Category Archives: Herbs

The use of medicinal plants or nutraceuticals for the treatment of fear

Aloe: sunburn relief and more


Aloe extracts soothe a sun burn. I don’t know if that is FDA approved or not. However, I would not use any thing else if I were to be sunburnt. The reason being I have been sunburnt badly and I was saved by Aloe. I was vacationing in Barbados and fell asleep under the sun by the poolside. A few hours later, I was in much pain and my skin was peeling. The local people quickly slit open a few thick, fresh Aloe leaves, emptied it’s contents into a little bowl and applied it all over my sunburnt skin. I healed so quickly. I became a convert and a staunch Aloe worshipper. I got an Aloe plant and repotted it as it grew. It does not need much water. I can even leave on vacations to get sunburnt again and return to an Aloe plant that was thriving in spite of not being watered while I was away! That’s my kind of house plant: Low nurture – High value. I include several photos below.

By the way, I was vacationing in the Maldives, a country where the people have this fabulous skin that has been genetically selected to never get sunburnt. So naturally, they had no idea what the Aloe plant was when I got sunburnt, again. They handed me some bottled concoction recommended in medical lectures to diligent students, who had never heard of or taught about Aloe for free, natural sunburn relief. I was left with a hefty fee and I was very disappointed with it’s results. Once burnt with no Aloe, I am twice shy. I now always travel with bagged slices of the leaves of my Aloe plant. I am so Brilliant! I found that in Hawaii and Florida too, the doctors do not prescribe free Aloe for sunburn.

The international varieties of Aloe are seemingly endless, as you can see from the photos below. I have no idea if all the Aloe varieties behave the same way or not. If you do know the species names of the Aloe that do give sunburn relief then please share it here. Below, I am including photographs of all the varieties that I saw at the New York Botanical Garden conservatory. I would highly recommend that trip just to see this fascinating display of Aloe in the most beautiful display. It will make you want to go home and uproot your manicured garden and replace it with a low water requiring stunning Aloe garden. However, unless you are in a desert climate you may have to invest in a sunroom – just a minor adjustment but a fabulous mood enhancer and spirit uplifter.

Properties:

There have been claims of both effectiveness and ineffectiveness of Aloe gel in wound healing, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-diabetic, anti-neoplastic, immunostimulant and promotion of radiation damage. The differences in activity may be because of seasonal fluctuations and the several cultivar varieties around the world (see photos below). Conflicting results in wound healing in particular may be dependent upon compound stability as time of treatment after harvesting was an important factor. A 5.5kDa Glycoprotein isolated from Aloe gel has shown increased cell migration and mobility. This in my opinion is good news for wound healing and explains why my sunburns may have responded so well to freshly harvested Aloe leaves.

A Pharmaceutical scientist from Tshwane University of South Africa, has reviewed in great detail the effects and applications of the Aloe leaf gel and if you are interested in one content filled article, then this 2008 review is the one I would recommend. 75 ingredients in the inner leaf gel have been identified but only a few have been correlated with therapeutic activities. A synergistic effect of many components in the leaf gel probably bring about the healing that I raved about above.  Aloe vera is the single most Aloe species that is used in large scale manufacture of Aloe leaf gel for cosmetics, pharmaceutical products and health drinks.

The Aloe leaf has an outer hard green rind and an inner colorless viscous liquid gel. The gel is over 99% water and about 1% enzymes, minerals, vitamins, polysaccharides, phenolic compounds and organic acids. The large varieties of Aloe show variations among cultivars and seasonal fluctuations in their mannose containing polysaccharides. The acemannan found in Aloe is structurally unique and is a characteristic of Aloe species.

Aloe vera gel increased the bioavailability of Vitamin C in the laboratory. The Aloe vera gel is being researched as a vehicle to enhance transdermal delivery of drugs.

Aloe juice is being bottled and sold. Now, I have no comments on that. If you do, please, discuss it here. A scientist at University of Karachi, Pakistan has studied the anti-epileptic properties of Aloe for a doctoral thesis. Also, some have bottled Aloe as a laxative ingredient.

Why should you not use aloe extracts as a laxative? The FDA (The Food and Drug Administration, USA) has issued a warning about Aloe after reviewing data. The FDA’s final warning in 2002 advises that aloe extracts and flower extracts are generally unsafe, ineffective or misbranded as stimulant laxative ingredients. So, my advice would be to avoid using laxatives listing aloe extracts as an ingredient. The scientists at University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Pharmacy explains why. Anthraquinone category of stimulant laxatives are derived from natural sources such as Aloe extracts. The International Aloe Science Council filed a petition saying that FDA did not base that decision on appropriate data but that decision remains unchanged. So, if you visit a foreign country and finds the natives using Aloe extract as a laxative successfully, you may want to bring it to the attention of a reputable Department of Pharmacy.

