Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tea 'controls female hair growth'

Spearmint tea may help to control excessive hair growth in women, say Turkish researchers.

Drinking the tea twice a day, reduced levels of male sex hormones, which can cause excessive hair growth (hirsutism) on the stomach, breasts and face.

Treatment for hirsutism, usually involves drugs to reduce the levels of androgen or male hormones in the body.

Source: BBC News

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Watercress 'may cut cancer risk'

Eating watercress regularly could help cut the chances of developing cancer, research suggests.

The University of Ulster work suggests it cuts DNA damage to white blood cells - considered to be an important trigger in the development of cancer.

Watercress appears to raise levels of beneficial compounds, and cut levels of harmful compounds in the blood.

The study is funded by the Watercress Alliance, but is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Source - BBC News

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Spoonful of the sorcerer's art

Some ridicule the naturopath's remedies, others say she turns their lives around. Rory Ross plays the patient

Had Elizabeth Peyton-Jones lived 500 years ago, she would have been burnt at the stake or tied to weights and hurled into a river to see if she floated. These days, her ilk goes by the name of "naturopath" and "herbalist". Even so, a scientist might struggle to understand some of her mystical powers.

Peyton-Jones, whose sister, Julia, is the director of the Serpentine Gallery, infuses natural therapies with uncanny herbal wisdom in order to cure everything from ME and gout to irritable bowel syndrome and depression.

She practises something called Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET), a procedure for spotting and removing allergies, also used for testing organs and clearing emotional "blockages".

"Everyone can achieve good health, but I teach people how," she says, when we meet at her London flat. "I pick up where Jamie Oliver signs off. Using parsley as a garnish is a short step from using the herb as a diuretic or to prevent bruising. The knowledge is there. What's missing is our willingness to identify problems and take the time to help ourselves."

Natural help-yourself therapies are back in fashion. The zeitgeist is telling us that, when healing ourselves, the less we fiddle with Nature's bounty, the better for us all and the NHS.

Source - Telegraph

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Garlic as an effective medicine

GARLIC is an effective medicine. It has antimicrobial properties and works well to combat congestion and the build-up of catarrh.

Garlic has other uses as a medicinal herb. It lowers cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure, and is used to treat diabetes. Its effect on lowering blood sugar appears to be due to increased hepatic metabolism, an increased release of insulin, or an insulin-sparing effect.

A clove of raw garlic finely chopped and added to vegetables at the last minute is a great way to include it in your evening meal. Consider taking supplementary garlic capsules if you need an extra boost. Try Viridian garlic capsules (£8.05 for 30).

Source - Scotsman

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Good for stress.

IF THE Christmas party season is filling you with dread, try Rhodiola rosea, a plant indigenous to Siberia. It's a powerful herb that helps the body adapt to physical, mental or emotional stress. It is also excellent for improving mental and physical performance and for centuries has been prized as a powerful stimulant - it is the major ingredient in many love potions of folklore. Research and anecdotal evidence have shown that it can help men suffering from erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation.

Viridian sells rhodiola in capsule form (£9.60 for 30), with a bilberry, alfalfa and spirulina base. See for more information.

Gill Hames is at Neal's Yard Remedies, 102 Hanover Street, Edinburgh (0131 226 3223,

Source - Scotsman

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Silymarin herb and Type 2 Diabetes

According to a recent study the silymarin herb is very beneficial for individuals who suffer from type 2 diabetes. Seemingly it can control levels of sugar in patients' blood.

Researchers at the Institute of Medicinal Plants in Tehran, Iran pointed out the fact that the silymarin herb's potency to control blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes sufferers must be mainly due to its rich content of antioxidant compounds. However, the exact chemical(s) which regulate sugar levels in diabetics and how they 'work' is still a mystery. Fallah Huseini, the leading author of the study, said: “We don't know the exact mechanism of action for this effect, but this work shows that silymarin could play an important role in treating type II diabetes.”

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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Menopause alternative remedy fear

Women who swap hormone replacement therapy for alternative therapies to treat menopause symptoms risk harming themselves, doctors say.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists also warned women not to expect too much from the therapies.

