Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Herb ineffective as anti-depressant

The popular herbal supplement, St John's wort, is an ineffective treatment for depression, a major study has found.

The use of herbs has grown massively in recent years as more people opt for so-called natural medicines.

Researchers have conducted the largest ever clinical trial into the impact of the herb on major depression - a moderately severe form of the condition.

The researchers, from Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina, found it had no more impact than a dummy medicine.

Source BBC News

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Tea may protect against Parkinson's

Another potentially beneficial effect of tea has been uncovered by scientists who say it may help protect against Parkinson's disease.

They have identified a chemical antioxidant in green tea which has already been show to have protective effects on several disease processes.

Green tea consumption is associated with decreased risk of breast, pancreatic, colon, oesophageal, and lung cancers in humans.

It contains the potent antioxidant polyphenol, which has also been shown to protect against heart disease.

Previous studies indicate that green tea extracts may have protective effects on Parkinson's disease in test animals, but the underlying protective mechanisms were not clear.

However, scientists in the US told the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology they have made progress in understanding the possible mechanism by which polyphenol protects against Parkinson's disease.

The disease is characterised by the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells that control movement.

Researchers at Baylor college of Medicine in Houston, found the antioxidants in the tea helped to fight free radicals, which cause cell damage in the brain, which in turn could cause Parkinson's Disease.

Source BBC News

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Fish oil 'cuts' heart risk

Fish oil supplements can halve the risk of sudden death among heart patients, research suggests.

The crucial ingredients are omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have a range of positive effects on health.

They are found in oily fish such as tuna, salmon and mackerel.

Italian researchers investigated the effect of eating the fatty acids in a study of more than 11,000 heart attack survivors.

They found that a one gram daily dose was enough to significantly reduce the risk of death from a sudden heart attack by 42%.

The fatty acid appears to reduce the problem of irregular heartbeats in patients who have a condition called cardiac arrhythmia.

Source BBC News

Even garlic can be poisonous

Beverley Simmonds had no idea of the powers of garlic.

That was until she spent the entire night after an enjoyable Italian meal at home with her family, writhing around in agony with stomach cramps.

On presentation to her GP the next day, she was told she had a classic case of liver poisoning, caused probably by an over-sensitivity to garlic.

A big fan of vampire and Dracula movies, Ms Simmonds, should have learnt her lessons from the big screen.

She said: "I had always known I suffered from indigestion after eating garlic, as well as chives and also onions. But never had I suffered from cramps as severe as these."

Otherwise known as the stinking rose, raw cloves of garlic have been used for thousands of years in Asia to treat ailments ranging from high blood pressure, infections and high cholesterol.

And garlic is now widely accepted among the Western medical community as probably having these same health benefits.

Source BBC News