Photos of Aloe plant from the New York Botanical Garden Conservatory are below:

Large, Grey leaves

Large Green Leaves

Dark Green Medium Leaves

Dark Green Small Leaves

Light Green Variegated Leaves

Light Green Small Leaves

Dark Green Tiny Leaves

The Tree Aloe

Soft Green White Flecked Leaves

Dark Green White Flecked Leaves

Spiky Dark Green Small Leaves

Dark Green Very Small Leaves

Light Green Large Slim Leaves

Light Green Large Upright Leaves

Purplish Green Small Variegated Leaves

Yellow Green Small Bushy Leaves

Light Green Small Orange Spiked Leaves

Dark Green Small Bushy Leaves

Purplish Brown Small Leaves

Now, that you can that there are several varieties of Aloe plants all over the world beginning exploring how you can benefit from it. Especially, when you are planning a vacation on the beach (1,2, 3,4,5,6, 7,8, 9, 10, ). You may want to begin today.

This article has been cited by DIDI of scoop.it for “Top home remedies”.

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Pumpkin is mildly diuretic – so eat in moderation


Of the pumpkin’s 131 volatile compounds what is striking is variety and magnitude of the nine carbon compounds say the scientists of General Food Corporation of New York. Pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo ) of the family Cucurbitaceae includes Pumpkins, squashes, cucumbers and melons. They were probably a diet member of ancient American Indians and originated in the Americas.

A delicious Pumpkin Pie – An American Tradition

Pumpkins and their seeds have several health benefits. Notably they are zinc rich and the seeds are iron rich and B vitamin and trace minerals and aminoacids (cucurbitin) and chlorophyll pigments. The principle medicinal properties of the pumpkin plant are in the seeds, says Dr. Armando Gonzalez Stuart, in “Pumpkin seeds“.  The article discusses clinical studies employing pumpkin seeds, history, active principles and applications in herbals therapy. You may also read, “The nutritive, medicinal, and diuretic properties of pumpkin flour“.

So, should you eat these in large quantities?

The answer is eat pumpkins but since each body is individually different judge how much pumpkin you can eat and feel healthy. It is a mild diuretic! Diuretics play the role of removing water from your body in the form of urine. You will lose important minerals from kidneys and it may result in mineral imbalance. Definitely include pumpkin and pumpkin seeds in your diet but in moderation.

Chocolate Molten Lava Cake with Pumpkin Icing

Pumpkin Art at the New York Botanical Garden

Then, watch out for the following diuretic symptoms:

1) Advantages of diuretics – less bloated feeling and often prescribed to protect heart patients in tablet formulations;

2) Natural diuretics aid body in flushing toxins and breaking down fat – so general feeling of health;

Pumpkins Good for Balanced Diet and Health

3) Headaches, dizziness and fainting – from mineral imbalance from eating too much or more than an individual body can handle which is different for different people and genetically defined;

Too much Pumpkin?

4) Muscle cramps

Also, pumpkin may react with herbal and other medicine you may be concurrently taking.

Please, don’t get me wrong. Pumpkin is among the healthiest food items you can include in your diet. However, watch out for symptoms like increased knee pain or stomach cramps after a diet overloaded in pumpkin, such as an entire pumpkin pie versus a single slice or two perhaps.

The Pumpkin Puppet Theater at the New York Botanical Garden

For more fabulous pumpkin photos click here

Related Article:
The nutritive, medicinal and diuretic properties of Pumpkin flour

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Licorice root and it’s use as a pain killer and in estrogen replacement therapy


Glycyrrhiza radix has been used in Ayurvedic medicine of ancient India, Traditional Chinese Medicine and ancient Europian family herbal mixtures. It is licorice, which the Dutch chew to ease arthritic pain as they age. It sounds like such a valuable medicinal plant that I wonder why every aging person does not chew at least one licorice lozenge a day! Animal studies (unconfirmed in clinical trials) have shown anti-inflammatory properties which may explain it’s role in easing arthritic pain (Chandrasekaran and colleagues of Natural Remedies, India in Phytomedicine 2011).

