Turmeric and Black Pepper: A Winning Combination

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a spice held in high regard for its bountiful health properties and its culinary uses. It’s a favorite herb of Ayurvedic and Chinese traditional medicine, and its therapeutic uses date back thousands of years. Numerous studies have found that turmeric root can have a significant positive effect on neurological, cardiovascular, metabolic, immune system, and cellular health. It may even help support your thyroid and promote longevity. Turmeric owes its many health-promoting qualities to curcumin, the natural compound that gives turmeric its rich golden color.

The Trouble With Turmeric

For all its miraculous health benefits, turmeric does have one weakness. The golden spice has very low bioavailability. This means that your body can only use a very small portion of the turmeric you consume. As the absorption levels of curcumin are very low, your body cannot harness the full healing properties of the spice. Fortunately, there is a simple way to enhance bioavailability. Just add black pepper to unlock the full potential of turmeric.

Black Pepper Can Boost Bioavailability by 2000%

Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is one of the most commonly consumed spices on the planet. In many parts of the world, you can find it on nearly every dinner table, right next to the salt. It’s usually just called “pepper,” but it also bears the nicknames “black gold” and “the king of spices.” It has a phenomenally long shelf life. Properly stored, black pepper can maintain its taste and aroma for many years.

Black pepper also has many health benefits of its own. It’s been used to relieve nausea, headaches, poor digestion, and sore throats. Much like how turmeric owes its healthy properties to curcumin, black pepper gets both its health benefits and its pungent flavor from a natural alkaloid compound called piperine.

Taking turmeric with black pepper may boost its bioavailability up to an astonishing 2000%. This is because piperine acts as an excellent bio-enhancer. Put simply, it can improve the bioavailability of other substances in the body.[1] The serving needed is quite small. You only need a pinch of pepper to enhance the absorption of turmeric.

The Powerful Potential of Piperine

When you consume a nutrient, your digestive system can only absorb a certain portion of it. The proportion of a nutrient that your body can digest, absorb, and utilize is its bioavailability. For example, the bioavailability of protein is very high. Most people use over 90% of the protein they consume. After it moves through your digestive system, your body eliminates the rest as waste.

For a nutrient to be absorbed into your body, it must pass through a membrane in your gut into your bloodstream. Large molecules have a more difficult time getting through this barrier. Piperine may help relax your intestinal membrane, allowing larger particles, like turmeric, to pass through.

The effect of piperine on the liver may play another factor. As part of your normal metabolism, your liver releases a substance called UDP-glucuronic acid. In a process called glucuronidation, this acid bonds with other substances to make them more water-soluble, and thus more easily excreted.

With turmeric, this glucuronidation may operate too quickly, eliminating the herb from your system before your body can make full use of it. Studies have found that piperine lowers the blood levels of UDP-glucuronic acid, inhibiting glucuronidation. In other words, it slows your liver metabolism of curcumin enough that your body can absorb the nutrient more effectively.

The Perks of Turmeric Plus Pepper

While turmeric and black pepper each have their own unique health properties, many of the properties are enhanced when you combine the two.

Possesses Antioxidant Properties

Turmeric contains many compounds with antioxidant properties. Curcumin, in particular, is a potent antioxidant. In fact, it’s ten times more powerful than resveratrol, the much-hyped antioxidant in red wine.

Piperine possesses its own antioxidant properties. Animal studies have found that piperine can reduce the oxidative stress brought on by a high-fat diet. By consuming pepper with turmeric regularly, you get double the antioxidant protection, helping you stay healthier, longer.

Resists Harmful Organisms

In vitro studies have found that turmeric resists harmful organisms, though more research is required to determine if this effect can be replicated in the human body. As a bioenhancer, black pepper not only boosts these abilities, it resists harmful organisms as well.

Protects Liver Health

In the liver, turmeric helps increase cholesterol elimination by boosting bile production. Curcumin also protects liver cells from damage caused by toxins such as peroxide, galactosamine, tobacco smoke, and household chemicals. Black pepper helps by boosting the bioavailability of glutathione, an important compound that protects the liver on a cellular level.

Eases Discomfort

Both turmeric and black pepper work to relieve temporary discomfort. Piperine desensitizes a pain receptor called TRPV1. Turmeric helps ease occasional joint discomfort. Put them together and you have surefire relief for stiffness and soreness. This is one of the reasons turmeric is so popular among athletes.

Aids Digestion

Ayurvedic medicine has relied on turmeric to support digestive health for thousands of years. Modern studies have found that it reduces spasms and flatulence. Both turmeric and black pepper have been found to enhance the activity of digestive enzymes in the gut, helping your system process food more quickly and easily.

The Best Ways to Get Black Pepper With Turmeric

Whole foods are always the best way to consume nutrients. When combining turmeric and black pepper, look to food sources such as curry. It may be a happy accident, or maybe the ancient peoples of India knew something we didn’t, but many recipes for curry happen to include turmeric and black pepper. You can also make a tasty tea from turmeric, black pepper, and other healing herbs like capsaicin. Simply mix these herbs into a high-fat liquid like almond milk and enjoy.

While undoubtedly delicious, making curry every day could prove inconvenient. In these cases, you should consider a turmeric and black pepper supplement. Read the label carefully as many turmeric extracts neglect to include black pepper. You could add your own, but top quality blends will already include both. Global Healing Center’s Turmeric extract combines these wonderful spices into one convenient, potent, and highly bioavailable blend.

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Is Christmas Tree Syndrome A Real Thing?

As Christmas edges closer, the media is rife with seasonal health stories. But can our Christmas trees really make us sick?
Christmas tree allergy

What is Christmas tree syndrome?

Constantly on the lookout for interesting health stories, I stumbled across a collection of articles about Christmas tree syndrome recently, which piqued my interest.

According to a plethora of news outlets and articles spanning the past decade, Christmas trees are a ready source of mold, which can wreak havoc in our respiratory tract and potentially spoil our holiday fun.

This may be an issue for the roughly 13 percentof the population of the United States who are affected by mold allergy. But the studies cited are far from extensive, and mold allergy is not terribly well understood.

So, do you need to be throwing doubtful glances at your carefully decorated Christmas conifer, or is the whole thing a holiday hype?

Mold spores, allergy, and asthma

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), “[I]f, you have an allergy that occurs over several seasons, you may be allergic to the spores of molds or other fungi.”

Spores come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they are ever-present in our environment — both indoors and outdoors. There may be in excess of 1 million fungal species that inhabit our planet, of which just over 100 families, or genera, can cause mold allergy.

