Commonly known as geranium, Pelargonium sidoides is part of a genus of flowering plants first cultivated in South Africa. Geraniums, which bloom in a variety of shapes and colors, are typically grown for their beauty; and some fragrant species of Pelargonium are used to create perfumes. But the P. sidoides species also offers medicinal benefits. It has a long history in tribal South Africa as being used to treat coughs, upper respiratory infections and gastrointestinal illnesses. P. sidoides is often marketed as EPs 7630 or Umckaloabo, meaning “heavy cough” in Zulu tribal language.
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.
Vitamin C, an essential antioxidant, is often sold with plant-based substances called flavonoids in a single product. While each supplement can be purchased individually, there are several reasons to consider a product that combines the two.
For one, flavonoids–the catchall term for some 4,000 antioxidant compounds responsible for the color and numerous health benefits of fruits, vegetables, and herbs–enhance the body’s absorption of vitamin C. Key flavonoids include quercetin, rutin, genistein, grape seed extract, and naringen.
This famed vision-enhancing nutrient was isolated in 1930, the first fat-soluble vitamin to be discovered. The body acquires some of its vitamin A through animal fats. The rest it synthesizes in the intestines from the beta-carotene and other carotenoids abundant in many fruits and vegetables.
Well before the first European settlers arrived in North America, Native American tribes had discovered that by scraping away the rough outer bark of the majestic slippery elm tree (Ulmus rubra), they could uncover a remarkable healing substance in the inner bark. They beat the bark into a powder and added water to create a “slippery” concoction ideal for soothing toothaches, healing scrapes, and dispelling constipation.
Along with the bold yet delicate taste that shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms add to soups and other dishes, these gourmet delicacies are prized as herbal medicines. Traditional Asian healers have used them for centuries to strengthen the immune system and promote longevity. Recently, an extract from a different mushroom altogether–PSK (Coriolus versicolor)–was identified as a possible ally in the fight against cancer. While mushrooms other than these may well have specific health-promoting actions, they haven’t been as thoroughly researched for medicinal purposes.
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.
Ancient Greeks reportedly relied on horehound (Marrabium vulgare) to treat mad-dog bite, which explains the “hound” in this plant’s name. But over time, it has been this herb’s power to control a cough that has made it so popular. Soothing teas, lozenges, and syrups concocted from its wooly leaves and white flowering tops make a cough more productive by stimulating phlegm (mucus) output in the airways. Colds, bronchitis, and other minor respiratory problems often respond to horehound treatment as well.
One of the most popular herbal remedies in the world, echinacea contains active ingredients thought to fight colds, flu, and other infections. There are nine species of this herb, commonly called the purple coneflower, but just three (Echinacea angustifolia, E. pallida, and E. purpurea) are used medicinally. Various parts of the plant (flowers, leaves, stems, or roots) from a variety of species appear in literally hundreds of commercial preparations. Depending on the species and plant part used, the herb will stimulate the immune system and combat bacteria, viruses, and other disease-causing microbes.
Bromelain is the name of a group of powerful protein-digesting, or proteolytic, enzymes that are found in the pineapple plant (Ananas comosus). Discovered in 1957, and widely studied since then, bromelain is particularly useful for reducing muscle and tissue inflammation and as a digestive aid. Supplements are made from enzymes found in the pineapple stem.