The Aztecs and Mayans were the first to recognize healing properties in the root of the wild yam (Dioscorea villosa),a climbing vine. They used it to relieve pain. Years later, Native Americans and early colonists made such a practice of treating joint pain and colic with this native North and Central American plant that it was, for a time, popularly referred to as “colic root.”
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.
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.
For many women, natural progesterone cream appears to provide significant relief from symptoms related to shifts in the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.
For younger women, such imbalances are often associated with PMS or endometriosis, and bring on symptoms such as irritability, breast tenderness, and pelvic pain. For older women entering menopause, decreasing supplies of estrogen can cause hormonal imbalances, producing hot flashes, mood swings, urinary urgency, and poor concentration.
The importance of adequate stores of the amino acid methionine cannot be underestimated. Methionine is particularly important because it supplies sulfur–a mineral–that helps to maintain healthy skin tone, well-conditioned hair, and strong nails. Because your body can’t produce this essential amino acid on its own, you must get it from methionine-rich foods, such as cheddar cheese, eggs, chicken, and beef. Supplements are also a source.
Nutritional supplements known as lipotropic combinations (or lipotropic factors) are designed to enhance liver function and increase the flow of fats and bile from the liver and gallbladder. By definition, a lipotropic substance decreases the deposit, or speeds up the removal, of fat (lipo=fat, tropic=stimulate) within the liver. Lipotropic combinations are well known in naturopathic medicine but are little used by conventional physicians.
A source of fiber for linen fabric since ancient times, the slender flax plant (Linum usitatissimum) also boasts a long history as a healing herb. First cultivated in Europe, the plant’s brown seeds were regularly used to prepare balms for inflamed skin and healing slurries for constipation. Today, flaxseeds–also called linseeds–are best known for the therapeutic oil that is derived by pressing them. Rich in essential fatty acids, or EFAs, flaxseed oil has earned a solid reputation for treating a range of ailments, from heart disease to lupus.
Evening primrose oil is extracted from the evening primrose plant (Oenothera biennis), a wildflower found in North America, Europe and parts of Asia. The plant’s pale yellow flowers open in the evening–hence its common name–and its seeds bear the special fatty oil that is used in healing today.
Dong quai has been used in Asia for thousands of years as a tonic for the female reproductive system. In fact, it ranks just below ginseng as the most popular herb in China and Japan, although its effectiveness has yet to be substantiated by conventional Western standards.
In medieval times, the chasteberry (botanically known as Vitex agnus-castus) was thought to suppress the libido of both males and females. Legend has it that monks once chewed on the dried berries in an effort to adhere to their vows of celibacy. Today, it’s clear that the herb does not affect sexual drive, but chasteberry does have an important role to play in treating women’s reproductive-tract disorders and menstrual-related complaints. In Europe, chasteberry is now recommended more often than any other herb for relieving the symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome).