ABSORPTION - The uptake by the body of a supplement, medication, or other substance through the digestive tract, skin, or mucous membranes.
ACUTE - Short, severe, nonchronic; designates an illness or condition, typically lasting no more than a week or two.
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE - Any of various approaches to healing, such as reflexology and homeopathy, that fall outside the domain of conventional mainstream medicine.
AMINO ACIDS - Chemical substances, found in foods and produced in the body, which are used to build protein.
ANTIOXIDANT - A substance that protects cells from the damaging effects of highly reactive oxygen molecules called free radicals. Some antioxidants are made by the body; others, such as vitamins C and E, are obtained through diet or supplements.
ANTISEPTIC - An infection-fighting herb, medication, or other substance.
ATHEROSCLEROSIS - The buildup of cholesterol and other substances in the artery walls ("hardening of the arteries"), leading to heart disease, angina, heart attack, stroke, intermittent claudication, and other ailments.
AUTOIMMUNE DISORDER - An ailment, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own healthy tissues.
AYURVEDA - The traditional medicine of India, dating back thousands of years. It relies on herbs (such as boswellia and gymnema sylvestre), cleansing diets, meditation, and other forms of therapy.
BILE - A fat-digesting substance produced in the liver, stored in the gallbladder, and then released into the intestine when needed.
BOTANICAL - An herb or plant that has healing properties.
BOTANICAL NAME - The scientific, or Latin, name of an herb or plant.
CAPILLARIES - Tiny blood vessels that connect veins and arteries. In the capillaries oxygen and nutrients are transferred from the blood to the cells, and waste products are removed.
CARTILAGE - A dense yet flexible tissue in the joints, spine, throat, ears, nose, and other areas. It is not as hard as bone, but it does provide protection and support.
CHOLESTEROL - A fatlike substance that circulates in the blood and helps build cell membranes; high levels increase the risk of heart attack.
CHRONIC - Persistent or long term; designates an illness or condition, often requiring months or years of treatment.
COENZYME - A substance that acts in concert with enzymes to speed up chemical reactions in the body.
COLLAGEN - A tough, fibrous protein that provides support throughout the body and helps form bones, cartilage, skin, joints, and other tissues.
COMMISSION E - A special body of scientists, health professionals, and lay experts formed in Germany in 1978; studies the usefulness and safety of herbal remedies.
COMPLEX - A term designating a mixture of vitamins, minerals, herbs, or other nutrients. Examples include vitamin B complex, liver (lipotropic) complex, and amino acid complex.
COMPRESS - A soft cotton or flannel cloth or piece of gauze that has been soaked in an herbal tea or other healing substance, then folded and placed on the skin to help reduce inflammation and pain.
CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE - Also known as allopathic medicine, the approach to healing most commonly practiced. A doctor diagnoses a problem and typically treats it with medications or surgery.
DEMENTIA - Loss of mental faculties as a result of Alzheimer's disease or other brain impairment.
DIABETIC NEUROPATHY - Diabetes-related nerve damage producing loss of sensation, numbness, tingling, or burning; often occurs in the limbs.
DIURETIC - A substance that draws water from the body and increases the total output of urine.
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DOUCHE - Herbal teas, acidophilus and water, or other substances that can be used to flush the vagina; may be recommended for infections.
ENDORPHINS - Natural pain-reducing substances released by the pituitary gland, producing an effect similar to that of narcotic pain relievers.
ENTERIC COATING - A protective covering that enables a pill to pass intact through the stomach into the small intestine, where the coating dissolves and the contents are absorbed.
ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS (EFAs) - The building blocks that the body uses to make fats. The body must get various kinds of EFAs through diet or supplements (such as fish oils and flaxseed oil) to assure proper health.
ESTROGEN - A female sex hormone, produced mainly in the ovaries, that helps regulate menstruation, reproduction, and other processes.
EXPECTORANT - A substance that makes it easier to cough up mucus.
EXTRACT - A pill, powder, tincture, or other form of an herb that contains a concentrated, and usually standard, amount of therapeutic ingredients.
FREE RADICALS - Highly reactive and unstable oxygen molecules, generated in the body, that can damage cells, leading to heart disease, cancer, and other ailments. Antioxidants help minimize free-radical damage.
