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The ABCs Of OPCs

Nearly 50 years ago, Dr. Jack Masquelier discovered oligomeric pro-antho-cyan-idins (OPCs). Working on pine bark, he extracted a group of chemicals known as oligomeric proanthocyanidins, which he named Pycnogenol, a term that became a trade name for OPC derived from French maritime bark.

In 1970, Dr. Masquelier patented an extraction method to obtain OPC from grape seeds. Proantho-cyanidins are also found in green tea, grapes, cranberry, bilberry, vegetables, seeds, and nuts.

OPC belongs to a group of compounds known as flavonoids, whose family members include flavones, isoflavones, flavonols, and flavonones.

A number of studies have indicated that the antioxidant activity of flavonoids accounts for their potential health benefits.

A single-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled study involving volunteers given two capsules of 300 mg grape seed procyanidin extracts showed that the extract increased serum total antioxidant activity.

In a recent study, Dr. Bagchi and colleagues at Creighton University found that a grape seed extract provides greater protection against free radical-induced lipid peroxidation and DNA damage than vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene.

A Japanese study found that plasma obtained from subjects fed proanthocyanidins was significantly more resistant against oxidation.

Pycnogenol was found in a number of studies to be a potent antioxidant against oxygen and nitrogen free radicals and to participate in the cellular antioxidant network as indicated by its ability to regenerate ascorbic acid and to protect vitamin E and glutathione from oxidative stress.

OPC from grape seeds and pine bark has been proven to strengthen blood vessels, to improve blood flow, and to reduce capillary fragility and permeability. Because of these therapeutic values, OPC has become quite popular in Europe for treatment of varicose veins and various vascular disorders.

In a double-blind study, 92 patients with venous insufficiency received 300 mg OPC from grape seed. After four weeks, a significant reduction in symptoms including pain, swelling, tingling, and cramps was observed in 75% of the OPC treated patients.

OPC has also been shown to relieve eye stress and improve visual performance after glare, which is important for night driving.

OPC was well tolerated with no toxic effects. The recommended dosage of OPC is between 150-300 mg per day for the treatment of medical disorders and between 50-100 mg as a preventive regimen.

References: J Mol Cell Cardiol 1999; 31:1289; J Cardiovasc Pharmcol 1998; 32:509.

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Green Tea And Cancer Prevention

Green tea is gaining recognition as an herb with powerful antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties.

Epidemiological studies in Japanese populations first uncovered the correlation between tea consumption and decreased incidence of cancer. Subsequent studies addressed its action in specific cancers. In breast cancer, tea drinking decreased metastases and recurrence of stage I and II cancers. In prostate cancer, green tea inhibited growth via apoptotic cell death. The risk of esophageal cancer in women was found to decrease as tea drinking increased, with a 50% risk reduction among those who drank the most tea.

The recommended dosage of green tea polyphenols is 500 mg three to four times a day, which may be 4-8 cups of tea, depending on the polyphenol content of the tea. The only adverse effects of drinking green tea are those associated with over consumption of caffeine.

A growing body of research has demonstrated green tea polyphenols to be powerful antioxidants with anticarcinogenic properties. These polyphenolic compounds, specifically the catechins, which account for 30-40% of the extractable solids of green tea leaves, are believed to mediate many of the cancer chemotherapy effects.

A point of interest is another study in which human salivary tea catechin levels were investigated following consumption of green tea. After drinking green tea, peak saliva levels of catechin were observed after several minutes. These recorded levels were higher than those in the plasma. Holding a tea solution in the mouth for a few minutes without swallowing produced even higher salivary catechin levels.

The results of the study suggest slow drinking of green tea is a very effective way to deliver high concentrations of catechins to the oral cavity and esophagus. The researchers emphasize the importance of these findings because of the possible application of green tea in the prevention of oral and esophageal cancers.

Reference: Alternative Medicine Review 1999; Vol. 4, No. 5, 360-70.

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Amusing Herb-Horny Goat Weed

A renowned relationship and sex therapist asserted, "More than 65% of men and women in relationships say that they are very unhappy with their sex lives."

A botanical with new interest in the natural sexual enhancement category is a Chinese herb, epimedium grandiflorum, amusingly known as horny goat weed.

Horny goat weed has a rich history in traditional Chinese medicine for enhancing sexual performance and virility.

In China, Dr. Diao Yuan Kuang and his colleagues have successfully used epimedium to treat erectile problems and to boost waning libido.

