is powerful water-soluble antioxidant that is vital for the growth and maintenance of all body tissues. Though easily absorbed by the intestines, vitamin C cannot be stored in the body, and is excreted in the urine within two to four hours of ingestion. Humans, along with apes and guinea pigs, are the only species on the planet incapable of synthesizing vitamin C, and must therefore have access to sufficient amounts from adequate dietary sources or supplements in order to maintain optimal health.
One of vitamin C’s most vital roles is in the production of collagen, an important cellular component of connective tissues, muscles, tendons, bones, teeth and skin. Collagen is also required for the repair of blood vessels, bruises, and broken bones.
This easily destroyed nutrient also protects us from the ravages of free radicals, dangerous unpaired oxygen fragments that are produced in huge numbers as a normal byproduct of human metabolic processes. Left unchecked, free radicals can roam the body, destroying cell membranes on contact and damaging DNA strands, leading to degenerative diseases and contributing to accelerated aging. The antioxidant activity of vitamin C can also protect us from the damaging effects of air pollution and radiation, and aid in preventing cancers. Vitamin C also inhibits the conversion of nitrites, chemicals found in foods and processed meats, into nitrosamines, dangerous cancer causing compounds that can lead to cancers of the stomach, bladder, and colon.
Vitamin C helps regulate blood pressure, contributes to reduced cholesterol levels, and aids in the removal of cholesterol deposits from arteriel walls, thus preventing atherosclerosis. Vitamin C also aids in the metabolization of folic acid, regulates the uptake of iron, and is required for the conversion of the amino acids L-tyrosine and L-phenylalanine into noradrenaline. The conversion of tryptophan into seratonin, the neurohormone responsible for sleep, pain control and well being, also requires adequate supplies of vitamin C.
A deficiency of ascorbic acid can impair the production of collagen and lead to joint pain, anemia, nervousness, retarded growth, reduced immune response, and increased susceptibility to infections. The most extreme form of vitamin C deficiency is called scurvy, a condition evidenced by swelling of the joints, bleeding gums, and the bursting, or hemorrhaging, of tiny blood vessels just below the surface of skin. If untreated scurvy is fatal. Before the discovery of lemons and limes as convenient sources of ascorbic acid, seafarers setting out on long ocean voyages could expect to lose up to two-thirds of a ships crew to scurvy. In acknowledgement of the the historical import of this well known and dreaded deficiency disease, in latin, the word ascorbic means “without scurvy”.
A recent important epidemiologic study showed that men who took vitamin C supplements lived, on average, 6 years longer than men who relied on normal dietary sources of vitamin C. This increase in life span seems to be due to a sharp reduction in heart disease. It has been estimated that if the epidemiology study is correct and everyone took just several hundred milligrams of vitamin C a day, it would save 100,000 lives and $100 billion a year in health care costs in the U.S. The recommended daily intake for vitamin c is 60 milligrams, but most health care professionals recognize that this tiny amount is barely enough to prevent the onset of scurvy, let alone confer any of the many well documented benefits of this amazing nutrient. Based on countless medical studies the therapeutic intake of ascorbic acid can be said to safely range from 500 to 4000 milligrams per day. Since this water-soluble vitamin is completely excreted from the body within 2 to 4 hours, and since the idea is to maintain stable serum levels for best results, the desired total daily dose should be divided into three separate doses and be taken throughout the day.
Foods highest in vitamin C include citrus fruits, potatoes, peppers, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, and berries. Vitamin C is also available as a supplement in a wide range of forms such as pills, tablets, powders, wafers, and syrups. Generally doses range from 500 milligrams to 5000 milligrams depending upon the delivery system. Vitamin C activity is enhanced when taken with natural bioflavanoids such as hesperidn and rutin. Ascorbic acid works synergistically with vitamin E, meaning that both nutrients work more effectively together to extend their antioxidant effects. Ascorbyl palmitate is a fat soluble form of vitamin C that is available only in supplement form. It is a very powerful antioxidant that works to protect fats from peroxidation, and it can be stored in the body in small amounts. Ascorbyl palmitate works best when taken in combination with ascorbic acid.
The topical application of vitamin C inhibits tumor promotion in mouse skin, according to a recent study. Moreover, ascorbyl palmitate, the fat-soluble form of vitamin C, was found to be at least 30 times more effective than water-soluble vitamin C in tumor reduction in the presence of a known tumor promoter.
While the study also demonstrated that it was possible to increase levels of ascorbic acid in the skin via dietary means, that increase did not result in tumor inhibition in this study Only topically applied vitamin C (both the watersoluble and, especially, the fat-soluble forms) resulted in enhanced protection. Mice, unlike humans, can synthesize vitamin C in their bodies. The mice did not do better at the lowest dose of vitamin C, which apparently down-regulated their natural production. At higher doses, however, supplemented mice did better than unsupplemented mice. The ability to inhibit tumor-promotion in skin via dietary supplemen-tation with ascorbyl palmitate is under investigation. (Smart RC, Crawford CL. Effect of ascorbic acid and its synthetic lipophilic derivative ascorbyl palmitate on phorbol ester-induced skin-tumor promotion in mice.Am J Clin Nutr. 1991;54:1266S-12735.)
Mice that had high dietary intakes of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and were subjected to ultraviolet (UV) light had fewer malignant skin lesions than those with lower levels of vitamin C. In a 20-week study, those mice receiving the lowest levels of dietary ascorbate developed serious malignant lesions at five times the rate of those mice fed the highest amounts of supplemental ascorbate. With a high statistical correspondence, the study showed that vitamin C was able to delay the formation of tumors induced by UV light. No toxic side effects of any sort were found with regard to the levels of vitamin C. (Pauling L. Effect of ascorbic acid on incidence of spontaneous mammal tumors and UV-light-induced skin tumors in mice. Am J Clin Nutr. 1991;54:1252S-1255S.)
While generally nontoxic, even in very large amounts, consuming vitamin C in large doses can lead to oxalic acid and uric acid stone formation unless consumed with plenty of water and supplemented with extra magnesium and vitamin B6. Taking large doses without slowly working up to the desired level can also cause temporary side effects such as diarrhea and skin rashes.
VITAMIN C AND HIV SUPPRESSION: Suppression of human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) was found to take place in the presence of vitamin C. The near two-fold inhibition of HIV growth in Vitro required a continuous presence of non-cytotoxic amounts of either ascorbic acid or calcium ascorbate. When vitamin C was combined with NAC (N-acetyl L-cysteine), the result was a synergistic eight-fold inhibition of HIV replication. NAC is a mucolytic agent (mucous liquefier) that is structurally and functionally related to L-cysteine. This trial suggests the potential for the antiviral activity of vitamin C, especially in combination with thiol compounds such as L-cysteine, for improved control of HIV infections. (Harakeh S, Jariwalla R.J. Comparative study of the anti-HIV activities of ascorbate and thiol-containing reducing agents in chronically HlV-infected cells. Am J Clin Nutr 1991;54:S1231-1235S.)
Vitamin D is actually a family of related essential compounds, referred to as vitamins D-1, D-2, and D-3. Vitamin D is required for the proper regulation and absorption of the essential minerals calcium and phosphorus. Available primarily from animal sources, vitamin D is also commonly called the sunshine vitamin because of the body’s unique ability to synthesize Vitamin-D from brief but regular exposure to sunlight.
Adequate levels of Vitamin D are required for the proper absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the small intestines. Vitamin D further supports and regulates the use of these minerals for the growth and development of the bones and teeth. Because of this vital link, adequate intake of Vitamin D is critically important for the proper mineralization of bones and teeth in developing children. Vitamin D also aids in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, osteomalacia, and hypocalcemia in adults.
A prolonged Vitamin D deficiency may result in rickets, an early childhood bone disease that can produce such conditions as bowlegs and knock-knees. Common early symptoms of rickets include restlessness, profuse sweating, poor muscle tone, delayed tooth formation, and impaired development of basic motor skills such as crawling and walking. Rickets is a relatively rare disease due to the modern practice off supplementing dairy foods, such as milk, with vitamin D-2.
Osteomalacia, the adult version of vitamin D deficiency disease, can resemble osteoporosis, a bone condition characterized by an increased tendency of the bones to fracture. One important difference between these two diseases is that osteomalacia is easily treated with vitamin D supplements.
Common food sources of vitamin-D include Fish liver oil, sardines, tuna, salmon, liver, and eggs. Vitamin D is also available in its supplement or food form, as vitamin D-2, called ergocalciferol, and as vitamin D-3, or cholecalciferol. Ultra violet rays acting directly upon the skin can synthesis vitamin D, so exposure to sunlight 2 to 4 times per week is usually an effective way to for assure adequate levels of Vitamin D. This process can be limited for those who live in high-smog areas, who wear sun blocking agents, or by those with naturally dark or tanned skin.
The current Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin-D is 400 iu, or international units per day. Common current supplemental doses of Vitamin D range from 400 to 1,000 iu per day, and are extremely safe at this level.
High levels of vitamin D can be toxic. Children begin to show toxic effects when dosages exceed 1,800 iu per day. Adults can show toxic effects with dosages ranging from 10,000 to 20,000 iu per day over extended periods. Symptoms of vitamin D toxicity can include weakness, loss of appetite, unusual thirst, nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure, and elevated calcium levels in the blood. Toxic effects are easily corrected by simply cutting back on the daily intake of vitamin-D. Prolonged exposure to sunlight, while unsafe for other reasons, cannot lead to vitamin D toxicity.
VITAMIN D AS AN ADJUVANT FOR CANCER TREATMENT: There is increasing evidence that vitamin D and its analogs help to prevent and treat several forms of cancer. In a study in the Feb 1994 issue of Research Communications in Chemical Pathology and Pharmacology, vitamin D-3 analogs were less toxic and more effective than fish oil derived vitamin D in normalizing malignant Iymphoma and leukemia cell lines. In the April 1, 1994 issue of Cancer Research, vitamin D analogs effectively prevented and treated breast cancer in rats, significantly enhancing the ability of tamoxifen to render the rats tumor free by the end of the experiment. In the Feb 1994 issue of Leukemia, vitamin D-3 significantly enhanced the effect of Bryostatin 5 in treating human leukemia cell lines. In the Feb. 1994 issue of Pathologie Biologie, vitamin D analogs were shown to be important in regulating the immune system by enhancing immune function against cancer cells and infectious agents, and by preventing autoimmune diseases such as lupus and diabetes.
In a study from The Netherlands in the Feb 1994 issue of Breast Cancer Research and Development, relatively low doses of vitamin D analogs combined with tamoxifen produced “potent inhibition of breast cancer cell proliferation…and indicated a benefit of combining these agents as a treatment for breast cancer.”
Some of these vitamin D analogs are available in Europe and are slowly being accepted by oncologists in the United States as effective adjuvants to conventional cancer therapy. The advantage of using vitamin D analogs is that they do not cause the body to absorb too much calcium, which is one of the toxic effects of ingesting too much vitamin D. For breast and prostate cancer patients, researchers often suggest adding about 3,000 IU of vitamin D-3 based upon the latest findings.
Vitamin E is composed of a group of eight compounds (four tocopherols and four tocotrienols) that were first discovered in the 1920s. Alpha tocopherol is the most potent and most commonly used form of this fat-soluble nutrient.
Vitamin E functions as a powerful antioxidant to protect human cells and fatty tissues from free radical damage. Free radicals are extremely dangerous and reactive oxygen compounds that are constantly being produced from a variety of natural sources such as radiation, air pollution, and the breakdown of proteins in the body. Left unchecked, free radicals course throughout the body, rupturing cell membranes, causing massive damage to skin and connective tissues, and damage cellular DNA which gives rise to various cancers and degenerative diseases. Free radical damage also accumulates in the brain, leading to age-related memory impairment.
Vitamin E, in combination with other antioxidants, works to quench free radicals and prevent oxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids that make up cell membranes. By neutralizing free radicals and stabilizing fatty cell membranes, vitamin E helps to prevent cancer, arthritis, immune disorders such as lupus, and premature aging. Working with vitamin A and beta carotene, vitamin E protects the lungs from air pollution. Vitamin E also protects the cells lining blood vessels walls from free radical damage, thus preventing atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. By protecting red blood cells from damage, vitamin E also prevents a special form of anemia called hemolytic anemia.
Vitamin E also plays an important role in the production of prostaglandins, vital hormone-like substances that regulate blood pressure, reproduction, and muscle contractions. By acting as a antithrombin agent vitamin E can help prevent heart attacks by controlling the formation of potentially fatal blood clots. Vitamin E is also used in the treatment of fibrocystic breasts and premenstrual syndrome, promotes healing while reducing scarring, and prevents the formation of cataracts in the eyes. Recently, researchers reported that men taking vitamin E supplements experience 34% few cases of prostate cancer, and 16% fewer cases of colorectal cancer.
A deficiency of Vitamin E can cause hemolytic anemia in infants, wherein red blood cells are destroyed. Adults rarely experience symptoms of vitamin E deficiency unless afflicted with fat malabsorption syndromes such as cystic fibrosis, sprue and celiac disease. Symptoms are easily treated with alleviated with vitamin E supplementation.
The male sex gland, the testis, is responsible for the production of sperm and the secretion of testosterone. Testosterone, the hormone responsible for sexual desire, is dependent on vitamin E to produce sperm and to provide strong masculine features. The female sex glands, the ovaries, produce estrogen and progesterone. For these hormones to function properly, they require adequate amounts of both vitamin E and niacin.
Two recent studies of vitamin E and its ability to significantly reduce the risk of heart failure clearly show that, at higher levels than can be obtained from vitamin-rich foods, vitamin E supplementation was found to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by as much as 33% to 50%. The impact of the antioxidant vitamin E on women and men was examined in a pair of studies presented at the annual scientific meeting of the American Heart Association in New Orleans.1
Over 87,000 female nurses between the ages of 34 and 59, who were free of coronary heart disease when the study began in 1980, were followed for 8 years. Of the 17% who took vitamin E supplements at the rate of 100 international units (IU) per day, clear benefit accrued in proportion to how long the regimen continued. In assessing the risks, those who took vitamin E for less than 2 years had a 36% reduction in coronary heart disease, and those who took it for more than 2 years had nearly a 50% reduction in cardiovascular disease.
In the study involving male healthcare workers (more than 45,000 were followed from a disease-free baseline established in 1986), vitamin E supplementation in excess of 100 IU for more than 2 years resulted in a 26% reduction in CHD. Meir Stampfer, MD, an investigator in both studies, was amazed by the results, even though he knew that there was a sound scientific basis for the antioxidant hypothesis. This mechanism holds that the “bad” LDL cholesterol is oxidized when not protected, which makes it rancid and thus susceptible to promoting the buildup of fatty lesions on the walls of arteries. Called atherosclerosis, this accumulation is responsible for diminished blood flow and, if allowed to continue, eventual heart attack. Vitamin E is thought to help prevent the oxidation that initiates this disease. 1. Weeks J Lewis Hl.. New studies suggest vitamin E reduces heart disease risk in men and women (abstracts 1847 1848).Amercan Heart Association News Release. November 17, 1992.
Recent studies suggest that as an active blood lipid antioxidant, vitamin E can go a long way toward reducing the risk of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerotic plaque, which congests arteries and contributes to heart attacks and strokes, is thought to be caused by LDL cholesterol altered through the process of free-radical auto-oxidation. The immune system’s macrophages gobble up the oxidized LDLs and expand to form unrecognizable “foam” cells which adhere to artery walls and initiate atherosclerotic plaque. One recent study conducted at the University of Texas demonstrated considerably reduced oxidative damage (over 50%) in the blood of men given 800 IU of vitamin E per day for 12 weeks. 1
An Austrian study of shorter duration found a similar effect when levels of vitamin E up to 1,200 IU were given.2 Additionally, the same study showed that the total level of antioxidants, rather than vitamin E alone, had a higher correspondence with the inhibitory effects. Other studies since published have continued to establish the free-radical auto-oxidation of LDL and heart-disease relationship.3,4
FOOTNOTES 1. Jialal 1, Crundy SM. Effect of dietary supplementation with alpha-tocopherol on the oxidative modification of low density lipoprotein. J Lipid Res. 1992;33:899-906. 2. Dieber-Rotheneder M, Puhl H, Waeg G, Striegl G, Esterbauer H. Effect of oral supplementation with D-alpha-tocopherol on the vitamin E content of human low density lipoproteins and resistance to oxidation. J Lipid Res. 1991;32:1325-1332. 3. Steinberg D. Antioxidants in the prevention of human atherosclerosis. Summary of the proceedings of a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Workshop: September 5-6, 1991, Bethesda, Maryland. Circulation. 1992;85:2337-2344 4. Regnstrom J, Nilsson J, Tornvall P, Landou C, Hamsten A. Susceptibility to low-density lipoprotein oxidation and coronary atherosclerosis in man. Lancet. 1992;339:1183-1186.)
VITAMIN E AND ACUTE PHASE RESPONSE: Vitamin E researchers Mohsen and Simin Nikbin Meydani, working at Tufts University’s Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, have shown that vitamin E may be able to reduce the damage to muscles caused by rigorous excercise. (1, 2) Certain athletes and especially long-distance runners have the need to inhibit and limit the kind of muscle damage that would cause them to fall and (perhaps) not to rise to the occasion of their next sporting event. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 21 males, representing two ranges of age (22-29 and 55-74 yr), took 800 IU/day of vitamin E supplements and, for 48 days, ran downhill on an inclined treadmill to accentuate damaging eccentric muscular contractions .
It had been thought that several host defense responses and metabolic reactions that occur during infection also occur after exercise. These reactions, known as the “acute phase response,” contribute to the breakdown and clearance of damaged tissue after exercise. When the subjects were monitored and examined for 12 days, the deleterious effects of exercise related changes were reduced in those taking vitamin E and the age-related differences were eliminated by increasing the response mechanisms of the older group.
1. Cannon JG, Orencole S et al. ATn J Physiol Dec 1990, 259 (6 Pt 2),pR1214-9. 2. 2. Cannon JG, Meydani SN, et a!. Am J Physl Jun 1991, i60 (6 Pt 2), pR1235-40)
The Daily Recommended Intake for vitamin E is 30 iu or international units, though commonly, daily doses range from 200 to 1200 iu.
Foods high in vitamin E include wheat germ, whole grains, cold-pressed vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts and whole wheat. Vitamin E supplements are available in both dry form and oil capsules. Vitamin E is also available in the natural or D-alpha-tocopherol form, and as a synthetic or DL-alpha-tocopherol form.
Vitamin K, also called Menadione, is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that is required for the regulation of normal blood clotting functions. Dietary vitamin K is found primarily in the form of dark leafy vegetables, but most of our needs for this micronutrient are met by microorganisms that synthesize vitamin k in our intestinal tract. Vitamin K’s main function is in the synthesize of prothrombin, a protein vital for blood clotting. Vitamin K also aids in converting glucose into glycogen for storage in the liver, and may also play a role in forming bone formation and preventing osteoporosis. Cancer researchers are also looking into vitamin K’s potential to inhibit development of cancers of the breast, ovary, kidney, colon, stomach, bladder, and liver.
Vitamin K deficiency is rare except in the case of newborn infants. Most vitamin K is synthesized by microorganisms in our intestines. It can take several weeks for this bacteria to get established in newborns, so injections are generally given to the newborns immediately after birth. Vitamin K is often included in prenatal supplements for expecting mothers.
Vitamin K deficiency, though relatively uncommon in adults, can result in impaired blood clotting and internal bleeding. A deficiency of vitamin K can be caused by chronic use of antibiotics which can inhibit the growth of the intestinal microorganisms required for the synthesis of vitamin K. Serious liver disorders can also inhibit vitamin K’s function in the production of prothrombin, and any condition or syndrome that inhibits the digestion and absorption of fats in the intestines can also lead to deficiency symptoms.
The 1989 RDAs for vitamin K is 5 micrograms for newborn babies, and between 65 and 80 micrograms for adults. Vitamin K supplements are only available by prescription due to the danger of toxicity. Foods high in natural Vitamin K include alfalfa, broccoli, dark green leafy vegetables, and soybeans, blackstrap molasses, egg yolks, oats, liver, cheese, and wheat.
Minerals can be broken down into two basic groups: bulk, or macro, minerals, and trace, or micro, minerals. The macro minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, sodium (salt) potassium and phosphorus are needed in fairly substantial amounts for proper health. By comparison, the trace minerals are needed in far smaller quantities and include substances such as zinc, iron, copper, manganese, chromium, selenium, and iodine.
Boron is an important trace mineral required for the proper absorption and utilization of calcium for healthy bones. Boron has recently been in the headlines due to studies indicating that it may help women prevent postmenopausal osteoporosis, or loss of bone mass.
A recent study of postmenopausal women, aged 48 to 82, showed that those taking daily supplements of 3 mg. boron retained higher levels of dietary calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. This study offers hope that boron supplementation can aid in preventing calcium loss and bone demineralization in postmenopausal women.
Researchers have also found that boron significantly increase production of estrogen and testosterone, leading to interest in boron use in the athletic community, especially among body-builders looking to safely promote muscle growth.
Boron is found in leafy vegetables, nuts, grains, apples, raisins, and grapes. Boron supplements are available in 3 mg. capsules, which is the dosage generally recommended.
Calcium is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body, accounting for between 2 to 3 pounds of total body mass. Adequate dietary sources of calcium are necessary throughout life for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth and regulating muscle growth. In conjunction with magnesium, calcium also plays a vital role in regulating electrical impulses in the central nervous system and activating hormones and enzymes required for digestion and metabolism. Calcium is also necessary for healthy blood pressure and blood clotting.
Inadequate intake of calcium can aggravate hypertension, and calcium supplements are known to lower blood pressure in some cases. There is also strong evidence that calcium plays a role in colon cancer, and those with low intake of calcium and vitamin D are more prone to this disease. Inadequate calcium levels can also result in tetany, a condition that commonly results in leg cramps and muscular spasms.
Inadequate intake of this mineral can also result in osteoporosis, a bone disorder caused by loss of calcium in the bones. Osteoporosis results in brittle, porous bones which can be easily fractured or broken. Contrary to popular belief, bones are very much alive, and are constantly losing and replacing calcium. Inadequate intake can result in a slow and dangerous loss of this mineral, leading to osteoporosis.
Half of America’s adults are not getting enough calcium according to a panel of experts assembled by the National Institutes Of Health (NIH). The federal committee estimates that calcium deficiencies, resulting in brittle bones and fractures, are costing the health care system $10 billion a year. The report said the recommended daily allowance for calcium was too low, leading to weakened bones for children, adults and, especially, elderly women. “Calcium is an essential nutrient for developing and maintaining strong bones,” the committee said. Without proper levels of calcium, children enter adulthood with a weakened skeleton, increasing their risk later for osteoporosis. Inadequate calcium intake in later years further aggravates the problem.
New studies show that recommended levels of calcium now carried on most food labels are far below what nature requires for strong bones. “Recent nutrition surveys have shown that the average diet of Americans has a calcium intake considerably below the recommended daily allowance.” according to Dr. John Bilezikian, professor of medicine at Columbia University and chairman of the committee.
The Dr. Bilezikian also emphasized the importance of getting the recommended levels of vitamin D, which is important for proper calcium absorption. Half of the recommended vitamin D dose of 400 international units (iu) are contained in two cups of milk, and the rest can be manufactured by the body with just a few minutes exposure to sunlight.
Calcium absorption takes place in the small intestines, and requires adequate amounts of vitamin D. The current Recommended Daily Allowance of calcium is 800 mg. for adults, 1,200 mg. for premenopausal women, and 1,500 mg for postmenopausal women unless taking estrogen. Those with kidney disorders should not take calcium supplements unless directed to do so by a health care professional.
Good dietary sources of calcium include all dairy foods, green leafy vegetables, and seafood . Absorption of dietary calcium can be drastically reduced by consuming large amounts of foods such as cocoa, spinach, kale, rhubarb, almonds, and whole wheat products which are high in oxalic acid, and are known to interfere with calcium absorption. Taking antibiotics such as tetracycline, or aluminum-containing antacids can also result in lower absorption of calcium. Alcohol, sugar, and coffee can also effect the body’s levels of this mineral.
Chromium is an essential mineral required for optimal health. Adequate levels of chromium are required by the body to produce enzymes, proteins, fats, and cholesterol. Chromium is also a vital component of GTF, or glucose tolerance factor. Glucose tolerance factor works in concert with insulin to stabilize blood sugar levels and to support the metabolism of glucose in cells.
Currently the average American diet is low chromium. Scientists estimate that 90% of all Americans don’t get enough chromium from their diet, and that over 60% are hypogylcemin or diabetic. Chromium levels can also depleted by consuming high amounts of sugar or engaging in strenuous exercise.
A key indicator of coronary artery disease is dangerously low levels of chromium in blood plasma. Inadequate intake of chromium can impair the production of GTF, limiting insulin activity. This results in high blood sugar levels, glucose intolerance, and can lead to symptoms similar to adult-onset diabetes.
Conversely, low chromium intake can also result in hypoglycemia, a condition marked by higher than normal insulin levels and dropping blood sugar after consuming carbohydrates. In both cases, supplemental chromium can improve symptoms in most people.
Good dietary sources of chromium include: brewers yeast, whole grain breads and cereals, molasses, brown rice, cheese, and lean meats. Studies indicate the for optimal benefits adults should take between 200 to 400 micrograms per day, and up to 600 micrograms if engaged in strenuous exercise programs. Chromium supplements are available, usually in 100 to 200 microgram capsules either as niacin-bound chromium or chromium picolinate. Chromium works best if taken before meals to help stabilize blood sugar levels and increase energy output.
Blood sugar levels play a significant role in the storage and metabolism of fat. Chromium is an essential nutrient which plays an important role in the proper regulation of blood sugar in the body. Sex hormones are made from cholesterol. Cholesterol is dependent on chromium for its correct synthesis. Since chromium body stores decrease with age, it is important to replace chromium on a daily basis. In males, the organ most affected by chromium reduction due to aging are the testes.
For men who exercise or whose job entails physical exertion, the Journal of Applied Physiology reports that chromium losses are twice as high on a workout day versus a non-workout day, and increase five-fold by a six-mile run. They also demonstrated that “strenuous exercise produces increased urinary loss of chromium in trained athletes.”
Copper is an essential trace mineral involved in a wide range of vital human bodily functions. Copper is a major component of hemoglobin, the protein resposible for oxygen transport in blood cells. Copper, along with vitimin C, forms elastin, a protein required to keep skin, blood vessels, and lungs supple and elastic.
As an antioxidant, copper plays a strong dual role. First as a central component of both the superoxide dismutase molecule, which protects us from cellular free-radical damage. Secondly, copper helps form the protein ceruloplasmin, which protects us against free-radical damage caused by iron. Copper is also required by the central nervous system as a component in the production of noradrenaline, the brain’s version of adrenaline and the neurotransmitter that keeps us alert. Copper is also involved in the production of prostaglandins, hormonelike chemicals that regulate blood pressure, pulse, and healing.
Current research is looking into deeper aspects of the role copper plays in human health, from protecting against cancer and heart disese, to boosting the immune system.
Copper deficiency is generally evidenced as anemia, edema, and arthritis. Menkes syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects proper copper absorption, resulting in stunted growth, abnormal skin pigmentation, arrested development of the arteries and bones, and mental deterioration.
Wilson’s disease is an inherited genetic disorder characterized by the body’s inability to properly excrete copper, leading to accumulation of copper in the tissues which can cause liver disease and mental retardation. Persons with Wilsons disease should not consume copper-containing supplements.
