Lecture of the Month
Lecture of the Month
Disclaimer: Jim Meuninck is a biologist and counselor. He is not a physician. He is not providing treatment advice. Dietary supplements are not to be used to diagnose, prevent or treat any disease. Always obtain medical advice from a qualified healthcare practitioner. For over a 1000 pages of Natural Health Tips see: Disks.
More and more herbs
are being made available in pill form. We Americans want that
format: a magic bullet, easy to take, convenient. Holistic
healthcare practitioners are prescribing these phyto- pharmaceuticals
in record dollar amounts. What follows is a look at the reported
function of a few of these top selling botanical medicines from our
Physician's Laptop Reference, available
in its entirety on disk. Scroll down and discover more about Ginkgo,
St. John's Wort and Ginseng.
Medicine: Standardized ginkgo extracts are taken to improve circulation to distal areas including the brain. This may improve function and memory and relieve cognitive and circulatory disorders of the brain. The bilobalides (flavonol glycosides) are antioxidants as well. (17).
Alzheimer's Disease: Evidence from a S.D.A.D. study (LeBars et al.: JAMA. Vol 278; 1997) showed a six month delay in the progression of the disease from many patients using the Ginkgo extract. Test subjects took 120 mg of ginkgo per day in three doses of 40mg each. This was a standardized extract of 24 percent ginkgo flavonol glycosides and 6 percent terpene lactones.. Another double blind placebo controlled trial found that Ginkgo extract was approximately three times more effective than the placebo for treating Alzheimer's disease and multi-infarct dementia. (16).
Chemistry: standardized to 24% flavonoid glycosides (quercitin) and 6% terpene lactones. Bilobalides (flavanol glycosides) and ginkgolide are antioxidants (3) (4)(5) (6) (13) (16).
Dosage: Three 40mg standardized capsules per day (standardized to 24% flavonol glycosides and 6% terpene lactones). Alzheimer's study used up to 240mg. standardized capsule (10) (18)(19).
Safety: Well established safety. Side effects minimal may include headache, GI distress, dizziness. Avoid if pregnant or nursing. May exacerbate bleeding disorders. Overdose may cause restlessness, irritability, diarrhea, flushing and vomiting. Standardized product is preferred over dried and powdered leaves. No known side effects during pregnancy and lactation (10) (18) (19).
Notes: I have used this herb for eight years and have recommended it to others. Both my parents have Alzheimer's disease. Taking care of them is incentive enough to take care of myself. I take three or four standardized tablets every day. I have used five or six brands and dare to suggest there is no noticeable difference between standardized products.
2. Saint John's
Medicine: Wound healing and anti-depressant. Also, for anxiety and insomnia related to stress and anxiety. Popular for treating non-bi-polar depression. Traditionally used for over 2000 years (initially in Greece to drive out evil spirits). Mono Amine Oxidase (MAO) inhibitor, keeps serotonin brain levels up a by inhibiting reuptake (9) (10) (11). Whole aerial plant used including flower infusion or flower tincture used. Use whole plant, both flowers and leaves...cooling astringent, anti-infective agent, wound healing infection fighter, antiviral, calms nerves, may relieve insomnia, may boost mood, dispel lethargy, nervine, anti-inflammatory, promotes healing, antiseptic, analgesic, reduces nervous tension internally, PMS premenstrual syndrome treatment with tea, sciatica, anxiety, shingles, fibrositis externally as poultice or wash for infections, healing burns, bruises, sprains, tendonitis, sprains, neuralgia, cramps. (6) (3) (8).EFFECTIVE DOSE IN MANY STUDIES WAS 300 MILLIGRAMS OF HYPERICUM EXTRACT CONTAINING A MINIMUM OF .3 PERCENT HYPERICIN ONE OF THE ACTIVE INGREDIENTS. FOR SUCCESSFUL PARTICIPANTS EFFECTS WERE NOTICED AFTER A FEW WEEKS OF DOSAGE (1).
