Health Benefits of Turmeric Tea

Turmeric is a popular spice made from the rhizome or root of the Curcuma longa plant.

Turmeric is native to Southeast Asia and is a member of the Zingiberaceae or ginger family. It has been used as a herbal remedy for thousands of years in Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.

India grows 78 percent of the global supply of turmeric. In this article, we look at a range of potential health benefits.

Fast facts on turmeric tea:

  • The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin.
  • Curcumin gives turmeric its characteristic yellow color.
  • Curcumin is proven to have anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.

What is turmeric tea?

turmeric tea
The most effective way to consume turmeric may be as a tea.

Curcumin has low bioavailability, which means the body has a hard time accessing and absorbing the compound. For this reason, turmeric supplements, with their guaranteed high concentrations of curcumin, are popular.

Turmeric tea, brewed using grated turmeric root or pure powder, is considered one of the most effective ways to consume the spice.

There is no specific recommended daily intake of turmeric. Based on available research, the suggested daily intake depends largely on the condition it is being used to treat.

Most research in adults supports the safe use of 400 to 600 milligrams (mg) of pure turmeric powder three times daily, or 1 to 3 grams (g) daily of grated or dried turmeric root. Grating the turmeric yourself is the best way to ensure a pure product.

Nine potential benefits of turmeric tea

Drinking turmeric tea is believed to bring about several benefits, nine of which are described in more detail here.

1. Reduces arthritis symptoms

As an anti-inflammatory, curcumin may help reduce the most prominent symptoms of arthritis.

2017 study found that out of 206 American adults with self-reported rheumatoid arthritis, 63 percent used non-vitamin supplements to manage their symptoms, with turmeric being the most popular product that was taken.

2. Boosts immune function

Curcumin is proven to improve immune function with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial properties.

Curcumin has also been shown to act as an immune modulator, helping regulate immune cell function against cancer.

3. Help reduce cardiovascular complications

Several studies have shown curcumin to have beneficial heart health properties by acting as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

A 2012 study found that taking 4 g per day of curcumin 3 days before and 5 days after coronary artery bypass grafting surgery, reduced the risk of acute myocardial infarction or heart attack by 17 percent.

4. Helps prevent and treat cancer

One of the most clinically established therapeutic properties of curcumin is its anti-cancer action.

As an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, curcumin is thought to lower the risk of cells in the body becoming damaged, reducing the risk of cell mutations and cancer.

Furthermore, numerous studies have shown that curcumin has anti-tumor properties, limiting the growth of tumors and spread of cancerous cells.

According to a 2014 medical review, more than 2,000 articles have been published using the keywords “curcumin” and “cancer.” The use of curcumin as a cancer treatment alongside chemotherapy and radiation therapy is currently being investigated.

5. Helps manage irritable bowel syndrome or IBS

Curcumin has long been used in traditional medicines as a treatment for many digestive conditions.

Several studies have found that curcumin may help reduce the pain associated with IBS and improve the quality of life of those people with the condition.

2012 study in rats found that curcumin helped decrease the time it took for food to empty from the stomach to the small intestine, otherwise known as gastric emptying.

6. Prevents and treats Alzheimer’s

Studies have shown that curcumin may help reduce the chances of several neurodegenerative conditions. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers are thought to reduce cellular damage, inflammation, and amyloid deposits or plaques that occur with these conditions.

Curcumin may also be able to slow down or prevent some of the age-associated protein changes linked to neurodegeneration.

7. Protects against liver damage, gallstones, and manages liver conditions

Several studies have shown that curcumin can protect against liver damage. Potential liver and gallbladder benefits of curcumin include increasing production of the digestive fluid bile while also protecting liver cells from damage from bile-associated chemicals.

8. Helps prevent and manage diabetes

Traditional medicines have used turmeric for diabetes for thousands of years. Several studies using animal and human models have shown that curcumin supplementation may have anti-diabetes properties.

9. Helps treat and manage lung conditions

Researchers suspect that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of curcumin may help reduce the symptoms of chronic or long-lasting lung conditions.

2017 medical review concluded that although the clinical evidence is limited, curcumin might help treat asthma, pulmonary and cystic fibrosis, lung cancer or injury, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

How to prepare turmeric tea

turmeric powder on a plate
To make a turmeric tea, a person can add ground, grated, or powdered turmeric to boiling water.

Turmeric tea can be prepared from either pure turmeric powder or grated or ground, dried turmeric. Fermented turmeric preparations, commonly sold as tea products, claim to have higher concentrations of biologically available or absorbable curcumin.

The steps to follow for making turmeric tea are:

  • boil 4 cups of water
  • add 1 to 2 teaspoons of ground, grated, or powdered turmeric
  • allow the mixture to simmer for approximately 10 minutes
  • strain the tea into a container and allow it to cool for 5 minutes

Many people put additional ingredients into their turmeric tea to improve the taste or help with its absorption. Common additives include:

  • Honey, to sweeten the tea and give the mixture more anti-microbial properties.
  • Whole milk, cream, almond milk, coconut milk, or 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or ghee (unclarified butter) to help with absorption, as curcumin requires healthy fats to dissolve properly.
  • Black pepper, which contains piperine, a chemical known to help promote curcumin absorption, and that can add a spicy flavor to the tea.
  • Lemon, lime, or ginger, to enhance antioxidant and antimicrobial properties in the mixture and improve taste.
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Rhodiola Rosea

Benefits, Side Effects

Rhodiola Rosea is a flowering herb that grows in cold, high-altitude regions of Europe and Asia. Other names for it include arctic root, golden root, king’s crown, and roseroot.

Rhodiola Rosea has been used in traditional medicine for many years, particularly in Russia, Scandinavia, and other cold, mountainous areas. Some people believe the herb can treat anxiety, depression, fatigue, anemia, and headaches.

Numerous studies have been conducted on the plant. While some results appear promising, many of the studies have been small, biased, or flawed. As such, experts say more research needs to be done to determine how Rhodiola Rosea is effective, and whether it should be included in treatment plans.

