Aloe Vera For Hair

Aloe vera is a plant that grows in tropical and sub-tropical areas of the world. People appreciate it for its decorative uses and medicinal properties.

People have valued this member of the Liliaceae family for its many healing and regenerative properties for millennia.

Advocates of using aloe vera for hair health point to its plentiful supply of vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients linked to hair growth. They say these properties are signs of its ability to promote healthy and abundant hair.

The connection between the properties of aloe vera and hair vitality has not, as yet, been proven by scientific research.

Here, we will explore the subject more, along with looking at other benefits of aloe vera for the hair and scalp.

Fast facts:

  • One of the earliest written mention of aloe vera’s curative effects dates to 2100 BCE.
  • Aloe Vera’s many uses may be partially explained by its makeup. It contains 75 active ingredients, including vitamins A, C, E, B12, and choline.
  • Some nutrients have a marked effect on hair quality, and nutritional deficiencies can lead to hair loss.
  • Research suggests a positive correlation between aloe vera use and hair health, but no firm scientific link has been made.

Does it work for hair growth?

According to the Trichological Society, an independent association for professionals involved in the study and treatment of the human scalp and hair, the average rate of hair growth is 1 centimeter per month.

Shampoos and other hair products have not been shown to have a significant impact on this rate, which is primarily determined by genetics and an individual’s health.

Aloe vera is thought to work chiefly because of its contents, which include:

  • vitamins
  • essential amino acids
  • minerals, such as copper and zinc, which are important for hair growth
  • plant steroids
  • fatty acids

Aloe vera is big business. In 2004, cosmetic, food, and pharmaceutical products containing aloe vera were a $110 billion-a-year industry.

Aloe vera is a natural product and carries few risks so people can try it safely despite the lack of scientific consensus.

Established benefits of aloe vera

Research analyzing the healing properties of aloe vera has generated the following:

  • a potential link between aloe vera and improved healing from burns
  • aloe vera may work as a laxative, but the safety of this has not been tested
  • encouraging early signs of aloe vera’s usefulness in treating diabetes

People have used aloe vera for centuries to address a multitude of health problems, but although these remedies are well-established in folk wisdom and popular culture, the majority of claims have not been subjected to scientific review and study.

Proven benefits for hair care

Aloe Vera’s use in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis is one of its claimed benefit for hair care that has been studied.

Seborrheic dermatitis (SD) is a skin disease that causes a pinkish-red rash and crusty, yellow-white scales on the surface of the skin, which may also be swollen and greasy. SD frequently develops on the face and scalp. When infants develop SD on their scalps, it is called cradle cap.

One study found that treatment with aloe vera resulted in a significant reduction in itchiness, scaliness, and the size of the area affected by SD. Since SD can, in some cases, lead to temporary hair loss, this is one clear use of aloe vera for hair growth.

Also, there is speculation that since aloe vera contributes to a healthy scalp, which is important for healthy hair growth, this bolsters arguments about aloe vera’s effectiveness in hair care.

Researchers have suggested that the benefits of aloe vera for hair may be due, at least in part, to its ability to stimulate blood circulation and improve delivery of oxygen and nutrition to hair follicles.

Are there any risks?

The external use of aloe vera usually does not have undesirable side effects. However, cases of the following have been reported:

  • allergic reactions, especially in those allergic to garlic, onions, and tulips
  • contact dermatitis or a skin rash that develops after aloe vera is put on the skin
  • phototoxicity, or a skin irritation similar to a severe sunburn

Diarrhea, vomiting, electrolyte imbalances, colic, and kidney problems have been associated with the oral use of aloe vera. Acute cases of some of these problems, while rare, have been reported.

Do types of hair, such as curly hair, react differently?

Each type of hair requires its own kind of care. The characteristics of an individual’s hair, such as its density, texture, diameter, the degree of curl, and porosity will affect how it responds to a treatment or product.

African-American hair tends to be very dry, and dermatologists recommend the use of products with natural ingredients, such as aloe vera, for hair care.

With its rich mix of vitamins, minerals, moisture, and more, aloe vera can help protect moisture levels in dry hair.

How do you apply it to the hair?

Individuals interested in aloe vera for hair care can choose from a wide variety of ways to apply it, ranging from the homemade to the mass-produced.

Some people like to apply fresh aloe vera gel directly to their scalps. To do so:

  • cut a leaf from a live aloe vera plant
  • using a spoon, collect the gel (some like to blend it with coconut or olive oil)
  • rub the gel or mixture directly into the scalp and let it sit for an hour
  • use a mild shampoo to wash the hair and scalp
  • repeat this process 2-3 times a week, as needed

Since some people are sensitive to aloe vera, it is best to proceed cautiously and try rubbing a small amount of the gel onto the wrist first, to see if there is a reaction, before applying it to the scalp.

Hair masks are also a popular way to use aloe vera for hair care. In this approach, aloe vera is mixed with one of the following:

  • honey
  • jojoba oil
  • egg whites
  • fenugreek

The mixture is then massaged into the scalp and hair, a shower cap is worn, and the mixture is left on for 15 minutes to 1 hour, after which it is rinsed off with a mild shampoo.

It is also possible to buy aloe vera in some commercial products.