They said there was some evidence they reduced hot flushes, but there was also a risk of stomach upset and rashes.

In one case, a woman even needed a liver transplant after taking the herb black cohosh.

Source: BBC News

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As the heat of summer gives way to the chills of autumn, it is a good time to think about boosting your immunity for the new season ahead.

Plant remedies can help us overcome infectious illnesses both by supporting the body's natural healing mechanisms and by having an anti-microbial action on invading organisms.

In recent years, echinacea has grown in popularity as an immune system booster; and while this indigenous North American herb has many excellent benefits, I also like to use elderberry (pictured), which is a more traditional British remedy for immunity.

Elderberry is especially useful in the prevention of coughs, colds and flu. It is a mild herb, which means that it can be easily taken by children and the elderly.

Source - Scotsman

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Time to grow your own tea

DO you fancy a cup of camomile or a pot of peppermint? There is a huge range of herbal teas and tempting infusions on the market, but try to grow it yourself.

Herbs have long been renowned as natural healers and many contain uplifting properties. So whether you are just after a light refreshment or a natural remedy, it won't come much fresher than from your garden or windowsill.

Indeed Jekka McVicar, RHS fruit, vegetable and herb committee member, says they are actively encouraging more people to grow their own herbs.

"Herbs can help a whole range of ailments and make a really refreshing infusion. They can be grown in many different ways, in a formal herb garden, dotted among ornamental plants in a bed or border, as pot plants on the patio, in hanging baskets or on the windowsill. So even if you don't have a garden, you can still grow your own living medicine cabinet."

Source: - Scotsman

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Focus on individual herbal remedies - Festival survival

Festival survival tincture
Made up of Ashwagandha, Gotu kola and milk thistle this remedy provides a boost of energy for those intent on getting the most from their festival - in this case Edinburgh! Ashwagandha is an Ayervedic herb that rejuvenates and energizes the nervous system. Gotu kola helps the body deal with stress. Milk thistle helps protect the liver from toxins.

Source - Scotsman

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Monday, July 31, 2006

Safety warning given for popular herb

LONDON (Reuters) - Black cohosh, a herb popular for relieving hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause, may be linked with liver damage and products containing it will in future carry a warning, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said on Tuesday.

The drug regulator said a review of all available data had concluded that liver injury resulting from black cohosh was rare but could be serious.

"In the light of this advice, the MHRA is working with the herbal sector to ensure that labels of black cohosh products carry updated safety warnings," Professor Kent Wood, the agency's chief executive, said in a statement.

Source: - Scotsman

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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Herb 'no aid to prostate health'

A herb extract for men with a prostate condition has no more effect on it than a dummy version, a study has found.

Saw palmetto is taken to improve urinary symptoms in men with an enlarged prostate gland.

US researchers carried out a year-long study of 225 men, none of whom knew if they were taking the real herb or not.

Prostate experts in the UK said the New England Journal of Medicine study contradicted anecdotal reports from men of benefits from saw palmetto.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Chinese medicine outlets probed

A recent BBC investigation has found that scores of traditional Chinese medicine stores in Britain's high streets are being investigated for selling illegal medicines. The BBC discovered that 67 outlets selling Chinese medicines are under suspicion.

It is estimated that 6,000 stores across the country offer treatment for conditions ranging from eczema to the menopause. But the industry, although growing in popularity, is largely unregulated.

At the Herb Garden store in Leigh on Sea, Essex, an undercover reporter from the BBC was sold a herbal slimming pill and told it contained rhubarb and honeysuckle. Tests showed it contained fenfluarmine - an illegal pharmaceutical considered to be so dangerous that it is banned in most countries worldwide, including the UK.

The owner of the store was prosecuted earlier this year for illegally selling the same drug. She was fined £30,000 with another £20,000 in court costs. The maximum sentence for selling an illegal medicine is two years imprisonment.

(Not long enough.)

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Monday, October 31, 2005

Star Anise - the world's last hope against bird flu?

Seemingly star anise, from which the drug Tamiflu is made, may be the only defense the world currently has against an avian flu pandemic.

