- ABCs of Health – “L” is for Liquid Herbal Preparations
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
- Tip of the Month – Keep fresh flowers, fresh
- The Herbalist – “S” is for Saw palmetto
ABCs OF HEALTH
“H” is for Liquid Herbal Preparations. Many individuals that enter a health food store are usually confronted with the choice of buying either liquid, tablet or encapsulated products. They usually choose an encapsulated or tablet product because they are convenient and easily consumed. This however, can sometimes lead to some concerns about product effectiveness. Encapsulated and tableted products usually consist of standardized herbal extracts or raw herbs ground up to a fine powder. Liquid extracts are usually available in three forms – alcohol extracts, water extracts, and glycerin extracts. Liquid herbal extracts have many distinct advantages over their encapsulated counterparts, here are the major advantages.
- The active ingredients of liquid extracts are more easily absorbed by your body, whereas in both encapsulated and tablet products, the contents must first be freed. These must then be dissolved (in the case of standardized extracts) before an absorption can occur within your body. With raw herbs, active ingredients must first be digested from the herb itself before absorption can occur. Digestion of raw herbs by humans is not very efficient, as we lack the necessary digestive enzymes, so positive effects will only be seen after a long period of use.
- Active medicinal compounds from liquid herbal extracts are usually in a bioactive form. During the manufacture of powdered herbal extracts, herbs are usually extracted first with a liquid. The liquid extract is concentrated and sprayed onto a carrier such as maltodextrin, cellulose, or starch, and then dried and powdered. The amount of active compound per gram depends on how much carrier is used. Damage can sometimes happen to the active compounds during the drying process, so they may not be as biologically active as compounds found in liquid extracts. So powdered extracts are sometimes not very effective.
- The process used for the manufacture of liquid preparations has been used for centuries. In many societies, medicinal herbs have traditionally been prepared in a liquid form.
- Taste is the major disadvantage of a liquid herbal preparation. Taste buds however, can adjust quite quickly. For example, few people who try beer for the first time really enjoy the taste. Over time and with more exposure to this beverage, individuals can actually aquire a taste for it.
- Liquid herbal preparations can be masked with the addition of fruit juices, and when added, dilution is not an issue because the dosage will remain the same whether it is diluted with juice or not. In closing, when looking for a herbal preparation, have a very close look at liquid extracts.
SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that follows the seasons. The most common type of SAD is called winter depression, which usually begins in the late fall or early winter. It tends to disappear in the late spring or early summer. SAD is believed to be caused by changes in the amount of daylight during the different seasons of the year and is more common in northern geographic locations. SAD is a fairly common ailment, with approximatly 6 percent of the people in the United States suffering from this form of winter depression, and another 10 to 20 percent experiencing it in a milder form. This disorder seems to be more common in women than men, although some children and teenagers may also be affected. SAD does not usually appear in people younger than 20 years of age. The risk of being affected with SAD usually decreases for adults as they get older.
Although symptoms are clues to diagnosing this ailment, not everyone has the same symptoms. Some of the common symptoms of SAD or winter depression include…
Did you know that some individuals may experience some symptoms of summer depression? These symptoms may include poor appetite, weight loss and insomnia. Either type of SAD may have some symptoms present in other forms of depression. These symptoms may include feelings of guilt, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities you previously enjoyed, feelings of hopelessness, and some physical problems, such as headaches. These symptoms keep coming back year after year, and they come and go about the same time every year. Changes in a persons mood are not necessarily related to obvious things that would make a season stressful (like regularily being unemployed during the winter months).
Treatments for SAD
Winter depression is probably the caused by your body’s reaction to a lack of sunlight. Light therapy is one option for treating winter depression. If this type of treatment is suggested by your physician, you may use a specially made light box or light visor which is worn on your head like a cap. You then sit in front of the light for a certain time each day – usually about 30 minutes, throughout the fall and winter when you’re most likely to be depressed. Should this form of treatment help, you will continue to use it until enough sunlight is available, which is typically in the springtime. Stopping the light therapy treatment too soon, may allow SAD symptoms to return. Tanning beds should not be used for for treating SAD, as they are high in ultraviolet (UV) rays, which harm both your eyes and skin.
Other possible treatments for SAD, include behavior therapy, and the use of prescription medications. If light therapy does not seem to work for you, your physician may want to try and use them together. Symptoms may also be reduced by simply spending more time outdoors and exercising regularly during the winter months.
Here are a few tips t0 pro-actively reduce or eliminate environmental stressors and symptoms of SAD…
TIP OF THE MONTH
To keep cut flowers fresh, make a floral preservative with 1 can of lemon soda and 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach mixed in 1 gallon of water.