What are there different forms of aloe vera?

Aloe vera is widely available for purchase in many forms.

While individuals sometimes cut the leaves off plants and apply the fresh gel directly, it can also be purchased in many different forms. These include as a liquid, an oil, and a gel, or in pills, shampoos, lotions, creams, and sprays.

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Ginger for Arthritis Pain: Will it Work?

Ginger is most commonly known as a unique, aromatic spice, but it has also long been used in traditional and modern medicines. Ginger may be beneficial in managing the inflammation and pain of arthritis, owing to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Ginger is a flowering plant native to several Asian countries, as well as West Africa and the Caribbean. It has been used in traditional Asian medicine for centuries and has been applied to treat a range of conditions from motion sickness to digestive problems.

Fast facts on ginger for arthritis:

  • Studies have shown that ginger can have a positive impact on reducing inflammation and discomfort in people with arthritis when compared to control groups.
  • The medicinal properties of ginger are derived from the root or rhizome of the plant, and its stem.
  • Ginger is best consumed raw but is available in powder form, capsules, and oils, or as juice.

How does ginger work?

Inflammation is an essential immune response that allows the body to heal wounds and fight infections. The capacity for ginger to reduce inflammation is what underlies many of its medical uses.

Inflammation describes the self-protective process by which the body releases white blood cells to combat infection and clear out harmful organisms, such as bacteria.

Inflammation can cause discomfort, particularly when it is chronic. Inflammation is common in many types of arthritis and contributes towards pain around the affected joints.

The primary therapeutic goal of treating arthritis is to minimize the discomfort it causes, as there are currently no cures for the condition.

What does the evidence say?

Elderly person with arthritis opening a jar.
Ginger is generally considered beneficial for treating the symptoms of arthritis, not the cause.

One study included 247 participants with a common type of arthritis called osteoarthritis. The study found that those given ginger capsules twice a day for 6 months had a significantly greater reduction in pain than a control group. However, these participants were also more likely to experience side effects, such as heartburn, than the control group.

Other studies have indicated that ginger may be comparable to ibuprofen in terms of effectiveness.

recent review concluded that people with osteoarthritis experienced a 30 percent greater pain reduction than a control group, and they were twice as likely to discontinue their treatment compared to a control group.

The benefits of consuming ginger are not restricted to osteoarthritis but can also reduce inflammation in other common forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

These pain-relieving properties of ginger have been extended to the treatment of muscular pain. A 2010 study found that consuming either raw or heated ginger caused a moderate to a large reduction in muscular pain, following an injury.

The overall consensus

The majority of current studies indicate the benefits of ginger, but some studies have also found no effect of ginger on relieving pain or reducing inflammation in arthritis.

While more research is needed to provide any definitive answers, ginger is not considered harmful and is more likely to be useful in managing the symptoms of arthritis.

How to take ginger

Ginger can be consumed raw or in powdered form. It can be consumed on its own and can be readily bought, as a capsule for oral consumption.

People use ginger in cooking, particularly in Asian dishes, such as stir-fry or curry. Alternatively, it can be brewed, as a tea, or made into syrup to flavor cold drinks.

Ginger can also be applied directly to inflamed areas of the body in the form of a cream or oil.

Dosage should be kept around 2-4 grams (g), taken up to 3 times per day. However, it is recommended not to exceed 4 g per day.

Is it safe?

Applying cream to the back of the hand.
To avoid the risk of an allergic reaction when taking ginger, test a product containing ginger oil on the skin. If a reaction occurs, it may be a sign of a ginger allergy.

The consumption of ginger is considered to be safe in small doses. Side effects are mild and rare, typically only occurring when more than 4 g are consumed per day.

If ginger is consumed orally, these side effects are usually gastrointestinal issues, for example, heartburn or indigestion.

Applying ginger to the skin can result in other side effects, including irritation and rashes.

It is important to consult with a doctor before taking ginger, as it may not be appropriate for everyone. Caution is used with individuals who have:

  • diabetes
  • blood disorders
  • gallstones

Ginger can also interfere with certain medications, including blood-thinning drugs.

Furthermore, it is possible to be allergic to ginger. This can be determined by applying a small amount of ginger cream to the skin. If any side effects, such as skin irritation or rashes appear within 24 hours, it may be a sign of an allergy.

Is it worth taking?

Assuming there are no allergies, adding ginger to a person’s diet is the safest way to introduce the medicinal effects of ginger to the body.

Supplements, herbs, and topical creams with ginger in them are not monitored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and there may be concerns with safety, purity, or quality.

Using up to 4 g of ginger per day could be beneficial for managing symptoms of arthritis, and this quantity is relatively safe to consume. Ginger is easy to ingest as a capsule, apply to skin or incorporate into a healthful diet.

For most people, it is worth trying ginger and seeing how the body responds. However, it is sensible to seek advice from a doctor before taking ginger, to check it is appropriate.

There are also several notable alternatives to ginger. Examples include turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne or garlic. These spices have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and may be useful in treating arthritis.

Other methods of arthritis relief

One way of stopping the discomfort of arthritis is to reduce inflammation around the joints.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can be used to reduce inflammation. NSAIDs operate by disrupting the production of enzymes that cause inflammation and discomfort.

