Archived Articles - March 2014

Use reishi mushrooms to treat cancer, diabetes and more

Reishi mushrooms, also known as lingzhi mushrooms, are medicinal mushrooms distinct for their tough surface and kidney-shaped cap. While this type of mushroom is widely appreciated worldwide, people in Asia, especially native China regard it highly. The Chinese have nicknamed it "Mushrooms of Immortality." For more than 2,000 years, Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners have been recommending reishi for treating several conditions, including hypertension and fatigue. Some of the health benefits of reishi mushroom are discussed below.

Enhances immunity and puts off cancer

Reishi mushrooms are loaded with biologically-active polysaccharides called beta-glucans plus hetero-beta-glucans, which are present in the cell membranes of specific plants as well as fungi. Findings of several studies like the Lithuanian study carried in the journal Medicina in 2007, have confirmed that these substances augment our immune system by improving macrophages and also triggering the functioning of the natural killer cells, which wipe out the carcinogenic and infected cells. As a result, scientists concluded that reishi mushrooms may slow down tumour growth.

Another study undertaken by two scientists at the Kentucky-based Bellarmine University later also corroborated the anti-cancer properties of reishi mushrooms. They discovered that reishi contains saponins and polysaccharides that diminish propagation of cells in cancerous lungs by inducing cell death or apoptosis. According to these scientists, undertaking a comprehensive biochemical classification of reishi may help to unveil its potential in lung cancer treatment.

Inhibits aging process

Ganoderic acid, a vital antioxidant present in reishi mushrooms, slows down oxidation by combating the free radicals. If the activity of free radicals is not checked, it may result in degenerative ailments, such as Alzheimer's disease and cancer, in addition to speeding up the aging process. This theory is known as FRTA or free radical theory of aging. Hence, consuming reishi and other foods rich in antioxidant content helps to make the hair healthier, skin clearer, eyes brighter and also reduce wrinkles.

Cures cardiovascular problems

'Prescription for Nutritional Healing' author Phyllis Bach says that for several centuries, medical practitioners in China have used reishi mushrooms for treating several cardiovascular disorders, such as severe heart disease. In addition, reishi is also effective for treating diabetes.

Findings of a Chinese study carried in the Journal of Asian Natural Products Research (December 2006 edition) show that people with diabetes who were given reishi extracts for eight weeks demonstrated reduced blood sugar and triglyceride levels, in addition to diminished indicators of kidney stress, in comparison to that of subjects in the control group.

The findings of another Chinese study published in Phytomedicine in 2009 reinforced the findings of the earlier study. The new study discovered that reishi extracts reduced the levels of glucose in the bloodstream in mice within just one week. Thus, the scientists concluded that reishi mushrooms slowed down the production of an enzyme, which is utilized by the liver to make glucose.

Loaded with nutriments

The disease-preventing properties of reishi mushrooms have made it so popular that people generally overlook the fact that it is also an excellent nutrient supplement. For instance, one pulverized reishi mushroom provides us with numerous vital nutrients, such as amino acids, alkaloids, ascorbic acid, protein, fiber, lipids, steroids, vitamin B2 and triterpenes. Similar to other medicinal mushrooms like maitake and shiitake, reishi mushrooms are also an excellent source of the trace mineral copper, which possesses potent antioxidant as well as enzyme-supporting qualities.

Note: Before concluding, it is worth mentioning that different from other remedial mushrooms, it is extremely difficult for our stomach to digest reishi mushrooms, even when it is cooked. Therefore, it is advisable that you take reishi extracts, tinctures and powders, while some people claim reishi tea is also effective. As Chinese reishi is often polluted, you should always use products containing organically grown reishi from Europe and the United States.

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Research suggests probiotic-rich diets prevent colon cancer

Here is some good news for people who prefer probiotics. Scientists have now discovered that this dietary supplement is related to diminished risks of colorectal cancer (CRC). Probiotics are effective immune boosters and also hold back harmful pathogens in the stomach that may result in cellular mutations. Moreover, specific beneficial bacteria species form linoleic acid in the colon which may also hold back cancer growth by means of anti-inflammatory actions.

Keep the colon disease-free and healthy

An article by professor Ian Rowland, a top diet and cancer prevention specialist, which was published in Cancer Active, says that researches involving human colon cell cultures developed in flasks demonstrate that probiotics have the ability to hinder the activities of carcinogenic substances. It was found that laboratory rats that were fed probiotics showed lesser gene damage (something vital in cancer), besides reducing the number of tumour growths stimulated in the colon.

