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Approaching Sleeping Problems Naturally

Sleep disorders can manifest in many different ways, ranging from an inability to fall asleep to an inability to stay asleep. In older persons especially, insomnia can take the form of waking up too early and then not being able to fall back asleep or falling back into a fitful sleep.

Several herbs are especially useful for those who have suffered from insomnia for extended periods of time and who are trying to reestablish a natural sleeping rhythm. Those who don't have sleeping problems but who want to change their sleeping routines can also benefit from these herbs. This includes people who are shifting from working days to graveyard or those who are traveling from one time zone to another.

For best results, it is suggested that these herbs are taken one hour before sleep and again right at bedtime, regardless of whether bedtime is at night or during the day. The first dosage helps one to relax and sends the proper signal to the brain that sleep is desired. The second dosage helps to assure that the person stays asleep for the proper amount of time.

California Poppy, Valerian, and Passion Flower perform three specific physiological actions in the body. They have sedative effects, they reeducate the brain sleep center, and they support beneficial REM sleep. Valerian has been shown to reduce sleep latency which means it helps people fall asleep more quickly than if they tried to fall asleep naturally.

Passion Flower slows excessive "mind chatter" allowing the person who takes it to fall asleep. California Poppy is used for ingrained patterns of insomnia as it permits deep, refreshing sleep and helps prevent premature wakefulness.

By re-educating and balancing the sleep center of the brain, these three herbs help the person suffering from a sleep disorder regain a balanced state.

Chamomile has been a very useful herb for mild to moderate insomnia.

Lemon Balm is known to calm respiration, cardiac rhythm, and blood pressure.

It is best not to combine taking a sleep prescription or over-the-counter sleep drug with herbs because their effects may be multiplied and side effects may occur.

It is important for insomnia sufferers to exercise every day. Eating a light complex-carbohydrate snack before going to bed helps some insomniacs. Others have found that taking 500 mg to 1000 mg of calcium one hour before bed relaxes muscles and facilitates sleep.

Reference: Gagnon, D. Liquid Herbal Drops in Everyday Use; 3rd Edition, 1997. Botanical Research and Education Institute, Santa Fe, NM.

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Vitamin E-More Than Alpha

Tocotrienols are members of the vitamin E family. Unlike some vitamins which consist of a single compound, vitamin E consists of eight different compounds: four tocopherols and four tocotrienols-designated as alpha, beta, gamma, and delta.

Although original research centered only on alpha-tocopherol, we now know that there is a full spectrum of benefits of vitamin E by taking the complete family of tocopherols plus tocotrienols. Synthetic vitamin E contains only alpha-tocopherol and none of the other tocopherols and tocotrienols.

Underscoring the importance of taking the whole vitamin E family, other tocopherols have unique functions different from those of alpha-tocopherol.

Researchers at U.C. Berkeley reported that gamma-tocopherol has stronger anti-inflammatory properties than alpha-tocopherol and is the effective form for fighting nitrogen radicals. These radicals are major culprits in arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer's.

A recent study evaluated the role of tocotrienol extracts on atherosclerosis. In a recent clinical study, a rice bran oil tocotrienol rich extract supplying 312 mg tocotrienols and 360 mg tocopherols significantly reduced total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides.

The strongest evidence yet for tocotrienols comes from a clinical study conducted by the Kenneth Jordan Heart Research Foundation in NJ, which evaluated patients who had stenosis of the carotid artery.

After four years, 92% of the placebo group remained stable or experienced a worsening of their condition, while 40% of the group receiving tocotrienols and tocopherol actually experienced a regression of the disease.

Reference: "Tocotrienols: Biological and health effects" in: Antioxidant Status, Diet, Nutrition and Health, A.M. Papas, Editor; 1998,

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The Carotenoids-Powerful Antioxidants

Carotenoids are powerful antioxidants and have been associated with the prevention and reduction of free radical-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease, cataracts and macular degeneration.

Carotenoids are the pigments that make up the color of fruits and vegetables. They are also plentiful in dark leafy greens. Because the human body cannot manufacture these phytonutrients, they must be acquired through dietary intake. Based on epidemiological evidence there appears to be a dietary gap between actual consumed levels of carotenoids and the levels thought to be needed for optimal antioxidant protection.

A relationship has been established between people who eat larger quantities of fruits and vegetables and health. They tend to have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, and other serious illnesses.

The most common carotenoids include beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxan-thin, and astaxanthin.

Beta-carotene is thought to assist in the prevention of lung, colon, bladder, and skin cancers.