OTHER REPORTED MOOD BOOSTERS: (sometimes combined with St. John's Wort in fluid extracts), L-tyrosine, serotonin (see file on carbohydrates and serotonin), hormone pregnenolone.
Typical OTC use: Standardized capsules for mood elevation, mild depression.
Chemistry: Contains anthracene derivatives hypericin and pseudohypericin (quinones). They are red pigmented and have antidepressant activity, and are antiviral (in vitro), anti-cancer (in vitro) antidepressant, used in AIDS research. Xanthones: (in flowers) cardiotonic, diuretic, antibacterial, antiviral, MAO inhibitor. Tannins: (leaves and flowers) styptic, anti diarrhea for external and internal bleeding, dry and bind skin. Coumarins: (throughout plant) umbelliferone and scopoletin antifungal, antiviral and in vitro anti-tumor. Essential oils: monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes (alpha pinene, caryophyllene are highest in plant leaves and flowers just at flowering) calming, sedating, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, anti-asthma, for headaches, antifungal. Bioflavonoids include: quercitrin, isoquercitrin, rutin, biapegenin(2) (5) (6) (7). Hypericin and bioflavone are sedative. As a family and individually are MAO inhibitors (quercitin) all flavonoids are antioxidants; proanthocyanidin is vasorelaxant, antiviral, antioxidant, anti-ulcer (amentoflavone anti-ulcer, sedative, anti-ulcer). Beta-sitosterol: anti-PMS, anti-menopausal symptoms. Also contains numerous acids: p-coumaric, ferulic, gentisic, chlorogenic, isoferulic...Essential oils, carotenoids, umbelliferone, xanthones, Vit C, tannins, amino acids. Carotenoids are implicated for wound healing properties. GABA neurotransmitter that may have sedative effects.(1)(3)(7)(13)
Standardized Dosage: One 250 mg standardized capsule of .3 to .5% hypericin once per day. Tea of whole plant (infusion) two teaspoons of dried flowers and leaves per cup of hot water (just off boil, steep for ten minutes). With permission and guidance from your physicians take 2 to 4 grams of drug per day. It typically takes up to six weeks for therapy to work. If no response is noted after six weeks seek alternative therapy.
Safety: Millions of Europeans and Americans have used the herb with no reported deaths as of the date of this writing (1999). Millions more of North Americans are using it now. It is being sold like a vitamin. Of 3250 German patients 2.4% reported side effects including gastrointestinal irritation, restlessness and mild allergic reactions. Do not use in conjunction with other psychoactive medications.
WARNING: Best to buy prepared products, animal studies show the plant to cause photo dermatitis, photo allergic reaction. This phototoxicity, as yet, has not been demonstrated as a problem in humans(1997) when taken in recommended dosage. Phototoxicity was demonstrated in humans in doses twice that of typical antidepressant dosage. Once again, consult a physician before using the drug (supplement). Do not use with sleep aids, sleeping pills, seserpine (antagonistic to it), barbiturates.
Notes on Kitchen Preparation: flowers and leaves as tea, flowers and leaves as a poultice or water wash. Can be tinctured in alcohol, steeped in hot water, infused in hot oil. Infusion: two tsp. of fresh herb to 6 oz. of boiling water, steep ten minutes. Tincture: Twenty grams of chopped dried drug to 100ml of ethanol (70%) and stored in dark stoppered bottle. Best tincture is from hot alcohol (150-176F). Be careful heating alcohol can be explosive. Boil water, put alcohol in container in hot water with thermometer, then pour in dried herb when selected temperature is reached. Use a little higher concentration of alcohol as some will be lost to evaporation when heating. Oil macerates: Macerate flowers in oil at 113 degrees F for ten days (Smith). Or according to Christopher Hobbs in oil at 158 degrees F for 12 -24 hours. Exposure to sunlight may increase yield of hypericin. For more details and broader information see HerbalGram No. 40.
