Monday, November 26, 2007

Maitake: Dancing Mushroom For Natural Health

Maitake or Grifola frondosa, referring to a mythical griffin, commonly known as Sheep’s Head, Ram’s Head and Hen of the Woods or Maitake ( (IPA /maitake/), is an edible polypore mushroom. It grows in clusters at the foot of trees, especially oak. The Japanese named it "maitake", literally meaning "dancing mushroom." Hen of the woods should not be confused with the similarly named edible bracket fungi, chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus), also known as "sulphur shelf".

Grifola frondosa is a very good edible, but one should be careful to gather only very young specimens, or trim the softer, outer portions of the caps for the table. Use caution when trying this species for the first time; it is one of those for which "allergies" in some individuals are reported. I am one of those individuals, and I can tell you that the experience is not pleasant. The words "human faucet" come to mind. Try only a bite or two if you have never eaten it before--and, if things go well, the sturdy mushrooms will definitely last a day or two in the refrigerator for further consumption.

The fungus is native to the northeastern part of Japan and North America, and is prized in traditional Chinese and Japanese herbology as an adaptogen, an aid to balance out altered body systems to a normal level. Most people find its taste and texture enormously appealing, though the mushroom has been alleged to cause allergic reactions in rare cases.

Like the sulphur shelf mushroom, hen of the woods is a perennial fungus that often grows in the same place for a number of years in succession. It occurs most prolifically in the northeastern regions of the United States, but has been found as far west as Idaho.

Hen of the woods grows from an underground tuber-like structure, about the size of a potato. The fruiting body, occurring as large as 60 cm, is a cluster consisting of multiple grayish-brown caps which are often curled or spoon-shaped, with wavy margins and 2-7 cm broad. The undersurface of each cap bears approximately one to three pores per millimeter, with the tubes rarely deeper than 3 mm. The milky-white stipe (stalk) has a branchy structure and becomes tough as the mushroom matures.

Maitake, an edible mushroom of the (Polyporaceae) family, can grow up to over 50 pounds (20 kilograms), earning this giant mushroom the title "King of Mushrooms."

Benefits and Uses

The underground tubers from which hen of the woods arises has been used in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine to enhance the immune system. Researchers have also indicated that whole maitake has the ability to regulate blood pressure, glucose, insulin, and both serum and liver lipids, such as cholesterol, triglycerides, and phospholipids, and may also be useful for weight loss.

Maitake is rich in minerals (such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium), various vitamins (B2, D2 and Niacin), fibers and amino acids. The active constituent in maitake for enhancing the immune actively has been identified in the late 1980s to be the protein-bound polysaccharide compound, beta-glucan, an ingredient found especially in the family of polyporaceae.

Maitake can be used as a food or tea and is also available as a capsule or tablet containing the entire fruiting body of the mushroom. For maitake, the fruit body is higher in polysaccharides than the mycelium, which is why it is recommended. Whole-mushroom maitake supplements, 3–7 grams per day, can be taken. Liquid maitake extracts with variable concentrations of polysaccharides are available, and should be taken as directed.



Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tasty Natural Health Fruit: Strawberry, Yummy!

The strawberry (Fragaria) (plural strawberries) is a genus of floras in the family Rosaceae and the fruit of these flora. There are more than 20 named species and many hybrids and cultivars. The most regular strawberries grown commercially are cultivars of the Garden strawberry, Fragaria ×ananassa. The strawberry is an gloves fruit; that is, the fleshy part is resultant not from the ovaries which are the "seeds" (actually achenes) but from the peg at the bottom of the hypanthium that held the ovaries. So from a technical viewpoint, the seeds are the actual fruits of the plant, and the flesh of the strawberry is customized receptacle tissue. It is whitish-green as it extends and in most species turns red when ripe.