The compounds in ginger have also been found to inhibit these troublesome enzymes and may function in a similar way to NSAIDs.

Similarly, it is possible that ginger is able to turn off certain genes that cause inflammation, thus making it a powerful alternative to NSAIDs.

Lavender: Health Benefits and Uses {Updated}

Lavender is an herb native to northern Africa and the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean.

The herb is highly regarded for skin and beauty and is commonly used in fragrances and shampoos to help purify the skin. It can be purchased over-the-counter (OTC) from drugstores, and some versions are used to add flavor to baked goods and foods.

There are also many medicinal properties associated with lavender.

Lavender is also grown for the production of its essential oil, which comes from the distillation of the flower spikes of certain lavender species. Lavender essential oil, in contrast to the plant form, is toxic when swallowed.

Uses of lavender

Lavender oil is believed to have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to heal minor burns and bug bites.

Research has revealed that lavender oil may be useful for treating anxiety, insomnia, depression, and restlessness.

Some studies suggest that consuming lavender as a tea can help digestive issues such as vomiting, nausea, intestinal gas, upset stomach, and abdominal swelling.

In addition to helping with digestive problems, lavender is used to help relieve pain from headaches, sprains, toothaches, and sores. It can also be used to prevent hair loss.

Fungal infections

A study published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology found that lavender oil could be effective in combating antifungal-resistant infections.

The researchers found that the oil was lethal to a range of strains that can cause disease in the skin.

In the study, the essential oils distilled from the Lavandula genus of the lavender plant seemed to work by destroying the membranes of fungal cells.

The study showed that Lavandula oil is potent and demonstrates antifungal activity on a wide spectrum.

Wound healing

A study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine compared the effects of several treatments for wound healing.

The researchers compared the effects of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), saline solution, povidone-iodine, and lavender oil. These were applied to laboratory rats.

The study authors noted that wounds closed faster in the TENS and lavender oil groups than the control groups. These findings suggest that lavender has an accelerator effect on wound healing.

Hair loss

Lavender is possibly effective for treating alopecia areata. This is a condition in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body.

Research shows that lavender can promote hair growth by up to 44 percent after 7 months of treatment.

Anxiety disorder and related conditions

Lavender dental anxiety
Lavender scents have been shown to reduce anxiety before a dental appointment.

review article in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice evaluates how effective Silexan might be for patients with different anxiety disorders. Silexan is a lavender-oil preparation available in 80-milligram (mg) gelatine capsules.

The team found that Silexan had an anxiolytic, or anxiety-reducing, the effect on patients with generalized or subsyndromal anxiety within 2 weeks.

Researchers have also found that lavender scent may help anxious dental patients.

The investigators measured the dental anxiety levels of 340 adult patients during their wait at the dentist’s waiting room for their appointment.

Half the patients were exposed to lavender scent, while the other half were not.

The team found that those exposed to lavender scent reported lower levels of anxiety compared to the other patients. The calming effect of lavender was present regardless of the type of scheduled dental appointment.

Kritsidima, who conducted the study, concluded:

Our findings suggest that lavender could certainly be used as an effective ‘on-the-spot’ anxiety reduction in dentists’ waiting rooms.”

Dr. M. Kritsidima, study author

Lavender does not seem to impact anxiety about future dental visits. However, it has been shown to provide a sense of calm while attending a treatment.

Post-tonsillectomy pain in children

Lavender oil has been shown to reduce the amount of pain-killing medicine required after a tonsillectomy.

A team of researchers at the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Iran, carried out a study to determine whether aromatherapy with Lavandula angustifolia essential oil might reduce symptoms of pain in children after the removal of the tonsils.

The study included 48 children aged 6 to 12 years. They were randomly separated into two groups of 24 participants. One group took painkillers alongside lavender and the other took only painkillers.

The frequency of each child’s acetaminophen use and nocturnal awakening due to pain was monitored for 3 days after surgery. Pain intensity was also measured. Acetaminophen is also known as Tylenol or paracetamol, and the group using lavender oil was shown to use acetaminophens less frequently.

However, there was no significant difference in how often they woke up at night or their perceptions of pain intensity.

Due to the small sample size, more research is required to fully confirm lavender oil as an effective painkiller.

Premenstrual emotional symptoms

Researchers have also studied whether lavender might help to alleviate premenstrual emotional symptoms.

Many women of reproductive age experience a range of symptoms in the premenstrual phase, commonly known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Even though PMS is common, no single treatment is universally recognized as effective. As a result, many women turn to alternative therapies, such as aromatherapy.

This crossover study involved 17 women, aged on average 20.6 years, with mild-to-moderate premenstrual symptoms. The participants spent one menstrual cycle with no lavender aromatherapy treatment, and another undergoing lavender aromatherapy.

The study concluded that lavender aromatherapy could alleviate premenstrual emotional symptoms.

What does lavender not treat?

There is insufficient evidence to rate lavender’s effectiveness for treating:

  • depression
  • colic in infants
  • constipation
  • nausea and vomiting
  • migraines
  • otitis, or ear infection
  • high blood pressure
  • menstrual pain
  • eczema
  • cancer-related pain
  • dementia
  • lice

One study found that lavender fragrance could have a beneficial effect on insomnia and depression in female college students. However, the authors highlighted that “repeated studies are needed to confirm effective proportions of lavender oil and carrier oil for insomnia and depression.”

