Monday, December 10, 2007

Anxiety and Stress At Holidays

With the holidays coming, we are usually running in many directions. We may be planning parties, deciding which gifts to buy, and packing for our holiday vacations to travel to see the families we may see only once or twice each year. Along with the feelings of joy, we often experience feelings of anxiety. Stress hormones trigger anxiety. These hormones rob the body of vitamins and minerals, which can also lead to dehydration.

But did you know, you can counteract many of the physical effects of anxiety with some very simple changes in your diet. Eating foods that you associate with pleasure or safety may ease your mind, but some nutrients can influence chemicals in the brain and body to reduce the intensity of the body's reactions.

Anxiety is a form of fear that is based on anticipation. When our body expects a threat, the endocrine system pumps adrenaline, a hormone that increases the heart rate and blood pressure. Cortisol, a steroid hormone, can sustain the feelings of stress for long periods of time. Anxiety also causes the liver to release an over abundance of sugar to provide the body with energy. When you are anxious, your heart beats faster, your muscles tighten, and your breathing becomes irregular. All of these take a toll on the body. It depletes important nutrients such as vitamin C.

Research has also proven that when the body is under constant strain, levels of nutrients in the blood drop as much as a third. Over time, this can lead to exhaustion and lower your immune system.

While foods and herbs can't take away the cause of the anxiety, they can keep your body stocked with the nutrients that influence chemicals in the brain to help you stay calm. So what can you consume to counteract the ill effects of stress and anxiety?

To start, stay away from added sugar, which may leave you feeling more frantic. Cut back on caffeine, which can trigger anxiety symptoms, and increase your heart rate. Carbohydrates help raise levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that promotes feelings of calmness. Try apples, bananas, raisins, and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, corn, and whole grains like breads, cereals, and pastas.

Magnesium is depleted during periods of anxiety, so include spinach, yogurt, nut and soy products.

Vitamin B6 is important to your immunity and also boosts levels of dopamine, a natural relaxant in the brain. Foods rich in B6 include: chicken, nuts, legumes and bananas.

Take Vitamin C tablets, and eat citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, and broccoli.

Vitamin E is vital to immune function and can be found in wheat germ, corn, nuts, seeds and olive oil.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Meditation: Give Yourself a Gift

In this season of gift-giving, it is easy to become so preoccupied with searching for the perfect gift to give someone else that we forget to take care of ourselves. The altruistic spirit is a nurturing spirit when it is fully expressed. To be fully expressed it must come full circle-nothing in nature continues to exist only with the outflow. Everything flourishes in giving and receiving.

We all have the same amount of time, which flows, for eternity, in an endless stream of "now" moments. The illusion of not having enough time comes when we face the options, requirements, and opportunities that life presents to us as if we had to choose them all, or as if we cannot choose the ones we want because of obligations and forces beyond our control.

Here are some gifts you can give yourself that can make the holidays seem less hectic and more meaningful.

The Gift of Spirit:
The spirit with which we enter into everything influences its effect on us and on everyone around us. Before you go to any event, or even out shopping, do an attitude check. Use your option to say, "No" to those activities where your spirit will be agitated rather than lifted.

The Gift of Release:
Decide to let go of any rituals or activities that no longer have full meaning. Your family and friends may be just as ready to simplify their lives. Trim your card list; engage in meaningful activities and practice serenity in everything.

The Gift of Time:
Spend some time by yourself, either doing nothing or engaging in an activity which is refreshing to you, one in which you will come away renewed--not frazzled. You may also choose to combine one or more of your other gifts to yourself with this one.

The Gift of Music:
Music has the ability to soothe, uplift, renew, and inspire. Choose to have music, which evokes pleasant memories and feelings, in the background of your activities. Listen to soft music as you drive, prepare meals, or as you soak in a luxurious bath.

The Gift of Balance:
A frantic holiday season comes from keeping our attention fixed on all we have to do, or on the negatively imagined results of not being able to do everything. The ability to see and appreciate the sacredness and beauty of life comes to us only one moment at a time. Balance your activities with time alone. Allow enough time to get to where you are going without being pressured.

Opening Your Gifts:
You can begin by consciously choosing to align the way you spend your time with the needs of your body, mind and spirit. Bring your shopping, relationships, work, and resources into balance within the framework of the gifts you are giving to yourself. It is not so much what we do, or how much we do, as it is how we do it that produces a creative and peace-filled life.

To have a happier holiday season answer these question when you feel stressed:

  1. How can I change the way I perceive this event? This person?
  2. How does what I am doing right now contribute to the quality of my life or the life of others?
  3. How can I bring the highest that is within me to this moment now?
  4. What can I release, remove or rearrange to bring peace to my life?

Use these steps to remind yourself of your commitment.

  • Be true in your actions to the spirit of your heart.
  • Clarify your thoughts and focus on one thing at a time.
  • Orient your choices toward satisfaction, flexibility, compassion and contribution.
  • Affirm: Today I am at peace in my world. I move in my world with a deep spirit-nurturing attitude. This is my gift to myself and to the world.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Fighting Asthma with Food

Asthma is an inflammatory airway disease. It is a condition that causes reactions leading to respiratory distress. However, asthma is curable and can be treated by proper medication and a slight modification in your diet.

Eating to control asthma

You can control asthma attacks by eating a diet, which is:
  • Moderately low fat, preferably vegetarian
  • Rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and starchy vegetables
  • Low in sugar
  • Making proteins about 12-15 per cent of your diet, which is slightly lower than than the normal allowance of about 20 per cent
  • Low in red meats and dairy products

Natural foods for controlling asthma

Here are some great fruits and vegetables that have been found useful in controlling asthma. Take your pick:

Banana: A low-cost, delicious fruit, which is available round the year. It has a high nutritional value with a rare combination of energy, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Banana is very useful for those who are allergic to certain substances and suffer from asthma. The reason underlying this is that banana is rich in those amino acids, which are anti-allergic to asthmatics.

Grapes: A high therapeutic value -- owing to their easy assimilation property - makes grapes beneficial for asthma. The fruit as well as its juice has a favourable influence in controlling the disease since being rich in moisture grapes increase the moisture of the lungs.

Orange: The most popular citrus fruit, orange is an effective remedy to control asthma. All you have to do is mix a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of honey in orange juice. Orange acts by its saline action on the lungs and protects from secondary infections.

Bitter gourd: Karela or bitter gourd has excellent medical virtues and has been used as a folk medicine for respiratory disorders from ancient times. A teaspoon of root paste mixed with equal amount of tulsi leaf juice taken for a month acts as an excellent medicine for asthmatics.

Garlic: A food, herb, medicinal plant and a beauty accessory since time immemorial, garlic owes its medicinal values to a volatile oil called allyl sulphade, that has a marvelous therapeutic value. The garlic pod is peeled and boiled in 120 ml of pure malt vinegar. This mixture is strained and mixed with equal amounts of honey and then preserved. A teaspoon of this mixture taken every day helps to reduce the severity of the attacks.

Ginger: A teaspoon of fresh ginger juice mixed with a cup of fenugreek decoction acts as an expectorant in asthma.

Spinach: This green vegetable is a rich source of essential amino acids, iron, vitamin A and folic acid. Infusion of fresh leaves prepared with fenugreek seeds and mixed with a pinch of ammonium chloride acts as an effective expectorant for treatment of asthma. It soothes the bronchioles and forms healthy tissue in the lungs, thereby increasing resistance against respiratory infections.

Safflower seeds: These are beneficial in the treatment of bronchial asthma. Taking half a teaspoon of the seed powder along with a tablespoon of honey acts as an expectorant and reduces the spasms by liquefying the tenacious sputum.

Honey: This sweetner is rich in ethereal oil and alcohol that is beneficial in asthma. Inhaling the air that comes in contact with honey brings relief and the patient is able to breathe deeper and easier.

Thus by consuming a diet rich in these foods, you can easily control your asthmatic condition.

Your Diet and Dental Health

Remember how often as a kid your mom used to restrict the number of chocolates or sweets you ate saying that they were bad for the teeth. Thanks to her you probably have a perfect set of pearly whites. It's true that your dental health is related to what you eat. In fact bad food is the main culprit for poor dental health.

Diet and tooth development

The development of oral cavity and teeth formation depends on adequate nutrients. Vitamins A, C and D and minerals such as fluoride and calcium play a very important role in the development of hard and soft tissues of the mouth during the early development as well as throughout life. Studies have shown that even a single incidence of malnutrition in the first phase of life, can severely affect the oral cavity development and also cause increased incidence of caries in the later phase of life.

Diet and dental decay

Dental decay or caries is the most infectious disease of the oral cavity and many fall prey to this. Caries is a result of nutritional deficiencies as well as a result of microorganisms such as bacteria, general hygiene and family history.

The tooth surface is covered with bacterial coating known as plaque. Dental caries results when acid producing bacteria dominate in this coating. When you eat food, there are fermentable carbohydrates in the food that can be metabolized by these bacteria and converted to lactic acid. The already acidic plaque gets more acidic, causing dental caries, leading to loss of tooth and further bacterial invasion.

Dietary considerations

Good dietary intake is the key to healthy teeth. However, prevention of caries is also dependant on the body's needs being met with certain minerals such as fluoride in adequate amounts. A balanced diet is unable to provide fluoride, so you have to take care that the water levels of fluoride are adequate. Or else go in for toothpastes and mouth rinses that have extra fluoride in them.

Caries is caused by your food intake: what you eat, how much you eat, how much time you devote to eating and the fermentable carbohydrate in your diet. Carbohydrates are classified as cariogenic foods, i.e. foods that dissolve slowly and remain in the mouth for a longer time, whereas fats and proteins are noncariogenic. Since all carbohydrates are broken down into sugars, they can result in caries due to bacterial action.

Foods such as cheese are considered as caries protective foods since they internally provide protection due to its components and also increase the flow of saliva, which prevents the formation of plaques. This stands true for all dairy products. In fact milk is a rich source of calcium, which is a necessary mineral for healthy teeth. High fat and protein foods such as meats and nuts are also protective since fat results in less stickiness of food in the mouth and hence less fermentation by bacteria.

