August 2005

Natural Health Article

CONTENTS

  • ABCs of Health – “P” is for Pancreas
  • Fun in the Sun! Save your skin!
  • Tip of the month – Ricotta cheese in cheesecake
  • The Herbalist – “C” is for Chamomile

ABCs OF HEALTH

“P” is for Pancreas. The pancreas as defined in the Barron’s Dictionary of Medical Terms is a compound gland about 6 inches (15cm) long, lying behind the stomach.  It is both an exocrine gland, secreting pancreatic juice, contains several digestive enzymes, (is essential for the breakdown of starches, protein and fats) into the pancreatic duct that unites with the common bile duct opening into the duodenum; and the endocrine gland, secreting the hormones insulin and glucagon from its islets of Langerhans directly into the bloodstream.

FUN IN THE SUN! SAVE YOUR SKIN!

Remember the fifties and the sixties? Remember all those good times spent outdoors with family and friends, and long days in the sun? If you do, then you are at risk of skin cancer now that you?re older. Melanoma remains the fourth most common cancer in the southern hemisphere.

Keep the good times rolling by learning how to examine your skin for suspicious looking spots.

If you’re aged 55 and over, chances are that you grew up in the sun with very little protection. Before the 1980s, protecting yourself with clothing, sunscreen, or hats wasn’t an everyday practice.  But unfortunately, sun exposure and sunburns in childhood and adolescence have been shown to be an important factor in developing skin cancer later in life. Five or more sunburns in your lifetime can double your risk of skin cancer!

Get to know your skin. Check your skin regularly, for example, every three months, to be alert to any new or changing moles, freckles and spots. Know what is normal for you and what changes may have occurred since the last time you looked. Top to toe, so you know!
I picked up a guide to skin care examination from my dermatologist, it’s very informative and shows you by pictures what to look for.

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, and can be life-threatening if it isn’t caught early. If you are over 55, you can lower your risk by checking your own skin regularly, and contact you doctor immediately if you spot anything suspicious.

Check your whole body – from head to toe, front back and sides.

  • The head and neck – don’t forget your scalp and ears
  • The torso, front back and sides – use a mirror, or ask your partner to look at the parts you can’t see
  • Your arms and hands, including the nail beds
  • Your buttocks and legs – don’t forget the soles of your feet, and between the toes and the nail beds

Again, please visit the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and ChooseYourCover.

TIP OF THE MONTH

Low fat ricotta cheese used with light cream cheese in cheesecake recipes is equivalent to cottage cheese.  The texture is smoother than the regular cottage cheese and the flavor is slightly sweet.

THE HERBALIST

I promised I would give you some information on a specific herb, it’s origins and uses.  I really enjoy this part of our newsletter, as I always learn something new and exciting.  This month we will discuss:

Chamomile

Latin Name: Chamomilla recutita or Matricaria recutita (Asteraceae [composite] family)

Other common name:  German chamomile

General Description:  Chamomile is a sweetly aromatic annual plant native to Europe.  Reaching a height of two feet, this herb has finely cut leaves and numerous flower heads with white petals and yellow centers.  The flower heads,  which are picked in full bloom during the summer, are preferred in herbal medicine.

Excellent For:  Chamomile has anti-anxiety, antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-spasmodic properties.  As an antibacterial herb, chamomile can inhibit the growth of underarm bacteria, which eliminates underarm perspiration odor.

Benefits of Chamomile for specific health conditions include the following:

Allergies, asthma, colic conjunctivitis, hives, and psoriasis: If chamomile is steamed or placed in hot water, a substance called chamazulene – which has markedly antiallergenic properties, is formed.  Studies have shown that chamazulene prevents the formation of inflammatory leukotrienes, thereby inhibiting the generation of toxic free radicals needed to trigger the allergic response.  A compound in the herb’s essential oil reinforces the effect of chamazulene by blocking the release of histamine.  Chamazulene also stops stomach irritation caused by the release of free radicals that activate histamine.  This explains chamomile’s traditional use in soothing upset stomach.
Anxiety, attention deficit disorder (ADD), insomnia, and stress: Chamomile has traditionally been used as a calmative for persons under stress.  Herbalists especially recommend it for sleeplessness in children.  Laboratory tests on animals show that inhaling the vapors of essential oil of chamomile reduces the body’s production of adrenocorticotropichormone (ACTH) – a stress hormone.  Inhaling the essential oil lowers stress and makes other stress-reduction drugs such as diazepam (Valium) more effective.  Additionally, chamomile counteracts allergies and insomnia,which are often factors in anxiety and attention deficit disorder(ADD).
Atherosclerosis:  Chamazulene inhibits the free radical reactions that activate macrophages, the giant cholestorol filled immune cells on which plaques form.  While chamazulene inhibits the activation of macrophages in the processes that form atheroslerotic plaques, it increases the numbers of macrophages available to fight infection.
Cuts, scrapes, and abrasions: Chamomile creams reduce the “weeping” of fluid from cuts and scraped.  A German study of people who had undergone dermabrasion for the removal of tatoos found that chamomile creams reduced both the amount of fluid lost and the size of the wounds.
Diaper rash:  Chamomile creams contain compounds that are antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, promoting tissue regeneration.
Eczema  Creams: Creams containing chamomile flower extract are helpful in managing eczema.  These creams increase the numbers of the immune cells that engulf and eliminate infectious microorganisms, but do not stimulate other immune cells that might aggravate the condition.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS):  Traditional herbal medicine in England used chamomile as one of the five “opening” herbs for the treatment of irregular menstruation.  Chamomile contains spiroether, a very strong antispasmodic agent that relaxes aching, tense muscles ans alleviates premenstrual pain.

CONTRAINDICATIONS: Chamomile is used in teas and tinctures internally, and in creams and compresses externally.  More than those of most other herbs, the effects of chamomile are cumlative.  Use chamomile for at least three weeks before deciding whether or not it is effective.

Choose products made from German chamomile, Chamomilla recutita or Matricaria recutita, rather than Roman chamomile, Anthemis cotula.  In a few rare instances, Roman chamomile produces allergic skin reactions, the allergenic compound in Roman chamomile  is not found in Geman chamomile.  It is also important to buy a chamomile product that consists only of flowers, without leaves and stems mixed in.  Leaves and stems have a much lower content of therapeutic essential oils than flowers.

Chamomile contains the natural blood thinners known as coumarins.  Since these chemicals in the herb are similar to the prescription drug warfarin (Coumadin), AVOID chamomile teas when taking warfarin.

This concludes another exciting issue of Natural Health. REMEMBER YOU HAVE TO READ TO WIN!

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