September 2005

Natural Health Article

CONTENTS

  •  ABCs of Health – ” R” is for Retina
  •  Herbal Health – Natural Remedies
    are useful – but take care
  • Tip of the Month – Rejuvenate a head of lettuce
  • The Herbalist – “D” is for Dandelion

 ABCs OF HEALTH

“R” is for retina. The retina is the back part of the eye that contains the cells that respond to light. These specialized cells are called photoreceptors . There are 2 types of photoreceptors in the retina: rods and cones.

The rods are most sensitive to light and dark changes, shape and movement and contain only one type of light-sensitive pigment. Rods are not good for color vision. In a dim room, however, we use mainly our rods, but we are “color blind.” Rods are more numerous than cones in the periphery of the retina. Next time you want to see a dim star at night, try to look at it with your peripheral vision and use your ROD VISION to see the dim star. There are about 120 million rods in the human retina.

The cones are not as sensitive to light as the rods. However, cones are most sensitive to one of three different colors (green, red or blue). Signals from the cones are sent to the brain which then translates these messages into the perception of color. Cones, however, work only in bright light. That’s why you cannot see color very well in dark places. So, the cones are used for color vision and are better suited for detecting fine details. There are about 6 million cones in the human retina. Some people cannot tell some colors from others – these people are “color blind.” Someone who is color blind does not have a particular type of cone in the retina or one type of cone may be weak. In the general population, about 8% of all males are color blind and about 0.5% of all females are color blind.

The fovea, shown here on the left, is the central region of the retina that provides for the most clear vision. In the fovea, there are NO rods…only cones. The cones are also packed closer together here in the fovea than in the rest of the retina. Also, blood vessels and nerve fibers go around the fovea so light has a direct path to the photoreceptors.

One part of the retina does NOT contain any photoreceptors. This is our “blind spot”. Therefore any image that falls on this region will NOT be seen. It is in this region that the optic nerves come together and exit the eye on their way to the brain.

HERBAL HEALTH – NATURAL REMEDIES ARE USEFUL – BUT TAKE CARE!

I love to read a local magazine called Edmonton Woman.  I’d like to pass on an excerpt written by Heather Andrews Miller as told by a doctor of natural medicine, Dr. Radka Ruzicka.

Herbal remedies use products from plants to treat disease and common ailments, strengthening the body’s immune system and promoting general health.  But are they really effective, and are they safe?

According to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, most herbal remedies have a long history of being safe, but with no prescription required to purchase them form grocery, drug and health food stores, women need to be cautious.

Take the bottle of herb medication with you to your doctor before you begin to use it. Even though they are not prescribed drugs, they are still medicine.  If the dosages are not followed, or if they are taken over a long period of time, they may do more harm than good.

However, most of the common herbal medicines are quite safe to use and once clients know what they are doing by consulting with a professional, the benefits of certain herbs can be amazing.

One of the most popular herbal products used is black cohosh, a plant native to North America.  Originally found helpful in the treatment of arthritis and muscle pain, it has also been used to relieve the hot flashes and night sweats of menopause and to relieve menstrual irregularities.

Ginkgo biloba was studied and found to produce mild-to-moderate improvement in the symptoms of dementia. Soon it was recommended to enhance many different mental capacities, including memory. In the past few years, it has become the leading herbal remedy in Europe to relieve depression.

Borage is a wonderful herb that is often suggested, as it enhances the function of the adrenal glands.  Borage provides an invaluable support for a stressful lifestyle and has been known to help reduce fevers and chest colds as well.

St. John’s Wort, also known as hypericum is listed on the Health Canada website as one of the natural health products approved for treating depression.  In Germany 50 per cent of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders are treated with St. John’s Wort at a lower cost (about 25 cents per day) and with fewer side effects than pharmaceuticals.

Herbal medicines used to promote longevity include: alfalfa, garlic, aloe vera, dandelion, red clover and pysllium husks.  These herbs may help to prevent premature aging by cleansing and detoxifying the body and providing many natural vitamins and minerals.

Healing is a process that encompasses the body, mind and emotions, and the spirit.  Safe use of herbal remedies and medicines can help us all reach an ultimate state of health.