Meanwhile, Rhodiola Rosea has a low risk of side effects and appears to offer some benefits for many of these conditions. Therefore, it may be a natural option that is worth trying for its supposed uses.

Possible health benefits and evidence

The evidence for Rhodiola Rosea’s health claims varies. The following are some of its popular uses and what research says about each one. The health benefits of this herbal root are probably linked to anti-inflammatory properties it may have.

Stress

Rhodiola rosea flowering herb on a board
Rhodiola Rosea is a flowering herb that has been used in traditional medicine for many years.

One of the best-known claims about Rhodiola Rosea is its power as a substance that helps the body adapt to stress, otherwise known as an adaptogen.

Its specific abilities and qualities, however, have not yet been scientifically proven with enough well-designed studies.

A report published in Alternative Medicine Review found that Rhodiola Rosea shows promise as an adaptogen. Based on evidence from several small studies, the author states that the plant’s extracts provide benefits for mental health and heart function.

Another 2005 article describes Rhodiola Rosea as “a versatile adaptogen,” stating that the herb can increase resistance to stress. In particular, the authors state that it holds promise as a possible treatment for reducing stress hormone levels and stress-induced heart problems.

Physical and mental performance

Some people take Rhodiola Rosea to enhance physical performance before exercise or as a way to improve concentration and thinking. There are also claims that it helps reduce physical and mental fatigue.

A number of studies touch on these claims. They include the following:

  • A review that states Rhodiola Rosea may hold promise as an aid for enhanced physical and mental performance. The authors conclude that more research on the plant is needed to further examine and prove its effects.
  • A study in 2009 found that women who took a high dose of Rhodiola Rosea were able to run faster than those who got a placebo. The study examined 15 college-age women.
  • Another study suggests that taking a standardized extract of Rhodiola Rosea may improve concentration and reduce fatigue. The research looked at 60 men and women, who took an extract called SHR-5. The dosage given for these effects was 576 milligrams (mg) per day.

Despite these results, a large 2012 review published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine looked at 206 studies on Rhodiola Rosea and fatigue but found only 11 were suitable to include.

Five of these trials determined that Rhodiola Rosea helped with symptoms of physical and mental fatigue. But, the reviewers state, all of the studies had a high risk of bias or had reporting flaws with an unknown bias.

The reviewers conclude that research on Rhodiola Rosea is “contradictory and inconclusive.” They recommend a non-biased, valid trial of the herb before it is put forward as a treatment for fatigue.

Depression and anxiety

One study found evidence to suggest that Rhodiola Rosea may reduce symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. Ten people were included in this study, and they took 340 mg of Rhodiola Rosea extract for 10 weeks.

Another study in Phytomedicine found that Rhodiola Rosea reduced symptoms of depression, but its effects were mild. The herb did not reduce symptoms as effectively as sertraline, a prescription antidepressant, although it had fewer and milder side effects.

The authors of this 2015 study concluded that, as it may be better tolerated by some people and did provide benefit, Rhodiola Rosea may be suitable as a treatment for mild to moderate depression. The study included 57 people who took the herb for 12 weeks.

Stress-induced eating disorders

An active ingredient in Rhodiola Rosea known as salidroside was studied for its effects on binge eating. This study, published in Physiology & Behavior, was done using rats. It found that a dry extract of Rhodiola Rosea that included 3.12 percent salidroside did help reduce or eliminate binge eating in the animals.

The rats that took Rhodiola Rosea also had lower blood levels of a stress hormone that may play a role in binge eating.

Another study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, similarly conducted on rats, determined that Rhodiola Rosea may reduce stress-induced anorexia. The authors say their findings provide evidence to support claims that the herb has anti-stress properties.

How is it taken?

Rhodiola rosea tea
Rhodiola Rosea is available in many forms. Any side effects experienced will likely be mild.

Like many herbs, Rhodiola Rosea is available in the form of capsules, tablets, dried powder, and liquid extract.

The dosage and amount of extract vary between brands and product types.

Herbs and supplements are regulated as food, not drugs, by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

As a result, knowing what dose to take and how much is included in the product is not always clear. There may also be issues with quality or purity.

Although some studies have listed dosages used for specific purposes, it appears that the herb may be taken at different strengths to treat different problems. In the Alternative Medicine Review article, the author says the dosage may vary, depending on how much-standardized extract it contains.

Rosavin, in particular, is one of the compounds named as having an effect on reducing stress. The author of the review suggests approximately:

  • 360-600 mg daily of an extract standardized for 1 percent rosavin
  • 180-300 mg of an extract standardized for 2 percent rosavin
  • 100-170 mg for an extract standardized for 3.6 percent rosavin

Risks and side effects

Though its therapeutic effects have yet to be proven, the studies on Rhodiola Rosea all seem to agree that any side effects are mild.

Side effects have included:

  • dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • sleep problems
  • jitteriness

Jitteriness is a particular problem among those prone to anxiety who take higher doses of the supplement.

As it has a mild stimulant-type effect, Rhodiola Rosea is not recommended for people who have bipolar disorder or who are taking other stimulants.

One article suggests that people can take the herb on an empty stomach 30 minutes before breakfast and lunch. Avoiding it in the evening may help reduce sleep problems at night.

Rhodiola Rosea has a long tradition of being used to help increase stamina, concentration, and mental well-being.

Large, valid studies on these effects are lacking. However, the herb’s low risk of side effects makes it an attractive option for people looking to improve their health in these specific areas.

As with any supplement, it is best for people to speak with a doctor before taking it.

Problems such as fatigue and trouble concentrating can sometimes be symptoms of an underlying health condition that needs treatment. Likewise, depression and anxiety can be serious mental health conditions that require the care of a doctor.