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved lavender for medicinal use. It is sold as a supplement only and should not replace any prescribed course of treatment.

If you choose to use this essential oil, the FDA does not monitor these products. There may be concerns about purity, safety, or quality. Be sure to research safe and reputable products and companies. 

Interactions

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) warn people to be cautious when combining lavender with the following:

  • drugs that induce sleepiness, such as benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and Ambien
  • drugs to reduce blood pressure, such as captopril, enalapril, and losartan

If you are already taking the above, seek medical advice before adding lavender to your drug regimen.

Risks and precautions

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) revealed that repeated use of lavender oil on the skin might trigger prepubertal gynecomastia, a condition that causes enlarged breast tissue in boys before puberty.

The safety of taking lavender during pregnancy or while breastfeeding has also not been confirmed. Discuss any use of essential oils, herbs, or supplements with your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

As lavender is thought to slow down the central nervous system, doctors advise patients to stop using lavender at least 2 weeks before surgery.

Health and Beauty Benefits of Grapeseed Oil

Fast facts on grapeseed oil. Here are some key points about grapeseed oil. More detail is in the main article.

  • Grapeseed oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids.
  • The oil can be used in hair and on the skin as part of your beauty regimen.
  • Buy expeller- or cold-pressed oil for use in the kitchen.

Grapeseed oil is a byproduct of winemaking. After the wine is made by pressing grapes, grape seeds are left behind. Grapeseed oil is extracted from these leftover grape seeds. Grapeseed oil is used as a natural beauty product. It’s also marketed as a healthy alternative to vegetable oil.

Is grapeseed oil safe to consume?

The health benefits of grapeseed oil are controversial. Part of this controversy is because of how the oil is processed. Most commercially available grapeseed oil is made using chemical solvents like hexane. Hexane is classified as an air pollutant and neurotoxin.

It’s unclear what effect consuming these solvents has on humans in trace amounts. During processing, grapeseed oil may also be heated to very high temperatures which may oxidize the oil and make it go bad.

Grapeseed oil that’s cold-pressed or expeller-pressed does not use chemical solvents or high heat during processing. It’s a better choice than oil made with solvents.

Health benefits of grapeseed oil

Grapeseed oil is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), mostly omega-6 fatty acids. According to the American Heart Association, PUFAs may be beneficial to your heart if they’re used in place of saturated fats and trans fats in your diet.

Research shows that PUFAS may reduce cholesterol and your risk of heart disease. But there’s a catch: Optimal health depends on the proper balance of omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids in your body. Most people get more than enough omega-6 fatty acids in their diet and not nearly enough omega-3s.

Studies show that too much omega-6 fatty acid may cause inflammation that may lead to chronic diseases, including cancer. If you’re already getting enough Omega-6 in your diet, regularly consuming grapeseed oil may put your omega-6 intake at unhealthy levels.

Vitamin E

Grapeseed oil is a good source of vitamin E, even more so than olive oil. Vitamin E is a vitamin that works as a fat-soluble antioxidant, which helps protect your cells from damaging free radicals that have been associated with cancer, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. Vitamin E also supports your immune system. Research shows it may slow the progression of dementia, but more study is needed.

Vitamin E can withstand heat, and grapeseed oil has a high smoke point. But any cooking oil will deteriorate fast if overheated. Whenever possible, use cold-pressed or expeller-pressed grapeseed oil raw in your recipes.

Beauty benefits of grapeseed oil

Beauty companies use grapeseed oil in their skin care and hair care products. But there are no clinical studies on the effectiveness of grapeseed oil on the skin or hair. Even so, many people use grapeseed oil as a natural remedy in their at-home beauty arsenal.

Grapeseed oil for healthy skin

Many of grapeseed oil’s beauty benefits may be due to its vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acid content. Free radicals and environmental factors such as sun, wind, and pollution can do a number on your skin. They may increase the signs of aging and cause dry skin and discoloration.

Vitamin E helps battles free radicals so it may help improve your skin when consumed in your diet. The same benefits may apply when it’s applied directly to your skin in the form of grapeseed oil.

According to the Linus Pauling Institute, omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are crucial to skin function and appearance. And omega-6 fatty acids are necessary for skin barrier functioning. The main omega-6 PUFA in grapeseed oil is linolenic acid. This fatty acid may help reduce inflammation in the skin’s middle and outer layers.

Other reasons grapeseed oil is used are to:

  • moisturize skin
  • heal acne
  • lighten skin
  • tighten pores
  • reduce the appearance of scars
  • remove makeup

Grapeseed oil penetrates your skin quickly and doesn’t leave your skin feeling oily. To use grapeseed oil on your face, massage several drops into clean skin before you go to bed at night. You can repeat the process in the morning if desired. Since grapeseed oil doesn’t clog pores, it’s ideal for all skin types, including oily skin that needs moisturizing.

Grapeseed oil for healthy hair

Grapeseed oil may improve the condition of your hair and scalp. If you have dandruff, which is often caused by a dry scalp, applying emollient grapeseed oil to your scalp can help loosen dead skin and restore moisture.