I was amazed to learn that it is also valued for its liver protective, anti viral and anti cancer properties. The root of the plant is of medicinal value and it’s active constituents are glabridin, glycyrrhizin, and isoliquiritigenin. Chandrasekaran and colleagues showed that the root extract inhibits prostraglandins, thromboxane and leukotriene. Why aren’t we recommending it for all people above fifty decades? We could do away with using pain killers with their list of side effects perhaps. Do you know why? I would love to know why we stopped using a natural root. Someone once told me that licorice grows wild and is difficult to find in large quantities. If that is true (please, correct me if I am wrong), then I suppose using pain killers is the easier option.

Now, I checked out the pink and black varieties available at the chain drug stores. They may be called licorice but they have no licorice extracts in them. So, please find genuine licorice extract containing sources. If you know of any, would you please, leave a comment so that our readers may try your sources too?

Do be cautious and read the list of adverse effects that may come from having too much licorice. So, please treat this medicinal plant with respect and use in moderation. It could decrease libido in men, and cause paralysis, interfere with hormonal therapy and interfere with anti coagulants.

glycyrrhiza radix roots

The Sloan Kettering Herbal Medicine site discusses the various uses of this plant as a tonic, expectorant and a demulcent in Ayurveda and as a detoxifier and to enhance the effects of other components of a herbal mixture of Chinese medicine. In addition, Somjen and colleagues of the Tel Aviv Medical School have shown that the root has estrogenic activity (J. Steroid Chem and Mol Biol.; 2004) and has been used for this condition in a mixture of Chinese medicine for female issues. Somjen and colleagues suggest the constituents of the root extract may be used for estrogen replacement therapy in post menopausal women, and I hope to update you about clinical studies on this.

The main ingredient of Licorice which has been researched is Glycyrrhyzin. Before I continue, let me add two warnings:
1) Excess use can be harmful – see below;
2) Pregnant women, or women who are nursing new born, or depressed people should not take Licorice. More on this another time.

What is the active ingredient of licorice and what does it do?
The active ingredient is a glucocorticoid, whose main function is to regulate glucose formation and glucose uptake in the brain.
Ingredients include others too which have not been well-researched yet. Suffice it to say that Licorice should be eaten in moderation. It is an anciet herb with different varieties local to different countries which may vary in ingredient content and hence mode of action. Hence, in different countries, the use of licorice may have different effects.

However, excess use can be harmful. Consume only in minute amounts and then discontinue use after 4-6 weeks if dose is higher temporarily.
Potassium levels may drop significantly with licorice use, so always include potassium rich foods such as a banana or dried apricot along with licorice.

Ancient leaders in the field are Chinese herbalists, Netherland herbalists, Riccardo Baschetti of Padova, Italy, Dr Mark Demitrack of University of Michigan Medical Center and many other unknown local herbalists.

An article on glucocorticoids of scientific value click here: Hope this helps in answering your questions and in pain management. It may be of interest that this article says that stress induces plasma glucocorticoids levels to rise and it is still not known exactly how that happens.

For source of photo click here.

For translations in other languages see an example here.

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Can Anorexia induced deficient blood for monthly periods be reversed?


The Chinese Traditional Medicine formula Xiao Yao San, a mixture of medicinal plant roots have been used to treat symptoms of deficient blood. The three herbs include Bupleurum radix (Chai hu), Angelica sinensis (Dang gui) and Paeonia sp. (Bai shao) and may include others. I discuss the components and mode of action of Chai hu below and have previous articles on Dang gui and Bai shao.

Anorexia is a problem among young teens who are extremely image conscious and have a desire to look very thin. In their zeal they eat too little and over exercise. This is a ‘disease’ of the wealthier girls because poor girls value food and are hungry. The rich girls have plenty of food but they are bombarded with images of thin celebrities and aim to reach that ideal, unrealistic goal. Some girls die before they can be hospitalized. In most girls their periods stop because of many internal reasons. Modern medicine is unable to quickly ‘cure’ this symptom of anorexia. Doctors try to make the girls aware that they are losing bone mass due to lower calcium stores in their body, which will develop into early osteoporosis. The girls refuse to understand and continue to starve themselves. Many need to be hospitalized.

Traditional medicinal treatment of anorexia involves a team of doctors – the family pediatrician, a nutritionist, and a pshychiatrist. They can meet for seven years and not get a cure, which is getting the periods back and a normal BMI or Body Mass Index. There are several published articles on curing anorexia. Traditional Chinese Medicine in combination with a protein, carbohydrate and fat rich diet should be strongly encouraged because anorexia is an ancient disease and achieving normal blood flow has been achieved. Modern medicine may prescribe birth control pills which may induce periods but when stopped the periods stop too. Also, sometimes the teens are too young and it simply feels wrong to prescribe birth control pills. I would urge parents to learn about this natural option, which is far safer for the child.

