If you find yourself in the waiting room of a rheumatologist, you’re likely there because your joints hurt and have been hurting, often for years. You’ve been getting by on aspirin or Advil for the pain, but with things worsening your primary care doctor suggests you should see a joint specialist, a rheumatologist. And because […]
In the 1970s, epidemiologic studies discovered that Inuit (the indigenous people of the Arctic regions Canada, Alaska, and Greenland), whose diet was extremely rich in fish, had a much lower rate of heart disease than Americans and Europeans. Scientists attributed this to the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in fish, which seemed to protect and […]
Although best known as a spice that gives a distinctive flavor and yellow color to curry powder and mustard, turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a member of the ginger family and has long been used for healing. Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, and other traditional medicine systems practiced in India have relied on this pungent spice for centuries, and so it’s not surprising that the Asian subcontinent is where the most intensive research about this herb has been conducted.
Omega-6 fatty acids belong to a group of “good” fats called polyunsaturated fatty acids. Unlike such “bad” fats as cholesterol and saturated fatty acids (which contribute to the worsening of a host of ailments including heart disease and other degenerative conditions), omega-6s can actually be beneficial to your health.
Omega-6 fatty acids are one of two types of essential fatty acids (EFAs) that people need to consume to stay healthy. Omega-3s are the other. Both are considered “essential” because the body can’t produce them on its own; it can only get them through foods.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a form of polyunsaturated fats, one of four basic types of fat that the body derives from food. (Cholesterol, saturated fat, and monounsaturated fat are the others.) All polyunsaturated fats, including the omega-3s, are increasingly recognized as important to human health.
Eating too many foods rich in saturated fats has been associated with the development of degenerative diseases, including heart disease and even cancer. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, however, are actually good for you. Omega-3s (found primarily in cold-water fish) fall into this category, along with omega-6s, another type of polyunsaturated fatty acids found in grains, most plant-based oils, poultry, and eggs. (For more information, see our WholeHealth Chicago entry on Omega-6 Fatty Acids.)
From generation to generation, the majestic oak tree has provided shade on sunny days, timber for furniture-makers and ship-builders, and even food in times of famine. Many Native American tribes relied on its acorns for nourishment.
Not surprisingly, medicinal uses for the oak tree have a long history as well. Of the hundreds of Quercus species found in the northern hemisphere, Quercus alba is most valued in North America for medicinal purposes. Europeans rely more heavily on Quercus robur and Q. petraea.
Flavonoids is the umbrella term given to some 4,000 compounds that impart the colorful pigment to fruits, vegetables and herbs. Also found in legumes, grains and nuts, flavonoids can act as effective antivirals, anti-inflammatories, antihistamines and antioxidants. They’re useful for reducing cancer risk and serve to prevent or treat a wide variety of conditions.
The deserts of southern Africa are home to the peculiar-looking devil’s claw plant (Harpagophytum procumbens), so named because of the distinctively shaped tips of its fruits. For years, people indigenous to the African continent dug up the plant’s large tuberous roots, chopped them up, and let them dry in the sun. From the dried roots, they then prepared healing formulations to treat arthritis, fever, indigestion, and a number of other conditions.
Copper is the third most abundant trace mineral in the human body. Most Americans readily identify it as the dark reddish, malleable metal used in cookware and plumbing. Numerous foods contain copper, although the particularly rich sources such as liver and oysters are not commonly consumed. In fact, most Americans get too little of this important nutrient.
Despite appearances, the green ribbed celery (Apium graveolens) stalk offers more than a mild-flavored crunch. Seeds collected from the white flowers that bloom in summer are steam-distilled to produce special tonics. These so-called “celery cures” were wildly popular in the late 19th century for treating bladder and kidney ills. Animal research indicates that celery extracts do encourage the kidneys and bladder to pump out more urine; this is called a diuretic effect. But whether this happens in any consistent way in humans needs confirmation.
Cat’s Claw, also known by its Spanish name as Una de Gato is a high-climbing, woody plant that grows profusely in the upper Amazon regions of Peru, Columbia, Ecuador, and other Latin American countries. Its botanical name, Uncaria, comes from the Latin uncus, for “hook.” And it is the vine’s clawlike stems that allow it to climb trees and other vegetation up into the forest canopy. Two species of cat’s claw are harvested for medicinal purposes, Uncaria guianensis, used mainly in Europe and Uncaria tomentosa, the one most commonly imported into the United States. Among the herbal practitioners of South America, the two species are considered interchangeable.
When dealing with inflammatory conditions (such as eczema or allergies), there are several good reasons to consider products that combine bromelain, a natural anti-inflammatory derived from pineapples, and quercetin, a plant pigment (or flavonoid) prominent in apples and onions.
Boswellia, also known as boswellin or “Indian frankincense,” comes from the Boswellia serrata tree that grows in the dry hills of India. For centuries, traditional Indian healers have taken advantage of the anti-inflammatory properties of the tree bark’s gummy resin, called salai guggal. Modern preparations made from a purified extract of this resin and packaged in pill or cream form are used to reduce inflammation associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Unlike conventional NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen–the accepted treatments for joint inflammation–boswellia doesn’t seem to cause stomach irritation. It also may be effective for back pain and certain chronic intestinal disorders.
Native to Europe and southern Russia, Arnica montana is a perennial plant with bright yellow, daisylike flowers. It has a long history of use in herbal healing. Other species of Arnica, grown in western North America, are also used medicinally.
Alpha-linolenic acid is an essential fatty acid and the major omega-3 fatty acid found in food. Essential fatty acids are not produced by the body and must be present in the diet to maintain health. The unique biochemical structure of alpha-linolenic acid is important and helps to make it a key player in immunity, vision, cell membranes, and the production of hormonelike compounds.
Q: Ever since you wrote about bromelain I’ve wanted to try it, as you suggested, instead of aspirin or ibuprofen. I’m managing my heel spur pain well with the help of my physical therapist, but she encourages me to take an anti-inflammatory when I have pain. Would you tell me what dose of bromelain I should use? Also, does it work for arthritis?
Yes, you read that correctly. But don’t worry–fish oil will still be sold here and at your health food store.
Believe me, I was surprised when the drug rep came in with samples and said the fish oil capsules her company was making would be covered under most health insurance plans. I have mixed emotions about this.
The Triple Whammy Cure endlessly extols the virtues of fish oil to ramp up your production of feel-good serotonin. Many readers know that fish oil also protects against heart disease, but are unsure exactly how or why. The answer is that fish oil opens up your blood vessels and improves circulation. To prove this, researchers […]