Monthly Archives: August 2010

Frog Skin may Help Beat Antibiotic Resistance

Frog skin may be an important source of new antibiotics to treat superbugs say researchers.
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The foothill yellow-legged frog is one potential source of antibiotics, say researchers
.So far, more than 100 potential bacteria-killing substances have been identified from more than 6,000 species of frog.

The team at the United Arab Emirates University are now trying to tweak the substances to make them less toxic and suitable for use as human medicines.

The work was presented at the American Chemical Society meeting.

Drug resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, are becoming an increasing problem worldwide.

Yet there is a lack of new treatments in the pipeline.

Among the substances found by the researchers are a compound from a rare American species that shows promise for killing MRSA.

Another fights a drug-resistant infection seen in soldiers returning from Iraq.

The idea of using chemicals from the skin of frogs to kill bacteria, viruses and other disease-causing agents is not a new one.

But it is not a straightforward process to use these chemicals in humans because they are either destroyed in the bloodstream or are toxic to human cells.

Tweaks:-

After identifying the key chemicals, the researchers have altered their molecular structure to make them less dangerous to human cells while retaining their bacteria-killing properties

They hope their work means some of the substances could be in clinical trials within five years.

They are also investigating how to help the chemicals resist breakdown by the body before they have a chance to act.

Experiments have shown the changes they have made so far do make the antibiotics last longer in the bloodstream.

Study leader Dr Michael Conlon said: “Frog skin is an excellent potential source of such antibiotic agents.

“They’ve been around 300 million years, so they’ve had plenty of time to learn how to defend themselves against disease-causing microbes in the environment.

“Their own environment includes polluted waterways where strong defences against pathogens are a must.”

The work underscored the importance of preserving frog diversity, he added.

“Some frog species, including those that may contain potentially valuable medicinal substances, are in jeopardy worldwide due to loss of habitat, water pollution, and other problems.”

Source: BBC NEWS

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Calophyllum inophyllum

Botanical Name : Calophyllum inophyllum
Family: Clusiaceae
Subfamily: Kielmeyeroideae
Genus: Calophyllum
Tribe: Calophylleae
Species: C. inophyllum  
Kingdom:
Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Malpighiales

Common Names:-
In Sanskrit this tree is known as punnaga. In Tamil it is known as pinnai and is often found on coastal Tamil Nadu. In Malayalam, the tree is called as “Punnagam” or “Punna” and the fruit is called as Punnakka. Bats are known to feed on the fruits. In the Maldives it is known as funa, a name derived from Sanskrit. Several of the Maldive Islands are named Funadhoo in reference to this tree.

In English this tree is also often called Ballnut or, confusingly, “Alexandrian Laurel” (it is not a laurel nor native to Alexandria and not to be confused with the small shrub Danae racemosa also known as Alexandrian laurel).

In Tahiti it is called ?ati or tamanu  tree. Several species of the tree grow wild in the tropical climes in the Pacific. In Hawai?i, the tree and nuts are called kamani in Fiji the name is dilo, while it is fetau in both Samoa and Niu?, and in Tonga it is feta?u or tamanu. In Vanuatu, the natives call the oil nambagura.


Habitat :
It is native from East Africa, southern coastal India to Malesia and Australia.


Description:

Calophyllum inophyllum is a large evergreen. Nowadays it is widely cultivated in all tropical regions of the world, including several Pacific Islands. Because of its decorative leaves, fragrant flowers and spreading crown, it is best known as an ornamental plant.

It is a low-branching and slow-growing tree with a broad and irregular crown. It usually reaches 8 to 20 metres (26 to 66 ft) in height. The flower is 25 millimetres (0.98 in) wide and occurs in racemose or paniculate inflorescences consisting of 4 to 15 flowers. Flowering can occur year-round, but usually two distinct flowering periods are observed, in late spring and in late autumn. The fruit (the ballnut) is a round, green drupe reaching 2 to 4 centimetres (0.79 to 1.6 in) in diameter and having a single large seed. When ripe, the fruit is wrinkled and its color varies from yellow to brownish-red.

You may click to see the pictures.(1)……(2).(3)…..(4)

This tree often grows in coastal regions as well as nearby lowland forests. However it has also been cultivated successfully in inland areas at moderate altitudes. It tolerates varied kinds of soil, coastal sand, clay or even degraded soil.

Medicinal Uses:

Common Uses:Calophyllum inophyllum fruit oil is used in  Abrasions/Cuts * Acne * Burns/SunBurn * Deodorants/Perfumes * Eczema * Facial and Skin care * Fungus Infections * Herpes * Insect Bites/Rashes * Neuralgia * Psoriasis * Rheumatoid Arthritis * Scabies *
Properties:  Anti-inflammatory* Deodorant* Emollient* Skin tonic* Vulnerary*

Pacific islanders apply Tamanu nut oil to scrapes, cuts, burns, insect bites and stings, acne and acne scars, psoriasis, diabetic sores, anal fissures, sunburn, dry or scaly skin, blisters, eczema, diaper rash and herpes sores–and even to reduce foot and body odor! It takes 100 kilograms of Tamanu nuts, the amount that one tree produces annually, to yield just 5 kilograms of cold pressed oil, which puts the somewhat the high cost of this spectacular nut oil into perspective.

Tamanu oil fades stretch marks with incredible results. It also works miracles on scar tissue, making scars look less unsightly. Can be used directly on the skin or mixed within formulations.

Other Uses
Besides being a popular ornamental plant, its wood is hard and strong and has been used in construction or boatbuilding. Traditional Pacific Islanders used Calophyllum wood to construct the keel of their canoes while the boat sides were made from breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) wood. The seeds yield a thick, dark green oil for medicinal use or hair grease. Active ingredients in the oil are believed to regenerate tissue, so is sought after by cosmetics manufacturers as an ingredient in skin cremes. The nuts should be well dried before cracking, after which the oil-laden kernel should be further dried. The first neoflavone isolated in 1951 from natural sources was calophyllolide from Calophyllum inophyllum seeds.

The fatty acid methyl ester of Calophyllum inophyllum seed oil meets all of the major biodiesel requirements in the United States (ASTM D 6751-02, ASTM PS 121-99), Germany (DIN V 51606) and European Union (EN 14214). The average oil yield is 11.7 kg-oil/tree or 4680 kg-oil/hectare

The tree is regarded as sacred in some Pacific islands because of its excellent growth in sandy soil as shade tree and many uses.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calophyllum_inophyllum
http://www.hear.org/starr/images/species/?q=calophyllum+inophyllum&o=plants
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail285.php

Arthritis Patients Benefit from Weight Training

A regular and systematic  weight-training regimen may help treat rheumatoid arthritis patients. A study of 28 patients found that weight training led to improvements in basic physical function, such as   lifting, carrying, walking, climbing stairs

Researchers said such high intensity exercising could play a key role in managing the condition.

BBC News reports:
“RA is mainly a disease affecting the joints, but a less well known symptom is that it also severely reduces muscle mass and strength and this occurs even among patients whose disease is well managed …

They found physical function improved by between 20 percent to 30 percent in the group doing weight training. Strength also increased by nearly 120 percent.”

Sources:
BBC News August 4, 2010
Arthritis and Rheumatism December 2009; 61(12):1726-34.

 

Sarsaparilla (Smilax sarsaparilla )

Botanical Name : Smilax sarsaparilla
FamilySmilacaceae
Genus: Smilax
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Liliales
Species: S. regelii
Common NamesSarsaparilla , zarzaparrilla,  Honduran Sarsaparilla,  Jamaican Sarsaparilla., khao yen, saparna, smilace, smilax, zarzaparilla, jupicanga

Habitat :Smilax sarsaparilla is native to Central America.

Description:
It is a perennial trailing vine with prickly stems that . Common names include It is known in Spanish as zarzaparrilla, which is derived from the words zarza, meaning “shrub,” and parrilla, meaning “little grape vine.”

click to see the pictures

Subshrubs or vines ; rhizomes black, knotted, 5-6 × 2 cm, often with white to pinkish stolons. Stems perennial , prostrate to clambering , branching, slender, to 1 m , ± woody, densely woolly-pubescent, usually prickly (especially at base ). Leaves mostly evergreen , ± evenly disposed; petiole 0.05-0.25 cm, often longer on sterile shoots ; blade gray-green, drying to ashy gray-green, obovate to ovate-lanceolate, with 3 prominent veins, 6-10.5 × 5-8 cm, glabrous adaxially, densely puberulent abaxially, base cordate to deeply notched , margins entire, apex bluntly pointed . Umbels 1-7, axillary to leaves, 5-16-flowered, loose , spherical ; peduncle 0.2-0.8 cm, shorter than to 1.5 as long as petiole of subtending leaf. Flowers: perianth yellowish; tepals 3-4 mm; anthers much shorter than filaments ; ovule 1 per locule; pedicel thin, 0.1-0.4 cm. Berries red, ovoid , 5-8 mm, with acute beaks , not glaucous. (source   :Flora of North America)

The red, pointed fruits and densely pubescent herbage of Smilax pumila are distinctive.

The name Smilax humilis Miller, which predates S. pumila by 20 years and recently has been determined to apply also to this species, has been proposed for rejection (J. L. Reveal 2000). If that proposal is not adopted, the correct name will be S. humilis.

Medicinal Uses:
Common Uses: Eczema * Psoriasis * Rheumatoid Arthritis *
Properties:  Depurative* Antibacterial* AntiViral* Tonic* Anti-inflammatory* Appetite Depressant/Obesity* Antiscrofulous*
Parts Used: Root
Constituents: parillin (smilacin), glucoside, sarsapic acid, saponins: sarsasaponin, sarsaparilloside, many flavonioids and starch

For many years, people thought sarsaparilla had testosterone in it, but there is none present, or for that matter in any plant studied so far. The spicy, pleasant smelling root is what gave old fashioned root beer its bite and is the part used medicinally. The exact mechanism of action has not been identified, however it is thought that the phytosterols it contains stimulate hormone-like activity in the body. However most modern herbalists no longer believe that sarsaparilla cures syphilis, build muscles or cure a flagging libido. There is research to substantiate its use. for gout, arthritis, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis and eczema. Certain root phytochemicals, called saponins, have soothed psoriasis, most likely by disabling bacterial components called endotoxins. Endotoxins show up in the bloodstreams of people with psoriasis, arthritis and gout.If you have any of these conditions, and feel the need for an all-around tonic to help you fight stress sarsaparilla could certainly play a beneficial role.

It was thought by Central Americans to have medicinal properties, and was a popular European treatment for syphilis when it was introduced from the New World. From 1820 to 1910, it was registered in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia as a treatment for syphilis. Modern users claim that it is effective for eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, herpes, and leprosy, along with a variety of other complaints. No peer reviewed research is available for these claims. However, there is peer reviewed research suggesting that it has anti-oxidant properties, like many other herbs.

Other Uses
Sarsaparilla is used as the basis for a soft drink sold for its taste, frequently of the same name, or called Sasparilla. It is also a primary ingredient in old fashioned root beer, in conjunction with Sassafras, more widely available prior to studies of the potential health risks of sassafras.

Sarsaparilla is not readily available in most countries, although many pubs and most major supermarket chains in Malaysia, The United Kingdom and Australia stock sarsaparilla flavored soft drinks. In Malaysia, it is called “Sarsi” amongst many other names. In America, the prevalent brand is Sioux City Sarsaparilla.[citation needed] In Taiwan, HeySong Sarsaparilla soda is also commonly available for purchase from convenience stores and street vendors.