Black Cumin Oil Is More Effective than Acetaminophen in Reducing Pain in Elderly Patients with Knee Osteoarthritis

Knee osteoarthritis (KO) is a common disabling condition in the elderly. Its treatment includes medications, surgery, and complementary therapies. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which are often used, are not completely effective and are associated with adverse effects. Black cumin (Nigella sativa, Ranunculaceae) oil and its active components, especially thymoquinone, have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties. These authors conducted a crossover, clinical trial to evaluate the topical application of black cumin oil (Barij-e-Kashan; Kashan, Iran) and oral acetaminophen on KO in elderly patients living in a nursing home in Sabzevar City, Iran. The study was conducted from November 21, 2014, to January 20, 2015.

Patients were eligible for the study if they were older than 65 years and had been diagnosed with KO using the American College of Rheumatology criteria, which included knee pain on most days of the preceding month, crepitus on active motion, morning stiffness for less than 30 minutes, and bony enlargement found on physical examination of the knee. Forty-two patients with a mean age of 75.66 ± 8.9 years were enrolled in the study. Two patients did not comply with the study protocol and were excluded from the final analysis.

During phase 1 of the study, the patients in group 1 applied 1 mL black cumin oil to the knee 3 times daily every 8 hours for 3 weeks, massaging the knee for 5 minutes with the palm of the hand in a clockwise direction at the front and sides of the joint. [Note: The Intervention section of the article says 1 week; however, the Discussion section and abstract say 3 weeks.] The patients in group 2 were instructed to take 1 tablet of 325 mg acetaminophen 3 times daily every 8 hours for 3 weeks. Following a 1-month washout period, each group then followed the alternate treatment protocol.

Pain intensity was measured using a visual analogue scale before and after the 2 phases of the study, with 0-3 indicating mild pain; 4-5, moderate pain; and 8-10, severe pain. The authors report that significant improvements in knee pain were seen after both treatments (P = 0.0001). The improvement in pain intensity was significantly greater in the black cumin oil group compared with the acetaminophen group (P = 0.01).

Thymoquinone in black cumin is reported to inhibit oxidative stress and exhibit an analgesic effect on the central nervous system of study rats with experimental allergic encephalomyelitis.1 In another cited animal study, the analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of black cumin were attributed to its polyphenols.2

“This study showed that topical use of Nigella sativa oil can be more effective in reducing knee pain in elderly patients than acetaminophen, which is typically used as a safe supplement for the elderly,” conclude the authors. The mechanisms involved should be explored further in studies of longer duration.

This study was funded by Sabzevar University of Medical Sciences (Sabzevar, Iran).

References

1Mohamed A, Shoker A, Bendjelloul F, et al. Improvement of experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE) by thymoquinone; an oxidative stress inhibitor. Biomed Sci Instrum. 2003;39:440-445.

2Ghannadi A, Hajhashemi V, Jafarabadi H. An investigation of the analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of Nigella sativa seed polyphenols. J Med Food. 2005;8(4):488-493.

Kooshki A, Forouzan R, Rakhshani MH, Mohammadi M. Effect of topical application of Nigella sativa oil and oral acetaminophen on pain in elderly with knee osteoarthritis: a crossover clinical trial. Electron Physician. 2016;8(11):3193-3197.

Systematic Review of Ginkgo Finds Potential Treatment for Dementia

Dementia encompasses a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory and loss of the ability to perform everyday activities in elderly populations. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and vascular dementia (VD) make up the vast majority of dementia cases. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba, Ginkgoaceae) leaf extract (GbE) has become one of the most widely used herbal remedies for dementia. Thus, many clinical trials have already examined the effects of GbE on dementia, and many systematic reviews (SRs) have analyzed these trials. This study sought to provide a comprehensive assessment of the effectiveness of GbE in the treatment of dementia based on the evidence provided in the SRs.

All SRs which evaluated the efficacy and effectiveness of GbE as treatment (not prevention) of patients with diagnosed dementia, AD and/or VD, or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) were included. SRs were eligible only if they included the use of statistical methods (i.e., meta-analysis) to analyze randomized controlled trial (RCT) data. SRs were included whether GbE was administered alone or in combination with drugs. There were no limitations on dosage, and GbE could be administered orally or intravenously. PubMed/MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Cochrane Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE), and Google Scholar were searched from inception to June 2016.

In total, 59 RCTs were reviewed, with patients ranging from those with any form of dementia, dementia with behavioral and psychological symptoms, cognitive impairment, or AD. Twelve SRs met the inclusion criteria; all included only RCTs (of which most were placebo-controlled trials). The included SRs were published between 2009 and 2016, and they were performed in China, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom. The standardized extract EGb 761® (Dr Willmar Schwabe GmbH & Co. KG; Karlsruhe, Germany) was used in many RCTs, with six SRs including only RCTs that used EGb 761. Intervention duration varied from two to 52 weeks, and dosing varied from 60 mg/day to 600 mg/day.

Outcomes of interest varied but included one or more of the following: cognitive performance, activities of daily living (ADLs), clinical global impression, quality of life (QOL), and safety. With the exception of three SRs1-3 all remaining SRs showed the statistically significant effectiveness of GbE on cognitive performance in people with dementia. Eight SRs evaluated the effect of GbE on ADLs, and, apart from one SR,3 seven SRs showed a statistically significant effect of GbE on ADLs in people with dementia. Five SRs evaluated the effect of GbE on clinical global impression of dementia, of which three showed a statistically significant effect of GbE. Of the five SRs that evaluated QOL, two concluded there was no significant difference in QOL, two did not pool the QOL data, and only one SR pooling data from two RCTs suggested a beneficial effect of GbE on QOL. Eight SRs evaluated the safety of GbE, and none found any significant difference in adverse events or side effects compared to placebo.

Seven SRs included RCTs in which GbE was administered for at least 22 weeks, and the data reported in these SRs consistently favored the beneficial effects of GbE. The five SRs in which GbE was administered for less than 22 weeks reported data that were “quite inconsistent.” This study found no particular evidence suggesting a beneficial effect of GbE on cognitive performance, ADLs, or clinical global impression when GbE was administered for less than 22 weeks. In addition, few SRs showed a beneficial effect of GbE at a dose less than 200 mg/day. In fact, four SRs consistently showed a beneficial effect of GbE on cognitive performance at a dose greater than 200 mg/day (usually 240 mg/day). Few SRs indicated a beneficial effect of GbE on ADLs and clinical global impression at a dose less than 200 mg/day.

