Archived Articles - October 2013

Cucumbers are versatile and need more attention

Despite being among the most extensively grown vegetables across the globe, it seems cucumbers never get their recognition. In fact, there are numerous reasons why we should give this vegetable more importance.

As cucumbers provide us with numerous health benefits, it should be incorporated in one's diet. Some of the health benefits offered by it are as follows.

Hydrate the body: Water constitutes 90% of cucumbers, denoting that consuming this vegetable is equally refreshing as drinking water. Consumption of cucumbers, particularly during the summer, helps to hydrate the body.

Rich vitamin source: Cucumbers contain nearly all vitamins that are essential for our body. They enclose vitamins A, B and C, which reinforce immunity and provide us with additional energy, besides making the skin glow. Consuming a blend of cucumber, carrot and spinach juice daily will help the immune system to combat viruses, such as cold and flu. Ensure that you use the vegetable's skin, which encloses roughly 12% of the RDA for vitamin C.

Toxin eliminator: As cucumbers contain 90% water, they facilitate rinsing out toxic substances from our body. Consumption of cucumber regularly even helps to liquefy and eliminate kidney stones.

Alleviate sunburns: When applied externally, cucumbers are refreshing. Cucumber slices help to calm and alleviate sunburns.

Skincare: Cucumbers help to maintain beautiful skin, as they contain potassium, magnesium and silicon. Spas also use them always.

Weight loss: As cucumbers contain fewer calories and more water, they are perfect for people who wanting to shed some extra flab. They also contain high dietary fiber, which helps in digestion and treats constipation. You may include cucumbers in salads and soups or consume them raw as a crispy snack.

Anti-cancer food: Cucumbers contain natural compounds like lariciresinol, pinoresinol and secoisolariciresinol that help preventing specific cancer types, like breast, ovarian, prostate and uterine cancers.

Excellent for Joints: Cucumber encloses silica that is useful for mending and strengthening connective tissues, which is beneficial for the joints and helps in arthritis. When taken with carrots, it can help in treating gout by lessening uric acid levels in the blood.

Kidney health: Cucumbers are good for the health of the kidneys, as they lower blood uric acid levels.

Eye revitalization: Ladies generally place cucumber slices on their eyes to facilitate revitalizing their eyes. This is effective, as water and anti-inflammatory attributes of this vegetable aid to treat swellings.

Regulates blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar levels: This vegetable encloses an enzyme required for producing insulin in the pancreas, which is lacking in diabetic patients. It also contains sterols that lower cholesterol levels. High fiber, potassium and magnesium content helps to regulate blood pressure - it is good for people with hypertension as well as hypotension.

Hair and nail health: Silica present in cucumber helps to make hair shiny and keeps it strong. Moreover, it also encloses sulfur that supports hair growth.

Oral health: Cucumber juice soothes and cures the gums, while phytochemicals prevent foul breath. Place a cucumber slice on the mouth roof and press it with your tongue for roughly one minute.

Alleviating hangovers: People who think they might suffer from an intense hangover may consume a few cucumber slices before going to bed, as this will alleviate the headache in the morning. Electrolytes, B-vitamins and sugars present in cucumber restore what is depleted, thereby reducing hangovers.

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Cure rheumatoid arthritis with rose hips

Clinical studies have revealed that using rose hip powder may considerably lessen the seriousness of rheumatoid arthritis - an excruciating and weakening autoimmune disease wherein the sufferer's immune system assails and also devastates the joints, bones and cartilages in the body. It is believed that about 1.5 million adults in the United States endure this painful condition.

Currently, anti-INF (anti-tumor necrosis factor alpha) and other medications, which right away target particular immune system molecules, are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Besides producing some adverse effects, these medications are extremely costly and the yearly cost of treating one patient with anti-INF drugs may be as high as $16,000.

Conversely, the cost of using LitoZion, a supplement prepared from rose hips that has been proved effectual in clinical trials, is merely $390. As rose hips are already popular in osteoarthritis treatment, the supplement can be obtained easily from stores selling natural and health foods, in addition to several drugstores.