The characteristic modern strawberry, of the genus Fragaria, comes from the Americas, and is a hybrid of both North and South American varieties. Fascinatingly, the crossbreeding was done in Europe to proper a mistake; the European horticulturists had only carried female South American plants, and were required to cross them with the North American variety in order to obtain fruit and seeds. Fragaria comes from "fragans", meaning odorous, referring to the aromatic flesh of the fruit. Madam Tallien, a great figure of the French Revolution, who was nicknamed Our Lady of Thermidor, used to take baths full of strawberries to remain the full radiance of her skin. Fontenelle, centenarian writer and gourmet of the 18th century, measured his long life was due to the strawberries he used to eat. Strawberries were considered toxic in Argentina until the mid-nineteenth century. Strawberries are sometimes sour and sometimes sweet and sometimes tastes both sweet and sour.

In addition to being consumed fresh, strawberries are frozen or made into conserve. Strawberries are a fashionable addition to dairy products, as in strawberry flavored ice cream, milkshakes and yoghurts. Strawberry pie is also popular. Strawberries can also be used as a innate acid/base indicator. Popular etymology has it that it comes from gardeners' practice of mulching strawberries with straw to defend the fruits from rot (a pseudoetymology that can be found in non-linguistic sources such as the Old Farmer's Almanac 2005). Nevertheless, there is no proof that the Anglo-Saxons ever breeded strawberries, and even less that they knew of this practice.

There is an another theory that the name originates from the Anglo-Saxon verb for "strew" (meaning to spread around) which was streabergen (Strea means "strew" and Bergen means "berry" or "fruit") and thence to streberie, straiberie, strauberie, straubery, strauberry, and finally, "strawberry", the word which we use today. The name might have come from the truth that the fruit and a variety of runners appear "strewn" along the ground.

Natural Health Benefits

We all know strawberries are tasty, but they are also healthful, and superlatively should be a part of everyone's daily diet. You'll enjoy some health advantages by eating strawberries frequently, and the best part is strawberries are one of the most delicious fruits. The USDA recommends that every American eat at least five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily, but unluckily, most people don't even come close to that. Adding fresh strawberries to your diet, whether they are in salads, smoothies, or on their own, is a great way to get the servings of fruit you require for a well-rounded body and a well immune system.

Strawberries hold a range of nutrients, with vitamin C heading the group. They also contain significant levels of phytonutrients and antioxidants, which fight free radicals. These antioxidant properties are supposed to be linked to what makes the strawberry bright red. Free radicals are elements that can injure cells, and they are thought to donate to the formation of many kinds of cancer.

In addition to vitamin C, strawberries also offer an excellent source of vitamin K and manganese, as well as folic acid, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, copper, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Strawberries are among the most adaptable of fresh fruits. Sadly, they are quite unpreserved as well. So acquire fresh strawberries only a few days before they are to be eaten. When strawberries are in season nearby this is rarely a problem. But at other times of the year, it may be necessary to make due with frozen strawberries, which misplace much if not all of their nutrition.

At the produce section decide strawberries that are plump firm and free of mold and have a deep red color. Unlike other fruits, strawberries do not continue to ripen after they are picked, so be sure to prefer the ripest, reddest strawberries, as they will provide the best taste and the highest nutrient concentration. Many people find that medium sized strawberries are sweeter and more flavorful than larger ones. When buying pre-packaged strawberries, be sure that the berries have not been packed too tightly, as this could cause them to be crushed or otherwise damaged.

Handle strawberries properly and store them well after they have been bought. Like all fruit, strawberries should be cleaned thoroughly prior to consumption or storage. Any strawberries that show signs of mold should be superfluous at once, as they will pollute the remaining strawberries. The strawberries should be placed in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and kept in the refrigerator. Fresh strawberries will maintain in the fridge for a few days.

Source: www.wikipedia.org and many more
Photo: www.arabidopsisthaliana.com

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fresh Orange For Natural Health

Orange (fruit), general name for citrus crop of numerous trees. Dissimilar varieties include the sweet orange, the sour orange, and the mandarin orange, or tangerine. The fruit is strictly a hesperidium, a kind of berry. It consists of a number of easily separated carpels, or parts, each containing several seeds and many juice cells, covered by a leathery exocarp, or skin, containing various oil glands. Orange trees are evergreens, rarely exceeding 9 m (30 ft) in height. The leaves are oval and glossy and the flowers are white and perfumed. Three essential oils are gained from oranges: oil of orange, obtained from the rind of the fruit and used primarily as a flavoring agent; oil of petigrain, obtained from the leaves and twigs and used in perfumery; and oil of neroli, obtained from the blossoms and used in flavorings and perfumes.

The orange—specifically, the sweet orange—is the citrus tree Citrus sinensis (syn. Citrus aurantium L. var. dulcis L., or Citrus aurantium Risso) and its fruit. The orange is a hybrid of ancient cultivated origin, probably between pomelo (Citrus maxima) and tangerine (Citrus reticulata). It is a tiny flowering tree growing to about 10 m tall with evergreen leaves, which are agreed alternately, of ovate shape with crenulate margins and 4–10 cm long. The orange fruit is a hesperidium, a type of berry.

Oranges originated in southeast Asia, in either India, Vietnam or southern China. The fruit of Citrus sinensis is called sweet orange to discriminate it from Citrus aurantium, the bitter orange. The English name originates from the Sanskrit naranga-s ("orange tree"). In a number of languages, it is recognized as a "Chinese apple" (e.g. Dutch Sinaasappel, "China's apple").

All citrus trees are of the single genus Citrus, and remain fundamentally interbreedable; that is, there is only one "superspecies" which includes lemons, limes and oranges. However, names have been prearranged to the a variety of members of the citrus family, oranges often being referred to as Citrus sinensis and Citrus aurantium. Fruits of all members of the genus Citrus are measured berries for the reason that they have many seeds, are fleshy and soft, and derive from a single ovary. An orange seed is called a pip.

Oranges are broadly grown in humid climates worldwide, and the flavors of oranges differ from sweet to bitter. The fruit is regularly peeled and consumed fresh, or squeezed for its juice. It has a thick bitter rind that is habitually discarded, but can be processed into animal feed by removing water, using stress and temperature. It is also used in certain recipes as flavoring or a garnish. The outer-most layer of the rind is irritated or lightly veneered with a instrument called a zester, to produce orange zest, popular in cookery because it has a flavor related to the fleshy inner part of the orange. The white part of the rind, called the pericarp or albedo and including the pith, is a source of pectin and has nearly the same amount of vitamin C as the flesh.

Benefits of This Natural Health Fruit
Epidemiologic studies specify that a high consumption of fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. It is reflection that this benefit may be due to the minor components, falvonoids, which have been proposed to inhibit LDL oxidation and platelet aggregation as well as to vitamins C, E, and [Beta]-carotene, which act as antioxidants. In addition, folic acid and natural folate found in citrus fruit and green vegetables has been shown to reduce plasma total homocysteine. Citrus juices, namely orange juice and grapefruit juice, are high in flavonoids, folate, and vitamin C, leading them to be potentially beneficial in reducing the risk of heart disease. Animal studies have found orange juice to promote decreases in cholesterol.

A study to determine whether orange juice beneficially alters blood lipids in individuals with hypercholesterolemia was conducted. Sixteen healthy men and nine healthy women with elevated plasma total and LDL-cholesterol levels and normal plasma triacylglycerol concentrations served as subjects. Subjects included one, two, or three cups (250 mL each) of orange juice into their diets. Each dose was included for a four-week period. After the intervention period, subjects took part in a five-week washout period. Plasma lipid, olate, homocysteine, and vitamin C concentrations were measured at baseline, after each treatment and following the washout period.

It was found that intake of 750 mL of orange juice per day increased HDL-cholesterol concentrations by 21%, triacylglycerol concentrations by 30%, and folate concentrations by 18%. This amount of orange juice also decreased the LDL-HDL cholesterol ratio by 16% and did not impact homocysteine concentrations. There were no significant effects seen with less than 750 mL of orange juice daily.

