This famed vision-enhancing nutrient was isolated in 1930, the first fat-soluble vitamin to be discovered. The body acquires some of its vitamin A through animal fats. The rest it synthesizes in the intestines from the beta-carotene and other carotenoids abundant in many fruits and vegetables.
Few herbal remedies have been as widely used or as carefully examined over the centuries as licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), a botanical member of the pea family that is still widely cultivated in Greece and Turkey. The herb’s key therapeutic compound, glycyrrhizin, is found in the rhizome (or underground stem) of this tall purple-flowered shrub. Hundreds of other potentially healing substances have been identified in licorice as well, including compounds called flavonoids and various plant estrogens (phytoestrogens). Researchers are currently excited about the diverse healing properties of licorice, from its anti-inflammatory abilities to its capacity to soothe stomach upset and control coughs. Even the National Cancer Institute has investigated the medicinal benefits of licorice.
Glutamine is a nonessential amino acid. “Nonessential” means that the body can create its own supply if the diet is lacking in glutamine-rich sources, such as poultry, fish, and legumes. Few people who are basically healthy and follow a balanced diet are deficient in this amino acid, one of the most abundant in the bloodstream. But there are some important exceptions.
Although it appears in grains such as barley and corn, gamma-oryzanol is extracted from rice bran oil for commercial purposes. In Japan, this concentrated mixture of ferulic acid and other compounds is commonly added to foods and beverages. The bulk of research on gamma-oryzanol’s health benefits has been done in Japan, although supplements are now available in the United States as well.
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.
A succulent perennial plant belonging to the lily family, aloe vera grows wild in Madagascar and large portions of the African continent. Because of its many therapeutic uses, it is now commercially cultivated in the United States, Japan, and countries in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. Many individuals also grow aloe as a houseplant.