The findings of a double-blind study undertaken by scientists at the Berlin-based Charite University Medical Centre and carried in the 2010 edition of the journal Phytomedicine provide the most convincing proof of the fact that rose hips are useful in treating rheumatoid arthritis. During their research, the scientists randomly asked the 74 participants (most of them women) to either take powdered rose hip capsules in dosage of 5 gm or a placebo continuously for a period of six months over and above the rheumatoid arthritis drugs they have been using regularly. All the participants have been enduring this condition for about 18 years or more.

Before and after the research, the participants completed a health evaluation questionnaire, which showed that their condition had improved considerably following the use of rose hips powder and worsened in the case of those taking the placebo. An assessment by physicians also corroborated these findings, but the use of painkillers among the participants remained unchanged.

Precisely speaking, the improvement in participants taking rose hips was about 20%-25% in activity and about 40% in decreased number of affected joints. However, there was no improvement in the number of affected joints in those taking placebo.

The findings of this study indicate that using powdered rose hips may possibly be useful in the form of a supplement for treating rheumatoid arthritis. According to researcher Kaj Winther, treating the patient with rose hip powder in the initial stage may aid in delaying treatment using costly medications.

However, while the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory attributes of rose hips may be vital, it is still not clear how this natural substance alleviates rheumatoid arthritis. The scientists pointed to one active element of rose hips - fatty acid GOPO, considered as the plant version of  fish oil.

According to researcher Stefan Willich, they are all amazed at the positive results. He says that since rheumatoid arthritis is a very problematic condition, it is very noteworthy to discover the positive outcomes of using rose hips to cure it.

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Grape seed extract offers super health benefits

For centuries, folk healers in the Middle East and Europe have employed grapes, as they enclose potent remedial properties. Even scientists have discovered that while all parts of the plant are beneficial for our health, most of the health benefits attributable to grapes are concentrated in their seed. In fact, extracts from grape seed help to reinforce the immune system, while preventing cancer.

An ointment was prepared from the grapevines for curing eye and skin problems, while the leaves were employed to enhance healing of inflammatory conditions and excruciating injuries. Unripe grapes are used to prevent sore throats, while raisins (dried grapes) are employed to cure constipation and poor bowel movements.

An unbelievable antioxidant

The extract from grape seed contains flavonoid phytonutrients, including exceptional OPC's or oligomeric proanthocyanidin and resveratrol. OPC's in grape seed extract are present in most potent form - about 95%. OPC's facilitate glutathione production in the body, thereby enabling this antioxidant to reinforce the immunity and protect DNA. In addition, they augment the levels of vitamin C between the cells and reinforce the capillaries, thereby enhancing circulation of blood and oxygen all through the body. The antioxidants also provide protection to soft tissue collagen in the skin and joints, from untimely aging and the free radicals.

Grape seed extract possesses free radical scavenging properties, thereby protecting the skin from damage due to ultra-violet radiation, protects the walls of the blood vessels from stress and the brain from lack of adequate oxygen. It has also been found that grape seed extract diminishes the chances of developing skin cancer, protects from dementia and keeps blood pressure stable.

Cancer prevention attributes

Findings of several researches show that grape seed extract can inhibit growth of cancerous cells and also kill them. According to the findings of University of Kentucky scientists, grape seed extract's antioxidant attributes help to eliminate about 76% of leukemia cells by activating a protein called 'JNK', which controls the pathways of cancer cells.

Findings of different researches show that this natural substance aids the detoxification of the liver from radiation poisons plus chemotherapy and from unhealthy estrogenic molecules, thereby reducing the development of stomach, lung, prostate and breast cancers.

The immunity

Th1 and Th2 are two main elements of the immune system and these should essentially be functional in a coordinated and balanced way. In many people one of these pathways is dominant.

Findings of studies undertaken by Dr Datis Kharrazian and others have shown that elements enclosed by grape seed extract augment the Th2 pathway. In most people, this helps to perk up the immune system. Nevertheless, the TH2 pathway is dominant in some people, which slows down the functioning of Th1, resulting in an immune disparity and more inflammatory conditions.

