The steroid Hormone DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) has been hyped as a supplement that will deliver the virtual fountain of youth, with extravagant claims that it can slow aging, melt away Fat, enhance memory, prevent osteoporosis, and increase libido. Naturally produced and released by the adrenal glands, DHEA is ultimately converted into estrogen (the female sex hormone) and androgen (the male sex hormone).
The minerals zinc and copper can be purchased as single products, but there’s good reason to consider a combination product that pairs the two.
Zinc blocks the absorption and enhances the excretion of copper when taken over time. So, when zinc is recommended long term (over many months) for any condition–from arthritis to prostate problems or even Alzheimer’s–it’s important to get some copper as well. A combination product will help prevent a copper deficiency and the anemia that can develop as a result.
In the eighteenth century, seasoned sailors found that by sucking on lemons they could avoid scurvy, a debilitating disease that often developed during long voyages when fresh fruits and vegetables were scarce. When the lemon’s key nutrient was formally identified in 1928, it was named ascorbic acid for its anti-scurvy, or antiscorbutic, action. Today ascorbic acid is widely known as vitamin C.
The trace mineral selenium makes its way into our bodies because it is contained in certain foods. Over time, it becomes part of nearly every cell, with particularly high concentrations in the kidneys, liver, pancreas, spleen, and testes.
The most concentrated food source for selenium is the Brazil nut; a single one contains 120 mcg, (which is about twice the RDA). Seafood in general, as well as poultry and meat, are also good sources. So are grains, especially oats and brown rice.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a form of polyunsaturated fats, one of four basic types of fat that the body derives from food. (Cholesterol, saturated fat, and monounsaturated fat are the others.) All polyunsaturated fats, including the omega-3s, are increasingly recognized as important to human health.
Eating too many foods rich in saturated fats has been associated with the development of degenerative diseases, including heart disease and even cancer. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, however, are actually good for you. Omega-3s (found primarily in cold-water fish) fall into this category, along with omega-6s, another type of polyunsaturated fatty acids found in grains, most plant-based oils, poultry, and eggs. (For more information, see our WholeHealth Chicago entry on Omega-6 Fatty Acids.)
A source of fiber for linen fabric since ancient times, the slender flax plant (Linum usitatissimum) also boasts a long history as a healing herb. First cultivated in Europe, the plant’s brown seeds were regularly used to prepare balms for inflamed skin and healing slurries for constipation. Today, flaxseeds–also called linseeds–are best known for the therapeutic oil that is derived by pressing them. Rich in essential fatty acids, or EFAs, flaxseed oil has earned a solid reputation for treating a range of ailments, from heart disease to lupus.
Heralded for its heart-healthy actions, fish oils offer high concentrations of polyunsaturated fats called omega-3-fatty acids. While all fish contain these fats, cold-water fish–salmon, sea bass, tuna, trout, mackerel–are particularly rich sources because of their diet: plankton packed with omega-3s. Interestingly, the colder the water, the more omega-3s in the plankton. Cold-water fish also boast the most potent forms of omega-3s: the essential fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). Consumed as part of a fish-filled diet or in supplement form, omega-3s have myriad healing powers.
Evening primrose oil is extracted from the evening primrose plant (Oenothera biennis), a wildflower found in North America, Europe and parts of Asia. The plant’s pale yellow flowers open in the evening–hence its common name–and its seeds bear the special fatty oil that is used in healing today.
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.
From its bristly stems to its blue star-shaped flowers, virtually all parts of the borage plant (Borago officinalis) have been used over the centuries for their healing properties and as a flavoring for foods. As early as the 1600s, Europeans mixed borage leaves and flowers into a wine that was renown for relieving boredom and dispelling melancholy.