Showing posts with label cancer treatment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cancer treatment. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What the Heck Is Astragalus Root Anyway?

Astragalus (pronounced like this) is a plant that grows wild in Asia. Its dried roots are considered medicinal in several parts of Asia, where it's liquid extract form is used in clinics and hospitals, often injected directly into the body. In the US, you can find Astragalus root in health food stores usually as a tablet, capsule, or as a liquid extract. But what the heck is it? Is it safe to take, and are there real benefits?

Health Benefits of Astragalus Root

The natural properties of Astragalus root allow it to be classed as an adaptogenic herb – one that protects your body from mental, emotional, or physical stress. It is also known to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Claims of Astragalus health benefits include the following:
  • Immune system protection and support
  • Preventing upper respiratory infections
  • Diabetes treatment
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Liver protection
  • Healing skin wounds
  • Antidiarrheal support
Though not a health benefit per se, the gummy sap of the Astragalus plant is sometimes used as a thickener in ice cream, and even as a denture adhesive.

But Does Astragalus Research Support Health Claims?

There is a surprisingly large number of astragalus studies although, not surprisingly, most of the research in in Asian countries where the herb is more widely known and used.  These Asian studies (see footnotes here and here) generally support the health claims related to astragalus as an antioxidant and as a means of improving heart health and lowering cholesterol.

Research on astragalus in the U.S. also supports the use of astragalus to undergird the immune system after its been stressed by chemotherapy or radiation. In one study, Astragalus supplementation not only accelerated cancer patient recovery but also increased their longevity.

But some of the most compelling recent studies on astragalus – including one in Spain and one in the U.S. – show strong evidence that astragalus can have a positive effect on our telomeres – the part of our DNA strands that effect our longevity.  Scientists believe that the shortening of the telomeres equates to shortening of life.  Thus, some theorize that, if we can prevent or slow the telomeres from shortening, we can dramatically increase longevity and health. 

In the 2011 Spanish cancer research, reported in Aging Cell, scientists identified a compound in Astragalus that also activates telomerase, not only increasing the health span of adult mice, but significantly increased average telomere length, which resulted in improvements in glucose tolerance, osteoporosis symptoms, and skin fitness.

Any Astragalus Risks or Astragalus Side Effects?

Astragalus is generally considered safe for adults with no serious side effects. That said, there are some situations in which astragalus should not be taken.
  • For some people, astragalus may have a mild diuretic effect – a useful thing if you are trying to get rid of excess fluid, but a potential risk if you are already dehydrated.
  • Because Astragalus may stimulate the immune system, there could be undesirable side effects for those with autoimmune diseases.
  • Some health practitioners advise against using any adaptogenic herb regularly for long time periods, but rather switching every month or so to a different adaptogen. Here's a list of adaptogenic herbs you could choose to rotate through.
  • Use caution if you have allergies to legumes; those who do often have allergies to astragalus as well.
  • Don't use astragalus if you are using immune system suppressant drugs or lithium.
To be safe, it's best to consult with your doctor before taking any medication or herb.  

Expand your Knowledge

Now that you have a conversational understanding of astragalus and its potential benefits, you can expand your wherewithal on several other complementary health practices, health foods, and herbal buzzwords by checking out our other "what the heck" articles, such as What the Heck Are Free Radicals Anyway?, What the Heck are Antioxidants Anyway?, What the Heck Are Bioflavonoids Anyway?, What the Heck are Superfoods anyway?and What the Heck is Detoxing Anyway?

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Medicine Cabinet in Your Kitchen

Ordinary kitchen spices are good for so much more than flavoring your favorite dish.  Some of these common seasonings and herbs show promise for cancer treatment or prevention. Others aid in stomach issues, drug detoxification, virus prevention, weight loss, appetite management, pain control, and blood pressure regulation. A few more have proven antibacterial, antimicrobial, or anti-inflammatory properties.

The surprising health benefits of 6 common kitchen spices, herbs, and seasonings

That many kitchen spices are good for you is less surprising when you consider that herbs and spices derive mostly from parts of plants, such as the berries, bark, seeds, leaves, or roots of plants – which are also the sources of many pharmaceuticals.

To get you started on this whole new way of looking at your spice rack, we investigate the health benefits of six spices – allspice, basil, caraway, cardamom, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon.

