Saturday, July 31, 1999

Anti-depressant herb may harm sight

St John's wort, hailed as a natural remedy for depression, could cause cataracts in some patients, says US research.

It is just the latest report of side effects associated with the herb and its active ingredient hypericin.

Joan Roberts, of Fordham University, New York, showed in laboratory experiments that the drug reacts with light, both visible and ultraviolet, to produce free radicals, molecules that can damage the cells of the body.

These, the scientists found, can react with vital proteins in the eye.

Roberts said: "If the proteins are damaged, they precipitate out of solution and make the lens cloudy. That's what a cataract is."

Source BBC News

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Fruit tea linked to Parkinsonism

Tea made from tropical fruits such as the pawpaw has been linked to a higher rate of a condition with similar symptoms to Parkinson's Disease.

A study carried out in the French West Indies, where the drink is popular, found many patients with "atypical parkinsonism" as a result.

The conditions found were often as deadly as the progressive brain disorder, but started at an earlier age, and were resistant to standard Parkinson's Disease treatments.

Some patients' conditions improved when they stopped drinking the tea.

Source BBC News

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Tea prevents heart attacks


Farmers seek herbal remedy

Scottish farmers have begun growing an ancient mythical herb in the latest attempts to cure some of the industry's ills.

Farmers in the Borders, which have been hit by job losses and the downturn in livestock prices, have turned to the commercial harvesting of borage.

The plant, which normally grows to around 60cm and has loose clusters of purple star-like flowers, was reputed to "drive away all sadness and quieteth the lunatic person".

The first recorded use of borage was in Syria more than 2,000 years ago and was favoured as a drink by Celtic tribes who believed it had health-giving properties.

Now there is increasing demand for borage oil for the pharmaceutical market and for use in evening primrose oil.

Medical scientists have also been testing borage as a possible cure for pancreatic cancer and Alzheimer's disease and it is also an ingredient in Pimms.

About 20 farmers have been involved in commercial trials of the plant, which is also known as blue starflower, but it is extremely difficult to harvest and is likely to remain a specialist market.

Source BBC News

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