Though there is no established RDA, the National Research Council recommends 1.5 to 3 mg of copper per day for adults to avoid copper deficiency. There are few toxic effects from copper, though people with ulcerative colitis may tend to accumulate copper, aggravating the disorder. Daily intake over 20 milligrams of copper can cause vomiting. Some recommend that persons taking zinc supplements should increase copper intake to a 10 to one ratio (for instance for every 10 milligrams of zinc, take 1 milligram of copper).
Copper can be found in dried beans, almonds, broccoli, garlic, soybeans, peas, whole wheat products, and seafood.
Flouride is a naturally occurring element found in the soil, water, plants, and animals. Sodium flouride is regularly added to drinking water supplies, usually as 1 part per million parts of water, for its proven ability to reduce the formation of dental cavities by up to 70%. Flouride , along with adequate levels of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin D is required to maintain strong bones and teeth.
When dietary levels of flouride are inadequate , bones can loss calcium and weaken, leading to a condition known as osteoporosis. Currently researchers are looking into the role of flouride in preventing osteoporosis, protecting against cancer and heart disease, and boosting the immune system. Patients have been found to excrete decreased levels of calcium, stronger bones, and reduced symptoms of osteoporosis, though there is concern of a increased tendency for form hairline fractures.
Flouride is not generally available as a supplement, though tablets are sometimes used in areas where the water is not flouridated. Good natural sources of include drinking water, seafood, and teas.
There is no current RDA for flouride, but estimates are that most people get from 1 to 2 mg. per day from food sources, and .2 to .6 mg per day from drinking flouridated water. Too much flouride can lead to discoloration and pitting of teeth. In amounts above 20 milligrams per day flouride can be toxic. The amount of this mineral found in water supplies poses no health risk, and carries benefits in the form of reduced incidence of tooth decay and gum disease.
Organic germanium is the common name for the chemical biscarboxyethyl germanium sesquioxide (also called organo germanium, germanium-132 or Ge-132.) Organic germanium has recently sparked interest following the publication of numerous papers on its therapeutic effects.
Less than fifty years ago many essential minerals were believed to be irrelevant to human health, including zinc, manganese, and chromium. Today scientists recognize that all three are vitally important to proper metabolic functioning and health. Now researchers are devoting their attention to a number of ultra-trace minerals, including cobalt, silicon, gold, and germanium.
Originally discovered in 1886, germanium received little attention until the electron-transfer properties of inorganic germanium lead to its use in the creation of the first semiconductor transistor 1948. Shortly thereafter, a Japanese engineer, Dr. Kuzihiko Asai, discovered that coal deposits, the fossilized remains of plants, contained large amounts of germanium. Since very little germanium occurs in the earths crust, averaging only about 7 parts per million, until Dr. Asai’s research scientists hadn’t suspected that plants contained germanium.
Dr. Asai recognized the potential benefits of organic germanium in human health when he discovered that medicinal plants such as ginseng, shiitake mushrooms, aloe vera, comfrey, garlic, and chlorella contained very high natural concentrations of this rare mineral, leading to speculation that germanium accounted for much of their therapeutic activity.
Dr. Asai experimented with organic germanium, in doses ranging from 100-300 mg. of a day, and found them to be effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis, food allergies, elevated cholesterol levels, Candida albicans, chronic viral infections, and cancer. Germanium also evidenced impressive activity in helping to control pain.
Organic vs. Inorganic Germanium: It must be stressed that organic germanium is not to be confused with inorganic germanium, which is used as a semi-conductor to conduct electricity efficiently, and is highly toxic in even minute concentrations. By comparison, organic germanium has been thoroughly studied in extensive toxicological (acute, sub-acute, chronic, and reproductive) and pharmacological studies and has been found to be virtually non-toxic.
Activity and Function: Germanium seems to function by attaching itself to oxygen to improve cellular oxygenation. The body requires more oxygen to support the immune system and to help the body excrete toxins. Other researcher has supported germaniums’ role in helping to increasing oxygenation of tissues, and further medically supervised studies of germanium are in progress in American and Japanese institutions. Under medical supervision numerous patients with a broad range of symptoms have been treated with germanium at doses from 500 to 1000 mg. per day.
The Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine also reported that germanium was found to be a dramatic immunostimulant capable of raising immune functions and maintaining them within optimal ranges. Germanium has also been shown to possesses antiviral activity, and is able to activate macrophages and natural killer cells. Evidence also suggests that organic germanium increases interferon production, making it an immuno-stimulant.
In one study of healthy, arthritic, or cancer subjects, organic germanium normalized T and B Iymphocyte function while stimulating natural killer (NK) cell activity. These and other results closely correlate with interferon production (i.e. proliferation of antibody-generating cells, etc.). These findings in humans are similar to the observed increases in both numbers and activity of macrophages, neutrophils, and lymphocytes seen in laboratory animals receiving organic germanium.
Cancer: Twelve in vivo and in vitro animal carcinogenicity studies of organic germanium have been reported in the scientific literature. In none of these studies was any evidence of organic germanium’s carcinogenicity reported. Most striking were the consistent findings reporting that organic germanium arrested the growth of experimentally induced cancers, including leukemia, sarcomas, Iymphomas, and adenocarcinomas.
Besides enhancing the survival time of these animals, organic germanium also retarded metastatic spreading of their cancers. This suggests that organic germanium may be a new anticancer agent in humans. Researchers in Japan have begun double-blind placebo (phase lll) studies of organic germanium’s effectiveness against certain cancers.
Further support for organic germanium’s safety comes from the finding that it has no direct cytotoxic effect on cancer cells in vitro, thereby preventing surrounding noncancerous tissue from damage. It also further supports the prevailing theory that organic germanium works as an anticancer agent by stimulating the host’s natural anticancer defense system.
Heart Disease: Animal experiments suggest a role for organic germanium in hypertension and heart disease. However, unlike the numerous cancer studies, supportive findings are limited. One study gave organic germanium to rats with induced hypertension, and their blood pressure levels dropped to normal. Of particular interest was the failure of organic germanium to force the blood pressure to drop too low. Unlike so many anti-hypertensive drugs, organic germanium administration restored blood pressure to normal levels only. This may give organic germanium considerable advantage over many other anti-hypertensive drugs if similar results are reported following both human clinical and experimental trials.
Toxicology – Pharmacology: Multi-dimensional behavioral observation by Irwin’s method of mice given organic germanium intraperitoneally showed no abnormalities. A careful review of the published literature, including Japanese citations, found organic germanium virtually free of any side effects with the exception of occasional complaints in postsurgical and other patients receiving high therapeutic doses who complained of loose stools. However, these complaints subsided after discontinuation of organic germanium. Anecdotal reports of adverse effects in a single diabetic could not be substantiated through published sources. Animal studies have found no influence of organic germanium on respiration, blood pressure, or electrocardiogram (ECG).
Pharmacokinetic (absorption, excretion, distribution, and metabolism) studies of organic germanium have found it to rapidly disappear in both blood, tissues and organs after oral administration to laboratory animals. These studies also show that organic germanium is almost totally excreted within 1 to 1.5 days after administration. This suggests no accumulation occurring in the body if taken in recommended daily doses.
A review of the literature found no reports of allergic reactions to organic germanium. However, it is always possible that such a reaction can occur in susceptible persons, suggesting that administration of organic germanium should be monitored.
There is no recommended dosage for germanium. Food tolerance has been improved with doses as low as 100-200 mg., while candida-associated symptoms have been known to respond to less than 100 mg. per day. Germanium is safe and is totally secreted intact from the body within 48 hours.
Elemental Iodine is found in varying amounts in the earths crust and soils, and, in larger amounts, in the oceans. Iodine, as iodide or iodate salts, is therefore especially concentrated in sea foods, both plant and animal. Human nutritional needs of iodine are minisclue, requiring only trace amounts for metabolizing fats, producing energy, and supporting thyroid function. 60% of consumed iodine is stored in the thyroid gland and used for manufacturing thyroid hormones. These hormones, in turn, regulate metabolism, energy, and the oxidizing (burning) of fats.
Among reported claims for the use of iodine are to relieve pain associated with fibrocystic breast Too little Iodine can result in hypothyroidism weight gain, lack of energy, and reduced mental focus.
Since 1983, researchers have warned us to avoid supplements that contain iron. This recommendation is based upon hundreds of studies showing that iron may be a primary cause of free radical induced degenerative disease. In a study in the March 29,1994 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Japanese researchers found that iron caused tubular necrosis (kidney damage), leading to a high incidence of renal adenocarcinoma (kidney cancer). This is not an isolated study, just another of the multitude of studies showing that iron is a cause of the diseases that kill us.
The FDA requires that food companies fortify many products with iron, which causes most Americans to get too much iron from their diet. A brief excerpt from a Wall Street Journal article shows just how easy it is to get too much iron in your diet, which reinforces the need to avoid iron in your supplements.
What Are Iron Filings Doing in My Bowl Of Total Cereal?
At one popular table, a boy uses a magnet to attract tiny iron particles from crushed Total cereal. “Yuck!” he says, horrified at what looks like iron filings collected at the end of his magnet. “We eat that?” The boy’s father seems equally fascinated. General Mills Inc., which makes Total, isn’t at all astonished. Yes, indeed, a spokeswoman says proudly, “Total provides~ 100% of your iron needs for a day.” It’s a food safe iron, she hastens to point out. Wall Street Journal-May 17,1994
Magnesium is a mineral that is required for the proper growth and formation of human bones, muscle tissues, and enzymes. It is used to convert carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into energy. It is involved in the transmission of nervous system impulses, assist in the uptake of calcium and potassium. Higher intake of magnesium has also been linked to lung function, according to a study published recently in England. Researchers found that adults consuming an average of 380 milligrams of magnesium per day exhibited increased lung function, and benefits were consistent regardless of whether or not the subjects smoked.
The body’s relative balance of magnesium and calcium has a profound impact on health as these two minerals must work smoothly together to insure proper muscle control. Calcium is involved in stimulating muscle contraction, and magnesium is required to allow the muscles to relax. Both an excess intake of calcium or a magnesium deficiency can result in poor muscle coordination, irritability and nervousness. Magnesium also helps to prevent depression, muscle weakness and twitching, heart disorders, and high blood pressure.
In the U.S. the Recommended Daily Allowance for magnesium is 400 mg. per day. Foods high in magnesium include fish, dairy products, lean meat, whole grains, seeds, and vegetables. Consumption of large amounts of zinc and vitamin D increase the body’s requirement for magnesium as does alcohol, fats, proteins, and diuretics. The body’s uptake of magnesium can also be inhibited by consuming foods high in oxalic acid, such as spinach, cocoa and tea.
Manganese is a mineral that is required in small amounts to manufacture enzymes necessary for the metabolism of proteins and fats. It also supports the immune system, regulates blood sugar levels, and is involved in the production of cellular energy, reproduction, and bone growth. Manganese works with vitamin K to support blood clotting, aids in digestion, and as antioxidant, is a vital component of Sodium Oxide Dismutase, a large molecule that is the body’s main front-line defense against damaging free-radicals. Working with the B-complex vitamins, manganese help control the effects of stress while contributing to ones sense of well being.
deficiency in intake of manganese can retard growth, cause seizures, lead to poor bone formation, impair fertility, and cause birth defects. Researchers are also looking at new links between manganese deficiency and skin cancers.
While there is no RDA for manganese, the average intake of manganese is between 2 to 9 milligrams per day. Foods high in manganese include avocados, blueberries, nuts and seeds, seaweed, egg yolks, whole grains, legumes, dried peas, and green leafy vegetables.
Molybdenum is an essential mineral found in highest concentrations in the liver, kidneys, skin, and bones. This mineral is required by the body to properly metabolize nitrogen. It is also a vital component of the enzyme xanthine oxidase which is required to convert purines to uric acid, a normal byproduct of metabolism. Molybdenum also supports the bodys’ storage of iron and other cellular functions such as growth.
A deficiency of molybdenum is associated with mouth and gum disorders and cancer. A diet high in refined and processed foods can lead to a deficiency of molybdenum, resulting in anemia, loss of appetite and weight, and stunted growth in animals. While these deficiencies have not been observed directly in humans, it is known that a molybdenum deficiency can lead to impotence in older males.
While there is no strict Daily Recommended Intake for molybdenum, the estimated safe range for intake of this essential mineral range from 15 micrograms per day for infants, and up to 250 micrograms per day for adults. It has been estimated that most Americans receive between 25 and 500 micrograms per day from normal diet. Daily intake of over 10 to 15 milligrams daily may produce goutlike symptoms such as swollen, painful joints, and can interfere with the body’s ability to metabolize copper.
Good dietary sources of molybdenum include lean meats, beans, whole grain cereals and breads, legumes, peas, and dark green leafy vegetables.
Phosphorus is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body, second only to calcium. This essential mineral is required for the healthy formation of bones and teeth, and is necessary for the metabolism of fats, protein, and carbohydrates. It is also a part of the body’s energy storage system, and helps with maintaining health blood sugar levels. The regular contractions of the heart are dependant upon phosphorus as are normal cellular growth and repair.
The human body must maintain a balance between magnesium phosphorus, and calcium. Excess intake of phosphorus can occur in people with diets high in processed foods, soft drinks, and meats, leading to osteoporosis. Since phosphorus is found in almost all plant and animal food sources, a deficiency of this mineral is rarely seen, and only in cases where antacids or anticonvulsant drugs are consumed in excessive amounts over extended periods of time.
The Recommended Dietary Allowances for phosphorus is 300 milligrams for infants, and between 800 and 1,200 milligrams for adults. It is estimated that Americans ingest on average between 1,500 and 1,600 milligrams of phosphorus per day, almost twice the recommended amount.
Foods highest in phosphorus include asparagus, brewers yeast, dairy products, eggs, fish, dried fruit, meats, garlic, legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grains.
Potassium is an important mineral that plays a vital role in the transmission of electrical impulses through the central nervous system, and in regulating the smooth, natural rhythms of the beating heart. It mediates important cellular chemical reactions required for nutrients to pass into cells, and it helps to maintain the body’s water balance. Potassium also helps regulate stable blood pressure levels and may help in the prevention of strokes. Persons with higher intake of potassium evidence fewer cases of hypertension, and when potassium-rich foods are consumed, blood pressure rates drop.
Diurectics and laxatives can lead to a deficiency of potassium, resulting in retarded growth and development, muscle weakness, heart and kidney damage, mental confusion, and apathy. Potassium deficiency can also be the result of excess vomiting, chronic diarrhea, diabetic acidosis, and kidney disease. Extreme cases of deficiency can lead to dehydration, heart failure and even death.
The minimum daily requirement for potassium ranges from 120 milligrams for a baby, and up to 500 milligrams for an adult. In the United States, the average adult intake of potassium is approximately 1200 milligrams per day.
Persons on low-calorie diets may develop abnormal levels of blood sugar which may be helped by taking potassium supplements. Foods high in potassium include dairy products, fish, apricots, avocados, bananas, blackstrap molasses, brewers yeast, brown rice, raisins, potatoes, legumes, meat, poultry, vegetables and whole grains.
Selenium is an essential mineral that possess strong antioxidant properties. It’s primary role in the human body is as a component of glutathione peroxidase, an antioxidant enzyme that protects blood cells from the ravages of highly reactive free-radicals. Working synergistically with vitamin E, selenium aids in the production of antibodies, and in protecting the immune system. Selenium is required to maintain tissue elasticity, and to support the healthy functioning of the pancreas and the heart. Children suffering from Keshan’s disease, a rare heart disorder, respond well to selenium supplements, as may many adults suffering from a common form of heart disease called cardiomyopathy.
A deficiency of this vital trace element has been linked to the development of leukemia, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibrocystic breast disease. Researchers have also found that the lower the concentration of selenium in the blood stream, the higher the risk of developing cancers of the breast, lungs, ovaries, pancreas, cervix, uterus, colon and rectum. Children with Down’s Syndrome also evidence lower serum levels of selenium which is thought to result in increased free radical damage to the nerves.
The Recommended Daily Intake of selenium is 10 micrograms for infants, 70 micrograms for adults, and 75 micrograms for lactating women. Foods high in selenium include meats, seafood, brewers yeast, broccoli, grains, chicken, garlic and onions. Selenium can be toxic in amounts as little as 750 micrograms per day, causing the loss of teeth and hair, painful swelling of the fingers, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting.
SELENIUM RESEARCH UPDATE: Consumers often receive less selenium in their supplements than they think they are getting. Two hundred mcg of sodium selenate only provides about 96 mg of elemental selenium. Selenium can be toxic, but only in very high doses. Many people underdose on selenium because of unfounded fears of toxicity. In a review of the scientific literature, selenium is one of the most well documented disease preventing nutrients.
In an Italian study in the Mar. 1994 issue of Biological Trace Element Research, it was shown that when high levels of selenium were present in the drinking water there was only 1 death from coronary artery disease in males and 2 in females among 4,419 subjects studied. When selenium levels in the drinking water were reduced seven-fold, however, the death rates from coronary artery disease increased to 21 in males and 10 in females over a similar time period! The authors of the study concluded that their results are consistent with the hypothesis that selenium exerts a beneficial effect on coronary disease mortality. In a study in the April 1994 issue of Carcinogenesis, selenium and garlic produced significant anticancer activity that was superior to sodium selenite alone.
Silicon is a common mineral required, along with calcium, for the development and maintenance of strong bones. Silicon also plays an important role in the formation of collagen and connective tissues, as well as the hair, skin and nails.
The relationship between silicon and heart disease is not clear at this point. Researchers know that silicon is required for maintaining flexible arteries, but they have also noticed that persons with atherosclerosis have high serum levels of this mineral. It is well known that silicon reduces the effect of aluminum, and that it plays a role in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis.
Generally the American diet is abundant in silicon and deficiencies are extremely rare. Foods rich in silicon include whole grain breads and cereals, alfalfa, beets, bell peppers, beans, and peas.
Sodium is a vital though often over consummed mineral found throughout the body, usually in the form of sodium chloride or table salt. In liquied solution along with the minerals potassium and chloride, it forms part of the blood, lymph and intracellular fluids that bath and feed all human cells. Together these nutrients maintaining the body’s proper water balance and blood chemistry. Sodium is also required for digestion, muscular functions, and smooth functioning of the nervous system.
The human body maintains strict control of the concentration of sodium within a very narrow range. When sodium levels become elevated, as in the case of eating a salty meal, the body’s first response is to stimulate thirst. This leads to the increased consumption of water, which then dilutes the sodium levels back to normal, allowing the kidneys to excrete the excess. Edema, or water retention, is often caused by a lack of adequate intake of water, forcing the cells of the body to retain excess water to keep sodium levels in check. Conversely, consuming too much water can lead to extremely low concentrations of this mineral, resulting in headaches, mental confusion, and general weakness.
Due to the high levels of sodium in natural and processed foods, a deficiency of sodium is rare, and is usually caused by excessive fasting, starvation, or loss of fluids due to perspiration, vomiting, or diarrhea. Deficiency symptoms include dehydration, weakness, lethargy, low blood sugar, muscle tremors, heart palpitations, and mental confusion.
Of greater concern are the dangers of consuming too much sodium, which can cause high blood pressure, edema, liver disease, kidney disease, and potassium deficiency. The estimated minimum requirement for sodium is between 200 and 500 milligrams per day. Researchers estimate that the average American consumes between 2,300 to 20,000 milligrams per day, depending upon personal tastes and habit. Scientists now recommend that sodium intake be regulated to no more that 2,000 milligrams, or the equivalent of a teaspoon, per day from all sources.
Sulfur is an important nutrient that forms an intergal part of virtually all human tissues, and especially those highest in protein, such as red blood cells, muscles, skin and hair. While trace amounts come directly from foods we eat, most of the sulfur in our body is in the form of four sulfur-bound non-essential amino acids, taurine, methionine, cystine, and cystine. Sulfur is also an important component of insuline, vitamin B1, and biotin.
Sulfur protects our cells from the damaging effects of radiation and air pollution, thereby slowing down the cellular aging process. It also aids in the conversion of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins into energy, and as a component of collagen, helps to keep skin cells supple and elastic. Sulfur is also required for the digestion of fats, activates enzymes, and helps regulate blood clotting.
There is no recommended daily intake for sulfur, and deficiencies are extremely rare due to the abundance of this nutrient in the diet. Toxic effects are nonexistent due to the body’s ability to excrete excess sulfur in the urine. Foods particularly high in sulfur include meat and poultry, fish, eggs, beans and peas, Brussels sprouts, onions, cabbage, garlic, wheat germ, and dairy products.
Vanadium is a non-essential mineral that plays a role in the formation of bones and teeth, and in the regulation of cellular metabolism It is also involved in the production of hormones, in cholesterol metabolism, and in normal growth and reproduction. Scientists suspect that a deficiency of this mineral may play a role in kidney and heart disease. Recent studies have also indicated that vanadium may slow the growth of tumors and confer protection against the development of breast cancer, but more research is needed to determine its full role in human health.
There is no recommended daily intake for vanadium, though it is estimated that most people consume between 2 and 4 milligrams per day from a normal diet. While not easily absorbed by humans, vanadium is found in foods such as olives, whole grain breads, liver, root vegetables, fish, and vegetable oils.
Zinc is an essential mineral involved in anumber of enzymatic reactions, ranging from protein and collagen synthesis to cellular energy production. This vital metal also supports immune function by regulating the production of T cells by the thymus glands. Adequate amounts of this nutrient metal are also required for manufacturing Sodium Oxide Dismutase (SOD), a large antioxidant enzyme that serves as the main line of defense against free radical damage. Zinc also helps in protect the liver and promotes the rapid healing of wounds. Because it’s involved in the production of prostaglandins — special hormone-like substances that regulate the reproductive functions — zinc also plays an important role in maintaining healthy prostate function.
After about age 40, the thymus gland begins to shrink and blood serum levels of zinc begin to slide, falling by about 3 percent every 10 years thereafter. This decline is mirrored in the thymus glands declining output of thymulin, the hormone responsible for stimulating the production of immune-system T cells, the killer cells responsible for keeping tumors in check and protecting us from infections. By age 65 the thymus gland shrinks so much that it can only release about10 percent of the thymulin it did in our youth, greatly impairing our ability to stave of diseases.
Recently researchers gave zinc supplements to animals and found that the thymus gland returned to 80 of normal size, and most importantly, thymulin output and T cell counts returned to youthful levels. Human studies soon followed, with similar results. Persons aged 65 and older, taking 15 milligrams of zinc per day soon evidenced the same restoration of youthful levels of thymulin and T cell activity. Similar studies with Downs Syndrome patients who are very prone to infections showed similar results, cutting the number of new infections by over 50 percent after treatment with zinc supplements.
A study conducted at Dartmouth college has reported that college students where able to recover from colds in half the normal time when given zinc lozenges. Those taking the zinc recovered from their symptoms in 4 days, while those students taking a placebo took over 9 days to fully recover from the illness. Carl C. Pfeiffer, MD, PhD, thought the whole human population was borderline deficient in the mineral zinc, which could account for our sensitivity to the common cold. Now, a new study shows that the common cold can be shortened significantly when ample zinc gluconate is made available.
While in vitro studies have long shown that zinc inhibits the common cold rhino-viruses, the experimental data has been mixed when the zinc studies have used throat lozenges. Scientists have now identified a flaw in the studies that used hard-candy zinc lozenges containing citric acid. It seems the low pH produced by the acidic formulation inhibited zinc delivery. 3
Building on this knowledge, the new study, conducted at Dartmouth College, found that college students given non-acidic throat lozenges one day into their cold had colds that were more than 50% shorter. For those students taking look-alike, taste-alike placebo candies, colds lasted 9.2 days on average versus 4.3 days for those taking zinc.
1. Pfeiffer, Carl C. Mental and elemental nutrients. Keats Publishing, Inc. New Canaan, CT. 1975. 2. Godfrey JC et al. “Zinc gluconate and the common cold: a controlled clinical study.” JInt Med Rs. 1992;20:234-246. 3. Zarembo JE, Godfrey JC, Godfrey NJ. “Zinc (11) in saliva: determination of concentrations produced by different formulations of zinc gluconate lozenges containing common excipients.” J Pharm Sci. 1992;81(2):128-130.
Zinc serum levels can be reduced by diarrhea, kidney disease, cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes and overconsumption of fiber. The adult recommended daily intake for zInc is 15 mg. per day. Daily dosages above 150 milligrams may actually depress the immune system and increase susecptability to disease. Continued intake of 25 milligrams per day can also interfere with the body’s absorption of copper.
Foods highest in zinc include fish, legumes, meats, oysters, poultry, seafood, whole grains, egg yolks and brewers yeast.
Herbs have been the source of many of mankind’s most basic medicinal therapies, and form the foundation of the modern pharmaceutical industry.
Alfalfa is a plant commonly cultivated by farmers around the world for use as an animal feedstock. Known by its latin name, Medicago sativa, alfalfa is also a popular herb belonging to the legume family, closely related to beans and peas. Called the great healer by legions of natural herbalists, the health benefits attributed to alfalfa are broad, with attributes ranging from the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis to the ability to cure stomach disorders; from stimulating the appetite to being an effective curative for diabetes.
Alfalfa is also promoted as a detoxifier, able to cleanse the liver and bloodstream. Claims link alfalfa with enhanced pituitary functions, as well as treating high fevers, inflamed prostate, and alleviating allergic reactions related to plants and grasses.
While there are few if any valid scientific studies supporting these claims, alfalfa is generally recognized as a healthy and nutritious source of chlorophyll, beta carotene, calcium, and the vitamins D, E and K. Alfalfa leaves and sprouts are consumed around the world, and alfalfa tea is widely touted as a health tonic. Alfalfa in tablet and capsule forms are available at most health food stores.
Pertaining to the claims for alfalfas curative powers, researchers have found that the alfalfa root, a part of the plant not generally used, contains saponins, a family of chemicals that have been shown to lower cholesterol levels in monkeys. To date this research has not been repeated with human subjects. Other studies have found that alfalfa can inhibit the growth of some viruses such as herpes simplex, supporting the claims for its antibacterial and antiviral activity. This ability seems to be associated with a non-protein amino acid called L-canaverine, which is found in alfalfa leaves and roots. L-canaverine has also been shown to be effective in controlling leukemia and cancer cells in animal studies, again possibly accounting for some of alfalfa’s health claims.
Generally recognized as a safe, if somewhat undocumented health supplement, researchers have raised some specific health concerns relating to the excessive consumption of alfalfa or alfalfa containing products. Studies have noted an link between consumption of high doses of alfalfa with the onset or aggravation of existing Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), a disease affecting connective tissues. The likely culprit is the previously mentioned amino acid L-canavanine. Since one may be predisposed to Lupus and not be aware of it, it would be prudent to limit one’s intake of alfalfa products. Those diagnosed with Lupus should avoid alfalfa products entirely.
Aloe vera is an exceptional healing plant with an extensive history of use covering 18 centuries. World-wide there exist hundreds of species of this succulent, yucca-like plant, but those most often used are Aloe barbandensis, Aloe perryi, Aloe ferros, and the ever-popular houseplant Aloe vera, whose fresh leaves can serve as an effective treatment for minor burns, abrasions and cuts.