Health benefits of ALLSPICE

Allspice, so called because its flavor is often defined as a combination of spice flavors (cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg), lends more than its delightful flavor; allspice is a virtual medicine cabinet because of its many bioactive agents such as flavonoids, phenylpropanoids, phenolic acids, and catechins.

What that gets you: antioxidants, anticancer benefits, anti-inflammation reduction, analgesics (painkillers), antimicrobials (kills or blocks microorganisms), antipyretics (fever reduction), and even tumor-blocking properties. Allspice has been shown in studies to have anticancer properties, influencing carcinogen bioactivation.

Health benefits of BASIL

The popular basil herb does wonders for bringing out the flavor in Italian and Asian recipes. But studies have also shown that sweet basil is chockfull of antiviral, antioxidant, and antibacterial  properties.

As well, basil has been shown in these studies to reduce the frequency of genetic mutations and counteracts the formation of tumors – important cancer-fighting properties.

Health benefits of CARAWAY

Do you like caraway seeds? Turns out that they like you too! Sure, you can use caraway to spice up rye breads, cakes, stews, cheeses, meat dishes, sauerkraut, and more.  But the essential oils from caraway seeds and its oleoresins are highly effective antioxidants, shown in studies to be more effective than the synthetic antioxidants butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene. Looks like mother nature got it right. What’s more, this study showed that caraway oil had positive effects on skin tumors, reducing the number of carcinomas.

Are you fighting lesser problems than skin cancer? Caraway is also used by many to aid in relief of digestive problems, to loosen up phlegm, fight bacteria, and help control urination.

Health benefits of CARDAMOM

The herb Cardamom – part of the ginger family – is often found in Indian recipes and in some European dishes. But did you know it’s also a powerful antioxidant?

Cardamom research shows that it scavenges radicals and inhibits chemical carcinogenesis, functioning as a deterrent to cancer.  Testing showed that it has positive effects against colon cancer due to its anti-inflammatory characteristics and its ability to aid in blocking cell proliferation.

The chemicals in cardamom also benefit those with gas and stomach or intestinal spasms.

Health benefits of CAYENNE PEPPER

The hot chili cayenne pepper, also known as red pepper when you buy it in powdered form, is not only hot stuff for recipes but it’s hot stuff for your health.

  • Weight loss: Much research has shown that cayenne pepper can help you lose weight.  Some studies suggest that it does so by reducing your gut’s ability to absorb calories. Others show that it appears to reduce fat tissue or that it revs up your metabolism.A more recent study from South Korea’s Daegu University, suggests that capsaicin stimulates  fat-degrading proteins. In effect, eating peppers eats your fat.
  • Killing cancer cells: The property that gives cayenne peppers it’s heat on your tongue – Capsaicin – appears to also be capable of killing cancerous cells. A 2006 study reported in Cancer Research suggested that capsaicin caused prostate cancer cells to shrink and die.
  • Improve digestion:  Hot peppers with capsaicin can bolster your digestion by increasing your stomach’s digestive juices. It’s antibacterial properties can also help you to overcome diarrhea when it is caused by bacterial infection.
Cayenne pepper is also used for pain relief to clear lung congestion.

Health benefits of CINNAMON

Cinnamon is a powerful antioxidant, and a good source of iron, fiber, manganese, and calcium. Benefits:

  • Cinnamon has been shown in studies to be effective in reducing colon cancer risk. Some research has shown that as little as a daily half teaspoon of cinnamon is sufficient to reduce risk.
  • Cinnamon lowers blood sugar levels, and has been used to help those with type 2 diabetes to respond better to insulin.
  • Cinnamon’s anti-microbial properties make it capable of stopping the growth of bacteria and fungi, and is often used to treat Candida yeast. 
  • Cinnamon improves vascular health, aiding in heart health.
  • A 2004 study showed that the smell of cinnamon can boost brain activity. In the study, test scores improved simply by chewing cinnamon flavored gum.
  • Results from a 2005 study and a 2006 study showed that cinnamon can suppress the growth of gastric cancer, lymphoma, and pancreatic cancer.

Many of these herbs and spices are also available in tablet form.  But if you can get them fresh, you’ll also be benefiting from their live enzymes and greatest nutrient density.

In follow-up articles, we’ll tackle the rest of your spice rack.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer