Thursday, February 28, 2008

Garlic - Allium sativum - (Medicinal Herbs)

Allium sativum L., commonly known as garlic, is a species in the onion family Alliaceae. Its close relatives include the onion, the shallot, and the leek. Garlic has been used throughout recorded history for both culinary and medicinal purposes.

It has a characteristic pungent, spicy flavor that mellows and sweetens considerably with cooking. A bulb of garlic, the most commonly used part of the plant, is divided into numerous fleshy sections called cloves. The cloves are used as seed, for consumption (raw or cooked), and for medicinal purposes.

The leaves, stems (scape) and flowers (bulbils) on the head (spathe) are also edible and most often consumed while immature and still tender. The papery, protective layers of 'skin' over various parts of the plant and the roots attached to the bulb are the only parts not considered palatable.

Medical uses

Garlic has been used as both food and medicine in many cultures for thousands of years, dating as far back as the time that the Egyptian pyramids were built. Garlic is claimed to help prevent heart disease including atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and cancer.

Animal studies, and some early investigational studies in humans, have suggested possible cardiovascular benefits of garlic. A Czech study found garlic supplementation reduced accumulation of cholesterol on vascular walls of animals. Another study had similar results, with garlic supplementation significantly reducing the placque in the aortas of cholesterol-fed rabbits. Another study showed that supplementation with garlic extract inhibited vascular calcification in human patients with high blood cholesterol.

In 2007 a BBC news story reported that Allium sativum may have beneficial properties, such as preventing and fighting the common cold. This assertion has the backing of long tradition. Traditional British herbalism used garlic for hoarseness and coughs, both as a syrup and in a salve made of garlic and lard, which was rubbed on the chest and back.

Allium sativum has been found to reduce platelet aggregation and hyperlipidemia.

Garlic is also alleged to help regulate blood sugar levels. Regular and prolonged use of therapeutic amounts of aged garlic extracts lower blood homocysteine levels, and has shown to prevent some complications of diabetes mellitus. People taking insulin should not consume medicinal amounts of garlic without consulting a physician.

Allium sativum may also possess cancer-fighting properties due to the presence of allylic sulfur compounds such as diallyl disulfide (DADs), believed to be an anticarcinogen.

In modern naturopathy, garlic is used as a treatment for intestinal worms and other intestinal parasites, both orally and as an anal suppository. Garlic cloves are used as a remedy for infections (especially chest problems), digestive disorders, and fungal infections such as thrush.

Garlic supplementation in rats along with a high protein diet has been shown to boost testosterone levels.

To maximize health benefits from consuming cooked garlic, it has been suggested to allow crushed or chopped garlic to rest for 15 minutes before use to allow enzyme reactions to occur. However the primary compound of interest from this reaction, allicin, is generally deactivated during cooking due to its instability, and may be more beneficial consumed raw.

Side Effects and Cautions

* Garlic appears to be safe for most adults.

* Side effects include breath and body odor, heartburn, upset stomach, and allergic reactions. These side effects are more common with raw garlic.

* Garlic can thin the blood (reduce the ability of blood to clot) in a manner similar to aspirin. This effect may be a problem during or after surgery. Use garlic with caution if you are planning to have surgery or dental work, or if you have a bleeding disorder. A cautious approach is to avoid garlic in your diet or as a supplement for at least 1 week before surgery.

* Garlic has been found to interfere with the effectiveness of saquinavir, a drug used to treat HIV infection. Its effect on other drugs has not been well studied.

* Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

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Feverfew - Chrysantheim parthenium (Medicinal Herbs)

Feverfew (Chrysantheim parthenium) is a traditional medicinal herb which is found in many old gardens, and is also occasionally grown for ornament; which are then used in Christmas trees. The plant grows into a small bush up to around 18 inches high, with citrus-scented leaves and is covered by flowers reminiscent of daisies. It spreads rapidly, and they will cover a wide area after a few years. It is also commonly seen in the literature by its synonyms, Chrysanthemum parthenium (L.) Bernh. and Pyrethrum parthenium (L.) Sm.

Feverfew has been used as a valuable herbal remedy for reducing fever, anti-inflammatory agent, for treating migraine headaches, arthritis, digestive problems and as an emmenagogue (promoting menstrual flow) . It is hypothesized that by inhibiting the release of serotonin and prostaglandins, both of which are believed to aid the onset of migraines, feverfew limits the inflammation of blood vessels in the head. This would, in theory, stop the blood vessel spasm which is believed to contribute to headaches. The active ingredients in feverfew include parthenolide and tanetin.