Aloe vera gel, derived from the mucilaginous cells contained inside the leaves, is widely used in a variety of forms such as lotions, moisturizers, cosmetics, and shampoos. Aloe powder, derived from the tough outer leaf of the plant, is a strong cathartic consumed internally as a cleanser and often touted as a treatment for a variety of conditions ranging from liver disease to AIDS.
Clinical evidence supports many of the health claims attributed to Aloe vera. Researchers have found that fresh Aloe gel promotes wound healing by speeding up the growth of skin cells and aiding recovery from surgery. Aloe has also proved effective in treating pressure sores, chronic leg ulcers, and frostbite.
Aloe vera has also been shown to have strong antibacterial and antifungal properties against a broad range of microbes. Carrisyn, an extract of aloe, has shown recent evidence of being able to inhibit a number of viruses in vitro, including the strains responsible for herpes simples, measles, and HIF. Carrisyn appears to work by stimulating the immune system to trigger the production of T cells, thereby increasing immune function.
Other active ingredients of the aloe plant include salicylates, which control inflammation and pain, and an enzyme that inhibits bradykinin, the chemical messenger responsible for transmitting pain signals through the nerves. Aloe also contains magnesium lactate, a chemical known to inhibit the release of histimines responsible for skin irritation and itching.
While generally regarded as safe, some people using aloe products may experience a form of hypersensitivity evidenced by skin rash which disappears soon after discontinuing use of the product. When choosing an aloe vera product for topical application, look for a product high in aloe content, which should appear as the first item listed on the ingredients panel. As for internal consumption, long-term studies have not been performed to determine safety or effectiveness, and the guidance of a knowledgeable professional is highly recommended.
Angelica, from the plant Angelica archangelica, is similar to the Chinese herb Dong Quai, which is derived from the closely related plant Angelica sinensis. Other species of angelica are commonly used as flavoring agents for wines, liqueurs, and perfumes.
Angelica has recently become a very popular herb in the United States, and is often recommended by herbalists as a treatment for flatulence and stomach pains, and as a stimulant to invigorate circulation and warm the body. By far the most common use of Angelica is as an emmanagogic agent to promote menstrual flow and help regulate irregular menstrual cycles. In some cases large doses have been consumed in an attempt to induce abortion, but such use runs the risk of inducing severe poisoning.
Angelica contains a number of compounds called furocoumarins that are photosensitizers, which upon direct contact with the skin may lead to a skin rash after being exposed to the sun. Researchers have also found several of these compounds to be extremely toxic carcinogens in laboratory animals, though no human studies are currently available.
Angelica should not be used by pregnant women or diabetics, as it has a tendency to elevate blood sugar levels.
Artichokes contain cynarin and scolymoside which have been shown to stimulate bile production and secretion. This supports the traditional use of Artichoke for creating support for sluggish livers and digestive irregularities. Cynarin creates support for lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood. Artichokes also possess some diuretic activity, helping with kidney disease and protein in the urine.
Astragalus is a traditional Chinese herb derived from the root of the perennial Astragalus membranaceus. In China astragalus enjoyed a long history of use in traditional medicine to strengthen the Wei Ch’i or “defensive energy” or as we call it, the immune system. Regarded as a potent tonic for increasing energy levels and stimulating the immune system, astragalus has also been employed effectively as a diuretic, a vasodilator and as a treatment for respiratory infections. Astragalus has recently become popular with western herbalist and alternative health care providers.
Recent studies in China led researchers to report that astragalus can be part of an effective treatment for supporting the immune systems of cancer patients. Two separate studies followed cancer patients receiving traditional western chemotherapy and radiation treatment. These forms of treatment typically ravage the body’s immune system and leave patients weak and susceptible to new opportunistic infections.
Researchers reported that cancer patients receiving astragalus extracts had twice the survival rate of those only receiving standard therapies. U.S. studies have further confirmed that astragalus possesses unique immunity boosting qualities. Researchers at the University of Texas found that astragalus exhibited strong immunity response on in-vitro cancer cells.
Scientists have isolated a number of active ingredients contained in astragalus, including bioflavanoids, choline, and a polysaccharide called astragalan B. Animal studies have shown that astragalan B is effective at controlling bacterial infections, stimulating the immune system, and protecting the body against a number of toxins.
Astragalan B seems to work by binding to cholesterol on the outer membranes of viruses, destabilizing their defenses and allowing for the body’s immune system to attack the weakened invader. Astragalus also increases interferon production and enhances NK and T cell function, increasing resistance to viral conditions such as hepatitis, AIDS and cancer. Astragalus shows support for peripheral vascular diseases and peripheral circulation.
Barberry, which is also called Oregon grape root, is derived from Mahonia Aquifolium, a small evergreen that grows wild on mountains in the Pacific Northwest. Early settlers first learned of the therapeutic use of Barberry from native American Indians who made a bitter brew from the yellow root or rhizome of this small shrub. Used in small doses Barberry tonic was believed to be an effective treatment for heartburn, stomach upset, ulcers, and to stimulate appetite.
Current herbal literature commonly recommends barberry tincture as a treatment for liver problems such as hepatitis and jaundice. It is also considered effective in lowering blood pressure, reducing heart rate and respiration, reducing bronchial constriction, and as a palative for menstrual irregularities. It is also used as a topical antiseptic.
Researchers studying Barberry have determined that does contains a number of physiologically active alkaloids, chief among them berberine, berbamine, and oxyacanthine. Berberine has been found to exhibit some antibacterial activity, accounting for its traditional uses as an antiseptic when applied to the skin. Berberine is also known to possess sedative qualities, and can act to lower blood pressure and stimulate the uterus.
Bayberry is a traditional folk medicine herb derived from the bark of a small evergreen shrub that grows throughout a wide portion of the Eastern and Southern United States. Also referred to as wax myrtle or candleberry, the Bayberry plant also produces small waxy berries that have been used since colonial times to make fragrant candles popular at Christmas time.
Bayberry bark, brewed into a spicy tea or infusion, is a popular folk remedy and was a favorite of Native Americans. It has been used as a tonic and stimulant to support the body’s defense against a range of ailments such as coughs, colds, flu, fevers, headache, and sore throat. It was also considered an effective remedy for diarrhea, bloody stools, and excessive menstrual bleeding. As an astringent this herb helps to dry up and protect exposed membranes, and is often applied to the skin as poltice to heal boils, cankers and skin ulcers. Bayberry is also prepared as a gargle for treatment for early symptoms of colds and sore throat.
Current data on Bayberry list a number of compounds such as tannic acid, gallic acid and acrid resins that function as astringents. Researchers have raised some concern about the carcinogenic effects of tannin, but no human studies have been conducted to date. Bayberry is also known to contains the triterpene Myricitrin which is effective in stimulating the flow of bile and exhibits antibacterial activity.
xThough generally considered safe, in large doses Bayberry serves as an emetic agent to produce vomiting.
Betony, also known as Wood Betony, was once held in high regard by ancient folk healers. Used as a herbal treatment for a host of human ills ranging from the common cold to warding off supernatural spirits, Betony is still used by herbal practitioners, though for a much more limited set of maladies.
Current use of the dried herb of Betony involves the use of a tincture or infusion as a remedy for chronic headaches and to treat anxiety and nervousness. Like most herbs, Betony possesses mild astringent properties, for which it is occasionally recommended as a the treatment for diarrhea, or as a mouthwash to soothe mucous membranes of the mouth and throat.
Betony contains relatively high amounts of tannin, explaining its astringent activity. It also contains choline, alkaloids and glycosides. One glycoside has been shown to lower blood pressure, possibly supporting its use as a treatment for anxiety and headaches.
Betony is nontoxic, though excess consumption may lead to mild stomach upset.
The Bilberry plant is closely related to blueberries and currants, all of which belong to the genus Vaccinium. The whole fruits from these plants contain important tannins as well as vitamins A and C. The specific activity of Bilberry comes from concentrated fruit pigments called anthocyanins which have a specific strengthening effect on the walls of the vascular system.
Collagen protein in the vascular wall becomes stronger in the presence of Bilberry and the fine capillaries become less susceptible to leakage. Hemorrhoids and varicose veins are both examples of the weakened vascular tissues that can manifest during pregnancy and under stress.
The Bilberry fruit extract also possesses strong antibacterial and antiviral activity, mainly from the tannin compounds.
The usual application of Bilberry is for reducing eyestrain and improving night vision. In addition to helping the capillaries supply blood to the eyes, Bilberry pigment helps produce visual purple, an important chemical that helps convert light into electrical signals for the brain. Bilberry enhances vision in low light conditions often encountered by truck drivers, pilots, law enforcement and military personnel. Bilberry also reduces general eye strain which makes it particularly beneficial for students, computer operators, and anyone who must use their eyes for long periods without rest.
The popular herb Black cohosh comes from the root of the North American forest plant Cimicifuga racemosa. Also known as black snakeroot, bugbane, bugwort and squawroot, Black cohosh has an extensive history of safe use by Native Americans who revered it as a remedy for a host of common ailments.
Native Americans employed Black cohosh as an effective treatment for fatigue, neuralgia, rheumatism, sore throat, asthma, bronchial spasms, bronchitis, and whooping cough. Mixed with chamomile, ginger and raspberry leaf, black cohosh has been used for centuries by women to stimulate menstrual flow, ease the strains of childbirth, and confer relief from the symptoms of menopause.
In Europe Black cohosh products are regularly used in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome and menopause. Contemporary herbalists also hold Black cohosh in high regard as an antispasmodic for relief from cramps, muscle pains, and menstrual pains. With its mildly sedative and relaxing effect, black cohosh is used also to treat anxiety and nervousness. Modern herbalists also recommend black cohosh as a cough suppressant and expectorant, a diaphoretic for eliminating toxins, and consider it to be an excellent treatment for lowering high blood pressure.
Researchers studying Black cohosh have isolated chemical derivatives mimicking the effects of estrogen, supporting the use of the herb in the treatment of female conditions. Black cohosh was found to contain the glycoside acetein, a steroidal derivative that is effective in lowering blood pressure in animals. While adherents claim the same effect in humans, no research is available to verify this. Researchers have also determined that black cohosh contains compounds that support its uses as a sedative and an anti-inflammatory agent.
There are few known health concerns regarding Black cohosh, but consuming large amounts are known to cause nausea, dizziness and vomiting. Expectant mothers should only use black cohosh under the supervision of a health professional, since black cohosh has a reputation of stimulating the uterus to speed childbirth, and large doses could lead to premature birth.
Blessed thistle is a plant found primarily in Aisia and Europe. Blessed thistle is also referred to as St. Benedict thistle and holy thistle, names that reflect the fact that Blessed thistle was a popular folk remedy and tonic appreciated by monastic monks in the Middle ages. Blessed Thistle should not be confused with Milk Thistle (also known as Marian, St. Mary’s, or Our Lady’s thistle).
In Europe blessed thistle is regarded as an excellent appetite stimulant, and is used in the manufacture of bitters to be taken before meals to stimulate stomach and intestinal activity and aid in digestion and circulation. It is also used in the treatment of constipation and flatulence, and is considered an excellent heart tonic and blood purifyer.
The flowers of the Blessed thistle are commonly brewed to make a slightly bitter and sweet tea that has a mild diuretic activity. Blessed thistle tea is used by contemporary herbalists for the treatment of a variety of liver problems such as jaundice and hepatitis. Because painful menstruation can involve the liver, Blessed thistle is a common component of herbal formulas used to relieve menstrual symptoms.
While generally safe, if taken in excess, Blessed thistle can act as an emetic and lead to nausea and vomiting.
Blue cohosh, latin name Caulophyllum thalictroides, is an herb derived from the rhizome and roots of a small North American perennial. Blue cohosh is also referred to by names such as papoose root or sqaw root, reflecting on the use of this herb by Native American women who brewed a bitter tea from Blue cohosh to relieve menstrual cramps and ease the pains associated with childbirth.
Blue cohosh tea was also found to be a parturifacient that could induce uterine contractions to speed delivery, and was widely used by native Americans and early settlers to treat common maladies such as sore throat, rheumatism, anxiety, bronchitis, and colic.
Modern herbalists often recommend blue cohosh as a emmenagogue to induce menstruation, and as uterine stimulant and antispasmodic. It is also frequently employed as a diuretic to eliminate excess fluids, as a expectorant to treat congestion, and as a diaphoretic to eliminate toxins by inducing sweating. Traditional herbalists will often combine Blue cohosh and black cohosh to effect a more balanced treatment for nerves and to enhance the herbs antispasmodic effects. It is combined with other herbs to promote their effects in treating bronchitis, nervous disorders, urinary tract ailments and rheumatism.
Researchers studying Blue cohosh isolated an alkaloid, methylcytisine, which closely resembles nicotine in its ability to stimulate intestinal activity, raise respiration, and elevate blood pressure. Blue cohosh also contains caulosaponin, a glycoside which can act as a coronary blood vessel constrictor and is thought responsible for stimulating uterine contractions and inducing childbirth.
While generally considered a safe and effective herb, Blue cohosh should not be used by expectant mothers except during the last month of pregnancy, preferably under the guidance of an experienced herbalists or health care professional.
Broccoli is a dark green vegetable in the cruciferous family. It is rich in fiber, provitamin A carotenoids, vitamin C and vitamin K. Cruciferous vegetables contain phytochemical which help create immune and antioxidant support in the body by inducing extra protecion of the enymes (Phase II) involved in detoxifying carcinogens and flushing them out of the body. These important enzymes include quinone reductase and glutathione S-transferase, with Sulforaphane as a major and potent Phase II enzyme inducer. Broccoli is an important source of Vitamin K, which helps prevent stomach and colon cancer.
Buchu, Latin name Agathosma betulina, is a small shrub native to South Africa where it is used as a popular flavoring agent to impart a peppermint-like flavor to brandies and wines. First used by the Hottentot tribe, it gained wide use in Europe and Africa where the dried leaves of buchu have long been used as a folk remedy for the treatment of almost every known affliction.
Employed as a diuretic and antiseptic, the long leaves of this herb are brewed for use in treatment of inflammation of the urethra, blood in the urine, bladder infections and other chronic urinary tract disorders. It is also said to be an effective remedy for kidney stones, cystitis, and rheumatism.
Buchu contains barosma champhor and other volatile oils which account for its mild diuretic and antiseptic activity. Buchu is considered to be an extremely safe herb and there are no reported toxic effects. If using for treatment of a urinary tract infection the only caution would be to be sure of have a proper diagnosis of the ailment, since Buchu is completely ineffective in treating sexually transmitted diseases, for which is was once widely thought to be a remedy.
Burdock, latin name Arctium lappa, is a carrot-like root from the plant Arctium lappa, a biennial herb grown in China, Europe and the United States. Employed as a popular folk medicine around the world, burdock is also consumed as a vegetable in Japan, where it is called gobo.
Burdock seeds are crushed to make a popular tincture used to purify the blood, to treat gout and ulcers, arthritis, rheumatism, and cure skin diseases such as acne and psoriasis. In India and Russia the root is a popular anti-cancer remedy , and in China it is believed to be an effective aphrodisiac, useful in treating impotence and sterility.
The volatile oils of burdock seed are said to be an effective diaphoretic, used to inducing sweating as an aid in neutralizing and eliminating toxins from the body. This activity is widely utilized by herbal practitioner’s in the treatment of liver problems, gallstones, flu, and to support the kidneys in filtering acids from the blood stream.
Studies of burdock show that it is high in minerals, being a good source of iron. Data also indicate that the root is a good source of the carbohydrate inulin which can account for 45% of the plant mass. Burdock is also a good source of essential oils and other compounds that exhibit bacteriostatic and anitfungul activity.
Burdock is an effective diuretic and is considered a very safe herb and food product, though there have been cases where the purity of the root has raised some concern. Reported cases involving toxic effects were first thought to be caused by the consumption of burdock tea but were later determined to be caused by contamination of the burdock root with belladonna root which contains atropine. In light of such issues, when using burdock root determine the of the source and quality of root before purchase.
Butcher’s broom, also referred to as knee holly, box holly and sweet broom, comes from the plant Suscus aculaetus, a short evergreen shrub that grows throughout southern Europe and the Mediterranean. Butchers once used the leaves and twigs of this member of the lily family to scrub their chopping blocks clean, thus conferring the name Butchers broom. The use of this herb as a tonic was recorded by the early Greeks, but fell into disuse until the 1950’s when new research popularized the properties of this herb in the west.
Modern herbalists now commonly use the leaves of Butcher’s broom as a circulatory tonic and antiinflammatory agent for a wide range of vascular problems. Consumed as a mildly bitter tea it is used to increase circulation to the limbs and acts to reduce the incidence of post-surgical thrombosis or blood clotting. Due to its mild diuretic action it is also employed to reduce swelling of the legs and is believed useful in the treatment of varicose veins and phlebitis. Applied as a topical ointment butchers broom is also used to ease the swelling and pains of arthritis and rheumatism, and formed into suppositories it is often employed as a treatment of hemorrhoids.
Researchers have confirmed that extracts of butcher’s broom contain several steroidal saponin compounds that work as vasoconstrictors by activating alpha-adrenergic receptors. The main glycosides in butchers broom are called ruscogenins, which are known to possess anti-inflammatory properties in addition to being vasoconstricive agents. These active ingredients reduce the fragility and permeability of capillaries and constrict the veins. Human clinical trials have supported the extracts effectiveness in treating vascular disorders, as well as its uses as an antiinflammatory agent.
Contemporary Herbals refer to butcher’s broom to support venous circulatory disorders (heavy legs) as well as hemorrhodal ailments. Practicioners also recommend butcher’s broom for supporting women experiencing menstrual problems and troubles associated with the use of estrogens and pregnancy related cramps.
Butcher’s broom is generally considered a safe herb when taken as a diuretic, though it may cause blood pressure to rise. Those under treatment for hypertension should use this herb under the supervision of a competent health care professional. Those currently taking anticoagulation medications should also check with their physician or health care provider before taking butchers broom to avoid problems.
Capsicum, or hot red chili peppers, have come into their own recently, both as a culinary spice and as a hot new medical remedy. Long used as a food spice and an aid to digestion, red chilis or cayenne peppers were once thought to aggravate stomach ulcers. This fear has been discounted by researchers who became excited by studies that indicated that capsicum could help prevent the formation of dangerous blood clots. Now new research is focusing on this spices ability to act as an anti-inflammatory agent and aid in controlling pain.
Researchers in Thailand first noticed that people who consume large amounts of red chili peppers experienced a lower incidence of thromboembolism, or potentially dangerous blood clots. Scientists then looked at the medical records of countries where hot spicy foods where regularly consumed and found that people who eat a diet high in red peppers experience a much lower incidence of blood clotting disease. Scientists have now concluded that capsicum does indeed possess fibrinolytic activity, meaning that it is able to break down blood clots.
In addition to preventing the formation of blood clots, researchers have also discovered that a topically applied cream containing capsicum could help control some types of chronic skin pains. Now available in the form of a prescription drug called Zostrix, capsicum ointment is applied to the skin to aid in controlling the pain associated with herpes zoster, also known as shingles, as well as neuralgia and postoperative amputation trauma.
The active ingredient in capsicum is a compound called capsaicin that functions to deplete substance P, which is involved in the transmission of pain from the skin to the spinal cord. By blocking substance P, capsaicin acts as a dramatic and long-lasting anesthetic bringing relief to almost 75 percent of patients tested with the cream. It can take as long as three days from first application to begin to deplete substance P from the peripheral nerves.
Taken internally to aid digestion, red peppers should be consumed slowly to avoid distress. Capsicum and cayenne can also be taken in capsules. Be careful to avoid getting capsicum products in the eyes, as this can be extremely painful.
Cascara Sagrada, also called Sacred bark and Chittem bark, is an herb derived from the year old bark of Rhamnus purshiana. Native American Indians commonly used Cascara sagrada to treat constipation and upset stomachs.
Taken as an extremely bitter tasting tonic, or in tablet or capsule form, Cascara sagrada is regarded to be a safe laxative that is often employed as a remedy for mild and chronic constipation. Modern herbalists also recommend it as a tonic for the digestive system and to stimulate the liver, pancreas, gallbladder and stomach. It is also considered to be useful in the treatment of jaundice, hemorrhoids and colic.
Clinical researchers have isolated several anthraquinone glycosides as the active principles in cascara. These glycosides are hydrolyzed by bacteria in the colon, resulting in its laxative activity. Free anthraquinone and hydroxyanthracene derivative (HAD) are the main active glycosides responsible for the laxative effects of Cascara sagrada. These active substances cause an increased peristalsis locally in the large intestine. HAD also helps by circulating in the bloodstream and stimulating a nerve center to trigger a laxative effect.
Cascara sagrada is considered one of the safest laxatives and can be used to restore tone to the colon, as well as being useful in detoxifying and cleansing programs. Cascara sagrada can also be used in small doses as a liver tonic and a chelating agent to prevent the occurrence of calcium-based urinary stones.
Taken at night or shortly before sleep, Cascara sagrada is an effective agent for treating mild constipation, though it should not be used on a regular basis. While it is normal for Cascara sagrada to temporarily turn urine a reddish color, if diarrhea should result, discontinue use immediately.
Supportive agents commonly used with Cascara sagrada include: Laxative-Butternut root bark, Frangula, Licorice Root, Irish Moss, Dandelion, Milk Thistle, Schisandra and Wild Yam.
Catnip is undoubtedly best recognized as an intoxicating herb that cats find to be irresistible. Also commonly called catnep and catmint, this relative of the mint family is also a well regarded herbal calmative with numerous applications for a number of human ailments. Use of catnip as a mildly relaxing tea dates back to old England were it was a popular drink prior to the importation of teas from Asia.
In folk medicine, catnip leaves and flowers are usually steeped to make a pleasant tasting tea. Consumed prior to bedtime catnip tea is widely believed to hasten slumber and aid in achieving a restful nights sleep. It is also employed as a remedy in the treatment of tension and anxiety, and is mentioned as being a useful calmative for hyperactive children.
Catnip is also listed as a mild diaphoretic, helpful in eliminating toxins from the body, as well as acting as a carminative to support digestion, relieve upset stomach, and control the symptoms of diarrhea.
The claimed effects of this mild herb are generally acknowledged in contemporary literature which lists the principal active agent in catnip as nepetalactone, a volatile oil similar in structure to the sedative ingredient found in valerian root, another well known sedative herb.
In recent years the smoking the dried leaves of this herb has been mistakenly popularized in certain circles in the belief that one can attain intoxicating high similar to that produced by marijuana. This is now generally recognized as untrue, and was based upon a confusing similarity in the physical appearance of the two plants. Catnip is an extremely safe herb, and there are no listed warnings or contraindications.
Cat’s Claw (Una de Gato) is a wood vine that grows in Peru and has been used by the Peruvian Indians for years for the treatment of a wide range of health problems. Cat’s Claw helps create support for the intestinal and immune systems of the body., and creates intestinal support by its ability to cleanse the entire intestinal tract. This cleansing helps create support for people experiencing different stomach and bowel disorders, including: colitis, crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and leaky bowel syndrome.
Cat’s Claw contains seven different alkaloids that are credited with having a variety of different medicinal and healing properties. The most immunilogically active alkaloid is believed to be Isopteropodin (Isomer A), which increases the immune response in the body. In additon, the presence of glycosides, proanthocyanidins and beta sitosterol help provide anti-viral, anti-tumor and anti-imflammatory support for the body.
Catuaba, of the family Erythroxylaceae, is undoubtedly the most famous of all Brazilian aphrodisiac plants, and has been appreciated by the local populations for generations. This valued herb from the Brazilian rainforest is praised by the Tupi Indians of Brazil as being an excellent nervous system fortifier and male libido enhancer.
The Tupi Indians first discovered the qualities of the plant and composed many songs praising it “. . the bark of Catuaba (functions) as a stimulant of the nervous system, above all when one deals with functional impotence of the male genital organs it is an innocent aphrodisiac, used without any ill side effects at all.”
Historical uses include its use as a male aphrodisiac and a tonic to the male organs. It is also used for male impotency. It is a strong tonic and fortifier of the nervous system, capable of giving strength to people with general fatigue. It helps eliminate restless sleep and insomnia from hypertension, and has been known to help failing memories.
Catuaba is usually consumed as a tea made from the bark of this small schrub. After drinking 3-4 cups of tea steadily over a period of time the first symptoms are usually erotic dreams, and then increased sexual desire.
Chamomile has been described as meaning “capable of anything,” a good description for this popular herb that is used extensively in Europe and the United States as a soothing and calming tea. Historically chamomile has been a favored natural herbal remedy, with records of its use as a treatment for skin conditions, cramps and digestion dating back to the early Romans.
In Europe chamomile products are used extensively as carminatives to aid digestion, and in the form of bitters to stimulate ones appetite before meals. Chamomile is also an effective anti-inflammatory agent commonly used to treat skin disorders, and as an antispasmodic remedy for menstrual cramps.
There are two primary types of chamomile: Roman chamomile and German chamomile. Roman chamomile has long been used as an appetite stimulant and aid for digestion, but the vast majority of chamomile on the market comes from the flowertops of what is commonly called German chamomile.
Cultivated in Germany, the flowering tops of this plant are used to prepare a mild tea enjoyed as a mild sedative, as a remedy for insomnia, and as an aid for indigestion. Researchers documenting the effectiveness of this herb have found that subjects ingesting chamomile tea can fall asleep in as little as 10 minutes
The active ingredients in chamomile are found in the essential oils derived from the flowers. Scientists have found that chamomile contains many active compounds, though the principal ingredients are the volatile oil alpha bisabolol and the flavonoid apigenin. Apigenin is responsible for the calming, anti-anxiety effects. Apigenin also supports alpha bisabolol, which is responsible for chamomiles anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic effects. Researchers have also developed topical ointments containing alpha bisabolol and found them to be more effective than hydrocortisone in treating skin inflammation.
Chamomile tea is extremely safe, though ingestion of large amounts can lead to stomach upset. Some people, especially those allergic to asters, chrysanthemums and ragweed may experience hypersensitivity to chamomile products. Though these reactions are exceedingly rare, they can lead to sneezing, congestion, anaphylaxis or contact dermatitis.
Chaparral, also referred to as greasewood and creosote bush, is an herb derived from the common desert shrub Larrea tridentata. Native to the Southwestern United States, the leaves of this desert plant have been used for centuries by Native American healers as a tonic for the treatment of cancer, snake bites, infections, arthritis, tuberculosis and venereal disease.
Modern herbalists had come to view chaparral as an effective herbal antibiotic and as a treatment for intestinal parasites. Chaparral was also widely employed as a remedy for the treatment of colds, flu, cancer, and diarrhea.
Chaparral contains a compound called nordihydroguaiaretic acid or NDGA for short. NDGA is a powerful antioxidant, that is widely used in the food industry as a preservative for lard and animal shortenings. Early studies had raised hopes that NDGA might prove to be an effective treatment for cancer when it was revealed that NDGA was able to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in animals.
Human studies were disappointing, and raised new concerns about NDGA’s toxicity after researchers reported finding lesions on the kidneys and lymph nodes of animals. Subsequently chapparal was removed from the FDA’s list of products that are generally recognized as safe, or GRAS.
In 1990 a women suffered liver damage that was believed to be the result of consuming large amounts of chapparal tablets to treat a non-malignant breast lump. Though the woman recovered in time, the incident led to the widespread removal of all chapparal products from the shelves of health stores around the country. Many medical researchers currently feel that while chapparal is an intriguing product worthy of further research, it is too toxic to be recommended for human consumption at this time.