Chai hu,  is a popularly used medicinal plant dried root in Chinese traditional medicine in a multicomponent mixture of herbs. Yamakage and colleagues (Am. J. Chi. Med., 2006) showed that the extracts of Bupleurum radix activated spontaneous lymphatic vasomotion and lymph flow. Heldon and Zhao (CEPP, 2000), showed that lymphatic vessel vasomotion, a rhythmic contraction is controlled by the Calcium store and it can be near synchronous over large vessel lengths and involve many cells.

Chai hu

Several published Chinese scientific articles discuss the components of Chai hu. A chromatographic analysis shows that Saikosaponins are the main components of which SSa and SSd are in largest concentrations (Xu, Huang, & Zhang, School of Pharmacy, Shanghai; 2008). Chen and colleagues (2007) have shown that Saikopanin c could prevent the development of nephritis in mice and hence could modulate renal or kidney disease. Click here for photo source.

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Does Don gui or Chinese Angelica have weak estrogen like properties?


Don gui (Angelica sinensis ) or Chinese Angelica is one of the most popular herbs in traditional Chinese medicine for women’s gynecological presentations (Photo source). Europe began to use it’s extract in 1800s to treat gynecological issues.

The roots of Angelica sinensis

In Chinese medicine, Don gui is used in a combination with other herbs (Mayo clinic) for liver and spleen balance in relation to strengthening the blood and returning the woman’s body to it’s natural rhythm.

The Chinese Angelica plant

Dr. Li and his colleagues (2009) of the Center of Chinese Medicine of Hongkong have shown that replacing even a single herb from the traditional Chinese medicine combination of herbs in this treatment creates an inferior product, in terms of chemical and biological properties. This makes it very difficult to design a clinical trial to test the efficacy of this particular herb alone in humans. Dr Xiqin and colleagues (2002) of the Chinese academy of Sciences, Dalian, isolated and tested the plant’s extracts. Of the ten detectable components, they found ligustilide was best able to penetrate a biomembrane. They also detected ferulic acid, and3- butylidine-4, 5-dihydro-2(1,3H)-1-isobenzofuranol and seven others. Their mechanism of action alone and in combination remains to be investigated.

An inventor, Xia YongChao, of Gansu province, China has obtained a United States Patent for the ‘herbal composition for treatment of neurodegeneration and neuronal dysfunction (2008, patent) for methods to treat these diseases with herbal compositions BuNaGao (BNG), a cocktail of 14 ingredients and Don qui is one of the herbs. From this I would conclude that this inventor is confident that the Chinese angelica is effective in treating neurodegeneration and neuronal dysfunction, specifically head and spinal cord injuries, in certain proportions and the effects can be validated and have commercial value and so patent worthy. The Chinese government has given approval for the use of these methods after a peer reviewed process assessed the results of clinical trials in China from 1989-1994. Prior animal studies had revealed improved blood circulation, reduction of blood viscosity, and immune regulation. BNG is used to address ‘Qi’ deficiency, which I shall address another time. In brief, BNG treats through systemic nourishment and regulation. In 3 methods, BNG was composed of Donqui in 0.82-3.3g/Kg of body weight in combination with other herbs and the inventor gives examples of clinical trials for mental retardation in 133 children and found it to be significantly effective in comparison to control.

The Chinese angelica appears to be a versatile herb with an ability to control and regulate a woman’s gynecological condition and a human’s neuronal functions through ‘Qi’ features.  I have the deepest respect for the ancient Chinese medicinal scientists who discovered the power and reach of this herb and the others it interacts with to achieve it’s optimal effect. Makes me wonder how little we really understand and how much remains to be learned.

I would trust the results presented by this inventor, who has over 30 years of clinical trial experience.

For foreign language translation click here

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Decrease fatigue with Peony root tea


Peony root

Paeonia  radix may bring about reduced fatigue. How does it do it? Dr. Hong and colleagues of the College of Oriental Medicine of Seoul, South Korea studied the process in rats (2003). They showed it could increase time to exhaustion on the treadmill (in rats) and suppressed the expression and synthesis of two exercise – induced substances, both during rest and exercise. 5-hydroxytryptamine synthesis (5-HT) and tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH) expression were studied by these scientists.

Peony root

The Peony flower

 

Prescribed as a tea, it is used sparingly. Use wisely and proceed with caution. A tiny bit or a pinch of this herb goes a long way. It does not mean that more is better because it may not. We just don’t know. Some people may have adverse reactions from even a pinch of this, so I cannot imagine using large amounts could be beneficial to anyone. Some adverse reactions, like nausea, has to be judged against the benefits, which may outweigh the slight nausea.

