Research : Herbs
Clinical applications of herbal medicines for anxiety and insomnia; targeting patients with bipolar disorder
Objectives: Patients with bipolar disorder frequently continue to experience residual anxiety and insomnia between mood episodes. In real-world practice, patients increasingly self-prescribe alternative medicines.
Methods: We reviewed case reports, open-label, and placebo-controlled trials investigating the use of herbal medicines to treat anxiety and insomnia, and discussed their potential applications for bipolar disorder.
Results: Eleven herbal medicines that have been studied in human subjects are included in this review. Mechanisms of action, efficacy, side effects, and drug-drug interactions are discussed. Based on currently available evidence, valerian seems to be the most promising candidate for insomnia and anxiety in bipolar disorder.
Conclusions: Adjunctive herbal medicines may have the potential to alleviate these symptoms and improve the outcomes of standard treatment, despite limited evidence. Physicians need to have a more in-depth understanding of the evidence of benefits, risks, and drug interactions of alternative treatments.
Source : Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
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Can Herbal Medicines Improve Cellular Immunity Patterns in Endometriosis?
Harris T1* and Vlass AM2
Endometriosis is a heterogenous, and oestrogen dependant inflammatory disease that is characterised by morphological and biologically active endometrium (composed of endometrial-type glandular tissue and stroma), that is present in sites outside of the uterine cavity. The disease is complex in nature with the implantation of tissue occurring due to phenomena known as retrograde menstruation. While this is considered central to the pathogenesis of endometriosis, 90% of women that experience this event do not have endometriosis, while the remaining 10% of this population do have endometriosis. The role of the immune system may explain why some women develop endometriosis and why others don’t. Alterations in the immune system (Increased TNF-α, PGE2 and reduced NK cells) have been proposed to play a key role in the establishment of endometrial implants and sustained its growth and development. In order to treat aspects of immunity, it is important to improve relative oestrogen excess which triggers a pro-inflammatory cascade and to regulate immune system abnormalities. With continued unopposed oestrogens, the immune system will not regulate, so this must be a primary treatment aim. Prostaglandin synthesis must be regulated to ensure normal uterine function, healthy flow of menstruation and reducing pain experienced. Key herbs that help address inflammation, immune alterations and oestrogen clearance include Turmeric, Echinacea, Green tea, Caledula and Gotu cola. These herbs have multi-factorial actions that address the underpinning pathology of endometriosis and help rectify and improve reproductive function.
Source : Journal Medicinal Aromatic Plants
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Phytotherapeutic approach to alcohol dependence: New old way?
Alcohol abuse and dependence represent a worldwide problem from both medical and social points of view. In Italy it is estimated that there are about one million alcohol-dependent subjects. The pharmacological treatment of patients with alcohol dependence plays a key role in order to achieve alcohol abstinence and prevent relapse. At present, the possible utility of the complementary medicines in the treatment of alcohol dependence is controversial. In the last years, pre-clinical and clinical data from traditional medicines suggest that novel pharmacological approaches for treatment of alcoholism and alcohol abuse may stem from natural substances. The present review summarizes the findings of the effects of phytotherapy in alcohol addiction.
... Recent experimental evidence and critical re-examination of empirical data from traditional medicines suggest that novel pharmacological approaches for treatment of alcoholism and alcohol abuse may stem from natural substances. Several plant-derived compounds have been shown to significantly reduce alcohol intake, mostly in animal studies. Although several neurotransmitter systems seem to be involved in their effects on alcohol-seeking behavior, the exact mechanisms of action of these compounds remain to be clarified. Until extensive clinical studies are carried out, it will be difficult to extrapolate the findings on animal models of alcohol dependence to a human cohort. The role of these compounds in the treatment of alcoholism will ultimately depend on the outcome of carefully conducted clinical trials. Nevertheless, the extensive positive findings in animal models suggest that the outcome of clinical trials is likely to be positive as well especially when pharmacological treatment is combined with psychological support counselling. Phytotherapy can be a new old way to treat alcohol addiction."
Source : The Free Library
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Recent advances in herbal medicines treating Parkinson's disease
Herbal medicines have attracted considerable attention in recent years, which are used to treat Parkinson's disease (PD) in China based on traditional Chinese medicine or modern pharmacological theories. We summarized and analyzed the anti-Parkinsonian activities of herbal medicines and herbal formulations investigated in PD models and provide future references for basic and clinical investigations. All the herbal medicines and herbal formulations were tested on PD models in vitro and in vivo. The relevant compounds and herbal extracts with anti-Parkinsonian activities were included and analyzed according to their genera or pharmacological activities. A total of 38 herbal medicines and 11 herbal formulations were analyzed. The relevant compounds, herbal extracts and formulations were reported to be effective on PD models by modulating multiple key events or signaling pathways implicated in the pathogenesis of PD. The plant species of these herbal medicines belong to 24 genera and 18 families, such as Acanthopanax, Alpinia and Astragalus, etc. These herbal medicines can be an alternative and valuable source for anti-Parkinsonian drug discovery. The plant species in these genera and families may be the most promising candidates for further investigation and deserve further consideration in clinical trials. Active components in some of the herbal extracts and the compatibility law of herbal formulations remain to be further investigated.