A study was recently completed on Horny Goat Weed led by Steven Lamm, M.D. The double-blind, placebo-controlled study gave participants two capsules of the product over a three-month period and an additional four capsules two hours prior to sexual activity. The study demonstrated that sexual satisfaction was enhanced by 60% of healthy males and by 45% for those who were also taking Viagra.

This study was followed up by a second trial to confirm no adverse impact on blood pressure when using Horny Goat Weed.

According to The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs, by Kee Chang Juang, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Louisville, KY, epimedium extract "...is reputed to have a sexual stimulatory effect on males, and that persons taking this herb show an increase in sperm production."

Reference: Tokuoka, Y., Diago, K., Takemoto, T. "Studies on the constituents of Epimedium grandiflorum Morr. (2)". Zasshi, March, 1975; 95(3):321-5. (Japanese)

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Study Shows Garlic Can Prevent Plaque Buildup In Arteries

A science organization reports that there are good reasons why consumers should use garlic.

A review article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine by researchers at University of Exeter in England analyzed 13 clinical studies of garlic on about 800 people. The authors found in the meta-analysis that garlic supplementation lowered total cholesterol significantly more than a placebo.

In a four-year study published in Atherosclerosis, researchers studied 152 subjects who were diagnosed with significant plaque buildup and at least one additional cardiovascular risk factor. The increase of arterial plaque on the walls of arteries reduces the overall volume of blood circulation thereby increasing the probability of raised blood pressure levels.

In this study, those people who used 900 mg of a leading garlic supplement experienced a lowering of plaque levels while those in the control group actually experienced an increase in plaque volume. The researchers wrote, "These results substantiated that not only a preventive but possibly also a curative role in arteriosclerosis therapy may be ascribed to garlic remedies."

"The results of this study are highly significant and constitute a reasonable basis for increased ingestion of garlic as a conventional food and continued use of garlic in dietary supplement form, especially for people who may have a high risk of plaque-related cardiovascular disease."

References: Annals of Internal Medicine 2000; 133 (6):420-9; Atherosclerosis 1999; 144(1):237-49.

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Devil's Claw Reduces Osteoarthritis Pain

A new clinical study shows that a traditional medicinal herb may reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis as effectively as conventional drugs. In a randomized, double-blind, parallel group study conducted in France, the patients received either capsules containing the herb devil's claw or a pharmaceutical drug. Pain measurements of all patients indicated that those taking the herb and the drug experienced similar benefits. However, the study also showed that patients taking the herb experienced significantly fewer adverse side effects than those taking the drug.

Researchers noted that there were significantly more adverse effects caused by the drug diacerhein over the four-month period of the study.

Devil's claw is an herb from the Kalahari Desert region of south-western Africa. The tubers from the plant have been used in traditional African medicine for a variety of disorders. Modern research in Europe has shown it reduces inflammation and pain in rheumatic conditions.

At least two previous clinical trials on devil's claw have supported its use as an aid in treating lower back pain and rheumatic conditions. This new study is significant in that it is the first to show the potential benefits of devil's claw for osteoarthritis.

Reference: Phytomedicine, October, 2000.

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Vitamin E Relieves Sleep Disorder

Vitamin E can help prevent restless leg syndrome, a sleep disorder that affects up to 5% of the population, according to a published article. Kenneth Sassower, M.D., staff neurologist of the sleep disorders unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, says that people often describe the sleep problems as a "creepy, crawly sensation" that worsens when the body is inactive, causing a strong urge to move the legs and interrupt sleep.

Sassower says that in his clinical practice "about one in five individuals are helped by vitamin E therapy either for restless legs or period limb movements." Typical dosage of vitamin E supplements to relieve the problems is 400 IU two times per day, he says.

Robert M. Giller, M.D., cites a much higher level of relief for patients suffering from nocturnal leg cramps. "In one study of 125 patients," he says, "all but two had complete or nearly complete relief from their symptoms when they took vitamin E supplements. In most cases, the symptoms returned when the supplements were discontinued."

Reference: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, June, 1999.

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A new report commissioned by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) found that approximately half of the cardiologists surveyed take vitamin E supplements and more than three-quarters recommend the supplement to their patients.

The survey reported that 75% of cardiologists surveyed recommend vitamin E to their patients at least some of the time, with 37% recommending it "often" or "usually." The most common amount used was 400 IU, but 16% of doctors said they recommend 800 IU.

Reference: Council for Responsible Nutrition, February 12, 2001.

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Written by: EcoMall

Disclaimer: These statements on this site have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, and is for educational purposes only. For any serious illness or health related disorders please consult your physician.


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