Some natural oils including olive oil and coconut oil are good for your hair, but they leave it feeling greasy and weighed down. Grapeseed oil is lightweight and doesn’t have that effect. When applied to your hair, grapeseed oil adds moisture, strength, and shine.

Try massaging a couple of tablespoons of grapeseed oil (using more or less, depending on the length of your hair) into your hair and scalp before shampooing.

Grapeseed oil is used as a natural remedy for baldness. Linolenic acid is thought to stimulate hair growth. The oil contains flavonoids called procyanidin oligomers. These are powerful antioxidants. In vitro and in vivo studies show procyanidin oligomers may induce hair growth, but more research is needed.

Grapeseed oil in aromatherapy

Chronic stress wreaks internal and external havoc on your body. It may lead to:

  • premature aging
  • rashes
  • dry skin
  • acne
  • hair loss

While grapeseed oil on its own can’t relieve stress, it does make a wonderful carrier oil for aromatherapy and aromatherapy massage. Aromatherapy may help relieve anxiety and reduce stress.

Cold-pressed or expeller-pressed grapeseed oil can be part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation. It has a neutral flavor and works well with many recipes. Grapeseed oil may also help keep your skin younger looking and your hair stronger and more luxurious. There are no known side effects of consuming grapeseed oil, but people who are allergic to grapes shouldn’t use it.

Natural products have the potential to cause an allergic reaction when used on the skin. Contact your doctor if you experience redness, itching, rash, or your condition worsens.

12 Potential Health Benefits Of Eleuthero

Eleuthero is a plant that has been traditionally used as an immune system booster and a general stimulant.

Sometimes known as Siberian ginseng, eleuthero is native to Japan, northern China, southeastern Russia, South Korea, and North Korea.

What is Eleuthero?

There is evidence that eleuthero was first used as an herbal remedy in China some 2,000 years ago.

The plant is mostly used in traditional medicines as an adaptogen, a compound that helps the body better handle and adapt to stress. Eleuthero also acts as a stimulant, increasing nervous system function.

Although they have similar benefits and usages, eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus and Acanthopanax senticosus) is not related to American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) or true ginseng (Panax ginseng.)

12 potential health benefits

Eleuthero fruit RESIZE
Eleuthero bears fruit that can be eaten raw.

In traditional and herbal medicines, eleuthero is used to treat dozens of different health conditions.

However, the number of advantages tested and proven in animals and humans is far less. Most of the more established benefits of eleuthero still have unclear or conflicting evidence.

Potential health benefits of eleuthero include:

1. Increasing energy and reducing fatigue

As a stimulant, eleuthero boosts energy levels and contains compounds known to help overcome exhaustion and prevent its side effects.

One study found that eleuthero consumption significantly increased the exhaustion point of swimming mice by lessening the build up of lactic acid and blood urea nitrogen, in addition to increasing fat utilization.

2. Improving cognitive function

By increasing circulation, eleuthero may increase blood flow to the brain, improving mental functions such as memory and concentration.

3. Managing cancer

Panax ginseng has been shown to have anti-cancer or anti-tumor properties.

Research suggests eleuthero may have similar properties, especially in cases of lung cancer, but this claim requires more research.

4. Enhancing exercise

As a stimulant, eleuthero may increase the ability of muscles to do work, especially during periods of intense physical activity.

One study found that consuming 800 milligrams (mg) of eleuthero a day for 8 weeks increased a male subject’s endurance time by 23 percent, peak oxygen saturation by 12 percent, and highest heart rate by 3 percent.

5. Healing wounds and preventing ulcers

By boosting the immune system, eleuthero may improve or speed up the healing process.

Compounds in eleuthero have also been shown to prevent the formation of ulcers, including diabetic foot ulcers.

6. Increasing low blood pressure

As a stimulant, eleuthero increases circulation and heart rate and may raise blood pressure over time.

This may be beneficial for people with low blood pressure but can cause risks for people with hypertension.

7. Reducing osteoporosis

In several traditional medicines, eleuthero is used to increase muscle and bone strength.

In a 2013 study, rats given 100 mg of eleuthero daily for 8 weeks saw a 16.7 percent increase in femur bone density.

8. Managing menopause

Extracts of eleuthero and eleutherosides are known to bind to estrogen receptor sites.

Eleuthero may, therefore, lessen the effects of estrogen withdrawal in women who are experiencing menopause. For this reason, women with estrogen-driven cancer may need to consult their doctor before consuming eleuthero.

9. Reducing or limiting respiratory tract infections

As an immune stimulant, eleuthero may shorten the length and severity of lung infections, such as influenza and pneumonia.

10. Improving lymphatic function

Eleutherosides have been shown to improve the lymphatic function of the lymph node network, meaning they may reduce edema. Edema is swelling caused by a build up of fluid.

2016 study found eleuthero powder significantly reduced edema within 2 and 4 hours after consumption in 50 healthy volunteers.

11. Preventing and repairing nerve damage

Several studies have shown that eleutherosides may help prevent and repair nerve damage.

Eleuthero has been explored, as a potential preventative or management medication for progressive neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

One study found that eleuthero improved nerve regeneration and synapse reformation in rats with nerve damage.