The article further says that thus far there have been very few human studies, as it is difficult to study the impact of diet on cancer in humans. Nevertheless, the results of a few studies that have been undertaken on human subjects so far using probiotics with prebiotics have shown that they possibly also possess the potential to diminish colon cancer risks.

Scientists consider probiotics to be helpful in thwarting colon cancer at the molecular stage by the following means:

Invigorating the immune system: When the immune system is invigorated by probiotics it leads to the production of favourable short-chain fatty acids; promoting elevated levels of butyric acid in the colon (which is important for regulating colon cell growth); holding back the activities of enzymes related to carcinogens; and triggering the helpful anti-carcinogenic enzymes.

Probiotics attaches to bile salts: Several epidemiological studies have discovered a powerful relation between the risks of CRC and specific fat-rich diets like those containing high levels of safflower oil, corn oil, beef tallow or lard. Researchers are of the view that this occurs owing to the elevated bile acid levels, which is essential for digesting fat. After the break down of bile in the colon, the derivatives have a cytotoxic consequence on the cells of the colon, which encourages proliferation and may possibly also trigger cancerous growths. In such conditions, probiotics are useful in protecting against the danger by transforming the enzymes that produce wastes detrimental for the body, besides binding the bile salts to reduce their toxicity.

Two forms of probiotics - Bififobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus acidophilus, also show antibacterial properties, as they produce lactic acid as well as analogous short-chain fatty acids. The environment in the gut becomes further acidic in the presence of lactic acid, which has the potential to inhibit carcinogenic bacterial growth. Ensure that you receive sufficient soluble fiber like apples, oats, barley, Brussels sprouts and flaxseed, as these promote bifidobacteria and lactobacilli growths in the gut. In addition, you need to supplement your diet with any probiotic, such as fructooligosaccharides (FOS), oligofructose, inulin or galactooligosaccharides (GOS)

Concluding, professor Rowland says that studies undertaken on animals and cell cultures have provided plenty of evidence confirming that using probiotics, prebiotics and their combinations have the potential to produce anti-cancer results. Although very little human research was undertaken till recently, a paper to be published soon says that one such study was undertaken under the SYNCAN Project funded by the European Union.

People who participated in this study were given a probiotics and prebiotics combination or a placebo for a period of eight weeks, while the scientists measured an assortment of indicators related to colon cancer risks. It was found that subjects who took the probiotic and prebiotic mixture had fewer DNA damage as well as a lesser cell proliferation rate in the biopsies obtained from their colons. Professor Rowland added that feeding the combination of probiotics and prebiotics also led to progresses in specific attributes of stool samples, which may suggest diminished risks of colon cancer. However, these changes were not found in subjects who were given placebo.

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Asparagus offers an assortment of health benefits

Asparagus (scientific name Asparagus officinalis) is a spring vegetable belonging to the lily family. It not only has a unique flavour, but also encloses numerous nutrients having identified functions and offering an assortment of health benefits.

Asparagus mostly contains excellent quantities of different vitamins, including vitamins A, C K, B6, riboflavin as well as thiamine.

Vitamin A is necessary to sustain the health of our eyes, immune system and the epithelial tissues, which include the skin as well as the lining of the lungs and intestines. In addition to supporting the health of the immune system, vitamin C is a potent antioxidant. Consuming one cup of uncooked asparagus tips provides us with roughly 7.5 mg of vitamin C - much more than what is supplied by one cup of carrots, plums or one pear.

Besides vitamins, asparagus is also rich in potassium content, but contains very less sodium, having a perfect proportion of these two essential minerals. This vegetable also contains less amounts of carbohydrates and calories, making it an excellent low-glycemic food. Moreover, its protein content is higher than other vegetables.

Asparagus also contains several other nutrients, such as fiber, niacin, fructose-containing oligosaccharides (FOS), iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and sulfur. In addition, this vegetable encloses a variety of phyto-nutrients like inulin, quercetin, alpha-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and several others.

Asparagus is highly beneficial for women during pregnancy, as it contains adequate quantities of folate, which is vital for preventing deformities in newborns. It is also helpful for nursing mothers. Consumption of adequate amounts of folate is also said to be helpful in lowering the chances of developing specific cancer forms, especially breast cancer, colorectal cancer and cervical cancer.