The quality of SRs was evaluated using the AMSTAR (Assessment of Multiple Systematic Reviews) tool, and overall, the majority of reviews were found to be of good or acceptable quality. However, many of the reviewed RCTs in these SRs were of poor quality and had a high risk of bias, meaning the overall quality of evidence reviewed was low to moderate. That being said, based on the evidence gathered that met inclusion criteria, this overview found GbE to have beneficial effects over placebo on cognitive performance, ADLs, and clinical global impression when administered at a dose greater than 200 mg/day for 22 weeks or more. Globally, over 46 million people were living with dementia in 2015, and this number is expected to reach 131.5 million by 2050.4 With no cure or prevention yet found, future research is warranted. In order to better assess GbE efficacy as a treatment for dementia, future studies should take the beneficial dosing and intervention length found by this overview into account.

References

1Yang Z, Li W, Huang T, Chen J, Zhang X. Meta-analysis of Ginkgo biloba extract for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Neural Regen Res. 2011;6(15):1125-1129.

2Wang BS, Wang H, Song YY, et al. Effectiveness of standardized Ginkgo biloba extract on cognitive symptoms of dementia with a six-month treatment: a bivariate random effects meta-analysis. Pharmacopsychiatry. 2010;43(3):86-91. doi: 10.1055/s-0029-1242817.

3Birks J, Grimley Evans J. Ginkgo biloba for cognitive impairment and dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. January 21, 2009;(1):CD003120. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003120.pub3.

4Dementia statistics. Alzheimer’s Disease International website. Available at: https://www.alz.co.uk/research/statistics. Accessed September 11, 2017.

Yuan Q, Wang CW, Shi J, Lin ZX. Effects of Ginkgo biloba on dementia: An overview of systematic reviews. J Ethnopharmacol. January 2017;195:1-9.

Ginger 101 – Traditional Medicinals – Wellness teas

Ginger rhizome has also been a staple in both Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine, traditional practices that are thousands of years old.

Source: Ginger 101 – Traditional Medicinals – Wellness teas

Ginger’s warm, pungent and peppery bite is an international hit. The ginger rhizome is featured in Indian cuisine as spicy masala chai, in Japan as pickled gari (the pink stuff that goes with sushi) and in Jamaica as a refreshing ginger beer. And while no one really knows the exact origin of Zingiber officinale, the biological variability of related species in Southeast Asia makes that region the best guess. Ginger rhizome has also been a staple in both Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine, traditional practices that are thousands of years old.

Herbs & The Nervous System – Traditional Medicinals Herbal Wellness Teas

Herbalism acknowledges healing as a holistic process, especially in regards to the nervous system.

Source: Herbs & The Nervous System – Traditional Medicinals Herbal Wellness Teas

One of the most amazing aspects of herbalism is that it acknowledges healing as a holistic process, which helps mind, body, and spirit to move toward alignment. Herbalists and traditional healers know that stress and life perspective greatly impact our health and that every fiber of our being is interconnected. While stress is considered an emotional state that many of us struggle with in the 21stcentury, it also affects us physically. For this reason, understanding and supporting our nervous system is a key element to any protocol for healing.

Introducing the Nervous System

Generally speaking, the nervous system consists of two major systems—the Central Nervous System(CNS) and the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS). Our CNS, which includes the brain and the spinal cord, is our main command center. It’s what helps us process information and decide how to respond to inputs, whether your body is responding to a stressful week at work or a frightening car accident.

The Peripheral Nervous System encompasses the nerves that branch out from the brain and spinal cord to help your body communicate, as well as all the sensory and motor neurons. Sensory neurons collect information on what we’re feeling and send it to the brain, while motor neurons signal information to the tissues through the transmission of nerve impulses. These neurons are some of the longest living cells in your body; they are irreplaceable and can conceivably live for an entire lifetime. These durable cells need an abundance of nutrition, as much of the food you eat is used as fuel for the brain.

Tulsi & Ginger Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic – Traditional Medicinals

Learn how to make this Tulsi & Ginger spiced adaptogenic tonic using apple cider vinegar to support a healthy response to stress.*

Source: Tulsi & Ginger Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic – Traditional Medicinals

While many of us see vinegar as a simple condiment or an ingredient in pickling, it’s actually a 10,000-year-old remedy that’s heightened when combined with medicinal herbs. Medicated vinegar, technically known as an acetum, was clearly documented as medicine in the early versions of The United States Pharmacopeia and stocked in traditional herbal apothecaries worldwide. It’s hard to believe, but this modern day cooking ingredient was once combined with many powerful plants for herbal medicine. Our recipe below includes tulsi, a beloved adaptogen of Ayurveda used to support a healthy response to stress.* We’ve also paired it with fresh ginger root, known for its unique spicy and pungent taste, that supports healthy digestion.* This blend makes for beautiful synergy of Ayurvedic herbs in a traditional western herbalism format.

Analysis of Helichrysum (Immortelle) Chemistry, Antioxidant Activity, and Chemotaxonomy

Traditionally, helichrysum (immortelle; Helichrysum italicum, Asteraceae) has been used for the treatment of scars and cuts, as well as used as a liver stimulant and diuretic. The essential oil of helichrysum has been found to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, fungicidal, and astringent effects. As an emollient and fragrance in the cosmetic and perfume industry, the chemical composition of helichrysum essential oil has been somewhat characterized. The aim of this study was to further characterize the chemical content and antioxidant activity of helichrysum aerial parts and to assess the chemotaxonomy of the H. italicum taxa.

The flowering aerial parts of helichrysum (H. italicum ssp. italicum) were collected in May 2011, near Valdanos, Montenegro. The air-dried aerial parts of the plant were extracted with 45% ethanol and dried. The air-dried flowering upper parts of helichrysum were submitted to hydrodistillation to produce the essential oil.

