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In The Throes Of Despair

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A combination of nature and nurture leads to post-traumatic stress disorder, say scientist .Both genetic and environmental factors affect people’s risk of developing post-traumatic stress, says new research that illustrates how nature and nurture combine to shape health and behaviour.

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A particular genetic variant makes people much more susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after harrowing experiences, but only if they have also had an abusive childhood, US scientists have discovered. The findings add to a growing consensus that the debate about whether mental health, personality and behaviour are driven by nature or nurture is founded on a misconception. They indicate strongly that genes and the environment are not mutually exclusive forces, but rather work together to influence human development.

PTSD is a serious anxiety disorder that develops among people who experience unpleasant events, such as war, murders, terrorist attacks or natural disasters. It leads to nightmares, insomnia, flashbacks, mood swings and depression, and can severely impair the ability to live a normal life.

Not everybody who experiences severe trauma develops PTSD, and the risk is known to be influenced by genetics. Studies of twins who served in Vietnam showed that identical pairs, who share all their genes, are more likely both to suffer than are fraternal sets.

Genes, however, do not explain all the variability in people’s risk, and the precise genes and environmental factors that are involved have remained obscure.

A study led by Kerry Ressler, of Emory University in Atlanta, examined the effects of a gene called FKBP5, which is involved in the way the body responds to stress. The DNA code of this gene varies at four points, which allowed the scientists to investigate whether any particular genetic profiles would either raise the risk of PTSD or protect against it.

As PTSD develops only when people have lived through traumatic events, Dr Ressler studied a group of 900 adults who lived in deprived urban communities and were likely to have had violent experiences of the sort that can provoke the disorder.

The participants were also asked to complete a questionnaire that recorded whether they had suffered physical or sexual abuse at a young age. When variations in the FKBP5 gene were examined on their own, the researchers found no effect on PTSD risk. A history of child abuse also made no difference in isolation.

When the two factors were considered together, however, they were found to interact to raise or reduce risk. People with certain variants of FKBP5 were much more likely to develop PTSD after trauma if they had also been abused as children.

“These results are early and will need to be replicated, but they support the hypothesis that combinations of genes and environmental factors affect the risk for stress-related disorders like PTSD,” Dr Ressler said.

“Understanding how gene-environment interactions affect mental health can help us to understand the neuro- biology of these illnesses.”

The results, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, follow other studies that have shown how genetic variants interact with environmental factors to affect behaviour or mental health.

A team led by Avshalom Caspi and Terrie Moffitt, of the Institute of Psychiatry, London, has found that a variant of a gene called MAOA predisposes to antisocial behaviour when accompanied by child abuse. Dr Caspi said: “It is part of an emerging body of research that documents not so much that genes cause disease, but rather that genetic differences shape how people respond differently to the same events.”


Herbs & Plants

Ashok(Saraca asoca )

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Botanical Name; Saraca asoca
Family:    Fabaceae
Genus:    Saraca
Species:    S. asoca
Kingdom:    Plantae
Order:    Fabales

Synonym: Jonesia Ashok.

Common Name:Ashok or  Ashoka tree, Asok,  Asogam, Wu You Hua, Osaka, Saraca indica

Other Names:This tree has a multitude of names in Indian literature. Some names for the ashoka tree and its flowers include.
In Sanskrit: ashoka, Sita-ashoka, anganapriya, ashopalava, ashoka, asupala, apashaka, hemapushpa, kankeli, madhupushpa, pindapushpa, pindipushpa, vanjula, vishoka and vichitra.
Other languages: thawgabo, thawka (Burmese), vand ichitrah, sita ashoka (Hindi), ashok (Assamese), oshok (Bengali), ashoka (Oriya), (acOkam),  (piNTi) (Tamil), asokam (Malayalam), asokamu, vanjulamu (Telugu), sokanam , diyaratmal, diyeratembela (Sinhala), nikabilissa (Divehi), achenge, akshth, ashanke, kenkalimara (Kannada), gapis, tengalan (Malay)

The ashoka is a rain-forest tree. Its original distribution was in the central areas of the Deccan plateau, as well as the middle section of the Western Ghats in the western coastal zone of the Indian subcontinent.It grows all over India, Pakistan,Burma,Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

As a wild tree, the ashoka is a vulnerable species. It is becoming rarer in its natural habitat, but isolated wild ashoka trees are still to be found in the foothills of the central and eastern Himalayas, in scattered locations of the northern plains of India as well as on the west coast of the subcontinent near Mumbai

Saraca asoca is a moderate-sized evergreen tree. It is a handsome, small, erect evergreen tree, with deep green leaves growing in dense clusters. Branches are spreading numerous and somewhat dropping. Leaves alternate, abruptly pinnate and beautifully pink at young stage. Mature leaves are deep greenish. Flowers many, polygamous and yellowish orahe. Its flowering season is around February to April.


The ashoka is prized for its beautiful foliage and fragrant flowers. The ashoka flowers come in heavy, lush bunches. They are bright orange-yellow in color, turning red before wilting.Biologically, some of the flower’s characteristics are very dry and abundant. This means that the flower is coated with a chemical on the outside.