Medicine : Root is typically used as a tonic, stimulant, aphrodisiac, enhances immune response, improves cerebral circulation and function, regulates blood pressure and blood sugar, tonifies primordial energy, tonic for spleen and lungs.(1) (20 (3) (8). European studies (over 300 papers) shows ginseng increases concentration, alertness, visual and motor coordination, as well as physical performance (9) (10). Other studies suggest that ginseng may increase libido, improving male potency. Used to treat stress, treat cold extremities, short term memory loss, impotence, diabetes, hypertension, adrenal deficiency considered closest thing to a cure-all found in Nature. Both elevates and lowers blood pressure depending on need (11) (8).
Type of Ginseng: Characteristics and Use
Asian ginseng=Panax ginseng Warming and stimulating. Red Korean ginseng warms more than Asian white. Increases energy. Tonic. Taken to re-energize depleted body functions (9) (8).
American ginseng=P. quinquefolium Cools, moistens, soothes. Perhaps better tonic than Asian, at least in the eyes of Orientals. Considered adaptogenic, soothing to nerves (10).
Eleutherococcus senticosus, not a true ginseng is treated in the Chinese herb section of this program.
Chemistry: Triterpenoid saponins: gensenosides and panaxosides. Gensenosides are saponins. They are reported as stimulants and antioxidants that may: boost the immune system; lower cholesterol; antifungal and antimicrobial. Saponins from other plants have been shown to be anti-tumor, antimicrobial, antifungal...See HerbalGram No. 40 page 11-12, American Botanical Council publication (12).
Kitchen Preparation: I use an old sausage grinder to grind hard dried roots into powder. Root is tough enough to ruin--break blades--of electronic pepper mill. Typical dose 5 to 10 grams in decoction, steam decocted for 30 minutes. Put 60 to 100 grams in 1 liter of spirits for 3 or 4 months, drink judiciously. See Angelica s. for Yin and Yang cordial. Food: various teas, chewing gum, soft drinks, cordials, powdered and applied to food, etc.
Alternative Preparation: � to 1 teaspoon of powder to a cup of hot water twice a day. Follow this procedure for a month, then take 2 months off, then a month on again. - See Nathaniel Mead, Natural Health Magazine, March April 98, p. 135 (13).
Dosage: One to two grams of the whole dried and prepared root. Short term dosage may be broken up into two doses of approximately � gram each. For long term chronic conditions take .4 to .8 gram daily. (6) (8) (9) (11) (14).
Safety: Taking more than 3 grams per day may cause diarrhea, anxiety and insomnia. Mild side effects reported are headache, skin rash. May potentiate caffeine. Large doses may cause hypertension, asthma like symptoms, heart palpitations and rarely dysmenorrhea and other menstrual changes (3) (14).
Warning: Avoid ginseng if you have acute illnesses: fever, emphysema, hypertension, arrhythmia, upper respiratory infections and disorders including: asthma, bronchitis. (8) (9). Chinese practitioners caution not to use with colds, pneumonia and other lung infections.(9) (10) Do not use while on internal steroid therapy. May potentiate action of MAO (Monoamine Oxidase) inhibitors (6). Avoid during pregnancy and lactation until further studies are available. (6).
Caution: Ginseng roots imported from China may be sprayed with fungicide. Scrub these roots thoroughly before grinding them for use(15).
Personal Note: I do not use this herb. I am a hot,
type-A person. If I were to use one ginseng over the other (American vs
Chinese vs Korean vs Siberian) I'd choose American ginseng (Panax
(15) Gorman, C.: Is It Good Medicine (excerpt from May, 1998 FDA Report) Time. 11/23/98:p.69.
(16)Yanchinski, S.; Canada Watch: CV Technologies Inc. Clinical trials for ginseng proprietary preparation for preventing colds and flu. Genetic Engineering News, 10/15/99. pp. 31-48.
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