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Herbs & Plants

Lycopus virginicus

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Botanical Name: Lycopus virginicus
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Lycopus
Species: L. virginicus
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Lamiales

Synonyms : Euhemus officinalis. Euhemus sylvaticus. Lycopus macrophyllus

Common Names: Bugleweed, Virginia water horehound, Virginia water horehound, American water hoarhound, Sweet bugleweed, Water bugle, Carpenter’s herb, Green archangel, Purple archangel, Paul’s betony, Woodbetony, Wolf foot, and Egyptian’s herb.

Habitat : Lycopus virginicus is native to Eastern N. America – New York and Wisconsin south to Georgia and Texas. It grows in Low damp shady ground in rich moist soils.

Description:
Lycopus virginicus is a perennial herb with a hairy, squared stem reaching a meter tall. The oppositely arranged leaves have oval to lance-shaped blades with toothed edges. The leaves are dark green or purple. Clusters of tiny white or pink-tinged flowers occur in the leaf axils. It is in flower from Jul to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies.The plant has a mint scent and a bitter taste. This species can be easily confused with Lycopus uniflorus. The latter has stamens exserted from the flowers, while the stamens of L. virginicus are included. The two species may hybridize, producing Lycopus × sherardii……..CLICK & SEE  THE  PICTURES

Cultivation : Tolerates most soil types so long as they are wet. Succeeds in full sun or in partial shade, in damp meadows or in wet places by ponds or streams.

Propagation :
Seed – sow spring or autumn in a cold frame. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first year. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer. Division in spring or autumn. Larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.
Edible Uses: Root – cooked.

Medicinal Uses:

Antianxiety; Antidandruff; Astringent; Cardiac; Hypoglycaemic; Narcotic; Sedative.

Bugleweed has sedative properties and is used in modern herbalism principally to treat an overactive thyroid gland and the racing heartbeat that often accompanies this condition. The whole plant is used as an astringent, hypoglycaemic, mild narcotic and mild sedative. It also slows and strengthens heart contractions. The plant has been shown to be of value in the treatment of hyperthyroidism, it is also used in the treatment of coughs, bleeding from the lungs and consumption, excessive menstruation etc. It should not be prescribed for pregnant women or patients with hypothyroidism. The root has been chewed, a portion swallowed and the rest applied externally in the treatment of snakebites. Current uses are predominantly for increased activity of the thyroid gland and for premenstrual syndrome symptoms such as breast pain . The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Lycopus for nervousness and premenstrual syndrome.

It should be used only in its fresh state (or freshly tinctured), not dried. For treating traumatic bruises and injuries, it is combined with other herbs in a liniment, and also taken internally. Good for cardiac problems. Studies indicate that bugleweed reduces the activity of the thyroid gland by slowing the release of the hormone thyroxine in the thyroid. It should help ease abnormal excitability, relieve acute hyperventilation, slow a rapid heart rate and relieve spastic coughing from those suffering from spontaneous hyperthyroidism. Bugleweed is also useful in many heart and vascular system disorders. It is believed to work in the cardiovascular system in a way that is similar to the drug digitalis—by strengthening the heartbeat while slowing a rapid pulse. But it is virtually free of the dangerous side effects.

Bugleweed is a good hemostatic or coagulant for home use, nearly as specific as shepherd’s purse without the latter’s diuretic or hypertensive effects. The fresh tincture is preferable, but the dried herb is adequate; one-fourth to one-half teaspoon of the tincture or a rounded teaspoon to tablespoon of the herb in tea. Treatment should be continued one dose after the bleeding has stopped to allow firm clotting or sealing. It can be used for nosebleeds, excess menstruation, bleeding piles and the like. Particularly useful for two or three days after labor, exerting little effect on colostrums or milk production.

Known Hazards : Known to cause the enlargement of the thyroid gland. Avoid in patients with thyroid disease or given concomitantly with thyroid therapy. Avoid during pregnancy.

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.

Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lycopus_virginicus
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_AB.htm
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Lycopus+virginicus

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Herbs & Plants

Oenothera biennis

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Botanical Name : Oenothera biennis
Family: Onagraceae
Genus: Oenothera
Species: O. biennis
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Myrtales

Synonym: Tree Primrose.  It is also known as Weedy evening-primrose, German rampion, hog weed, King’s cure-all, and fever-plant

Common Names : Tree Primrose, Common evening primrose, Evening star, or Sun drop

Habitat: Oenothera biennis though originally a native of North Arnerica, was imported first into Italy and has been carried all over Europe, being often naturalized on river-banks and other sandy places in Western Europe. It is often cultivated in English gardens, and is apparently fully naturalized in Lancashire and some other counties of England, having been first a garden escape.

Dscription:
The root is biennial, fusiform and fibrous, yellowish on the outside and white within. The first year, many obtuse leaves are produced, which spread flat on the ground. From among these in the second year, the more or less hairy stems arise and grow to a height of 3 or 4 feet. The later leaves are 3 to 5 inches long, 1 inch or more wide, pointed, with nearly entire margins and covered with short hairs. The flowers are produced all along the stalks, on axillary branches and in a terminating spike, often leafy at the base. The uppermost flowers come out first in June. The stalks keep continually advancing in height, and there is a constant succession of flowers till late in the autumn, making this one of the showiest of our hardy garden plants, if placed in large masses. The flowers are of a fine, yellow colour, large and delicately fragrant, and usually open between six and seven o’clock in the evening, hence the name of Evening Primrose. From a horticultural point of view, the variety grandiflora or Lamarkiana should always be preferred to the ordinary kind, as the flowers are larger and of a finer colour, having a fine effect in large masses, and being well suited for the wild garden.
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Oenothera biennis has a life span of two years (biennial) growing to 30–150 cm (12–59 in) tall. The leaves are lanceolate, 5–20 cm (2.0–7.9 in) long and 1–2.5 cm (0.39–0.98 in) broad, produced in a tight rosette the first year, and spirally on a stem the second year.

Blooming lasts from late spring to late summer. The flowers are hermaphrodite, produced on a tall spike and only last until the following noon. They open visibly fast every evening producing an interesting spectacle, hence the name “evening primrose.”

The blooms are yellow, 2.5–5 cm (0.98–1.97 in) diameter, with four bilobed petals. The flower structure has an invisible to the naked eye bright nectar guide pattern. This pattern is apparent under ultraviolet light and visible to its pollinators, moths, butterflies, and bees.

The fruit is a capsule 2–4 cm (0.79–1.57 in) long and 4–6 mm (0.16–0.24 in) broad, containing numerous 1–2 mm (0.039–0.079 in) long seeds, released when the capsule splits into four sections at maturity.

Cultivation: The Evening Primrose will thrive in almost any soil or situation, being perfectly hardy. It flourishes best in fairly good sandy soil and in a warm sunny position.

Sow the seeds an inch deep in a shady position out-doors in April, transplanting the seedlings when 1 inch high, 3 inches apart each way in sunny borders. Keep them free from weeds, and in September or the following March, transplant them again into the flowering positions. As the roots strike deep into the ground, care should be taken not to break them in removing.

Seeds may also be sown in cold frames in autumn for blooming the following year.

If the plants are once introduced and the seeds permitted to scatter, there will be a supply of plants without any special care.

Medicinal Uses:
Parts Used: Bark and leaves. The bark is peeled from the flower-stems and dried in the same manner as the leaves, which are collected in the second year, when the flowerstalk has made its appearance.

Astringent and sedative. The drug extracted from this plant, though not in very general use, has been tested in various directions, and has been employed with success in the treatment of gastro-intestinal disorders of a functional origin, asthma and whooping cough.

It has proved of service in dyspepsia, torpor of the liver, and in certain female complaints, such as pelvic fullness.

Its leaves are edible and traditionally were used as a leaf vegetable.