The essential oil was characterized by using chromatography and mass spectrometry techniques. Principal component analysis (PCA) and cluster analysis (CA) was used to compare the main chemical constituents identified in this study with 16 different H. italicum taxa. The dried ethanol extract was dissolved in an aqueous solution for analysis of total phenolics and flavonoids. Both the essential oil and the ethanol extract were assessed for antioxidant activity using the 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) assay. The ethanol extract was also evaluated for inhibition of hydroxyl radical (OH) generation.

The essential oil yield was found to be 0.15 ± 0.02%. A total of 27 compounds were identified, which represented 96.1% of the total oil composition. Most of the compounds were oxygenated monoterpenes (43.9%) and sesquiterpene hydrocarbons (41.2%). [Note: There are discrepancies between the article text and the data in Table 1, which lists these as 43.1% and 42.2%, respectively.] The major compounds found in the oil were neryl acetate (28.2%), neryl propionate (9.1%), γ-curcumene (17.8%), and ar-curcumene (8.3%). [Note: There are discrepancies for three of these compounds among the abstract, article text, and data in Table 1, which lists these as neryl acetate (29.2%), neryl propionate (10.1%), and γ-curcumene (18.8%).] Other compounds found included α-selinene (3.9%), isoitalicene (3.2%), thymol (2.8%), and α-cedrene (2.4%). These concentrations are consistent with previous reports for this plant subspecies.

PCA indicated that H. italicum ssp. italicum from Greece, H. italicum ssp. serotinum from the Iberian Peninsula, and plant material collected from the region of former Yugoslavia could all be clearly differentiated from one another based on different dominant chemical components. Helichrysum italicum ssp. italicum and H. italicumssp. microphyllum were phylogenetically similar and had similar dominant chemical components. These and other taxa consisting of the main chemical components (e.g., neryl acetate) were found to represent four chemotypes. Two of these chemotypes had subchemotypes. CA indicated similar results in terms of the differentiation of H. italicum ssp. italicum from Greece and H. italicum ssp. serotinum from the Iberian Peninsula. The other taxa were classified in a similar way as that found by PCA, but with some differences, especially for the italicum subspecies.

The yield of the aqueous ethanol extract was 19.77%. The total phenolics and total flavonoids of this extract were found to be 31.97 ± 1.42 mg gallic acid equivalents (GAE)/g of dry extract and 20.68 ± 0.66 mg quercetin equivalents (QE)/g of dry extract, respectively. The radical scavenging capacity (RSC) of the ethanol extract and the essential oil was dose-dependent. In terms of DPPH RSC, the half maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) was significantly lower (more effective) for the ethanol extract (0.99 µg/ml) compared to the essential oil (1.76 mg/ml) (P value not given). [Note: Table 3 lists the essential oil IC50 as 1.37 mg/ml.] The extract had results that were similar to propyl gallate and quercetin dihydrate. Only the ethanol extract was evaluated for OH scavenging capacity (IC50 = 26.47 µg/ml), but the RSC was significantly less effective compared to its DPPH RSC (P value not given).

The chemical constituents identified from the essential oil of helichrysum aerial parts in this study are consistent with reports assessing the main chemical components of this plant subspecies. A chemotaxonomic analysis suggests that different regions of the world can affect the chemistry of the essential oil. The authors recommend classifying the species further based on these chemical differences. The authors also indicate that helichrysum extracts and essential oils may be effective natural antioxidants for foodstuff and pharmaceuticals. Further studies should be conducted on how differences in chemical composition may affect biological activity, fragrance, and other qualities of the helichrysum extracts and essential oils.

Resource:

Kladar NV, Anačkov GT, Rat MM, et al. Biochemical characterization of Helichrysum italicum (Roth) G.Don subsp. italicum (Asteraceae) from Montenegro: phytochemical screening, chemotaxonomy, and antioxidant properties. Chem Biodivers. 2015;12(3):419-431.

Herbs For A Healthy Heart

Cholesterol, poor circulation, and high blood pressure can prevent the heart from running smoothly. Thankfully, nature provides herbal remedies to support this vital life source and keep it running optimally.

When we talk about vitality in body, mind, and spirit, no organ takes center stage with more panache than the heart. Its rhythmic beating helps push blood through approximately 100,000 miles of blood vessels that weave through the body, delivering essential oxygen, nutrients, and compounds to cells, while picking up waste for the kidneys, liver, and lungs to filter and eliminate. It also functions as a center of emotion. When we snuggle up to a loved one, good vibes emanate from the chest, and when we suffer from extreme stress or loss, we often feel it in the heart. Simply put, the heart symbolizes the essence of life.

While life-or-death cardiovascular events require immediate medical attention, we can do a lot with herbs to improve the heart’s performance, manage chronic conditions, help heal from heart trauma {both physical and emotional}, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Heart Tonics

A few key categories of plant compounds benefit the heart, including anthocyanin and anthocyanidin – pigments that give berries, pomegranates, purple grapes, and red wine, hibiscus, and other foods and herbs their famous deep blue/purple/ red color and healing properties. These compounds have profound antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that protect the cardiovascular system from oxidative damage while also limiting the ability of fats in the blood to oxidize. They also improve the integrity of blood vessel {endothelial} lining. Oligomeric proanthocyanidins {OPC’s or PCO’s}, precursors to these pigments, are found in Hawthorn, grape seeds, and skin, pine bark, and Pycnogenol {a supplement derived from pine bark {Pinus pinaster} and other plants, including peanuts, grape seed, and witch hazel}.