Three cups of orange juice per day appears to improve blood lipid profiles in individuals with hypercholesterolemia. This serves as evidence to the importance of consuming greater than five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.


Friday, November 9, 2007

Shiitake: The Incredible Natural Health Herb From The East

The Shiitake mushroom is the most widely cultivated specialty mushroom in the world and is both a prized medicine as well as a culinary delight. Because of its traditional use in folk medicine and its availability, it has been the subject of intense research. Cochran's review of medicinal mushrooms, "Medical Effects" (Biology and Cultivation of Edible Mushrooms, Academic Press, 1978), list Shiitake as having antifungal, anti-tumor, and antiviral effects.

The shiitake (Lentinula edodes) is an edible mushroom native to East Asia. It is generally known in the English-speaking world by its Japanese name, shiitake listen (literally "shii mushroom", from the Japanese name of the tree that provides the dead logs on which it is typically cultivated). In Chinese, it is called xiānggū (literally "fragrant mushroom"). Two Chinese variant names for high grades of shiitake are dōnggū ("winter mushroom") and huāgū ("flower mushroom", which has a flower-like cracking pattern on the mushroom's upper surface); both are produced at colder temperatures. Other names by which the mushroom is known in English include Chinese black mushroom and black forest mushroom. In Korean it is called pyogo, in Thai they are called hed hom ("fragrant mushroom"), and in Vietnamese they are called nấm hương ("fragrant mushroom").

The species was formerly known as Lentinus edodes and Agaricus edodes. The latter name was first applied by the English botanist Miles Joseph Berkeley in 1878. Shiitake are native to China but have been grown in both Japan and China since prehistoric times
. They have been cultivated for over 1000 years; the first written record of shiitake cultivation can be traced to Wu Sang Kwuang, born during the Song Dynasty (960-1127 A.D.). However, some documents record the uncultivated mushroom being eaten as early as 199 A.D.

During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.), physician Wu Juei wrote that the mushroom could be used not only as a food but was taken as a remedy for upper respiratory diseases, poor blood circulation, liver trouble, exhaustion and weakness, and to boost qi, or life energy. It was also believed to prevent premature aging.

Before 1982 the Japanese variety of these mushooms could only be grown in traditional locations using ancient methods. In the late '70s, Gary F. Leatham published a doctoral thesis based on his research on the budding and growth of the Japan Islands variety; the work helped make commercial cultivation possible world-wide, and Dr. Leatham is now known in the industry as the "Father of Shiitake farming in the USA."

Benefits From This Natural Health Herb
Shiitake is now one of the most popular sources of protein in Japan, and a major staple in China, and other parts of the Pacific Rim. As a food source, it has the combined attributes of being appetizing, nourishing, dietetic and healthful. Shiitake has adequate nutritional qualities to serve as a main dish. It adapts well to recipes as a meat substitute.

The antiviral effects are believed to be caused by Shiitake's ability to produce interferon. Researchers have reported that consumption of Shiitake mushrooms lowers blood cholesterol levels by as much as 45 percent. The most dramatic results occurred when high-cholesterol foods were eaten simultaneously with Shiitake . In two human studies, cholesterol dropped 6 to 15 percent when the amount of Shiitake consumed was nine grams per day or approximately 10 dried medium-sized mushrooms.

Additionally, the ability of shiitake to accelerate the metabolism and excretion of cholesterol was first reported in 1966 by Kaneda and Tokuda. The Donko and Koshin varieties of shiitake produced a 45% and 36% reduction in total plasma cholesterol respectively. The active principle is an amino acid named eritadenine. Eritadenine lowers all lipid components of serum lipoproteins in both animals and man. It exhibits very low toxicity and is effective when administered orally. One hundred twenty-four derivatives of eritadenine have been synthesized and tested. Patents for consumable products capitalizing on shiitake hypocholesterolemic effect have been issued. Lowering plasma lipids by a method as simple as consuming a food or beverage is very appealing to the health-conscious public.