Source : Fitoterapia
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Anti-inflammatory properties of culinary herbs and spices that ameliorate the effects of metabolic syndrome
Alois Jungbauer , Svjetlana Medjakovic
Department of Biotechnology and Christian Doppler Laboratory of Receptor Biotechnology, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, Muthgasse 18, 1190 Vienna, Austria
Obesity and metabolic syndrome are increasing global health problems. In addition to the malnutrition of a sedentary lifestyle, high calorie intake leads to obesity with many negative health consequences. Macrophages infiltrate adipose tissue and induce chronic inflammation by secreting pro-inflammatory cytokines, including COX-2 and iNOS, among other mediators of inflammation. Free fatty acids mediate adipose tissue signalling through toll-like receptor 4 and the expression of these pro-inflammatory mediators via NF-κB or JNK. PPAR γ activators can inhibit the activation of NF-κB, down-regulating the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Here we provide an overview of how different culinary herbs and spices exert anti-inflammatory activities and the extent to which they activate PPAR α and PPAR γ, inhibit the activation of NF-κB, and enhance expression of anti-inflammatory cytokines. Spices can play essential roles as anti-inflammatory agents in our diet, acting as pan PPAR activators and improving insulin sensitivity, counteracting dyslipidaemia and weight gain. The effects of chronic inflammation caused by obesity are counteracted and, consequently, the progression of diseases associated with chronic inflammation slowed.
Source : Journal Maturitas
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Spices and Herbs May Improve Cardiovascular Risk Factors
West, Sheila G. PhD; Skulas-Ray, Ann C. PhD
Sheila G. West, PhD, is professor of biobehavioral health and nutritional sciences at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park.
Ann C. Skulas-Ray, PhD, is a research associate in the department of nutritional sciences at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park.
Traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) include high blood low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes. Family history and inflammatory factors also affect CVD risk. Diet therapy for treating and managing patients with CVD and for reducing risk among healthy individuals focuses on consuming a diet containing vegetables and fruits; eating whole-grain breads and cereals; choosing poultry, fish, nuts, legumes, and low-fat dairy foods; and limiting the intake of saturated fat, trans-fat, sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats.1Because spices and herbs are rich in potentially bioactive compounds, clinical studies have examined their effects on blood insulin, blood lipids, and inflammation.
Spices and herbs are rich in compounds that may reduce inflammation and improve blood factors associated with increased CVD risk. However, the body of literature regarding their effects is small, and the clinical findings are not always consistent. The vascular effects of spices and herbs and their efficacy and safety relative to traditional drug therapy represent an exciting area for future research given the public health significance of CVD.
Source : Nutrition Today
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The effect of concentration on the antioxidant activity of selected culinary herbs
Lenka Kouřimská1*, Diana Chrpová2, Pavel Nový1 and Jan Pánek2
1Department of Quality of Agricultural Products, Faculty of Agrobiology, Food and Natural Resources, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Prague, Czech Republic.
2Department of Food Analysis and Nutrition, Faculty of Food and Biochemical Technology, Institute of Chemical Technology, Praha, Prague, Czech Republic.
Antioxidant activity of selected widely used culinary herbs (oregano, Greek oregano, marjoram, summer savory, rosemary and two varieties of leafy parsley) was monitored to see the effect of increasing herb content on the inhibition of pork lard oxidation. The activity of tested dry herbs was significant (protection factors were from 1.7 to 11.4) and linearly increased at all range of concentrations from 10 to 100 g/kg. No prooxidant effect occurred under the Schaal test conditions. The antioxidant activity of plants decreased in the following order: marjoram > Greek oregano > flat parsley > rosemary > summer savory > curly parsley > oregano, which did not correspond clearly with their total phenolics content.
Source : The Journal of Medicinal Plant Research
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Aromatherapy in your Kitchen: Cooking with Herbs
by Pat Thomas (The Ecologist)
How to make your food your medicine and medicine your food, starting with six common herbs you can use in your recipes and everyday cooking The smell of our food is inexorably linked to our enjoyment of it. In fact, taste and smell are the two most directly linked of our senses. Aroma is the essence of food, but as well as making food taste good, it can also enhance our sense of well-being.
While the concept of aromatherapy has become something of a catch-all phrase for a wide range of healing techniques, such as massage and steam inhalation, which involve the use of highly concentrated oils derived from plants and flowers, rarely if ever do we think of our food as having aromatherapeutic properties.
The health benefits of flavourful food are well known in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. While it is unlikely that you will be eating herbs and spices in anything like medicinal quantities, many have been shown to be concentrated sources of antioxidants, and if taken regularly in great enough quantities, some can have medicinal effects. Cinnamon, for example, helps regulate blood sugar; in Germany, sage is licensed as a standard medicinal tea to treat gastrointestinal upsets and night sweats.
Taste may also be important to feelings of satiety and therefore be influential in managing overeating and obesity. There is evidence to suggest that foods that are flavourful, taken in small bites, may increase a person's satisfaction with a meal and help regulate food intake.