Feverfew is not a remedy for acute migraine attacks.

Feverfew is a European plant, and is common to the United States; found occasionally in a wild state, but is generally cultivated in gardens, and flowers in June and July. It imparts its virtues to water, but much better to alcohol. Bees are said to dislike this plant very much, and a handful of the flower-heads will cause them to keep at a distance.

Medicinal Action and Uses

Aperient, carminative, bitter. As a stimulant it is useful as an emmenagogue, prevention of migraines and headaches, arthritis, relieve fevers, muscle tension and pain, lowers blood pressure, lessens stomach irritation, stimulates appetite, improve digestion and kidney function. Is also employed in hysterical complaints, nervousness and lowness of spirits, and is a general tonic. The cold infusion is made from 1 OZ. of the herb to a pint of boiling water, allowed to cool, and taken frequently in doses of half a teacupful.

A decoction with sugar or honey is said to be good for coughs, wheezing and difficult breathing. The herb, bruised and heated, or fried with a little wine and oil, has been employed as a warm external application for wind and colic.

A tincture made from Feverfew and applied locally immediately relieves the pain and swelling caused by bites of insects and vermin. It is said that if two teaspoonfuls of tincture are mixed with 1/2 pint of cold water, and all parts of the body likely to be exposed to the bites of insects are freely sponged with it, they will remain unassailable. A tincture of the leaves of the true Chamomile and of the German Chamomile will have the same effect.

Planted round dwellings, it is said to purify the atmosphere and ward off disease.

An infusion of the flowers, made with boiling water and allowed to become cold, will allay any distressing sensitiveness to pain in a highly nervous subject, and will afford relief to the face-ache or earache of a dyspeptic or rheumatic person.

Side Effect

Adverse effects include: gastrointestinal distress, mouth ulcers, and anti platelet actions.

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Fenugreek - Trigonella foenum-graecum - (Medicinal Herbs)

Botanical: Trigonella foenum-graecum
Family: Leguminosae (legume) - Fabaceae (pea)

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) or menthya (Kannada) or Venthayam (Tamil) or menthulu (Telugu) or Methi (Bangla,Marathi) belongs to the family Fabaceae. Fenugreek is used both as a herb (the leaves) and as a spice (the seed). It is cultivated worldwide as a semi-arid crop. It is frequently used in curry.

The name Fenugreek or foenum-graecum is from Latin for "Greek hay". Zohary and Hopf note that it is not yet certain which wild strain of the genus Trigonella gave rise to the domesticated Fenugreek but believe it was brought into cultivation in the Near East. Charred Fenugreek seeds have been recovered from Tell Halal, Iraq, (radiocarbon dating to 4000 BC) and Bronze Age levels of Lachish, as well as desiccated seeds from the tomb of Tutankhamen.

Ancient Egyptians would eat the greens of this plant as a vegetable and use the seeds as incense to aid childbirth and as part of their embalming rituals. Women in harems would eat Fenugreek seeds in the belief that they would become more desirable. Today, Fenugreek is known to support the respiratory system. It contains natural expectorant properties ideal for treating sinus and lung congestion, and loosens and removes excess mucus and phlegm.

Fenugreek stimulates the production of mucosal fluids helping remove allergens and toxins from the respiratory tract. Acting as an expectorant, Fenugreek alleviates coughing, stimulates perspiration to reduce fevers and is beneficial for treating allergies, bronchitis and congestion. It is not only used to relieve congestion, but also to reduce inflammation and fight infection. Fenugreek is also an excellent source of selenium, an anti-radiant, which is believed to help the body utilize oxygen.

It is also a natural source of silicon, sodium and thiamine. Fenugreek contains mucilagins which are known for soothing and relaxing inflamed tissues. The steroidal saponins account for many of the beneficial effects of Fenugreek, particularly the inhibition of cholesterol absorption and synthesis. The seeds are rich in dietary fiber, which may be the main reason it is also thought to lower blood sugar levels in diabetes.

USES: Fenugreek seed has been used for stomach upset, swelling (inflammation) of the upper air passages or throat, appetite, for lowering blood sugar, and for softening the stool. It also has been used as a gargle to relieve sore throat, and as an external dressing for swelling (local inflammation). Some herbal/diet supplement products have been found to contain possibly harmful impurities/additives. Check with your pharmacist for more details regarding the particular brand you use. The FDA has not reviewed this product for safety or effectiveness. Consult your doctor or pharmacist for more details.

SIDE EFFECTS: Stomach upset may occur when a large quantity of Fenugreek has been used. If this effect persists or worsens, contact your doctor promptly. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.

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