In a back room of New Scientist‘s offices in London, I sit down at a table with the Russian biochemist Mikhail Shchepinov. In front of us are two teaspoons and a brown glass bottle. Shchepinov opens the bottle, pours out a teaspoon of clear liquid and drinks it down. He smiles. It’s my turn.
A sip a day of heavy water could reduce damage to ageing tissue that is caused by oxygen free radicals (Image: John Sann/Stone/Getty)
I put a spoonful of the liquid in my mouth and swallow. It tastes slightly sweet, which is a surprise. I was expecting it to be exactly like water since that, in fact, is what it is – heavy water to be precise, chemical formula D2O. The D stands for deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen with an atomic mass of 2 instead of 1. Deuterium is what puts the heavy in heavy water. An ice cube made out of it would sink in normal water.
My sip of heavy water is the culmination of a long journey trying to get to the bottom of a remarkable claim that Shchepinov first made around 18 months ago. He believes he has discovered an elixir of youth, a way to drink (or more likely eat) your way to a longer life.
Many anti-aging medications are based on supplementing your body’s own defenses with antioxidant compounds such as vitamin C and beta-carotene, though there is scant evidence that this does any good.
Shchepinov realized there was another way to defeat free radicals. While he was familiarizing himself with research on aging, his day job involved a well-established – if slightly obscure – bit of chemistry called the isotope effect. On Christmas day 2006, it dawned on him that putting the two together could lead to a new way of postponing the ravages of time.
The basic concept of the isotope effect is that the presence of heavy isotopes in a molecule can slow down its chemical reactions.
All of this is conventional chemistry: the isotope effect was discovered back in the 1930s and its mechanism explained in the 1940s. The effect has a long pedigree as a research tool in basic chemistry for probing the mechanisms of complex reactions.
Shchepinov, however, is the first researcher to link the effect with aging. It dawned on him that if aging is caused by free radicals trashing covalent bonds, and if those same bonds can be strengthened using the isotope effect, why not use it to make vulnerable biomolecules more resistant to attack? All you would have to do is judiciously place deuterium or carbon-13 in the bonds that are most vulnerable to attack, and chemistry should take care of the rest.
Infants who have been given the common pain reliever paracetamol may have a higher risk of developing asthma and eczema by the time they are 6 or 7, a large study covering children in 31 countries has found.
The findings were published in the journal Lancet together with two other studies, which found that runny noses and wheezing early on in life may be strong predictors of asthma.
In one study, researchers pored through data provided by parents of more than 205,000 children and found paracetamol use in the first year of life was associated with a 46% higher risk of asthma by the time the children were 6 or 7 compared to those never exposed to the drug. It is used to relieve fever, minor aches and pain, and is used in a liquid suspension for children.
Medium use of paracetamol in the past 12 months increased asthma risk by 61%, while high dosages of once a month or more in the past year raised the risk by over three times. Medium use was defined as once per year or more, but less than once a month.
Suspicions of a possible link between paracetamol and asthma emerged when experts observed an increased use of the drug to a simultaneous rise in asthma prevalence worldwide.
Synonym-:Marian Thistle. Carduus lactifolius. Carduus marianus. Centaurea dalmatica. Mariana lactea. Common Names-:- Cardus marianus, Milk thistle, Blessed milkthistle, Marian thistle, Mary thistle, Saint Mary‘s thistle, Mediterranean milk thistle, Variegated thistle and Scotch thistle, Mary thistle, holy thistle. Milk thistle is sometimes called silymarin, which is actually a mixture of the herb’s active components, including silybinin (also called silibinin or silybin).
Habitat : Milk Thistle is native to S. Europe, N. Africa and W. Asia. Naturalized in Britain. It grows on waste places, usually close to the sea, especially if the ground is dry and rocky. .
Parts Used-: Whole herb, root, leaves, seeds and hull.
Description: Members of this genus grow as annual or biennial plants. The erect stem is tall, branched and furrowed but not spiny. The large, alternate leaves are waxy-lobed, toothed and thorny, as in other genera of thistle. The lower leaves are cauline (attached to the stem without petiole). The upper leaves have a clasping base. They have large, disc-shaped pink-to-purple, rarely white, solitary flower heads at the end of the stem. The flowers consist of tubular florets. The phyllaries under the flowers occur in many rows, with the outer row with spine-tipped lobes and apical spines. The fruit is a black achene with a white pappus
Only two species are currently classified in this genus:
Silybum eburneum Coss. & Dur., known as the Silver Milk Thistle, Elephant Thistle, or Ivory Thistle
Silybum eburneum Coss. & Dur. var. hispanicum
Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertner, the Blessed Milk Thistle, which has a large number of other common names, such as Variegated Thistle.
The two species hybridise naturally, the hybrid being known as Silybum Ã— gonzaloi CantÃ³ , SÃ¡nchez Mata & Rivas Mart. (S. eburneum var. hispanicum x S. marianum)
A number of other plants have been classified in this genus in the past but have since been relocated elsewhere in the light of additional research.