Flavanols, another related class of antioxidant compounds, help keep the endothelial lining smooth and flexible. One of the reasons why cacao and dark chocolate are associated with cardiovascular health is the abundance of these flavanols. {Alas, chocolate candy companies funded the more “promising” cacao research, while less vested researchers have not had quite as impressive results.}

Meanwhile, sulfur-based compounds in pungent vegetables like garlic and onions help lower cholesterol and blood pressure while also providing an antioxidant effect. Heart tonics may not dramatically lower cholesterol or blood pressure, but they offer benefit modestly over time while also providing a multitude of other beneficial effects throughout the cardiovascular system. These tonics are best taken regularly and long-term, including as functional foods in the diet.

Hawthorn {Crataegus spp.} shines as the most heart-focused herb for a reason. It seems as if it benefits every single aspect of cardiovascular well-being. The berries, flowers, and leaves {some herbalists also include the thorny spring twigs} are rich in antioxidant compounds, including OPC’s.

hawthorn btanical artHawthorn improves circulation and blood vessel lining and helps to normalize blood pressure by dilating vessels and acting as a natural angiotensin-converting-enzyme {ACE} inhibitor. {ACE inhibitors help relax blood vessels.} The herb strengthens the heart muscle, improving its ability to pump blood efficiently, with strong research supporting its use in congestive heart failure. It may promote healing after a heart attack and relieve angina and mild arrhythmias.

It’s also a classic herb for the emotional aspects of the heart: healing heartbreak, quelling anxiety felt in the heart and opening the heart to love.

Hawthorn is not drug-like in its actions, though, and can take several months of regular use for its benefits to show, which may not prove fast enough in acute conditions. I prefer to take hawthorn as a concentrated, tasty solid extract, but standard methods also work; teas, capsules, and tinctures. It’s extremely safe and food-like, but it may interact with some medications by acting in synergy to increase their effects, including some blood pressure medications and possibly digoxin. If you’re working with a skilled doctor, they may be able to monitor and reduce your drug dose accordingly, but don’t change your medications without your doctor’s approval.

garlic botanical artGarlic {Allium sativum} contains potent sulfur compounds, including allicin, that help improve circulation by thinning the blood and breaking down clots and inflammation-related fibrin, thereby reducing cholesterol and lipid peroxidation {undesirable oxidation of blood fats that leads to atherosclerosis and increased risk for heart attack}. It also modestly reduces blood pressure. I think of garlic as a remedy that cleans the blood and blood vessel linings so that everything flows more smoothly.

You can eat one or more raw cloves of garlic per day, best crushed and allowed to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before consumption. This allows allicin to transform into its more potent form. You may still get some benefits from cooked garlic. Garlic tinctures, capsules, and other remedies provide another option. Some companies even make low-odor or odor-free pills if you’d rather not ward off vampires and coworkers with the metallic scent of garlic pouring from your breath and skin.

Note that therapeutic doses of garlic may increase bleeding, interact with blood thinners, and should not be taken before surgery or if you have a bleeding disorder. Some sensitive people get skin irritation, stomach upset, and gas from garlic.

Hypertension Support

Many things can cause high blood pressure, including serious conditions like kidney disease and preeclampsia that require medical attention. Even everyday hypertension can create wear and tear on the kidneys and increase the risk of stroke. Herbal and natural therapies tend to work best in mild to moderate cases of hypertension, and some people simply do not respond well enough to the herbs and need medication. Nonetheless, there are some promising antihypertension herbs to consider.

Minerals, including potassium, calcium, and magnesium, play an important role in maintaining blood pressure, and you may find that taking a multi-mineral supplement and eating more mineral-rich herbs {nettle, dandelion, burdock, parsley} and foods {vegetables, especially green leafies} keep your blood pressure in check. Limiting sodium, especially sodium-based additives in processed and restaurant food, and eating five to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily can also prove extremely helpful for controlling high blood pressure.

Hibiscus_lilieflorus-rosa-sinensis

Hibiscus {Hibiscus sabdariffa} is a specific species of hibiscus with an anthocyanin-rich flower calyx that you can steep to make a blood-red, tart tea. Hibiscus has long been a popular ingredient in teas – sweetened and sipped as “Rosa de Jamaica” tea in the Caribbean and in North America as a key ingredient in commercial berry “zinger” and fruit-flavored teas. Recent research has found it’s one of our more impressive antihypertensive herbs, boasting a strong safety record. In several human studies, hibiscus has performed as well as popular hypertension drugs, including lisinopril, captopril, and the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide. The herb also seems to reduce cholesterol, triglycerides, urinary tract infections, and blood sugar, and may even modestly aid weight loss.

You do need to drink relatively large amounts of the herb to lower blood pressure: steep 10-30 grams {up to 1-ounce} of the dried flowers in one liter {approximately one quart} of water for 30 minutes or longer and sip in divided doses throughout the day. While generally safe, it’s a tad corrosive to tooth enamel due to the fruits acids {not unlike lemon water} and may have very mild anti-fertility effects.

The herb rooibos has also been shown to benefit hypertension and heart health and can be blended into the tea as well.

Herbal Diuretics: We’ve long used diuretics medications safely to lower blood pressure, and we can also turn to diuretic herbs for similar but much milder effects. Eating four ribs of organic celery per day, fresh or juiced, offers diuretic and blood vessel dilating effects. Dandelion leaf and root have sodium-leaching diuretic properties that work fabulously for some people – but not at all for others. Interestingly, my mentor, herbalist Michael Moore, noted that dandelion is more effective for people of Latin America decent, and I’ve also found this to be true. The related chicory and burdock roots seem to act similarly, and you can combine all three roots into a tasty coffee-like tea.

Parsley, a relative of celery, is both mineral rich and diuretic. While parsley and celery seeds are more potent, they can also irritate the kidneys more so than the stalks and greens.

Cholesterol Support

When your cholesterol and triglyceride levels soar, first start by scrutinizing sugar and carbohydrate intake, overall excess calorie consumption, and lack of exercise. Excess sugars in the bloodstream are packaged up with fat to make triglycerides, which ultimately increases your LDL and other “bad” cholesterol, including very low-density lipoprotein {VLDL} formation.