Shiitake has also shown the capacity to lower high blood pressure in laboratory animals. Lentinan, which is the name given a highly purified polysaccharide fraction extracted from Shiitake mushrooms, is an approved drug in Japan. It is generally administered by injection and has been used as an agent to prolong survival of patients in conventional cancer therapy as well as in AIDS research. Lentinan is commercially available for clinical use. "In Japan, mushroom extracts have become the leading prescription treatment for cancer" . Lentinan is not only useful for cancer treatment, but may also prevent the increase of chromosomal damage induced by anti-cancer drugs. With lentinan there are no known side effects of any serious nature. In Japan treatment of mice with lentinan prior to radiation provided complete protection from a reduction in white blood cell counts.

But in the west, we are still in the dark ages; making immunopotentiators available to patients undergoing radiative therapy has yet to be accepted here. There are also documented cases of greatly reduced side-effects from radiation and chemotherapy in patients who took herbal immunopotentiators at the same time. The noncytotoxic nature of polysaccharides offer a way to destroy unwanted cells without damaging the host. Chihara writes that "The leading principles of the function of lentinan resides in the fact that it can cure patients by restoring their homeostasis, and through enhancement of their intrinsic resistance against diseases." As a functional food, Shiitake contains all eight essential amino acids in better proportions than soy beans, meat, milk, or eggs as well as a good blend of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B, B12, C, D and Niacin. Shiitake produces a fat-absorbing compound which aids in weight reduction.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Aloe Vera For Natural Health

It is stem less or has a short – stemmed plant which can produce up to a height of about 80 cm to 100 cm that spreads for root sprouts and balancing. These natural health plants leave is fleshy, lance-shaped and thick and it is forever gray – green and green in color. That’s Aloe Vera. Aloe vera (syn. A. barbadensis Mill., A. vulgaris Lam.) is a species of Aloe, native to northern Africa. The flowers are shaped on a spike up to 90 cm tall, each flower pendulous, with a yellow tubular corolla 2-3 cm long.

Aloe vera is fairly easy to care for in agriculture in frost-free climates. The species requires well-drained sandy potting soil in moderate light. If planted in pot or other containers guarantee sufficient drainage with drainage holes.The use of a good quality commercial potting mix to which extra perlite, granite grit, or coarse sand are added is suggested. Qn the other hand, pre-packaged 'cacti and succulent mixes' may also be used. Potted plants should be permitted to completely dry prior to re-watering. During winter, A. vera may become dormant, during which little moisture is required. In areas that obtain frost or snow the species is best kept indoors or in heated glasshouses.

Benefits From This Natural Health Herb
Researchers at the University of Miguel Hernández in Alicante, Spain, have developed a gel based on A. vera that prolongs the conservation of fresh produce, such as fresh fruit and legumes. This gel is flavorless, colorless and unscented. This natural health product is a safe and environmentally responsive option to synthetic preservatives such as sulfur dioxide. The study showed that grapes at 1°C coated with this gel could be preserved for 35 days against 7 days for untreated grapes. According to the researchers, this gel operates during a combination of mechanics (Serrano et al., 2006), forming a protective layer against the oxygen and moisture of the air and inhibiting, through its a variety of antibiotic and antifungal compounds, the action of micro-organisms that cause foodborne illnesses.

A vast research has been done on aloe vera and confirmed to be very effective and considerable in the treatment of various ailments, skin disorders, hairs, cosmetics and beauty. Aloe vera research completed in 1996 at the Mahidol University of Bangkok proved that aloe vera has abridged the blood sugar levels of about 72 patients misery from high fasting blood sugar. Several research has been done for aloe vera which helps in combating against the cancer. It has also been proved that aloe vera offers relief to the people suffering from liver injure, gastric problems and inflammatory bowel disease.