Tips for healthy teeth

Avoid frequent snacking since snacks are basically carbohydrate based and hence increase the risk for caries. Thus carbohydrate foods should be taken in combination with fat and protein, as it reduces its exposure with teeth and hence less decay.

Avoid sticky foods such as chocolate and toffees since they remain in the mouth for a longer time and hence are available to the bacteria.

Restrict the intake of soft drinks. Being acidic in nature, they have the capacity to destroy the tooth enamel.

Frequent brushing of teeth with fluoridated toothpaste can help to reduce the contact of fermentable sugar with teeth.

Thus proper hygiene and good dietary habits can help in fighting the life long problem of tooth decay.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Vegetarianism is Healthy

If you are a vegetarian, you have company. In fact, lots of it. Currently, even in America the land of meat and ham, more than 12.4 million individuals are vegetarians by choice. Mahatma Gandhi, George Bernard Shaw and Albert Einstein were all veggies. So you are in hallowed company too. Vegetarianism, or the practice of excluding one or more type of animal products from your diet, is more than just a food habit – it’s a lifestyle that is here to stay.

Do you know why more and more people are embracing vegetarianism? Because it permits you to lead a healthier, disease-free lifestyle. Check out these amazing health benefits of vegetarianism:
  • Veggies have lower mortality rates because they are less prone to certain cancers and heart diseases.
  • Vegetarians have less chances of getting colon cancer.
  • Vegetarianism is a natural substitute for anti-impotency drugs. In most cases of impotency, blocked arteries are to blame. Reducing or eliminating meat could help with this problem.
  • Veggies have lower rates of coronary artery disease, hypertension and non-insulin dependent diabetes than non-vegetarians.
  • They also have fewer kidney and gall stones.
  • Recent research has shown that plant food diets or veggie diets are the best way of controlling diabetes

Did you know that vegetarians are of four kinds? Puzzled, then read on:

A vegan is someone who does not eat any animal flesh or products, meaning no milk or eggs either.
An ovo vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat any animal flesh, does eat eggs but not dairy products.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat eggs and dairy products but abstain from animal flesh. And lastly, there are Lacto vegetarians who eat dairy products but avoid animal products and eggs.

A standard Indian balanced diet for a sedentary worker is a lacto vegetarian diet, where the nutrient composition of the diet fully meets with the recommended dietary allowance. An Indian vegetarian diet generally includes milk, legumes and pulses, nuts, vegetable oils, vegetables, fruits. And if you thought that vegetarians were lacking in any nutrient, you were wrong. A vegetarian diet is complete and able to meet all the nutritional requirements of your body more satisfactorily than a non-vegetarian diet.

People choose to be vegetarians for different reasons. It could be for ethical reasons, health benefits, religious reasons or simply a matter of food habits and preferences. Whatever be the reason, a vegetarian diet is a good safeguard against chronic diseases and definitely healthy, hip and happening.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How to choose herbal supplements?

Herb usually refers to a plant that grown for culinary, savory and even spiritual value. Traditionally, herbs are used to treat wide spectrum of health problems in China, India, Greek, and Roman. Many herbs are well known for their health benefits.

For example, Black Cohosh may improve symptoms of menopause and perimenopause, Ginseng helps boost immune system and energy, Evening Primrose is very beneficial for symptoms of PMS. Today, there is increased interest and popularity of herbal remedies. Many realized that many synthetic drugs have unpleasant side effects, and can be hazardous. Some of these drugs may not even be effective. Generally, herbs are used to maintain good health and are safer to use compare to drugs.

You need to be careful when you select herbal supplements. In U.S., herbal supplements are regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug administration) as foods. The safety of the supplements and the accuracy of the labels are not guarantee. The manufacturers are fully responsible of the potency, efficacy and safety of the ingredients used. Many herbal supplements have been found to be contaminated with metals, unlabeled prescription drugs, microorganisms, or other substances. Also, some herbal supplements are not scientifically formulated.

To choose the best quality herbal supplements:

  1. Look for supplements with standardize herbal extracts. This means that the supplements contain the active ingredients that are responsible for the health benefits.
  2. Each ingredient in the supplements must be supported by COA (Certificate of Analysis), which guarantees the potency and safety.
  3. The label of the supplements should contain following information: descriptive name of the product (e.g. Ginseng), net quantity contents (e.g. 100 tablets), net contents of the product, complete list of ingredients and amounts, disclaimer (“this statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease”), name and address of the business of the manufacturer, expiration date. Note that the disclaimer mentioned above is required by law (DSHEA).
  4. Look for products that have been tested scientifically. Check if the ingredients of the supplements have been proven scientifically for their health benefits. You may obtain the information from the website of products, or you can email the manufacturers. Consult your doctor about the quality of the related research.
  5. Look for ingredients in products with the U.S.P. notation, which indicates the manufacturer followed standards established by the U.S. Pharmacopoeia.
  6. Make sure that the herbal supplements have good bioavailability. Much of the active ingredients of supplements are destroyed by the acid of the stomach. Choose the quality product that is not affected by this process so that all essential nutrients are absorbed by your body.
  7. Choose the herbal supplements with your health care provider who is profesionally trained in herbal medicine. Present the labels of the supplements to seek for their advises.
  8. Purchase from merchants has refund policy for unsatisfactory products.
  9. If you are targetting specific condition, it is best to buy herbal formulas that is theurapetic for that condition. Usually these herbal formulas contain few herbs that function synergistically. The primary herb targets specific ailment. Other supporting herbs enhance the primary herbs healing benefits and ensure overall effectiveness of the formula. Never mix and max your own’s herbs.

Reference: FDA, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Monday, August 6, 2007

Meditation & Spirituality: Ignore Nature - Ignore Yourself

Overcoming stress the natural ways. Here are some ideas.

Racing on freeways, we never lose our minds to the point that we forget to buy a daily cup of coffee, which tastes bitter to those who simply don't have an extra moment to spill sugar in the cup. The fanatical belief that "coffee will pick us up" doesn't actually come to our rescue, especially when we sit on the sharp edge of stress chronically provoked by life routine. There are other ways to put stress at bay - eat the right foods for your health and well-being and you will likely feel a lot less stressed.

I know people who would put 'life routine' as the least likable category in a list of dislikes. I am sure you've met them in your neighborhood. We all can identify with them by reflecting on their irritable disposition. We seem to know what we don't like, but there are times when we don't know what we like or what we should like.

During the change between summer and fall everyone comes to realize that summer is over, and it's time to unpack your autumn decorations, knowing that Halloween and Thanksgiving are just around the corner. When fall knocks on your door, welcome its riches, and do it for your health.

Go to your local "farmer's market" and buy the seasonal fruits that will shake the stress off your body by giving you a naturally sweet and tasty shot of energy. Eat those for the whole season. Don't start eating strawberries, cherries, and raspberries yet. It's time to get the best juices out of grapes, apples, plums and melons! Such produce, picked from nature and brought directly to the market, provides the necessary nutrients for good health.

Wine-lovers tend to think that one of the secrets to good health lies at the bottom of an empty wine glass. Yes, the glass of red wine a day has been proven to benefit the health of our hearts. Following the studies revealing the benefits of red wine, researchers discovered an additional substance in grapes called resveratrol. Resverartol can block cancer during the three major stages of tumor development.

A cancer researcher from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Dr. Michael J. Wargovich, has discovered that grapes and other fruits have powerful natural compounds, that when ingested into the body work as a defense against cancer. In comparison, to match the daily intake of grapes, one would have to drink the equivalent of five gallons of wine a day. Obviously, it's much healthier to eat grapes!

Next time you are driving on the freeway, and you feel a serious case of "road rage" coming on, forget about going to Starbucks, eat some grapes instead!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Coenzyme Q10: Dietary Sources, Precautions

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), also known as ubiquinone, is essential for energy production. It is an antioxidant—a molecule that has been shown to counteract processes resulting in disease.


Coenzyme Q10 deficiency primarily affects the heart and leads to heart failure. This deficiency can result from impaired coenzyme Q10 production or an increased need for it resulting from cardiovascular disease. Also, coenzyme Q10 levels may drop as we age.

A growing body of research shows that using a coenzyme Q10 supplement alone or in combination with other drug therapy may be beneficial in the treatment of several health problems, particularly cardiac conditions and diseases, breast cancer, diabetes mellitus, immune deficiency, muscular dystrophy, and periodontal disease.

Coenzyme Q10 supplementation may be of special interest to patients with high blood pressure. The supplement has a tendency to lower high blood pressure after 4 to 12 weeks of use.

Some cholesterol-lowering medications may deplete levels of coenzyme Q10 in the body, so people with high cholesterol who take these medications should also consider taking coenzyme Q10 supplements.

This supplement can also be used as a pretreatment for cardiac bypass surgery. It has been shown to reduce oxidative damage and protect the heart during surgery.

Dietary Sources

Coenzyme Q10 is found in every plant and animal cell. Primary dietary sources include oily fish, organ meats such as liver, and whole grains. Most people get enough coenzyme Q10 in their diet. Supplementation can be helpful in individuals with certain health conditions and in the elderly, because levels of coenzyme Q10 can decline with advancing age.

Other Forms

Coenzyme Q10 is available as a supplement in several forms, including softgel capsules, spray, hardshell capsules, and tablets.

How to Take It


There are no known reports to date about use of Coenzyme Q10 supplements in children. Therefore, use in children is not recommended at this time.


The general recommended dose for supplementation is 25 mg twice daily. Experimental doses include the following:

  • 100 mg a day in patients with heart disease
  • 60 mg a day for 4 to 8 weeks to enhance athletic performance
  • 120 mg a day for 28 days after a heart attack
  • 400 mg per day for potential prevention and treatment of breast cancer, and possibly other forms of cancer

Coenzyme Q10 should be taken with a meal containing oil since it is fat soluble. The body does not absorb it as well in the absence of oil.


Coenzyme Q10 appears to be safe with no significant side effects. However, the safety of supplementation during pregnancy and breastfeeding is unknown.

Possible Interactions

Coenzyme Q10 may help to reduce the toxic effects on the heart of daunorubicin and doxorubicin, two chemotherapy medications that are commonly used to treat a variety of cancers. Consult your healthcare provider before using coenzyme Q10 supplements while you are taking these medications.

In a scientific study, supplementation with CoQ10 in patients taking medications for high blood pressure (such as diltiazem, metoprolol, enalapril, and nitrate) resulted in the need for lower doses of these medications. More research is needed to verify these results; therefore, you should consult your healthcare practitioner before adding CoQ10 supplements to your existing medication regimen.

There have been reports that coenzyme Q10 may decrease the effectiveness of blood-thinning medications such as warfarin. Therefore, you should not use CoQ10 supplements if you are currently taking warfarin without discussing this with your healthcare provider.

In one study, treatment with CoQ10 in patients using timolol drops, a beta-blocker medication used to treat glaucoma, reduced side effects on the heart without decreasing the effectiveness of the medication. Consult your healthcare provider about whether CoQ10 supplements may be appropriate for you if you are being treated with timolol.

Please refer to the consumer depletions monographs for additional information on other medications that may reduce the levels of coenzyme Q10 in the body, such as gemfibrozil, beta-blockers, and tricyclic antidepressant medications, to name a few.

Supporting Research

Aberg F, Appelkvist EL, Broijersen A, et al. Gemfibrozil-induced decrease in serum ubiquinone and alpha- and gamma-tocopherol levels in men with combined hyperlipidaemia. Eur J Clin Invest. 1998;28:235-242.

Chan A, Reichmann H, Kogel A, Beck A, Gold R. Metabolic changes in patients with mitochondrial myopathies and effects of coenzyme Q10 therapy. J Neurol. 1998;245:681-685.

Chopra RK, Goldman R, Sinatra ST, Bhagavan HN. Relative bioavailability of coenzyme Q10 formulations in human subjects. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1998;68:109-113.

Haas EM. Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Berkley, Calif: Celestial Arts Publishing; 1992:65-79.

Iarussi D, Auricchio U, Agretto A, Murano A, Giuliano M, Casale F, et al. Protective effect of coenzyme Q on anthracylines cardiotoxicity: Control study in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and non-hodgkin lymphoma. Molec Aspects Med. 1994;15(Suppl):S207-S212.

Jolliet P, Simon N, Barre J, et al. Plasma coenzyme Q10 concentrations in breast cancer: prognosis and therapeutic consequences. Int J Clin Pharmacol Therapeu. 1998;36:506-509.

Kishi T, Kishi H, Wanabe T, Folkers K. Bioenergetics in clinical medicine. XI. Studies on CoQ and diabetes mellitus. J Med. 1976;7:307-321.

Landbo C, Almdal TP. Drug interaction between warfarin and coenzyme Q10. Ugeskrift for Laeger. 1998;160(22):3226-3227.

Lockwood K, Moesgaard S, Yamamoto T, Folkers K. Progress in therapy of breast cancer with vitamin Q10 and the regression of metastases. Biocehmical and Biophysical Research Communications. 1995;212(1):172-177.

Matthews RT, Yang L, Browne S, Baik M, Beal MF. Coenzyme Q10 administration increases brain mitochondrial concentrations and exerts neuroprotective effects. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. July 21, 1998; 95:8892-8897.

Murray MT. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. Rocklin, Calif: Prima Publishing; 1996:296-308.

Murray MT, Pizzorno JE. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. 2nd ed. Rocklin, Calif: Prima Publishing; 1996.

Niibori K, Yokoyama H, Crestanello JA, Whitman GJ. Acute administration of liposomal coenzyme Q10 increases myocardial tissue levels and improves tolerance to ischemia reperfusion injury. J Surg Res. 1998;79:141-145.

Shils ME, Olson JA, Shike M, Ross AC. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 9th ed. Baltimore, Md: Williams & Wilkins; 1999:90-92: 1377-1378.

Shinozawa S, Kawasaki H, Gomita Y. [Effect of biological membrane stabilizing drugs (coenzyme Q10, dextran sulfate and reduced glutathione) on adriamycin (doxorubicin)-induced toxicity and microsomal lipid peroxidation in mice]. Gan To Kagaku Ryoho. 1996;23(1):93-98.

Sinatra S. The Coenzyme Q10 Phenomenon. New Canaan, Conn: Keats Publishing, Inc.; 1998:127-129.

Singh RB, Niaz MA, Rastogi SS, Shukla PK, Thakur AS. Effect of hydrosoluble coenzyme Q10 on blood pressures and insulin resistance in hypertensive patients with coronary artery disease. J Hum Hypertens. 1999;13(3):203-208.

Singh RB, Wander GS, Rastogi A, et al. Randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial of coenzyme Q10 in patients with acute myocardial infarction. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 1998;12:347-353.

Spigset O. Reduced effect of warfarin caused by ubidecarenone. The Lancet. 1994;344:1372-1373.

Takahashi N, Iwasaka T, Sugiura T, et al. Effect of coenzyme Q10 on hemodynamic response to ocular timolol. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 1989;14:462-468.

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Zhou Q, Chan E. Accuracy of repeated blood sampling in rats: A new technique applied in pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic studies of the interaction between warfarin and Co-enzyme Q10. J Pharmacol Toxicol Methods. 1998;40(4):191-199.

Soothing Insomnia with Herbs

Each year, approximately one out of every three adults experiences episodes of insomnia—difficulty falling or staying asleep. Insomnia may result from stress at work, school, or home, or from working nights or frequent traveling. Thirty to forty percent of women in menopause have difficulty sleeping; aging, in general, causes sleep patterns to change. Overuse or abuse of alcohol, caffeine, drugs, decongestants, bronchodilators, sedatives, or stimulants influences your ability to get sound sleep. About half of all cases of insomnia, however, can't be linked to any particular cause. If you are having difficulty sleeping and feel drowsy during the daytime, you should see a physician for a full diagnosis to rule out other possible physical or mental causes.

Establishing good sleep habits is the best way to avoid insomnia. A healthy diet and regular exercise are important, too. Massage and relaxation techniques may be helpful, as well as the following herbal remedies.

Herbs are generally available as dried extracts (pills, capsules, or tablets), teas, or tinctures. Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with 1 teaspoon herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Tinctures are preparations made from alcohol (or water and alcohol), containing an herb strength of 1 part herb to 5 parts solvent or 1 part herb to 10 parts solvent.

  • Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita): calms. One cup of chamomile tea before bed is often all that is needed to remedy mild insomnia. Note: While most people find chamomile soothing on their stomachs, it may cause gastric upset for some.
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): promotes sleep and proper digestion. Take 1 cup tea or 30 to 60 drops of tincture one to three times a day. Take alone or with catnip (Nepeta cataria).
  • Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata): calms and promotes sleep. Take 60 to 120 drops tincture (derived from the above-ground, or aerial, parts) one-half hour before bedtime.
  • Valerian (Valeriana officinalis): promotes relaxation and relieves anxiety. Traditionally taken with passionflower and hops (Lupuli strobulus). Take equal parts of each herb in 1 cup of tea one to three times a day, or in tincture form, 30 to 60 drops one to three times a day. Note: Side effects of too high a dose of valerian include nausea and grogginess. Do not take hops if you are suffering from depression.
  • Kava kava (Piper methysticum): reduces stress and promotes sleep. Take 15 to 30 drops tincture one to three times a day. Do not use for more than 3 months without medical supervision.
  • St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum): promotes sleep and relieves anxiety. Dose is 15 to 60 drops three times a day. Side effects may include a skin rash, increased sensitivity to sunlight, and gastric upset. Do not take St. John's wort if you are taking antidepressants.
  • Jamaica dogwood (Piscidia piscipula): a particularly powerful remedy for sleeplessness caused by nervous tension and pain. Dose is 30 to 60 drops tincture just before bedtime. Jamaica dogwood works well in combination with kava kava, passionflower, St. John's wort, and valerian.
  • Essential oils: lavender (Lavandula officianalis), rosemary (Roemarinus officinalis), and chamomile. Add 3 to 5 drops to a bath.

Be sure to talk with your physician or pharmacist to best determine which herbal therapies are for you. Some herbs should not be taken if you have certain medical conditions or are taking particular prescription medications.


Integrative Medicine Access: Professional Reference to Conditions, Herbs & Supplements. Newton, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

The Naturopathic Way to Good Health

Naturopathy is not one single remedy or therapy. Rather, it is a complete therapeutic system. As such, it is an approach to health care that is based on a set of beliefs. Naturopathy is based on the idea that good health is dependent on clean air, clean water, clean food from good earth, and exercise. Naturopathy also holds that the body has the ability to heal itself, and that treatments and therapies should work to encourage this process. Natural cures, good bowel habits, and good hygiene are all important for health. Numerous complementary and alternative practices, such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, homeopathy, massage, and clinical nutrition also have a role in naturopathy.

The ideas behind naturopathy date back to ancient times. However, they were introduced in the United States only about 100 years ago. The story is that a German named Benedict Lust had been living in the United States when he contracted tuberculosis. He decided to go home to Germany to research a cure. There he studied the ideas of fellow German researcher Vincent Preissnitz and Austrian Dominican friar Father Kneipp. As a result, he found not only a way to personal recovery and health but also the basis for a complete system of health and healing. Lust returned to the United States and introduced "naturopathy" to this country. He founded the American School of Naturopathy in New York in 1902.

Today, naturopathic doctors are trained and licensed in the U.S. They take four years of graduate level courses in a naturopathic medical school recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Naturopaths receive training in the same areas of study in conventional medicine as medical doctors. In addition, they learn about holistic approaches, with a strong emphasis on disease prevention. Their studies include clinical nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal medicine, natural childbirth, hydrotherapy, and manipulative therapy. They must pass a professional board exam to become a licensed Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (N.D.).

Naturopaths can treat a variety of health conditions. These include colitis, asthma, menopause, flu, obesity, chronic fatigue syndrome, earaches, and allergies. If a health problem requires the care of a medical specialist, most naturopaths will refer you to a more conventional medical doctor.

If you decide to visit a naturopathic doctor, here's what you should understand before you go. All naturopaths consider the mental, emotional, and social aspects of their patients as well as the physical. A naturopathic doctor will examine your strengths and weaknesses in all of these areas to see how these influence your health. He or she will also perform a physical exam and ask you to provide a thorough health history. If you are sick, you will need to give a complete description of your symptoms. You may need standard medical tests, elimination diets, or supplements to focus the diagnosis.

Relaxation, massage, yoga, herbal remedies, or homeopathy are some standard treatments that may be prescribed. You may also be advised to try vitamin and mineral supplements, hydrotherapy, traditional Chinese medicine, or stress management. Natural treatments such as fresh air, exercise, and massage are common prescriptions as well. Be wary of recommendations for excessive diet changes or fasting, and enemas. Although some naturopathic therapies have been shown to have health benefits, others lack scientific evidence (for example, detoxifying treatments like enemas).

Naturopathy is currently licensed in only 11 states: Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. In 1999, state legislation to license naturopaths was introduced in Colorado, Idaho, Massachusetts, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. Tennessee and South Carolina are the only states that prohibit naturopathy.

Since not all states require licenses, make sure that you seek out a trained naturopath. Look for someone who is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. To find one in your area, call the AANP's referral line at 206-298-0125 or visit the Web site at And be sure to let your physician know that you are interested in pursuing naturopathic treatments.

Suggested Resources

Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (Revised Second Edition) by Michael T. Murray and Joseph E. Pizzorno (Prima Publishing 1997)


Hydrotherapy: the use of water to promote healing. This includes things like drinking natural spring water, taking baths, and exercising in water.


American Association of Naturopathic Physicians Web site. "What is Naturopathic Medicine?" and "What Is a Naturopathic Physician?" Available at

American Medical Association Web site. American Medical News. "'New kind of doctor' seeks wider roles." Available at

An Integrative Medicine Primer. "Naturopathy." Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, pp. 11-12.

Shealy, CN. The Complete Family Guide to Alternative Medicine: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Natural Healing. New York, New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc.; 1996.

The Soothing Power of Kava: A Root for Anxiety Disorder Sufferers

If you are one of the more than 19 million adults in this country who suffer from an anxiety disorder, you may be familiar with the commonly prescribed benzodiazepine drugs. While these are effective and fast acting, you may also be familiar with their undesired side effects, primarily, their tendency to cause severe drowsiness and to lead to dependency. Fortunately, researchers are examining the herb kava, or kava kava as it is popularly known, as an alternative treatment.

The Polynesians of the South Pacific have used kava for more than 3,000 years. They discovered that a concoction made from the root of the kava plant could help calm a person without reducing mental sharpness. The results of several clinical studies have now backed up the Polynesians' practices. Kava has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety as effectively as some common benzodiazepine-type drugs, but without the side effects. In fact, any side effects of using kava seem slight, although they have not been thoroughly researched yet (so far experts have determined that chronic abuse of kava can lead to liver damage and yellowing of the skin).

So consider taking kava as an alternative treatment if you suffer from an anxiety disorder. If you are currently taking a prescription, talk to your doctor about kava as an alternative. A standardized capsule of kava containing 60 mg to 120 mg of kavalactones is the recommended dosage. It may take a month before you notice a change in your condition. If you do not see results after three months, seek further medical advice.

Note: Low doses of kava can help you stay aware and active but not tense; at higher dosages, however, you may become sleepy. Since kava is known to depress the nervous system, until it is better researched, do not take it with alcohol or other depressants.


Anxiety disorder: Acute feelings of fear, uneasiness, or distress for no apparent reason. Panic attacks or various phobias, such as a fear of heights, may characterize an anxiety disorder.

Benzodiazepine: Family of drugs commonly used to treat anxiety.

Kavalactones: The active ingredient in kava. The amount of kavalactones per kava capsule may vary from one manufacturer to another, so look at the label to make sure the percent of kavalactones in one dose is equal to 60 to 120 mg kavalactones. For example, a 100 mg capsule of kava containing 70% kavalactones has 70 mg of kavalactones.

Suggested Resources

Kava: Nature's Answer to Stress, Anxiety, and Insomnia by Hlya Cass and Terrence McNally (Prima Publishing, 1998)

Kava: The Miracle Antianxiety Herb by Ray Sahelian (St Martins Press, 1998)

All About Kava (Frequently Asked Questions) by Earl Mindell (Avery Publishing Group, 1999)


Blumental M, senior ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin, Tex: The American Botanical Council and Boston, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998.

Integrative Medicine Access: Professional Reference to Conditions, Herbs & Supplements. Newton, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

Jussofie A, Schmiz A, Hiernke C. Kavapyrone enriched extract from Piper methysticum as modulator of the GABA binding side in different regions of the rate brain. Psychopharmacology. 1994; 116:469-474.

Volz HP, Kieser M. Kava-Kava extract WS 1490 versus placebo in anxiety disorders-a randomized placebo-controlled 25-week outpatient trial. Pharmacopsychiat. 1997, 30:1-5.

Woelk H, Kapoula O, Lehrl S, et al. Treatment of anxiety patients. Kava special extract WS 1490 in anxiety patients is comparable to the benzodiazepine oxazepam a double-blind study. Zeitschrift Allgemeined. 1993; 69:271-277.

Ginger: An Effective Remedy for Osteoarthritis?

At least 20 million Americans suffer from the joint disease known as osteoarthritis, a condition characterized by the breakdown of cartilage. Cartilage is the substance that cushions and protects the ends of bones. As it is worn away, the bones rub against each other, causing pain, tenderness, swelling, and limited movement. The most commonly affected joints are those in the hands, feet, knees, and hips. Conventional medications help to relieve symptoms; however, they may also have undesirable side effects. But there is good news on the complementary and alternative medicine front. The natural remedies glucosamine and chondroitin look promising and are being further researched. Many people have also turned to ginger to combat the pain of osteoarthritis. Science has already shown several health benefits to adding ginger to the diet, but does research support using ginger for osteoarthritis?

In a recent clinical trial, ginger (Zingiber officinale) extract was evaluated for the treatment of knee and hip osteoarthritis. Participants in the study received ginger, ibuprofen, or placebo for three 3-week periods. The ginger and ibuprofen treatment groups had less pain than the group taking placebo during the first period. However, no significant differences were observed between ginger and placebo when the results of all three periods were tallied. No serious side effects were associated with taking ginger. In another medical journal, two researchers reported on a study of people taking ginger to treat the pain of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Of 46 people, more than three-quarters experienced some relief from arthritic pain and swelling. None of the people in the study reported adverse side effects. In animal studies, ginger has been shown to reduce joint swelling and inflammation.

The bottom line: ginger appears to help reduce the pain and swelling of osteoarthritis, with few or no side effects. It may not be, however, as effective as other conventional medications. More clinical trials with a greater number of participants and longer testing periods are needed. If you choose to try ginger therapy, consider adding one of the following to your daily routine:

* ginger tea: 2 to 4 grams of fresh root, steeped covered 10 to 20 minutes, two to three cups
* ginger capsules: follow manufacturer's label recommendations
* 1.5 to 3.0 milliliters of a tincture made from ginger extracts
* add a drop of ginger oil to massage oil and rub it directly into your painful joint(s)

If you are pregnant, be sure to talk to your doctor before taking ginger supplements. Since supplements are not currently regulated by the FDA, choose a standardized product from a company you trust. As always, work with your doctor to determine which osteoarthritis treatments are right for you.


Tincture: A preparation made from alcohol (or water and alcohol), containing an herb strength of 1 part herb to 5 parts solvent or 1 part herb to 10 parts solvent.


Bliddal H, Rosetzsky A, Schlichting P, et al. A randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over study of ginger extracts and ibuprofen in osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2000;8(1):9-12.

Friedrich, MJ. Steps toward understanding, alleviating osteoarthritis will help aging population. JAMA Web site. Accessed at on January 17, 2000.

Integrative Medicine Access: Professional Reference to Conditions, Herbs & Supplements. Newton, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

Sharma JN, Srivastava KC, Gan EK. Suppressive effects of eugenol and ginger oil on arthritic rats. Pharmacology. 1994;49(5):314-318.

Srivastava KC, Mustafa T. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) in rheumatism and musculoskeletal disorders. Med Hypotheses. 1992;39(4);342-348.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Aphrodisiac Foods To Stimulate Your Erogenous Zones

Lately, more and more people are interested in bringing natural and alternative methods of staying healthy into their daily routine. We believe that living in a state of wellness includes physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual fitness. Sure losing weight and getting in shape will boost your ego and sexual prowess, but what about eating your way to better sex?

Over the last few centuries a variety of foods and herbs have been recognized for their abilities to stir the libido as well as their resemblance to body parts. This aroused our interest to investigate the facts and myths surrounding food and erotic stimulation.Named after the Greek Goddess of Love Aphrodite, an aphrodisiac is something that arouses or intensifies your sexual desire. The actual stimulant can take a variety of forms: food, herbs, beverages, drugs, scents or devices. Oysters, the most commonly known food aphrodisiac, are high in zinc, which is needed for vaginal lubrication and testosterone production. Chocolate, dubbed the 'food of the gods' by the Aztecs, contains phytochemicals that help increase blood flow and produce endorphins.

Although scientific evidence to support the relationship between food and sexual vigor is sparse, we found a wealth of folkloric information on the subject. One of our favorite and most quoted sources used to prepare this article comes from InterCourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook, created by Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge (Terrace Publishing). We?d like to thank the authors and photographer, Ben Fink for sharing the contents of what we hope will add more spice and delight to your love life.

Common Aphrodisiacs Origin/History and Physical Properties
Banana Considering the size and shape of this fruit ? need we say more? A popular aphrodisiac, bananas are also rich in potassium and B vitamins, which help improve circulation.
Chocolate (cacao bean) Chocolate was so highly praised by the Aztecs that they celebrated the cacao bean harvest with wild orgies. Chocolate contains PEA, a substance known for abilities to create a feeling of euphoria by stimulating endorphin production.
Ginseng Research has shown that ginseng stimulates and increases endocrine activity and relaxes the central nervous system, which could lead to heightened sexual response.
Honey Ancient Egyptian medicines often included honey because it was believed to cure sterility and impotence. It?s also prized for its sweet, succulent and smooth texture.
Oysters Some prize the oyster for its visual resemblance to key body parts; others have a passion for the raw sensuality of consuming them from the shell. Oysters are rich in protein and low in fat so they won?t slow you down in the bedroom. They are also filled with zinc, which is crucial to testosterone production.
Wine Wine has been thought to ?arouse erections? and relax inhibitions but if you drink too much it will inhibit your desires and put you to sleep.
Herbs & Spices Origin/History and Physical Properties
Anise Spicy and sweet, anise seed is the flavor prevalent in most of today?s black licorice. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed anise increased your sexual desire ? most likely due to the fact that is it emotionally uplifting and stimulating.
Basil The Haitians claim this herb came from their Goddess of Love, Erzulie. Women of ancient cultures sprinkled their breasts with pulverized basil to keep a husband?s roving eyes in check.
Chiles & Hot Spices Have you ever considered your body?s reaction to eating hot peppers and spicy foods ? increased blood flow, pumping heart rate, flushed flesh and sweaty pores? Oddly similar to what you may experience during an impromptu roll in the hay.
Coriander Coriander, the seed of the Cilantro plant, is said to stimulate the ?sexual appetite.? There is a story in the Arabian Nights of a merchant who had been childless for 40 years and was cured by a concoction that included coriander.
Garlic Traditionally known as a cure-all, the warmth of garlic is also reported to arouse sexual intentions.
Ginger Sweet, spicy and exotic in flavor, eating ginger also excites the circulatory system.
Licorice Ancient Chinese medicines have included licorice, which is thought to enhance love and lust (Anise, Fennel Seed)
Nutmeg This highly prized spice is considered by Chinese women to be an aphrodisiac, yet too much can produce a hallucinogenic effect.
Rosemary Choose a perfume or candle with the unique, woodsy scent of rosemary to heighten awareness and produce feelings of clarity and confidence in your lover. Warning: You may experience powerful lovemaking. Torn pieces of a fresh baguette dipped into rosemary infused olive oil enliven the palate as well.
Vanilla Lust is believed to be the result of just the scent or flavor of vanilla.
Vegetables Origin/History and Physical Properties
Artichokes Guarded by thorny leaves, the soft meat of this vegetable plays hard to get, as do many lovers, making the eating experience all the more enticing and playful.
Asparagus The phallic shape is this vegetable?s most apparent sensual property, but it?s also packed with hormone-stimulating nutrients: potassium, phosphorus, calcium and vitamin E.
Leeks Similar in texture yet milder in flavor to garlic and onions, leeks can produce feelings of warmth and arouse sexual desire.
Fruits Origin/History and Physical Properties
Figs Soft, plump and delicious, the pinkish-red flesh of a fresh fig has been said to stir desire for what lies above the inner thighs of a woman. Fresh figs can be enjoyed from June to October.
Grapes Envision a scantily clad Roman woman feeding her man a grape and you will know why this plump, juicy fruit is considered to be an aphrodisiac. Try the seedless variety for maximum enjoyment.
Mango An exotic, luscious, and sexy fruit! Bite into the bright orange flesh and let the juice run down your chin. Mangoes are also packed with antioxidants.
Raspberries A healthy food you can hand feed your lover, raspberries are high in vitamin C, which arouses blood flow and promotes good circulation.
Strawberries Nutritionally, they are loaded with vitamin C, which helps with blood flow and circulation. Erotic literature often describes these sweet and tart berries as fruit nipples. Try them dipped in chocolate for a double dose of aphrodisiac.
Miscellaneous Origin/History and Physical Properties
Coffee Coffee is well known for its ability to stimulate the body and the mind if you need to prepare for an ?all-nighter.? But serve in small amounts because excessive intake of caffeine can inhibit libido.
Pine nuts Pine nuts have a rich buttery flavor and are also high in zinc. They have been believed to stimulate the libido as far back as Medieval times.

Zinc – A Cure for the Common Cold?

In the US there are about a billion cases on the common cold each year. The average adult suffers from a cold 2-4 times per year and for children this can be as often as eight times a year. Recently there has been a great deal of both research and enthusiasm over zinc gluconate being able to shorten the duration of the common cold. The theory is that zinc prevents the replication of the cold virus as well as prevents the virus from entering into cells.

Zinc is an essential mineral found in almost all cells. Zinc supports a healthy immune system, promotes the healing of wounds, and helps to maintain our sense of taste and smell. It is needed for DNA synthesis and supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence.

Since zinc is so important for all these other body functions what are some sources other than zinc lozenges. There are a variety of sources of zinc in our everyday diets. Foods such as meat and poultry provide the majority of zinc in the American diet. Other sources of zinc include beans, nuts, some seafood, whole grains, dairy products and some fortified breakfast cereals. Oysters happen to contain more zinc per serving than any other food.

A deficiency in zinc is not very common. Vegetarians tend to need as much as 50% more zinc than non-vegetarians because of the lower absorption of zinc from plant foods. Signs of a zinc deficiency can be hair loss, diarrhea, eye and skin lesions, and loss of appetite and weight.

How does zinc effect our immune system? A severe zinc deficiency can decrease the effectiveness of our immune system. It is required for the development and activation of T-lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell that helps our body fight infection.

Although there is currently a great deal of publicity for zinc and its ability to battle the common cold the studies remain inconclusive. Most studies are being done to see if zinc lozenges and/or supplements can decrease the severity or duration of the common cold. The most important thing to remember is that as helpful as it may be, zinc can be equally as harmful if taken in large quantities. Zinc is an essential nutrient, but it may also be toxic in high dosages. Be sure not to take zinc lozenges or supplements long term and not more than the recommended number on the box.

Introduction to Alternative Medicine

'Faced with the decision on what form of alternative medicine to use, I write for your advice?' she wrote, detailing her husband's rheumatoid arthritis. This is a case in point for many folks who have reached a crossroads at which Western medicines have failed them.

Alternative medicines, and in particular Traditional Chinese Medicine, are concerned with re-balancing the whole person, treating body, mind and spirit; both healing, nourishing and tonifying Qi, commonly translated as "our vital energy," and restoring the patient's control over their own therapies and medicines, all of course while providing the necessary guidance and adjustments by a licensed practitioner.

Our Three Branches of medicine are among the world's oldest organized forms of medicine. Concerned that without proper diet or exercises or supplementation we would in fact age much faster, wither and die, the ancient herbologists and healers developed the Three Branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine: Qi Gong, Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine which, working together, bring wellness to the patient, restore health and longevity.

In Brief...

Loosely termed, Qi Gong is a form of exercise. It aims to revitalize the internal vital points located in a sort of invincible chain throughout the body. These in turn, when activated correctly respond in a beneficial manner to aid and recuperate the body much faster. The breathing exercises incorporated into Qi Gong (pronounced Chi-kung) provides us with the essential breathing techniques that relax and benefit the body, mind and spirit, all the while providing us with a centralized focus into ourselves and the world around us.

Acupuncture, or the science of nerve stimulation by needlepoint, is perhaps the better known of the Three Branches here in the West, perhaps due to our fascination with the exotic. Consisting of the insertion of tiny needles at designated points for specific illnesses, it employs patterns that help rebalance the body and the organs. It is especially useful in cases of pain, injury and stress and is usually accompanied by traditional herbal formulas to speed-up healing and success.

Herbal therapy is the oldest of the Three Branches, dating to pre-historic time. It is perhaps the best documented, yet the least accepted and understood in the Western world.

Over centuries the Chinese developed a system of diagnosis that often baffles the uninitiated. It takes approximately 7 years to become a doctor (MD) in the West versus 12 years to become an OMD (Oriental Medical Doctor).

As for the case study at the beginning of this article, a practitioner will combine all the therapies to balance the patient's constitutional confirmation. The key of proper diagnosing lies in the proper interpretation of each individual's constitutional confirmation and the interpretation of the symptoms as a pattern. It is the goal of the practitioner to restore health by eliminating the symptoms and re-balancing Qi, allowing circulation of the blood and its nutrients to do the rest, aided by supplemental herbal formulas, proper diet and proper exercise.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, we are alive and healthy because our bodies maintain a state of harmony. It is this harmony practitioners seek to restore. When a person is healthy, equilibrium is maintained; but when this is damaged and not restored, illness and disease take hold.

Friday, July 20, 2007

SWEET CICELY: This licorice-tasting herb can be used in many recipes and was once used in furniture polish.

In the garden, sweet cicely is one of the first herbs to appear in spring. The beautiful, fern-shaped leaves are followed in early summer by small heads of tiny white flowers, on a plant that can reach five feet in height. This perennial herb prefers cool, moist, shady soil, and performs well during cold winters. Like parsley, the seeds take a while to germinate, so you may want to get them started with a batch of windowsill seeds in February or March, or you can try sowing them where the plants are to be grown outdoors in the fall.

Perhaps the best way to grow and propagate this herb, however, is by root division. Divide the plants in late fall when the leaves have died back (to avoid excess damage to the root) and plant out the divisions during the fall so they have all winter to establish themselves. Once established, the herb self-seeds freely and can overtake a garden bed if not watched, but this may not be much of a problem if you harvest the flavorful seeds for use in the kitchen.

The whole plant is edible and has strong overtones of licorice. Sweet cicely's seeds can be used both when green and when ripe. Use the green seeds to add sweetness and spice to fruit salads and other treats, like ice cream or pie. The ripe, dry seeds can be added to almost any fruit dish, as they help reduce the acidity of tart fruits. Try replacing more common spices, like nutmeg or cinnamon, with sweet cicely and see what happens!

The leaves are best when used fresh, and add snap to anything from soups to omelettes. They're also an excellent addition to the classic bouquet garni. The root is delicious as well and, when peeled and grated, adds a unique touch to green salads, try pairing it with a little grated celeriac.

This sweet herb has great potential as an herbal sugar substitute (much like stevia, but not as sweet). It can be used to cut the amount of sugar needed in some recipes in half. Use about a tablespoon of the dried or fresh herb, then add sugar to taste (about 50 percent of what the recipe calls for). It also makes a perfect sweetener for herb tea.