Besides being useful for pregnant and nursing women, asparagus offers many other health benefits. It keeps the homocysteine levels in the blood in check, thereby protecting the cardiovascular system from harm.

Asparagus also contains other chemical compounds that have been found to possess anti-cancer properties. For instance, glutathione present in this vegetable is a strong antioxidant, which combats the harmful free radicals in our body even before they can damage the cells.

Conventional uses

Traditionally, people have used asparagus to facilitate treatment of arthritis and rheumatism. It is believed that the antioxidant as well as the COX-2 enzyme inhibitory properties of phytochemicals present in asparagus help to provide respite from the painful symptoms related to arthritis.

Asparagus also possesses diuretic as well as alkalizing attributes.

In the ancient Indian herbal medicine system known as Ayurveda, this vegetable is believed to reinforce the kidneys, be a general tonic for women and even an aphrodisiac.

The principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) state that asparagus may be beneficial for people whose body heat as well as dampness are extreme. In fact, people who eat foods rich in oils/ fats, processed foods, in addition to extremely intoxication and seasoned foods usually suffer from these conditions.

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Cilantro offers multiple health benefits

Cilantro, commonly known as coriander (botanical name Coriandrum sativum), has far many uses than being used as a culinary herb, especially in Indian and Mexican foods. While its appearance is similar to that of parsley and is also known as Chinese parsley, it has an altogether different flavour. As its appearance is very similar to parsley, it is important to mark your herbs properly.

An excellent detoxifying agent

According to Global Healing Center CEO, Dr. Edward Group, cilantro is known to be an effective detoxifying agent, especially for cleansing the body of toxic metals. A natural and potent cleanser, cilantro encloses several chemicals that attach themselves with the toxic metals to remove them from the tissues. Nevertheless, we should not start using this herb to detoxify our body, but essentially check with a physician before undertaking such treatment. Moreover, it is important to get rid of the toxins immediately after they are mobilized, as this will prevent any physical harm.

It is recommended that you should drink no less than six cups of cilantro juice every week to remove all metal toxins from the body. However, you should be careful not to drink all the juice at once. Ideally, you may start your treatment by incorporating two cups of cilantro juice into your normal juicing schedule thrice every week. It is best to drink a blended juice containing cilantro, parsley and spinach, as it will be more effective.

In case you do not like the flavour of cilantro, you may tone down this herb's taste by blending it appropriately with juices of other green leafy vegetables.

Multiple health benefits

Cilantro encloses a variety of phytonutrients and antioxidants, which are not only natural stimulants, but also possess elevated healing attributes like antiseptic, analgesic, aphrodisiac, fungicidal and digestive. Raw cilantro juice is said to have the most potent effect.

Despite the fact that cilantro contains only very minute amounts of vitamin B, this herb is an excellent source of other vitamins, including vitamins A, C and K. Moreover, cilantro also contains satisfactory amounts of vital minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, sodium and manganese. These days, it is important that your body contains rich amounts of minerals.

An excellent healing herb

Using cilantro for a prolonged period helps to get rid of mercury deposits in the tissues. In fact, very few herbs possess the aptitude to eliminate heavy metals from our body. Moreover, the small intestines respond excellently to cilantro and this facilitates the removal of wastes without disturbing the body. In addition to being an anxiety reducer, cilantro aids in treating red eyes, macular degeneration and other eye-related problems.

Cilantro is also effective in preventing infections, especially urinary tract infections. It is also helpful in preventing anemia, as it builds up blood supplies. Vitamin K in cilantro has a very vital role as far as the health of the bones is concerned. In fact, compared to other herbs, vitamin K content in cilantro is very high. The stems of this herb contain high amounts of various antioxidants, including epigenin, quercetin, rhamnetin and kaempferol.

Drinking cilantro juice regularly is extremely beneficial for our health, as it helps to get rid of the damaged fats present in our cell membranes.

Strawberries - effective natural cure for gastritis

Gastritis is a digestive problem wherein the lining of the stomach becomes inflamed. Several factors, including excessive alcohol consumption, taking ibuprofen or aspirin frequently, bacterial or viral infections, auto-immune disorders and stress, may result in this condition.

Although the condition is common and quite painful, the good news is that some European scientists have discovered that strawberries are very effective against gastritis.

