Last week we began a short series on preventing cancer. Obviously there are no guarantees when it comes to your health. You can do everything exactly right and still get cancer while the next guy lives a life on the edge and dies at 104 with a whisky in one hand and a cigar in […]
I once had a new patient arrive with her forms completed, a stack of medical records under her arm, and a large bulging gym bag in tow, saying “I brought all the supplements I’m taking. I’m hoping you can suggest a few I might not need.” One by one, she placed bottles and jars of […]
Legend has it that in ancient times, a Chinese emperor was drinking some hot water when leaves from a nearby tea shrub (Camellia sinensis) dropped into his cup. He apparently liked the soothing drink that resulted from this chance event. And so began what is today a worldwide love affair with tea. It’s now second only to water as the most popular drink in the world.
Glutathione is a sulfur-containing amino acid that is an important part of the body’s antioxidant defense system. Glutathione is composed of three different amino acids: cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine. Vitamins B6 and riboflavin are critical for maintaining adequate levels of glutathione within the body.
Famed as a source of the blue-black berries used to make elderberry wine and jelly, both the berries and flowers from the elder shrub (Sambucus nigra L.) have been used medicinally for centuries to fight off respiratory infections and other ailments. American elder (Sambucus candensis L.) is found in the eastern part of North America. What accounts for the plant’s therapeutic action is not well understood, but its healing properties are thought to derive from substances called flavonoids. These substances act as in the body in a variety of ways. As antihistamines, bioflavonoids can be helpful in the treatment of allergies. As antioxidants, they counteract the cell destruction caused by toxic molecules called free radicals. But it is the third property of flavonoids, an antiviral effect, that seems to make elderberry a clinically useful plant.
Complex carbohydrates, primarily starches, are long chains of glucose molecules. These large glucose molecules are also known as polysaccharides which can be composed of various numbers of monosaccharides and disaccharides. Complex carbohydrates are polymers of simple sugars (monosaccharides) that are branched and may contain lipid or protein groups.
Catechins are flavonoid phytochemical compounds that appear predominantly in green tea. Smaller amounts of catechins are also in black tea, grapes, wine, and chocolate. Four polyphenol catechins in green tea include gallocatechin (GC), epigallocatechin (EGC), epicatechin (EC), and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Due to their potent antioxidant capabilities, catechins, often referred to as “tea flavonoids,” are being investigated for their ability to prevent cancer and heart disease. In experimental models, catechins show a wide range of protective effects, including cardioprotective, chemoprotective, and anitmicrobial properties.
Beta-carotene is probably the best known of the carotenoids, those red, orange, and yellow pigments that give color to many fruits and vegetables. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, a nutrient first identified in the 1930s and now recognized as vital to the growth and development of the human body.
An herb native to China, astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous) has been used for more than 2,000 years to balance the vital energy–or qi–which is thought to flow through all beings. A relative of licorice and the pea plant, astragalus appears to give the immune system a powerful boost. Teas, tablets, and other healing formulations are made from the plant’s flat, yellowish root.
Anthocyanins are naturally occurring compounds that impart color to fruit, vegetables, and plants. Derived from two Greek words meaning plant and blue, anthocyanins are the pigments that make blueberries blue, raspberries red, and are thought to play a major role in the high antioxidant activity levels observed in red and blue fruits and vegetables. Anthocyanins are also largely responsible for the red coloring of buds and young shoots and the purple and purple-red colors of autumn leaves. Close to 300 anthocyanins have been discovered.
In the late 1980s, scientists realized that alpha-lipoic acid, a compound initially classified as a vitamin when it was discovered three decades earlier, possessed potent antioxidant properties that could prevent healthy cells from getting damaged by unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals. In fact, this vitaminlike compound has proved to be many times more potent than such old guard antioxidants as vitamins C and E. As a perk, it even recycles C and E (as well as other antioxidants), enhancing their effectiveness.
At least once a week, someone asks me about anti-aging therapies. People want to know if there are special supplements, hormones, or injections to keep them youthful. Is there something they’re missing? Will everyone be getting younger while, for them (and them alone) time will march inexorably on?
Many of my patients travel quite a bit for work. Here’s a tip: pycnogenol (pronounced “pik-noj-en-all”) is a powerful antioxidant extracted from the bark of pine trees and sold in health food stores either under that name or as PCO Extract. A newly discovered side benefit from pycnogenol is that it can prevent the foot […]