Various tests have been taken to prove that whether aloe vera gel has influenced wound healing or not. Research has also proved a excellent improvement in the wound healing of mice and other animals with the help of aloe vera. Research has showed positive results of reducing risk factors in people suffering from heart disease.

The research also proved that when aloe vera gel is added to the diet, then there is a marked reduction in blood sugar levels in case of diabetes, total lipids, serum triglycerides and increase in HDL. Some of the researchers like Dr Peter Atherton have done research on the aloe vera and proved effective in the following areas such as wound healing, the treatment of eczema and psoriasis, the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, and positive effects on the peptic ulcers.

Aloe vera's beneficial properties may be qualified to mucopolysaccharides present in the inner gel of the leaf, particularly acemannan (acetylated mannans). An injectable form of acemannan manufactured and marketed by Carrington Laboratories as Acemannan Immunostimulant has been accepted in the USA for treatment of fibrosarcoma (a type of cancer) in dogs and cats after clinical trials. It has not been approved for use by humans, and, although it is not a drug, its sale is controlled and it can only be achieved through a veterinary doctor.

Cosmetic companies insert sap or other derivatives from Aloe vera to products such as makeup,tissues, moisturisers, soaps, sunscreens, shampoos and lotions, though the effectiveness of Aloe vera in these products remains unidentified. Aloe vera gel is also suspected to be useful for dry skin conditions, especially eczema around the eyes and sensitive facial skin.


Photo: http://www.aloe-vera-juice.net/

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Natural Health Issues: Kombucha


Kombucha is the Western name for sickly tea or tisane that has been fermented by a macroscopic solid mass of microorganisms called a "kombucha colony," usually consisting principally of Bacterium xylinum and yeast cultures. It has gained much popular support within many communities, stated by talk show hosts and celebrities. The increase in popularity can be seen by the many commercial brands coming onto the retail market and thousands of web pages about this fermented beverage.
The culture contains a symbiosis of yeast species and acetic acid bacteria, mostly Bacterium xylinum. Species of yeast involved vary, and may include: Brettanomyces bruxellensis, Candida stellata, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Torulaspora delbrueckii and Zygosaccharomyces bailii. The culture itself appears somewhat like a large pancake, and though often called a mushroom, or by the acronym SCOBY (for "Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast"), it is clinically known as a zoogleal mat.
The recorded history of this drink dates back to the Qin Dynasty in China (around 250 BC). The Chinese called it the "Immortal Health Elixir," because they believed Kombucha balanced the Middle Qi (Spleen and Stomach) and aided in digestion, allowing the body to focus on healing. Knowledge of kombucha eventually reached Russia and then Eastern Europe around the Early Modern Age, when tea first became affordable by the populace.
The word kombucha, while sounding Japanese to foreign ears, is a misnomer when applied to this beverage. In fact, Kombucha in Japanese refers to a tea-like infusion (cha) (actually, more of a thin soup) made from kelp (kombu), usually served to patients in convalescence. The Japanese refer to 'kombucha' as kōcha-kinoko, which literally means black tea mushroom.
The process of brewing kombucha was introduced in Russia and the Ukraine at the end of the 1800s, and became popular in the early 1900s. The kombucha culture is known locally as chayniy grib, and the drink itself is referred to as grib, "tea kvass" or simply "kvass", although it differs from regular "kvass" which is not made from tea and is generally fermented only with yeast and not the other bacteria which ferment tea to form kombucha.Kombucha contains many different cultures along with several organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids, anti-oxidants, and polyphenols. For the home brewer, there is no way to know the amounts of the components unless a sample is sent to a laboratory. The US Food and Drug Administration has no findings on the effects of kombucha. Each strain of kombucha may contain some of the following components depending on the source of the culture:
  1. Acetic acid, which mainly inhibits harmful bacteria and so is used as a preservative. It is also what gives Kombucha that 'kick' to its smell and taste.
  2. Butyric acid, produced by the yeasts and when working with gluconic acid, and in help combat yeast infections such as candida.
  3. Gluconic acid, effective against many yeast infections such as candidiasis and thrush.
  4. Glucuronic acid, thought to be a component of Kombucha tea, known to aid the liver in eliminating toxic substances. Elevated levels of Glucuronic acid has been documented in the urine of Kombucha drinkers.
  5. Lactic acid, found in kombucha in its most potent form, L-lactic(+).
  6. Malic acid, also used in the body's detoxification process.
  7. Oxalic acid, encourages the cellular production of energy and is a natural preservative.
  8. Usnic acid, a potent antibiotic that exhibits antiviral, antiprotozoal, antimitotic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity. Kombucha also contains vitamin groups B and C, beneficial yeasts and bacteria.