Hence, it is advisable that people having a dominance of Th2 immunity ought to take a supplement to find out the manner in which their body reacts to grape seed extract or different TH2 stimulants prior to using them without caution. Supplement challenge or cytokine blood examination has shown that people with Th2 dominance ought to stay away from grape seed extract.

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Ten foods that put off and cure diabetes

When our body is unable to regulate its blood sugar levels we suffer from a condition called diabetes. While several foods contain elevated sugar levels that contribute to diabetes, there are others that help to put off the condition. Besides regulating blood sugar, these foods are loaded with nutriments and minerals and people who have not developed diabetes will also find them beneficial.

Diet and exercise to prevent diabetes

Taking a healthy diet and following a healthy lifestyle, including exercise, helps to sustain an ideal weight that prevents onset of type-2 diabetes. Findings of several studies as well as diabetic educators endorse this view.

According to Healthcare and Education for the American Diabetic Association president Christine Tobin, although several foods can be considered 'superfoods' as far as diabetes prevention is concerned, her organization has identified 10 foods to control and prevent type-1 and type-2 diabetes. In addition to being loaded with minerals, including calcium, potassium and manganese, as well as vitamins A, C plus E, these foods also contain fiber that aids in suppressing hunger by maintaining a low glycemic index and sugar for a prolonged period. They also regulate blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels, sustaining our overall health.

These 10 healthy foods are described briefly below.

Beans: While kidney, black, navy, pinto beans contain high calories, they also enclose fiber and nutriments, which means that they can suppress hunger for long - thereby, preventing diabetes.

Berries: Consumption of whole, fresh blueberries, strawberries, cranberries and others is beneficial as they contain high antioxidants, vitamins and dietary fiber. You may prepare smoothies with berries or include them in cereals or salads.

Citruses: Citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, grapefruit and others are heart friendly, as they are loaded with vitamin C. Consuming whole fruits, rather than juices, is more beneficial, as the fruits enclose dietary fiber that inhibits sugar absorption by our body.

Deep green leafy vegetables: Collard greens, spinach, kale, mustard greens and other leafy vegetables are loaded with nutriments, but contain fewer carbohydrates and calories, enabling people to consume as much of them as they desire.

Fish: Several fish, including albacore tuna, herring, salmon, mackerel and halibut contain elevated levels of omega-3 fats, which make the heart stronger and puts off diabetes. Serving the fish in soups or boiled is best, because battering and breading them does not solve the purpose.

Fat-free milk, yogurt: These two foods contain high levels of vitamin D and calcium, which help to suppress cravings.

Nuts: These are packed with omega-3 fats and other beneficial fats that help to protect the heart and remove its burden. Nevertheless, nuts should not be eaten in excess, because of their high calorie content, but consuming just about 15 oz is sufficient for your health.

Sweet potatoes: Of all types of potatoes, sweet potatoes are the best owing to their small glycemic index and high vitamin A content. Sweet potatoes do not allow the blood sugar levels to go up.

Tomatoes: You can consume this vegetable raw or cooked, while it can be used in several other ways - soups or mixed salads or in the form of a base in stews or casseroles. They contain fewer calories, but high levels of iron and vitamins C and E.

Whole grains: Pearled barley, oatmeal and other products from whole grains like bread and pasta contain high amounts of fiber. In addition, they enclose essential nutriments like folate, omega-3, magnesium and chromium.

While it is easy to eat most junk foods, even chocolates, consuming these 10 healthy foods will prove to be beneficial for your health.

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Astonishing facts regarding carrots

Carrot, botanical name, Daucus carota, sub-species sativus, is one vegetable that is sweet, delectable and beneficial for our health. It is actually a crunchy taproot loaded with several natural, health-friendly compounds like vitamin A, antioxidants, beta-carotenes and minerals and is a preferred vegetable for many.