Evening primrose is sometimes used to treat eczema. Natural Standard has given evening primrose oil a “B” score for the treatment of eczema; meaning there is good scientific evidence supporting its use Template:Http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/herbssupplements/primrose.asp. The symptoms of eczema can be exacerbated due to scratching and drying out the skin. Evening primrose oil contains linoleic acid, which is the primary oil found in the stratum corneum.{{Citation Angelo, Giana. “Essential Fatty Acids and Skin Health.” Linus Pauling Institute: Micronutrient Information Center. Oregon State University, Feb. 2012. Web. 30 Nov. 2012. .}}. Supplementation with EPO may help rehydrate skin that has been scratched due to eczema. Furthermore, gamma-linoleic acid is metabolized into anti-inflammatory compounds, which may contribute to its ability to provide symptomatic relief in eczema. Most studies evaluating the effectiveness of EPO used 4 capsules of standardized extract (~1600 mg of evening primrose oil TOTAL) dosed by mouth twice daily for up to 12 weeks.

Evening Primrose Oil has been shown to slightly reduce blood pressure, can increase clotting time (use with caution if you take warfarin or aspirin), and should not be used by epileptics as it lowers the seizure threshold. Safety has not been evaluated in pregnant or nursing women.

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/Oenothera_biennis
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/p/primro70.html

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News on Health & Science

Walnuts in Diet May Help Elderly Improve Memory

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Walnuts contain polyphenols and other anti-oxidants and essential fatty acids. Polyphenols are the most abundant group of plant phenolic compounds, known to provide much of the flavour, colour and taste to fruits, vegetables and seeds.

The study was conducted by researchers with the Human Nutrition Research Centre on Ageing (HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston.

The ageing brain undergoes many changes resulting in altered or impaired neuronal functioning. In aged rodents, these impairments are seen as poor performance on age-sensitive tests of balance, coordination, and “spatial” working memory.

For the study, weight-matched, aged rats were randomly assigned to one of four diet groups. For eight weeks, the rats were fed special chow mixes that contained either two, six or nine percent walnuts – or no walnuts – before undergoing motor and memory tests.

For comparison, the six percent walnut study diet is equivalent to a human eating about seven to to nine walnuts daily. That counts as both a two-ounce equivalent from the “meat and beans group” and two teaspoons toward a daily allowance of dietary oil, said a HNRCA release.

The study found that in aged rats, the diets containing two or six percent walnuts were able to improve age-related motor and cognitive shortfalls, while the nine percent walnut diet also improved memory.

Sources: The Times Of India

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Health & Fitness

Eat Fish, Be Fit

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With age, who would not prefer to avoid poor eyesight, cognitive decline, dementia, cancer, diabetes, or death from a sudden heart attack? People would also prefer to have strong bones resistant to fracture and be looked after by healthy children.
……………………..
The Inuits of Greenland (Eskimos), the Alaskans and the Japanese seem to enjoy all these benefits. Scientific research has zeroed in on the one thing these populations have in common: their staple diet protein was obtained from fish.

The benefits came from the relatively higher consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are a heterogeneous group of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids — the “essential fatty acids” (EFAs) composed of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). The recommended intake of ALA is 1.5 grams a day and DHA 0.5-1.0gm a day. EFAs are essential for the healthy development and functioning of the brain. They make up 20 per cent of the brain’s dry weight.

The human body cannot synthesise EFAs. They have to be obtained from dietary sources. Vegetarians get their quota of EFA in the form of omega-6 fatty acids from whole grains, sprouts, flaxseeds, soyabeans, walnuts, leafy green vegetables and legumes like beans. But this is slightly different in chemical composition from the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish.

The benefits of eating fish begin to appear when 60gm of fish are taken at least once a week. The benefits plateau if the consumption is more.

Combined with soya nuggets, nuts and legumes, when both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are obtained, the benefits increase. The optimal ratio for maximal health benefits is 4:1 (omega-6:omega-3).

Fish are also an excellent source of protein. A hundred grams of cooked fish provide 20gm of protein, which is a third of the daily requirement. Fish protein, which is of high quality, is lower in fat content than mutton or chicken, and contains minerals like iron, zinc and calcium.

In pregnant women, seafood provides DHA which decreases the chances of preterm birth, improves visual acuity and helps optimise the development of the nervous system in the unborn child. During lactation, it reduces the incidence of post partum depression and provides DHA to the baby.

