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Vitamin C and Flavinoids

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.

Vitamin A

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.

Melissa

Folk healers in the Middle Ages considered melissa (Melissa officinalis) something of a cure-all, relying on it for everything from indigestion to insect bites. Today, this mint-family member–often called lemon balm because of the citrus-y aroma of its leaves–is still used to prepare healing oils, tinctures, compresses, ointments, teas, and other remedies for a variety of complaints.

Licorice

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.

Goldenseal

The Iroquois and Cherokee were among the first of the American tribes in the eastern United States to use this small perennial plant (Hydrastis canadensis) medicinally. They harvested its fleshy underground stems (rhizomes) and roots and used them to treat a variety of infections and other complaints, from insect bites and digestive upset to eye and skin ailments. By the nineteenth century, healers began to refer to this native wildflower (which resembles a buttercup) as goldenseal because the cuplike scars on its bright yellow rhizomes resembled the wax seals then used to close envelopes and certify documents. The plant’s colorful roots also provided dye for clothing.

Flaxseed Oil

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.

Echinacea

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.

Cayenne

Thought to have originated in Cayenne, French Guiana, cayenne is a spice derived from several varieties of dried hot peppers in the Capsicum species. Cayenne is a relative of the mild bell pepper used in salads and also of the fiery peppers found in chili powders and hot sauces, but it has no connection to black table pepper. Used for centuries by cooks around the world to add “heat” to traditional dishes, cayenne has gained a solid reputation both as a painkiller and digestive aid.