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:
Latin Name: Serenoa repens (Arecaceae [palm] family)
Other common names: American dwarf palm, cabbage palm, sabal, serenoa
General Description: Saw palmetto is a low-growing North American palm. It grows wild, mainly as isolated plants in the coastal regions of the Carolinas and the Gulf Coast states, and in saw palmetto thickets in Texas. The part of the plant used in medicine is the berry, which has a nutty vanilla like flavor.
Excellent For: American physicians recognized the usefulness of saw palmetto in hormonal regulation as early as 1856. Doctors prescribed teas of whole dried palmetto berries for breast enlargement, muscle building and prostrate problems. Saw palmetto has since gained widespread use by doctors and alternative health practitioners as a safe treatment for prostate disorders. It is useful in treating wasting disorders by redirecting testosterone from stimulating the sex organs to stimulating muscle growth. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Some benefits of Saw palmetto for specific health conditions include the following:
Benign prostatic hypertrophy(BPH) and prostate cancer : Herbalist Andrew Chevallier calls saw palmetto the “plant catheter” for its ability to strengthen the neck of the bladder and to reduce enlargement of the prostate, allowing for the free passage of urine. Saw palmetto’s action in this regard has been demonstrated by research. In a double-blind study of thirty men, Italian investigators found that one month’s treatment with saw palmetto extract increased urine flow 1,700 percent more than placebo. A study of 110 men by British researchers found that 320 milligrams of saw palmetto extract daily was five times more effective than placebo in improvong bladder emptying. In addition, the men did not have as much difficulty, discomfort, or pain in urinating as they had before taking the herb, and reported that they did not have to get up at night to urinate as often. The value of saw palmetto in treating prostate enlargement is so widely recognized in Germany that over 90 percent of German men with prostate enlargement are treated with saw palmetto, often in combination with other herbs.
Saw palmetto eases prostate swelling by regulating hormones. If there is an excess of dihydrotestosterone, which stimulates the growth of new cells in the prostate, the prostate can thicken and squeeze the urethra, making urination difficult. Saw palmetto extracts reduce prostate enlargement by reducing the availability of dihydrotestosterone to prostate tissue. Deprived of its hormonal stimulus, cell division in prostate tissue slows. Although saw palmetto prevents the prostate from absorbing dihydrotestosterone, it does not reduce the body’s production of testosterone, which would cause changes in sex drive and sexual performance. Saw palmetto extracts also reduce prostate enlargement by short circuiting the pathways by which inflammation – causing hormones are produced. This action reduces swelling caused by the accumulation of fluid in prostate tissue. It may also account for the fact that saw palmetto extracts offer relief much sooner than their presciption alternatives.
HIV/AIDS: Loss of body mass is a serious and life-threatening complication of AIDS. European herbalists frequently prescribe saw palmetto to people with AIDS and other chronic diseases who are suffering from severe weight loss. Saw palmetto causes the muscle-building hormones dihydrotestosterone to be blocked from receptor sites in the sex organs and in tissues producing secondary sex characteristics, and instead to stimulate the deposit of proteins into muscle tissue.
Menopause-related problems: Hirsutism, or excessive growth of body hair, is a side effect produced by excess testosterone levels in women. This is a condition that may occur at menopause. It is likely that fat-soluble steroids in saw palmetto keep hair follicles from being stimulated by dihydrotestosterone. Unlike the prescription medication often prescribed for hirsutism, finasteride (Propecia), saw palmetto reduces excess hair growth without reducing levels of either testosterone or estrogen on the bloodstream.
CONTRAINDICATIONS: Saw palmetto is available as a tablet or saw palmetto liposomes. For prostate conditions, it is often combined with pygeum. There is some disagreement among experts as to whether saw palmetto berries offer the same benefits as saw palmetto extract. At least 3 to 4 grams of freeze dried palmetto berries are required to provide the same amount of active ingredients as a standard 320 milligram dose of saw palmetto extract. Saw palmetto berries frequently cause diarrhea, and in rare cases saw palmetto extract can cause stomach upset. It may take four to six weeks to determine if the herb is helping, using either the berries or the herb.
Saw palmetto should not be used to treat urinary problems without first consulting your family physician. Men taking the drugs finasteride (Propecia, Proscar) should inform their doctors if they are also taking saw palmetto, as dosages may have to be adjusted. Some drug interaction experts suggest that women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should not handle saw palmetto tablets and avoid finasteride. Also, since saw palmetto berries have both estrogenic and antiestrogenic activity, women taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapyshould avoid all saw palmetto products.
This concludes another exciting issue of Natural Health. REMEMBER YOU HAVE TO READ TO WIN!