Sweet cicely has been popular for ages in Europe. The highly scented leaves are a lovely addition to potpourri; the flowers are preferred by bees for a flavorful, extra-sweet honey; and the oily seeds can be ground and mixed with beeswax to make a fragrant furniture polish (a popular practice in medieval times).

Medicinally, the whole plant (especially the root) has been used by folk herbalists as an overall health tonic for people of all ages. Sweet cicely is reputed to be a good digestive aid. Antiseptic ointments and decoctions have been made from the root for treating small external wounds like bites and scrapes. There is a version of sweet cicely that is native to North America, Osmorhiza longistylis; its culinary uses are similar, yet its medicinal uses are unknown.

If you're a true herb nut who's always on the lookout for another interesting plant to add to your collection, sweet cicely will make a perfect addition to your herb garden. It will thrive in that shady corner where nothing but low-growing, sweet woodruff seems to do well. You'll be welcomed by a ferny flavorful herb that tolerates harsh winters, what more could you ask for?

Carrot Soup with Sweet Cicely

A pale golden bisque, perfect for a light luncheon or as an elegant opening to a feast.

4 teaspoons butter or margarine
1/3 cup shredded cicely root
2 cups shredded carrots
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
1 medium potato, scrubbed and shredded
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
White pepper to taste
3 cups 2% milk
Orange zest and cicely sprigs for garnish

1. In a large nonstick pot, melt butter and add cicely root, carrots, onion, zest, and potato. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are somewhat limp, about 10 minutes. Add water and salt, bring to a boil, cover, and cook another 15 minutes.

2. Stir in pepper and milk. Puree, in batches if necessary, using a food processor or blender. Adjust seasonings and return to pot to reheat, if necessary. Garnish with orange zest and cicely sprigs.

Makes about 8 cups.

L/O PER CUP: 106 CAL (31% from fat), 4g PROT, 4g FAT, 14g CARB, 326mg SOD, 12mg CHOL, 2g FIBER.

STEVIA: This Paraguayan herb packs 20 times the sweetening power of sugar with no assimilation problems for diabetic

Mother Nature has given those of us with figures that go beyond "Victoria's Secret" a great gift-a natural sweetener with virtually no calories or aftertaste, that's economical to use. Stevia, also called the "sweet herb of Paraguay," is a perennial shrub of the aster family, with incredibly sweet, small leaves. The leaves when dried and ground fine can be used as a natural sugar substitute. A teaspoon of dried stevia leaves is sweeter than a cup of sugar-without the calories.

Stevia Origins

Stevia leaves contain a compound, stevioside, estimated to be 300 to 400 times sweeter than sugar. It is stable in both hot and acidic conditions, which is perfect for use in cooking. South Americans have used this native sweetener in their traditional dish mate since the sixteenth century, and indigenous Paraguay indians have traditionally used the herb to sweeten bitter beverages and as an ingredient in medicinal herbal teas.

During World War II, when sugar was scarce and rationed, stevia was planted in England as a possible substitute. Attempts were made to introduce stevia to the U.S. as well, but tight war-time shipping regulations and a not-so-health-conscious public discouraged the effort. After the war, Japan continued stevia research, and since the 1970s, has declared it a safe addition to over 70 food products, including candy, ice cream, cookies, soft drinks, pickles, and chewing gum. Today stevia is used as a sweetener and food additive in many countries, including Paraguay, Brazil, Korea, Thailand, and China. No negative clinical reports have appeared in any of these countries where stevia is readily available.

Stevia in the U.S.

The Stevia Company of Illinois was formed in 1976 to explore the potential of this natural sweetener as a part of the newly health-conscious American market. The company worked on better propagation techniques, hybridized more easily-grown varieties including an American stevia, and acquired patents for the use of stevia extract derivatives in the U.S. as "flavor enhancers." Throughout the 1980s, stevia's sweet leaves could be found in popular commercial teas as a touch of herbal sweetness.

Then in May of 1991, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration put an import ban on stevia to stop its use as an unapproved food additive. As defined by the FDA, food additives are considered unsafe until proven safe by domestic toxicity research.

Although Japan has not discovered any toxicity throughout its extensive research in the everyday use of stevia, the FDA will not accept the results of foreign tests on food, drugs, or herbs. And since herbs are not patentable, funding for herbal product research in the U.S. is scant.

Thanks to the Dietary Supplement act of 1994, and a petition from herbal product manufacturer SunRider International, the FDA approved the sale and distribution of stevia as a safe dietary supplement in September of 1995. This gratefully reversed the FDA's 1991 import alert and made stevia once again available to the general U.S. public, albeit in a revised form.

Stevia as a Sweetener

Today, liquid or powdered stevia is sold in health food stores as a dietary supplement, according to current FDA labeling regulations. You can, of course, use it as you please as a sweetener. A sugar-free, no-calorie natural sweetener is especially helpful for people who are diabetic, prone to yeast infections, or trying to lose a few extra pounds by controlling calories.

Add stevia powder or liquid a pinch or drop at a time to tea, coffee, dairy products, or juices and sweeten to taste. Some people detect a slight licorice aftertaste, depending on potency. Finely grind the dried leaves in a mortar and pestle or in your food processor. Add 1 teaspoon of dried leaves to 1 cup of boiling water to make a sweet liquid. Strain, and keep liquid refrigerated. The dried leaves are not quite as potent as the extracts, but they're plenty strong enough.

Because stevioside is highly stable in fruit acids, fruit vinegars are easily sweetened with this remarkable herb. Simply add cornstarch (dissolved in a bit of water) and a little stevia to mint or raspberry vinegar for a quick ice cream sauce. A little diluted liquid stevia added to herbed vinegar makes a dandy "lite" salad dressing at a fraction of the cost. If you like a touch of sugar in tomato dishes, baked beans or barbeque sauce, a tiny bit of stevia is the ticket. Adapting favorite family recipes and baked goods to stevia may take several trials. Baked goods made without sugar don't brown well and need to be checked with a toothpick for doneness. Sugar adds volume to a recipe as well, so the liquid and dry ingredients will need to be drastically adjusted when just a dash of stevia is used. As yet, an easy stevia/sugar conversion chart is not available, but recipes and cookbooks are.

Where to Find Recipes

Fortunately, there are a few cookbooks beginning to surface incorporating this new sweetener that will take the guess-work out of recipe adjustment.

The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates and Linda Schatz contains recipes that use stevia instead of sugar as part of a no-sugar diet to help control candidiasis (yeast overgrowth). Body Ecology recommends Nicolette Dumke's books, Allergy Cooking with Ease and Easy Bread Making for Special Diets (See Stevia Resources), as excellent sources for stevia recipes including sugar-free cakes and cookies.

Growing Stevia

Growing this 1-1/2-foot high mountain shrub is not an easy task. Stevia thrives in high altitudes, is temperamental to grow and rarely sets viable seeds and few greenhouses carry them. A substitute plant to consider, which is more available and far easier to grow, is Lippia dulcis. Very much like stevia, a single leaf will sweeten a cup of tea. Both plants are very tender (zone 9 or 10) or are suitable for greenhouse growing.

Traditional Medicinal Uses

Throughout it's history in Paraguay and South America, stevia (in its whole form-not stevioside) has developed a traditional and clinical reputation for containing various health and skin care benefits. In South America, stevia leaves are sold as an aid for diabetes and hypoglycemia as a blood sugar regulator. It has also has been touted as a bacteria inhibitor that helps fight tooth decay and gum disease (as well as eliminating the need for tooth-decaying sugar).

Water-based extracts of stevia have been used in natural skin care products to soften skin and heal blemishes, as stevia appears to contain anti-bacterial agents.

If you choose to incorporate stevia into your diet, whether it's a drop in your tea or a sugar-free baking solution, more recipes and easy-to-use powders and extracts are becoming available every day. It's certainly is nice to know Mother Nature has a solution for those of us born with a sweet tooth, too.


Dried Leaves: Steep 1 teaspoon of dried leaves in 1 cup boiling water for 5 minutes. Cool, strain and refrigerate the sweet liquid.

Liquid Sweetener: Two drops liquid = 1 teaspoon sugar in sweetness when made from dried leaves or powder. Some prepared liquids may vary. Experiment with a few drops at a time to determine your personal preference.

Finely Ground Powder: 1 tsp. ground stevia = 1 cup sugar in sweetness. To make a liquid solution, dissolve 1 teaspoon stevia powder into 3 tablespoons water. Refrigerate in a dropper bottle.

Herb-Sweet Corn Bread

Replacing the 2 whole eggs with 4 egg whites will result in a lighter-hued bread with only 3 grams of fat per serving.

1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup cornmeal
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon stevia powder
1 cup skim milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons canola oil
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 425° and spray a 9 by 9-inch baking pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and stevia. In another bowl whisk together milk, eggs, and oil.

2. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour liquid ingredients into the well and stir until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes 9 servings.

L/O PER SERVING: 156 CAL (26% from fat), 5g PROT, 4.5g FAT, 23g CARB, 455.7mg SOD, 61mg CHOL, 1.5g FIBER.

Sugar-Free Ginger Ale

To serve this refreshing sugar-free beverage, mix 2 to 4 tablespoons of ginger syrup into an iced glass of sparkling water.

3-1/2 cups water
4 inches of ginger root, peeled and chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 tablespoons vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon stevia powder
Sparkling water

In a large pot over medium high heat, rapidly boil ginger in water for 10 minutes. Strain out ginger pieces and pour ginger liquid into a jar; stir in vanilla, lemon extract, and stevia. Let cool and store in the refrigerator.

Makes 3 cups.

V PER TABLESPOON: 12 CAL (0% from fat), trg PROT, 0g FAT, 3g CARB, 10mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 0.1g FIBER.

ROSEMARY: A common ingredient in Italian food, rosemary also helps toothaches, nervous disorders, and cleaning the skin.

Shakespeare wrote, "there's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember..." Rosemary has been the symbol of remembrance, love, and death since ancient Greece and Rome, where its use in marriage and funeral rites signified enduring affection. Greek students wore rosemary in their hair to help their memory during examinations. Wreaths worn during festivals contained rosemary, and magic spells often called for it. To prevent nightmares, people put rosemary under their pillows. Hellenistic and Roman gardens almost always contained this evergreen Mediterranean native.