The Independent, claims the herb star anise is the world's only weapon against the deadly disease bird flu. It says a shortage of the herb means Britain cannot produce enough of the drug Tamiflu to protect the public. Only star anise grown in the four provinces of China is suitable for manufacture into Tamiflu and 90 per cent of the harvest is already used by Roche.

A derivative of star anise, shikimic acid, is used in production of the drug Tamiflu (Oseltamivir Phosphate), which is said to reduce the severity of avian flu. The star anise from which Tamiflu is made is only grown in four provinces in China and "huge quantities" of its seeds are needed, according to the Swiss pharmaceutical manufacturer Roche. It is harvested for this purpose between March and May, purified and the shikimic acid extracted at the start of a 10-stage manufacturing process, which takes a year.

The Guardian says veterinary experts want the government to stockpile the vaccine to combat the disease's spread.

The Daily Telegraph says the Tories and Liberal Democrats claim stocks should have been amassed sooner.

I have got a jar on my spice shelf if anyone needs it.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Strength of herbal remedy tested

Scientists on Tyneside are launching a study into the long-term effects of the popular Chinese herbal remedy ginseng.

A team at Northumbria University need volunteers to take part in the 20-week study into the herb's affect on memory, attention and mood.

A previous trial at the university's Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit (HCNU) found a single dose of the herb relieved fatigue and boosted memory.

Now they want to know the effects of gingseng on the body long-term.

PhD student Jonathon Reay, who is leading the research, said: "Volunteers will be asked to undertake a series of computerised cognitive assessments to monitor ginseng's effects on memory, attention and mood.

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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Migraine herb may help fight cancer

Better treatments for leukaemia could be on the horizon thanks to the feverfew, a daisy-like plant traditionally used to treat migraines and arthritis.

The plant yields a substance that kills the rogue stem cells that give rise to all leukaemia cells. Because these stem cells divide slowly, they often survive conventional treatments. But parthenolide, the substance found in feverfew.

Source New Scientist

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

A herb in the balance

Two years ago, the UK government banned kava, a herbal remedy for treating anxiety. A suspicion had emerged that it might cause liver damage. The ban incensed proponents, some of whom decided to take the government to court over the matter. Now the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is reconsidering the decision; the organisation has recently invited interested parties to submit new evidence.

Kava is a plant (Piper methysticum) from the South Sea, where it has been used as a medicine for centuries. Rigorous clinical trials over the past two decades have demonstrated that it is effective in reducing anxiety. Kava therefore had become very popular. But the "kava-boom" came to a halt when cases of severe liver problems emerged. Eighty-four cases have now been associated with kava worldwide. Nine patients have suffered irreversible liver failure, and six individuals have died. None the less, proponents, including those organised in the International Kava Executive Council, insist that the evidence is inconclusive, pointing out that such adverse effects are extremely rare - only about one case per 50 million kava users.

Several new theories might explain what is really going on. In most of the cases, experts identified other possible causes for the liver damage. Many of the affected patients also consumed alcohol or took drugs known to damage the liver. The other patients could have suffered from liver conditions related to diseases such as infectious hepatitis. And some people will always experience liver problems apparently out of the blue.

Another theory holds that the modern manufacturing process for kava supplements is to blame. Natives from the South Sea make their kava drink essentially by dissolving the root in water. Kava supplements, however, are extracted with solvents which take out toxic constituents from the plant which are absent in the traditional kava drink. New evidence suggests that habitual kava users in the South Sea show no signs of liver problems even though they take rather high doses.

Other experts suspect that the huge popularity of kava supplements created so much demand that people started processing parts of the plant that were never meant to be used. This mistake, they think, led to products with toxic constituents not normally contained in quality products. This theory could explain why kava was used for such a long time without problems, and only when sales boomed did problems emerge.

Finally, some researchers believe that there could be a genetic explanation. Natives of the South Sea might be protected from liver damage simply because they are genetically different from us. In fact, the vast majority of Caucasians have nothing to fear. According to this school of thought, only a very small group of people afflicted with a genetic abnormality are at risk.