Chickweed, latin name Stellaric media, is a small herbal plant which grows wild throughout the world. Often used in salads, the leaves and flowers of this small weed are also used by herbalists in a wide variety of treatments. Mixed with oil to make a poltice, chickweed is employed as a treatment for skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, boils, ulcers, and a variety of rashes. As an infusion to be taken internally, chickweed is used to treat blood disorders, gout, fevers, asthma, arthritis, constipation, lung disease, cancer, and aid in weight control.
Researchers give the plant credit for being a source of vitamin C and for being a tasty addition to salads. Beyond this, clinical support for the use of chickweed as a herbal remedy runs out. Chickweed is known to contain several glycosides and plant acids, but not in amounts to support the claimed effects of this plant. There are no reported toxic effects from consumption of chickweed. Further review of the literature show more interest in controlling the growth of this rapid growing weed than in supporting weak claims for its efficacy as a herbal remedy.
Coltsfoot, also called Horsehoof and coughwort, is a traditional herbal remedy employed around the world in the treatment of coughs and respiratory problems. Made from the flowers and hoof-shaped leaves of the plant Tussilago farfara, coltsfoot has been employed by traditional herbalists in the form of a tea to treat the persistent cough associated with bronchitis, silicosis and emphysema. Other practitioners have used the herb in blends intended to be smoked to relieve coughs, though the logic behind this use is highly questionable, and could lead to more respiratory irritation.
Widely believed to be a safe compound, researchers in Japan have discovered that the dried flowers and leaves commonly used in Coltsfoot tea contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids which can cause severe liver damage and cancer. While some herbalists think the danger relatively minor when compared to the positive activities of this herb, other practitioners no longer consider coltsfoot an appropriate remedy in light of other effective herbal alternatives.
Seeds of several species of the genus Cucurbira have long enjoyed a considerable reputation as teniafuges (agents which paralyze and expel intestinal worms). Chief among these are pumpkin seeds or pepo, obtained from C. Pepo L., but the seeds of the auturnn squash (C.Maxima Duchesne) and of the Canada pumpkin or crookneck squash [C. Moschata (Duchesne) Poir.] have similar properties. All are large edible fruits produced by herbaceous, running (vinelike) plants of the family Cucurbitaceae. Numerous cultivated varieties exist.
When used as a teniafuge or anthelmintic, cucurbita seeds are ordinarily administered in the form of the ground seeds themselves, as an infusion (tea), or as an emulsion made by beating the seeds with powdered sugar and milk or water. Usually three divided doses are given, representing a total weight of seeds ranging from 60 to as much as 500 grams. Such treatment is said to be effective in expelling both tapeworms and roundworms.
Another traditional use of the seeds is in the prevention and treatment of chronic prostatic hypertrophy (enlargement of the prostate gland) in males. A handful of the seeds eaten daily is supposed to be a very popular remedy for this condition in Bulgaria, Turkey, and the Ukraine.
Cucurbitin, an unusual amino acid identified chemically as (-)-3amino-3-carboxypyrrolidine, is the active principle responsible for the anthelmintic (worrn-expelling) effects of the drug. It occurs only in the seeds of Cucurbita species, but its concentration is quite variable even in seeds of the same species. This variability probably accounts for reports in the literature that cucurbita seeds are either unreliable or ineffective as a teniafuge.
Damiana leaves are harvested from the plant Turnera diffusa, a small shrub native to Mexico. Besides being used in the production of a popular Mexican liqueur called Damiana, this herb has enjoyed a long and unwarranted history of use as an aphrodisiac, supposedly able to stimulate the libido of men and women alike.
It is also regarded as an important folk medicine in Mexico, often used to treat sterility, impotence, diabetes, bladder infection and asthma. Damiana is also said to possess mild sedative qualities, able to induce a state of relaxation and to aid in falling asleep.
Modern studies of the chemical composition of damiana list tannin, resin, and volatile oils, which, while considered relatively safe for consumption, offer no evidence to support the host of claims for this plant. Indeed, the data suggests that it is the high alcohol content of damiana liquor and its tinctures that is the responsible agent for most if not all of its perceived effects.
Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) has been used as an herbal tea ingredient in Europe, a folk remedy in Africa and recently has entered the health food marketplace in the United States. The British Herbal Pharmacopoea recognizes Devil’s claw as possessing analgesic, sedative and diuretic properties
Devil’s claw consists of the secondary storage roots of arpagophyum procumbens DC., a South African plant belonging to the family Pedaliaceae. The common name is derived from the plant’s peculiar fruits which seem to be covered with miniature grappling hooks. Devil’s claw is the name commonly used in the United States, though other names for this plant include wood spider and grapple plant.
Africans have used the herb for centuries to treat skin cancer, fever, malaria and indigestion. In Europe, the tea is recommended for arthritis, diabetes, allergies, senility and is widely utilized as an appetite stimulant and a digestive aid.
In the west, Devil’s claw has been recommended for treating a wide variety of conditions including diseases of the liver, kidneys, and bladder, as well as allergies, arteriosclerosis, lumbago, gastrointestinal disturbances, menstrual difficulties, neuralgia, headache, climacteric (change of life) problems, heartburn, nicotine poisoning, and above all, rheumatism and arthritis.
There are few clinical studies to refute or verify the many claims made for Devil’s claw, but extracts of the plant do appear to have anti-inflammatory activity in experimental animals. A clinical study carried out in Germany in 1976 reported that devil’s claw exhibited anti-inflammatory activity, comparable in many respects to the well-known anti-arthritic drug, phenylbutazone. Analgesic effects were also observed along with reductions in abnormally high cholesterol and uric-acid blood levels.
The main active ingredients in Devil’s claw are Harpogoside and Beta sitosterol, which possess anti-inflammatory properties and create support for joint, ligament and tendon problems. Devil’s claw is reported to help with joint pain while improving vitality in the joints.
Dong quai is a Chinese herb derived from the root of Angelica sinensis or Angelica plymorpha maxim. A staple of eastern medicinal practice for thousands of years, dong quai has been used in the treatment of female disorders such as menstrual cramps, premenstrual syndrome, and to relieve symptoms associated with menopause.
Angelica sinensis is also an important flavoring agent used in liqueurs such as Chartreuse and Benedictine, and with juniper berries is used in flavoring gin.
Modern herbalists commonly recommend dong quai as a uterine tonic to treat irregular menstrual flow and weakness during menstrual periods. As an antispasmodic it is considered a remedy for menstrual cramps and nervousness. It is also said to purify the blood and act as a mild laxative.
Researchers have identified several coumarin derivatives that are known to act as antispasmodics and vasodilators. Dong quai’s key ingredients include Ligustilide, butylene phthalide and butyl phthalide found in the aromatic oil. Ferulic acid and various polysaccharides are found in the non-aromatic fractions. Research suggests that both ferulic acid and ligustilide are responsible for preventing spasms, relaxing blood vessels and reducing blood clotting in peripheral vessels.
Dong quai also contains compounds that act to stimulate the central nervous system, supporting its use as a mild energizer. Certain people may experience a form of dermatitis caused by compounds that promote photosensitivity. Pregnant women, and women with excessive menstrual flow should avoid using this herb altogether.
One of the most exciting therapeutic herbs available today is echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea) a unique herb related to the Asteraceae (sunflower) plant family. Echinacea has been widely used by Native Americans, particularly the Plains Indians, for hundreds of years as an antiseptic, an analgesic (pain killer) and for the treatment of snakebites. Echinacea is also used extensively by herbalists and alternative health care providers to boost the immune system, help speed wound healing, reduce inflammations, treat colds and flu, and fight infections.
A growing collection of scientific evidence supports echinaceas important contribution to stimulating the immune system. Researchers have found that echinaceas immune-stimulating properties are due to a rich host of polysaccharides and phytosterols unique to this plant. Most American use of this herb has been with fresh Echinacea angustifolia, while European research has been conducted with the fresh Echinacea purpurea.
Researchers have identified a number of important active ingredients, including glycosides (especially echinacoside), eichloric acid, chlorogenic acid, polysaccharides (echinacin B, inulin, arabinogalactans, xyloglucans), isobutylamines (echinacein), alkylamides, phytosterols, (Z)-1, 8-pentadecadiene, sesquiterpene esters (in E. purpurea) and many other valuable compounds.
Scientists have found that Echinacea helps to activate macrophages, key immune system elements that are directly involved in the destruction of bacteria, viruses, other infectious agents and cancer cells. Macrophages produce much of their lethal effect by generating free oxygen radicals as well as producing a key protein called interleukin-l. A report in the December 1984 issue of Infection and Immunity demonstrated that a polysaccharide fraction derived from Echinacea purpurea significantly increased the killing effect of macrophages on tumor cells.
The polysaccharides also increased the production of free oxygen radicals and interleukin-1. The echinacea polysaccharide had no effect on T-lymphocytes (involved in cellular immunity) and only a modest effect on B-lymphocytes (involved in humoral immunity-making antibodies). Another report indicated that echinacea enhances natural killer cell activity, another important component in the immune system.
Echinacea is recommended for use periodically for one or two weeks at a time, rather than continuously, because the body seems to become accustomed to it and it loses effectiveness. This effectiveness is restored in a week or two.
If you are pregnant or nursing, consult your health care provider before using this product. If you have kidney disease, restrict usage to ten days to avoid a possible imbalance in excreted minerals.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), also known as Bachelor’s Button, is a common flowering aromatic plant. Feverfew was known to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks who regarded it as a valuable remedy to alleviate headaches, joint pain, stomach aches, menstrual pains and fever. For centuries it has also been employed as an emmenagogue to promote menstrual flow.
Modern researchers confirm that feverfew is a valuable herbal remedy that is especially effective in treating migraine headaches and arthritis. Feverfew contains a number of lactones, among them parthenolide, michefuscalide and chrysanthenyl. The main active sesquiterpene lactone, parthenolide, is known to inhibit the production and secretion of prostaglandins, substances released by blood platelets and white blood cells that contribute to migraines. White blood cells secrete substances believed to contribute to the kind of inflammatory processes seen in arthritis and possibly some other autoimmune disorders. Another substance, Serotonin, is also secreted by blood platelets and can constrict blood vessels and contribute to migraine pain. This inhibition of prostaglandins results in reduction in inflammation, decreased secretion of histamine, and a reduction of fevers, thus the name Feverfew.
Researchers conducting placebo-controlled studies have discovered that taking daily supplements of feverfew resulted in a 24% reduction in the the overall number of migraines, and the headaches that did occur were measurably milder and resulted in less vomiting. Feverfew has also been useful in relaxing smooth muscles in the uterus, promoting menstrual flow and inhibiting platelet aggregation and excessive blood clotting. Feverfew also helps stimulate digestion and improves liver function.
Forskolin is an important traditional Ayurvedic herb that has been a part of Indian medicine for centuries. Derived from roots of the plant Coleus forskohili, this herb is known to be a potent bronchodilator, able to relax the airways in the lungs and ease breathing. In this capacity it has been employed to treat imbalances resulting in asthma and other lung disorders. It has also been shown to relieve internal eye pressure, and may lead to new treatments for glaucoma.
The effects of forskolin last for only a short period, and there are concerns that use may lead to possible cardiovascular complications. Forskolin would best be used under the supervision of a competent healthcare professional trained in its use.
Fo-Ti is an herb derived from the dried roots of a Japanese evergreen called Polygonum multiflorum. In China, where it is called Ho shou wu, Fo-Ti is said to possess almost magical rejuvenating properties and it is especially popular with the elderly who believe it can help one maintain hair color, preserve youthfulness, and restore fertility.
Traditional Chinese herbalists place great emphasis on the shape and age of the roots, with the older roots being in great demand. Made into a tea or infusion for oral ingestion, Eastern and Western herbalists recommend Fo-Ti as a tonic to maintain youthful vigor, increase energy, tone the kidneys and liver, and purify the blood. It is also employed as a remedy for insomnia, stomach upset, and diabetes.
Fo-Ti contains a number of glycosides that account for the herbs use as a remedy for stomach disorders and constipation. Researchers suspect that the roots may contain compounds with mild cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory effects, but this has yet to be proved. Fo-Ti should not be confused with Fo-Ti Tieng, which is a trademarked formula containing Gotu Kola.
Garlic is a member of the lily family closely related to onions and leeks. Garlic has been cultivated for thousands of years for its therapeutic benefits by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Indians and Chinese. Primary use of garlic was as a treatment for tumors, headaches, weakness and fatigue, wounds, sores and infections. It was regarded as a physically enhancing tonic, and was used by the first Olympic athletes as an energizer.
The scientific community has long respected garlic as a plant possessing impressive therapeutic activity. Louis Pasteur first demonstrated garlic’s anti-bacterial properties in 1858, and later Albert Schweitzer used garlic to treat amoebic dysentery. More recently, researchers have demonstrated that garlic helps protect against heart disease and cancer, and possess remarkable antibiotic effects. Garlic juice and its constituents can slow or kill more than sixty fungi and twenty types of bacteria, including some of the most virulent known to man.
Researchers really began studying garlic after results of an epidemiologic study were published about ten years ago. The long-term study compared three groups of vegetarians in India who: 1. Consumed little or no garlic at all; 2. Consumed moderate amounts (10 grams per week) of garlic, or; 3. Consumed large amounts (50 grams of garlic per week).
The mean fasting cholesterol levels for those ingesting large amounts of garlic was 159 mg/100 ml of serum. For those ingesting moderate amounts, the level was 172 mg/100 ml of serum, and those ingesting no garlic serum cholesterol levels were 208 mg/100 ml of serum.
The diet of all three groups was virtually identical except for the difference in garlic intake. Researchers also reported that those who abstained completely from garlic and onions had blood that clotted more quickly than did those who consumed garlic and onions.
In a another study, two sets of patients suffering with coronary-artery disease were enlisted in a ten-month study. One group got garlic supplements while the other group did not. Those who received garlic had steadily declining levels of lipoproteins associated with heart disease, while the group that didn’t get garlic showed no decline in these lipoproteins.
Researchers concluded: “The positive reports appear to be overwhelming. The reviewers were surprised by the scarcity of negative reports.” Scientists also reviewed a variety of animal studies, many well controlled, in which garlic clearly exhibited a statistically significant lowering effect on cholesterol. The effect in most studies was found to be “dose-related,” meaning that the higher the daily dose of garlic, the greater the reduction in cholesterol.
Various sulfur compounds contained in garlic appear to account for this favorable effect on cardiovascular health. Some of these are known to have significant impact on the biosynthesis of fatty acids, cholesterol, triglycerides and phospholipids. Ajoene, a garlic compound, has a potent anti-clotting effect and appears to be the crucial component in a number of garlic’s therapeutic actions.
Other compounds in garlic have exhibited anti-tumor effects in animals. Epidemiologic studies in China show that eating a lot of garlic can protect against stomach cancer. Those who ate an average of seven garlic cloves a day had an incidence of gastric cancer ten times lower than those who rarely, if ever, ate garlic. The garlic, in this case, seemed to work, at least in part, by preventing dietary nitrites from converting to cancer-causing nitrosamines.
Animal cancer research with garlic is impressive. Researchers recently proved that a garlic compound, diallyl sulfide, given to mice prior to exposure to a colon-cancer-inducing agent, has a potent protective effect. The garlic-treated animals got 75 percent fewer tumors than control animals not given garlic. In a similar experiments garlic completely protected mice against esophageal cancer. In other animal research, sulphur compounds of garlic have inhibited stomach and skin cancers.
These compounds seem to work by enabling the liver to detoxify cancer causing chemicals before they can do harm. Additionally, garlic contains bioflavonoids and antioxidants, both known anti-carcinogens. Allicin is another of the active sulfur compounds in garlic, and is the substance that gives garlic its antibiotic qualities.
There is one study which suggests that high doses of garlic might also increase physical endurance. Researchers wanted to see if garlic could protect heart muscles against a toxic drug. They injected rats with the heart-damaging drug isoproterenol. One group of these rats got garlic in their diet for a week prior to the injection with the drug. Another group got the drug, too, but no garlic. The garlic-fed rats withstood the effects of the drug far better than the rats that didn’t get garlic. The garlic-protected rats showed their greater physical endurance by swimming an average of 840 seconds before and 560 seconds after the drug injection. The rats that didn’t get garlic could swim only an average of 480 seconds before and only 78 seconds after injection. At autopsy, far fewer lesions were found in the heart muscles of the garlic-supplemented rats than in the muscles of the control rats.
Ginger is derived from the tuberous rhizome (underground root) of the perennial plant Zingiber officinale of the family Zingiberaceae. Also referred to as Jamaica ginger, African ginger, or Cochin ginger, ginger has been used as a spice, condiment and flavoring agent. For nearly 2,500 years ginger has also played an important role in Asian medicine as a folk remedy to promote cleansing of the body through perspiration, to calm nausea, and to stimulate the appetite. Ginger tea was also used as a carminative (agent which expels gas from the intestines) and in the symptomatic treatment of colds when given at their onset. It has been used in China and other countries for many years as a tonic.
Ginger contains gingerol, a ginger oleoresin (combination of volatiles oils and resin) that accounts for the characteristic aroma of ginger, and explain its theraputic properties. Components of gingerol (zingiberone, bisabolene, camphene, geranial, linalool and borneol) have recently been studied and found to possess beneficial properties for the treatment of poor digestion, heartburn, vomiting and preventing motion sickness.
A report appearing in the English medical journal Lancet in 1982 concluded that powdered ginger helped with motion sickness. Researchers conducted a double-blind study on 36 college students with a high susceptibility to motion sickness. Reporting on ginger’s ability to control motion sickness and aleviate neausea, they concluded that 940 mg. of powdered ginger was superior to 100 mg. of dimenhydrinate in reducing symptoms when consumed 25 minutes prior to tests in a tilted rotating chair.
On the basis of this and other studies German health authorities have concluded that ginger, at an average daily dose level of 2 to 4 grams, is effective for preventing motion sickness and is also useful as a digestive aid. Any antiemetic effects of ginger are due to its local action in the stomach, and not to any central nervous system activity.
Ginger is ordinarily taken in the form of capsules, each containing 250 to 500 mg. of powdered herb. It may also be consumed as a tea or in the form of candied ginger that is readily available in Oriental food markets. There are no reports of severe toxicity in humans from eating ginger, but recent pharmacological studies indicate that very large overdoses might carry the potential for causing depression of the central nervous system and cardiac atrhythmias.
Additionally, the whole ginger plant has been found to cause liver damage in animals. It is interesting to note that an alcoholic beverage prepared from Jamaican ginger, popular in some parts of the U.S. in the 1930s, caused a serious neurologic problem called “the Jake Walk.”
CAUTION: If suffering from gallstones, or if pregnant or nursing, consult a health care professional before taking large amounts of ginger. The German Commission E monograph opposes use for morning sickness during pregnancy. Daily consumption of ginger root may interfere with the absorption of dietary iron and fat-soluble vitamins, as well as tetracycline derivatives, oral anticholinergics, phenothiazines, digoxin, isoniazid, pheytoin, warfarin, lincomycin, digitalis, nalidixic acid, sulfonamides, and phenothiozines or other psychoactive agents which are poorly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. Ginger may mask the ototoxicity caused by aminoglycoside antibiotics such as neomycin. It may inhibit urinary excretion of alkaline drugs, such as amphetamines or quinidine.
Ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest living tree species, dating back over 300 million years, and individual trees can live for over 1,000 years. In China extracts of the fruit and leaves of the ginkgo tree have been used for over 5,000 years to treat lung ailments such as asthma and bronchitis, and as a remedy for cardiovascular diseases.
Recently western researchers have been studying ginkgo biloba as a treatment for senility, hardening of the arteries, and as a treatment for oxygen deprivation. More than 34 human studies on ginkgo have been published since 1975, showing, among other things, that ginkgo can increases the body’s production of the universal energy molecule adenosine triphosphate, commonly called ATP. This activity has been shown to boost the brains energy metabolism of glucose and increase electrical activity.
Scientists also discovered that ginkgo contains an abundance of useful compounds including the antioxidants Vitamin C and carotenoids, but it is the flavonoid compounds collectively known as “ginkgolides” that are the most remarkable. The ginkgo flavonoids act specifically to dilate the smallest segment of the circulatory system, the micro-capillaries, which has a widespread affect on the organs, especially the brain. Researchers have also reported that Ginkgo extracts effectively increase blood circulation and increase oxygen levels in brain tissues. Ginkgo is also a powerful antioxidant that prevents platelet aggregation inside arterial walls, keeping them flexible and decreasing the formation of arteriosclerositic plaque.
Ginkgo’s ability to improve blood flow has been shown in numerous studies with the elderly, leading German researchers to study ginkgo as a treatment for atherosclerotic peripheral vascular disease. This condition can cause a condition marked by decreased blood flow to the limbs caused by hardening of the arteries. One indicator of this condition is severe pain felt in the legs when attempting to walk even short distances, referred to as intermittent claudication. German researchers found that treatment with ginkgo extracts improved circulation to the extremities and made it possible for patients with atherosclerotic peripheral vascular disease to walk further with much less pain.
Ginkgo biloba extracts are relatively considered safe and free of side effects, though taking very large doses may lead to diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, which can be controlled by reducing the amount consumed.
American Ginseng has been traditionally used by the American Indians as a general tonic, as a natural restorative for the weak and wounded and to help the mind American Ginseng is now used as a natural preventative and restorative remedy, and is valued for its adaptagenic properties.
American Ginseng is more sedative and relaxing, and increases “yin” energy, in contrast to Korean Ginseng (Panax) which is more stimulating and increases the “yang” energy.
The main active ingredients of Ginseng (American and Korean) are the more than 20 saponin triterpenoid glycosides called “ginsenosides”. Another major difference between American and Korean Ginseng is that the American Ginseng is rich in the Rb1 group of ginsenosides, which have a more sedative and metabolic effect on the central nervous system. Korean Ginseng is higher in the Rg1 group of ginsenosides, which are more arousing and stimulating.
American Ginseng (Rb1 ginsenosides) also increases stamina, learning ability, and has been used for stress, fatigue characterized by insomnia, poor appetite, nervousness and restlessness.
Ginsenosides (Rg1) are the active ingredients that trigger the over-all benefits of Korean Ginseng. Ginseng has been shown to reduce the intensity of the body’s response to stresses. Ginseng is the first bioactive compound to be termed “adaptogenic”, which indicates a balancing effect to restore or counter the effects of stress.
Ginseng has been proven effective in assisting prolonged mental tasks and in improving intellectual performance. Overtraining in athletics is harmful to athletic gains and the body in general, with immune suppression a common result of going too far, too fast. Ginseng has been shown to be effective in restoring muscle glycogen (carbohydrate) and high energy phosphate compounds to normal levels.
Research has shown specific effects which support the central nervous system, liver circulatory system, immune and glandular systems.
Siberian Ginseng comes from the woody roots and not the typical fleshy rootstocks of the other ginsengs. The active ingredients, eleuthrerosides (B & E), are glycosides which provide the adaptogenic properties. Siberian Ginseng helps the body handle stressful conditions while enhancing mental and athletic abilities. The glycosides appear to act on the adrenal glands, helping to prevent adrenal hypertrophy and excess corticosteroid production in response to stress. Siberian Ginseng has been shown to increase energy, stamina, help the body resist viral infections, environmental toxins, radiation and chemotherapy. Siberian Ginseng is used to restore memory, concentration and cognitive abilities which may be impaired by improper blood supply to the brain.
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.) a member of the family Ranunculaceae, is a native American medicinal drug introduced to early settlers by Cherokee Indians who used it as a wash for skin diseases and sore eyes. Goldenseal extract, derived from the rhizome and roots of this small forest plant, has acquired a considerable reputation as a general bitter tonic and as a remedy for various gastric and genitourinary disorders.
Goldenseal’s benefits can be attributed to its alkaloids, especially hydrastine and berberine. The latter is also responsible for the drug’s characteristic golden color. These alkaloids are strongly astringent and help reduce inflammation of mucous membranes. Hydrastine has also been reported to lower blood pressure and stimulate peristalsis, along with being an anti-tussive (relieves coughs).
Berberine and its sulfate, berberine sulfate, have been demonstrated to have anti-cancer activity in vitro and also have been shown to have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and immunostimulatory activity, as well. Berberine has shown marked effects on acute diarrhea and its antibacterial qualities interfere with the ability of micro-organisms to adhere to the walls of host cells.
Goldenseal has been recommended for a variety of inflamed mucous membranes, including stomach, intestinal, vaginal and rectal. It has been reported that the plant relieves pains and helps heal wounds and stop bleeding. In addition, the antibacterial action helps reduce or prevent infection of open sores.
Recently, a “detox” tea made from comfrey, goldenseal, orange peel, mullein and spearmint has been used to help addicts kick their cocaine, heroin, and methadone habits. This would be great if it worked, but without scientific testing we can’t say one way or the other. Besides, one of the ingredients, comfrey, may be quite toxic.
High doses of goldenseal may cause nausea, vomiting, a decrease in the white blood count and feelings of pins and needles in the hands and feet.
Gotu kola (Centella asiatica (L.) Urban), of the Apiaceae family, is also known as centella and pennywort. Native to areas such as Sri Lanka and South Africa, the leaves of this swamp plant have been used around the world for centuries to treat leprosy, cancer, skin disorders, arthritis, hemorrhoids, and tuberculosis.
Gotu kola has also been employed as an energy tonic, an aphrodisiac, and as a treatment for high blood pressure and mental disorders. Gotu kola is a vital herb in Ayurveda, the traditional science of health in India, where it is used to “strengthen both the white and grey matter of the brain”, stimulate learning, memory and alertness, and calm or sedate anxiety when necessary. Traditional Chinese medicinal believed Gotu kola provided longevity, and thus called it the “fountain of youth” herb in China. In the United States gotu kola is found in countless energy formulas and tonics.
A common misconception is that gotu kola contains caffeine, which is simply not true. Researchers have found that gotu kola contains several glycosides that exhibit wound healing and anti-inflammatory activities, and in large doses it can act as a sedative. Other researchers have shown that fresh leaves of the gotu kola plant are effective in healing chronic skin ulcers and other wounds.
Gotu kola contains a group of triterpenes called asiaticosides that possess strong antioxidant properties. In modern health care Gotu Kola is used primarily for venous insufficiency, localized inflammation and infection, and post-surgery recovery. Gotu kola is also used for the following:
* SKIN: Open wounds, sores, ulcers, other infections and radiation ulcers. * CONFINEMENT: Bed sores, phlebitis, tingling, night cramps. * VEIN PROBLEMS: Phlebitis, varicose veins, cellulite and edema. * GYNECOLOGY: Lesions during pregnancy, delivery and obstetric manipulations, and episiotomy tears.
Gotu kola affects various stages of tissue development, including keratinization (the process of replacing skin after sores or ulcers). Asiaticosides stimulate the formation of lipids and proteins necessary for healthy skin. Gotu Kola has been found to have significant results in healing of skin, other connective tissues, lymph tissue, blood vessels (decreasing capillary fragility), and mucous membranes.
Grape Seed Extract (along with Pycnogenol, an extract derived from maritime pine bark) is an important source of one of nature’s most potent antioxidants, the proanthocyanidins. These nutritionally valuable substances have been utilized to treat deteriorating diseases and conditons with great success. Research has shown that proanthocyanidins (bioflavonoids) serve as anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, atniallergenics and are major free radical scavengers. The proanthocyandins possess up to 50 times stronger antioxidant activity than Vitamin C&E, Beta Carotene or Selenium.