Strawberries cure gastritis

According to one scientist, Sara Tulipani, strawberries have several positive effects, which are not only related to their antioxidant properties as well as high phenolic compound (also known as anthocyans) content, but also because they trigger the enzymes as well as the body's antioxidant defenses. The findings of their research revealed that post-ethanol consumption, strawberries were effective in reducing ulcerations in the stomach. The end result of the study showed that ripened strawberries enclose certain substances that may be helpful in preventing the commencement of inflammation at the level of the cells.

Based on the findings of their research, these scientists concluded that strawberries are a vital fruit that combats inflammation. At the same time, these scientists have encouraged others to undertake further studies into inflammatory stomach diseases and their therapeutic options.

The Mayo Clinic recommends that the diet of people suffering from gastritis should incorporate fruits with low acid content and they should keep away from fatty and spicy foods. Like strawberries, apples, raspberries as well as pears are also low-acid fruits.

It is also advisable that people with gastritis ought to seriously try to reduce their stress levels, avoid or consume very little alcohol and consult a physician regarding the use of analgesics that relieve stitching pains, because they have the potential to worsen the stomach lining. Moreover, such people may practice meditation and yoga, which may help them to relax. Drinking lots of water and other healthy drinks will also help to prevent stomach problems.

Other health benefits of strawberries

In addition to combating gastritis, strawberries are also effective in reducing all other types of inflammations, including alleviating inflamed joints. A study undertaken by the Harvard School of Public Health shows those women who consumed at least 16 strawberries every week faced lesser risks of developing CRP or C-reactive protein in their body - an indicator of inflammation in the body.

It has also been found that strawberries help to enhance the health of the eyes, inhibit the growth of cancer cells and keep the blood pressure under control.

Before concluding, it is important to note that whenever possible you should consume organically grown foods, including strawberries, as this will help to put off health problems related to consumption of foods containing pesticides.

Potent anti-inflammatory attributes of borage oil are excellent for your skin

Borage (botanical name Borago officinalis) belongs to the Boraginaceae plant family. While this plant is native to the Mediterranean region, it has been naturalized in Europe and the United States. It is said that the Romans thought that this plant provided with inner strength and drank borage tea with wine before embarking on a battle. The edible leaves of this plant are occasionally used to prepare a side dish in Italy. However, the borage oil extracted from the leaves is actually a wonderful health tonic.

Borage contains moderate amounts of calcium, iron, potassium and zinc, in addition to vitamin B and vitamin C. However, gamma-linolenic acids, which are present in sufficient amounts and the human body is unable to synthesize, are the most important constituent of this plant. When there is a deficit of these omega-3 fatty acids, it has a negative effect on our mood, resulting in internal inflammation or changing specific functions of the cells.

Findings of many studies have revealed that borage has the aptitude to relieve symptoms related to cough, chest congestion, rheumatoid arthritis and probably also to the nervous system. However, borage oil, which has skin rejuvenation and anti-inflammatory properties, is most effective in treating these conditions.

Borage oil effectual for curing skin problems in women

In 2009, the British Journal of Nutrition published the findings of a study conducted to examine the aptitude of borage oil and flaxseed oil to tone up skin complaints in women that are responsible for inflammations and irritations. It involved women in two groups, including a placebo group, who were either given a placebo or borage oil or flaxseed oil in daily dosage of 2.2 grams for a period of 12 weeks. While women in the placebo group showed few alterations during the study, those taking fatty acids demonstrated notable progress. Complaints like reddened skin, and dehydration, scaling and roughness of the skin decreased significantly and rapidly in women taking fatty acids.

Scientists also found that borage oil possessed the ability to treat periodontitis (inflammation of the periodontium). As borage oil promotes the health of gums and also restrains gingivitis, it alleviates bleeding and receding gums that ultimately result in teeth loss, which are related to periodontitis. Omega-6 fatty acids contained by borage oil help to reverse the development of prostaglandins, which are related to the inflammations. The study involved 24 women with periodontitis and it was found that using borage oil helped to counteract gingivitis as well as stabilize the gums, preventing their decay.

Before concluding it needs to be mentioned that the study apparently revealed that ingesting borage oil often may help in reducing symptoms related to cough and chest congestion by controlling neutrophils and the inflammatory agents. While no study would still recommend you to use borage oil, you may very well imagine how this valuable herbal product may aid in treating inflammations in different body areas.