Cultivation  & propagation: Its propagation through seeds is satisfactory. Its fruits become ripe on June-July. Squeezed out of seeds from ripe fruits, dried in sunlight and then sown to nursery beds. It is to be mentioned that Ashok pretreated it by soaking in cold water for 24 hours. Germination commences with 4-6 weeks and its percentage is around 80-90. Usually 2-3 seedlings came out from each seed. One- two years old seedling are better for transplantation.

Medicinal Uses:
The bark contains tannins and some chemicals and is prescribed as a tonic. Crushed flowers and leaves are rubbed on the skin to get relief from skin diseases.
The bark is used to cure dysppepsia, dysentery, piles and sores. It is also strongly used for irregular menstruation. The dried flowers are used for syphilis and hemorrhagic dysentery. Seeds are used as Urinary diseases.

The bark is prescribed as Ayurvedic Medicine for arresting bleeding or secretion and as a uterine sedative.It is said to have a stimulatimng effect on the endometrium, the mucuous membrane lining the uterus and on the ovarian tissues. The dried flowers of Asoka tree are very useful in Diabetes.The burk of the tree is also useful in treating scorpion-sting.
It is considered as best female tonic.Most of women’s disorders are very effectively treated with the bark of tree.It is very effective for internal Piles. The decoction is also useful in Dysentry.

The flowers are considered to be a uterine tonic and is used in cases like burning sensation, dysentery, hyperdypsia, scabiesin children and inflammation. It is also used in fever, dipsia, colic, ulsers and pimples. The seeds are strengthening and the ash of plant is good for external application in rheum-arthritis.
Leaves:Leaves are without petioles and dark green in color. The leaflets are in pair of 3 to 6, oblong or lancet shaped, 4 to 9 inch long and 2.5 inch wide. New leaves with copper tinge appear continuously in groups.

Flowers:The flowers are bright golden to pink-red in color with a diameter of 3 to 4 inch. Red stamens come out of the flower. Flowering occurs in Spring season and Fruition occurs in early winter.

The Pod: It is 4 to 10 inch long, 1.5 to 2 inch wide and flat. There are 4 to 8 flat seeds, 1.5 inch long.

This plant is used in Ayurvedic traditions to treat gynecological disorders. The bark is also used to combat oedema or swelling.

Other Uses:
Mythology and tradition:….click & see
The ashoka tree is considered sacred throughout the Indian subcontinent, especially in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. This tree has many folklorical, religious and literary associations in the region. Highly valued as well for its handsome appearance and the color and abundance of its flowers, the ashoka tree is often found in royal palace compounds and gardens as well as close to temples throughout India.

The ashoka tree is closely associated with the yakshi mythological beings. One of the recurring elements in Indian art, often found at gates of Buddhist and Hindu temples, is the sculpture of a yakshini with her foot on the trunk and her hands holding the branch of a flowering ashoka tree. As an artistic element, often the tree and the yakshi are subject to heavy stylization. Some authors hold that the young girl at the foot of this tree is based on an ancient tree deity related to fertility.

Yakshis under the ashoka tree were also important in early Buddhist monuments as a decorative element and are found in many ancient Buddhist archaeological sites. With the passing of the centuries the yakshi under the ashoka tree became a standard decorative element of Hindu Indian sculpture and was integrated into Indian temple architecture as salabhanjika, because there is often a confusion between the ashoka tree and the sal tree (Shorea robusta) in the ancient literature of the Indian subcontinent.

In Hinduism the ashoka is considered a sacred tree. Not counting a multitude of local traditions connected to it, the ashoka tree is worshipped in Chaitra, the first month of the Hindu calendar.  It is also associated with Kamadeva, the Hindu god of love, who included an ashoka blossom among the five flowers in his quiver, where ashoka represent seductive hypnosis.  Hence, the ashoka tree is often mentioned in classical Indian religious and amorous poetry, having at least 16 different names in Sanskrit referring to the tree or its flowers.

In Mahakavya, or Indian epic poetry, the ashoka tree is mentioned in the Ramayana in reference to the Ashoka Vatika (garden of ashoka trees) where Hanuman first meets Sita.

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




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News on Health & Science

Turmeric Or Indian Haldi to take the sting out of malaria

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They are known to have anti-oxidant, anti-infectious and anti-inflammatory properties.


Now, curcumin, the active ingredient of turmeric (haldi)  that has proved effective in lowering cholesterol, glucose and combating cancer   will join in India‘s fight against malaria.

Top scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and National Institute of Malarial Research, Delhi, are embarking on human trials to see the effectiveness of a combination therapy that uses curcumin with artemisinin derivative artesunate, the most potent compound against malaria.

Studies on mice have shown this new combination therapy to be highly effective. The Rs 1 crore human phase II trials, being funded by the Department of Biotechnology, will take place in four centres — IIS, Institute of Life Sciences, Bhubaneswar, NIMR and ISPAT General Hospital, Rourkela.

A team of scientists is meeting in Rourkela on December 23 to finalise the size, duration and protocols of the study. The trial is expected to begin next month.

According to an IIS study, the combination will prove superior from several perspectives. Both are from natural sources and no resistance is known to curcumin.

Artemisinin runs the risk of resistance development when used widely as monotherapy while curcumin can be tolerated at very high doses, as much as 8 g/day. This will decrease the dose of artemisinin and lower the cost of therapy.

Each year, between 300 and 500 million people become infected with malaria in Africa and Asia.

Source:The Times Of India