Although he was only in his early thirties, he moved like an old man with widespread arthritis. At the stairs, he supported himself on the short banister to keep his full weight off his feet. It looked as if every one of his muscles were in pain.
Although you may never have heard of it, the organic sulfur compound known as MSM (short for methylsulfonylmethane) is contained in minute amounts in everyone’s blood and most foods. It’s unclear what role MSM plays in the complex chemistry of the human body, but some experts believe that, like other sulfur compounds, it’s a necessary building block for proteins, especially those found in the hair, muscles, and connective tissue of the joints and skin. Sulfur also is found in insulin and bile acid.
During the past decade, physician, teacher and overall health guru Dr. Deepak Chopra has been instrumental introducing the 5,000 year old Indian holistic medical system known as Ayurveda to the West. Ayurveda promotes significant lifestyle change, including diet, exercise, meditation and bodywork. In addition, a vast number of herbs, many used for millennia, are now being introduced by its practitioners.
The bark of the stately white willow tree (Salix alba) has been used in China for centuries as a medicine because of its ability to relieve pain and lower fever. Early settlers to America found Native Americans gathering bark from indigenous willow trees for similar purposes.
Vitamin D is called the sunlight vitamin because the body produces it when the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays strike the skin. It is the only vitamin the body manufactures naturally and is technically considered a hormone. Essential for building strong bones and teeth, vitamin D also helps to strengthen the immune system and may prevent some types of cancer.
Although best known as a spice that gives a distinctive flavor and yellow color to curry powder and mustard, turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a member of the ginger family and has long been used for healing. Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, and other traditional medicine systems practiced in India have relied on this pungent spice for centuries, and so it’s not surprising that the Asian subcontinent is where the most intensive research about this herb has been conducted.
What Is It? Famed as an energy tonic in China since ancient times, Siberian ginseng only gained recognition in the West in the 1950s, when a Russian scientist (I. I. Brekhman) reported its notable stress-repelling powers. Healthy men and women taking the herb were found to better endure physical strain, resist disease, and perform tests […]
SAMe (pronounced “sammy”) is short for S-adenosylmethionine, a molecule that the body continually produces to fuel numerous vital body functions. Discovered in 1952, the popularity of SAMe has soared recently with talk of its ability to ease depression as effectively as prescription antidepressants. (Proponents say SAMe also works faster than antidepressants and with virtually no side effects.)
A silvery evergreen shrub that originated in the Mediterranean region and is now grown worldwide, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is prized both as a culinary and healing herb. Many of the current uses of this aromatic plant have been handed down from ancient times.
Omega-6 fatty acids belong to a group of “good” fats called polyunsaturated fatty acids. Unlike such “bad” fats as cholesterol and saturated fatty acids (which contribute to the worsening of a host of ailments including heart disease and other degenerative conditions), omega-6s can actually be beneficial to your health.
Omega-6 fatty acids are one of two types of essential fatty acids (EFAs) that people need to consume to stay healthy. Omega-3s are the other. Both are considered “essential” because the body can’t produce them on its own; it can only get them through foods.
Melatonin is a hormone manufactured and released into the bloodstream by the pebble-size pineal gland nestled deep within the human brain. Surprisingly, scientists only became aware of melatonin’s presence in 1958. Children tend to excrete large amounts of this hormone, while older adults produce relatively little. But individual levels of melatonin vary widely. About 1% of the population naturally has quite low levels, while another 1% has levels 500 times above the average.
Glucosamine, a sugar produced in the body and found in small amounts in foods, plays an important role in maintaining cartilage, the gel-like material that cushions joints. When taken as a dietary supplement, glucosamine may help to relieve the pain, stiffness, and swelling of osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disorder that affects 12% of the population, in which cartilage has worn down. Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers report improvements with glucosamine supplements as well, as do individuals with other types of joint injuries. Some 70 countries around the world sanction glucosamine as a treatment for individuals with mild to moderately severe osteoarthritis.
The deserts of southern Africa are home to the peculiar-looking devil’s claw plant (Harpagophytum procumbens), so named because of the distinctively shaped tips of its fruits. For years, people indigenous to the African continent dug up the plant’s large tuberous roots, chopped them up, and let them dry in the sun. From the dried roots, they then prepared healing formulations to treat arthritis, fever, indigestion, and a number of other conditions.
A natural component of the cartilage that cushions joints, chondroitin sulfate seems to block the enzymes that can destroy this crucial tissue. For this reason it has become a popular dietary supplement for the treatment of arthritis. Some studies indicate that it may even be as effective at relieving osteoarthritis pain as aspirin and other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)–without posing the same risk for gastrointestinal problems.
Despite appearances, the green ribbed celery (Apium graveolens) stalk offers more than a mild-flavored crunch. Seeds collected from the white flowers that bloom in summer are steam-distilled to produce special tonics. These so-called “celery cures” were wildly popular in the late 19th century for treating bladder and kidney ills. Animal research indicates that celery extracts do encourage the kidneys and bladder to pump out more urine; this is called a diuretic effect. But whether this happens in any consistent way in humans needs confirmation.
Thought to have originated in Cayenne, French Guiana, cayenne is a spice derived from several varieties of dried hot peppers in the Capsicum species. Cayenne is a relative of the mild bell pepper used in salads and also of the fiery peppers found in chili powders and hot sauces, but it has no connection to black table pepper. Used for centuries by cooks around the world to add “heat” to traditional dishes, cayenne has gained a solid reputation both as a painkiller and digestive aid.
Bromelain is the name of a group of powerful protein-digesting, or proteolytic, enzymes that are found in the pineapple plant (Ananas comosus). Discovered in 1957, and widely studied since then, bromelain is particularly useful for reducing muscle and tissue inflammation and as a digestive aid. Supplements are made from enzymes found in the pineapple stem.
Boswellia, also known as boswellin or “Indian frankincense,” comes from the Boswellia serrata tree that grows in the dry hills of India. For centuries, traditional Indian healers have taken advantage of the anti-inflammatory properties of the tree bark’s gummy resin, called salai guggal. Modern preparations made from a purified extract of this resin and packaged in pill or cream form are used to reduce inflammation associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Unlike conventional NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen–the accepted treatments for joint inflammation–boswellia doesn’t seem to cause stomach irritation. It also may be effective for back pain and certain chronic intestinal disorders.
You may not have a problem with arthritis in your knees now, but if your mom or grandmother has knee pain–or you yourself do–you might want to read this.