Meanwhile, three new clinical trials confirm the effectiveness of kava in relieving anxiety, which brings the total number of trials to 12. Several independent experts are now sure that the benefits of kava outweigh its risks. They also point out that conventional drugs with similar anxiolytic properties, such as Valium, are at least as harmful as kava.

In the coming months, the kava debate is set to reignite. The MHRA has already stated that kava poses "a rare but serious risk to public health". The First International Kava Conference, which took place in December 2004 in Fiji, arrived at the opposite conclusion: "We see no grounds for continuing bans and restrictions [and] call for their immediate removal." Watch this space.

· Edzard Ernst is professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula medicine school at the universities of Exeter and Plymouth.

Source The Guardian
Edzard ErnstTuesday

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Thursday, February 24, 2005

Ginseng 'could improve memory'

The herbal remedy ginseng can help improve memory in stroke patients suffering from dementia, researchers have found.

Stroke patients can experience a form of memory loss called moderate vascular dementia, which is caused by damage to the blood vessels leading to the brain.

Chinese researchers found taking a ginseng compound meant people who had experienced a stroke scored more highly on memory tests than those who did not take the herb.

But UK experts said the findings had to be treated with caution.

Forty patients, with an average age of 67, who had mild or moderate vascular dementia took part in the study.

Twenty-five were given a tablet of ginseng extracted from Chinese ginseng roots, leaves and an herb known as panax notoginseng three times daily.

The rest were given a Duxil, (almitrine + raubasine), a drug which increases oxygen use in brain tissue. It has previously been shown to improve the memory of elderly patients with dementia.
All 40 were given memory tests which focused on how well they could recall stories, words and other verbal and visual memory tests before and after the 12-week study.

Those given the ginseng significantly improved their average memory function after 12 weeks.
It was found ginseng increased the activities of the brain chemicals acetylcholine and choline acetyltransferase in elderly mice.

Source BBC News

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Herb 'as good as depression drug'

A German study has added weight to the argument that a herbal remedy is an effective treatment for depression.

Researchers compared the effectiveness of St John's wort to anti-depressant drug paroxetine in treating moderate and severe depression.

The team found half of those with the condition improved when given the herb, compared with a third using the drug, the BBC News

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Monday, January 31, 2005

African herb yields its anti-addiction secret

THE secret of an African herb that helps drug addicts and alcoholics kick the habit has been discovered. The finding could lead to safer and more effective medications for treating addiction.

Since the 1960s, many addicts have reported that even a single dose of ibogaine, a hallucinogenic alkaloid extracted from the root of an African shrub, helps them kick their habit by reducing their cravings for drugs. And there is hard evidence to back these claims, as well. However, troubling side effects - including heart problems and several deaths - have kept ibogaine from being widely accepted as a medical treatment. Instead, a few researchers have begun searching for ways to deliver ibogaine's benefits without its risks.

Source New Scientist

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Friday, April 30, 2004

Mushroom remedy 'makes you fit'

A Chinese mushroom improves the fitness of middle-aged and elderly people, research suggests.
Tests showed people aged between 40 and 70 who lived a sedentary lifestyle became fitter after taking an extract of the Cordyceps mushroom.

The research presented to the American Physiological Society indicated an improvement in the ability to exercise and a reduction in tiredness.

However, UK experts said scientific proof for the remedy was lacking.

The mushroom became a Chinese remedy around 1,500 years ago after herdsmen in the Himalayas noticed a significant increase in their herds' strength and agility after eating it.

It is now marketed in the West.

The performance of Chinese women athletes in setting several new records at a tournament in 1993 was due to high-altitude training and using a tonic derived from the mushroom, their coach said.

Researchers at Pharmanex in California, which produces a remedy called CordyMax, tried it out on 131 volunteers.

Some were given the remedy and some a placebo over a 12-week period.

Researchers measured exercise capacity, endurance performance and metabolic alterations before, during and after receiving the remedy or placebo.


Volume of oxygen consumption went up 5.5% in the group given the remedy, but only 2.2% in the others, suggesting an increase in aerobic capacity.

