Phyllis B. was a longtime patient of mine whose medical problems were happily under control and who usually came in only for annual check-ups. As I’d just seen her last month, I expected today’s visit meant some new problem had emerged. “I’m here for Kirk,” she began. I’d only met her husband once, years earlier. […]
Is Inflammation Behind (Almost) All Disease?
You can see your factory-installed inflammation system in action when you cut yourself or get a big zit on your chin. As annoying as the redness, swelling, and pus are, they’re a sign your inflammatory response is functioning well to ward off attackers and keep your body intact. In the grand scheme of things, inflammation […]
It’s Official: Aspirin Prevents Cancer
Most doctors I know swallow one of those low-dose healthy heart aspirins every day. I count myself among them (here’s the 81-mg version I take, but many brands are available, Costco’s among them). When research studies first started appearing well over 20 years ago showing a daily smidgen of aspirin could prevent both heart attack and stroke, the general attitude among most doctors was a profound: “Well, it couldn’t hurt…”
Vinpocetine is a derivative of an extract taken from the lesser periwinkle plant (Vinca minor), an evergreen undershrub. The shrub is native to Europe, where it has been been under examination since the 1950s for boosting stroke- and age-related decline in brain function. Only recently has vinpocetine become available in the United States, and not as a prescription drug like in Europe, but as an over-the-counter dietary supplement.
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 […]
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a phospholipid, a type of fat found in every cell in the body. It is particularly concentrated in the brain, where it has the important task of keeping cell membranes fluid, flexible and primed for nutrient absorption. PS also plays a critical role in supporting nerve tissue; it aids proper release and reception of neurotransmitters in the brain, for example. In short, PS helps to keep memory-related pathways functioning smoothly.
Essential for hundreds of chemical reactions that occur in the body every second, the mineral magnesium has received surprisingly little attention over the years. Recent findings, however, suggest that it also has important health-promoting benefits, from an ability to prevent heart disease to a role in treating such chronic conditions as fibromyalgia and diabetes.
Lecithin and Choline
Lecithin is a fatty substance manufactured in the body and widely found in many animal- and plant-based foods, including eggs, liver, peanuts, soybeans, and wheat germ. Lecithin is often used as an additive in such processed foods as ice cream, margarine, and salad dressings, because it helps blend (or emulsify) fats with water. Lecithin is also available in supplement form.
A member of the pepper family, kava (or kava-kava) is a natural tranquilizer that soothes jangled nerves and eases anxiety with few of the mind-dulling effects of prescription relaxants. Its Latin name, Piper methysticum, means “intoxicating pepper,” and indeed, on the South Pacific islands where it is grown, kava is made into a traditional beverage that is drunk at ceremonies and on social occasions–as alcohol is in other societies–to relax people and induce a sense of well-being.
This popular herbal medicine is extracted from the fan-shaped leaves of the ancient ginkgo biloba tree, a species that has survived in China for more than 200 million years and now grows throughout the world. (The leaves are double, or bi-lobed; hence the name biloba.) Long used in traditional Chinese medicine, it is only in the last few decades that the medicinal uses for the herb have been studied in the West.
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.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
One of the world’s most popular supplements, the chemical coenzyme Q10 has generated great excitement as a heart disease remedy and a cure for countless other conditions. The body naturally produces this compound, which has been dubbed “vitamin Q” because of its essential role in keeping all systems running smoothly. In fact, the scientists who identified coenzyme Q10 in 1957 initially honored its ubiquitous presence–it’s found in every human cell and in all living organisms–by naming it “ubiquinone.” Small amounts are also present in most foods.