TIP OF THE MONTH

To rejuvenate a head of lettuce that has wilted:  First remove the core, then soak the head in cold water, drain and place in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator.  After it has chilled, you will have a fresh head of lettuce.

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:

Dandelion

Latin Name: Tarazacum officinale (Asteraceae [composite] family)

General Description:  Known best in North America as a weed that pops up in freshly cut lawns, dandelion grows wild in most of the world and is cultivated as an herb in China, France, and Germany.  Young leaves are picked in the spring for tonic salads.  In the early summer, before the plant blooms, leaves are harvested for the manufacture of medicinal teas and tinctures.  The roots of two year old plants are dug in the fall, when they have their greatest concentration of the complex carbohydrate inulin, for use in tablets and tinctures.

Excellent For:  Dandelion leaves are a powerful diuretic.  The roots act as a blood purifier that helps both the kidneys and the liver to remove toxins and poisons from the blood.  The roots have been used for centuries to treat jaundice.  Dandelion also acts as a mild laxative and improves appetite and digestion.  It is useful for eczema like skin problems, boils, and abscesses, and is believed to help prevent age spots and breast cancer.

Benefits of Dandelion for specific health conditions include some of the following:

Anemia: Dandelion contains high levels of potassium, is a rich source of iron and vitamins, and, ounce for ounce, contains more carotene than carrots.  Herbalists have used dandelion for generations to treat anemia due to deficiencies of folic acid, iron, and vitamin B 12.
Bladder infection and premenstrual syndrome (PMS):  Unlike many conventional diuretics, which cause a loss of potassium, dandelion leaves are rich in potassium.  Using the herb as a diuretic, results in a net gain of this vital mineral.  Because of its diuretic effect, dandelion helps to relieve fluid retention in premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and counteract urine retention in bladder infections.  By increasing potassium levels, dandelion aids in alleviating muscle spasms and night time leg cramps.
Constipation, hemorriods, and indigestion:  German research has shown that dandelion root is a mild bitter, or appetite stimulant.  Bitters of all types activate a reflex that increases the secretion of digestive juices by the lining of the stomach.  Dandelion root has a significant cleansing effect on the liver by stimulating the production of bile, which ultimately results in increased transport of a variety of potentially dangerous compounds to the stool.  Increasing the release of bile also relieves constipation without causing diarrhea and stops spasms of the bile duct.  Dandelion should be avoided, however, if you have gallstones, since increasing the flow of bile could increase pressure against the stones.
Liver problems and gallstones:  The The bitter principles in dandelion increase bile production and bile flow in the liver.  This makes it useful for people with sluggish liver function due to alchol abuse or poor diet.  It is restorative to the liver and helps reduce the risk of developing gallstones, but you should avoid it if you already have gallstones.
Osteoporosis: Dandelion is a rich source of boron, which helps raise estrogen levels in the blood, and in turn helps preserve the bone.  It is also a rich source of calcium and a fair source of of silicon, which some studies suggest helps strengthen bone.
Overweight:  European herbalists frequently prescribe dandelion tinctures as a weight loss aid.  Dandelion reduces water through its diuretic effect.  It may also help the liver regulate blood sugars to avoid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), frequently an immediate cause of binge eating.  Also, the increase in bile flow stimulated by dandelion helps improve fat metabolism in the body.  In one laboratory study, animals that were given daily doses of dandelion extract for a month lost up to thirty percent of their body mass.

CONTRAINDICATIONS: Dandelion can be taken in tablet, tea, or tincture form and may cause increased stomach acidity and ulcer pain.  If you have gallstones or biliary tract obstructions, you should avoid this herb.  Dandelion should not be used as a substitute for pharmaceutical diuretics for hypertension.  If you are taking diuretic drugs, insulin, or medications that reduce blood-sugar levels, you should use dandelion only under a physician’s supervision.  People with known allergies to related plants, such as chamomile and yarrow, should use dandelion with caution.

Dandelion also should be avoided during antibiotic treatment, especially treatment with ciprofloxian (Cipro), ofloxacin (Floxin), lomefloxacin (Maxaquin), norfloxacin (Noroxin), and enoxacin (Penetrex), since it may keep concentrations of these antibiotics from peaking in the bloodstream, diminishing their ability to fight infection.

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

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