GDU (GELATIN DIGESTING UNIT) - A dosage measure for the pain- and inflammation-reducing supplement bromelain. Potencies of bromelain are based on GDUs or MCUs (milk clotting units). One GDU equals 1.5 MCU.
GRAM - A metric measure of weight, sometimes used in dosages. There are 1,000 milligrams (mg) in 1 gram, and 28.35 grams in an ounce.
HDL CHOLESTEROL - A protein in the blood that collects cholesterol from the body's tissues and returns it to the liver for reprocessing; also known as "good" cholesterol.
HEMOGLOBIN - The oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells. Made of iron and protein, it transports oxygen from the lungs to the cells and transports carbon dioxide from the cells back to the lungs.
HERB - A plant or plant part-the leaves, stems, roots, bark, buds, or flowers-all of which can be used for medicinal or other purposes (such as flavoring foods).
HOMOCYSTEINE - An amino acid-like substance; high levels have been linked to heart disease.
HORMONE - Any of various chemical messengers, produced by the adrenal, pituitary, thyroid, ovaries, testes, and other glands, that have far-reaching effects throughout the body. Hormones regulate everything from growth and tissue repair to metabolism, reproduction, blood pressure, as well as the body's response to stress.
HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY (HRT) - The use of supplemental estrogen and progesterone (in the form of progestin)-female sex hormones-to relieve the adverse effects of menopause. The therapy may also help prevent osteoporosis and heart disease.
IMMUNE RESPONSE - The body's natural defense system against infectious microbes-including disease-causing bacteria and viruses-as well as cancer cells within the body itself.
INSULIN RESISTANCE - A condition in which the body's cells do not respond adequately to the hormone insulin. It can lead to higher blood sugar (glucose) levels, increased insulin production by the pancreas, and possibly even to diabetes.
INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE - An approach to healing that utilizes aspects of both conventional and alternative medicine. Also called complementary medicine.
INTERFERON - Any of various virus fighting proteins that are made by the body and that activate the immune response.
INTERMITTENT CLAUDICATION - A condition caused by poor circulation in the legs (usually from atherosclerosis), characterized by painful calf cramps, often after walking or other exercise. Is relieved by rest.
INTERNATIONAL UNIT (IU) - A standardized dose measure that provides a set amount of a specific supplement, such as vitamin A, D, or E.
LDL CHOLESTEROL - A protein in the blood containing high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides; also known as "bad" cholesterol.
LIPOTROPIC COMBINATION - A "fat digesting" blend of choline, inositol, methionine, milk thistle, and other nutrients used to promote the health of the liver. Also called liver complex.
MACROPHAGE - A type of white blood cell that can surround arid digest disease-causing bacteria and other foreign microbes.
MALAISE - A general feeling of overall weakness or discomfort.
MCU (MILK CLOTTING UNIT) - A dosage measure for the pain- and inflammation-reducing supplement bromelain. (See also GDV.)
MELANIN - A black or dark brown pigment (color) that occurs naturally in the skin, hair, and eyes.
METABOLISM - The cascading array of chemica[ reactions by which the body converts food into packets of energy that the body can use or store.
MICROGRAM (mcg) - A metric measure of weight used in dosages. There are 1,000 mcg in 1 milligram (mg). MILLIGRAM (mg) A metric measure of weight used in dosages. There are 1,000 mg in 1 gram.
MIXED AMINO ACIDS - A balanced blend (complex) of amino acids, often taken in conjunction with individual amino acid supplements.
MUCILAGE - A gummy, gel-like plant substance that when ingested forms a protective layer in the throat, digestive tract, and other areas, suppressing coughs and irritation.
MUCOUS MEMBRANES - The pink, shiny skin like layers that line the lips, mouth, vagina, eyelids, and other cavities and passages in the body.
NEURALGIA - Sharp, sometimes severe pain resulting from damage to a nerve and often affecting a specific area of the body, such as the face.
NEUROTRANSMITTER - Any of various chemicals found in the brain and throughout the body that transmit signals among nerve cells.
NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENT - A nutrient, synthesized in the lab or extracted from plants or animals, that is used medicinally.
PCOs (PROCYANIDOLIC OLIGOMERS) - A group of antioxidant compounds, also called proanthocyanidins-found in pine bark, grape seed extract, green tea, red wine, and other substances that may help protect against heart and vascular disease.
PERNICIOUS ANEMIA - A rare but dangerous deficiency of vitamin B12 that can lead to low red blood cell counts and nervous system impairment.
PHYTOESTROGENS - Estrogen like compounds present in soy and other plants that may help treat symptoms of menopause, certain cancers, and other complaints.
PHYTOMEDICINES - Therapeutic ingredients found in fruits, vegetables, grains, herbs, and other plants that may help protect against cancer, heart disease, and other ailments.
PLACEBO - Also called a dummy pill, a substance that contains no medicinal ingredients. Often used in scientific studies as a control so its effects can be compared with those of the medication or supplement under study.
POULTICE - A soft, moist substance spread between layers of cloth or gauze, and applied, usually heated, to the skin to help reduce pain.
PROBIOTICS - "Friendly" bacteria, similar to those found in acidophilus supplements, that are normally present in the intestine and help to promote healthy digestion.
PROGESTERONE - A female sex hormone, made by the ovaries, that helps regulate menstruation.
PROLACTIN - A hormone, secreted by the pituitary, that promotes lactation.
PROSTAGLANDINS - Hormone like chemicals, occurring naturally in the body, that produce a wide range of effects, such as inducing inflammation, stimulating uterine contractions during labor, and protecting the lining of the stomach.
RECOMMENDED NUTRIENT INTAKES (RNIs) - The level of intakes of essential nutrients that will meet the needs of healthy people. The RNls are expressed on a daily basis, but should be regarded as the average recommended intake over a period of about a week.
STANDARDIZED EXTRACT - A concentrated form of an herb that contains a set (standardized) level of active ingredients. Standardization helps guarantee a consistent dosage strength, or potency, from one batch of herb to the next. Standardized extracts are available only for certain herbs, either as pills or tinctures, or in other forms.
STEROIDS - A common designation for corticosteroids, inflammation-fighting medications that are sometimes prescribed to treat allergic reactions, asthma, skin rashes, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and other ailments.
SUBLINGUAL - Beneath the tongue. Some supplements, such as vitamin B12, are formulated to dissolve in the mouth, providing quick absorption into the bloodstream without interference from stomach acids.
T' AI CHI - An ancient Chinese method of exercise using precise movements and breathing techniques to promote balance, control, and relaxation.
TANNIN - An astringent substance derived from plants that can contract blood vessels and body tissues.
TENS (TRANSCUTANEOUS ELECTRICAL NERVE STIMULATION) - A method of relieving pain by sending painless electrical impulses from a machine to nerve endings through electrodes placed on the skin.
TESTOSTERONE - The principal male sex hormone, produced in the testes, that induces changes at puberty and helps build strong muscles and bones. Women also make a small amount in their ovaries.
THERAPEUTIC DOSE - The amount of a vitamin, mineral, herb, nutritional supplement, or medication needed to produce a desired healing effect (as opposed to the minimum amount needed to prevent a deficiency-such as the RNI, for example).
TINCTURE - A liquid usually made by soaking a whole herb or its parts in a mixture of water and ethyl alcohol (such as vodka). The alcohol helps extract the herb's active components, concentrating and preserving them.
TONIC - An herb (such as ginseng) or herbal blend that is used to "tone" the body or a specific organ, imparting added strength or vitality.
TRADITIONAL MEDICINE - An approach to healing that relies on customs and knowledge passed from one generation to the next, often based on thousands of years of practice. Examples are Chinese medicine and Ayurveda (practiced in India).
TRIGLYCERIDE - The main form of fat found in the body. High levels in the blood increase the likelihood of developing heart disease.
VITAMIN - An organic substance that plays an essential role in regulating cell functions throughout the body. Most vitamins must be ingested, because the body cannot produce them.
WAFER - A chewable tablet or cookie like form of supplement. Often activated by saliva or used to bypass powerful stomach acids.
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