The "mary" in rosemary led to the herb's association with the mother of Jesus, although the name actually comes from the Latin for "dew of the sea."

Legend states that the light blue flowers of the rosemary plant received their color when Mary, fleeing to Egypt, placed her blue cloak over a rosemary bush.

Medieval homemakers grew rosemary in their kitchen gardens, using it to scent water. Rosemary was strewn in prisons to prevent contagion. Since the eleventh century, rosemary has been used for toothaches, nervous disorders, cleaning the skin, or as a tonic, to cure headaches and stomach aches, to prevent baldness, and, externally, to heal sprains and bruises. Nicholas Culpeper wrote in 1653 that rosemary "quickens a weak memory ... is a remedy for windiness in the stomach ... and takes away spots, marks, and scars in the skin."

Today, gardeners grow rosemary mainly for culinary purposes. Rosemary imparts a pungent flavor to foods and goes well with salads, potatoes, peas, and spinach. Add it to roasted root vegetables and soups; it responds well to long cooking. Crushed rosemary enhances citrus fruit, and it gives a piny flavor to pizza crust, focaccia, pasta, biscuits, and dumplings. Grilled vegetables, like tomatoes, may be sprinkled with rosemary. Toss rosemary sprigs onto the coals to impart its flavor to any grilled food; apply barbecue sauce with a branch of rosemary, or skewer the food on the sprigs and grill. (To do this, pierce the food, such as a potato, with a skewer; remove the skewer and replace it with the rosemary sprig.)

Rosemary flavors wine, butter, marinades, oil, and vinegar and can be used for making herb tea, vinegar, and jelly. It can also be used for malting herb tea, jelly, and potpourri. The flowers are edible, too. Rosemary acts as a natural insect repellent in the garden and scents soaps and perfumes.

To dry rosemary in a microwave oven, place a few sprigs between paper towels and heat on high for two to three minutes until dry and crumbly. Or use the more traditional method of hanging small sprigs upside down in a dark place until they're dry and the "needles" separate easily from the stem. Pack in airtight containers. Fresh sprigs also freeze well.

Rosemary looks like a small, twisted pine tree with the addition of blue flowers in spring and summer. Older plants become woody and gnarled. Several varieties of rosemary exist. 'Prostratus,' also called dwarf, or creeping rosemary, makes a good ground or bank cover (it controls erosion) or low hedge-it reaches a height of two feet and will spread four to eight feet. It also works well in rock gardens and trails over walls wonderfully. 'Lockwood de Forest' resembles 'Prostratus,'" but has paler, brighter leaves and bluer flowers. 'Collingwood Ingram,' with a height of two and a half feet, works well as a taller ground cover. As an added bonus, its bright blue violet flowers add color to the garden. 'Alba' and 'Miss Jessup's Upright' both have white flowers. The latter is useful for hedging. For real height, grow 'Sawyer"s Selection'-it can reach eight feet and has large, mauve-blue flowers.

Rosemary can be grown from seeds, although germination is erratic - propagation by cuttings or layering works best. Once rooted, plants should be spaced two to three feet apart. Rosemary prefers well- drained, alkaline soil and hot sun. In limey soil, the plants will be smaller, but more fragrant. Except in the desert, rosemary needs little water once established. Too much feeding or watering results in woodiness. Prune it lightly and protect plants from cold winds. Rosemary grows well in containers and in cold winter areas should be grown in them; so the plant can be brought indoors when the weather turns colder and grown under plant lights.

Rosemary has so many uses, from medicinal to fragrant to culinary, that it's a must in your yard. Whether you're planting a rock garden or herb garden, follow Shakespeare's sage advice and remember to plant some rosemary.

Sweet Rosemary Rolls

Serve these tasty rolls with Herbed Vegetable Noodle Soup for a light and satisfying lunch.

1 package dry active yeast
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 6-inch sprig fresh rosemary, finely chopped, or 2 tablespoons dried
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 to 3 cups unbleached white flour

1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon warm water

1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine yeast, honey, and water. Cover and set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes, or until foamy. Add oil, salt, rosemary, and whole wheat flour and mix well. Stir in white flour 1/2 cup at a time until a stiff dough has formed.

2. Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, adding flour as necessary, until dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and set in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

3. Preheat oven to 400° and dust a baking sheet with cornmeal. Punch down dough and divide into 8 pieces. Form pieces into balls and place on prepared sheet. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.

4. In a cup or small bowl, combine honey with water and stir until dissolved. Brush rolls lightly with glaze and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Makes 8 rolls.

V PER ROLL: 269 CAL (7% from fat), 7g PROT, 2g FAT, 55g CARB, 139mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 4g FIBER

Herbed Vegetable Noodle Soup

Prepare this wholesome soup while the rosemary roll dough is rising.

10 cups vegetable stock
2 large carrots, sliced
2 medium onions, sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
10 peppercorns
2 sprigs rosemary, snipped into pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic chives
6 ounces noodles (eggless)

1. In a large pot, bring the stock to a boil. Add carrots, onions, celery, garlic, peppercorns, and rosemary. Simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add chives and noodles and continue simmering until noodles are done, 3 to 10 minutes depending on the type of noodle.

Makes 6 servings.

V PER SERVING: 123.1 CAL (15% from fat), 28g PROT, 2g FAT, 23.7g CARB, 190mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 2.1g FIBER

MUSTARD: This verstaile herb can be plastered on hot dogs for flavor or on to chests to alleviate congestion.

Pinched in curries, slathered on hotdogs, plastered on chests, or chopped into stir-fries, mustard has been recognized throughout the ages as one of the most diverse (and common) additions to both the dinner table and the medicine cabinet. It has been used in the Indus Valley since ancient times. The Sumerians ate the greens, and Aesclepius, the Greek god of medicine, and Ceres, goddess of agriculture and seeds, are said to have introduced mustard to humankind.

The Romans pounded the seeds and mixed them with wine for the beginnings of the prepared mustard we know today. In fact, the English word "mustard" is derived from two Latin words, mustum ardens, meaning "burning must," and must referring to the name for fermenting grape juice. Mustard grew in popularity during the Middle Ages, and by the 17th century, France had become the center of mustard-preparing activity. Dijon was granted exclusive mustard manufacturing rights in 1634.

Mustard Medicine

For as long as mustard has spiced our food, it has also been an important item in our medicine cabinets. When mixed with warm water, the powdered seeds react to form an essential oil that releases heat. The active ingredients are an enzyme, myrosin, and a glycoside, sinallein. Mustard is known to herbalists as a good laxative and a treatment for bronchitis, pleurisy, hypothermia, and as a gargle to relieve sore throats. In the classic herbal Back to Eden, Jethro Kloss suggests using it in a foot bath to increase circulation in the feet.

Mustard plasters have been used as home treatments for congestion for many years. One recipe calls for one part mustard powder to four parts whole wheat flour mixed with enough warm water to make a paste. The theory is that irritating the skin will draw blood to the surface and relieve inflammation in deeper tissue. Mustard users are cautioned against spreading the paste directly on the skin as it will cause the skin to blister. Rather, spread the paste on paper or lint cloth and lay it against the chest until the skin turns a rosy color. Remove the plaster to let the skin cool and then repeat. Adding egg white to the mixture will reduce the chance of blistering.

Mustard has also been used to treat sprains and rheumatic joints, headaches, and toothaches. A very small amount is said to stimulate the appetite and aid digestion, but this must be used with care as too much can be an irritant.

Spice Up Your Meal

Photo of Mustard Herb But suppose you don't ache. Suppose you'd rather savor the flavor of mustard than use it for medicine. Eat on! But don't limit yourself to the bright paste we smear on hot dogs. Branch out and try something new. Mustard seeds themselves come in a variety of "pungencies"-white mustard (Brassica alba) is considered mildly pungent, whereas black mustard (Brassica nigra or Sinapis nigra) is strongly pungent. White and yellow mustard seeds are used whole in pickling and chutneys. Black mustard seeds are often used in Indian dishes and are heated until they pop resoundingly. The French use brown mustard in their creations, whereas Southerners prefer to grow the brown mustard (Brassica juncea) for its greens, which are also popular in Asian stir-fries.

Growing Your Own

Although various mustard seeds and powders can be found in the spice section of most grocery stores, you can, of course, grow your own. Mustard seeds are sown directly in the soil in spring or late summer. Make certain not to use seeds that have been processed for eating. Members of the cabbage family, Cruciferae, mustard plants are hardy annuals that like sun and well-drained soil. The edible varieties grow four to six feet tall with yellow flowers.

Mustard can be planted as a companion to aid the growth of other plants. Research shows that the presence of mustard reduces cabbage aphids and flea beetles on Brussels sprouts and collards, inhibits the emergence of cyst nematodes, and prevents root rot. Though there is no hard evidence, mustard reportedly stimulates the growth of grapes and fruit trees. Mustard can be seen covering the fields below the grapevines of California's Napa Valley.

Harvest the pods when they have turned brown, but before they split. Mustards are self-sowers and can quickly change from purposeful plants to obnoxious weeds if the pods are allowed to break open and scatter their seeds. Mustard seeds have been known to remain viable for centuries. When the gathered pods shatter easily (usually in two weeks), separate the seeds and store in tightly covered jars.

There are few things more satisfying than spicing up your favorite dishes with mustard grown in your own garden. You can try "preparing" some of your own mustard by combining ground seeds with various liquids (try vinegar, cider, or dry white wine), adding turmeric for color, and blending the mixture in a food processor or blender. You might try adding salt, honey, chopped roasted peppers, and cornstarch or arrowroot powder to extend it. The creation of your own secret recipe for prepared mustard can be just as enjoyable as the end product itself.

Mustard Spiced Greens

These are a spicy Maryland favorite. Vary the heat according to your tastes.

1 small onion, chopped
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon oil
4 cups chopped mustard greens
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Cayenne pepper and salt to taste

1. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, sauté onion and mustard seeds in oil until onions are translucent, about 3 minutes.

2. Add greens, vinegar, sugar, cayenne, and salt. Sauté, stirring often, until greens are wilted but still bright green.

Makes 4 servings.