The main culprits, however, are just four: AlternariaCladosporiumPenicillium, and Aspergillus.

Mold spores become dangerous when they reach critical levels. This is the case for individuals who have a mold allergy, as well as those with other allergies or asthma, where mold exposure can serve as a secondary trigger and make symptoms worse.

Our weather and light levels affect the composition and levels of individual spore species, which are in constant flux. Our knowledge of critical spore levels is far from extensive, but studies have suggested that for Alternaria, levels can be as low as 100 spores per cubic meter, while for Cladosporium, it is 3,000 spores per cubic meter.

But what does this have to do with our Christmas trees?

Are Christmas trees a health hazard?

It all started in 1970, when Dr. Derek M. Wyse published a paper titled “Christmas tree allergy: mold and pollen studies” in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

He found that approximately 7 percent of allergic people saw a spike in symptoms when they had a Christmas tree in their home.

Yet, when he measured the variety of mold spores in 10 festive homes, he found his results largely inconclusive because the type of mold he found in the homes varied. Nonetheless, the term Christmas tree allergy was coined.

Fast forward to 2007, when Dr. Phillip Hemmers reported at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in Dallas, TX, that he had followed the fate of one particular Christmas tree.

He found that mold spores had gone up by more than fivefold during a 14-day period over the holidays, reaching 5,000 spores per cubic meter at the end of the festive period.

In 2011, Dr. Lawrence E. Kurlandsky — along with his colleagues from the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse — published a more extensive study.

Having analyzed clippings from 28 Christmas trees belonging to their team and fellow staff, they found 53 mold species, of which 70 percent were potentially harmful.

Christmas trees — yay or nay?

Winter sees an annual peak in colds, flu outbreaks, and asthma attacks. The exact reasons aren’t known. But whether your Christmas tree or a combination of other factors is really to blame is difficult to say.

However, if you do have allergies or asthma, it’s worth taking the potential spike in tree-related spore levels seriously. Dr. Kurlandsky recommends washing your tree before bringing it inside, keeping it only for the minimum time possible, and using an air purifier to keep spore levels in check.

The AAFA recommend keeping your living spaces clear of other sources of mold and reducing damp by lowering humidity levels.

For those not affected by allergies, however, the alarm bells are off. “If you and your children don’t have any obvious allergies, then it is probably not going to bother you,” Dr. Kurlandsky says.

For now, our office Christmas tree is safe after all.

Clinical Efficacy of Hibiscus in Improving Iron Status in Patients with Anemia

Anemia, defined as a hemoglobin (Hb) serum concentration of <11.0 g/dL at sea level, is usually caused by low intake and absorption of dietary iron. Anemia currently affects roughly 67.6% of the population in Africa, many of whom are concurrently exposed to malaria. In Tanzania, hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa, Malvaceae) flower and calyx infusions or juices are among several natural products used for anemia. Hibiscus contains several minerals, including iron, and ascorbic acid, which is known to increase iron absorption. In vivo, an aqueous extract of hibiscus significantly increased hematocrit (Hct) and Hb levels. Clinical trials have evaluated its use in lowering cholesterol, reducing hypertension, and controlling type 2 diabetes; however, none have examined its effect on iron deficiency. Therefore, these authors conducted a randomized clinical trial to measure the effect of hibiscus extract on iron status in patients with anemia.

Hibiscus calyxes were collected from local farms in March 2014, with a voucher specimen deposited in the herbarium of the Botany Department, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. An aqueous extract optimized for both ascorbic acid and iron extraction was prepared to contain 0.831 mg/g L-ascorbic acid and 0.078 mg/g iron. The extract was issued to patients in 10-day dose packs with instructions.

Of the 202 individuals screened, 130 who were eligible (aged 18-50 years, Hb between 8.0-12.9 g/dL for men and 8.0-11.9 g/dL for women [anemic], no use of vitamin or mineral supplements for 30 days before enrollment, no organ impairment, no chronic illness, no blood given or received in prior 6 months, not pregnant or nursing, residents of study area, no history of serious medical conditions, and no participation in any investigational trial for 90 days before the study) were randomly assigned into 4 groups with similar proportions of key characteristics (e.g., gender, age, and Hb levels) in each.

Patients in group D1 (n=35) drank 1 L of the product daily; those in D2 (n=34), 1500 mL; and those in D3(n=32), 2 L. Patients in D4 (control; n=29) took 200 mg ferrous sulphate yielding 65 mg ferrous iron daily. The primary endpoint was changed in iron status indicators (Hb level, serum ferritin [Fer], and Hct parameters [mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH), mean corpuscular volume (MCV), and red cell distribution width (RDW)]) between baseline and end of follow-up. Vital signs, laboratory tests, and questionnaires were used at baseline and at clinic visits every 10th day. Tests included complete blood count, renal and liver function tests, and hematology. Adverse events were assessed and classified as mild, medium, or severe. Compliance was monitored through home visits by village health workers in addition to clinic visits.

Patients, from 8 villages in Mkuranga District, Tanzania, had a mean age of 37 ± 11.8 years; 79 (60.8%) were women. About 20% had been ill in the 12 months before baseline, with urinary tract infections most common (41.7%). About 34% were using antibiotics at baseline; 32.7%, analgesics. “A significant proportion” of patients with no reported illness was taking medicine. There were no significant differences among groups in red blood cell characteristics, nutrition, or inflammatory markers at baseline (P>0.05 for all). After 4 weeks, 82 patients remained in the study—18 in group D1, 24 in D2, 21 in D3, and 19 in D4. A total of 37 were lost to follow-up for unknown reasons; others, for medical reasons or by moving away. Malaria (58 cases) did not cause any cited dropouts. Baseline data on malaria status are not provided.

In this study, the hibiscus treatment was not effective in treating anemia, but showed potential for improving hematological parameters. Fer levels rose significantly in D4 (control; P=0.0014) compared to baseline; in other groups, nonsignificantly (P>0.05). RDW fell, although nonsignificantly, in all groups compared to baseline, most noticeably in D3 (P=0.2754). There was a significant decrease in MCH in D1, D2, and D4 compared to baseline (P<0.05 for all); in D3, there was a nonsignificant decrease in MCH (P=0.0571). In D1 and D4, significant declines in Hb were seen compared to baseline (P=0.0123 and P=0.0219, respectively). [Note: In the article text, the value for D1 is given as P=0.123.]