Carrots are biennial plants grown across the globe for their taproots. These plants bear flowers in their second year and are harvested when they grow up to a 1 inch in diameter - the roots are most tender and juicy at this stage. Carrots are available in various shapes and hues, subject to the cultivar type. Those from the Orient are generally longer and have a flat top end. In addition, their lower ends are tapering. On the other hand, the European cultivars have a cylindrical body with smoothed ends. They have vivid orange hues, while those from Asia have a saffron color.

While purchasing carrots, you ought to opt for the tender vegetables having a bright color. In addition, they need to be firm. Never buy very large carrots, which are mature from before and difficult to consume.

Health benefits of carrots

We are all aware about the health benefits of carrots, but what are they precisely? Below is a brief account of the various health benefits it offers.

Carrots are naturally loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and dietary fiber and every 100 grams of it provides just 41 calories. They contain insignificant amounts of fat, but are cholesterol free. As mentioned earlier, these taproots contain loads of beta carotenes and vitamin A that are useful in protecting us from oral and lung cancers. These natural compounds plus flavonoids also protect our skin.

An animal study undertaken by University of Newcastle scientists in laboratory have found that carrots contain a compound called falcarinol that helps to put off development of cancer by eliminating the pre-cancerous cells.

In addition, freshly harvested carrots contain high amounts of vitamin C, providing us with roughly 9 per cent of the required daily allowance (RDA). Vitamin C is useful in maintaining the health of the teeth, gums and connective tissues, while the antioxidant attributes of carrot are useful for protecting us from several ailments attributable to free radicals.

Carrots are also packed with vitamin B-complex, including folic acid, vitamin B6, thiamine and others. These function as co-factors for specific enzymes that are essential for substratum metabolism. In the liver, carotenes are converted into vitamin A, which is necessary for sustaining good eyesight, integrity of the skin, sperm production and usual growth as well as development.

All said and done, carrots are packed with nutriments - the main reason for people incorporating the vegetable in their diet. In fact, this tap root not only helps to maintain optimum health, but also prevents several ailments, counting cancer! Carrots are best when they are young and tender - when they are sweet and full of nutrients.

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Cinnamon is a spice for life

Cinnamon has several uses and offers many health benefits too. Some add to spice up oatmeal or milk, while others use it in potpourri. It is available easily and almost everywhere. Cinnamon is basically the bark of a particular tree and is available in various types, which originate from various regions of Asia.

Nearly 90% of the world's cinnamon supplies are from Sri Lanka and southern India as well as the region expanding from Vietnam to Madagascar. The remaining 10% comes from China. In the US, people prefer the cinnamon form called cassia, which is also known as 'Chinese cinnamon'. Nevertheless, genuine cinnamon is only found in Sri Lanka. This variety of cinnamon is more costly and sophisticated with a delicate flavour compared to what is used in the US.

Cinnamon offers numerous health benefits and some of them are discussed briefly below.

Anti-microbial: Cinnamon encloses essential oils that have anti-microbial properties and can put all fungal and bacterial growths to an end. As this attribute of cinnamon is highly useful, this herb is used in the form of substitute additives in various foods.

Anti-clotting: Cinnamon contains an essential and volatile oil called cinnamaldehyde which is useful in lessening blood clot formation. Cinnamon works by slowing down arachidonic acid secretion from different platelet membranes. In fact, arachidonic acid is an inflammatory fatty acid which lessens the creation of thromboxane A2, a molecule that sends inflammatory messages.

Boosting brain functioning: Cinnamon is so useful that even inhaling its fragrance helps to perk up brain functions. Studies have found cinnamon helped to augment the cognitive process in subjects, especially improving their working memory; helps in enhancing virtual recognition memory; aids in doing tasks associated with attention process; and also accelerates the virtual-motor pace when working on programs based on computers.

Blood sugar regulation: Cinnamon possesses potent antioxidant properties and, hence, is useful in regulating blood sugar levels. Cinnamon also inhibits the pace of the stomach emptying after meals, thereby enhancing insulin response in patients with type-2 diabetes. Cinnamon is extremely useful and taking only one gram of the herb daily may help to lower the blood sugar as well as LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels in patients with diabetes. It also lowers the chances of having cardiovascular diseases in diabetic patients.