Proanthocyanidins also help promote tissue elasticity, help heal injuries, reduce swelling and edema, restore collagen and improve peripheral circulation. Proanthocyanidins also prevent bruising, strengthen weak blood vessels, protect agains atherosclerosis, and reduce histamine production.
For years, those who could afford the high price of pycnogenol supplements derived significant antioxidant protection against free radicals. Pycnogenol, which is derived from pine bark, contains 85% proanthocyanidin. Grapeseed extract contains 95% proanthocyanidin and is far more affordable than pycnogenol.
Green tea extract comes from the natural dried leaves of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis). Black tea is derived from oxidized green tea leaves. Both Green and Black tea have been used for thousands of years in Asia, both as a beverage and a herbal medicine.
Researchers studying green tea have found it to be an excellent source of potent, bioflavonoid-rich compound that is high in polyphenols, a special class of bioflavonoids. The most important of the polyphenols isolated from green tea are the catechins, and in particular (-)Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), a strong antioxidant that is used in food production and antioxidant research.
The phenol groups in green tea polyphenols are extremely active, easily able to capture and neutralize free radicals and other pro-oxidants. Researchers have found that EGCG is over 200 times more powerful than vitamin E in neutralizing pro-oxidants and free radicals that attack lipids (oils and fats). EGCE is also 20 times more potent than vitamin E in reducing the formation of dangerous and potentially mutagenic peroxides that form in rancid fats and lard.
EGCE is also known to confer protection against respiratory and digestive infections and food poisoning, while encouraging acidophilus growth and regularizing bowel habits. In laboratory studies, 500 mg. of green tea catechins per day have been shown to significantly lower blood pressure and possess anti-mutagenic activity. Additionally, at very high levels (0.5% to 1% of daily diet) green tea catechins reduced high total- and LDL-cholesterol levels in animal studies.
Green tea blocks the attachment of bacteria to the teeth, protecting against cavities. Green tea extract is non-toxic, both in acute doses and high long-term doses. There is no potential for causing mutation or birth defects, and no adverse effect on fertility, pregnancy or nursing.
Guarana (Paullinia Cupana) is a climbing shrub that grows wild in the Amazon regions of Brazil and Uruguay. Most modern commercial Guarana is grown on government plantations where the highest quality plants are harvested.
The Guarana fruit is havested when ripe, after turning a bright red or yellow. The gathered fruit yields a small round black seed which is crushed to form a paste containing 10% Guaranine (caffeine).
Guarana has been used for hundreds of years by Brazilian Indians as a general tonic for the body and as a source of energy. Guarana acts on the central nervous system to prevent fatigue and break down lactic acid from muscle stress.
Besides caffeine, Guarana contains a host of other xanthines. Theobromine and Theophylline are the primary xanthines, acting as muscle relaxants and possessing diuretic properties.
Hawthorne berries are gathered from the small tree Crataegus laevigata of the family Rosaceae. Also known as Mayblossom and Whitehorn, Hawthorne was known to Dioscorides in the first century A.D., but was not widely used until recent times. The edible berries are often made into marmalade, and herbal preparations made from the flowers, fruits, and leaves are very prominent in contemporary European medicine. Currently about three dozen different preparations containing extracts of Hawthorne are marketed in Germany.
Hawthorne is described in most modern herbals as a valuable treatment for various heart ailments and circulatory disorders, as well acting as a mild astringent to be used for treating sore throats. Hawthorne is most often used to protect against the beginning stages of heart disease, for mild heart muscle weakness, for pressure and tightness of the chest, and for mild arrhythmia. It is also used as a tonic for an aging heart.
Standardized extracts improve myocardial and coronary circulation, raising the myocardial tolerance for oxygen deficiency. Hawthorne is also used for hypertension, nervous disorders and insomnia. It may potentiate the action of digitalis, and does potentiate cardiotonic glycosides.
Hawthorne should not be used as a substitute for medical care when an “organic cause” for one of the conditions listed is present, so cause should be diagnosed prior to use.
Modern researchers have revealed some interesting properties of hawthorne and confirmed that hawthorne contains compounds which support the heart and circulatory system. Hawthorn works to dilate the blood vessels, especially the coronary vessels, reducing peripheral resistance and thus lowering blood pressure and reducing the tendency to angina attacks. Though hawthorne’s action is not immediate, but develops very slowly, apparently it has a direct effect on the heart itself, especially in cases of heart damage. Its toxicity is low as well, becoming evident only in large doses. It’s therefore a relatively harmless heart tonic which apparently yields good results in many conditions where this kind of therapy is required.
Hawthorne contains leucoanthocyanins, flavonoids, hyperoside, vitexin 2-rhamnoside, glycosylflavones, amines, catechols, phenolcarboxylic acids, triterpene acids, sterols, inositol, PABA, saponins and purines. The main activity of hawthorne is derived from the potent mixture of pigment bioflavonoids, as well as oligomeric procyanidins (dehydrocatechins) that seem to be particularly active. Some of the flavonoid glycosides are thought to work in a similar way to digitoxin, having a vasodilating effect that could be helpful in the treatment of angina. They also produce marked sedative effects which indicate an action on the central nervous system.
A combination of several constituents seems to be directly responsible for the increase in heart muscle contraction force, by blocking whatever is reducing the contraction, for example, beta-blockers. The flavones help control the intracellular Calcium ion concentration. Hawthorne berries also contain inositol, PABA, purines, saponins, and B vitamins.
The hop plant, Humulus lupuius, is a a perennial climbing vine and hedgerow that twines around trees. Belonging to the family Cannabidaceae, hops are extensively cultivated in England, Germany, the United States, South America, and Australia. The hop plants bear a female strobile (fruit) shaped like a scaly cone, covered with glandular hairs containing the resinous bitter principles which make hops so popular in brewing and in medicine. Hops have been used since Roman times in brewing beer and as a nerve tonic and sedative. It has also been used to control diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease, where spasms of the smooth muscles play a role.
Although hops have been used for brewing beer for over 1,000 years, their medicinal properties have also been valued from very early times. Hop pickers used to tire easily, apparently as a result of transferring some hop resin from their hands to their mouths, gaining hops a reputation as a safe sedative. Later, pillows filled with hops were used for insomnia and nervousness. Small bags of hops, wetted with alcohol and placed on the skin, were also said to reduce local inflammation.
Experiments have shown that Hops relaxes the smooth muscles and acts as a sedative. It has been used to increase breast milk for irritable infants (and probably pass along its soothing effects).
The main constituent chemicals are unstable polyphenolic principles, primarily lupulin, which contains a bitter acid complex (2-Methyl-3-butonol, humulone, lumulone, lupulone and valeronic acid) and a volatile oil complex (humulene, myrcene, b-carophyllene and farnescene). The bitter acids humulone and lupulone have been associated with sedative properties.
Hops also contain tannins, flavonoid glycosides (rutin, quercetin and astragalin), and asparagine.
CAUTION: If you are pregnant or nursing, consult your health care professional before using hops products. Not recommended for people suffering from depressive illness.
Horsetail (Equisetum Arvense) is a rush-like perennial related to ferns. The hollow, jointed stems of this flowerless plant contain large amounts of silica and silicic acids (5-8%).
Silica is used by the body in the production and repair of connective tissues while accelerating the healing of broken bones. Our bodies use silica to maintain and repair the nails, hair, skin, eyes and cell walls. Horsetail is also used for its diuretic and astrigent properties, making it a useful treatment for cystitis, bladder and prostate problems, and kidney stones.
Horsetail (silica) reduces the risk of excessive bleeding and contributes to the building of healthy blood cells. Research has shown that Horsetail increases the number of phagozytes (enzymes that kill germs and other foreign substances), which improves the functioning of the entire immune system.
Bronchitis, lung and respiratory tract disorders have been shown to be helped by Horsetail, which increases the functioning and elasticity of lung tissues.
Horsetail contains 5% of the saponin equisetonin, and several flavone glycosides, including isoquercitrin, galuteolin, and equisetrin, which most likely account for its diuretic activity. Horsetail also contains Aconitic acid, calcium, PABA, fatty acids, fluorine, vitamin B-5 and zinc.
Juniper, latin name Juniperus communis, is a short evergreen shrub whose fruit and oil provides a flavoring agent used extensively in the food, perfume and soap industries. Juniper berry is probably best known as the unique flavoring agent of gin, an important component of the dry martini, a popular intoxicant and putative calmative revered by western culture for over 300 years. As a medicinal remedy, juniper has a long history of use employed as a treatment for numerous diseases by ancient Greek and Arab healers, as well as native American Indians.
Juniper berries contain a volatile oil, terpinen-4, that acts as a kidney irritant to stimulate increased kidney filtration and output. For this reason Juniper is commonly utilized as a diuretic to treat conditions involving the kidneys and bladder, to increase urine output, and for relief from symptoms of gout and kidney stones. Juniper berries, consumed raw, are also believed to act as a stimulant to increase appetite, and also serve as a remedy for rheumatism and arthritis. Lastly, Juniper berries, either eaten raw or brewed as a spicy sweet tea, are used as an effective remedy to relieve gas, stimulate digestion, and relieve colic.
While generally recognized as a safe herb, pregnant women are cautioned to avoid consuming Juniper products due to the likelyhood of increased contractions of the uterus. Those suffering from kidney ailments should also avoid Juniper products which can irritate the kidneys and bladder. When taking Juniper, if excessive urination or kidney irritation occur, cease using the product immediately.
Kava Kava (Piper Methysticum), also known as kava pepper, is an exciting botanical that has gained recent popularity in United States due to its availability. Though Kava is relatively new to the U.S., it is certainly not a new herb. Kava has been used in Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia in the South Pacific for over 3,000 years. Kava is a relaxant and sleep aid, able to induce a feeling of relaxation, peace and contentment, along with a sharpening of the senses. Kava was the beverage of choice during important meetings involving conflicts, inducing a state of relaxation and goodwill among parties trying to reconcil differences.
More recently, in the past few hundred years, Kava has also gained popularity with the natives of Hawaii, Australia and New Guinea where it is used medicinally as well as recreationally.
Kava was first mentioned in the scientific records in 1886, and by 1993 the active ingredients, Kavalactones, were detected by mass spectrometry. Over the past 100 years extensive analytical investigation of the Kava root has revealed that the active ingredients in Kava, the kavalactones, comprise 15% of the root. Of the fifteen lactones isolated from Kava, there are six major lactones (kavalactones) known to provide psychoactive activity: kawain, methysticin, demethoxy-yangonin, dihydrokawain, dihydomethysicin, and yongonin. All kavalactones are physiologically active, though it is the fat-soluble kavalactones derived from kava resin that convey the main psychoactive activity.
Absorption in the gastrointestinal tract is remarkably rapid, so the effects are felt almost immediately. The kavaclones are pharmacologically effective and differences in their actions are qualitative as well as quantitative. According to Singh (1983), “Kavalactones act less by inhibition of neuromuscular transmission than by a direct effect on muscular contractibility. The postsynaptic depression is similar to that caused by lignocain and other local anesthetics”. Kava’s muscle-relaxant properties are similar to those of potent tranquilizers as they both act on the central nervous system. Double-blind, placebo controlled studies conducted in 1991 show Kava to be a modern means of achieving relaxed states without side effects.
Increased cognitive function has been observed with Kava use according to a 1993 article in Neuropsychobiology. Unlike sedatives, Kava improves mental function instead of dulling the brain. And unlike alcohol or sedatives, it would be extremely difficult to build up a tolerance to Kava (Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology, 1992, 18:571). A dose of 100 to 150 ml of Kava can induce sleep within 30 minutes. No aftereffects are noted at this dose. Kava root is primarily used as a natural sedative and sleep inducer. It is also effective in reducing menstrual cramps. Kava is obviously not recommended for those who intend to drive or conduct any activity which requires fast reaction time.
Pharmaceutical grades of natural Kava root are available from reputable companies in the United States. Synthetic Kava can be produced but does not possess the same soothing qualities of naturally extracted kavalactones from the Kava plant. Correctly extracted Kava will contain all six kavalactones in high concentrations (25-30%).
CAUTION: Driving or operating heavy or dangerous equipment is not recommended while under the influence of Kava Kava, as drowsiness is likely to occur. Kava Kava use is contraindicated during pregnancy or nursing, and in cases of depression. Do not take for more than 3 months, nore more than 1,000 mg. per day without medical advice. Extended continuous intake can cause a temporary yellow discoloration of skin, hair and nails, in which case it must be discontinued. Discontinue use if dilation of pupils or disturbances of coordination between vision and movement occur.
INTERACTION: Use of Kava Kava may increase the effects of alcohol, barbiturates and psychopharmacological agents.
Kola Nut is also known as Cola Nut and Cola. Kola Nut is the seed kernel of a large African tree grown commercially around the world. It is extremely popular in the tropics as a caffeine containing stimulant.
Key constituents are caffeine, theobromine, tannins and phenolics, including d-catechin, l-epicatechin, kolatin, and kolanin. Also contains phlobaphens, the antocyanin pigment kola red, betaine, protein and starch.
Kola Nut is a central nervous system stimulant, antidepressant, diuretic and astringent. Because of its caffeine content, Kola Nut may relieve some migraine headaches. The phenolics and anthrocyanin are likely to provide antioxidant activity.
Historical uses of Kola Nut include increasing the capacity for physical exertion and for enduring fatigue without food; stimulating a weak heart; and treating nervous debility, weakness, lack of emotion, nervous diarrhea, depression, despondency, brooding, anxiety, and sea sickness.
While commonly thought of as a popular candy, the herb Licorice is derived from the from the roots and stems of the plant Glycyrrhiza glabra, and is never used in candies. Licorice is one of the mainstays of traditional Chinese medicine, and has been used for over 3,000 years as a tonic to rejuvenate the heart and spleen, and as a treatment for ulcers, cold symptoms, and skin disorders.
Modern herbalists commonly utilize licorice in treating adrenal insufficiencies such as hypoglycemia and Addison’s disease, counteracting stress, and in purifying the liver and bloodstream. In combination with other herbs it is recommended as a demulcent to soother mucous membranes, and as an expectorant useful in treating flu, colds, respiratory disorders and bronchitis.
Medical researchers have isolated several active substances in licorice root including glycosides, flavonoids, asparagine, isoflavonoids, chalcones and coumarins. Primary of these is Glycyrrhetinic acid, a natural anti-inflammatory compound that led to the successful development of drugs used in the treatment of duodenal and gastric ulcers, as well as ulcers of the mouth and genitals.
Another licorice compound, glycyrrhizin, has been shown to possess anti-viral properties effective against the polio virus, herpes zoster, herpes simplex, and the HIV virus. Both compounds have also been found to inhibit cancer cells in vitro, though clinical studies on humans have not been conducted.
Other derivatives of licorice have elicited a host of active ingredients that seem to act as anti-depressants and, if that weren’t enough, inhibit the enzymes that cause tooth decay. All in all licorice is a very impressive herb that is well supported by medical research and clinical data.
Persons with a history of congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and liver disorders should not use licorice compounds. If you are pregnant or nursing, consult your health care professional before using this product. People with a history of renal failure or those currently using cardiac glycosides may wish to avoid use of Licorice as a precautionary measure.
One of the best herbs to use for erectile dysfunction is Mura puama (Ptychopetalum olacoides). This shrub is native to Brazil and has long been used as a powerful aphrodisiac and nerve stimulant in South American folk medicine. A recent clinical study has validated its safety and effectiveness in improving libido and sexual function in some patients.
Marap uama has been used in tonifying the nervous system and for cases of mild exhaustion. It helps with gastrointestinal and reproductive disorders. It has antirheumatic properties and can be used for treating stress and trauma. Because of neurosexual stimulation it can enhance the libido. It can enhance blood chi and balance yin and yang in the triple warmer. It has been considered to be useful in prevention of some types of baldness. It is also used for neuromuscular problems
At the Institute of Sexology in Paris, France, under the supervision of one of the world’s foremost authorities on sexual function, Dr. Jacques Waynberg, a clinical study with 262 patients complaining of lack of sexual desire and the inability to attain or maintain an erection demonstrated Muira puama extract to be effective in many cases. Within 2 weeks, at a daily dose of 1 to 1.5 grams of the extract, 62 percent of patients with loss of libido claimed that the treatment had dynamic effect while 51 percent of patients with “erection failures” felt that Muira puama was of benefit.
Presently, the mechanism of action of Muira puama is unknown. From the preliminary information, it appears that it works on enhancing both psychological and physical aspects of sexual function. Future research will undoubtably shed additional light on this extremely promising herb for erectile dysfunction.
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum Gaertn), is a member of the family Asteraceae. Also known as the Marian, St. Mary’s, and Our Lady’s thistle, Milk Thistle should not be confused with the blessed or holy thistle (Cnicus benedictus), an entirely different species.
Milk Thistle is a tall herb with prickly leaves and a milky sap that is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe. Milk thistle is among the most ancient of all known herbal medicines, having been used as a folk remedy for centuries for liver complaints. Recent research has demonstrated that extracts of milk thistle do indeed protect against some very nasty liver toxins.
Research has uncovered a host of antihepatotoxic (liver protectant) compounds commonly referred to as silymarin. Silymarin has been shown to consist of a large number of flavonolignans, including silybin, isosilybin, dehydrosilybin, silydianin and silychristin. Animal studies have shown that silymarin exerts a liver protective effect against a variety of toxins, including the phallo toxins of the deadly Amanita phalloides mushroom.
Amanita phalloides is one of the most poisonous mushrooms in the world, containing toxins that are particularly destructive to the liver. Ingestion of this mushroom can lead to severe liver damage and death if untreated. The active ingredient of the herb is a bioflavonoid mixture called silymarin, the principal component of which is silybin. In animal experiments, when silymarin was given before poisoning by the Amanita phalloides mushroom, it was found to be 100 percent effective in preventing liver damage. Silymarin was also found to be completely effective if given to animals within ten minutes of exposure to the poison. When given within twenty-four hours it still prevented death and greatly reduced the amount of liver damage.
Silymarin also confers protection against the liver damage from dangerous solvents such as carbon tetrachloride and ethanol (alcohol). Silymarin has been used in the treatment of hepatic disorders in humans, and a German medical study found that liver function in patients with chronic hepatitis improved after three months of therapy with silymarin. A later study reported on the use of 420 milligrams of silymarin daily in patients with cirrhosis of the liver. Of twenty followed up for six to thirty-six months, ten were definitely improved and four had deteriorated.
The results of numerous studies suggest that silymarin not only protects liver cells by preventing the actions of toxic substances but that it also stimulate protein synthesis to accelerate the regeneration and production of liver cells.
Silymarin and component silybin function as antioxidants, protecting cell membranes from free-radical-mediated oxidative damage. This type of damage is known as lipid peroxidation. Most liver toxins produce their damaging effects by free radical mechanisms. Both silymarin and silybin protect red blood cell membranes against lipid peroxidation and hemolysis (breaking down of the red blood cells) caused by certain red blood cell poisons.
Milk thistle is presently available in the United States in concentrations that contain up to 80% silymarin. Silymarin is not soluble in water, and is therefore ineffective when taken in the form of a tea. Oral use requires a concentrated product. Milk thistle is marketed in the United States as a food supplement in the form of capsules containing 200 to 250 mg. of a concentrated extract representing 160 to 200 mg. of silymarin. Though relatively free from adverse affects, those with liver problems who wish to use milk thistle should be monitored by a health care professional to determine the products effectiveness.
Nettles, (Urtica dioica) from the family Urticaceae is also referred to as Stinging Nettle, Common Nettle and Greater Nettle. Nettle plants grow 2 to three feet tall, bearing dark green leaves with serrated margins and small flowers covered with tiny hairs on the leaves and stems. When brushed, Nettles can inject an irritant into any skin that comes into contact with the plant.
This stinging reaction is caused by the plant hairs injecting a compound containing formic acid, histamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, 5-hydroxytryptamine and other irritants. This stinging activity is lost when the plant is dried or cooked, and the tender tops of young first-growth nettles are especially delicious and nutritious.
Found all over the world, Nettles have been used as a vegetable and folk remedy for centuries. Collected before flowering, Nettles were thought useful as a treatment for asthma, as an expectorant, antispasmodic, diuretic, astringent, and tonic. Applying an extract of Nettles to the scalp was said to stimulate hair growth, and chronic rheumatism was treated by placing nettle leaves directly on the afflicted area. This usually led to local irritation, which could be relieved by vigorously rubbing the area. No evidence exist for the belief in Nettles ability to treat baldness. Likewise, Nettles have also been historically used to treat cancer, liver disease, constipation, asthma, worms, arthritis, gout, tuberculosis and gonorrhea, with little if any effectiveness.
The diuretic properties of nettles are well recognized, and several pharmaceutical preparations incorporating Nettles are marketed in Europe for this purpose. In addition, an extract of nettle root has become quite popular in recent years for the treatment of urinary retention brought on by benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). Some clinical studies attests to its effectiveness, and German health authorities now allow it to be used for this condition.
The German Commission E monograph indicates use of Nettles for secondary (not primary) treatment for rheumatic complaints, and for irrigation (flushing) in cases of inflammation of the urinary tract and in prevention and treatment of kidney gravel, noting that abundant fluid intake must be assured.
Nettles are rich in chlorophyll and young cooked nettle shoots, when cooked, are not only edible but are an excellent source of beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and minerals, especially silica.
Adverse effects from consuming nettle tea can range from upset stomach to burning sensations in the skin, difficulty in urination and bloating.
Most often found in fresh salads and as an uneaten garnish in restaurants, Parsley, latin name Petroselinum sativum, has been used in classical folk medicine for over 2,000 years, and traditional folk healers have discovered applications for virtually every part of this carrot-like plant.
Parsley seeds have been used as a carminative to relieve gas and stimulate digestive action, while the root has been employed for its mild diuretic activity, helping to increase urine output and rid the body of excess fluids.
The leaves and root have been recommended for treating urinary tract infections, and the entire plant is claimed to stimulate digestion and to act as an expectorant to aid in the elimination of mucus, thus aiding congestion. Folk healers have also found parsley to be an effective emmenagogue to stimulate the uterus and aid menstrual flow.
As a food, parsley is an excellent breath freshener, and nutritionally it is a good source of iron, beta carotene and vitamins B1, B2 and C. Laboratory research has supported many of the healing claims of parsley. Essential oils extracted from parsley have been shown to lower of blood pressure and to act as a mild sedative.
Volatile oils contained in parsley seeds have also proven to support claims for aiding digestion and increasing urine output. Parsley also contains apiol and myristicin, mildly toxic terpenes known to stimulate the uterus. Folk healers have also used parsley as an abortifactant, and under no circumstances should parsley volatile oils be administered to pregnant women. Otherwise, parsley is not toxic and appears free of adverse effects.
Passiflora (Edulis) is a Brazilian herb that is rich in Alkaloids (harmine & harmaline) and Flavone Glycosides. These ingredients have a sedative and tranquilizing effect. Passiflora may aid the transition into a restful sleep without any narcotic hangover.
Historically, Passiflora was used by North American Indians, where it was applied to earaches, boils and inflammation. Passiflora enters the heart, liver and lung meridians; influencing the cardiovascular and central nervous system. Passiflora is also said to have an anti-spasmodic effect especially when there is associated tension.
Passion Flower is also known as Wild Passion Flower and Maypop. It is a woody vine with flowers that reminded early pilgrims of the passion and suffering of Christ. Passion Flower bears small berry-like fruit called granadilla or water lemon.
Passion Flower is used as a sedative in nervous disorders (including gastrointestinal complaints of nervous origin), difficulties in sleeping, and anxiety or restlessness, especially in children. Also used to treat female anxiety during menses, childbirth and menopause. Passion Flower reduces spasms and depresses the central nervous system.
Passion Flower contains flavonoids such as isovitexin, vitexin, saponarin, orientin, glycosides, gynocardin, and alkaloids.
Supportive agents include: Valerian, Hops, Chamomile, Skullcap, Kava Kava, Wood Betony, Hawthorne Berries, L-Tryptophan and GABA.
Pennyroyal, latin name Mentha pulegium, is a member of the mint family. A mildly spicy tea brewed from the leaves of the pennyroyal plant is often recommended as a diaphoretic to inducing sweating to aid in eliminating toxins from the body. It also serves as a carminative to relieve gas, stimulate digestive action and to relieve nausea.
Pennyroyal, when brewed together with yarrow and elder flowers, results in a tea that is recommended by herbal healers as a treatment for releif of symptoms during the early stages of colds and flu. It is also consumed before retiring to bed for its mild sedative action.
Pennyroyal tea has also been traditionally employed as an emmenagogue to promote menstrual flow, and as an abortifacient to initiate self-abortion. These activities are initiated by highly volatile oils contained in the plant. These oils are high in pulegone, a highly toxic volatile, which can stimulate uterine activity.
While pennyroyal tea may safely stimulate mild increase in menstrual flow, the effects of the oil are very different. When employed to induce abortion the effects of pennyroyal oil are extremely dangerous and can be lethal. In one case, despite immediate emergency hospital treatment, an expectant mother died within hours of consuming just two tablespoonfuls of pennyroyal oil in an attempt to initiate self-abortion. Other cases have resulted in coma and convulsions after consuming much smaller amounts of this extremely toxic oil.
Such dangers do not pertain to normal consumtion of pennyroyal tea. Pennyroyal oil can only be recommended for external application to repel flying insects, and it is often found in flea collars for dogs and cats.
Pumpkin seeds of the genus Cucurbita have enjoyed a long history in folk medicine for use as teniafuges, or agents with the ability to rid the body of intestinal parisites such as roundworms and tapeworms. Derived from such species as autumn squash, crookneck squash, and the Canada pumpkin, cucurbita seeds can be consumed plain, or be administered in the form of an infusion or tea.
Usually taken in three separate doses ranging in size from 20 to 150 grams of seeds, the treatment is believed to paralize the worms, causing them to loosen their grasp and then allowing for them to be an effectively expelled from the body.
Researchers have isolated an amino acid called cucurbitin that is found only in pumpkin seeds and is thought to be responsible for the worm-expelling effects. Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of two unsaturated fatty acids oleic and linoleic acid which may account for claims that pumpkin seeds can releive symptoms of enlarge prostate.
There are no known side effects or reports of toxicity regarding pumpkin seeds.
Grape Seed Extract (along with Pycnogenol, an extract derived from maritime pine bark) is an important source of one of nature’s most potent antioxidants, the proanthocyanidins. These nutritionally valuable substances have been utilized to treat deteriorating diseases and conditons with great success. Research has shown that proanthocyanidins (bioflavonoids) serve as anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, atniallergenics and are major free radical scavengers. The proanthocyandins possess up to 50 times stronger antioxidant activity than Vitamin C&E, Beta Carotene or Selenium.
Proanthocyanidins also help promote tissue elasticity, help heal injuries, reduce swelling and edema, restore collagen and improve peripheral circulation. Proanthocyanidins also prevent bruising, strengthen weak blood vessels, protect agains atherosclerosis, and reduce histamine production.
For years, those who could afford the high price of pycnogenol supplements derived significant antioxidant protection against free radicals. Pycnogenol, which is derived from pine bark, contains 85% proanthocyanidin. Grapeseed extract contains 95% proanthocyanidin and is far more affordable than pycnogenol.
Pygeum is also known as African Pygeum. It is a large evergreen tree that grows in the high plateaus of southern Africa.