12. Lowering or stabilizing blood sugar levels

Eleutherosides have been shown to reduce insulin resistance and are being considered for the management of type 2 diabetes.

A 2013 study found that 480 mg per day of eleuthero significantly lowered fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels in subjects with type 2 diabetes.

Buying Considerations

Eleuthero extracts are made using the plant’s bark, stems, leaves, or roots.

Eleuthero powder
Eleuthero is available as a powder.

The herb is sold in the form of capsules, tablets, a liquid or tincture, and as a powder.

It can also be used whole, and the herb’s dried leaves and stems can be boiled to make a tea. The plant’s fresh fruit may also be eaten raw.

Although it can be sold alone, eleuthero is also commonly found in multivitamins and tonics aimed at boosting immune function, increasing energy levels, and promoting vitality.

As with most herbal supplements, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the production, marketing, or sale of eleuthero. Therefore, a person should check the ingredients in products labeled as ginseng before buying or using them.

Eleutherosides, in particular, eleutheroside B, is usually the main bioactive ingredient, and a pharmacist should be able to recommend appropriate products that contain this.

How to use eleuthero

There is no standard recommended dosage for eleuthero. How the herb is used depends on the formula, form, and the benefit being sought.

The herb is not considered safe for use in children. For people over the age of 18, typical dosage and other recommendations include:

  • take between 300- and 1,200-mg daily, not exceeding 3- to 6-grams
  • take in the morning to avoid disrupting the sleep cycle
  • take doses between meals
  • take the supplement for no more than 6 weeks continuously followed by at least a 2-3 week break

It is important to talk with a doctor before taking herbal supplements. It can be helpful to take the bottle or product packaging for reference.

Health complications and risks

Herbal products can react with certain medications, causing a negative reaction or decreasing the effect of the medication. Also, herbal products may not be safe for people with certain health conditions.

Potential side effects of eleuthero usage include:

  • increased risk of sudden bleeding and hemorrhage
  • raised or lowered blood pressure
  • increased or reduced blood sugar levels
  • hormone changes, especially of cortisol
  • hives and contact dermatitis or skin rashes
  • gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea, nausea, and cramping
  • muscle spasms
  • nerve pain
  • cold extremities
  • nervousness or aggressiveness
  • headache
  • insomnia
  • confusion

Medications, health conditions, and consumables that increase the risk of side effects with eleuthero or require medical monitoring include:

  • bleeding disorders or conditions
  • medications that affect bleeding, such as heparin, warfarin (Coumadin®), and over-the-counter pain medications, including aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen
  • liver medications
  • heart failure medications, such as digoxin
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Hormone-regulating medications
  • anti-allergy medications
  • psychiatric or mental conditions
  • antidepressants
  • alcohol
  • radiotherapy
  • sedatives
  • anti-seizure medications
  • steroids
  • pregnancy
  • diabetes and insulin use
  • antibiotics or antivirals
  • vasodilators
  • ginkgo biloba
  • saw palmetto
  • garlic

Bilberry Health Benefits

If you haven’t heard of bilberry fruit, you shouldn’t be surprised. The plant is extremely difficult to grow, and since it bears small fruit it is seldom cultivated. The fruit that does exist is primarily from wild plants that grow throughout northern and central Europe where they are more plentiful. In fact, it’s often called European blueberry.

For comparison, bilberries are similar to blueberries and huckleberries, but smaller and with a fuller taste. Like most natural foods, there are a number of health benefits associated with this berry, the most notable being an improvement in eye health. British pilots during World War II actually ate bilberry jam before night raids in order to improve their vision.

Bilberry for Natural Eye Health

When you take a closer look at the berry, this bit of war lore is not too surprising. According to the book “100 Super Supplements for a Longer Life,” by Frank Murray, bilberry health benefits include protecting collagen structures found in the eyes. Bilberry can also prevent and treat macular degeneration and retinopathy. The anthocyanosides found in bilberry are known for their ability to help nourish and repair the tiny capillaries within the eye.

Bilberry for Cardiovascular Health

While eye health is a top benefit of bilberry, the benefits don’t stop there. Bilberry is also used to help improve cardiovascular health. According to a paper on bilberry written for the Center for Holistic Pediatric Education and Research by Dr. Kathi Kemper, bilberry can improve circulation and protect against circulatory-related disease. Dr. Kemper suggests that bilberry can also improve atherosclerosis and varicose veins. In addition, the bilberry bioflavonoids are beneficial to the connective tissue that lines blood vessels and binds ligaments throughout the body.

Bilberry as an Antioxidant

The plant is also an excellent source of antioxidants containing both anthocyanosides and Vitamin C. These antioxidants work to repair and reverse damage to cells from free radicals.

Natural Health Benefits of Bilberry

Historically, the berry has been credited with a number of health benefits including:

  • strengthening blood vessels
  • improving red blood cells
  • stabilizing collagen tissues
  • lowering cholesterol
  • increasing retinal pigments
  • lowering blood pressure
  • improving eyesight
  • improving night vision
  • preventing cataracts
  • anti-aging effects on collagen structures
  • soothing a sore throat
  • lowering blood sugar
  • lowering cholesterol levels
  • anticancer effects
  • blocking tumor growth

Traditionally, the leaves and the berries have been used to help with scurvy, urinary tract issues or challenges, kidney problems, and diarrhea.