Alpha-carotene levels in the plasma have been found to be an indicator of coronary heart condition.

Lycopene has been found to possibly suppress the growth of cancer cells. A Harvard study found that men on a Mediterranean-type diet-high in tomato sauce-had a 40% lower incidence of prostate cancer.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are unique because they are found in highest concentrations in the part of the eye where the lens focuses the image. Epidemiological evidence suggests that deficiencies of lutein and zeaxanthin can leave the eye vulnerable to damage from sunlight.

Astaxanthin is a super-antioxidant, 500 times more powerful than vitamin E.

Reference: Nutr Cancer 36(1):59-65; 2000.

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Gynecological Cancers Respond To Herbal Approach

Up to 64% of cancer patients use com-ple-men--tary and alternative medicine either as an alternative treatment or as adjunctive treatment to augment conventional therapy.Naturopathic physicians commonly prescribe Essiac (a proprietary formula of burdock root, Turkey rhubarb root, sheep sorrel, and slippery elm bark), and the Hoxsey formula (a mixture of licorice, red clover, burdock root, stillingia root, berberis root, poke root, cascara bark, prickly ash bark, and buckthorn bark).

Of 27 botanical agents, eight were found in peer-reviewed papers to have anticancer effects for gynecological cancers: curcumin, garlic, genistein, Asian ginseng, green tea, lentinan, quercetin, and silymarin.

For the eight botanical agents, 23 relevant studies have been published.

One in-vitro study examining the effects of curcumin on ovarian carcinoma found that curcumin-induced cytotoxicity killed the cancer cells.

Another study tested the effect of oral garlic on inhibiting cervical carcinoma. The garlic significantly decreased the incidence of carcinoma indicating preventive effects on cervical cancer.

Genistein and quercetin showed synergistic antitumor activity against an ovarian carcinoma.

Quercetin is a flavonoid found in high concentrations in tea, onions, kale, French beans, and apples. Five studies have been conducted that examine the effect of quercetin on ovarian and endometrial cancers. Quercetin was found to synergize with chemotherapeutic agents.

Researchers agree that more studies are needed in botanical disease therapy, especially involving the interaction between herbal remedies and drugs.

Reference: Journal of the American Medical Women's Association, 1999; Volume 54, 184-95.

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Essential Fatty Acids Inhibitprostate cancer growth

Consumption of fatty fish might reduce the risk of prostate cancer, according to recent studies. In a population-based prospective study of 6,272 Swedish men, during 30 years of follow-up, men who ate no fish had a two-fold to three-fold higher frequency of prostate cancer than those who ate moderate or high amounts. Results suggest that fish consumption could be associated with decreased risk of prostate cancer.

The essential fatty acids contained in fish appear to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells. Moreover, results of ecological cross-national studies and a case-control study, which investigated the concentration of fatty acids in the serum, support an inverse association between fatty acids from fish and prostate cancer.

The studies reveal that only fish high in omega-3 fatty acids are likely to lower the risk of prostate cancer. Researchers examined fish consumption in relation to prostate cancer in a population-based prospective study in Sweden, a country with a high consumption of fatty fish from Northern waters, such as salmon, herring, and mackerel, which contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

Reference: International Agency for Research on Cancer, Interim annual report, Lyon, 2000; 15.

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Herbs To Enhance Physical Performance

Herbs have been used throughout history to enhance physical performance. There is a growing body of evidence to support the ergogenic properties of certain herbs.

Asian ginseng has been found by controlled studies to serve as an exercise aid when the standardized root extract form of the herb is used. Enhanced performance in several parameters has been documented, including muscle strength, oxygen uptake, work capacity, alertness, and motor skills. Ginseng provides greater benefit for untrained or older (40+ years) individuals.

Many other herbs have been tested in terms of exercise enhancement, and these herbs fall into two categories: adaptogens (tonics) and anabolics (muscle building).

Wild oats combined with stinging nettle root, sea buckthorn, and vitamin C improved strength and endurance, while schizandra improved performance in runners.

Tribulus is another herb that has garnered popular interest lately. This extract has been reported to raise testosterone levels in men who previously had depressed levels of that hormone.

Reference: Am J Clin Nutr 2000; 72(suppl):624S-36S.

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Lutein plays a unique role in vision, since it is found in abundance in the macular pigment of the eye. A new study published in the eye journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science reports that taking supplemental natural lutein leads to more density of the macular pigment. In addition to greater macular pigment density, blood concentrations of lutein also rose after taking this supplement.

Reference: Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2000; 41:3322-6.

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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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