The authors call for studies with larger populations. Findings differ from a study of hibiscus and pineapple (Ananas comosus, Bromeliaceae) juice, with an average increase in Hb after 9 days that exceeded conventional anemia treatment (+2 g/dL in 3 weeks). Additional studies are also needed to examine the complex comorbidities of anemia and malaria. A recent study in Tanzania found that “iron deficiency appears to protect against both malaria infection and mortality.”1,2

References

1Richards S. Iron deficiency protective against malaria. The Scientist website. Available at: http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/31974/title/Iron-Deficiency-Protective-Against-Malaria/. Published April 13, 2012. Accessed October 4, 2017.

2Gwamaka M, Kurtis JD, Sorensen BE, et al. Iron deficiency protects against severe Plasmodium falciparum malaria and death in young children. Clin Infect Dis. April 15, 2012;54(8):1137-1144.

Peter EL, Rumisha SF, Mashoto KO, Minzi OMS, Mfinanga S. Efficacy of standardized extract of Hibiscus sabdariffa L. (Malvaceae) in improving the iron status of adults in malaria endemic area: a randomized controlled trial. J Ethnopharmacol. September 14, 2017;209:288-293.

What Do You Know About Rose Water?

Rose water is a liquid made from water and rose petals. It is used as a perfume due to its sweet scent, but it has medicinal and culinary values, as well.

There is a long tradition of rose water being used in medicine, including in Iran and other parts of the Middle East, as far back as the 7th century.

There is also evidence of North American Indian tribes using it to treat ailments.

Fast facts on rose water:

  • Rose water can usually be used without any side effects.
  • Rose water contains numerous, powerful antioxidants.
  • Recent research has found that it can help relax the central nervous system.

What are the benefits?

Below, we look at some of the benefits of rose water and their uses in medicine.

Skin

Rose water in small glass bottle, next to rose flower.

Rose water is often used as a perfume, though it also has many medicinal benefits.

The skin is the largest organ in the body and acts as a barrier against UV radiation, chemicals, and other physical pollutants.

The antioxidants in rose water protect the cells in the skin against damage.

Rose water also has anti-inflammatory properties, which means it can be put on the skin to soothe the irritation caused by conditions, such as eczema and rosacea.

Rose water acts as an inhibitor against elastase and collagenase, which are both harmful to the skin.

This, in turn, can help soothe the skin and reduce redness, as well as act as an anti-aging product by reducing the appearance of lines and wrinkles.

Respiratory

Due to its soothing and anti-inflammatory effect, rose water can be taken to treat a sore throat. Furthermore, a study has shown that it can act as a relaxant on the muscles in the throat.

Eyes

In its liquid form rose water can be used as part of an eye drop and has been shown to have excellent benefits for people with eye problems.

Conditions it can help treat include:

  • conjunctivitis
  • conjunctival xerosis or dry eye
  • acute dacryocystitis
  • degenerative conditions, such as pterygium or pinguecula
  • cataracts

Wounds

Rose water has antiseptic and antibacterial properties, which mean it can help wounds heal faster, by keeping them clean and fighting injections.

The types of wounds rose water can be used on include:

  • burns
  • cuts
  • scars

Infections

Due to its antiseptic properties and the fact rose water can prompt the creation of histamines by the immune system, it has been shown to be useful for preventing and treating infections.

Brain

Rose water in a bowl with rose petals, for vapor therapy.

Rose water vapor therapy can improve mood and aid relaxation.

The inhalation of rose water vapors has been traditionally used as a way to improve a person’s mood. The liquid can also be taken orally.

Research has shown that rose water has antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties. It is believed to induce sleep and to have a hypnotic effect similar to that of the pharmaceutical drug diazepam.

It has been used to treat a number of mental health conditions, including:

  • depression
  • grief
  • stress
  • tension

In other medical cases, rose water is known to be beneficial in the treatment of conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

A specific protein fragment called an amyloid, which is created by the body, has been shown to be present in these conditions and to affect the brain function, kill cells, and hinder memory. Encouragingly, properties found in rose water are an inhibitor of this amyloid.

Headaches

Just as the fumes of rose water are inhaled to help improve mood, it is believed that the de-stressing effects can also help treat headaches and migraines.

Rose water has been used in aromatherapy for some time and can also be applied to a cloth and laid on the forehead for similar effects.

Digestion

The ingestion of rose water has also been shown to have beneficial effects on the digestive system. It works by increasing bile flow, which helps symptoms of common complaints, including bloating and upset stomach.

The consumption of rose water can also work as a laxative. It can increase both the amount of water in the feces and the frequency of going to the toilet, making it a good treatment for constipation.

What forms and types are there?

Rose water in spray diffuser bottle.

Rose water contains rose oil and tends to be more affordable than pure rose oil.

Rose water contains between 10 and 50 percent rose oil. It is often used in religious ceremonies, as well as in the food industry. However, the same product can come in different forms.

Rose oil

This is created by distilling the rose flower. The oil can be mass-produced in factories and is a pale, yellow color and semisolid.

Due to its high concentration, rose oil is known to be a fairly expensive product.

Dried flowers

Both the buds and the petals of the rose can be dried and are used for different reasons.

Often the petals are eaten, with yogurt, for example, and are used for the previously mentioned digestive benefits.

Other products

Other forms that rose products may come in can include:

  • Rose hips: The seedpods of the roses, which are used either fresh or dried, and as they are or processed in factories.
  • Hydrosol and absolute extract: This can be taken from the flower, petals, or hips and can be a cheaper alternative to rose oil.
  • Ethanolic, aqueous, and chloroform extracts: These can be taken from the flower, petals, or hips and are used for research purposes.

Side effects

A person can apply rose products topically by putting a small amount — about the size of a dime — on their arm as an initial test. If there is no adverse or allergic reaction within 24 hours it can be safely applied elsewhere.

In some cases, a person can have a reaction to rose water due to a particular and often unknown sensitivity to the product.

This can include:

  • burning
  • stinging
  • redness
  • irritation

If someone experiences any of these effects after the use of rose water, they should tell a doctor immediately, as it may be a sign of an infection or allergic reaction.

Aloe Vera Cream Delays Development of Radiation-induced Dermatitis in Patients with Head and Neck Cancers

Treatments for head and neck cancers include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy, used either alone or in combination. Used to treat inoperable tumors, radiotherapy can cause radiation-induced dermatitis, which is treated with steroidal, nonsteroidal, and metallic topical medications. Researchers have studied the use of skin care products containing aloe vera (Aloe vera, Asphodelaceae) in patients undergoing radiotherapy. Aloe vera has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and researched for its use in treating a variety of skin ailments including eczema, psoriasis, burns, wounds, and ultraviolet (UV)-induced skin erythema. These authors conducted a single-center, investigator-blinded, randomized, clinical study to evaluate the efficacy of a topical aloe vera-based cream (AVC) in preventing radiation-induced dermatitis in patients undergoing therapeutic radiation for head and neck cancers.