The time taken to complete a one-mile walk was reduced by 29 seconds in the CordyMax group but increased slightly in the others.

And diastolic blood pressure fell by 3.2% among people taking the remedy.

The researchers said: "This study provides scientific evidence that CordyMax is effective in enhancing aerobic exercise capability, endurance exercise performance, and exercise metabolism and alleviating fatigue in healthy humans."

Dr Jidong Wu, a lecturer at Middlesex University and president of the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said there had not been scientific trials to establish the effectiveness of the mushroom.

He said: "There are not many clinical trials which are accredited by Westerners, but according to the ancient Chinese literature it is a tonic herb.

"In clinical practice, people taking it feel better, but scientifically how much, we don't know."

The mushroom was thought to improve the performance of the lungs and kidneys, he said.

Source BBC News

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Friday, February 20, 2004


I am starting a series of articles giving interesting information about a variety of herbs. Having decided to start alphabetically I am starting with that interesting herb Anise. Often used as a flavouring it also has medical and magical properties.

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Monday, February 09, 2004

Missing ingredients in herb tests

Tests on St John's Wort tablets showed huge variations in how much active ingredient different brands contain.

Some people buying the popular herbal medicine may be getting virtually none, reveals the study by Taiwanese experts.

St John's Wort, or Hypericum, can have mild antidepressant effects, although doctors warn it can interfere with the effects of other medicines.

None of the tablets tested had as much of the active ingredient as claimed, said the researchers.
Two chemicals are thought to be responsible for the psychoactive effects of St John's Wort.

These are hypericin - the chemical ingredient normally named on the label - and a related chemical called pseudohypericin.

None of the five products tested by researchers from the National Chung-Hsing University claimed to contain any pseudohypericin.

Source BBC News

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Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Flower oil 'no good for eczema'

A popular alternative eczema treatment called "starflower oil" has little impact on the condition, say doctors.

Patients given the extract fared no better than those trying a placebo drug, experiments found.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, is also bad news for those using Evening Primrose Oil to tackle eczema.

It shares the same ingredient as starflower oil, though in different concentrations.
"Starflower oil" is actually an extract of borage, a herb which grows in the UK.

It has been suggested that it could have an anti-inflammatory effect which could ease the symptoms of eczema.

Source BBC News

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Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Buckwheat 'controls diabetes'

A type of herb called buckwheat may be beneficial in the management of diabetes, say researchers.

Extracts of the seed lowered blood glucose levels by up to 19% when it was fed to diabetic rats.
Scientists at the University of Manitoba in Canada say diabetics should consider including the grain in their diet, or taking dietary supplements.

The study, part funded by the food industry, is published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Lead researcher Dr Carla Taylor said: "With diabetes on the rise, incorporation of buckwheat into the diet could help provide a safe, easy and inexpensive way to lower glucose levels and reduce the risk of complications associated with the disease, including heart, nerve and kidney problems.

"Buckwheat won't cure diabetes, but we'd like to evaluate its inclusion in food products as a management aid."

Source BBC News

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Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Slugs take fright at garlic

Garlic could be the new way to drive slugs away from our lettuce without using pesticides.

The smelly herb not only seems to keep vampires at bay, but scientists say it also drives slugs and snails out of the garden.

Biologists from the University of Newcastle, UK, have found that a barrier of garlic oil repelled the molluscs.

Dr Gordon Port, who heads the research project, described at the British Association's science festival in Salford, Greater Manchester, how exposure to refined garlic can even kill slugs.
Garlic has been co-planted as an anti-pest control for hundreds of years.

Source BBC News

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Herb and drug mix alert

Millions may be taking potentially dangerous combinations of herbal and conventional medicines, pharmacists have warned.

Researchers told the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Harrogate many people do not view herbal remedies as medicines.

Two thirds did not admit to taking herbal medicines when they collected prescriptions.

Pharmacists said more awareness was needed of the risks of combining drugs and remedies. ´

Researchers from the Department of Pharmacy at Kings College, London, questioned 929 people visiting four pharmacies in West London in the study.

They found that, even when people were asked what medicines they were taking, 41% did not mention herbal remedies because they did not class them as medicines.