The bark is traditionally powdered and drunk as a tea for genito-urinary complaints. Double-blind clinical trials have shown efficacy for many parameters of prostatic hypertrophy, including failure to urinate, nocturnal urination, frequent urination, residual urine, abdominal heaviness, voiding volume, prostate volume and peak flow. Results included significant reduction of symptoms and prostate size, and clearance of bladder neck urethra obstruction.
The bark contains three groups of active constituents: phytosterols (including beta-sitosterol), pentacyclic triterpenoids (including ursolic and oleaic acids) and ferulic esters of long-chain fatty alcohols (including ferulic esters of docosanol and tetracosanol).
Royal jelly is a viscous, milky white secretion produced by the pharyngeal glands of worker bee (Apis mellifera L.), belonging to the insect family Apidae. During the first three days of life all bee larvae feed exclusively on this special and highly concentrated food. Future queens continue to be nourished by this product, making the Queen Bee 50% larger than the other female worker bees, and contribuing to her incredible stamina and longevity. Queen Bees typically live 4 or 5 years, compared to the workers, who live only about 40 days.
Because the resulting queens are much larger than worker bees, live thirty to forty times longer, and are highly fertile (worker bees are sterile), enthusiasts have long believed that royal jelly may have beneficial effects when consumed by human beings.
Various herbalist claim that royal jelly is especially effective in halting or controlling the aging process, nourishing the skin and erasing facial blemishes and wrinkles. Royal Jelly has also been used to treat cases of fatigue, depression, convalescence from illness, the “growing pains” of adolescence; and in preventing the signs of normal aging or even premature senility. As a general tonic for treating the menopause or male climacteric and to improve sexual performance, royal jelly supposedly has a general systemic action rather than any specific biological function.
Chinese herbalists also advocate Royal Jelly for use in cases of liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis, anemia, phlebitis, gastric ulcer, degenerative conditions, and general mental or physical weakness.
The chemistry of royal jelly has been extensively studied and found to be a rich source of complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids, unsaturated fats, natural sugars, minerals and the B-vitamins (B-5 and B-6) The B vitamins were especially prominent, with pantothenic acid predominating.
Tests have shown that royal jelly does possess some slight antibacterial activity and can have an affect on the adrenal cortex, stimulating the adrenal glands to produce a positive reaction on increased metabolism, enhanced energy, greater sexual capability and appetite.
An antitumor effect in mice has also been noted, but there is no evidence that the product has any estrogenic (female sex hormonal) activity, or that it affects the growth, longevity, or fertility of animals. As for its topical effectiveness in rejuvenating the skin the results from one three-month clinical study of 24 female patients are of interest; ten women showed improvement, ten experienced no change, and four showed symptoms of skin irritation.
Almost half the male population over age 50 suffers from enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH), with symptoms ranging from inflammation (prostatitis), to swelling, painful and frequent urination, and nocturnal urination. One in seven men over age 50 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer among men (next to skin cancer) and the second most common cause of cancer death (next to lung cancer).
The most common treatment for prostate disease is surgical removal of the prostate. About 400,000 prostatectomies are performed every year in the United States. Unfortunately, surgical removal of the prostate can lead to impotence and incontinence and is linked to increased risk of death from heart disease.
Research has shown that enlargement of the prostate gland is caused mainly by the action of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) a powerful male hormone which is converted from the primary male hormone (testosterone) under the influence of the enzyme testosterone 5-alpha-reductase. The FDA recently approved a drug (Proscar) that counters the action of DHT as a treatment for BPH, but Proscar is very expensive ($60 a month) and sometimes causes severe side effects such as sexual impotence.
Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens has recently gained widespread use by doctors and alternative health practitioners alike as a safe alternative for treating BHP. Saw Palmetto is a small palm tree with large leaves and deep red-black berries. Native Americans used the berries as a food and a therapeutic herbal treatment for enuresis, nocturia, atrophy of the testes, impotence, inflammation of the prostate and low libido in men. Women also used the Saw Palmetto berries to treat infertility, painful periods and problems with lactation. Saw Palmetto has other traditional uses as a tonic and expectorant for mucous membranes, particularly the bronchial tubes.
Saw Palmetto Berry contains an oil with a variety of fatty acids, including capric, caprylic, caproic, lauric, palmitic and oleic acid, and their ethyl esters. Saw Palmetto oil is also high in phytosterols (beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, cycloartenol, lupeol, lupenone and 24-methyl-cycloartenol), as well as other volatile oils, resins, and tannin.
Saw Palmetto is a “multi-site” inhibitor of the hormone DHT, which plays a major role in the development of prostate disorders. Saw palmetto inhibits 50% of the binding of DHT to receptor sites in the prostate. It also blocks the uptake of DHT into the nucleus of prostate cells, and strongly inhibits the action of testosterone 5 alpha-reductase, which reduces the conversion of testosterone to DHT.
In modern research, fat-soluble extracts of Saw Palmetto have been shown to inhibit the conversion of testosterone to dihydro-testosterone (DHT), and to block the binding of DHT to prostate cells, thus reducing prostate enlargement and inflammation.
In a controlled clinical trial with patients with enlarged prostate glands, 50 patients who received saw palmetto (320 mg per day – 4 tablets taken in two separate doses with meals) were compared to 44 patients receiving placebo. Patients treated with saw palmetto urinated less frequently, produced a better flow rate and amount of urine, and had less pain and discomfort in urinating than control subjects. There were actually fewer adverse side effects in patients receiving saw palmetto than in controls.
Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) of the family Schisandraceae is a creeping vine with small red berries that is native to Northern China. In ancient China Schisandra was used as a staple food for hunting and gathering tribes. As a traditional medicinal herb, Schisandra, called Wu-wei-tzu in China, has been used as an astringent for a treatment for dry cough, asthma, night sweats, nocturnal seminal emissions and chronic diarrhea It is also used as a tonic for the treatment of chronic fatigue.
During the early 1980’s Chinese doctors began researching Schisandra as a treatment for hepatitis, based on its potential for liver-protective effects and the nature of its active constituents. Schisandra is now a recognized “adaptogen,” capable of increasing the body’s resistance to disease, stress, and other debilitating processes.
In Asia, this adaptogenic property is said to “stimulate immune defenses, balance body function, normalize body systems, boost recovery after surgery, protect against radiation, counteract the effects of sugar, optimize energy in times of stress, increase stamina, protect against motion sickness, normalize blood sugar and blood pressure, reduce high cholesterol, shield against infection, improve the health of the adrenals, energize RNA-DNA molecules to rebuild cells and produces energy comparable to that of a young athlete.”
Studies conducted on Schisandra’s effects have noted that the drug has a stimulating effect in low doses, but this effect disappeared with larger doses. The compounds thought responsible for the liver-protective effects of Schisandra are lignans composed of two phenylpropanoid. More than 30 of these have been isolated in Schisandra and some 22 of which were tested in 1984 by the Japanese scientist H. Hikino for their ability to reduce the cytotoxic effects of carbon tetrachloride and galactosamine on cultured rat liver cells.
Most lignans were found to be effective, and some were extremely active (schisandrins A and B, gomisin A, B-bisabolne). Subsequent Japanese studies have found that two of the lignans, wuweizisu C and gomisin A, exert their liver protective effects by functioning as antioxidants to prevent the lipid peroxidation produced by harmful substances such as carbon tetrachloride. Since lipid peroxidation leads to the formation of liver damage the two compounds did indeed exert a protective influence.
Western herbalists commonly recommend Schisandra for the lungs, liver and kidneys, and to help with depression due to andrenergic exhaustion. In Russia Schisandra is used to treat eye fatigue and increase acuity.
CAUTION: Schisandra should not be used during pregnancy except under medical supervision to promote uterine contractions during labor. Schisandra should be avoided by persons with peptic ulcers, epilepsy and high blood pressure.
Saint John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), also known as Goatweed, Hypericum and Klamath Wee, belongs to a group of about two hundred herbs of the family Hypericaceae. This aromatic perennial herb is found throughout Europe and the United States, producing golden yellow flowers that seem particularly abundant on June 24, the traditional birthday of John the Baptist. Ergo the name in honor of St. John.
St. John’s wort was popular with ancient medical authorities and was commonly recommended as a folk remedy for the treatment of infectious diseases such as colds, syphilis, tuberculosis, dysentery, whooping cough and worms. St. John’s wort has also been used as a folk remedy for the treatment of depression, anxiety, mania, hypochondriasis, fatigue, hysteria and insomnia.
Over time, with the advent of modern pharmaceutical science, St. John’s wort was nearly forgotten as a medicinal herb. Only recently has St. John’s wort gained a new reputation, particularly in Europe, as an effective nerve tonic for treatment of anxiety, depression, and unrest. A report in a leading German medical journal in 1984 demonstrated significant improvement in depression, anxiety and insomnia in nine people taking oral extracts of St. John’s wort. Recent studies have linked the antidepressant effects of St. John’s wort to various contained xanthones and flavonoids that act as monoamine oxidase (MOA) inhibitors. Tests on small animals and preliminary tests in humans have confirmed this activity.
In a study published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 1988, researchers from The New York University Medical Center and The Weizmann Institute of Science reported the discovery of two substances in St. John’s Wort, hypericin and pseudohypericin, that displayed anti-viral activity against some retroviruses. Retroviruses include the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and the authors suggested that these herbal products could be useful in the treatment of AIDS.
Extracts of St. John’s wort are now known to inhibit the growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the most common cause of tuberculosis, as well as the bacteria staphylococci, shigella and Escherichia coli. Researchers have also shown that St. John’s wort inhibits the growth of some strains bacteria that are highly resistant to antibiotics, such as Staphylococcus aureus, enterococcus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. St. John’s wort has also been reported to have anti-viral activity against herpes simplex virus, influenza virus and hepatitis B virus.
Hypericin and pseudohypericin appear to be the active therapeutic components of St. John’s wort, though other substances, including protein, fat, tannin, vitamins A and C, carotenoids, rutin and pectin support it’s activies. The presence of hypericin and pseudohypericin distinguish St. John’s wort from other herbs, and both compounds are promising candidates for the treatment of HIV disease, including ARC and AIDS, as noted above.
The mechanism of viral inhibition by these substances is not known, but their chemical structures suggest that they may interact with viruses membranes, leading to increased fluidization which would would essentially inactivate the virus.
Chemical investigations have detected a number of other constituents in St. John’s wort, including about 1% of a volatile oil and approximately 10% of tannin. The tannin probably exerts some wound-healing effects through its astringent and protein-precipitating actions.
Unfortunately, hypericin may exert a much less desirable side effect, a form of photosensitivity characterized by dermatitis of the skin and inflammation of the mucous membranes on exposure to direct sunlight. There is evidence that the photosensitizing caused by St. John’s wort is due to the fluorescent pigment hypericin.
Purified hypericin, when given orally, can produce photosensitization in rats. It is the reaction of this substance with the ultraviolet rays of the sun that causes the problem. The photosensitization reaction is known as hvpericism or St. John’s wort poisoning. It is important to point out that photosensitization reactions have not been described in humans participating in studies using Hypericum extracts. This is most likely due to the fact that these subjects were not receiving doses high enough to cause the reaction. The photosensitizing dose for humans is not known.
Those taking St. John’s wort for extended periods should be aware of the possibility of inducing a photosensitization reaction and be prepared to discontinue use if symptoms occur.
Suma, also called Para toda, is the dried root of Pfaffia Paniculata, a plant found in the Atlantic rain forest of Brazil. First introduced to the United States as Brazilian Ginseng, Suma is one of the most highly regarded herbs in South America, and is considered to be a true adaptogen. Used by native peoples for centuries, Suma is advocated as an effective adaptogen to support the immune system, adapt the body to external stresses, relieve pain, fight chronic fatigue syndrome, and accelerate wound healing.
Herbalists using Suma often refer to research conducted by Dr. Milton Brazzach, head of the pharmaceutical department at the University of Sao Paulo. Dr. Brazzach originally become interested in suma when his wife was cured of breast cancer after ingesting the root. Dr. Brazzach has since gone on to test suma on thousands of patients suffering from serious diseases such as cancer, leukemia, and diabetes. He reportedly found suma to have great healing and preventative powers, yet has never published his clinical findings.
Researchers have isolated several active compounds in suma, including Beta Ecdysterone, a plant sterol which has an anabolic and immune boosting effect in the body. Suma is also rich in a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals (particularly the rare mineral germanium), amino acids, Allantoin (a cell building compound) and 6 pfaffic acids.
Recent studies have shown that five of the pfaffosides found in Suma have been able to inhibit growth of cultured melanoma tumor cells, supporting at least some of the claims made for this herb. To date there are no reports regarding the toxicity and there are no known side effects.
Turmeric is an essential flavoring spice of Indian and other cuisines. The Turmeric rhizome provides the typical yellow color of many curry dishes and helps to make the food more digestible. Turmeric has been used for arthritis, high cholesterol, digestion, liver protection, and obesity. Turmeric also possesses antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Turmeric contains curcumin and an essential oil (turmerone, zingiberins). Curcumin increases the secretion of bile by stimulating the bile duct. Curcumin also protects the liver by detoxification, stimulating the gall bladder and scavenging free radicals. In conjunction with the adrenal glands, it inhibits both platelet aggregation and the enzymes which induce inflammatory prostaglandins. Curcumin may also help break down fats and reduce cholesterol
Caution: Large doses not recommended in cases of painful gallstones, obstructive jaundice, acute bilious colic and extremely toxic liver disorders.
Uva ursi is also referred to as bearberry, kinnickinick, whortleberry, bear’s grape, mountain cranberry and mealberry. The leaves of this small shrub have been used as an herbal folk medicine for centuries as a mild diuretic and astringent, and in the treatment of urinary tract infections such as cystitis, urethritis and nephritis.
Uva-ursi contains a plant glycoside, Arbutin, which breaks down in the body to form hydroquinone, a chemical compound that serves as an effective urinary antiseptic and astringent. Uva-ursi contains other compounds, among them ursolic acid, which are also known to be effective diuretics.
Uva-ursi is extremely high in tannin, which can lead to stomach distress if taken in large quantities. The tannin content of uva ursi tea can be easily minimized by soaking the leaves in cold water rather than by brewing in hot water, which would release more of the tannin.
Uva ursi is generally considered a safe herb, but large doses or prolonged use of hydroquinone can have toxic effects, including ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, and delirium. Uva ursi should not be used by children or pregnant women, and should never be used for prolonged periods of time or in high doses unless under the supervision of health care professional.
Cautions: Nausea and vomiting may occur in sensitive adults and children. Uva-Ursi requires alkaline urine (pH 8) to work; urine can be made alkaline by taking a heaping teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. Uva-Ursi should not be taken with drugs that lead to the formation of acid urine. Do not take for extended periods of time without consulting a knowledgeable physician or health care provider. Only for oral use. Contraindicated in acute cystitis. Can cause gastric irritation if over-used. Should not be used in pregnancy. Will temporarily turn the urine green, a harmless effect.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) of the family Valerianaceae, is a tall perennial herb with hollow stems that bear white or reddish flowers. The vertical rhizome and attached rootlets are harvested in the autumn of the second year’s growth. These plant parts possess an unpleasant aroma due to the contained volatile oils.
Valerian extract, derived from the dried rhizomes and roots of the plant, has been used for thousands of years as a folk remedy, tranquilizer and calmative for several disorders such as restlessness, nervousness, insomnia, hysteria, menstrual problems, and as a sedative for “nervous” stomach. Valerian extracts are currently used in scores of compounds and teas in Europe.
Most current treatments for insomnia work by disrupting natural sleep rhythms and risk psychologically addiction. Natural sedatives, free of side effects, are constantly being sought. In the early 80’s many people turned to L-tryptophan (no longer available – see article) as a sleep aid. More recently western consumers have become aware of the benefits of low-dose melatonin. Now health conscious consumers in Europe and United States are discovering that valerian root has a calming effect and helps them fall asleep more easily.
The German Commission E monograph for health authorities indicates that valerian is a safe and effective anti-anxiety agent and sedative for treatment of restlessness and sleep disturbances resulting from nervous conditions. Valerian is perhaps best characterized as a minor tranquilizer when administered in the form of a tea, a tincture or an extract.
During the past three decades extensive studies on Valerian have identified several unstable esters called valepotriates believed to be the primary source of the plants sedative effects. Researchers have found that although Valerian is effective in producing depression of the central nervous system, neither the tested valepotriates, nor the sesquiterpenes valerenic acid or valeranone, nor the volatile oil itself displayed any such activity. This has led to speculation that it is a combination of volatile oil components, valepotriates or their derivatives that is responsible for Valerians calmative actions.
For example, a 1985 study conducted in the Netherlands showed no anxiety-reducing activity by an extract of valerian root or purified valepotriates. However the study did find that didrovaltrate, a valepotriate, as well as valeranon, an essential oil component from the herb, were able to produce a pronounced smooth-muscle relaxant effect on the intestines. The researchers concluded that certain valerian preparations may produce a calming effect indirectly through local spasmolytic activity.
A another study conducted in Russia, researchers reported that valepotriates inhibited caffeine-stimulated motor activity and prolonged barbiturate-induced sleeping time in mice and rats. This translates to anti-anxiety and sedative activities. In other research, valerenic acid and related sesquiterpens have been found to inhibit the breakdown of the neurotransmitter, aminobutyric acid.
Overall, Valerian is relatively safe and no significant side effects or contraindications are noted, though those with impaired kidney or liver functions should not take valerian except under a physician’s supervision. Valerian can interact with alcohol, certain antihistimines, muscle relaxants, psychotropic drugs and narcotics. Those taking any of these drugs should take valerian only under the supervision of a health care provider.
The bark of the common Willow tree, also known as the Pussy Willow, is the source of a wide range of phenolic glycosides, of which the most important is is salicin. Like Aspirin, indications for Willow bark include mile feverish colds and infections (influenza), acute and chronic rheumatic disorders, mild headaches, and pain caused by inflammation.
Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), a synthetic replacement for salicin, has potentially dangerous gastrointestinal side effects. In its natural form, salicin passes harmlessly through the gastrointestinal tract, becoming saligenin and glucose. The saligenin is then converted to salicylic acid in the blood and the liver. The conversion process takes a few hours, so results will not be felt immediately, but are usually sustained for several hours.
Caution: If you are pregnant or nursing please check with your health care professional before using Willow bark. Individuals who are allergic to salycylates should avoid Willow bark.
Betony, also known as Wood Betony, was once held in high regard by ancient folk healers. Used as a herbal treatment for a host of human ills ranging from the common cold to warding off supernatural spirits, Betony is still used by herbal practitioners, though for a much more limited set of maladies.
Current use of the dried herb of Betony involves the use of a tincture or infusion as a remedy for chronic headaches and to treat anxiety and nervousness. Like most herbs, Betony possesses mild astringent properties, for which it is occasionally recommended as a the treatment for diarrhea, or as a mouthwash to soothe mucous membranes of the mouth and throat.
Betony contains relatively high amounts of tannin, explaining its astringent activity. It also contains choline, alkaloids and glycosides. One glycoside has been shown to lower blood pressure, possibly supporting its use as a treatment for anxiety and headaches.
Betony is nontoxic, though excess consumption may lead to mild stomach upset.
Yellow dock is small, leafy plant that grows wild in Europe and the United State. Also called curly dock, and closely related to rhubarb, the green leaves are commonly used in salads, while the yellow root has been used as a herbal folk-remedy for hundreds of years.
Ground up and brewed, yellow dock root makes a bitter-sweet tea or infusion that has been used by herbalists in the treatment of a variety of disorders, primarily to treat enlarged liver and to purify the blood. It was also thought a good remedy for syphilis, tuberculosis, gum disease and leprosy, but is no longer recommended for these serious disorders.
Modern herbalists will still occasionally recommend yellow dock tea as a treatment for the liver and gallbladder, though its mainly employed in the treatment of skin disorders and digestive ailments. There is virtually no research to support the use of yellow dock as an effective treatment for psoriasis or acne.
Yellow dock is known to contain tannin which is an astringent is mildly useful in the treatment of diarrhea and stomach distress, though in large enough doses it may actually cause diarrhea. The root also contain several anthraquinone glycosides that researchers recognize as being responsible for its undisputed laxative effect.
Yellow dock is generally considered to be mildly effective as a laxative, and not very effective for much more. Side effects of excess consumption of yellow dock include excessive urination, nausea and diarrhea.
Yohimbe is an herb derived from the inner bark of the yohimbe tree which grows wild throughout Africa. Long considered an a effective aphrodisiac, able to stimulate sexual desire and performance, yohimbe has been available by prescription as a pill. Recently yohimbe containing products have become popular as over the counter herbal preparations.
The active component of yohimbe bark is yohimbine, an alkaloid monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor that blocks adrenergic receptors. This leads to an increase in dilation of blood vessels and a lowering of blood pressure. This enlargment of blood vessels, particularly in the sexual organs, is the generally accepted explanation of the physiological effects of the herb. Yohimbe also seems effective in elevating mood and reducing depression and anxiety, further contributing to its aphrodisiac activity.
Animal studies have shown that yohimbe does indeed increase sexual arousal and performance. Researchers conducting double-blind, placebo-controlled studies reported measurable improvements in sexual libedo and performance in men receiving the yohimbe versus those on placebo. Clearly in some cases yohimbe can improve sexual performance in those suffering from physiological and psychological impotence. Scientists have also recently found evidence that yohimbe may aid in weight loss by suppressing the body’s ability to store fat.
Yohimbe is not without side-effects, which can include sweating, nausea and vomiting. Those taking MAO inhibitors such as tranquilizers, antidepressants or blood-pressure medications should not take yohimbe or any compounds containing yohimbine. Use of yohimbe is also contraindicated for pregnant women as well as persons with kidney disease, heart disease, liver disease, diabetes or ulcers. Persons with a history of psychoses should also avoid yohimbe as it has been known to trigger new episodes of psychic reaction.
Yucca has a long history of use as a folk remedy employed for treatment of arthritis and rheumatism and is cultivated as an important medicine plant and staple food in South America. The yucca root commonly used by herbal healers comes from the flowering yucca plant, a member of the lily family that can grow to heights of 40 feet or more.
The yucca root is rich in steroid-like saponins that elevate the body’s production of cortisone, possibly explaining the herbs reported ability to aid in managing arthritic pains. Currently researchers are debating the merits of various studies to determine the efficacy of using yucca in the treatment of various forms of arthritis. No study to date supports the use of yucca root at the expense of more traditional and effective therapies in the management of arthritis.
Though known to occasionally induce stomach distress, yucca is generally regarded as a harmless and maybe beneficial herb.
DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is a metabolite of cholesterol that is naturally produced by the adrenal glands. DHEA is the most abundant, naturally-occurring hormone in the human body, and is often referred to as the “Mother Hormone” because it acts as a precursor that the human body can convert DHEA, upon demand, into a host of other vital health-enhancing hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and corticosterone.
DHEA is an important raw material from which the body manufactures hormones which are very important to normal physiological functions. DHEA levels normally decline markedly with age, so researchers are very interested in knowing if supplemental DHEA may have health-enhancing or anti-aging properties.
DHEA blood levels reach their peak around age 20, then decline in a linear fashion, making it one of the most reliable markers for measuring biological aging. By age 80 DHEA blood levels have declined as much as 95%, signaling the onset of the aging process.
“DHEA is most abundant in the human bloodstream. Research has found it to have significant anti-aging effects. DHEA levels naturally drop as people age, and there is good reason to think that taking a DHEA supplement may extend your life and make you more youthful while you’re alive. Additionally, DHEA may be an important player in cognitive enhancement.” ( Ward Dean, M.D.)
More than just a precursor for the synthesis of other hormones, scientists have also identified specific body cells designed to bind to DHEA. This receptor function indicates that DHEA plays a far more direct role in human health than was previously recognized. There have been over 2,500 published papers documenting DHEA’s multiple benefits, but the most recent paper studied the quality of life enhancing effect of this natural hormone: “DHEA will improve the quality of life over a longer period and will postpone some of the unpleasant side effects of aging, such as fatigue and muscle weakness.”
The report also stated that those patients receiving DHEA supplements slept better, had more energy and were better equipped to handle stress compared to the placebo group not receiving the DHEA.
The potential benefits of DHEA have been known to the scientific community for over 20 years, but this is the first placebo controlled human study conducted that sought to assess the therapeutic benefits of DHEA replacement therapy.
In addition to proteins, carbohydrates, fats and oils, research has shown that a number of other important substances play vital roles in maintaining and enhancing human health. These nutrients can range from unique forms of amino acids to hormones and other compounds not easily categorized in more traditional forms (ie. amino acids, vitamins, minerals, etc.).
ALC, also known as Acetyl L-Carnitine, is a naturally occuring substance normally found in small amounts in milk and the human body. As a nutrional supplement ALC has recently become popular based upon compelling evidence of its ability to slow the degredation of mental functions suffered by Alzheimer’s patients. ALC has also grown in popularity as a nutrient taken by healthy people looking to increase mental functions while slowing the loss of memory normally associated with the aging process.
Much of the excitement surrounding ALC has been generated by scientific tests on human patients conducted in Italy, where Alberto Spagnoli, M.D., of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan reported that the drug slowed cognitive decline in 63 patients with Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, these patients had significantly better results than untreated Alzheimer’s patients in 13 of 14 measures of mental functioning, including memory, attention, verbal capacity and daily-living activities.
Alzheimers researchers working in the United States and Europe have conducted scores of human studies with ALC, with doses ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 milligrams per day. The results of several double-blind, placebo-controlled studies indicate that ALC is effective in slowing the deterioration of cognitive functions of patients with Alzheimers disease. In several studies the progression of the disease was markedly reduced, and researchers noted increases in memory, attention span, and alertness. Scientists also found that ALC often improved moods and seemed to aleviate depression
Researchers have reported that ALC seems to work by preventing normal age-dependent cell changes in the brain, as well as slowing the loss of neurons in the hippocampus. Scientists have also found that ALC is able to increase levels of NGF, also known as nerve growth factor. NGF levels normally decline with increased aging, and their loss has been associated with a subsequent loss of brain functions. Evidence also points to ALC’s ability to increase levels of choline acetyltransferase, a vital brain enzyme that plays an important role in learning and memory.
Scientists have also found that ALC can aid in the repair of damaged DNA strands in white blood cells, suggesting that this nutrient can help to prevent age-related decline of immune system functions. Effective DNA repair is at the very heart of all life functions and it is theorized that with increasing age, diminished DNA repair capacity may play an important role in determining one’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurodegenerative diseases.
While regarded as a relatively safe substance, ALC should not be taken by pregnant or lactating women. ALC should be taken with food to prevent stomach upset. Other than slightly increased agitation, no major adverse side effects were reported in the Italian study.
Choline, while closely related to the B complex family of vitamins, is not truely considered a vitamin since researchers cannot agree on any common definitions of deficiency symptoms. Choline is found in all living cells, and is known to play a vital role in maintaining the central nervous system and in numerous metabolic functions.
Choline is a component of lecithin and is used in the manufacture of cell membranes. It is also required for the production and metabolization of fats and cholesterol, and helps to protect the liver from the accumulation of excess fatty deposits. Choline’s most vital role may lie in its activity in the brain and central nervous system. Choline is a precursor of the important neurotransmitter acetylcholine, a chemical used in the transmission of brain impulses between nerves, muscles and organs. In this role it is involved directly with cognition, long and short term memory, stimulus response, and mental energy. Since acetylcholine levels increase rapidly after consuming choline, researchers have employed choline supplements in the treatment of various disorders marked by lowered levels of acetylcholine in the brain, including Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and tardive dyskinesia.