Colon health: Cinnamon also helps to enhance the health of our colon, while protecting us from cardiovascular diseases.

High dietary fiber: Besides having loads of dietary fiber, cinnamon also contains sufficient calcium as well as manganese. Fiber couples with calcium aids in eliminating bile salts from our body, thereby helping the colon to protect itself and, at the same time, lessen the chances of developing colon cancer. In addition, fiber also aids in lessening cholesterol and diminish the chances of heart ailments. Owing to its fiber content cinnamon also alleviates constipation and diarrhea.

Warming effects: This herb is excellent to provide the body with warmth, especially when one is suffering from cold or flu. Traditional Chinese medicine uses cinnamon extensively for its body warming properties.

Consume Nigella sativa seeds to treat Candida albicans effectively

Generally mentioned as yeast infection, Candida albicans is actually a fungal contagion that cannot be healed easily. It may affect different body areas like skin, throat, mouth, blood and even genitals. Several approaches are required to treat it, counting diet, strengthening the immunity and eliminating stress. This makes Nigella sativa, an herb indigenous to the Middle East and an immune booster, effective in treating this condition.

Reinforcing immune system

Besides reinforcing the immune system, Nigella sativa helps to cure several ailments and forms a part of complete treatment regimen. Health freedom activist Dr. Gray Null says that the best oil to put into your system is probably the black cumin oil.

He further asserted that apart from diet, reinforcing the immunity is important for treating Candida albicans - something which is essential for its treatment. You just need take two teaspoons of Nigella sativa with raw honey or fresh orange juice for treating this condition. Take one dosage 30 minutes prior to breakfast and another before sleeping.

Right diet

While there is no evidence that any diet that helps in eliminating Candida will cure the condition, nearly all specialists say that it is imperative to eliminate yeast, sugar and plenty of grains. Sugar consumption, eating plenty of grains and using antibiotics upsets the digestive system, enabling the development of this infection. Selecting the appropriate diet depends on the patient, but the reason why no diet helps to heal the infection is because they do not incorporate powdered seeds of Nigella sativa.

You may include Nigella sativa by buying superior quality seeds, pounding them and spraying them on your foods. As the seeds possess anti-fungal as well as anti-inflammatory attributes, they help to heal Candida. Many people in the Middle East consume about 10 seeds every day for the health benefits they offer.

Nigella sativa for stress removal

Comprehensive treatment of Candida albicans also involves eliminating stress and Nigella sativa possesses the aptitude to naturally calm the body. Add one tablespoon of freshly shred ginger to half teaspoon of the herb's seeds and consume it fresh for its soothing actions. In the Middle East people also use black seed tea to remove stress. Add the grounded or whole seeds to some water and boil it. Sieve the liquid, add stevia or honey to sweeten it and drink it in the form of a tea.

Restoring system's balance

Candida specialist Dr Jeff McCombs says that restoring the balance of our system is vital. To achieve this, we need to deal with several elements simultaneously. By themselves, probiotics cannot work wonders, because Candida determines which probiotic has the ability to develop again in the intestines. It is important to deal with Candida as soon as it begins, he adds.

Using Nigella sativa to heal Candida albicans starts with reinforcing the immune system and concludes only when the whole body is cured, not only the areas affected. When Candida has been treated effectively, you should start taking one teaspoon of Nigella sativa essential oil daily.

Clove spice offers numerous health benefits

People wanting to avoid cancer, treat periodontal problems or increase their libido may find clove beneficial. A common spice, clove has a long history and has been extensively used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Clove has a uniquely elevated ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) and possesses numerous vital nutriments. Considered to be a main health protector, it contains high amounts of vitamins C and K, fatty acids, omega-3 fats, fiber in addition to calcium, manganese and magnesium, protecting us from various ailments. Its manganese content is crucial, because it triggers several vital enzymes in our body and helps in metabolizing fat. In addition, it also keeps the nervous system stable, thus relieving anxiety, depression and tetchiness.