The study was conducted between July 2012 and December 2012 in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Mangalore Institute of Oncology in Pumpwell, Mangalore, India. Eligible patients were those scheduled to receive radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy 6 weeks following surgery and who had a Karnofsky Performance Status Scale score above 70, meaning that patients could care for themselves but could not carry on normal activity or do active work.

Sixty patients were randomly assigned, with 30 in each group, to either the Johnson’s® Baby Oil (JBO) (Johnson & Johnson; Mumbai, India) control group or the AVC Elovera® (Glenmark; Mumbai, India) group. Elovera consists primarily of 10% aloe vera extract and 0.5% vitamin E. At baseline, the mean age for the JBO group was 55.2 ± 9.66 years, and for the AVC group, 55.9 ± 8.99 years. Males represented 24 patients in the JBO group and 26 in the AVC group. During the second week of treatment, 1 patient in the JBO group died of cancer.

All patients received irradiation at a maximum energy level of 6 MV at a rate of 300 MU per minute. All fields were treated 5 days a week with no more than 1 fraction of 2 Gy daily. Patients scheduled for chemoradiotherapy received carboplatin infusions weekly 3 hours before the first weekly radiation treatment. Before starting the study, the patients and their caregivers were taught how to apply the JBO (5 mL) or AVC (5 g) 5 times daily as follows: 2 hours before, immediately after, and 2, 4, and 6 hours after radiotherapy. Use of JBO or AVC was discontinued if moist desquamation occurred, and 1% gentian violet paint was applied instead.

The patients were assessed for radiation-induced dermatitis weekly according to the criteria of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group/European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer, which ranks skin condition as follows: grade 0 (no skin rending, ulceration, inflammation, or damage); grade 1 (faint erythema or dry desquamation); grade 2 (moderate to brisk erythema, patchy moist desquamation mostly confined to skin folds and creases, moderate edema); grade 3 (moist desquamation ≤1.5 cm in diameter in areas other than skin folds or creases, and bleeding induced by minor trauma or abrasion); and grade 4 (skin necrosis or ulceration of full-thickness dermis and spontaneous bleeding from the involved site).

After weeks 1 and 2, patients in both groups had normal skin, without any signs of radiation-induced dermatitis. Following week 2, dermatitis was observed in the 2 groups as follows:

  • Week 3: 41.4% in the JBO group and 16.7% in the AVC group
  • Week 4: 82.8% in the JBO group and 70% in the AVC group
  • Week 5: 93.1% in the JBO group and 90% in the AVC group
  • Weeks 6 and 7: 96.6% in the JBO group and 90% in the AVC group
  • Two weeks post-treatment: 86.2% in the JBO group and 73.3% in the AVC group

Dermatitis reported in both groups at week 3 was grade 1; the between-group difference in the incidence was significant (P=0.04). After week 4, grade 2 dermatitis was seen in both groups. The most severe dermatitis of grade 3 was reported by 34.48% in the JBO group and 40% in the AVC group at week 7 (P=0.07). No one developed grade 4 dermatitis. Two weeks post-treatment, the average grade of dermatitis was lower in the AVC group compared with the JBO group; specifically, the patients in the AVC group had a significantly lower incidence of grade 2 dermatitis compared with the JBO group (P<0.02).

Earlier studies reported that aloe vera gel, used with mild soap, relieved dermatitis in women undergoing radiation for breast cancer1; “[h]owever,” write the authors of the study reported here, “the observation that an Aloe vera-based cream delays the incidence of dermatitis (when evaluated from the initiation of the treatment) is novel and indicates the usefulness of Aloe vera in enhancing the healing of radiation dermatitis.” Other studies have shown that aloe vera enhances wound healing.2,3

The authors conclude that the prophylactic use of an AVC delays the development of radiation-induced dermatitis in patients being treated for head and neck cancers. Further studies with a larger sample size are needed to further validate the efficacy of aloe vera.

References

1Ryan JL. Ionizing radiation: the good, the bad, and the ugly. J Invest Dermatol. 2012;132(3 Pt 2):985-993.

2Atiba A, Nishimura M, Kakinuma S, et al. Aloe vera oral administration accelerates acute radiation-delayed wound healing by stimulating transforming growth factor-β and fibroblast growth factor production. Am J Surg. 2011;201(6):809-818.

3Visuthikosol V, Chowchuen B, Sukwanarat Y, Sriurairatana S, Boonpucknavig V. Effect of Aloe vera gel to healing of burn wound: a clinical and histologic study. J Med Assoc Thai. 1995;78(8):403-409. 

Rao S, Hegde SK, Baliga-Rao MP, Palatty PL, George T, Baliga MS. An Aloe vera-based cosmeceutical cream delays and mitigates ionizing radiation-induced dermatitis in head and neck cancer patients undergoing curative radiotherapy: a clinical study. Medicines (Basel). June 2017:4(3):44. doi: 10.3390/medicines4030044.

Meta-analysis of the Effects of Ginkgo Extract on Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia

Behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) are characterized by symptoms of aggression, agitation, and psychosis, which typically decrease the quality of life for the patient while increasing caregiver distress, the risk for nursing home admission, and financial burden on the healthcare system. BPSD is a treatment target for patients with dementia. In conventional medicine, pharmacological management of anti-dementia drugs (i.e., acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, memantine), antidepressants, and select antipsychotics has proven beneficial for this patient population. The agitation has been observed in patients with dementia who receive the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (commonly referred to as “SSRI”) citalopram. EGb 761® (Dr. Willmar Schwabe GmbH & Co. KG; Karlsruhe, Germany) is a ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba, Ginkgoaceae) leaf extract. The extract contains 22.0-27.0% ginkgo flavonoids calculated as ginkgo flavone glycosides and terpene lactones, consisting of 2.8-3.4% ginkgolides A, B, and C, 2.6-3.2% bilobalide, and less than 5 ppm of ginkgolic acids. Studies show that EGb 761 is an effective treatment for BPSD. The purpose of this meta-analysis was to evaluate the effects of EGb 761 on individual BPSD; namely, an overall reduction of symptoms, reduction of symptoms present at baseline, and the prevention of newly emerging symptoms. Also, symptoms of caregiver burden were evaluated.