There is no recommended daily intake for choline. A deficiency of choline can result in increased fatty deposits in the liver, memory loss, and poor muscle coordination. While not toxic, excess consumption of choline can lead to over-stimulation of muscles, leading to tightening of the shoulders and neck, resulting in a tension headache.
Foods highest in choline include egg yolks, liver, meats, brewers yeast, milk, legumes and whole grain cereals. Choline can be manufactured in the human body with the help of vitamin Bl2, folic acid, and the amino acid called methionine, although not necessarily in optimal amounts. Choline is also available as a dietary supplement, in such forms as phosphatydil choline, choline chloride, or choline bitartrate. Choline supplements should be avoided by persons who suffer from manic depression, as they may deepen the depressive phase of this disorder.
Coenzyme Q-10, also called ubiquinone, is a natural fat-soluble substance produced in the body and found in throughout nature in plants and animals. Similar to vitamin K, CoQ10 is classified as a non-vitamin nutrient that acts as an antioxidant to protect cell membranes from free radical activity. While long overlooked by the medical community, recent research has just begun to outline the role coenzyme Q-10 plays in maintaining life.
Early in the 60’s scientists had already found that CoQ10 played an essential role in cell respiration and electron transfer. Then researchers began to notice that they only found coenzyme Q-10 deficiencies in patients suffering cardiovascular disease. They soon discovered that when coenzyme Q-10 levels fell below 25 percent of normal they began to notice major symptoms of disease. When coenzyme Q-10 fell to 75 percent below normal levels, all life activity stopped and death was inevitable. New research has also discovered coenzyme Q-10 depletion in those suffering from diabetes mellitus, periodontal disease, and muscular dystrophy.
A recent study published in The Journal of Optimal Nutrition documented the life-enhancing effects of co-enzyme Q-10 as a treatment for patients suffering from heart failure so severe that no further conventional therapy was available, except possibly heart transplants. The study compared the blood levels of 154 patients for levels of co-enzyme Q-10, and several other nutrients. At the beginning of the study almost 50% of the patients were close to dying, yet after only 12 months of treatment with coenzyme Q-10, 97% of the patients were alive.
Monitoring the patients evidenced high long-term survival rates of 96% of all patients still alive after 24 months, and 95% alive after 36 months. This survival data on co-enzyme Q-10 must be compared to traditional data that report survival rates of 35-65% after 12 months of treatment with conventional drugs. This extraordinary survival rate for patients taking coenzyme Q-10 is clearly superior to conventional drug treatments and provides evidence of coenzyme Q-10’s indispensable role as a mandatory energy cofactor of myocardial function and contractility.
Patients with less severe heart disease were treated with 100-150 mg. a day of CoQ10, while dying patients were given 150-225 mg. a day. Dosages for patients increased whenever blood levels failed to reach 2 micrograms per milliliter and whenever new medications were added. All patients were followed for up to 58 months. These 154 cases included coronary artery disease, dilated cardiomyopathy, rheumatic cardiomyopathy, chemotherapy induced cardiomyopathy, and congenital cardiomyopathy.
94% of these patients improved by one class when treated with dosages of Co-Q-10 ranging from 100 to 255 mg. a day. In studies published in the major medical journals, FDA approved cardiac drugs produce only 50% improvements after 12 months and these studies are the basis for which cardiologists prescribe these medications. Yet none of these FDA approved drugs addresses the underlying cause of these various forms of heart disease, and none of these FDA approved drugs compares to the 97% success rate using high doses of Co-Q-10.
There are no known contraindications for use of Coenzyme Q-10 is available as a supplement. Foods highest in coenzyme Q-10 include beef, spinach, sardines, albacore tuna, and peanuts. Coenzyme Q-10 is also available as a supplement, generally in capsules ranging in size from 10 to 60 milligrams.
DMAE, (Dimethylaminoethanol) is a nutritional supplement that supports the old wives’ tale that fish is a great brain food. DMAE is normally present in small amounts in our brains, and is known for its mental stimulation and enhancement.
Because fish is naturally abundant in DMAE, a diet high in sardines and anchovies will provide higher than average levels of DMAE and choline to the brain, which serve as raw materials for the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is responsible for conducting nerve impulses within the brain, and by accelerating the brain’s synthesis of this important neurotransmitter, DMAE may aid in improving memory and learning, as well as preventing loss of memory in adults.
DMAE helps elevate mood, improve memory and learning, increase intelligence and physical energy, and extends the life span of laboratory animals1. It is used by many people for its mild, safe stimulant effect, yet DMAE also makes it easier for most people to get to sleep. Many people report less fatigue in the day and sounder sleep at night, as well as needing less sleep when taking DMAE.
The stimulant effect of DMAE is significantly different from the stimulation produced by coffee, amphetamines, or other stimulant drugs. DMAE does not have a drug-like quick up and down. People who take DMAE have reported that they feel a mild stimulation continually, without side effects. Many athletes using DMAE report an improved energy output in addition to better concentration on form and technique. Also, when DMAE use is discontinued, no depression or let-down occurs. SMART Basics DMAE includes 150 mg B-5, along with other B vitamins to support the activity of DMAE.
Essential Fatty Acids, (EFAs) are fatty acids that researchers now regard to be as vital to human health as vitamins and minerals. Reflecting this new perspective, many nutritionists now refer to this class of polyunsaturates as Vitamin K, and commonly recommend EFAs for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and triglyceride levels. EFAs may also play an important role in reducing the risks of heart disease and strokes.
EFAs are major components of all cell membranes, and without adequate levels of EFAs, cellular membranes become stiff and loss their ability for function properly. EFAs are found in particularly high concentrations in the brain where they support the transmissions of nerve impulses. Researchers have documented the importance of EFAs in brain functions, and have found that a deficiency of essential fatty acids rapidly leads to an impairment in ones ability to learn and recall information.
One of the most important functions of essential fatty acids can be found in a process called the Prostaglandin Cascade. Prostaglandins (PGE1 & PGE2) are vital biochemicals that regulate a number of important body processes such as blood pressure and heart and muscle contractions. Prostaglandin production begins when a gland secretes a chemical message in the form of hormones that are released into the bloodstream. After traveling through the body and arriving at the intended cells, these hormones then attach themselves to the outer cellular membranes of the target cells.
Rather than entering the intended cell directly, once attached to a cell, hormones initiate the formation of prostaglandins from fatty acids extracted from the outer cellular membrane. It is these prostaglandins that then enter the cell to begin to direct intracellular activity. In this manner prostaglandins affect cells by directing them to carry out the instructions of the gland releasing the original hormone messenger molecules. This process occurs in a fraction of a second, and immediatly after the prostaglandins have delivered the message they are destroyed. The continual extraction and destruction of fatty acids from the outer cell membranes puts a demand on the body to constantly replenish its supplies of the essential fatty acids. If this process is blocked by a shortage of essential fatty acids, prostaglandin production is impaired, leading to health problems.
LINOLEIC ACID: The most important Essential Fatty Acid is Linoleic Acid which is used in the synthesis of other essential fatty acids such as Gamma Linolenic Acid. Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturate which can be obtained from dietary sources such as seeds, oils, vegetables and grains. Unfortunately many dietary and lifestyle factors can seriously reduce the body’s ability to properly utilize linoleic acid for the synthesis into other EFAs. A deficiency of linoleic acid can produce a form of dermatitis characterized by red, dry, scaly skin that resembles eczema. The blotchy areas appear first on the face, clustered near the oil-secreting glands, and in the folds of the nose, lips, forehead, eyes and cheeks. Dry, rough areas also appear on the forearms, thighs and buttocks.
GAMMA LINOLENIC ACID: Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) is part of the Omega 6 series of essential fatty acids and is a precursor to Series 1 prostaglandins (PGE1) and other hormones in the body. GLA is a key regulator of T-lymphocyte function in the immune system and is involved in cell metabolism and growth. GLA can also help relieve the symptoms of PMS.
Although a healthy body can make GLA from dietary Linoleic Acid (the most common fatty acid found in foods), its production can be blocked by a variety of factors. Conversion of linoleic acid to GLA can be impaired if the body is deficient in zinc, magnesium and vitamins C, B-6, B-3 and A. Conversion can also be blocked if ones diet is high in fats and hydrogenated vegetable oils and margarine. GLA is frequently deficient in people with Eczema, Atherosclerosis and Diabetes Mellitus.
Good sources of pre-formed GLA include Black Current Oil, Borage Oil and Evening Primrose Oil.
Glucosamine is a natural compound normally formed in the human body from glucose. Glucosamine is required by the body for the synthesis of an important family of macromolecules called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). These long chains of modified sugars (mucopolysaccharides) make up many body tissues, including tendons, ligaments, cartilage, synovial fluid, mucus membranes in the digestive and respiratory tracts, and structures in the eyes, blood vessels, and heart valves.
Researchers have found that glucosamine is the key precursor for all the various sugars found in GAGs, and further, that glucosamine occupies the pivotal position in connective tissue synthesis, acting to stimulate collagen production, and connective tissue.
As humans age the amount of glucosamine normally synthesized by the body declines, leading to a deficiency in the production of these important biological chemicals that form the major cushioning ingredients of the joint fluids and surrounding tissues. This further leads to specific tissue weakness as tissues in the joints become damaged and the lubricating synovial fluids in the joint spaces become thin and watery. The normal cushioning is lost leaving the bones and the cartilage to scrape against each other inside the joint space.
These problems also occur in the spinal column where the individual vertebrae are stacked on top of each other, separated only by the cushioning disc. The space between the vertebrae is where many nerves leave the spinal cord. Any injury to this part of the back can cause the gelatinous cartilage to soften, putting pressure on the nerves, causing damage and loss of nerve function. Glucosamine Sulfate has been shown to help increase the thickness of the gelatinous material, creating more support for the joints and vertebrae.
Inositol is a water soluble nutrient often associated with B vitamins. While its role in human nutrition is a source of ongoing debate, it was finally recognized as a vitamin in 1940. Chemically inositol is a sugar which is metabolized slowly and without the involvment of insulin. Inositol is found in cell membranes throughout the brain and central nervous system, the muscles, heart tissues, reproductive organs, and bones. It is also involved in the transportation and metabolism of fatty acids and cholesterol, and is a component of lecithin and several enzymes. This nutrient is also a hydroxyl free-radical scavenger that may aid in treating arthritis.
Animals fed a diet deficient in inositol evidence symptoms such as fatty liver deposits, intestinal disorders, and nerve damage similar to diabetes. Though such symptoms have never been observed in humans, researchers are studying this nutrient as a possible treatment for diabetes related nerve disorders.
There is no recommended daily intake, nor are there any recognized toxicity symptoms for inositol. Found in a wide range of foods, those highest in inositol include fruits, whole grains, vegetables, meats, and dairy products.
Melatonin is an important neurohormone that plays a role in regulating the neuroendocrine system, controlling such essential functions as metabolism, sex drive, reproduction, appetite, sleep, balance, and muscular coordination. Melatonin also helps control the immune system in fighting off diseases triggered by bacteria, viruses, chemical pollutants, and excessive free radical activity.
Melatonin is normally released by the pituitary gland in response to environmental changes in light levels. The amount of melatonin circulating in the blood has been shown to rise and fall, being relatively low during daylight hours and rising substantially during darkness. Melatonin levels normally reach their peak sometime after midnight. One of the keys to maintaining good health is to maintain normal, youthful patterns of melatonin secretion and activity within the body. Unfortunately, the body’s supply of melatonin declines progressively with advancing age, which renders us increasingly vulnerable to physiological malfunctions such as sleep disorders and lethal diseases.
Studies at MIT have shown that melatonin can quickly and safely hasten slumber, and that it may also be effective in treating jet lag. Taking melatonin at appropriate sleep times allows the body to naturally adapt to altered day and night patterns. Another important function of melatonin appears to be to protect women against breast cancer. There is a correlation between the decline in the synthesis of melatonin with advancing age, and the progressive increase in the risk of breast cancer in women. Moreover, research studies have demonstrated that melatonin can prevent chemically induced mammary tumors in laboratory rats and can also inhibit the proliferation of human breast cancer cells in tissue culture.
Among the health benefits of taking low doses of melatonin on a nightly basis, which have been reported both by physicians and by those taking the hormone, have been improved sleep, increased sex drive, better resistance to viral infections, increased energy levels, and prevention of the side effects of jet lag and other types of time disorientation. Because of melatonin’s regulatory timing effects on the neuroendocrine and immune systems, which control virtually all our life functions, it is clearly associated with the aging process.
Deficiencies of melatonin have been implicated in such diseases as cirrhosis of the liver, Kline-felter’s syndrome, Cushing’s syndrome, and haemochromatosis, as well as the potentially dangerous side effects of excessive exposure to microwave radiation and electro-magnetic fields.
Evidence suggests that taking daily doses of supplemental melatonin, in the range of 3 to 9 milligrams per day, taken just before bedtime, can serve as a means of protection against breast cancer, other diseases, and the ravages of aging. Melatonin has been taken by thousands of people without any evidence of harmful side effects.
There are people who should not take melatonin. These include women seeking to become pregnant or who are already pregnant and people suffering from immune system cancers such as leukemia, Iymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, etc. Melatonin’s antineoplastic effect does not seem to effect prostate cancer, so we advise prostate cancer patients to avoid taking any more than 3 mg a night. For those suffering from metastasized prostate cancer which has become hormone refractory, melatonin/lnterleukin-2 could be beneficial, but there are no studies to rely on yet.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is the pre-acetylized form of the simple amino acid Cysteine. N-Acetyl Cysteine is a powerful antioxidant and a premier antitoxin and immune support substance. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which are produced by normal metabolic activity. When free radicals are left unchecked they cause damage to cells and DNA and are considered by scientists to be a major factor in the aging process.
N-Acetyl Cysteine has been shown to provide protection against free radicals as well as a broad range of toxic hazards such as: acrolein (found in barbecue and cigarette smoke and auto exhaust), bromobenzene, paraquat (a toxic herbicide), overdoses of acetaminophen, and the side-effects of cyclophosphamide and adrimycin (anti-cancer drugs).
The key to this protection may be the sulfur and sulfhydryl groups contained in N-Acetyl Cysteine and its derivative, Glutathione. Both Cysteine and Methionine are good precursors of glutathione, but N-Acetyl Cysteine is better. L-cysteine loses approximately 85% of its sulfur group (which becomes the active part of glutathione) in the digestion process, while N-Acetyl Cysteine, a more stable compound, loses only 15%. This means that N-Acetyl Cysteine has almost six times more effective sulfur groups left after digestion.
N-Acetyl Cysteine is also a better source of glutathione than taking glutathione itself, because less than half of supplementalt glutathione gets out of the digestive system and into the body. This greater efficiency is important since cellular glutathione levels tend to drop 30% to 35% with age. Supplemental N-Acetyl Cysteine may have an anti-aging effect by increasing glutathione levels in the liver, lungs, kidneys and bone marrow.
NAC is currently the dietary supplement of choice for building up or conserving the body’s stores of glutathion, cysteine, and other sulfhydryl antioxidant resources. NAC is well tolerated, is well absorbed, resists enzymatic breakdown, and has been proven to raise internal GSH and cysteine levels when taken orally.
PABA (para-amiobenzoic acid) is another nutrient that is often classified with the B-complex family of vitamins due to its similarity in functions. PABA is an integral component of folic acid, and works to support the body’s use of pantothenic acid. PABA is a potent antioxidant and cell stabilizer that contributes to keep red blood cells intact. PABA also absorbs ultraviolet rays, and is often included in sunscreen products to protect the skin against the damages of sunburn and help protect against skin cancer. PABA is also a coenzyme involved in the metabolism of proteins, and is required in the production of red blood cells.
There is no recommended daily intake for PABA, nor are there any known toxic symptoms. Supplemental PABA should not be taken by those taking sulfa drugs.
Foods containing PABA include liver, whole grains, and molasses.
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a compound that could become a key weapon in the battle against mental aging, perhaps helping to restore memory and learning capacity in older people. Phosphatidylserine is found on the surface of membranes in brain cells and synapses (the connections between nerve cells). Among the most important of its many effects is activation of protein-kinase C, an important enzyme whose brain levels are known to decline with age. It also stimulates the production of acetylcholine, a brain messenger chemical that helps regulate memory.
Scientists have been conducting animal experiments with phosphatidylserine since the mid-1970s. These tests show that the substance increased the availability of glucose in the brain, stimulated the production of a number of important brain chemicals (including protein-kinase C, acetylcholine and dopamine). More recent tests show that phosphatidylserine protected against stress-induced behavioral changes and improved learning and memory in old rats.
Perhaps the most eye-opening evidence regarding phosphatidylserine comes from studies of human patients with Alzheimer’s disease. In a 1988 Italian trial in which scientists gave phosphatidylserine to 70 Alzheimer’s patients for three months, the researchers found that memory improved in all patients, and the improvement was maintained three months after the drug was withdrawn. In a more recent American test at the National Institute of Mental Health, 150 otherwise healthy people who suffered from age-related memory impairment showed memory improvement of 15 to 20 percent, perhaps indicating that even healthy people can reap the restorative benefits of this drug. As further evidence, a previously unreported 1991 study by an international team of researchers showed that people who took the drug scored better on memory and concentration tests than people who didn’t. “The results,” concluded the study’s authors, “suggest that phosphatidylserine may be a promising candidate for treating memory loss later in life.”
No serious side effects have been noted. Phosphyatidylserine is often prescribed in Europe for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of cognitive impairment.
Pregnenolone is a naturally occurring metabolite of cholesterol that acts as a precursor to DHEA and other steroid hormones. Animal research indicates that pregnenolone possesses memory enhancing activity approximately 100 times higher than that of other compounds with similar effects. Used in the 1940’s for the treatment of arthritis, pregnenolone has a long history of use in humans without toxic side effects.
Quercetin, a cousin of Rutin, is a unique bioflavonoid that has been extensively studied by researchers around the world. Bioflavonoids are found as the pigments in leaves, barks, rinds, seeds, and flowers, usually in close association with Vitamin C. Together the two compounds seem to provide antioxidant protection to plants, helping them withstand exposure to climatic variations in wind, rainfall, temperature and sunlight. Bioflavonoids are also important for human health, but unfortunately cannot be manufactured by the body and must be supplied either from supplements or foods.
Bioflavonoids were first discovered by Nobel Prize Laureate Albert Szent-Gyorgy in the 1930’s. Bioflavonoids act to protect and preserve the structure of capillary blood vessels, promote circulation, stimulate bile production and lower cholesterol levels.
Since his groundbreaking work researchers have been able to isolate Quercetin from blue-green algae. Quercetin has been the subject of dozens of scientific reports over the past 30 years. Quercetin has a unique synergistic relationship with Vitamin C, and taken together both improve the efficacy of the other.
Trimethylglycine (TMG) is identical to DMG (B15), except that it contains three methyl groups instead of two. After ingestion TMG is rapidly converted into DMG by the liver, providing the body with all the benefits of DMG, as well as detoxifying homocysteine, a by product of methionine metabolism that is a powerful pro-oxidant and free-radical generator known to be a leading cause of heart disease.
If one gets adequate amounts of B6, either from foods or supplements, much of the bodys homocysteine is converted into cystathione, an antioxidant and free-radical deactivator.
About half of our homocysteine is detoxified by this process. The other half is detoxified by a process called transmethylation. One way this happens is that 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, which we make from folic acid, donates its methyl group to the homocysteine and thereby converts it to the essential amino acid methionine. Homocysteine is nothing more than methionine deprived of its methyl group.
Another way that homocysteine is converted to methionine is through transfer of the methyl group from trimethlglycine (TMG). We get an additional benefit from this because TMG, in losing its methyl group, becomes DMG. In brief, this simple action detoxifies homocysteine, recycles methionine and supplies B15.
TMG is also called betaine. We avoid this name because betaine is commonly sold in health food stores in it’s hydrochloride form as a hydrochloric acid supplement for people with weak digestive acids. This is not the desired form for the purposes described above. It is very acidic, must be taken only with meals and can otherwise cause severe gastric irritation. The desired material is free-base betaine, which tastes mildly sweet and causes no untoward side effects. In order to make a clear distincion and avoid confusion, we call the acid supplement betaine HCI and the detoxifying nutrient TMG.
6. Smart Drugs
Smart Drugs (“nootropics”) are pharmaceutical drugs (i.e. Piracetam, Hydergine, Vasopressin), that are either available by prescription in the United States, or by overseas mail-order from off-shore companies. By law, American citizens are legally allowed to purchase, for their own personal use, up to a three month supply of many smart drugs from overseas distributors.The data on Smart Drugs is provided for informational purposes only.
Aniracetam, another chemical cousin of piracetam, is also known as Draganon, Ro 13-5057, and Sarpul. It is considered even more powerful, and is used to treat more conditions. Aniracetam has much the same effect as piracetam without problems of toxicity or side effects. Its use as a smart drug is less common. The U.S. patent holder, Hoffman-LaRoche, has had problems gaining FDA approval for treating Alzheimer’s disease. So far the drug has not been officially approved in any country. Though it has great potential, aniracetam is primarily used in research, and is not yet widely available as a smart drug.
One of the most venerable of the anti-aging compounds, centrophenoxine is a combination of dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE), a natural substance found in the human body, and auxin, a plant growth hormone. Although new research on centrophenoxine is limited, many experts feel that its potential anti-aging benefits may stem from its proven ability to combat free radicals, highly reactive molecules that damage cells and that many experts regard as a central feature of aging. Centrophenoxine has also been shown in some studies to boost memory and mental acuity in humans, and to combat cellular aging and increase life span in lab animals.
An experiment by Kalidas Nandy, Ph.D., of the Boston University School of Medicine found that centrophenoxine reduced buildup of lipofuscin, a pigment that accumulates in aging cells and can interfere with their functioning. Other research indicates that centrophenoxine can shore up cell membranes and increase cellular manufacture of RNA and certain proteins, which tend to decline with age. But the real eye-opener is a study by Imre Zs.-Nagy, M.D., of the Hungarian-Italian Verzar Laboratory for Experimental Gerontology, in which centrophenoxine extended life span in lab rats by as much as 33 percent.
Among the most promising of the human trials of centrophenoxine is a 1989 study in which the drug improved memory and learning in 50 elderly demented patients by as much as 48 percent.
Although centrophenoxine has not been shown to be toxic in animal tests, it should not be used by nursing mothers, or by people with high blood pressure, convulsions or involuntary musculoskeletal movements caused by such conditions as Parkinson’s disease.
A strong indication of the potency of centrophenoxine comes from Europe, where it is used in hospitals to revive patients in alcoholic or post-traumatic coma. Some European doctors routinely prescribe it to treat memory disorders or dementia. Although not marketed in the US, it is obtainable by mail order, and is among the most reliable-and certainly the most praised-of the “smart drugs” that are taken by people seeking to boost mental performance.
Excerpted from BRAIN BOOSTERS: Foods & Drugs That Make You Smarter
Commonly known by its trade name, Lucidril, centrophenoxine rejuvenates brain cells and reverses the aging process by getting rid of lipofuscin deposits, which are cellular garbage created by the buildup of toxic waste by-products of cellular metabolism. You might think of centrophenoxine as the “garbage man of the brain.” Lipofuscin deposits in the skin are the brown age spots or liver spots commonly seen in older people. Lipofuscin deposits build up in brain cells, causing neurons to die, which results in a decline in mental functioning.
Animal studies indicate an inverse relationship between lipofuscin deposits and learning. That is, the greater the lipofuscin in the brain cells, the less the learning ability; the less lipofuscin, the greater the learning ability. After taking centrophenoxine people report greater alertness and increased feelings of stimulation. Animal studies show improvements in learning.
The rejuvenating effects in humans is believed to be produced by regeneration of parts of the neurons. Centrophenoxine breaks down into dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) in the blood stream. DMAE is normally found in small quantities in the brain. It is a free-radical scavenger, and has a variety of beneficial brain-boosting effects, including improving mood, intelligence, memory, and learning ability.
Centrophenoxine stimulates energy production. The uptake of glucose or sugar, which is essential for energy production, is increased by centrophenoxine. In the process of producing energy, oxygen is consumed and carbon dioxide created as a by-product. Both oxygen consumption and CO2 production are increased by centrophenoxine. The side effects are similar to those experienced by people taking too much of the nutrient choline. These symptoms are eliminated by reducing the dosage. People on an anti-cholinergic diet should not use centrophenoxine. Centrophenoxine is not currently available in the U.S. It is sold in Europe, however.
Scientific evidence from laboratories around the world suggests that deprenyl, also known as selegiline, may have broad anti-aging benefits, both mental and physical. Among other things, this compound inhibits monoamine oxidase-B, a natural substance which at increased levels has been associated with brain aging, senescence and Alzheimer’s disease. Long known as an antidepressant (although its role in alleviating depression is controversial), deprenyl has recently come into its own as an adjunct to L-dopa treatment for Parkinson’s disease. There are even impressive hints from animal studies that deprenyl lengthens life.
In 1988 Joseph Knoll, M.D., of Semmelweis University of Medicine in Budapest found that the average life span of rats treated with deprenyl was 34 percent longer than that of untreated rats. He also noted that while untreated rats lost their sexual vitality with age, 64 of 66 of the deprenyl-treated animals retained sexual vigor. More recently, in 1991, a team from the Israeli Institute for Biological Research in Ness-Ziona, reported that deprenyl significantly improved learning and memory in elderly rats.
Although deprenyl’s effectiveness as an antidepressant remains controversial, a 1988 study by J. John Mann, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, reported in our earlier article, concluded that deprenyl was three times better than placebo in alleviating depression. In a number of preliminary tests of deprenyl as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, patients showed some improvement in mental functioning, especially memory, verbal communication and daily-living skills.
The consensus among experts is that deprenyl is relatively free of adverse side effects. However, it can induce mild overstimulation similar to that from caffeine.
Because deprenyl is approved by the FDA for treatment of Parkinson’s disease (it is widely used for that purpose in both Europe and the US), it can be obtained with a doctor’s prescription and is thus among the more readily available of the anti-aging drugs. It may be well worth discussing with your doctor as a potential sexual invigorator or even as a general antiaging therapy.
DEPRENYL PROTECTS AGAINST DEATH OF NEURONS
Researchers have written a great about the benefits of deprenyl over the past few years, presenting evidence that deprenyl, in doses ranging from .5 mg every other day to 1.O mg per day, reverses the age-related increase in the enzyme monoamine oxidase B (MAO-B), which degrades the neurotransmitter dopamine, the loss of which dampens our mood, throttles our sex drive, and unhinges our coordination. It’s also been reported evidence that deprenyl combats the free radical mediated damage to neurons that plays an important role in pathologies associated with brain aging. But, perhaps, the most impressive evidence of deprenyl’s ability to fight brain aging is its ability to rescue dying neurons in tissue culture. This finding suggests that deprenyl can prevent the most critical event in brain aging-the death of irreplaceable neurons.
EFFECTS OF DEPRENYL ON BRAIN MICROANATOMY
A variety of degenerative changes occur in the brain’s microanatomy both in normal aging and senile dementia. A recent study at the University of La Sapienza in Rome, Italy (Mech Of Aging & Devel, 73:113126:1994) was designed to determine the effects of long-term administration of deprenyl on microanatomical changes in the aging rat brain, especially in areas of the brain involved in cognition, such and the frontal cortex and hippocampus, as well as the cerebellar cortex.