[/caption]The effective part discussed for decreasing fatigue is the root of the perennial plant, Paeonia japonica MIYABE, which belongs to the family, Paeoniaceae. It is also prescribed in ancient Chinese Medicine. It is commonly known as Paeony.

The white Peony flower

The tea can be bought from various sources. Each site has listed further medicinal claims such as reduce toxins in the liver, reduce pain and regulate menstruation. These claims I have not checked personally for peer – reviewed support, although several clinical trials on alternative medicine are ongoing and I shall update this site. I firmly believe the fatigue reducing claim. Some tea suppliers are cited below, although we do not endorse any supplier:
1) MDidea Exporting Division;
2) a global trade site called Alibaba.com which lists several bulk suppliers

The Natural database lists common names and scientific names and medicinal uses of what is commonly called Peony when cultivated in the garden. For a photo of colorful wild or cultivated Paeony varieties or Paeonia lactiflora , is available at this Japanese site and Steven Fosters photography site and plenty of beautiful photos on this site from which all the photos on this site were borrowed.

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Three Nutrients and Supplements to prevent and possibly treat Frostbite


In this winter of 2013, we are facing the snowiest, coldest time in recent years.  Faced with potential frostbite, how do we prevent damage to our face and toes?  We need to continue looking beautiful through these cold temperatures. If you have frostbite now, if possible, seek immediate medical advice. While waiting to see the doctor, you might want to apply fresh aloe gel, if available, or any aloe gel or lotion irrespective of price. It might be prudent to also use an antibiotic cream to prevent infection. Some, may get relief using either yogurt alone or in combination with cucumber.

Finland may have the answers.  They may have a reputation as a ‘no smiling’ nation but the Finnish do have great looking skin in spite of being one of the snowiest and coldest countries.  Also, most appear not to have lost all their fingers and toes to frost bite.  Well, apparently the answers lie in eating the foods to prevent frostbite. The Finnish military leaders are held responsible for preventing frostbite among their recruits. Frostbite varies among people. Those who have previously had frostbite are considered more susceptible. Chewing gum has helped Hannu Rintamaki prevent facial frostbite, probably by increasing circulation in masticatory muscles. Skin dryness is a personal perception with the notion that “It is not a real man who cannot tolerate cold”. Finish leaders suggest important behavioural changes like recommending hot food and drinks as external sources of heat.

Vitamin E, quercetin, and grape seed extract may help prevent frostbite says the University of Maryland Medical Center, when taken prior to frostbite.  So, consider eating right. Especially important for children because they appear to lose heat from their body faster than adults, says Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Among medicinal plants, aloe vera may have the ability to repair frostbite induced tissue or cell damage (Medicinal Plant Blogger, 2011).

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Broccoli and Osteoarthritis


The most common type of arthritis is Osteoarthritis (OA). The second most common type is Rheumatoid Arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis has drugs that may ease the pain and slow progression of the disease but it cannot be prevented. Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, can be prevented but currently, there are no drugs to treat this condition. Both effect more women than men. Generally, it is common in more older women than older men, but this difference tapers of with increasing age.

Broccoli Florets

Dr. David Felson, MD MPH of Boston University has published 140 papers on this subject. His research on Osteoarthritis has been funded with National Institute of Health (NIH) peer – reviewed funding. He is optimistic that Osteoarthritis is preventable with long – term life – style changes. Unfortunately, there are no drugs to treat Osteoarthritis right now.  Pain killers are prescribed to deal with the pain but they have their own side reactions.

Dr Felson says that losing weight is one way to prevent OA. Even if you are of normal weight, losing a little more weight to become thin can actually benefit, and is especially good for the knees. Eating Vit K rich and Vit C rich food and raising exposure to Vit D can also be preventive. One such food suggested is Broccoli. Exercise such as joining the gym and doing yoga is very helpful in both losing weight and keeping the joints in motion. Physical therapists may be able to advice on very effective exercises to not only prevent development of OA but to alleviate the pain from OA without using pain killers.

For easy Broccoli recipes try easy and healthy Paula Dean’s site. Also, you may try this delicious steamed broccoli with a hint of garlic.

Research may reveal genetic biomarkers to identify which segment of the population is most likely to develop OA and then they could begin preventive processes earlier specifically for prevention of OA. In the meantime, exercise for fun and prevention, lose weight, eat Vit K rich foods like Broccoli and increase exposure to Vit D by taking every opportunity to step outside and stretch.

Since there is no current therapy, surgery is the only resource but effective. Stem cell research is showing promise in building cartilage.

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