How to Use Bilberry

There are a number of ways to consume this plant to take advantage of the many bilberry health benefits. In fact, in Poland, bilberries are put into sweet buns as a filling (such a bun is called a jagodzianka, and it is one of Poland’s most popular bakery products during summer). It can be harvested naturally from forests and eaten fresh in jams or other dishes. The fruit can also be dried, used in tea, or found in pill form.

For those without access to the fruit and looking to supplement, look for an extract standardized to 25% anthocyanins. 120 mg a day should suffice.

Review of Black Cumin for Metabolic Disorders

Black cumin (Nigella sativa, Ranunculaceae) seed is popular in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for treating diabetes, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and obesity. However, clinical evidence is inconclusive. The purpose of this systematic review was to evaluate the clinical and biochemical effects of black cumin on lipid profiles, glycemic factors, blood pressure, and anthropometric indices (weight, body mass index [BMI], and waist circumference), all of which are parameters of metabolic syndrome.

The following databases were searched from inception through June 2014: PubMed, Google Scholar, Thomson Reuters Web of Science, and Cochrane. The following medical subject headings (MeSH) and title/abstract (tiab) search terms were used: (“Nigella sativa” [MeSH] OR “black seed” [tiab] OR “black cumin” [tiab] OR “Kalonji” [tiab]) AND “Triglycerides” [MeSH] OR “Cholesterol” [MeSH] OR “Lipoproteins, LDL” [MeSH] OR “Lipoproteins, HDL” [MeSH] OR “Blood glucose” [MeSH] OR “Hemoglobin A, Glycosylated” [MeSH] OR “Blood pressure” [MeSH] OR “Body mass index” [MeSH] OR “Waist circumference” [MeSH]). The inclusion criteria were (1) published in English, (2) the effect of black cumin on clinical or biochemical parameters, and (3) clinical trial. The exclusion criteria were (1) animal studies, (2) review studies, (3) the effect of black cumin on unrelated blood or clinical parameters, (4) the effect of black cumin combined with other plants or exercise, and (5) duplicated studies.

A total of 515 articles were located, and 18 studies (with a total of 1531 subjects) met the inclusion/exclusion criteria. The studies were highly heterogeneous: five studies were randomized, double-blind, controlled studies; five studies had no control group, and eight studies were randomized controlled studies. Included patients were aged 18-65 years and had diabetes (n = 5 studies), metabolic syndrome (n = 7 studies), hyperlipidemia (n = 4 studies), hypertension/coronary disease (n = 2 studies), obesity (n = 1 study), or were healthy subjects (n = 4 studies). All treatments were oral and doses ranged from 200 mg/day to 5 g/day of seed extract (n = 2 studies), seed oil (n = 8 studies), or seed powder (n = 13 studies). Treatment duration ranged from two weeks to six months.

Table 1 summarizes the study findings. The authors note significant findings; however, they do not report whether the changes are compared with baseline or control. In Table 1, the column titled “overall effect” indicates which parameters had more evidence in favor of a significant improvement.

Table 1: Summary of Number of Studies with Significant Improvements in Measured Parameters

Number of Studies
Parameters Significant improvement No significant effect Overall effect (Yes/No)
Triglycerides 7 10 No
Total cholesterol 10 4 Yes
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol 11 3 Yes
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol 6 10 No
Fasting blood sugar 13 3 Yes
Glycosylated hemoglobin 4 Yes
Blood pressure 4 5 No
Weight 2 6 No
BMI 2 6 No
Waist circumference 1 5 No

Based on the number of studies demonstrating a significant improvement, the evidence weighs more in favor of black cumin improving total cholesterol, LDL, fasting blood sugar, and glycosylated hemoglobin. Evidence does not support an effect of black cumin on blood pressure or anthropometric indices. A total of 10 studies evaluated safety. Two studies that treated subjects with 5 mL/day black cumin seed oil reported mild nausea that resolved after one week of treatment. Eight studies measured liver and kidney function and reported no adverse effects.

The authors conclude that black cumin should be “a complementary treatment protocol for many diseases, especially metabolic disorders.” However, even though the evidence leans more favorably in the direction of a benefit for some parameters, the heterogeneity of the studies must be taken into consideration. It would have been advantageous if the researchers conducted a meta-analysis to provide more scientific rigor to their analysis and conclusions. Recommendations for the effective dose or preparation cannot be gleaned from this analysis. More research is needed if black cumin is to be recommended as a treatment for patients with symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

Resource:

Mohtashami A, Entezari MH. Effects of Nigella sativa supplementation on blood parameters and anthropometric indices in adults: A systematic review of clinical trials. J Res Med Sci. 2016;21:3. doi: 10.4103/1735-1995.175154.

 

Black Chokeberry—Bioactivities of Phenolic-rich Fruit May Contribute to Prevention of Chronic Diseases

Bioactive plant-derived compounds, especially phenolics with high antioxidant activity, are increasingly shown to be beneficial in preventing and treating chronic diseases. Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa, Rosaceae) fruit has high levels of antioxidants, especially anthocyanins in the form of cyanidin derivatives. Black chokeberry fruit also contains other beneficial compounds such as vitamins C and E, carotenoids, pectins, and organic acids, as well as essential minerals (potassium, calcium, and magnesium).