Alleviates asthma, infections, cancer and more

Several scientific studies have discovered numerous healing abilities of clove, whose main bioactive element is eugenol. Clove is very effective in treating asthma, acne, colds, sore throats, influenza, inflammation, periodontal disease, congestion in the head and lungs, bacterial and Candida albicans infections, muscle spasms, and abnormal levels of blood sugar.

Clove is also a potent antioxidant and possesses significant anti-cancer properties. Laboratory experiments have successfully isolated compounds contained by this spice and they showed the ability to alleviate mutagenic activity of the cells. This spice also helps to mitigate sexual dysfunction.

During an experiment, an extract of clove was administered to male albino rodents once daily for seven consecutive days and at the end it was found that the results hinted that the extract helped to notably augment the sexual activities in these rats, but did not cause any adverse effects, including gastric ulceration. Hence, the aphrodisiac properties of clove corroborate claims regarding its traditional use for treating sexual problems.

The essential oil from clove is effectual in keeping away chiggers bearing diseases. Findings of a simple laboratory test showed that only 5% clove oil concentration provided complete protection from insects and scientists are of the view that compared to synthetic chemicals like DEET, this oil is likely to be less expensive and safer to put off chigger attacks. Another research undertaken by scientists at Thailand-based Mahidol University found that clove oil also significantly protects us from mosquitoes, by repelling these insects.

Use of clove oil

To treat tender throat or support oral health, add a little clove oil (five drops) to half cup (125 ml) of water and use it in the form of a gargle. You may also brush your mouth with two drops of this essential oil to eliminate bacteria and fungi, thereby ease toothache and prevent gingivitis.

Eugenol in clove possesses antiseptic properties and hence applying clove powder blended with raw honey to acne helps to heal it. You may also squeeze in some lemon juice and apply the paste all over your face and wash it off after 20 minutes.

You may also use clove in the form of a tea, dried powder or tincture. Buy fresh, organic clove and pound it appropriately for maximum potency. To prepare clove tea, you need to process one tablespoon of whole cloves in a coffee mill till they are shredded into small pieces. Next add it to boiling water and allow the herb to infuse for 15 minutes. Strain the liquid and drink it with raw honey or organic stevia for flavour.

Tests confirm spirulina, Siberian ginseng, skullcap alleviate allergic rhinitis

A recent clinical test has confirmed that Siberian ginseng, spirulina and skullcap are useful in alleviating allergic rhinitis, a condition wherein the nasal airways get inflamed owing to the immune system's response to allergens. Augmented histamine production causes the sinuses to get inflamed, while our immune system responds to allergens like dust, pollen or animal dander. This activates antibody (immunoglobin E) production. In fact, histamines are responsible for sinus cavity inflammation, augmented mucus production, sneezing and the itchiness and watering of the eyes.

While antihistamine pills may be useful in stopping histamine and alleviating the facial symptoms, they do not help the immune system. However, it has been show that appropriate nutrients and herbs help to have a better, potent and lasting effect. If you keep taking antihistamine pills ignoring the hypersensitive immunity, it may result in irritation owing to development of seasonal allergy.

In fact, seasonal allergies do not necessarily occur every year. There is proof that a naturally occurring cyanobacteria known as spirulina helps to alleviate nasal inflammation. A latest study reveals the manner in which Siberian ginseng (eleutherococcus root) and skullcap work in conjunction to alleviate symptoms of allergy.

A research by scientists in Turkey revealed that spirulina was effective in curing allergic rhinitis. It is a potent, super food for boosting the immune system that showed exceptional results. During the placebo-controlled study, several people with allergic rhinitis were given supplements containing spirulina and they showed remarkable improvement in symptoms that are histamine-reactive, such as nasal congestion, nasal discharge, sneezing and nasal itching.

Compared to people who were given the placebo, spirulina helped to treat nasal inflammation and scientists have now emphasized on more studies to establish the spirulina's action on sinus inflammation. According to the 2005 edition of Journal of Medical Food, ingestion of spirulina resulted in dramatic improvement in people with allergic rhinitis.