Source BBC News

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Sunday, August 31, 2003

Herb 'does not lower cholesterol'

Scientists say there is no evidence to support claims that a popular herbal supplement reduces cholesterol.

They have suggested that guggul may actually increase cholesterol rather than lower it.

Guggul extract has been used in traditional Indian medicine for thousands of years.

Besides its supposed impact on cholesterol, there have been claims that it protects against heart disease, stroke, tonsillitis and bronchitis.

Dr Philippe Szapary and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine tested the extract on a group of volunteers.

Source BBC News

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Saturday, August 30, 2003

Sage herb 'can boost memory'

Centuries-old theories that the herb sage can improve memory appear to be borne out by modern research.

Scientists at the Universities of Newcastle and Northumbria tested 44 people, who were either given the herb or a dummy placebo pill.

They found that those given the sage oil tablets performed much better in a "word recall test".

Experts believe the active ingredient may boost levels of a chemical that helps transmit messages in the brain.

Source BBC News

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Monday, June 30, 2003

Chinese herb 'good for the mind'

A herb used in China for centuries may help stroke patients suffering from dementia.
Experts tested the herbal medicine in a clinical trial and found it lived up to its reputation.

The drug, extracted from an orchid and six other plants, has been used since 100 AD for treating dizziness, headache and stroke.

It was found to significantly increase mental function in a three-month study of 120 stroke patients.

The remedy, known as gastrodine compound granule, is the first herbal drug for dementia to be tested in clinical trials at hospitals in China.

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Herb wrap wards off food poisoning

The herb basil is the crucial ingredient in a super wrap being developed to protect food more effectively from contamination by dangerous bugs.

Scientists are using anti-microbial extracts from the herb to create a plastic wrapper for meat and cheese.

The chemicals slowly ooze out from the wrapper - and extend the product's shelf-life by killing off bacteria such as E. coli and listeria which can cause severe food poisoning.

New Scientist magazine reports that tests have shown the new wrapping can keep bacteria at bay in Cheddar cheese for a week longer than ordinary packaging.

The wrapper has been developed by scientists at the Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, and the Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia.

It is laced with two chemicals extracted from basil: an ether called methyl chavicol and the alcohol linalool.

Both contain compounds that attack and destroy cell walls, and have been shown to be active against eight types of bacteria.

Source BBC News

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Saturday, May 31, 2003

Herb treatment for herpes

A common herb may provide a new and effective treatment for the sexually transmitted infection herpes.

Scientists have successfully used an agent derived from the herb, Prunella vulgaris aka (self heal, heal all, common self heal), to prevent the disease in animals.

The herb, commonly found in Britain, Europe, China and North America, has been used in the past to treat sores in the mouth and throat.

There is also some evidence that it has been used as a crude anti-cancer drug and to lower high blood pressure.

Dr Song Lee and his colleagues from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, extracted a compound from the plant.

This was then added to a cream and tested on mice and guinea pigs who had been infected with two types of the herpes simplex virus.

Use of the cream significantly cut the death rate among mice, and the development of skin lesions in guinea pigs.

Source BBC News

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Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Herbal tranquiliser ban opposed

Complementary health experts have opposed a ban of the herbal medicine Kava-kava.
The herb is used as a natural tranquiliser, and as an alternative to Valium.
But it has been linked to cases of liver damage, and a UK medicine watchdog is considering a ban.

Scientists meeting at the Symposium on Complementary Medicine at Exeter University say that would be an "over reaction".

Sixty-eight cases of suspected liver damage associated with the use of medicinal products containing Kava have been reported worldwide, three of which were in the UK.

Six patients who had liver failure needed liver transplants and three others died.

But complementary health campaigners claim side effects from Kava-kava are rare, and the risk of liver damage is similar to that associated with Valium.

Source BBC News

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Herbal stress remedy banned

Remedies containing the herb Kava-kava have been banned after it was linked to four deaths.
The herb is used as a natural tranquiliser and as an alternative to Valium.

