Produced by the body, N-acetylcysteine (commonly called NAC) is a form of the amino acid cysteine. Because it enhances the production of the Enzyme glutathione, one of the body’s powerhouse antioxidants, NAC can both stave off disease and play an important role in boosting the immune system. Studies have shown that glutathione levels are often reduced in people with certain conditions related to the immune system.
The modern name for the butterbur Herb comes from the use in early farming communities of Europe and North America of its large leaves to keep their butter fresh in warm weather. Butterbur leaves are among some of the largest in Europe, sometimes reaching three feet in diameter. Butterbur hails from the plant genus Petasites, which is derived from the Greek word petasos, a term used for the large felt hats worn by Greek fishermen.
In the eighteenth century, seasoned sailors found that by sucking on lemons they could avoid scurvy, a debilitating disease that often developed during long voyages when fresh fruits and vegetables were scarce. When the lemon’s key nutrient was formally identified in 1928, it was named ascorbic acid for its anti-scurvy, or antiscorbutic, action. Today ascorbic acid is widely known as vitamin C.
Day by day, there’s probably no nutrient as actively involved in keeping your system running smoothly as vitamin B6. Technically an umbrella term used to describe three B vitamins (pyridoxine, pridoxal, pyridoxamine), vitamin B6 partakes in no fewer than 100 chemical reactions throughout the body. It functions primarily as a coenzyme, working along with other enzymes to speed up chemical reactions in cells.
Quercetin may be a major reason why eating an apple a day has been associated with good health. Quercetin, primarily found in apples and onions, is a type of flavonoid (plant pigment) and serves as a building block for other members of the flavonoid family.
An herb prized for its medicinal benefits and distinctive flavor, peppermint (Mentha piperata) is a naturally occurring hybrid of spearmint (M. spicata) and water mint (M. aquatica). Unlike other mints, however, peppermint contains in its healing volatile oil the powerful therapeutic ingredient menthol, as well as menthone, menthyl acetate and some 40 other compounds. The oil is made by steam-distilling the plant’s aromatic leaves and stems, which are gathered just before its light-purple flowers appear in the summer.
Essential for hundreds of chemical reactions that occur in the body every second, the mineral magnesium has received surprisingly little attention over the years. Recent findings, however, suggest that it also has important health-promoting benefits, from an ability to prevent heart disease to a role in treating such chronic conditions as fibromyalgia and diabetes.
Few herbal remedies have been as widely used or as carefully examined over the centuries as licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), a botanical member of the pea family that is still widely cultivated in Greece and Turkey. The herb’s key therapeutic compound, glycyrrhizin, is found in the rhizome (or underground stem) of this tall purple-flowered shrub. Hundreds of other potentially healing substances have been identified in licorice as well, including compounds called flavonoids and various plant estrogens (phytoestrogens). Researchers are currently excited about the diverse healing properties of licorice, from its anti-inflammatory abilities to its capacity to soothe stomach upset and control coughs. Even the National Cancer Institute has investigated the medicinal benefits of licorice.
This popular herbal medicine is extracted from the fan-shaped leaves of the ancient ginkgo biloba tree, a species that has survived in China for more than 200 million years and now grows throughout the world. (The leaves are double, or bi-lobed; hence the name biloba.) Long used in traditional Chinese medicine, it is only in the last few decades that the medicinal uses for the herb have been studied in the West.
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.
Heralded for its heart-healthy actions, fish oils offer high concentrations of polyunsaturated fats called omega-3-fatty acids. While all fish contain these fats, cold-water fish–salmon, sea bass, tuna, trout, mackerel–are particularly rich sources because of their diet: plankton packed with omega-3s. Interestingly, the colder the water, the more omega-3s in the plankton. Cold-water fish also boast the most potent forms of omega-3s: the essential fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). Consumed as part of a fish-filled diet or in supplement form, omega-3s have myriad healing powers.
From cough cure to tension-reliever, the woody scented oil and leathery leaves of the stately eucalyptus tree have found myriad uses over the centuries. Australian aborigines relied on this native evergreen for soothing painful joints and healing skin lesions. And settlers to the continent dubbed eucalyptus the “fever tree” in recognition of its disease-fighting powers. While these early users ascribed its potency to the tree’s brisk aroma, it is now known that the thirsty roots were responsible: They kept the surrounding ground relatively dry and thus free of malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) may qualify as the world’s oldest cough remedy. Folk healers have been using the bright yellow flowers, roots, and hoof-shaped, wooly leaves of this daisy family member for centuries to suppress dry coughs and soothe sore throats. In fact, part of the plant’s scientific name (Tussilago) stems from the Latin word for “cough.” Shop owners in eighteenth century France painted an image of the plant on their signs to let passersby know that they sold healing herbs.
People who schedule visits with nutritionists are usually surprised to find themselves almost always walking out with a bottle of magnesium tablets along with some suitable vitamins and a healthful eating program.