The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

We wish you peace and health!

Chocolate for Your Sweetheart May Offer Health Benefits

dark chocolateIf you are considering giving your Valentine some chocolate this year, don’t count out chocolate as an option. A recent study shows that eating 100 grams of chocolate each day, or the equivalent of about one bar of chocolate, could have multiple health benefits.

This small amount of chocolate has been shown to improve liver enzyme levels and reduce insulin resistance. And reducing insulin sensitivity has the added benefit of reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Who knew that such a yummy treat could be potentially healthy too?

Futurity: “Given the growing body of evidence, including our own study, cocoa-based products may represent an additional dietary recommendation to improve cardio-metabolic health,” says Saverio Stranges, visiting academic at the University of Warwick Medical School.

Stranges says the findings could lead to recommendations by healthcare professionals to encourage individuals to consume a wide range of phytochemical-rich foods, including dark chocolate in moderate amounts.

It’s important, researchers say, to differentiate between the natural product cocoa and the processed product chocolate, which is an energy-dense food. Further, physical activity, diet, and other lifestyle factors must be carefully balanced to avoid detrimental weight gain over time.

Be sure to check out the page about Chocolate to learn more about this fascinating food.



Resource Links

Futurity: Can Chocolate Every Day Protect Your Heart?

University of Warwick: Eating chocolate each day could reduce heart disease and diabetes risk

Daily chocolate consumption is inversely associated with insulin resistance and liver enzymes in the Observation of Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Luxembourg study

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Tomatoes Lower Risk of Breast Cancer

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the vegetables (aka fruits?) that I grew up eating. My family served tomatoes in one form or another at nearly every meal. They are delicious and so very versatile. So it was a delight to discover that they may also provide some protection from breast cancer too.

As women reach menopause, their body mass typically increases, which puts them at greater risk of breast cancer. But a constituent of tomatoes, adiponectin, has been shown in recent studies to reduce breast cancer risk. That is great news for those of us that love tomatoes.

“The advantages of eating plenty of tomatoes and tomato-based products, even for a short period, were evident in our findings,” says Adana Llanos, assistant professor of epidemiology at Rutgers and a research member at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Llanos was a postdoctoral fellow at Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center when she conducted the research.

The study also found that the benefits of eating tomatoes increase when the person maintains a healthy body weight.

Futurity: “The take-home message from our study’s preliminary findings is that the beneficial effects of a diet high in lycopene, specifically increasing adiponectin, may explain why tomatoes may be effective at reducing breast cancer risk.”

Be sure to check out the full page about tomatoes to discover their other health enhancing properties!



Resource Links

Futurity: Tomatoes May Lower Women’s Breast Cancer Risk

Effects of Tomato and Soy on Serum Adipokine Concentrations in Postmenopausal Women at Increased Breast Cancer Risk: A Cross-Over Dietary Intervention Trial

Rutgers University: Breast Cancer Risk May Be Lowered with Diet Rich in Tomatoes, Says Rutgers Researcher

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An Avocado a Day Keeps High LDL Cholesterol Away

AvocadoWe’ve been told for years that avocados are good for us and even that they help lower overall cholesterol, but now there’s a scientific study that helps us understand that. And the results may even be better than we expected.

“Including one avocado each day as part of a moderate-fat, cholesterol-lowering diet compared to a comparable moderate-fat diet without an avocado provides additional LDL (low-density lipoproteins) lowering effects, which benefit CVD (cardiovascular disease) risk,” says Penny M. Kris-Etherton, professor of nutrition at Penn State.

Kris-Etherton and a team of researchers recently looked at the ability of three different diets to lower cholesterol and subsequently lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. All three diets consisted of lower to moderate amounts of fat. The differences were that one of the three diets incorporated one avocado each day and one diet included a comparable amount of high oleic acid oils—such as olive oil—to match the fatty acid content of one avocado.

Participants were closely monitored for cholesterol levels and other important health indicators during the study. All three diets lowered the LDL cholesterol levels of the participants. However, the participants that had eaten the diet that included the avocados had even greater reductions in LDL levels.

Futurity: The avocado diet was linked to a decrease in “bad” cholesterol of 13.5 mg/dL, while LDL decreased by 8.3 mg/dL on the moderate-fat diet, and by 7.4 mg/dL on the low-fat diet.

“This was a controlled feeding study, but that is not the real world—so it is more of a proof-of-concept investigation,” says Kris-Etherton. “We need to focus on getting people to eat a healthy diet that includes avocados and other food sources of better fats.”

So don’t just eat guacamole, add some diced avocados to your salad, put some sliced avocados on your next sandwich and make a smoothie with some fruit and an avocado. This versatile fruit can be incorporated in your diet in many creative and tasty ways, so start using it!

Additional researchers from Penn State and the University of South Australia worked on the study, which the Hass Avocado Board, the National Center for Research Resources, and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences supported.