Black chokeberry is native to eastern North America, from the Great Lakes to New England and higher altitudes of the Appalachians. Its fruits were used by Native Americans to treat colds. Introduced to Russia in the early 1900s, black chokeberry soon spread throughout the country, and in the early 20th century was introduced to other European nations, especially in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. Several cultivars with larger and sweeter fruit have been developed in Northern and Eastern Europe, of which two, “Viking” and “Nero,” are available in the United States. A high tannin level and astringent taste limit black chokeberry’s popularity as a fresh fruit. It is widely used as a food colorant and flavoring; in teas (infusions), juices, jams, purees, etc.; and as a source of compounds for nutritional supplements. Its pomace is rich in bio-actives.

The authors summarize black chokeberry fruit’s composition and the bioavailability, antioxidant properties, and health-promoting benefits of its compounds in relation to chronic diseases. They do not describe search methods for the information presented.

Polyphenols are the major bioactive compounds of black chokeberry. These dietary antioxidants can scavenge free radicals, a cause of oxidative stress, which causes chronic inflammation and thereby increases the risk of diseases including atherosclerosis, cancer, and neurodegenerative conditions. Black chokeberry fruit’s total phenolic (TP) content is in the range of 690-2560 mg gallic acid equivalents (GAE) per 100 g fresh weight. This is higher than for many better-known berry crops, including blueberry (Vaccinium spp., Ericaceae), red raspberry (Rubus idaeus, Rosaceae), red currant (Ribes rubrum, Grossulariaceae), strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa, Rosaceae), “blackberry” (Rubus fruticosus; also a generic common name for an edible fruit produced by many Rubus spp.), and cranberry (V. macrocarpon), and comparable to the TP content of bilberry (V. myrtillus) and hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna, Rosaceae) fruit. As in other phenolic-producing plants, black chokeberry’s TP content and levels of specific phenolic compounds vary with cultivar and genotype, growth conditions, maturity at harvest, extraction and/or processing methods, and storage. The highest levels of phenolic compounds are found in the “Hugist” cultivar; the lowest, in “Aron.” The average concentration of phenolics in pomace is about five times that in black chokeberry juice. The most important phenolic compounds in black chokeberry fruits are phenolic acids, especially hydroxycinnamic acids, and flavonoids, including flavonols (epicatechin), flavonols (mainly quercetin glycosides), anthocyanins, and proanthocyanidins. While intestinal absorption of black chokeberry polyphenols is very poor, metabolization into other compounds allows for their beneficial effects. Quantities and proportions of individual phenolics vary among cultivars and plant parts and are affected by extraction/processing and storage methods. The relative antioxidant activities of different extracts and products are detailed. Compared with black chokeberry cultivars “Viking” and “Aron,” purple chokeberry (Aronia × prunifolia) dried berries had higher antioxidant activity. It is noted that black chokeberry’s lipophilic antioxidant capacity is quite low. It’s hydrophilic antioxidant capacity, along with black currant (Ribes nigrum) and elderberry (Sambucus spp., Adoxaceae), is among the highest of berry fruits.

Black chokeberry exerts anti-inflammatory, anti-atherosclerotic, hypotensive, anticoagulant, antithrombotic, and antiplatelet activities, making it especially valuable for cardiovascular health. It also has immunomodulatory, antiviral, and antibacterial effects. Black chokeberry extract decreases the expression of genes for cholesterol synthesis, uptake, and efflux dose-dependently in humans. It is known for its gastroprotective effects, especially against peptic ulcer, and for its antidiabetic effects, improving fasting glucose and lipid profiles. Anthocyanins may help prevent obesity and, by inhibiting α-glucosidase and α-amylase activities, reduce postprandial hyperglycemia. Aronia spp. extracts benefit risk factors related to insulin resistance, modulating multiple associated pathways. Black chokeberry anthocyanins can normalize carbohydrate metabolism. The anticancer effects of black chokeberry also operate through numerous pathways and mechanisms, including induction of detoxication enzymes, induction of cell cycle arrest apoptosis, and changes in cellular signaling. In vitro, it retards or halts the growth of human breast, leukemia, colon, and cervical cancer lines. Black chokeberry may reduce oxidative stress in patients with cancer before and after surgery. Different extracts and polyphenolic compounds may affect different cancer cell lines more or less strongly. Overall, black chokeberry, like other less-utilized berry crops, offers many positive benefits for prevention and treatment of chronic diseases. While some human trials are mentioned, more research is clearly warranted.

Resource:

Jurikova T, Mlcek J, Skrovankova S, et al. Fruits of black chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa in the prevention of chronic diseases. Molecules. June 7, 2017;22(6):944. doi: 10.3390/molecules22060944.

Supplements could be missing opportunity connected to essential oils, experts say

Herbal product companies may be missing an opportunity in which essential oils and specific dietary supplements could be recommended simultaneously in condition-specific settings, experts say.

Source: Supplements could be missing opportunity connected to essential oils, experts say