Herbs and Health
- In humans, the phytochemicals in herbs and spices provide a variety of healthful actions including antioxidant effects, modulation of detoxification enzymes, stimulation of the immune system, reduction of inflammation, modulation of steroid metabolism, and antibacterial and antiviral effects. Embracing a cuisine rich in spice, as well as in fruit and vegetables, may further enhance the health promoting properties of one's diet.
- German women, with an average age of 36 years, who consumed chaste tree berry extract (a daily 20 mg tablet for 3 months) had significant reduction in PMS symptoms compared to those receiving a placebo. Improvements were seen for irritability, mood alterations, anger, headache, and breast tenderness, but not for bloating. Side effects were few and mild.
- Men in Shanghai, China who daily ate more than 9 grams (a third of an ounce) from the allium food group (garlic, onions, chives, scallions, and leeks) were about 50% less likely to have prostate cancer than those who ate less of these foods. Scallions appeared to be the most protective.
- Stevia is a Latin American herb that contains stevioside. This glycoside is 100 times sweeter than sugar. The FDA has not yet approved the use of stevia as a food additive due to unanswered questions regarding the safety of its long-term use. It appears to be safe if used in small amounts as a food or beverage sweetener.
- Patients should tell their physician what herbs they are taking, especially if they are scheduled for surgery. Herbs can prolong or shorten the effects of anesthesia. In addition, garlic, ginkgo and ginseng can inhibit blood clotting, and during major surgery bleeding can be life-threatening. Herbs may also interfere with prescription medications.
- Men treated with saw palmetto extracts showed a decreased tendency for night time urination and an improved urine flow during daytime. Saw palmetto improves the symptoms associated with benign prostate hyperplasia without the side effects experienced with the drug finasteride.
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