We have polluted our earth and the seabeds are contaminated with mercury. This liquid metal is present in fish too. Excess exposure to mercury can harm the development of the nervous system of a baby. Pregnant and lactating mothers should, therefore, limit their intake of fish to 400gm a week.

Not everyone can eat fish. While some are vegetarians, others may be allergic. Or fish may just not be available. The pharmaceutical industry markets supplements of cod liver oil, fish oil and omega-3 fatty acid as capsules and tonics. These, along with other lipid lowering medicines like statins, can be taken to potentiate (enhance) their effect. DHA has also been added to health drinks and to fortified infant formulae. The claim is that the benefits are provided without the toxins, to improve outcome in heart disease, lower blood pressure, optimise lipid levels, reduce inflammation and improve immunity. The claim extends to helping in chronic diseases like diabetes, epilepsy and rheumatoid arthritis, fighting depression, relieving asthma, preventing eczema and producing intelligent children with good visual acuity.

Capsulated EFAs are processed and bottled basically for convenience and commercial advantage. The purity, strength or safety of the products and their effects may vary. Product labels therefore must be read carefully. Prescribed medication should not be discontinued in favour of these supplements. People who are allergic to fish or nuts should exercise caution if they are planning to take these products.

Omega-3 fatty acids should be used only as an adjunct and not as a substitute for a healthy diet and regular exercise. Their actions in the prevention of cardiovascular disease are still controversial. Their superiority to current drugs is also disputed. Despite all the hype about these capsules and supplements, studies have not yet conclusively proven that they are superior to natural sources of EFAs. The superiority of breast milk is undisputed and it remains the best for the baby.

An overdose of these supplements can be dangerous, as it can produce vitamin D toxicity, bleeding, diarrhoea and leg cramps. This can also potentiate the effects of diabetic medications and insulin, causing blood sugar levels to drop.
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Fish do make a difference. Research has proved that even if you don’t eat fish, keeping an aquarium reduces stress and blood pressure, helps in Alzheimer’s and calms hyperactive children with attention deficit disorder. It does not even have to be a real aquarium. Watching a virtual one, a DVD with moving fish or even having a screen saver with fish has equal benefits at home and in the work place.

There is a clear medical benefit to association with fish, whether you are a “fish eater” or a “fish watcher”.

Sources:The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Featured Health & Fitness

Non-Essential Amino Acid Glycine Can Improve ATP Production

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The non-essential amino acid glycine is needed to generate muscle tissue and also for the conversion of blood glucose into energy. It is referred to as being ‘non-essential’ because the body can manufacture its own glycine, and is therefore not an essential component of your diet. Other uses to which glycine is put by the body includes the maintenance of a healthy nervous system, and is necessary for the proper functioning of the digestive system.

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Amino acids play three essential roles in the human body:

1. They are the building blocks of proteins: proteins comprise about half of the dry weight of the majority of your body cells, and without them there would be no life. They are produced using monomers known as amino acids, and there are about 20 different amino acids used to make the vast variety of proteins that make up the human body. Proteins are needed to form enzymes, the catalysts that permit the majority of chemical reactions within our bodies, and also genes, the building blocks of DNA.

2. More relevant here, amino acids play an important role in the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) from ADP (adenosine diphosphate) by phosphorylation with creatine phosphate. The more creatine phosphate available, the more ATP can be produced. Since ATP is the molecule responsible for the generation of energy, then the more ATP available the more energy is generated. Although creatine is available from many food sources, it is destroyed by cooking, and over half of what you use is made from the three amino acids, glycine, arginine and methionine. The energy produced in this way is very short-lived, and last only a few seconds – more on that later.

3. Glycine is heavily involved in the production of collagen, which is the substance that maintains the flexibility of your skin and other connective tissues while still maintaining their strength and firmness. Without glycine your skin would become slack due to the degrading effect of sunlight, free radicals and oxidation.

The non essential amino acid, glycine, is believed to offer other benefits to the human body, but it is the second of those above, the production of ATP, which interests us here. ATP is an extremely important nanomolecule, second in importance to the body only to DNA, and possibly also RNA since the two are linked. RNA makes copies of your DNA structure for use in cell division and growth.