The Italian scientists used male Sprague-Dawley rats of 11 and 19 months of age. Twenty 1 9-month-old rats were randomly allotted to two groups of 10 animals each, which were injected with either 0.25 mg/kg of deprenyl or saline every other day. Another group of 11-month-old untreated rats was used to compare the effects of deprenyl in aging animals to healthy normal adult animals. Both the experimental and control groups were sacrificed at 24 months of age and their brains examined for age dependent changes.
DEPRENYL SLOWS MICROANATOMICAL BRAIN CHANGES
The scientists found that deprenyl was able to counteract, to some degree, all four of the age-dependent microanatomical changes in the rat brain examined in the study. The first is density of nerve cell profiles-a measure of the ability of the nervous system to receive, analyze, and store information-which is reduced progressively with advancing age in the rat brain. Less of a reduction in the density of nerve cell profiles was found in the rats given deprenyl, but this change was not statistically significant, except for the Purkinje neurons in the cerebellum.
The second parameter studied was the density of Nissl’s staining in the cytoplasm of pyramidal and Purkinje neurons, which is believed to be a measure of the ribonucleic acid content of nerve cells. Treatment with deprenyl restored the intensity of Nissl’s staining in nerve cell populations of the hippocampus and the cerebellar cortex in aged rats.
Third was age-dependent lipofuscin accumulation, which is believed to be a by-product of the peroxidative action of free radicals on membrane lipids. It was found that deprenyl decreased lipofuscin (aging pigment) accumulation in neurons, suggesting that it may have reduced oxidative stress on these cells.
Last was sulphide-silver staining within the hippocampus, which is related to the density of zinc-containing synaptic junctions, which are critical in learning, memory, and information processing within the brain. The administration of deprenyl countered, in part, the reduction of sulphide silver staining, which the scientists believe may be related to the improvement of cognitive function produced by deprenyl treatment in aged rats. (Pharmacol Biochem Behav, 39:297304:1 991).
These findings showing that deprenyl can slow important microanatomical changes in the aging rat brain provide further evidence to explain the ability of the drug to improve cognitive and behavioral function in both normally aging and demented humans by preventing the premature death of brain cells.
NEW STUDIES ON DEPRENYL
Every month, we see new studies on deprenyl showing it to be even more effective for aging than previously thought. Some of these new studies have duplicated the successful research conducted in Japan showing that one mechanism by which deprenyl extends lifespan is by boosting antioxidant enzyme levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase. A new study has shown that oral doses of deprenyl given to dogs for only three weeks produced a dose-dependent increase of both SOD and catalase in the striatum, but not the hippocampus region of the brain (Life Sciences 54:201994). These results are in accordance with previously published results in rats. Endogenous antioxidant enzymes are more effective in preventing free radical damage than supplemental antioxidants.
Deprenyl is well known to boost brain levels of dopamine by inhibiting monoamine oxidase-B (MAO-B). Dopamine elevation conferred life extension benefits in an early study and is known to boost cognitive function and improve sexual performance. Raising base levels of SOD and catalase helps explain further the underlying mechanisms of deprenyl’s antiaging effects. In a study in the Feb 1994 issue of Mechanisms of Aging and Development, long term treatment with deprenyl was investigated on age dependent changes in the rat brain. Deprenyl treated rats (they were given the drug in their drinking water) were shown to have decreased levels of lipofuscin (aging pigment) in certain brain regions. Increased brain levels of lipofuscin have been linked to senile dementia in humans. The loss of density of certain neuronal fibers (especially in the hippocampus region of the brain) was reduced in animals receiving deprenyl (compared to the placebo group), which helps to explain deprenyl’s ability to improve memory in Alzheimer’s patients. Loss of neuronal fibers also occurs in “normal” aging.
Based upon recent studies suggesting the benefits of higher oral doses of deprenyl, the following are commonly used doses for deprenyl:
* Age 40-50: 5 mg of Deprenyl three to four times a week; * Age 50-60: 5 mg of Deprenyl four to six times a week; * Age 60-70: 5 mg of Deprenyl daily; * Over 70: 5 to 10 mg of Deprenyl daily.
Every decade over age 40-45 results in the death of 13% of the dopamine producing neurons in humans. If you suffer from an accelerated decline in your dopamine producing neurons, you are said to have Parkinson’s disease. Deprenyl protects against the death of dopamine producing neurons and for this reason alone, should be part of your life extension program if you are over 40 years of age.
Dilantin is a remarkable multipurpose drug that has been the subject of more than 8,000 published papers. It is the most common treatment for epilepsy, and is prescribed under the generic name phenytoin and its trade name, Dilantin. It normalizes and improves mental functioning in general and improves concentration, learning, and thinking in particular.
Discovered in 1938, Dilantin was used as an anticonvulsant and is still heralded as the most effective drug for this purpose ever discovered. Although scientists are just beginning to understand the electrical nature of humans and other animals, most people know that our nerves are electrical in nature. Thinking, memory, and pain are all electrically generated. Dilantin stabilizes the electrical activity in the body at the level of the cell membrane. Dilantin stops convulsions, which are electrical in nature. When cells show too much or too little electrical activity, phenytoin brings them back into balance. In addition, when the brain cells are functioning normally, the drug can calm the individual and increase energy levels. So phenytoin acts as a kind of medical equivalent to meditation, promoting calm and harmony.
Because Dilantin influences electric currents, it can affect thinking and recall. Scientists don’t really understand how phenytoin works; however, they postulate that it influences electromagnetic fields, which polarize the electrically charged elements in the cells. This results in a more effective organizational structure, so that cell and brain functioning is improved.
One of the major advantages of Dilantin is it stabilizes and normalizes the nervous system without acting as either a stimulant or a depressant. The result is that one can concentrate, learn, and remember better. Prolonged concentration can be exhausting. One effect of Dilantin is that it delays the onset of fatigue and thereby reduces errors that accompany fatigue. In this regard, phenytoin’s effect is similar to that of stimulants, but it is not a stimulant and has none of the side effects common to stimulants.
Generally Dilantin’s effectiveness for a wide variety of disorders is unknown to most doctors. Most doctors think it is useful only in maintaining epilepsy, and are not knowledgeable about its tremendous impact on general cognitive functioning, mood moderation, and concentration.
Dilantin does have some significant but infrequent side effects when taken in regular dosages. Some people report tremors, insomnia, headaches. dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. Dr. Pelton indicates that phenytoin can occasionally cause liver toxicity during the first few weeks of use. Some people, mostly children with epilepsy, report gum problems.
A major consideration for most people using Dilantin is that it can disturb absorption of vitamin D and folic acid, which are essential for health. Dr. Pelton recommends that people on phenytoin therapy take supplements of vitamin D, calcium, and folic acid.
Dilantin is available, by prescription, in capsule, tablet, and liquid forms. The original patent has expired, so it is available under its generic name, phenytoin, as well as under its trade name Dilantin in the United States, and Epanutin, Epamin, Eplin, Idantoin, and Aleviatan in other countries.
So far, little is known about the effects of this cognitive enhancer, which is also known by the names Attentil, BP 662, and Vigilor. Whereas most nootropics improve both learning and recall, fipexide helps learning but not recall. Nootropics in the pyrrolidone family work by affecting the parts of the nervous system that use acetylcholine as a neurotransmitter. Fipexide works by slightly increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. With more dopamine, there is better motor coordination, an improved immune system, more motivation to act, and a better emotional balance, all of which might contribute to the kind of mental fine tuning that promotes learning.
Dr. Ana Aslan, director of the Institute of Geriatrics in Romania, developed Gerovital (GH-3) in the early 1950s. GH-3 has been hailed as a miraculous youth formula that combats the ravages of aging and makes people feel more energetic and youthful. It is claimed to reverse the aging process, and to improve thinking and memory by providing the nutrients needed to repair damaged cells and membranes.
Procaine hydrochloride can pass through the damaged membranes of diseased cells. It increases the cell’s consumption of oxygen, and provides nutrients that help the damaged cells repair or renew membranes.
Chemically, GH-3, which is an injectable treatment, is made of procaine hydrochloride mixed with potassium metabisulfate, disodium phosphate, and benzoic acid. Procaine breaks down in the body into PABA (paraminobenzoic acid), a B vitamin, and DEAE (diethylaminoethanol), which is chemically similar to DMAE and is converted in the cells into choline.
PABA aids the body in blood-cell formation, protein metabolism, and skin functions. A deficiency of PABA can cause constipation, depression, digestive disorders, stress, infertility, fatigue, gray hair, headaches, and irritability. PABA stimulates the intestinal bacterial system to produce the B vitamins folic acid, pantothenic, and biotin, and vitamin K. PABA is rapidly disposed of by the liver, so ingesting it alone can get disappointing results. However, when combined with the procaine hydrochloride molecule, PABA is more effective.
DEAE has an antidepressant effect. DEAE comprises choline and acetylcholine, which make up important neurotransmitters that facilitate brain functioning.
Ana Aslan experimented with the rejuvenative effects of procaine through the late 1940s and well into the 1950s. Out of this research she developed an improved formula, in which she buffered and stabilized the basic procaine hydrochloride, which she called Gerovital H-3 or GH-3. Dr. Aslan presented her results from treatment of more than 2,500 people using GH-3 to the Karlsruhe Therapy Congress. She claimed GH-3 relieved depression, arthritis, angina pectoris, and hypertension, produced muscular vigor, and had a rejuvenative effect at the cellular level. Her results were confirmed in the l970’s on 15,000 people aged 40 to 62.
People taking GH-3 claim relief from a host of ailments and pains. They say it is an antidepressant and brain tonic that makes people more alert and cheerful. It is reported to arrest aging symptoms, hair loss, graying, wrinkling, and hardened skin.
Depression in the elderly was researched by an NIMH team, who concluded that it was c caused by a buildup of the enzyme monoamine oxidase (MA0) in the brain. Typically this process begins around age 45 and continues with age.
Dr. Alfred Sapse, who had interned under Ana Aslan, showed that GH-3 is an MA0 inhibitor that gave rapid improvement in depression and insomnia patients. They also reported a general improved sense of well-being. Patients with high cholesterol showed reduced serum cholesterol after four weeks’ treatment. Sapse’s results were replicated at UCLA and Duke University.
Even though numerous impressive studies were conducted in the United States, Sapse was frustrated in his many attempts to gain FDA approval to market GH-3 in the United States as a treatment for depression and aging.
The Dr. Ana Aslan Institute in Miami, Florida, provides treatment using Aslan’s original formula. The treatment consists of Gerovital administered by injection three times a week for four weeks, followed by a ten-day rest period and another four-week treatment period. GH-3 also comes in tablet form. The dose is one tablet a day for twenty-five days, then no GH-3 for a five-day rest period.
Of all the substances with potential anti-aging properties, none has aroused such widespread excitement or generated such widespread controversy as Human Growth Hormone. Secreted by the pituitary gland, human growth hormone (also known as hGH or somatotropin) was shown in a widely reported 1990 study by Daniel Rudman, M.D., and his colleagues at the Medical College of Wisconsin to trim fat, build muscle and improve skin tone in a dozen elderly men. In the wake of Rudman’s report, headlines around the country trumpeted hGH as a rejuvenator and age-reverser. Since then, medical journals around the world have bulged with new reports of hGH’s many potential benefits, including the possibility that it may help the body fight off infectious diseases and cancer.
Of the many animal experiments using hGH, perhaps the most exciting has been a 1991 study by Michael Torosian, M.D., and Robert Donoway, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, in which hGH significantly slowed the spread of lung cancer in rats. The researchers now hope to apply for permission to do human tests.
In addition to hGH’s ability to trim fat and increase muscle mass, newer studies are beginning to show that it may play an important role in combating age-related diseases. In 1991, a team led by Christian Wiedermann of the University of Innsbruck Medical School in Austria reported that hGH had stimulated the functioning of polymorphonuclear neutrophils, immune-system cells that fight off bacterial infections. (Age-related declines in the activity of these cells leave older people more vulnerable to infectious diseases.) In 1992, Fran Kaiser, M.D., of the St. Louis University School of Medicine reported that injections of synthetic growth hormone stimulated appetite, induced weight gain and increased muscle mass in five elderly patients who were suffering from chronic malnutrition. Since other studies have shown that up to 65 percent of older people in hospitals and nursing homes may be malnourished, Kaiser suggests that hGH be further considered and tested as a possible treatment for age-related malnutrition.
Taking large doses of hGH may result in acromegaly, a condition in which the bones of the face are grotesquely enlarged, and which has been associated with high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Some experts fear that hGH may stimulate tumor growth in people with cancer, although this has not been scientifically established.
Human growth hormone is approved by the FDA for the physician-supervised treatment of unusually short children, meaning that it is available by doctor’s prescription. Because of its muscle-building propensities, hGH is in considerable demand among athletes, many of whom consider it a legal and relatively safe alternative to anabolic steroids.
The granddaddy of the so-called smart drugs, hydergine has a long history as a mental de-ager. An extract of ergot, a fungus that grows on rye, hydergine (also known as dihydroergotoxine) was developed in the 1940s as a treatment for hypertension. Since then, hydergine has undergone scores of tests in patients with varying forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Although the results have been equivocal, the Physicians’ Desk Reference lists hydergine as offering “some” relief for age-related declines in mental acuity.
In old rats, hydergine has been shown to increase metabolism and uptake of glucose in the brain. It also helps rejuvenate connections between brain cells, protect the brain against damage due to oxygen starvation and improve learning capabilities.
Although a 1990 study at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia concluded that hydergine was ineffective as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, Longevity reported in 1991 that exhaustive testing in a number of laboratories in the US of more than 1,000 patients with various kinds of senile disorders indicates that those treated with hydergine had consistently higher scores in such cognitive functions as mental alertness, clarity and mood.
Hydergine is nontoxic and relatively safe. Its potential side effects include mild nausea and gastric disturbance. It should not be taken by people with psychosis, or those with low blood pressure or abnormally slow heartbeat.
One of the most exciting things about hydergine is its availability. It has FDA approval as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, but some doctors may prescribe it to combat brain aging in healthy people.
Excerpt from BRAIN BOOSTERS: Foods & Drugs That Make You Smarter
Hydergine is considered by some to be an all-purpose brain booster . It increases mental abilities, prevents brain cells from being damaged by free radicals or by too little oxygen (hypoxia), and reverses brain-dell damage. Hydergine increases learning, memory, and recall in several ways. It speeds up the level of metabolism in the brain cells and increases the amount of blood and oxygen getting to the brain. Hydergine reduces brain damage when oxygen is insufficient, as during a stroke. Hydergine slows down lipofuscin deposits associated with brain-cell aging, and acts as a prophylactic against damage from free radicals.
The only FDA-approved uses of hydergine are senility and cerehrovascular insufficiency, which is caused by poor blood circulation to the brain. Hydergine’s effectiveness in reducing symptoms of senility have been well-established. Hydergine increases the oxygen supply in the brain, which keeps production of free radicals in check. When oxygen is in short supply because of smoking, cerebral insufficiency, strokes, or heart attacks, free radicals are rapidly produced, resulting in brain-cell damage.
In Europe, hydergine is regularly given in hospital emergency rooms to victims of strokes, heart attacks, hemorrhage, drug overdoses, drowning, and electrocution. Because brain damage can occur from emergencies during surgery where oxygen and blood can be cut off, European hospitals routinely administer hydergine pre-surgery as an extra measure of caution. In spite of the volumes of research demonstrating the effectiveness of hydergine in these cases, use with accident victims or as a preventive measure is not approved in the United States by the FDA.
Hydergine has been studied extensively, with more than 3,000 research papers published on it to date, making it one of the most widely studied and prescribed drugs. Hydergine was originally produced and distributed by Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, and later by Dorsey Pharmaceuticals, a division of Sandoz. Because the original patent has expired, numerous generic versions are now available in various strengths through prescription. According to FDA guidelines, prescription is permitted for anti-senility only. However, in practice it is often used for improving intelligence and combating aging, and is prescribed for higher doses than those usually approved in the U.S.
Hydergine is available in the U.S. by prescription only. Hydergine may have even better effects when used in conjunction with piracetam; researchers suggest taking smaller doses of both to get the best effect.
Another procaine formulation similar to Gerivital is KH3, which is a gelatin capsule containing procaine and hematoporphyrin. Hematoporphyrin boosts the procaine action. It is claimed to help alertness, concentration, and recall as well as improve a number of health problems. The benefits are attributed to improved circulation to the brain. The only state where KH3 is sold legally is Nevada. It is also available over the counter in Europe.
Two of the most common denizens of aging are atherosclerosis, a clogging of the arteries that can lead to life-shortening heart disease, and a declining immune system, which can mean decreased resistance to infectious diseases and even cancer. Metformin, a drug used for years in Europe to treat adult-onset diabetes, may also have some anti-aging properties-lowering cholesterol, for example, and boosting the immune system. New evidence from the University of Milan suggests that metformin may also help treat atherosclerosis.
Over the past 25 years, tests in rats and rabbits have shown that metformin reduces the ability of very low density lipoprotein, a form of “bad” cholesterol, to bind to blood vessel walls, while making blood platelets less likely to coagulate and form dangerous clots.
There’s exciting recent news concerning what may turn out to be one of metformin’s most important anti-aging properties: its ability to treat patients whose blood vessels are constricted by atherosclerosis. In 1992, a research team led by C.R. Sirtori of the Institute of Pharmacological Sciences at the University of Milan tested metformin on 11 patients with peripheral vascular disease. Their blood vessels were so clogged that they could not walk normally for more than about 550 yards. After treatment with metformin, however, the patients’ blood flow increased by 30 percent, and their exercise capacity increased by anywhere from 53 percent to 105 percent.
At the low doses (two 500 mg doses per day) used in the Italian study, no side effects were noted. Higher doses can produce lactic acidosis, a condition in which the blood becomes acidic, and which can lead to nausea and vomiting.
Because it helps normalize the metabolism of glucose, metformin is widely used in western Europe to treat adult-onset diabetes.
Chemically, oxiracetam is similar to piracetam, though stronger in effect. It is one of the more commonly used smart drugs, and known by a number of names, including CT-848, hydroxypiracetam, ISF-2522, Neuractiv, and Neuromet.
Oxiracetam has had the most widespread use in Italy, where it was developed in 1988 by ICF, an Italian drug company. In the U.S., use has not been approved by the FDA. Smith Kline Beckman Corporation is trying to get the drug approved for treating Alzheimer’s disease.
Some research indicates that the effects of oxiracetam may be greater than those of piracetam in improving elderly subjects ability to remember things. Oxiracetam has been shown to be nontoxic, like other nootropics, as well as safe in dosages that far exceed what the average person takes.
Piracetam, also called nootropil, is the most commonly taken nootropic. It helps boost intelligence without being toxic or addictive. Piracetam is very similar in chemical structure to the amino acid pyroglutamate, present in meat, vegetables, fruits, and dairy products. Piracetam stimulates the cerebral cortex and increases the rate of metabolism and energy level of brain cells. It does not have the side effects associated with other stimulants. The primary clinical use is to protect the brain from damage caused by hypoxia, which is oxygen starvation, and to help recover from it. Brain cells can be starved for oxygen by drinking too much alcohol, for example. Another clinical use is stemming memory loss caused by physical injury and chemical poisoning.
Piracetam seems to help step up the flow of messages between the two hemispheres or halves of the brain, which is sometimes called the interhemispheric flow of information. Dean and Morgenthaler speculate that the increased communication between right and left brains is associated with flashes of creativity. They believe that piracetam may actually have a regenerative effect on the nervous system. Piracetam may improve learning by increasing the brain’s ability to synthesize new proteins. The specific chain of events is complicated and beyond the scope of this book, but the upshot of the research is that piracetam is a powerful nootropic that seems to contribute to improved memory and learning through several different types of chemical changes that it triggers in the brain.
Research shows significant improvements in memory and mental performance. Piracetam has a synergistic effect, such as helping the individual remember things better, when taken with DMAE, centrophenoxine, choline, Deaner, lecithin, or hydergine. Reports show it works three to four times better when acetylcholine-enhancing nutrients or drugs are used. Studies suggest that when taken in combination, Piracetam and choline are much more effective both in improving memory and in preventing the mental decline that comes with aging than when either substance is used by itself.
The research indicates that either by itself or with choline, piracetam is one of the most effective nootropic drugs in its impact on memory and learning. Piracetam is most easily obtained over the counter in Mexico and in various European countries. Up until recently it could be obtained through the mail from an off-shore pharmacy.
Phenytoin is a remarkable multipurpose drug that has been the subject of more than 8,000 published papers. It is the most common treatment for epilepsy, and is prescribed under the generic name phenytoin and its trade name, Phenytoin. It normalizes and improves mental functioning in general and improves concentration, learning, and thinking in particular.
Discovered in 1938, Phenytoin was used as an anticonvulsant and is still heralded as the most effective drug for this purpose ever discovered. Although scientists are just beginning to understand the electrical nature of humans and other animals, most people know that our nerves are electrical in nature. Thinking, memory, and pain are all electrically generated. Phenytoin stabilizes the electrical activity in the body at the level of the cell membrane. Phenytoin stops convulsions, which are electrical in nature. When cells show too much or too little electrical activity, phenytoin brings them back into balance. In addition, when the brain cells are functioning normally, the drug can calm the individual and increase energy levels. So phenytoin acts as a kind of medical equivalent to meditation, promoting calm and harmony.
Because Phenytoin influences electric currents, it can affect thinking and recall. Scientists don’t really understand how phenytoin works; however, they postulate that it influences electromagnetic fields, which polarize the electrically charged elements in the cells. This results in a more effective organizational structure, so that cell and brain functioning is improved.
One of the major advantages of Phenytoin is it stabilizes and normalizes the nervous system without acting as either a stimulant or a depressant. The result is that one can concentrate, learn, and remember better. Prolonged concentration can be exhausting. One effect of Phenytoin is that it delays the onset of fatigue and thereby reduces errors that accompany fatigue. In this regard, phenytoin’s effect is similar to that of stimulants, but it is not a stimulant and has none of the side effects common to stimulants.
Generally Phenytoin’s effectiveness for a wide variety of disorders is unknown to most doctors. Most doctors think it is useful only in maintaining epilepsy, and are not knowledgeable about its tremendous impact on general cognitive functioning, mood moderation, and concentration.
Phenytoin does have some significant but infrequent side effects when taken in regular dosages. Some people report tremors, insomnia, headaches. dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. Dr. Pelton indicates that phenytoin can occasionally cause liver toxicity during the first few weeks of use. Some people, mostly children with epilepsy, report gum problems.
A major consideration for most people using Phenytoin is that it can disturb absorption of vitamin D and folic acid, which are essential for health. Dr. Pelton recommends that people on phenytoin therapy take supplements of vitamin D, calcium, and folic acid.
Phenytoin is available, by prescription, in capsule, tablet, and liquid forms. The original patent has expired, so it is available under its generic name, phenytoin, as well as under its trade name Phenytoin in the United States, and Epanutin, Epamin, Eplin, Idantoin, and Aleviatan in other countries.
Pramiracetam, also known as CI-879, is another chemical relative to piracetam, and has a similar effect in improving the operations of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Like oxiracetam, pramiracetam appears to be more potent than piracetam. Although pramiracetam seems to be more potent and effective, it is less common than piracetam. Pramiracetam is newer, less tested, and less available.
Parke Davis is working through the maze of FDA approval of pramiracetam to treat Alzheimer’s disease. If pramiracetam becomes legally available, it will probably be used not only for Alzheimer’s disease but for cognitive enhancement as well.
Tacrine or THA (tetrahydroaminoacridine) has been demonstrated in research by Dr. Mohs and by Dr. Summers to consistently improve memory in Alzheimer’s patients.
Dr. Summers has had very hopeful results treating Alzheimer’s with a combination of deprenyl and THA plus the nutrient lecithin. Deprenyl increases availability of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and phenylethylamine, which play a critical role in motor, behavior, and cognitive functions. THA helps to preserve acetylcholine in the brain, and lecithin is a nutrient from which the body manufactures acetylcholine. Although deprenyl and THA plus lecithin work according to different mechanisms, it is believed the combination of the two is more effective in improving memory in Alzheimer’s patients.
Summers used THA plus lecithin extensively with patients with good success until July 1990, when the FDA forced him to stop his project. Unfortunately, THA is hard to obtain, and deprenyl has been approved only for treating Parkinson’s disease. As a result, research into improving this treatment is slow, and approval doesn’t look likely, which has lead to an outcry by Summers and the families of Alzheimer’s sufferers. In 1991, they filed a class-action suit against the FDA. Under pressure from the lawsuit, the FDA decided to allow “expanded access” to THA under its “treatment IND program.” However, Saul Kent, publisher of Life Extension Report, points out that the promised access is, in fact, limited by many restrictions. As an alternative, Summers’s group established an Alzheimer’s Buyer’s Club in Costa Rica.
Vasopressin has memory-enhancing effects and is widely known as the prescription drug manufactured by Sandoz Pharmaceutical Company under the trade name Diapid. Vasopressin is a brain hormone produced in the pituitary gland, and acts to imprint new information into the brain’s memory centers. Without vasopressin you can’t learn or acquire new information. Similarly, it helps in memory retrieval by drawing information into conscious thought.
Earliest research was conducted in the Netherlands in the mid-’60s by Dr. de Wied, who found that vasopressin acts directly on brain cells and the central nervous system to improve the imprinting system by which electric impulses with information became encoded into longterm memories. During this process new proteins are synthesized and deposited into the memory centers of the brain. Research on humans using vasopressin revealed similar memory enhancing results. Patients with memory problems showed improved attention span, concentration, recall, and ability to learn.
Stimulants like LSD, cocaine, amphetamines, Ritalin, and Cylert cause the pituitary to release vasopressin. Frequent use of these drugs can lead to sluggish mental performance and depression resulting from vasopressin depletion. On the other hand, marijuana and alcohol, which are depressants, inhibit the release of vasopressin This explains why regular users, especially of marijuana, often complain of memory loss. These problems can be reversed, almost immediately, by inhaling Diapid, because it is absorbed through the mucous membranes in the nose and goes quickly to the brain results are often evident in less than a minute.
Diapid, which is a nasal spray manufactured by Sandoz, has been approved by the FDA only to treat the frequent urination associated with diabetes insipidus and bedwetting in children. The FDA has not approved its use in healthy people for memory and learning enhancement. Diapid is considered to be very safe, with no major side effects. However, some people experience mild symptoms such as nose irritation, headaches, abdominal cramps, and an increased desire to move the bowels. Pregnant women should avoid it, since safety during pregnancy has not been established.
Vasopressin can be obtained in the United States by prescription. It is available over the counter in Mexico.
Sometimes called Cavinton, Vinpocetine is derived from vincamine, which is an extract of the periwinkle plant. It has a very powerful stimulating effect on memory. Vinpocetine ups the metabolism in the brain in four ways. It pumps up the blood flow, increases the rate at which brain cells produce ATP (which is a cell molecule that creates energy), and speeds up the use of glucose and oxygen in the brain. The result is that the cells of the brain can better retain information; so the individual can remember more. Because of its stimulating effect on blood flow, venpocetine has been used to treat circulatory problems in the brain and memory problems due to low circulation.
Gedeon Richter, a Hungarian company that markets vinpocetine in Europe, has funded more than a hundred studies to show it’s effectiveness and safety. Many of these studies have shown the drug’s powerful effect on memory improvement. Vinpocetine is not toxic and is considered safe. It takes about a year of daily use to achieve maximum effect.