The following databases were searched: PubMed/Medline (from inception through December 2013), EMBASE (from January 2006 through December 2013), and PASCAL (from inception through December 2013). The search was updated June 2016. The following search terms were used: (ginkg* OR gingk*) AND clinical trial(pt) for PubMed, ((ginkg* OR gingk*) NOT medline(sb)) AND (clinical* OR trial OR randomized) for PubMed excluding Medline, (GINKGO OR GINGKO), AND (HUMAN/CT OR HOMME/CTFR) for PASCAL, and (ginkgo or gingko) AND CT = (CLINICAL TRIAL; CLINICAL STUDY; DOUBLE BLIND PROCEDURE) AND py > 2005 for EMBASE. Reference sections were screened. The manufacturer of EGb 761 was contacted for any unpublished studies. Included studies met the following criteria: (1) randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials of EGb 761; (2) duration of ≥ 20 weeks; and (3) included patients with dementia (probable Alzheimer’s disease [AD], probable vascular dementia [VaD], or possible AD with cerebrovascular disease) and clinically significant BPSD (Neuropsychiatric Inventory [NPI] total score ≥ 6). A meta-analysis was conducted. The primary outcome measure was single-item scores on the NPI (a 12-item inventory of the presence and severity of behavioral changes in patients with dementia).

Four studies met the inclusion criteria. The authors do not say how many articles were excluded. All four studies were similarly designed (i.e., multicentered, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled), included patients with mild to moderate dementia, and evaluated 240 mg/day EGb 761 or placebo for 22 weeks or 24 weeks. The manufacturer of EGb 761, Dr. Willmar Schwabe GmbH & Co KG, provided individual patient data from all studies for use in the meta-analysis. The 12-item inventory designed to assess the presence and severity of altered behavior associated with dementia upon which study patients were evaluated (NPI) assessed the following signs and symptoms: delusions, hallucinations, agitation/aggression, depression/dysphoria, anxiety, elation/euphoria, apathy/indifference, disinhibition, irritability/lability, aberrant motor behavior, sleep and nighttime behavior disorders, and appetite and eating disorders. All included patients scored 35 or less on the Test for the Early Detection of Dementia with the Differentiation from Depression; had scores ranging from 9-23 on the SKT short cognitive performance test; and had clinically significant BPSD, denoted by a composite score of ≥ 6 on the NPI with at least one item score (other than delusions or hallucinations) with a value ≥ 3.

While 1628 patients were randomly assigned in the four trials evaluated, the meta-analysis included data from 1598 patients (n = 796, EGb 761; n = 802, placebo). The mean age was 66 years ± 9 years, and ≥ 67% of each group were women. There were no significant differences between groups at baseline. At the study’s end, the EGb 761 group had significantly greater improvement from baseline compared with the placebo group on the NPI composite score and caregiver distress scores (P values not reported).

  • For net effects of individual NPI composite scores, the EGb 761 group had significant improvement from baseline compared with the placebo group in the incidence of apathy (P < 0.001) > disturbance in sleep/nighttime behavior (P < 0.001) > depression (P < 0.001) > anxiety (P < 0.001) > irritability/lability (P < 0.001).

o   There were minimal changes in the incidence of delusions, hallucinations, and elation/euphoria, as well as in those endpoints that were low at baseline (i.e., disinhibition, aberrant motor behavior, and appetite/eating).

  • For net effects of individual caregiver distress scale scores, the EGb 761 group had significant improvement in the incidence of symptoms from baseline compared with the placebo group for depression (P < 0.001) > disturbance in sleep/nighttime behavior (P < 0.001) > apathy (P < 0.001) > anxiety (P < 0.001) > irritability/liability (P < 0.001).
  • Similarly, for individual NPI composite scores, the EGb 761 group had significantly greater symptom improvement from baseline compared with the placebo group for aberrant motor behavior (P < 0.001) > apathy (P < 0.001) > depression (P < 0.001) > agitation (P < 0.001) > disturbance in sleep/nighttime behavior (P < 0.001) > anxiety (P < 0.001).
  • For individual caregiver distress scale scores, the EGb 761 group had significantly greater symptom improvement from baseline compared with the placebo group for agitation (P < 0.001) > depression (P < 0.001) aberrant motor behavior (P < 0.001) > disturbance in sleep/nighttime behavior (P < 0.001) > anxiety (P < 0.001) > apathy (P < 0.001).
  • For individual NPI composite scores for symptoms not originally present at baseline but emerging during the study period, the incidence at the study’s end was significantly lower in EGb 761 group compared with the placebo group for depression (P < 0.001) > apathy (P = 0.002) > disinhibition (P = 0.001) > disturbance in sleep/nighttime behavior (P = 0.258).
  • For individual caregiver distress scale scores for symptoms not originally present at baseline but emerging during the study period, the incidence at the study’s end was significantly lower in EGb 761 group compared with the placebo group for depression (P < 0.001) > apathy (P = 0.022) > disinhibition (P = 0.004) > disturbance in sleep/nighttime behavior (P = 0.004).
  • Overall, the symptoms that were most prevalent at baseline improved in 50-60% of the EGb 761 group and 30-40% of the placebo group.

The authors conclude that 22 or 24 weeks of treatment with EGb 761 provided significant benefit for nine out of 12 symptoms of individual NPI composite and caregiver distress scores compared with placebo. The mechanism of action of how EGb 761 improves each symptom has not been confirmed but may be related to modulation of neurotransmitter systems.

This study has several strengths that make it unique and of high scientific value. (1) The authors were able to obtain raw data from all studies to conduct the meta-analysis. (2) The four included studies were homogeneous. (3) The population size was relatively large. (4) All included studies evaluated the same dose and preparation of ginkgo.

This article also had some limitations. (1) The authors did not report how many articles were located in their original search. (2) The authors did not provide P values of the total NPI composite and caregiver distress scores. (3) The search was English-language only so some studies may have been missed. (4) Considering that the authors had access to raw data, it would have been beneficial if they had conducted a meta-analysis of safety. An analysis of risk/benefit is always of value and this study missed that opportunity.

Two of the authors (Mueller and Hoerr) are employees of Dr. Willmar Schwabe GmbH & Co. KG, and the others have received speakers’ honoraria.

Resource:

Savaskan E, Mueller H, Hoerr R, von Gunten A, Gauthier S. Treatment effects of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761® on the spectrum of behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Int Psychogeriatr. September 21, 2017:1-9. doi: 10.1017/S1041610217001892.

 

Our Holiday Favorite Spice: Cinnamon

Most of us think of spices as incidental to our diets, but perhaps it’s time to update our appreciation of these flavorful, and powerfully health-promoting, seasonings.

Spices are defined as any “aromatic vegetable substance.” The keyword is a vegetable. Derived from “vegetables” in the form of tree bark {cinnamon}, seed {nutmeg}, or fruit {peppercorns}, spices have potent anticancer, anti-inflammatory and other health-promoting effects that are daily being confirmed by researchers. Indeed, the following spices have been identified b the National Cancer Institute as having cancer-preventive properties: sage, oregano, thyme, rosemary, fennel, turmeric, caraway, anise, coriander, cumin and tarragon. In one comparison of antioxidant power from the Agricultural Research Center, the compounds of oregano rank higher than vitamin E.

Spices also make major contributions to our health by allowing us to reduce the amounts of salt, sugar and fat in our foods.

We’ve chosen cinnamon as a super-spice because of its general popularity and usefulness.

Cinnamon is welcome all year round, but its special scent is a particular treat in the winter months. What could be more welcome and delicious than a warm mug of apple cider sprinkled with cinnamon or a cinnamon baked apple with crushed nuts on a cold snowy day? It’s exciting to learn that cinnamon has actual health benefits.

cinnamon-stick-powder-130909

Cinnamon, that delightful spice eliciting memories of Grandma’s kitchen and the comforts of home, is actually more than a delicious addition to foods. One of the oldest spices known and long used in traditional medicine, cinnamon is currently being studied for its beneficial effects on a variety of ailments. Recent findings on the power of cinnamon to promote health, in particular, its benefits for people with type ll diabetes, have elevated it to the special status of a super-spice.

cinnamon two types

Cinnamon comes from the interior bark of evergreen trees that are native to Asia. The type we most commonly see in the supermarkets is cassia cinnamon {Cinnamomum cassia}. Known as Chinese cinnamon, it has the sweetly spiced flavor we’re familiar with. Varieties of Chinese cinnamon come from China and northern Vietnam. There’s also Ceylon, or “true,” cinnamon [Cinnamomum zeylanicum}, which is sweeter with a more complex, citrus flavor. Both types of cinnamon are available in sticks {“quills”} or ground.

Cinnamon and your Health:

Today, we’re in the process of learning about the power of cinnamon to affect health, and once you appreciate the special qualities of this mighty spice, I’m sure you’ll be eager to use it more frequently.

Perhaps the most exciting recent discovery concerning cinnamon is its effect on blood glucose levels as well as on triglyceride and cholesterol levels, all which could benefit people suffering from type ll diabetes.

In one study of 60 patients with type ll diabetes, it was found that after only 40 days of taking about one-half teaspoon of cinnamon daily, fasting serum glucose levels were lowered by 18 to 29 percent, triglycerides by 23 to 30 percent, low-density lipoproteins {LDL} by 7 to 27 percent and total cholesterol by 12 to 26 percent. It’s not yet clear whether less than one-half teaspoon a day would be effective. It’s particularly interesting that the effects of the cinnamon lasted for 20 days following the end of the study, leading to speculation that one wouldn’t have to eat cinnamon every day to enjoy its benefits. This is great news for all of us and points out once again the benefits of a varied diet of whole foods and spices. The cinnamon – and perhaps other spices and certainly many foods – that you’re eating today are affecting your health into the future.

Cinnamon, by its insulin-enhancing properties, is not the only spice to show a positive effect on blood glucose levels. Cloves, bay leaves, and turmeric also show beneficial effects.

In addition to being a glucose moderator, cinnamon is recognized as being antibacterial. The essential oils in cinnamon are able to stop the growth of bacteria as well as fungi, including the common yeast CandidaIn one interesting study, a few drops of cinnamon essential oil in about 3 ounces of carrot broth inhibited the growth of bacteria for at least 60 days. By contrast, bacteria flourished in the broth with no cinnamon oil. Cinnamon has also been shown to be effective in fighting the E. coli bacterium.

A recent fascinating study found that just smelling cinnamon increased the subjects’ cognitive ability and actually functioned as a kind of “brain boost.” Future testing will reveal whether this power of cinnamon can be harnessed to prevent cognitive decline or sharpen cognitive performance.

Cinnamon in Your Life:

cinnamon-leafWhat does this exciting news on cinnamon mean to you? While it may not be practical to eat cinnamon on a daily basis, try to incorporate it into dishes when appropriate. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, make a special effort to increase your cinnamon consumption.

Almost everyone is a fan of cinnamon, but we may need a little inspiration to get cinnamon into our diets more frequently. A dash of cinnamon in applesauce, pumpkin smoothies, and pumpkin pudding, and other foods is a delightful treat.

  • For a healthy dessert, sprinkle cinnamon, a few raisins and walnuts, and a bit of honey, if desired, on a cored apple and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes until soft.
  • Make cinnamon toast. Drizzle some honey and sprinkle some cinnamon on toasted whole grain bread.
  • Simmer, don’t boil, milk with a teaspoon of vanilla and a cinnamon stick for a few minutes. Drink the warm milk with a bit of added honey or pour over hot oatmeal.
  • Combine one teaspoon cinnamon with two tablespoons honey and one cup yogurt. Serve as a dip for sliced fruit or as a dressing for fruit salad. Spoon a dollop on top of hot oatmeal, whole-grain pancakes, waffles or granola.
  • Combine equal parts of cinnamon and cocoa. Sprinkle on yogurt and fruit slices.
  • Combine one tablespoon or more ground cinnamon with one-half cup sesame seeds, one-quarter cup golden flaxseeds and one-quarter cup ground flaxseed meal. Use as a topping on cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, grapefruit halves or cantaloupe. Whole flaxseeds add crunch and fiber, though you get more of the nutritional value from ground flaxseeds.
  • Try to buy organically grown cinnamon, as it is less likely to have been irradiated. We know that irradiating cinnamon may lead to a decrease in its vitamin C and carotenoid content.

An Extra Pinch of Cinnamon: How Cinnamon Can Help You to Burn Holiday Fat!

As you make that pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, consider adding an extra pinch of cinnamon; a study shows that cinnamaldehyde, the organic compound that gives cinnamon its flavor, helps you to burn fat.
cinnamon
Cinnamon is a common holiday spice with surprising fat-burning properties, new research suggests.

Pumpkin pie, mulled wine, hot chocolate, and eggnog — these are just a handful of the foods and drinks that make the holidays such a truly delicious time.

But if you’re worried that such yummy treats could make you pack on the extra pounds, worry no more! These enticing foods also contain cinnamon, and new research bears some good news: the common holiday spice could help you to burn fat.