V PER SERVING: 42 CAL (22% from fat), 1.5g PROT, 1g FAT, 6.5g CARB, 15mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 2.5g FIBER

Tarragon Mustard Sauce

A nice sauce for dipping or grilling.

1 large onion, minced
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups white wine or vegetable stock
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
5 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon

1. In a skillet, sauté onion in oil over medium heat until limp and starting to color, about 10 minutes. Stir in wine, honey, and salt, and bring to a boil. Boil 3 minutes to reduce liquid; remove from heat.

2. Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor. Add mustard and tarragon and blend until nearly smooth.

Makes about 2 cups.

V PER SERVING: 27.5 CAL (23% from fat), 0.3g PROT, 0.7g FAT, 1.5g CARB, 63mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 0.1g FIBER

MILK THISTLE: Cleansing your liver may decrease your chances of developing cirrhosis, chronic fatigue, PMS, and cancer.

What we wouldn't give to live in a toxic-free environment! Unfortunately, we live in a modern society full of pollutants, chemicals, and stresses. Indeed, we even ingest some of these substances such as alcohol and drugs [both legal and illegal] knowingly. Such abuses can overload our liver and lead to conditions such as cirrhosis, chronic fatigue, chronic candidiasis, PMS, cancer, and psoriasis.

Popular detoxification programs, fasting regimens, cleansing diets, and juices all help to clean our bodies. Good liver health is another way to help purify our bodies, as the liver is a complex organ playing a key role in most metabolic processes, especially detoxification.

The liver is responsible for detoxifying many things such as the toxic chemicals from our environment, the food and water we ingest, and the air we breathe. It filters the blood, synthesizes and secretes bile, and enzymatically disassembles unwanted chemicals from our metabolism and our environment. The liver removes excess hormones and inflammatory compounds which would be toxic if they built up in our bodies.

There are a number of plant-based medicines that show beneficial effects on liver function. The most notable of these is milk thistle, with impressive clinical research backing its claims. You may have seen milk thistle growing wild in fields or vacant lots. It is a tall prickly plant, reaching a height of 5 to 10 feet. The leaves and stems contain a milky sap, and the reddish-purple flowers are ringed with spines. The shiny grey-toned or mottled black seeds contain medicinal substances that have been used by healers for 2,000 years.

a prickly past

Legend has it that the white mottling of the leaves of milk thistle was caused by a drop of the Virgin Mary's milk. The plant was also traditionally used to stimulate milk production. Known through the ages as Mary thistle, St. Mary thistle, Marian thistle, Lady's thistle, and Holy thistle, its scientific name is Silybum marianum. Silybum was a name given to some edible thistles in the first century by a Greek physician, and marianum is perhaps a reference to the Virgin Mary legend.

The Roman, Pliny the Elder, wrote in the first century A.D. that the juice of the plant mixed with honey was excellent for 'carrying off bile.' Originating in Kashmir, milk thistle found its way to Europe where it was used to treat diseases of the liver throughout the Middle Ages. It spread to England by the end of the sixteenth century, and British physicians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries expressed that it was 'the best remedy that grows against all melancholy diseases' [liver diseases] and that it was effectual 'to open the obstructions of the liver and spleen, and thereby is good against the jaundice. They further noted, 'The seed and distilled water are held powerful to all the purposes aforesaid, and besides, it is often applied both inwardly to drink, and outwardly with cloths or spunges [sic], to the region of the liver, to cool the distemper thereof.'

Not restricted to medicinal use, milk thistle was cultivated in European gardens as a vegetable until the end of the nineteenth century. All parts of the plant were consumed. The leaves, with spines removed, were eaten in salads as a green, while the de-spined stems were soaked and devoured like asparagus. The roots were soaked to remove the bitterness before eating, the flower receptacle was served like an artichoke, and the seeds were roasted as a coffee substitute. (Chicory, a better-known coffee substitute, is a relative of milk thistle.)

Although milk thistle was introduced to North America by early European colonists, the plant didn't show up in American medicinal literature until the end of the nineteenth century, when it was noted that 'Congestion of the liver, spleen, and kidneys is relieved by its use.' It now grows wild in the Eastern United States, California, and South America, as well as Europe.

Not restricted to medicinal use, milk thistle was cultivated in European gardens as a vegetable until the end of the nineteenth century. All parts of the plant were consumed. The leaves, with spines removed, were eaten in salads as a green, while the de-spined stems were soaked and devoured like asparagus. The roots were soaked to remove the bitterness before eating, the flower receptacle was served like an artichoke, and the seeds were roasted as a coffee substitute. (Chicory, a better-known coffee substitute, is a relative of milk thistle.)

proven liver protection

Homeopaths in the United States and Germany use tincture of milk thistle seed to treat liver disorders, jaundice, gallstones, peritonitis, coughs, bronchitis, varicose veins, and congestion of the uterus.

Milk thistle has been the subject of intense medical research for the last 40 years. This research has supported Pliny's assertion from 2,000 years ago that the herb has beneficial effects on the liver. Today's scientists have gone even further and identified the beneficial chemical component of milk thistle, called silymarin. Silymarin is a compound found in concentrations of four to six percent in ripe milk thistle seeds.

Recent studies have shown that silymarin affects the liver in two ways. First, it has a protective effect. It alters the outer liver membrane cell structure, preventing toxins from penetrating the cells by blocking the toxin's binding sites. Second, it stimulates the production of RNA polymerase A, which results in regeneration of the liver by increasing protein synthesis, leading to the growth of new cells. Milk thistle is also a powerful antioxidant, providing more than ten times the antioxidant activity of vitamin E.

Laboratory researchers have shown that milk thistle is effective in protecting the liver against a range of substances including alcohol, industrial chemicals, the cold-blood frog virus, and the toxins contained in the death cap mushroom.

the beneficial thistle in practice

Clinical studies have reinforced the laboratory research. In a study conducted in German, French, Swiss, and Austrian hospitals over a three-year period, 220 patients who had ingested death cap mushrooms were treated with intravenous infusions of silymarin (the beneficial compound in milk thistle). One of the world's most toxic poisonous mushrooms, the death cap contains two compounds that can cause severe liver damage, often leading to death. This liver damage is very difficult to treat. The mortality rate in the European study was only 12.8 percent, lower than had ever been achieved using other means. In another study of 205 patients in which only 16 were treated with silymarin, there was a much higher death rate of 22.4 percent.

Mushroom poisoning is relatively rare compared to cirrhosis and hepatitis, which are the two main forms of liver disease. Cirrhosis is caused by alcohol consumption, and is a serious medical problem in the United States. Ten million Americans are affected by alcoholism; 200,000 die from it each year. Cirrhosis is the fourth leading cause of death among men aged 25 to 64.

Hepatitis, the second type of liver disease, is inflammation of the liver, and actually refers to a number of liver disorders. Hepatitis can be chronic (long-lasting) or acute (short-term); it can be caused by viruses (indicated by letters, for example Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, etc.); it can be caused by alcohol, medications, or exposure to industrial chemicals such as fumes from carbon tetrachloride, which is used in dry-cleaning. In fact, even an over-the-counter drug such as acetaminophen (used in Tylenol) can contribute to liver inflammation. There are over 300,000 cases of hepatitis reported each year in the United States alone. Hepatitis B, which is transmitted in the same manner as AIDS, by sexual and blood-to-blood contact, is responsible for 5,000 deaths a year. Those that survive are susceptible to liver cancer in later years. Fortunately, there is a vaccine for hepatitis A and B.

Studies have shown milk thistle to be effective in treating not just mushroom poisoning, but cirrhosis and hepatitis as well. In one study, patients treated for toxic liver damage, chronic hepatitis, and bile duct inflammation, showed significant improvement after taking 525 mg/day of silymarin for three months. In another study of 66 patients with alcohol-induced liver damage, those given silymarin showed a faster increase in liver enzyme levels than those taking a placebo. Dozens of other studies have confirmed the beneficial effect of milk thistle extract in speeding liver recovery by stabilizing the liver cell membrane (keeping toxins out) and promoting the growth of new tissue.

In Europe, milk thistle is widely recognized as a treatment for cirrhosis and hepatitis. Commission E, the panel in Germany that evaluates herbal treatments for the German government, recommends the use of milk thistle seeds for the treatment of liver disease. In fact, most German emergency rooms keep injectable solutions of milk thistle extract on hand for the treatment of liver poisoning.

Studies have shown milk thistle to be effective in treating not just mushroom poisoning, but cirrhosis and hepatitis as well. In one study, patients treated for toxic liver damage, chronic hepatitis, and bile duct inflammation, showed significant improvement after taking 525 mg/day of silymarin for three months. In another study of 66 patients with alcohol-induced liver damage, those given silymarin showed a faster increase in liver enzyme levels than those taking a placebo. Dozens of other studies have confirmed the beneficial effect of milk thistle extract in speeding liver recovery by stabilizing the liver cell membrane (keeping toxins out) and promoting the growth of new tissue.

In Europe, milk thistle is widely recognized as a treatment for cirrhosis and hepatitis. Commission E, the panel in Germany that evaluates herbal treatments for the German government, recommends the use of milk thistle seeds for the treatment of liver disease. In fact, most German emergency rooms keep injectable solutions of milk thistle extract on hand for the treatment of liver poisoning.

the dutiful detoxifier

Even if you don't have cirrhosis or hepatitis, you may benefit from the use of milk thistle. If you come in contact with toxic chemicals in your work, you may find a monthly cleansing program with milk thistle helpful. At-risk occupations include painters, rs, janitors, factory workers, and gardeners. Or, if you regularly use prescription or over-the-counter medication, the milk thistle seed extract may be used to cleanse and regenerate your liver. The normal dose of milk thistle extract of at least 70 percent silymarin is 100 to 300 mg, three times a day. Milk thistle is a safe herb, as there are no known side effects at recommended levels. However, use during pregnancy or lactation has not been studied.

In an increasingly toxic environment, keeping all of our organs humming along is vital to maintaining good health. The liver, the body's sewage treatment plant, is key in keeping our bodies vibrant and strong. Milk thistle, blessed with a drop of the Virgin Mary's milk and endorsed by physicians both ancient and modern, is nature's means to a wholesome, healthy liver.