Health effects
No clinical studies have been performed that demonstrate any specific curative properties of kombucha. A review of the published literature on the safety of kombucha suggests no specific oral toxicity in rats, although other reports suggest that care should be taken when taking medical drugs or hormone replacement therapy while regularly drinking kombucha. It may also cause allergic reactions or other complications, and one should discontinue use or consult a medical professional if complications arise.
Advocates believe kombucha works by assisting in the phase II liver detoxification pathway, leading to efficient elimination of endogenous and exogenous bodily wastes. This hypothesis is due to the observation of increased glucuronic acid conjugates in the urine after kombucha consumption.
Early chemical analysis of kombucha brew suggested that glucuronic acid was a key component of it, perhaps assisting the liver by supplying more of the substance during detoxification. But more recent analysis of kombucha offer a different explanation, as outlined in the book in Analysis of Kombucha Ferments by Michael Roussin. Roussin reports on an extensive chemical analysis of a variety of commercial and homebrew versions of kombucha, and finds no evidence of glucuronic acid at any concentration.
But Roussin suggests that another component may have health benefits: D - glucaro -1,4 lactone, also known as glucaric acid. It serves as an inhibitor of the beta- glucuronidase enzyme, a bacterial product from the gut microbiota that can cleave the glucuronic acid conjugates and send bodily wastes back into circulation, thus increasing the exposure time before the waste is ultimately excreted. Therefore, the active component of kombucha likely exerts its effect by preventing bacterial disruption of glucuronic acid conjugates and increasing the detoxification efficiency of the liver. Glucaric acid is being explored independently as a cancer preventive agent.
Reports of adverse reactions may be related to unsanitary fermentation conditions, leaching of compounds from the fermentation vessels, or "sickly" kombucha cultures that cannot acidify the brew. Cleanliness is important during preparation, and in most cases, the acidity of the fermented drink prevents growth of unwanted contaminants. If a culture becomes contaminated, it will most likely be seen as common mold, green or brown in color.
The kombucha culture at time of harvest. A healthy, new culture is light cream coloured and should be smooth.
There are many ways to prepare kombucha. Though kombucha is almost always prepared with sugar and tea, almost any beverage containing sugar and caffeine (such as cola or sweetened coffee) will allow the culture to grow, though the resultant beverage may be quite unpalatable. Many brewers also recommend using organic ingredients wherever possible to prevent the addition of unwanted chemicals and preservatives.
In one method, the beverage is made by placing some existing kombucha culture in a jar, usually a 3 liter glass container, then pouring in cold black tea with sugar. In about 8-12 days, the first portion of the beverage is ready; part of it is removed for consumption, and more tea with sugar is added to fill the jar. A mature kombucha is several centimeters thick and produces a portion of beverage every day. As the kombucha slowly grows, from time to time slices are taken off it, which can be used to start new cultures in separate containers.
Another method allows for the bottling and saving of kombucha for later consumption. As in the previous method, the culture is placed into a large glass jar and the tea is added. The jar is covered with a coffee filter or paper towel secured with string or rubber bands, and left for seven or eight days. Part of the kombucha is poured off into glass jars and refrigerated for a few days, while part is kept back to start a new batch. The refrigeration allows the flavor to deepen, and the natural carbonation to build up.Each time the kombucha culture goes through the fermentation process, it creates one new "mushroom" layer, or zoogleal mat, which will form atop of the original. After three or four layers have built up, the tea will become sour and taste somewhat like vinegar. When the new batch is ready, one may either use the second layer to start another batch, along with the original one for its own batch or it may be thrown away. Each culture can be used over and over again but most people discard an older one and use the newer to make their next batch of tea.