The new study comes from the University of Michigan (UM) Life Sciences Institute (LSI) in Ann Arbor, and the research was led by Jun Wu, a research assistant professor at the LSI and an assistant professor of molecular and integrative physiology at the UM Medical School.

Wu and colleagues set out to examine the effect of cinnamaldehyde on human fat cells. Speaking about the motivation for her study, Wu says, “Scientists were finding that this compound affected metabolism.”

Previous studies in mice had already shown that cinnamaldehyde helps to fight off obesity and hyperglycemia. “So,” Wu continues, “we wanted to figure out how — what pathway might be involved, what it looked like in mice, and what it looked like in human cells.”

To do this, the researchers treated adipocytes, or fat cells, from both mice and humans with the compound. Their findings were published in the journal Metabolism.

Cinnamon triggers fat-burning process

The experiments revealed that cinnamaldehyde has a direct effect on fat cells. In a process known as thermogenesis, the compound makes the adipocytes start burning the fat that they had been storing.

Adipocytes store lipids, which can then be burned for energy. The cells evolved to help our bodies use energy resources effectively during times when such resources might be scarce, such as through a cold winter or famine.

“It’s only been relatively recently that energy surplus has become a problem. Throughout evolution, the opposite — energy deficiency — has been the problem. So any energy-consuming process usually turns off the moment the body doesn’t need it,” Wu explains.

Getting the body to turn the energy-consuming process, or thermogenesis, back on has been the focus of recent research, especially in light of the so-called obesity epidemic.

The study authors think that cinnamon might be one such way to turn thermogenesis on. In their research, they found a higher expression of certain genes and enzymes that boost lipid metabolism in the adipocytes treated with cinnamaldehyde.

Additionally, they found a higher level of Ucp1 and Fgf21, which are regulatory proteins that help to induce thermogenesis.

Cinnamon may be better than drugs

In the study paper, Wu and team conclude, “Given the wide usage of cinnamon in the food industry, the notion that this popular food additive, instead of a drug, may activate thermogenesis, could ultimately lead to therapeutic strategies against obesity that are much better adhered to by participants.”

The lead researcher emphasizes this conclusion.

Cinnamon has been part of our diets for thousands of years, and people generally enjoy it […] So if it can help protect against obesity, too, it may offer an approach to metabolic health that is easier for patients to adhere to.”

Jun Wu

So, this holiday season, we’re probably safe to add a bit more cinnamon — but not a massive amount — to our festive food.

The researchers caution that more research is needed to figure out the perfect way to use cinnamaldehyde to trigger thermogenesis without causing any side effects.

Antioxidant Content and Activity of Untreated and Processed Guayusa Tea

Guayusa (Ilex guayusa, Aquifoliaceae) is an evergreen tree native to South America with a long history of use by the indigenous tribes of the Amazon. Traditionally, the twigs and leaves are infused in hot water to create a beverage. A distant relative of yerba maté (I. paraguariensis), this plant is a source of caffeine and is used as a pain reliever. The increasing commercial use of guayusa has led to more interest in its health benefits. The aim of this study was to characterize the phenolic and carotenoid content, as well as the antioxidant activity, of both untreated (green) and processed (blanched or fermented) guayusa.

Guayusa leaves were collected in Pastaza, Ecuador. Both green untreated and processed leaves were provided by the RUNA Foundation (the nonprofit arm of RUNA LLC, a beverage company that processes and sells guayusa; Archidona, Napo, Ecuador). The untreated and processed leaves were freeze-dried and made into separate powders. Blanching and fermentation of guayusa leaves were conducted at the manufacturing plant of the RUNA Foundation, following the standard protocols of the company. The leaf powders were extracted with alcohol-based solvents and assessed for total phenolic content (TPC), phenolic composition, carotenoid composition, and antioxidant capacity by chromatographic or biochemical assay techniques.

A total of 14 phenolic compounds were identified from all sources, nine of which were hydroxycinnamic acids or derivatives (neochlorogenic acid, chlorogenic acid, isochlorogenic acid, five other caffeoyl derivatives, and feruloylquinic acid), and five of which were flavonoids (four quercetin derivatives and one kaempferol derivative). Out of the hydroxycinnamic compounds, chlorogenic acid was the most abundant compound (24.10 mg/g DW [dry weight]). This concentration was similar or higher in comparison to maté and other Ilexspp., but lower than green coffee (Coffea spp., Rubiaceae). In terms of the flavonoids, the flavonol glycoside quercetin-3-O-hexose was the most abundant compound. The flavonol concentration of guayusa (11 mg/g DW) was around two, 20, and 28 times higher than described for yerba maté, other Ilex spp., and tea (Camellia sinensis, Theaceae), respectively.

Industrial processing (blanching or fermentation) did not alter the phenolic profile but did alter phenolic concentrations. As with the unprocessed green leaves, chlorogenic acid was the major phenolic compound found in the blanched samples, while isochlorogenic acid was the most abundant compound in the fermented samples. The TPC of the leaves without industrial processing was 54.86 mg gallic acid equivalents (GAE)/g DW. This is reportedly higher than yerba maté, but lower than green and black tea TPC. Blanching the guayusa leaves resulted in a significant increase in TPC (48.5%, 106.62 ± 4.41; P < 0.05), a concentration that is higher than what has been reported in maté and green and black tea. Fermentation resulted in no significant change in TPC compared to the unprocessed guayusa leaves.

A total of five carotenoid compounds were detected in the green and processed guayusa samples (α- and β-carotene, lutein, and violaxanthin + neoxanthin). In the unprocessed leaves, the concentrations of α-carotene and violaxanthin were higher compared to other teas, but β-carotene and lutein were about the same. There were no significant differences between the total carotenoids of unprocessed and processed leaves, but significantly more total carotenoids were found in the blanched guayusa vs. the fermented guayusa (P < 0.05). Higher contents of β-carotene and lutein were found in the blanched leaves compared to the green untreated leaves (305.39% and 141.52% more, respectively), but there were lower concentrations of α-carotene and violaxanthin + neoxanthin (55.27% and 22.38% less, respectively) (P < 0.05). Fermenting guayusa leaves had no significant effects on the concentrations of β-carotene and lutein. Overall, the results indicated that violaxanthin + neoxanthin was the most easily degraded carotenoid by industrial processing, with 77.6% and 92.5% lost after blanching and fermentation, respectively. Similar effects were seen for other teas.

Guayusa green leaves and blanched leaves had the highest antioxidant activity. The antioxidant activity of the green leaves (2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl [DPPH] assay: 32.98 mM Trolox/100 g DW; oxygen radical absorbance capacity [ORAC] assay: 154.03 mM Trolox/100 g DW) was similar to other studies on this plant species, yerba maté, and tea. The polyphenol and carotenoid content indicated there was a positive and direct correlation with antioxidant capacity, especially with the ORAC assay.