It was voluntarily removed from the shelves a year ago after almost 70 cases of suspected liver damage associated with the herbal medicine were reported, four in the UK. Seven patients needed liver transplants.

The UK's Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) and the Medicines Commission have now recommended a ban.

Source BBC News

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Monday, September 30, 2002

Herbal remedies 'could harm health'

Herbalists have warned people are putting their health at risk by using remedies inappropriately.

The UK market for herbal remedies such as St John's Wort and ginseng is worth around £126m a year, but experts say some of that is money badly spent.

Trudy Norris, president of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists warned against mixing remedies, combining them with conventional medicines or taking poor quality supplements.

She told BBC News Online herbs were safe and could be used successfully.
But she added:" What we are concerned about is that lots of people self-prescribe in an inappropriate way.

"So someone may want to use a herb instead of a drug, for example someone may buy a herbal combination and equate it with HRT, and they don't equate.

"And they may go into a shop to buy, say, St John's Wort, where there's a whole shelf-full of various quality and standards."

Source BBC News

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Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Ban proposed for herbal medicine

A government watchdog is considering banning the use of Kava-kava as a herbal supplement after patients reported liver problems.
Even its use as an ingredient in some foods could be outlawed.

The Medicines Control Agency (MCA) has launched a public and industry consultation on the future of the herb - used for many years as a remedy for anxiety and restlessness.

The Committee for the Safety of Medicines (CSM) looked at its safety record in December, and stocks of the herb were withdrawn from shops.

However, the MCA's investigations have revealed 68 cases worldwide in which Kava-kava has been linked to liver problems.

These have led to six liver transplants - and three deaths.

In the UK there have been three suspected cases of Kava-kava linked liver toxicity.
People or companies with a view on the herb have until the end of September to make their views known to the MCA.

Source BBC News

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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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Sunday, March 31, 2002

Aloe vera cuts ulcer risk

A gel made from the herb aloe vera may help to treat and prevent stomach and intestinal ulcers.
A team from the Barts and London, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry have carried out tests which show that the herb has a beneficial effect on the production of substances which help boost the healing process in cases of ulceration in the gut.

The researchers believe aloe vera could be particularly valuable in treating ulcers caused as a side effect of taking anti-inflammatory NSAID drugs.

The aloe vera gel was tested on a culture of gastric cells at a concentration that is likely to be found in the stomach after swallowing a dose.

Aloe has been recognised as a painkiller, and since ancient times it has been used to treat burns.
It has also been used to treat other skin conditions such as scrapes, sunburns and insect bites.
Aloe is also a common ingredient in cosmetics and lotions because it naturally balances the pH of the skin.

Internally, it has been used as a mild laxative. There is also some evidence to suggest that it might enhance the functioning of the immune system.

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Sunday, July 01, 2001

Herb offers malaria treatment hope

The World Health Organization estimates malaria affects 300m people a year across the world.

Professor Nick White, who runs the Wellcome Trust's south-east Asia unit, told BBC News Online how rates of malaria were reduced by 90% - using a drug made from a Chinese herb.

The community of 120,000 displaced Burmese, living in camps on the north-west border of Thailand have many battles to fight.

In the past, malaria was one of those. The drugs which doctors would normally use were failing because the type of malaria prevalent in the camps was resistant to them.
But Professor Nick White, along with other doctors, heard about a drug used in China to treat malaria called quinghaosu.

Quinghaosu, or artemisinin - also known as sweet wormwood - provides a possible solution to the ever growing problem of salic falicparum - drug resistant malaria.

Professor White, who has worked in south-east Asia for over 20 years, says the discovery provides a new weapon in the drugs arsenal against malaria.

In total, around 25,000 people have been involved in trials in Thailand and Africa.

Source BBC News

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Monday, April 30, 2001

St John's wort used in cancer fight

A light sensitive substance taken from the herb St John's wort is being used to treat cancer.

Belgian scientists have already used the substance, hypericin, to detect cancer cells.

But they also believe hypericin could be used to actually kill off cancerous tumours.

Professor Peter de Witte, from Leuven University in Belgium, has been perfecting a technique known as Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) for the last nine years.