Limit simple sugars and refined carbohydrates, as well as bad fats from factory-farmed animal products and fried foods. Eat more vegetables; protein {especially plant protein}; and “slow burn” low-to-moderate glycemic high-fiber foods {which include oats and whole grains. beans, apples, and pears for their pectin, and nopales, a tasty Mexican prickly pear cactus}.

An increase in exercise also helps by burning sugar for fuel and improving insulin sensitivity of the cells. Also look to bitter-tasting and blood-sugar balancing herbs. Besides the two herbs mentioned below, also consider cinnamon.

Artichoke leaf {Cynara scolymus} is one of the best-researched herbs in the category of “bitters” for high cholesterol and related issues, including blood sugar and obesity. Its strength lies in reducing LDL cholesterol and fasting blood glucose levels while also increasing good HDL cholesterol levels.

Because artichoke leaf is so intensely bitter, you don’t want to drink it as a tea. Take it as a tincture {tasting it increases the benefits} or capsule {still effective}. Excessive amounts may cause stomach upset and nausea, and it’s best taken with food to limit stomach upset and hypoglycemia.

fenugreek botanical art

Fenugreek {Trigonella foenumgraecum} is among our best-researched herbs for controlling blood sugar and diabetes, and these benefits translate to triglyceride management, as well. While most of the early research involved large quantities of the fiber-rich ground seeds –  two 25 gram doses per day {if poured into capsules, this would mean 50 pills a day} -other studies have found benefits with lesser quantities as well as with extracts. In one study of people with type 2 diabetes, those who consumed 10 grams per day of the powdered whole seeds had significantly better fasting blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c, insulin, total cholesterol, and triglycerides compared to those taking a placebo, even though LDL and HDL cholesterol did not change significantly. A similar study found that fenugreek reduced VLDL cholesterol and that it worked better when added to hot water rather than yogurt.

Fenugreek imparts a maple fragrance to the urine, but this is harmless. If you have type 1 diabetes or take insulin and other blood-sugar regulating medications, work with a healthcare practitioner to ensure that you safely introduce fenugreek without inducing hypoglycemia.

Circulation Support

Herbs like gotu kola, ginger, garlic, rosemary, and very small amounts of cayenne or prickly ash increase blood flow.  Think of ginger, cayenne, and prickly ash if you’re chronically cold with poor circulation to the hands and feet.

The others improve the quality of blood vessel lining, making them smoother and less prone to breakage. The pigments and precursors we discussed as heart tonics – blue berries, gotu kola, dark purple grapes, Japanese knotweed roots, and hibiscus – work well for this.

Other beneficial herbs include horse chestnut, yarrow, and again gotu kola, which are often used for vascular insufficiency, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids topically and internally and may also help prevent deep vein thrombosis {DVT}. Herbs that thin the blood and help break down clots and fibrin include ginger and garlic. Be very careful combining these herbs with medications, and work with a practitioner if you take pharmaceuticals, as serious herb-drug interactions could occur.

Gotu-Kola-ExtractGotu Kola {Centella asiatica} has many uses and is probably better known for its stress-relieving adaptogenic, nerve tonic, and brain-boosting effects, as well as its ability to improve the healing and integrity of various types of tissues in the body {gut lining, skin, collagen, blood vessels}.

In addition to these benefits, gotu kola has a gentle yet profound ability to improve circulation and the quality of blood vessel lining, decreasing the risk of breakage and sluggish blood. Studies show benefit in venous hypertension, ankle edema, foot swelling, chronic venous insufficiency, varicose veins, post-thrombotic syndrome following DVT, and in preventing circulation issues on long flights. Most of the studies have focused on a specific standardized extract od gotu kola called “total triterpenic fraction of Centella asiatica {TTF-CA},” with higher doses {120 to 180 mg} achieving better results, though this extract product does not appear to be commercially available. When buying gotu kola tincture or capsules, follow the label’s dosage recommendations.

You can consume crude gotu kola in relatively large quantities – fresh leaves are commonly eaten as food in the plant’s native lands – and long-term use is recommended. You may not see benefits for one or more months, but the long flight study of TTFCA did note improvements when taken just two days prior to flying.

Gotu kola is generally safe, though it may modestly inhibit fertility and interact with a few medications. Quality on the market varies, and because it favors sewage and sludge-like growing conditions, contamination with fecal bacteria poses a concern. Purchase organic gotu kola from reputable companies or grow your own.

Gladden the Heart

While it may seem “hippie-dippy,” people have used herbs to ‘gladden the heart” for centuries. It goes back to the concept of the heart as the emotional center of the body.

These herbs uplift the spirits and boost the sensation of good vibes emanating from the heart. They’re useful when your heart feels heavy if you’re broken hearted, need to open your heart to others {or yourself}, or are overcome with grief. These herbs tend to be rich in essential oils, engaging the senses in a variety of aromatic and tasty ways to lift your spirits.

rose illustrationRose blossoms, particularly the rosy-scented heirloom and wild species, are one of my favorite herbs in this category. The aromatics of rose have cardiotonic properties and work best as a sprinkle of rose petals in a tea blend, a glycerite or honey extract, a cold water extract steeped for several hours, a flower essence, or simply a bouquet on the table. Also, consider them for the workaholic who needs to stop and smell the roses.

Linden blossoms have a delicate yet heady aroma of honey, and although very little research exists, we often turn to linden for stress-related hypertension and to gladden the heart. Europeans often sip tea made from this fragrant herb.

Holy basil is another favorite of mine. The leaves and flowers have diverse health benefits, including anti-inflammatory qualities as well as “calm energy” adaptogenic, nervine, and cognition-enhancing properties.

Motherwort’s aerial parts harvested in flower are less obviously aromatic, but they do target anxiety that manifests in the heart –  the kind of panic that makes you feel like you’re having a heart attack, palpitations, or tachycardia – though it also has mild mood-boosting properties.

Because it’s so terribly bitter, we usually take motherwort fresh in tincture form, but you can also make an extract in vinegar or glycerine if you want to avoid alcohol.