Although it is an area that would benefit from more study, smell disorders have been linked with many health problems including obesity, and one small study found that in 20 per cent of participating children the ability to fully detect the aromas of their food was impaired.
Another study found that those who had the most tastebuds, and therefore the greatest sensitivity to food tastes/smells, had the lowest body mass index.
One reason why we eat so many fried foods may be because frying can bring out the complex, satisfying aromas of food (for more on food flavours, see this extract from Eric Sclosser's book Fast Food Nation). But there are other, healthier ways. So if your food preparation rarely goes beyond salting and peppering consider these alternatives and remember - whatever you are eating, don't overcook, and chew fully and slowly to release all the beneficial aromas and flavours.
Herbs will add subtle flavours to almost any dish. Unlike spices, which often come from far away, herbs can be grown easily in your garden and picked fresh when you need them. Always use the fresh herb and tear, don't cut the leaves. Gently crushing the leaves by scrunching them up in your hand or lightly bruising them using a mortar and pestle is a good way to releasing their aromas.
Basil fortifies the digestive and nervous systems and can be a good remedy for headaches and insomnia. It is also a good diuretic. When using it in cooking, opt for the fresh leaves and wait until the very last moment before adding them to your dish. Try scattering it on tomato salads, in soups and to egg, rice and mushroom dishes. Make your own pesto sauce, or put some fresh leaves into olive oil for a pungent salad dressing (don't worry if the leaves turn black).
Dill has a sharp/sweet taste, somewhere between mint and aniseed. It is a natural bactericide, diuretic and digestive soother and can be effective against cystitis and other bladder infections. Use it liberally with seafood, especially salmon. Sprinkle it onto salads or lightly steamed vegetables especially new or baked potatoes. You can also add the seeds to stews, soups or as a topping on cooked vegetables or in rice dishes.
Fennel is a relative of dill and has a slightly milder flavour. Its traditional uses are for lack of appetite, poor digestion, fatigue, fluid retention, headaches and bladder infections. It is also helpful in cases of anaemia. Fennel is great baked on its own or with fish but is equally appetising raw in a range of fresh salads. As an alternative, put the seeds into a pepper mill and grind over meats, pulse dishes or fish.
Lemon Balm is useful for depression and anxiety. It can also ease the symptoms of stress, such as headache, migraine and insomnia. Use the fresh leaves in (non-alcoholic) cocktails, in stuffings and in both savoury and fruit salads. It goes well with fish and can be infused in milk for a lemony milk pudding.
Mint is a sedative and is good for the nervous system. It is traditionally considered an aid to detoxification and has antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Mint is the traditional sauce for lamb but has many other uses. Fresh mint can be brewed as a tea or put in tall, cool drinks in the summer. Mix it with bulgar wheat for a delicious salad. Sprinkle over new potatoes or peas or use in salads or dressings. It is also delicious mixed in with chutneys or yoghurts as a cooling accompaniment to spicy foods, such as curries.
Parsley has numerous uses including as a general tonic, diuretic and digestive aid. It is an effective treatment for constipation and the French revere it in much the same way that the Chinese revere ginseng. Don't just plop it on the side of your plate; stir it into omelettes, vegetable and rice dishes. Mix it with some butter, spread this on some crusty bread and bake briefly for a quick snack. Add it to mashed potato and use it when making fish or meat balls.
Rosemary is a natural anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. It's a staple in Mediterranean cooking and can be used to infuse everything from lamb, poultry, pork, veal, and beef to roasted potatoes, green beans, peas, and mushrooms with a fresh flavour. Brew it as a tea to calm frayed nerves and relieve wind. Use it to make flavourful oils and vinegars or try something really different and use it to flavour custard.
Sage is an ancient remedy used to 'normalise' the female reproductive system. Eaten raw it can also be effective in rheumatic conditions, catarrh, excessive sweating and tummy upsets. Add to salads, soups and stuffings for rich meats like pork and goose. Make a seasoning by grinding up dried sage leaves with coarse sea salt. This can be used on almost any savoury dish. Alternatively, make a uniquely flavoured honey by adding freshly dried sage leaves. This can then be used in herbal teas and sweet dishes to give them a therapeutic boost.
Tarragon can settle the stomach and relieve constipation. It can clear the body of intestinal parasites, ease fluid retention and improve the appetite. Because it is so savoury you may not need to use as much salt in cooked dishes - a bonus for those suffering from hypertension. Its most popular use is with chicken, but it can also be used in salads and omelettes. Put some in a bottle of good quality vinegar for a tasty condiment.
Thyme is a general tonic and an aid to digestion. It is also useful for colds, coughs, flu, asthma and sinus headaches. Some sources claim it also acts as an antioxidant. Thyme is best used fresh in marinades and sauces, stocks and stuffings. It is a staple of slow cooked casseroles and stews and is reputed to 'fix' the iron in meat as well as making it more digestible. Crushed leaves make excellent herb oils and vinegars.
Source: The Ecologist
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