Siberian ginseng or eleutherococcus root contains an exceptional composition, dissimilar from other ginseng varieties, including Panax ginseng (American ginseng). This herb is a potent adaptogen - ideal for aiding the body, mind as well as spirit to recuperate from mental as well as physical stress. Siberian ginseng reinforces mental clarity, social functioning and communication, in addition to invigorating the immune system when one's energy levels are low.

In a research undertaken in Belgium, scientists used a combination of skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) and eleutherococcus root and then again with vitamin C to examine their individual as well as combined actions in curing sinus inflammation. During the study, scientists closely examined the nasal mucosal tissues of 12 patients and delayed allergic reactions were set off by stimulating anti-IgE and T cells.

The scientists discovered that the effect of the combination of Siberian ginseng and skullcap was more potent in suppressing histamine plus two different inflammatory indicators. In fact, it was found that the combination blocked cytokine induction.

However, the anti-inflammatory effect of vitamin C was not potent like these herbs. Nevertheless, vitamin C helped to augment the frequency of ciliary beat. The scientists came to the conclusion that using the herbs skullcap and eleuthero root in combination helps to stop the early as well as late allergic phase mediators, hold back production of cytokines as well as histamine reactions.

Probiotics may protect premature babies from contagious disease

Findings of a latest study have hinted that giving probiotics supplements to premature babies may protect them from a fatal condition known as necrotizing enterocolitis or NEC.

When we talk about NEC, it means a severe inflammation of the stomach, believed to be partially attributed to contagious microbes. It may affect roughly 8% to 13% infants who weighed below 3 lbs and 4 oz at birth and is said to be deadly in 50% instances. Even those who survive, generally suffer from prolonged neuro-developmental damages.

While steroids can be used to prevent NEC, they usually cause serious adverse effects, making it necessary to develop new preventive means that are less dangerous for the healthcare of premature infants.

The power of probiotics

According to several researchers, premature babies are particularly vulnerable to NEC as they have underdeveloped immune system and are yet to develop balanced gut microbes, especially if their delivery was through C-section and did not come in contact with the vaginal environment's flora.

In 2007, a British research team wrote in 'The Lancet, that neonates having very low weight at birth generally get hold of microbial flora, mostly from the environment at the intensive care and not from their mothers.

It has been found that probiotics help to promote vigorous gut flora in grown-ups and scientists are keen to know if it has the same effect in preventing NEC in prematurely born babies. A team of scientists from Brazil recently carried the review of their study in Journal de Pediatria (Rio). They randomly analyzed 11 clinical trials involving 2,887 babies that examined the effectuality of probiotics in avoiding NEC in premature babies.

These scientists discovered that premature babies who were administered probiotics faced considerably less risks of developing neonatal sepsis or NEC. They also remained in the hospital for lesser time and adjusted to standard diet faster and their general mortality rate was lower compared to those who did not receive the supplement. Importantly, probiotics use had no effect on the death rate of children who developed NEC.

This reflects that findings of a previous meta-research, which involved 1,393 premature babies having low birth weight, carried in the 2007 edition of The Lancet. Various dissimilar probiotics were examined on them, counting B. bifidus, Bifidobacterium breve, B. lactis, B. infantis, Lactobacillus GG, L. acidophilus, L. casei, Streptococcus thermophilus and Saccharomyces boulardii.

It was earlier found the S. Boulardii and Lactobacillus GG occasionally resulted in sepsis in premature babies. Nevertheless, this research did not find any difference in sepsis rates between those given probiotics and the control groups. They also noted that probiotics use did not result in any sepsis case, thereby diminishing concerns regarding adverse affects of probiotics.

More research needed

Despite the above findings, most health experts stress on the need for more scientific studies prior to recommending probiotics for every premature infant. Further studies will help to improve the medical understanding regarding the strains of probiotics, its doses and duration of treatment that would be suitable for the babies during different stages of their development. However, the findings of studies undertaken so far have been extremely promising.

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