Sarsaparilla was a popular drink in the Old West.

Research:
Sarsaparilla contains steroidal saponins, such as sarsasapogenin, which some researcher claim can duplicate the action of some human hormones. However, this purported property of sarsaparilla remains has not been substantiated by empirical evidence.

Sarsaparilla also contains beta-sitosterol, a phytosterol, which may contribute to the anti-inflammatory property of this herb. A few reports suggest that sarsaparilla has both anti-inflammatory and liver-protecting effects. Similar findings on the effect of sarsaparilla on psoriasis can also be found in European literature.

Click to learn more :

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.houseofnutrition.com/sarsaparilla.html
http://zipcodezoo.com/Plants/S/Smilax_pumila/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smilax_regelii
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail297.php

Black Rice Economical Way to Increase Consumption of Antioxidants

Black rice
Image via Wikipedia

Health conscious consumers who hesitate at the price of fresh blueberries and blackberries, fruits renowned for high levels of healthful antioxidants, now have an economical alternative. It is black rice, one variety of which got the moniker “Forbidden Rice” in ancient China because nobles commandeered every grain for themselves and forbade the common people from eating it.

According to a study presented at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), “one spoonful of black rice bran contains more anthocyanin antioxidants than a spoonful of blueberries and better yet, black rice offers more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants, but less sugar.”

Like fruits, “black rice” is rich in anthocyanin antioxidants, substances that show promise for fighting heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. Food manufacturers could potentially use black rice bran or the bran extracts to boost the health value of breakfast cereals, beverages, cakes, cookies, and other foods, Xu and colleagues suggested.

Brown rice is the most widely produced rice variety worldwide. Rice millers remove only the outer husks, or “chaff,” from each rice grain to produce brown rice. If they process the rice further, removing the underlying nutrient rich “bran,” it becomes white rice. Xu noted that many consumers have heard that brown rice is more nutritious than white rice. The reason is that the bran of brown rice contains higher levels of gamma-tocotrienol, one of the vitamin E compounds, and gamma-oryzanol antioxidants, which are lipid-soluble antioxidants. Numerous studies showed that these antioxidants can reduce blood levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) — so called “bad” cholesterol — and may help fight heart disease. Xu and colleagues analyzed samples of black rice bran from rice grown in the southern United States. In addition, the lipid soluble antioxidants they found in black rice bran possess higher level of anthocyanins antioxidants, which are water-soluble antioxidants. Thus, black rice bran may be even healthier than brown rice bran, suggested Dr. Xu.

The scientists also showed that pigments in black rice bran extracts can produce a variety of different colors, ranging from pink to black, and may provide a healthier alternative to artificial food colorants that manufacturers now add to some foods and beverages. Several studies have linked some artificial colorants to cancer, behavioral problems in children, and other health problems.

Black rice is one of several black-colored heirloom plants producing rice variants such as Indonesian Black Rice, Forbidden Rice. High in nutritional value, black rice is rich in iron. Unlike other black rice from Asia, it is not glutinous or rough. This grain is high in fiber and has a deep, nutty taste. Black “forbidden rice” is so named because originally it was considered the Emperor’s rice and was literally forbidden for anyone else to eat it. It is a deep black color and turns deep purple when cooked. Its dark purple color is primarily due to its high anthocyanin content. It has a relatively high mineral content (including iron) and, like most rice, supplies several important amino acids.

In China, noodles made from black rice have recently begun being produced. At least one United States bread company has also begun producing “Chinese Black Rice” bread. It shares the deep tyrian color of cooked black rice.

Black rice is used mainly in Asia for food decoration, noodles, sushi, and pudding. Dr. Xu said that farmers are interested in growing black rice in Louisiana and that he would like to see people in the country embrace its use.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_rice
Elements4Health

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