When a cell expends energy for whatever reason, such as when I am typing this, or when your heart beats, or even when your liver synthesizes a protein, one of the phosphate groups is removed from the adenosine triphosphate molecule, and converts it to adenosine diphosphate (ADP). The ATP is then said to be ‘spent’, just as your energy is spent when you are tired and can exercise no more.

The ADP is then immediately reconverted to ATP in the mitochondria, a part of every cell in your body. A cell can contain hundreds, or even thousands, of mitochondria, the number depending upon that particular cell’s need for energy. Hence, cells in your muscles, or in your liver where most of the body’s chemistry takes place, contain thousands of mitochondria whereas those in your scalp contain a lot less. Once changed to ATP, a phosphate is again lost when energy is expended, and so the cycle continues.

Glucose is needed allow the ADP to be converted to ATP, hence the need for sugars, or the carbohydrates from which they are manufactured in your body. Each cell can contain up to a billion molecules of ATP, although the couch potatoes among you probably have a lot less! Your store of ATP molecules last about 2 to 5 seconds before being changed to ADP although more rapidly for athletes that expend a lot of energy. Then the energy stored in the form of glycogen in the liver kicks in for another 4 – 6 seconds.

Additionally, you cannot expend more energy that the (eventual) sugars that you take in your diet, which can be in the form of ordinary ‘sugar’ (sucrose), fruit (fructose), glucose, carbohydrates that are metabolized into sugars, or any other member of the sugar family (e.g. lactose, maltose, etc.).

Glycine is one of what are called glucogenic amino acids, which refers to their ability to provide glucose to the blood. Because it helps to maintain proper blood glucose levels, it is often prescribed for conditions that are caused by low glucose levels, such as hypoglycemia that shows symptoms of fatigue and tiredness, and also anemia and what is known as CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome).

The one activity of the human body, in fact that of any mammal, for which ATP is essential, is the heartbeat. Without that no mammal could survive, or any other creature that relies on a circulation system for life. The only reason you heart has to beat is to pump your blood around your body, and it is your blood that contains the oxygen and nutrients needed to sustain life. Your cardiovascular health relies on lots of ATP being available to power each and every heartbeat.

Analysis of the heart during the final stages of heart failure has revealed that there is a general decrease in the myocardial arginine: glycine amidinotraferase (AGAT) gene expression, which is indicative of the necessity of this enzyme for proper heart function. The enzyme is responsible for the first stage in the biosynthesis of creatine from glycine.

Creatine is well known to athletes, and while it is available naturally from some food sources, it can be destroyed during cooking, and at least 50% of the creatine needed by the body is produced in the liver, pancreas and kidneys. It is creatine phosphate that is broken down into creatine and phosphate, the latter of which is used by the mitochondria to regenerate ATP from ADP.

The study carried out on the reduced AGAT levels found in heart failure patients indicates the importance of glycine to heart health. Without a good supply of glycine, there will insufficient creatine produced biochemically to generate the phosphate needed to for the ATP to produce the energy required to keep the heart pumping with the required strength. The energy provided by the mitochondria is used locally by the cells in which it is produced, and within a few seconds of that production. As explained earlier, ATP stores are used up within 2 – 5 seconds, and glycogen stores within another 4 – 6 seconds.

That is why sprinters cannot keep running at maximum speed for more than around 10 seconds or so, because the immediate availability of glycine, and hence creatine, are insufficient to last longer than that. That is one reason why they have to finish those 100 meters as fast as possible, because otherwise they would run out of energy. Other than trying to win, of course!

However, when it comes to the heart, ATP stores are essential, and the cells in your heart require a constant supply of ATP from creatine, which itself depends upon your intake or biosynthesis of glycine. Since dietary sources are insufficient to meet all your needs, and destroyed by cooking, a glycine supplement is the only way to ensure a sufficient intake. You cannot undernourish your heart and remain healthy.

ATP biosynthesis is essential if that of glycine theoretically is not, but the fact that 50% of your glycine requirement has to be produced by your body and the other 50% is sensitive to heat during cooking, a supplement of glycine could be essential to many people.

Sources:http://www.articlesbase.com/health-articles/
nonessential-amino-acid-glycine-can-improve-atp-production-615225.html

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