Photo: http://tashian.com

Monday, November 5, 2007

Natural Health Plant: Ginkgo

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is one of the oldest existing tree species and its plants are among the most broadly studied botanicals in use these days. Unlike many other natural health herbs, ginkgo leaves are not habitually used in their crude state, but rather, in the form of a concentrated, standardized ginkgo biloba extract (GBE). In Europe and the United States, ginkgo supplements are among the best-selling herbal drugs and it constantly ranks as a top medicine approved in France and Germany.
The Ginkgo, often misspelled as "Gingko", and also acknowledged as the Maidenhair Tree, is a unique tree with no close living relatives. It is confidential in its own separation, the Ginkgophyta, containing the single class Ginkgoopsida, order Ginkgoales, family Ginkgoaceae, genus Ginkgo and is the only present species within this group. It is one of the best recognized examples of a living fossil. Ginkgoales are not known in the fossil record after the Pliocene, making Ginkgo biloba a living fossil.
For centuries it was deliberation to be extinct in the in their natural habitat, but is now known to breed in at least two small areas in Zhejiang province in Eastern China, in the Tian Mu Shan Reserve. Ginkgo trees in these regions may have been leaned and sealed by Chinese monks for over 1000 years. Therefore, whether native ginkgo populations still survive is tentative.
Medicinal Uses for Natural Health
Ginkgo has been used in traditional natural health medicine to indulgence circulatory disorders and improve memory. Scientific studies during the years provide support to these traditional applies. Promising evidence recommends that GBE may be mostly effective in treating ailments related with diminished blood flow to the brain, particularly in old individuals. Laboratory studies have revealed that GBE advances blood circulation by expanding blood vessels and dropping the stickiness of blood platelets.
In 2002, a long-anticipated paper emerged in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) titled "Ginkgo for memory enhancement: a randomized controlled trial." This Williams College study, supported by the National Institute on Aging rather than Schwabe, observed the effects of ginkgo consumption on healthy volunteers older than 60. The conclusion, now cited in the National Institutes of Health's ginkgo fact sheet, said: "When taken following the manufacturer's instructions, ginkgo provides no measurable benefit in memory or related cognitive function to adults with healthy cognitive function." A 2004 discussion paper reviews how a variety of trials indicate that Ginkgo proves pledge in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, even though advance study is required.
A clinical study initiated that a standardized this natural health plant extract may diminish the side effects of menopause as well as risk factors for osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Women are flattering more reluctant to use pharmaceutical hormone replacement therapy (HRT) due to its unwanted side effects, such as irregular bleeding and an augmented risk of breast cancer. Several human studies have reported that a standardized ginkgo extract has estrogenic action and might be appropriate as an alternative to HRT. A standardized ginkgo extract was reported to extensively recover functional measures (such as coordination, energy level, strength, mental performance, mood, and sensation) in 22 individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Ginkgo may have some unwanted effects, particularly for individuals with blood circulation disorders and those taking anti-coagulants for example aspirin and warfarin, although current studies have originate that ginkgo has slight or no effect on the anticoagulant properties or pharmacodynamics of warfarin. Ginkgo should also not be used by people who are captivating monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) or by pregnant women with no first consulting a doctor. Ginkgo side effects and cautions include: possible enlarged risk of bleeding, gastrointestinal anxiety, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations, and restlessness. If any side effects are knowledgeable, consumption should be stopped immediately.
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