S. marianum is by far the more widely known species. It is believed to give some remedy for liver diseases (e.g. viral hepatitis) and an extract, silymarin, is used in medicine. The adverse effect of the medicinal use of milk thistle is loose stools.
This handsome plant is not unworthy of a place in our gardens and shrubberies and was formerly frequently cultivated. The stalks, like those of most of our larger Thistles, may be eaten, and are palatable and nutritious. The leaves also may be eaten as a salad when young. Bryant, in his Flora Dietetica, writes of it: ‘The young shoots in the spring, cut close to the root with part of the stalk on, is one of the best boiling salads that is eaten, and surpasses the finest cabbage. They were sometimes baked in pies. The roots may be eaten like those of Salsify.’ In some districts the leaves are called ‘Pig Leaves,’ probably because pigs like them, and the seeds are a favourite food of goldfinches.
The common statement that this bird lines its nest with thistledown is scarcely accurate, the substance being in most cases the down of Colt’s-foot (Tussilago), or the cotton down from the willow, both of which are procurable at the building season, whereas thistledown is at that time immature.
Westmacott, writing in 1694, says of this Thistle: ‘It is a Friend to the Liver and Blood: the prickles cut off, they were formerly used to be boiled in the Spring and eaten with other herbs; but as the World decays, so doth the Use of good old things and others more delicate and less virtuous brought in.’
The heads of this Thistle formerly were eaten, boiled, treated like those of the Artichoke.
There is a tradition that the milk-white veins of the leaves originated in the milk of the Virgin which once fell upon a plant of Thistle, hence it was called Our Lady’s Thistle, and the Latin name of the species has the same derivation. Cultivation:
Succeeds in any well-drained fertile garden soil. Prefers a calcareous soil and a sunny position. Hardy to about -15°c. The blessed thistle is a very ornamental plant that was formerly cultivated as a vegetable crop. Young plants are prone to damage from snails and slugs. Plants will often self sow freely.
Seed – if sown in situ during March or April, the plant will usually flower in the summer and complete its life cycle in one growing season. The seed can also be sown from May to August when the plant will normally wait until the following year to flower and thus behave as a biennial. The best edible roots should be produced from a May/June sowing, whilst sowing the seed in the spring as well as the summer should ensure a supply of edible leaves all year round.
Root – raw or cooked. A mild flavour and somewhat mucilaginous texture. When boiled, the roots resemble salsify (Tragopogon hispanicus). Leaves – raw or cooked. The very sharp leaf-spines must be removed first, which is quite a fiddly operation. The leaves are quite thick and have a mild flavour when young, at this time they are quite an acceptable ingredient of mixed salads, though they can become bitter in hot dry weather. When cooked they make an acceptable spinach substitute. It is possible to have leaves available all year round from successional sowings. Flower buds – cooked. A globe artichoke substitute, they are used before the flowers open. The flavour is mild and acceptable, but the buds are quite small and even more fiddly to use than globe artichokes. Stems – raw or cooked. They are best peeled and can be soaked to reduce the bitterness. Palatable and nutritious, they can be used like asparagus or rhubarb or added to salads. They are best used in spring when they are young. A good quality oil is obtained from the seeds. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute
The seeds of this plant are used nowadays for the same purpose as Blessed Thistle, and on this point John Evelyn wrote: ‘Disarmed of its prickles and boiled, it is worthy of esteem, and thought to be a great breeder of milk and proper diet for women who are nurses.’
It is in popular use in Germany for curing jaundice and kindred biliary derangements. It also acts as a demulcent in catarrh and pleurisy. The decoction when applied externally is said to have proved beneficial in cases of cancer.
Gerard wrote of the Milk Thistle that:
‘the root if borne about one doth expel melancholy and remove all diseases connected therewith. . . . My opinion is that this is the best remedy that grows against all melancholy diseases,’
which was another way of saying that it had good action on the liver. He also tells us:
‘Dioscorides affirmed that the seeds being drunke are a remedy for infants that have their sinews drawn together, and for those that be bitten of serpents:’and we find in a record of old Saxon remedies that ‘this wort if hung upon a man’s neck it setteth snakes to flight.’ The seeds were also formerly thought to cure hydrophobia.
Culpepper considered the Milk Thistle to be as efficient as Carduus benedictus for agues, and preventing and curing the infection of the plague, and also for removal of obstructions of the liver and spleen. He recommends the infusion of the fresh root and seeds, not only as good against jaundice, also for breaking and expelling stone and being good for dropsy when taken internally, but in addition, to be applied externally, with cloths, to the liver. With other writers, he recommends the young, tender plant (after removing the prickles) to be boiled and eaten in the spring as a blood cleanser.
A tincture is prepared by homoeopathists for medicinal use from equal parts of the root and the seeds with the hull attached.
It is said that the empirical nostrum, antiglaireux, of Count Mattaei, is prepared from this species of Thistle.
Thistles in general, according to Culpepper, are under the dominion of Jupiter.