Lemon balm bridges the benefits of its relatives holy basil and motherwort and makes for a tasty and soothing tea to feed the heart.

 

 

 

 

Review of Studies of Grape Products Documents Bioactivities that May Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Polyphenols, the most abundant secondary metabolites in plants, include flavonoids and non-flavonoids. Dietary intake of polyphenols varies greatly and is difficult to quantify. Polyphenols are poorly characterized in foods and their quantity may vary depending on factors including plant genetics and preparation and storage methods. Epidemiological and clinical studies report that moderate consumption of alcoholic drinks, including wine and juice from grapes (Vitis vinifera, Vitaceae) and from Concord grapes (V. labrusca), affects antioxidant capacity, lipid profiles, and blood coagulation and may reduce incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and total mortality. Type 2 diabetes is often associated with CVD and heart failure, sharing many risk factors. Several studies of grapes and their components, mainly polyphenols and especially resveratrol (RES), have examined the relationship between grape consumption and CVD. The authors review the published benefits of grape polyphenols related to CVD and diabetes but do not describe their search strategy.

High blood pressure (BP) is the largest proximal risk factor for CVD; depending upon age, systolic BP (SBP) that is lowered by only 2 mm Hg can be associated with meaningful reductions in CVD mortality. Antihypertensives were the most prescribed drugs in the United States in 2012 and 2013, but hypertension can also be reduced with diet. Studies with grapes that included BP measurements have mostly been conducted in cohorts with prehypertensive average baseline BP, but some have included subjects with metabolic syndrome, with above-average vascular risk, and/or mild to moderate hypertension. Decreases in SBP have been reported with grape seed extract (GSE) supplementation and some report similar drops in diastolic BP (DBP). A meta-analysis of nine randomized controlled trials (RCTs) found that GSE significantly lowered SBP by −1.54 mm Hg (P=0.02) but had no significant effect on DBP. However, some individual RCTs have reported far larger effects. One RCT with a dosage of 150 mg, the lowest of all the RCTs, significantly dropped SBP by −11 mm Hg and DBP by −7 mm Hg compared to placebo. This study used a uniquely processed GSE with a patented composition called MegaNatural®-BP (Polyphenolics; Madera, California). One cited RCT found decreases in SBP and DBP in both the GSE and placebo groups, with a larger decrease in the former. Some trials in people with normal or near-normal BP found no significant BP changes. More RCTs are needed to determine the effect of grape polyphenols on BP, but they show the most promise in those with higher BP.

High plasma levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) are risk factors for CVD. Polyphenols affect hepatic cholesterol and lipoprotein metabolism by reducing cholesterol absorption and delivery of cholesterol to the liver, thus reducing plasma cholesterol. Polyphenols also affect apolipoproteins (apo) A and B, modify very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) particles, and reduce plasma triglyceride (TG) levels, possibly by boosting lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity. Studies report reductions in total cholesterol (TC), LDL-C, and apo B-100, as well as higher apo A-1 and HDL-C, in healthy individuals and patients undergoing hemodialysis after 14 days of supplementation with 100 mL/d concentrated Bobal* grape juice. Studies with Concord grape juice found increases in TG levels and no changes in TC, HDL-C, or LDL-C. Other studies report varying results with different products and study populations. A study using a GSE product (MegaNatural-Gold; Polyphenolics) found TC, LDL-C, and HDL-C significantly decreased (TC and LDL-C, P<0.01; HDL-C, P<0.05) after three weeks in eight patients with hypercholesterolemia and remained unchanged in nine subjects with normal lipid levels. A crossover RCT with 45 overweight and slightly obese men and women found no difference in HDL-C or LDL-C with 150 mg/d RES or placebo for four weeks. In a double-blind RCT with 40 post-infarction patients, 10 mg/d RES for three months resulted in improvements in endothelial function measured by flow-mediated vasodilation and LDL-C levels (both P<0.05).

Grape polyphenols slow LDL oxidation and thus atherosclerosis. Two studies in patients undergoing hemodialysis who consumed 100 mL/d concentrated Bobal grape juice for 14 days found decreases in oxidized LDL (ox-LDL) of 35% and 65%, respectively. Studies using Concord grape juice have reported increases in LDL velocity and, in one case, a 9% reduction in LDL oxidation. In one study, Concord grape juice significantly reduced thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) compared to water. One study of GSE found significantly reduced TBARS levels and prolonged lag time for LDL oxidation; another, no change in ox-LDL after supplementation with 1000 mg/d GSE for six weeks. A six-month, triple-blinded RCT of RES-enriched GSE supplementation in 75 patients for primary prevention of CVD found decreased LDL-C (P=0.04), apo B (P=0.014), and ox-LDL (P=0.001); RES was said to be necessary for these effects. Reduced superoxide anion production, involved in the formation of ox-LDL, has been found in neutrophils and platelets in different studies of purple grape juice and Concord grape juice. Regarding F2-isoprostanes, an indicator of oxidative stress, conflicting results are reported, with some studies finding decreased levels and others no change or even increased levels. Two studies of the effect of grape supplementation on DNA damage as a marker of oxidative stress found significant decreases in lymphocyte DNA damage for different products in different patient cohorts.

Four studies of platelet activation and one of atrial fibrillation suggest more CVD-related benefits of grapes. In one of the former, white grape juice inhibited platelet aggregation more than red grape juice. Six studies reported findings indicating the potential role of grape polyphenols, particularly anthocyanins, flavan-3-ols, and RES, in reducing the risk of diabetes. In one, both alcoholic and dealcoholized red wine significantly improved insulin levels over baseline; gin (often flavored with juniper [Juniperus communis, Cupressaceae] berry) did not. Larger, better-quality studies are needed and justified.

*The Bobal variety of V. vinifera comes from the Utiel-Requena region, Valencia, Spain.

Resource:

Rasines-Perea Z, Teissedre P-L. Grape polyphenols’ effects in human cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Molecules. January 1, 2017;22(1):68. doi: 10.3390/molecules22010068.