Resource Links

Futurity: Daily Avocado Diet May Cut Cholesterol

Journal of the American Heart Association: Effect of a Moderate Fat Diet With and Without Avocados on Lipoprotein Particle Number, Size and Subclasses in Overweight and Obese Adults: A Randomized, Controlled Trial

Penn State: An avocado a day keeps the cardiologist away

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Safely Infuse Oil, Honey or Vinegar With Herbs for Gifts

herb-infused oils

It’s the gift-giving season and we all look for great gift ideas for those we care about. So it’s important to make sure that the gifts we give them don’t make them sick. Infusing oil, honey, or vinegar with herbs is an inexpensive and fun way to pamper our loved-ones that enjoy cooking, but there are significant risks if it isn’t done properly.

Step 1: Sterilize Containers

Start by choosing glass containers that have no chips or cracks. Then thoroughly wash and then sterilize them by boiling them for at least 10 minutes. And don’t forget to sterilize the lids too. This will eliminate any residual pathogens on them.

Step 2: Choose Quality Ingredients

Use only fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables that have no visible blemishes or bruises. This makes it less likely that they will contain harmful bacteria. And then, be sure to wash them well before using them.

Step 3: Refrigerate or Freeze

Storing the finished product in the fridge or freezer makes it less likely that bacteria will grow in it.

Infusing Oil or Honey

Oil creates an environment where air is not present. This makes it easy for certain types of bacteria to grow, including the potentially deadly botulism toxin. Since produce items like garlic and herbs can harbor C. botulinum, it’s a good idea to destroy any bacteria on those items before adding it to oil. You can do this by soaking the products in a citric acid solution to reduce the pH and destroy bacteria that might be present.

Specifically, the citric acid solution needs to be strong enough to bring the pH level of the garlic, herbs, or other ingredients down to 4.2 or less within 24 hours. This paper outlines how you can do that. (This technique is also how manufacturers process infused oils that you can buy off the shelf.)

The oil or honey should also be heated to at least 180 degrees Fahrenheit before adding the other ingredients. Here are complete instructions for safely doing that. Only store these oils, refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.

Infusing Vinegar

Heat the vinegar to 190 degrees Fahrenheit before adding it to the other ingredients, and be sure to fill the container to within 0.25 inches of the top of the container. If you’d like more details, you can find them here. Once you’ve made them, infused vinegars can be safely kept in a cool, dark place for 2-3 months or refrigerated for 6-8 months.

Recipes

Here are some recipes for flavored oils and vinegars from BON APPÉTIT and Colorado State University Extension to get you started.


Resource Links

How to Infuse Oils, Vinegars, Liquor or Honey (Without Making People Barf)

Current Food Safety Issues of Home-prepared Vegetables and Herbs Stored in Oil

Acidification of Garlic and Herbs for Consumer Preparation of Infused Oils

Making Garlic- and Herb-Infused Oils
At Home

Flavored Vinegars and Oils

Colorado State University Extension: Flavored Vinegars and Oils

Even Lazy People Can Make This Fancy Edible Gift

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Turmeric: Be Careful Where it Comes From

turmericRecent news reports say that one of the world’s largest producers of turmeric adds a lead-laced compound to it before selling it. This producer on Bangladesh adds lead chromate to the powder.

Turmeric itself is extremely healthful and has many beneficial effects as part of the diet. But people in Bangladesh have been consuming it, along with the lead in the additive and are showing many health issues as a result.

Lead is a neurotoxin, and increases the risk of heart and brain disease in adults and interferes with children’s brain development.

An article at Futurity.org states: “Unlike other metals, there is no safe consumption limit for lead, it’s a neurotoxin in its totality,” says the papers’ senior author Stephen Luby, professor of medicine and the director of research for the Center for Innovation in Global Health. “We cannot console ourselves proposing that if the contamination were down to such and such level, it would have been safe.”

The researchers did not find direct evidence of contaminated turmeric beyond Bangladesh, and they point out that food safety checks by the importing countries have incentivized large-scale Bangladesh spice processors to limit the amount of lead added to turmeric destined for export. However, the researchers caution, “the current system of periodic food safety checks may catch only a fraction of the adulterated turmeric being traded worldwide.”

In fact, since 2011, more than 15 brands of turmeric—distributed to countries including the US—have been recalled due to excessive levels of lead.

Researchers and others worldwide are working to find solutions to the problem, but in the meantime, check labels to find out the origin of the turmeric you buy. Whenever possible, buying the turmeric root and shredding it yourself is the safest bet.

Be sure to check out the full Turmeric page to learn all about the medicinal uses of this herb.



Resource Links

Futurity: There’s Lead in Turmeric from One of the World’s Biggest Growers

Turmeric means “yellow” in Bengali: Lead chromate pigments added to turmeric threaten public health across Bangladesh

Sources of Blood Lead Exposure in Rural Bangladesh

Stanford University: Stanford researchers find lead in turmeric

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Broccoli Sprout Extract May Improve Autism Symptoms

We have all been told that we should eat more broccoli, but now there may be an important reason for people with autism to eat broccoli sprouts. A new research study shows that a chemical found in broccoli sprouts helps improve the symptoms of autism.

The study involved 40 teenage boys and young men, ages 13 to 27. Those who took the chemical, called sulforaphane, showed improvements in social and verbal skills compared to people who took a placebo. Researchers also saw a decrease in repetitive, ritualistic behaviors.