It works by utilising the light sensitive properties of hypericin to show up the presence of cancer cells.

He said: "We've discovered that especially bladder tumours that can't be detected through endoscopy, can be detected with hypericin."

The technique is currently being used to treat 100 patients in Belgium.

At present, surgery is required to remove cancer cells once they have been located.
But Prof de Witte is working on a new application of PDT to destroy tumours.

Source BBC News

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Thursday, August 31, 2000

Herb 'as effective as antidepressants'

The herb St John's wort is as effective as standard antidepressant therapy, according to a major research trial.

They found that an extract of the herb, known technically as Hypericum perforatum, was as effective at easing the symptoms of depression as the commonly used drug imipramine.

Scientists from the University of Giessen in Germany, are recommending that the herb should be considered as a first line treatment for patients with mild to moderate depression.
Britons spend around £5m a year on St John's wort and an estimated two million people have tried it.

However, the use of the herb to treat depression has been controversial.

The Medicines Control Agency (MCA) in the UK issued a warning earlier this year advising that the herb should not be used by women taking the contraceptive pill and patients on HIV, depression and migraine treatments.

Source BBC News

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Scientists tackle herb's side-effects

Scientists are working to develop a synthetic version of the popular herbal remedy St John's wort so that it does not affect other treatments.

The Department of Health issued advice earlier this year warning patients with certain conditions not to use the supplement.

It followed research which found that St John's wort could interfere with some prescription medicines, including birth control and antibiotics.

But scientists at Cambridge University believe they may be able to develop a form of the herb that will not have these side-effects.

They discovered that hyperforin, the key ingredient of St John's wort, stimulated the production of a liver enzyme called CYP3A.

This means that it causes some drugs to be broken down too fast to be effective.

The enzyme is responsible for the proper metabolism of the body's hormones. It also affects the breakdown of synthetic steroids and many drugs.

The production of this enzyme increases when substances bind themselves to a receptor - the steroid x receptor - within liver cells.

Krishna Chatterjee of Cambridge University said the herbal remedy can affect other drugs because it out performs them within the body.

"It can out-compete other drugs that normally bind to the steroid x receptor."

The team's findings match those of another study, carried out by researchers from the pharmaceutical company Glaxo Wellcome.

Scientists at the company's laboratories in South Carolina in the US recorded similar results.
The Cambridge team is now working with Glaxo Wellcome to develop a synthetic version of hyperforin.

According to New Scientist magazine, they hope to manufacture a form of the herbal remedy that will retain its anti-depressant activities but won't increase the production of the CYP3A liver enzyme and so won't out-compete other drugs.

Steven Kliewer, one of Glaxo Wellcome's scientists, said they will have to carry out more research into St John's wort before they can begin.

"It won't be easy. We first need a better understanding of St John's wort."

St John's wort has been prescribed by doctors in Europe as an effective anti-depressant for many years.

Source BBC News

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Wednesday, May 31, 2000

Common herb 'fights' cancer

A common herb may be an effective weapon in the fight against cancer, say researchers.
Borage, also known as the starflower, has been used in medicine for more than 700 years.
It contains a substance known as gamma linolenic acid (GLA).

Work being carried out in the Netherlands shows that a diet rich in GLA reduces the risk of prostate tumours.

Lab tests in America and South Africa show GLA can kill brain and prostate cancer cells.
And in Wales, researchers have discovered that the chemical can inhibit the spread of maligant tumours by restricting growth of the blood vessels that supply them with vital nutrients.
Now research published in the Journal of Cancer indicates that GLA can also boost the impact of the breast cancer drug Tamoxifen.

Source BBC News

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Friday, December 31, 1999

Herb 'helps ease depression'

An extract from the herb St John's Wort is just as effective as a drug commonly used to treat depression, according to medical researchers.

A German study compared the effect of hypericum extract and the drug imipramine on 263 moderately depressed patients.

The researchers, led by Professor Michael Philipp from Landshut district hospital, found that hypericum was as effective as the drug and had fewer side effects.

Quality of life, both physical and mental, was significantly improved after the patients had been taking hypericum for eight weeks.

Source BBC News

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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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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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