Archive for the ‘Herbs’ Category

HERBAL TEA - BENEFITS AND LORE

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Boston, MA

These days, there is a lot of talk about health benefits from drinking teas. Green, black, and oolong are considered the three major classes, and each comes from the age old Camellia sinensis tea bush. But there is an even wider variety of herbal teas - infusions derived from anything other than C. sinensis.

Diane McKay and Oliver Chen
Antioxidants Research
Laboratory scientists
Diane McKay and Oliver Chen
Photo: Stephen Ausmus

According to folklore, some herbal teas also provide benefits. But there is little clinical evidence on the effects of drinking these teas. Now, Diane McKay and Jeffrey Blumberg have looked into science based evidence of health benefits from drinking three of the most popular herbals in America. McKay and Blumberg are with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts. Both work at the center’s Antioxidants Research Laboratory, which Blumberg directs.

One popular herbal, chamomile tea, has long been considered a soothing brew. In the early 20th century, it was mentioned in a classic children’s book about a little rabbit named Peter. At the end of a rough day, Peter’s mom served him some chamomile tea. Interestingly, when Blumberg and McKay reviewed scientific literature on the bioactivity of chamomile, they found no human clinical trials that examined this calming effect.

They did, however, publish a review article on findings far beyond sedation - describing test tube evidence that chamomile tea has moderate antioxidant and antimicrobial activities and significant antiplatelet clumping activity. Also, animal feeding studies have shown potent anti inflammatory action and some cholesterol lowering activity.

The researchers also published a review article describing evidence of bioactivity of peppermint tea. In test tubes, peppermint has been found to have significant antimicrobial and antiviral activities, strong antioxidant and antitumor actions, and some antiallergenic potential. When animals were fed either moderate amounts of ground leaves or leaf extracts, researchers also noted a relaxation effect on gastrointestinal tissue and an analgesic and anesthetic effect in the nervous system.

The researchers found several human studies involving peppermint oil, but they found no data from human clinical trials involving peppermint tea. McKay and Blumberg have concluded that the available research on herbal teas is compelling enough to suggest clinical studies.

McKay has led a human clinical trial to test whether drinking hibiscus tea affects blood pressure. She tested 65 volunteers, aged 30 to 70 years, who were pre or mildly hypertensive. Blood pressure readings of 120/80 or greater are considered a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

For 6 weeks, about half the group was randomly selected to drink 3 cups of hibiscus tea daily. The others drank a placebo beverage containing artificial hibiscus flavoring and color. All participants were advised to follow their usual diet and maintain their normal level of activity. Before the start of the study, blood pressure was measured twice - 1 week apart - and at weekly intervals thereafter.

The findings show that the volunteers who drank hibiscus tea had a 7.2 point drop in their systolic blood pressure (the top number), and those who drank the placebo beverage had a 1.3 point drop.

In a subgroup analysis of the 30 volunteers who had the highest systolic blood pressure readings (129 or above) overall at the start of the study, those assigned to drink hibiscus tea showed the greatest response to hibiscus tea drinking. Their systolic blood pressure went down by 13.2 points, diastolic blood pressure went down by 6.4 points, and mean arterial pressure went down by 8.7 points.

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The 2010 study was published in the Journal of Nutrition. “This data supports the idea that drinking hibiscus tea in an amount readily incorporated into the diet may play a role in controlling blood pressure, although more research is required,” says McKay.
By Rosalie Marion Bliss, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.

This research is part of Human Nutrition, an ARS national program (#107) described at www.nps.ars.usda.gov.

Diane L. McKay is with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, 711 Washington St., Boston, MA 02111-1524; (781) 608-7183.

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>>>>>Read more in our HeartVigor.com Herbal Tea Pages.

EXPLORING ECHINACEA’S ENIGMATIC ORIGINS

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

An Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist is helping to sort through the jumbled genetics of Echinacea, the coneflower known for its blossoms - and its potential for treating infections, inflammation, and other human ailments.

Echinacea, the coneflower
An ARS scientist is
studying the jumbled genetics
of Echinacea, the coneflower known
for its blossoms-and its
potential for treating infections,
inflammation, and other
human ailments.
photo: David Cappaert, MSU

Only a few Echinacea species are currently cultivated as botanical remedies, and plant breeders would like to know whether other types also possess commercially useful traits. ARS horticulturist Mark Widrlechner, who works at the ARS North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station (NCRPIS) in Ames, Iowa, is partnering in research to find out how many distinct Echinacea species exist. Previous studies have put the number between four and nine species, depending on classification criteria.

Working with Iowa State University scientists, Widrlechner selected 40 diverse Echinacea populations for DNA analysis from the many populations conserved at the NCRPIS. Most of these Echinacea populations were found to have a remarkable range of genetic diversity.

DNA analysis suggested that when much of North America was covered with glaciers, Echinacea found southern refuges on both sides of the Mississippi River. But when the glaciers receded after thousands of years, the groups came together as they moved northward and began to hybridize, which might have blurred previous genetic distinctions.

The research team also analyzed the same populations for chemical differences in root metabolites. These metabolites, which are often essential for survival and propagation, can vary widely among species and may have benefits for human health.

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HEALING POWER OF ALOE VERA PROVES BENEFICIAL FOR TEETH AND GUMS, TOO

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

CHICAGO - The aloe vera plant has a long history of healing power. Its ability to heal burns and cuts and soothe pain has been documented as far back as the 10th century. Legend has it that Cleopatra used aloe vera to keep her skin soft. The modern use of aloe vera was first recognized the 1930s to heal radiation burns. Since then, it has been a common ingredient in ointments that heal sunburn, minor cuts, skin irritation, and many other ailments. Recently, aloe vera has gained some popularity as an active ingredient in tooth gel. Similar to its use on skin, the aloe vera in tooth gels is used to cleanse and soothe teeth and gums, and is as effective as toothpaste to fight cavities, according to the May/June 2009 issue of General Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry’s (AGD) clinical, peer-reviewed journal.

Although there are more than 300 species of the plant, only a few have been used for medicinal purposes. “Thankfully, consumers with sensitive teeth or gums have a number of choices when it comes to their oral health, and aloe vera is one of them,” says AGD spokesperson Eric Shapria, MS, DDS, MAGD, MA. “If they are interested in a more alternative approach to oral hygiene, they should speak with their dentist to ensure that it meets the standards of organized dentistry, too.”

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OLIVE LEAF EXTRACT FOR HEALTH

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Olive Leaf Extract is made from the leaves of the olive tree. The leaves are the main part used in extracting the herbal medicine. The olive tree belongs to the family Oleaceae and is native to the Metiteranian areas of Asia Minor and Syria.
Olive Leaf use as a herbal remedy dates back to ancient Greece. Hippocrates prescribed olive oil for many ailments including ulcers.
Olive Leaf It was around 1900 that the secoiridoid compound oleuropein was isolated from the Olive Leaf, and Olive Leaf Extract came into use in modern society. Since then other secoiridoids, ligustroside and oleacein have been found in the Olive Leaf. They also contain the triterpenoids oleanolic acid and uvaol. As well as the flavonoids chrysoeriol, apigenin, luteolin glycosides, quercitin and kaempferol.
This herbal extract is loaded with sterols and antioxidants.

>>>>>Read on in our HeartVigor.com Herbal Page in the Diet section.