“We believe that this may be preliminary evidence for the first treatment for autism that improves symptoms by apparently correcting some of the underlying cellular problems,” says Paul Talalay, professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences at Johns Hopkins University, who has researched compounds like sulforaphane for 25 years.

“We are far from being able to declare a victory over autism, but this gives us important insights into what might help,” says co-investigator Andrew Zimmerman, professor of pediatric neurology at University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center.


Most of those who responded to sulforaphane showed significant improvements within four weeks and continued to improve during the rest of the treatment.

It would be very difficult to achieve the levels of sulforaphane used in the study by eating large amounts of broccoli or other cruciferous vegetables, Talalay notes. The test subjects took sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprout extract administered in capsules.

I encourage everyone to go read the entire studies cited below to find out more about the research so far.

You can also visit the full page of information about broccoli’s medicinal uses here.

Here is a video that shows how to make your own broccoli sprouts:


Resource Links

Futurity: Chemical in Broccoli Sprouts May Treat Autism

Johns Hopkins University: Chemical Derived from Broccoli Sprouts Shows Promise in Treating Autism

Sulforaphane treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

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Plants Have a Form of Consciousness?

Here is a fascinating TED Talk by Florianne Koechlin that talks about ways that plants communicate and show a form of consciousness. They even learn from experience and remember past events. It’s amazing!

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Drinking Tea May Help Protect the Brain From Aging & Alzheimer’s

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Horse Chestnut: Possible Treatment for Lymphedema

Red Horse ChestnutA few years ago, I was contacted by someone taking part in clinical trials for the use of horse chestnut to treat their lymphedema. I did not update my mother’s research with that information then because this site only publishes information that can be substantiated with research studies or other publications. I’m very careful not to publish any information without being relatively certain of its accuracy. People’s health is involved. That’s no trivial thing.

But last evening I met someone that I hope will become a new friend. During our conversation, she shared that she deals with the very cruel and painful condition known as lymphedema. All of a sudden, those email exchanges with that person about the clinical trials popped into my head. I knew I needed to go do more research to see what the trials had shown.

I found results from several research studies of the effectiveness of horse chestnut for treating Lymphedema. Study results showed that its use reduced leg or arm circumference and helped reduce swelling overall. They also proved that the use of the horse chestnut seed extract removes the toxic components of the herb, making it much safer for use.

Horse chestnut extract can be purchased as supplements, powder and topical cream.

Be sure to go to the Horse Chestnut page of this site for its description and a complete discussion of its medicinal uses.



Resource Links

An American Society of Clinical Oncology Journal: Horse chestnut seed extract for the treatment of arm lymphedema

ClinicalTrials.gov: Horse Chestnut Seed Extract for Lymphedema

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Cochrane Summary of Findings: Horse Chestnut Seed Extract for Chronic Venous Insufficiency

ScienceDirect: Horse chestnut – efficacy and safety in chronic venous insufficiency: an overview

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CBD Oil: Considerations if You Plan to Try it for Chronic Pain

As a chronic pain sufferer myself, the recent hype about CBD as a treatment for pain, anxiety and insomnia have gotten my attention.

CBD short for cannabidiol, is derived from cannabis or marijuana. The interesting thing about CBD is that it contains no THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the component that is psychoactive. So use of CBD promises to be a valuable aid in medicinal therepaies without getting you “high”.

While investigating the effectiveness of its use for these symptoms, I came across some recommendations from the University of Michigan:

  • Don’t smoke or vape. Bottom line is smoking anything harms the lungs. Vaping has been associated with a recent epidemic of lung disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
  • Purchase from reputable sources. Like vitamins and other supplements, CBD products aren’t regulated or FDA approved to treat disease, so buyer beware. Look for products that have been tested by an independent third party lab “so you don’t end up with a product that has THC in it or a product contaminated with heavy metals or pesticides,” says Boehnke.
  • Route of administration matters. CBD is best taken in pill or capsule form for slow extended release or as an oral tincture (infused oil that contains CBD) for faster effect onset.
  • Start low, go slow. Take a small amount and slowly increase your dosage until you start to get symptom relief over a matter of weeks. Track your symptoms to get a sense of whether or not CBD is a helpful part of your treatment plan.
  • Check your state laws. While medical marijuana is legal in many states, it’s still illegal at the Federal level, putting CBD in a legal gray zone in many areas.

There still isn’t a lot of scientific evidence of the effectiveness of CBD, mostly because of politics. But with more and more states legalizing medicinal marijuana, it’s a sure bet that more study will be done. I will report on it here as I find it.

In the following podcast, Pharmacist Shawna Kraft discusses medical marijuana for cancer patients. She gives an understanding what it is, how to use it and how best to request it.

Be sure to check out the full description of the Cannabis plant and its medicinal uses.


Resource Links

Brief Commentary: Cannabinoid Dosing for Chronic Pain Management

University of Michigan: Should You Take CBD for Pain?

Podcast: Medical Marijuana for Cancer Patients

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