Milk thistles have been reported to have protective effects on the liver and to improve its function. They are typically used to treat liver cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation), and gallbladder disorders. The active compound in Milk thistle credited with this effect is “silymarin”, and is typically administered in amount ranging from 200-500mg per day (common Milk Thistle supplements have an 80% standardized extract of silymarin). Increasing research is being carried out into its possible medical uses and the mechanisms of such effects. However, a previous literature review using only studies with both double-blind and placebo protocols concluded that milk thistle and its derivatives “does not seem to significantly influence the course of patients with alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C liver diseases.”
Silymarin is poorly soluble in water, so aqueous preparations such as teas are ineffective, except for use as supportive treatment in gallbladder disorders because of cholagogic and spasmolytic effects. The drug is best administered parenterally because of poor absorption of silymarin from the gastrointestinal tract. The drug must be concentrated for oral use. Silymarin’s hepatoprotective effects may be explained by its altering of the outer liver cell membrane structure, as to disallow entrance of toxins into the cell. This alteration involves silymarin’s ability to block the toxin’s binding sites, thus hindering uptake by the cell. Hepatoprotection by silymarin can also be attributed to its antioxidant properties by scavenging prooxidant free radicals and increasing intracellular concentration of glutathione, a substance required for detoxicating reactions in liver cells.
Silymarin’s mechanisms offer many types of therapeutic benefit in cirrhosis with the main benefit being hepatoprotection. Use of milk thistle, however, is inadvisable in decompensated cirrhosis. In patients with acute viral hepatitis, silymarin shortened treatement time and showed improvement in serum levels of bilirubin, AST and ALT.
Treatment claims also include:
1.Lowering cholesterol levels
2.Reducing insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes who also have cirrhosis
3.Reducing the growth of cancer cells in breast, cervical, and prostate cancers.
4.Milk thistle is also used in many products claiming to reduce the effects of a hangover.
5.Milk thistle can also be found as an ingredient in some energy drinks like the AriZonaBeverage Company Green Tea energy drink and Rockstar Energy Drink.
How It Is Used:
Milk thistle is a flowering herb. Silymarin, which can be extracted from the seeds (fruit), is believed to be the biologically active part of the herb. The seeds are used to prepare capsules containing powdered herb or seed; extracts; and infusions (strong teas).
What the Science Says:
There have been some studies of milk thistle on liver disease in humans, but these have been small. Some promising data have been reported, but study results at this time are mixed.
Although some studies conducted outside the United States support claims of oral milk thistle to improve liver function, there have been flaws in study design and reporting. To date, there is no conclusive evidence to prove its claimed uses.
NCCAM is supporting a phase II research study to better understand the use of milk thistle for chronic hepatitis C. With the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, NCCAM is planning further studies of milk thistle for chronic hepatitis C and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (liver disease that occurs in people who drink little or no alcohol). The National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Nursing Research are also studying milk thistle, for cancer prevention and to treat complications in HIV patients.
Other Uses: Green manure; Oil; Oil..……A good green manure plant, producing a lot of bulk for incorporation into the soil.
Known Hazards : When grown on nitrogen rich soils, especially those that have been fed with chemical fertilizers, this plant can concentrate nitrates in the leaves. Nitrates are implicated in stomach cancers. Diabetics should monitor blood glucose when using. Avoid if decompensated liver cirrhosis. Possible headaches, nausea, irritability and minor gastrointestinal upset
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:
As much as most of us wish we could exist in harmony with the people we encounter throughout our lives, there will always be individuals we dislike. Some simply rub us the wrong way while others strike us as deliberately unaware. We may judge others as too mean or abrasive for us to interact with them comfortably. Yet no person should be deemed a villain because their beliefs, opinions, mannerisms, and mode of being are not compatible with your own. You need not embrace the rough traits they have chosen to embody. There may be times in which the best course of action involves distancing yourself from someone you dislike. But circumstances may require that you spend time in the company of individuals who awaken your aversion. In such cases, you can ease your discomfort by showing your foe loving compassion while examining your feelings carefully. ....CLICK & SEE
The reasons we dislike some individuals are often complex and, at first, indecipherable. Often, we are automatically averse to people who are different because they compel us to question our values, spirituality, culture, and ideologies, threatening to undermine our self-assurance. Realistically, however, those you dislike have no power to weaken your lifeâ€™s foundations. In fact, your aversion to specific individuals may actually be your response to your fear that specific qualities you see in them also exist within you. Their presence may force you to face internal issues you would rather not confront. If you meet someone who inspired an intense, largely negative response in you, ask yourself why your reaction is so laden with powerful emotions. Remember that you control your feelings and, if necessary, you can minimize this individualâ€™s impact on your well-being by choosing how you will respond to them.
Though you may not have an immediate breakthrough, your willingness to consider your dislike rationally can help you better understand the root of your feelings. Your aversion to certain individuals may not wane over time, yet the comprehension you gain through reflection can help you interact with them sympathetically, benevolently, and with a greater degree of kindness. There is nothing wrong with recognizing that you are incompatible with some people. You may never achieve a shared harmony with those you dislike, but you can nonetheless learn to modulate your reactions to these individuals and, ultimately, to coexist peacefully with them.