The authors conclude that guayusa has similar antioxidants and activity as yerba maté and tea and that blanching produces the highest concentration of polyphenols, as well as specific carotenoids. It would be interesting if this study also assessed hot water extracts of the tea rather than alcohol extracts since guayusa is often consumed as a hot water infusion. As the authors suggest, more studies are warranted that investigate the content and bioavailability of the bioactive compounds of guayusa to better understand the health benefits of this plant species.

Resource:

García-Ruiz A, Baenas N, Benítez-González AM, et al. Guayusa (Ilex guayusa L.) new tea: phenolic and carotenoid composition and antioxidant capacity. J Sci Food Agric. September 2017;97(12):3929-3936.

Health Benefits of Moringa

Moringa oleifera is a plant, which is often called the drumstick tree, the miracle tree, the ben oil tree, or the horseradish tree.

Moringa has been used for centuries due to its medicinal properties and health benefits and has antifungal, antiviral, antidepressant, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Facts on Moringa:

  • The tree is native to India but also grows in Asia, Africa, and South America.
  • Moringa contains a variety of proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Moringa oleifera has few known side effects.
  • People taking medication should consult a doctor before taking moringa extract.

What is in Moringa?

Moringa oleifera
Moringa has medicinal properties and contains many healthful compounds.

Moringa contains many healthful compounds such as:

  • vitamin A
  • vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • B2 (riboflavin)
  • B3 (niacin), B-6
  • folate and ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
  • calcium
  • potassium
  • iron
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • zinc

It is also extremely low in fats and contains no harmful cholesterol.

What are the benefits?

Moringa is believed to have many benefits and its uses range from health and beauty to helping prevent and cure diseases. The benefits of moringa include:

1. Protecting and nourishing skin and hair

Moringa seed oil is beneficial for protecting hair against free radicals and keeps it clean and healthy. Moringa also contains protein, which means it is helpful in protecting skin cells from damage. It also contains hydrating and detoxifying elements, which also boost the skin and hair.

It can be successful in curing skin infections and sores.

2. Treating edema

Edema is a painful condition where fluid builds up in specific tissues in the body. The anti-inflammatory properties of moringa may be effective in preventing edema from developing.

3. Protecting the liver

Moringa appears to protect the liver against damage caused by anti-tubercular drugs and can quicken its repair process.

4. Preventing and treating cancer

Moringa extracts contain properties that might help prevent cancer developing. It also contains niazimicin, which is a compound that suppresses the development of cancer cells.

5. Treating stomach complaints

Moringa extracts might help treat some stomach disorders, such as constipation, gastritis, and ulcerative colitis. The antibiotic and antibacterial properties of moringa may help inhibit the growth of various pathogens, and its high vitamin B content helps with digestion.

6. Fighting against antibacterial diseases

Due to it’s antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties, moringa extracts might combat infections caused by SalmonellaRhizopus, and E. coli.

7. Making bones healthier

Moringa also contains calcium and phosphorous, which help keep bones healthy and strong. Along with its anti-inflammatory properties moringa extract might help to treat conditions such as arthritis and may also heal damaged bones.

8. Treating mood disorders

Moringa is thought to be helpful in treating depression, anxiety, and fatigue.

9. Protecting the cardiovascular system

The powerful antioxidants found in Moringa extract might help prevent cardiac damage and has also been shown to maintain a healthy heart.

10. Helping wounds to heal

Extract of moringa has been shown to help wounds close as well as reduce the appearance of scars.

11. Treating diabetes

Moringa helps to reduce the amount of glucose in the blood, as well as sugar and protein in the urine. This improved the hemoglobin levels and overall protein content in those tested.

12. Treating asthma

Moringa may help reduce the severity of some asthma attacks and protect against bronchial constrictions. It has also been shown to assist with better lung function and breathing overall.

13. Protecting against kidney disorders

People may be less likely to develop stones in the kidneys, bladder or uterus if they ingest moringa extract. Moringa contains high levels of antioxidants that might aid toxicity levels in the kidneys.

14. Reducing high blood pressure

Moringa contains isothiocyanate and niaziminin, compounds that help to stop arteries from thickening, which can cause blood pressure to rise.

15. Improving eye health

Moringa contains eyesight-improving properties thanks to its high antioxidant levels. Moringa may stop the dilation of retinal vessels, prevent the thickening of capillary membranes, and inhibit retinal dysfunction.

16. Treating anemia and sickle cell disease

Moringa might help a person’s body absorb more iron, therefore increasing their red blood cell count. It is thought the plant extract is very helpful in treating and preventing anemia and sickle cell disease.

Side effects

Moringa plant dried and powder
Although Moringa may have very few reported side effects, a healthcare professional should be consulted before it is taken.

Anyone considering using moringa is advised to discuss it with a doctor first.

Moringa may possess anti-fertility qualities and is therefore not recommended for pregnant women.

There have been very few side effects reported.

People should always read the label on the extract and follow dosage instructions.

Risks with existing medications

Some of the medications to be particularly aware of are:

  • Levothyroxine: Used to combat thyroid problems. Compounds in the moringa leaf may aid the thyroid function, but people should not take it in combination with other thyroid medication.
  • Any medications that might be broken down by the liver: Moringa extract may decrease how quickly this happens, which could lead to various side effects or complications.
  • Diabetes medications: Diabetes medications are used to lower blood sugar, which moringa also does effectively. It is vital to ensure blood sugar levels do not get too low.
  • High blood pressure medication: Moringa has shown to be effective at lowering blood pressure. Taking moringa alongside other drugs that lower your blood pressure may result in it becoming too low.

Can it aid weight loss?

Evidence has shown that moringa extract can be effective in reducing and controlling weight gain in mice. Its high vitamin B content helps with smooth and efficient digestion and can assist the body when converting food into energy, as opposed to storing it as fat.

Moringa is thought of:

  • reduce weight gain
  • help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure
  • prevent inflammation
  • help the body convert fats into energy
  • reduce fatigue and improve energy levels

What are the studies saying?

 Like all supplements, the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor moringa so there might be concerns about purity or quality. It is essential to understand the validity of the claims made by the manufacturers, whether it is safe to use, and what potential side effects there may be.

There is plenty of recent research to back up the benefits as stated above, though many of the studies are still in the preliminary stages or the tests have only taken place on animals as opposed to humans, so there is plenty more to be done.