Dr Akilah – Celestial Healing Wellness Center

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Herb of the week – Ginseng

Origins of the plant

The Health Benefits of GinsengGinseng was originally found in east Asian countries, specifically mainland China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. There is a variety of ginseng known as Siberian ginseng which is not really the same plant at all, but a similar herb known as Eleuthero. Traditional ginseng also grows in North America, but specifically is native to the northeastern region of the United States from the Atlantic ocean across to Iowa and some parts of southern Canada. It is a shade-loving plant, so typically grows in forested regions and cool climates. Ginseng does not do well in southern regions where heat, bright sun, or dry weather will prevent its growth.

The slow-growing nature of ginseng calls for at least three years of life before harvesting a plant. The plant will flower in the early summer and then turn to berries. Once these have fallen, then the plant is generally harvested in the early fall months. The entire plant can be used, but typically the root has the most medicinal properties. The root of the ginseng plant is large, and grows into several branches that are said to look like a human in shape.

Variations of Ginseng

There are a number of variations of ginseng. Most relate to where the ginseng was grown or cultivated, but each area produces a different level of quality in their ginseng.

Asian Ginseng

Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) is the most common form of ginseng and is considered the original form of the herb. It is still grown in China, Japan, and other countries, but is most prevalent in Korea. Korean ginseng is one of the most popular varieties of Ginseng seen in products today. It is important to note that this species is also one of the most superior in quality of the variations available. This is due to the conditions in which it is grown and the longer span of the growing period that is available. The longer the plant is able to stay in the soil the stronger it becomes and therefore is more effective overall.

American Ginseng

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is quite accessible today in many products. It is still considered a high quality form of ginseng, but it has been found that the roots contain different proportions of the key components. The claim is that the properties are different in American ginseng because of the conditions under which it is grown.

Japanese Ginseng

Japanese ginseng (Panax japonicus) is often used as a substitute to the higher grade Asian ginseng and does not have the same strength nor the quality of Asian ginseng.
Sanchi ginseng (Panax notoginseng) is native to China and is another of the often used substitutes to Asian ginseng. It is very different in its properties from traditional Panax ginseng and is commonly used for entirely different purposes.

Himalayan Ginseng

Himalayan ginseng (Panax pseudoginseng) is a low strength form of ginseng that is most often used to treat digestive issues.

Siberian Ginseng

Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is similar in form to ginseng, but is a different plant entirely. It has a lower level of potency in treatment, and is also cheaper to buy so is often used as an alternative to ginseng. Siberian ginseng has been shown to have its own tonifying effects, however, and can be used with success in treating immune function problems and as an anti-inflammatory.
Red ginseng is a form of Panax ginseng that has been put through a heat treatment and then brewed to turn a reddish color. It is most commonly known for its uses in treating sexual dysfunction, but also has been effective in reducing various types of cancer.

Benefits of Ginseng

The key components in ginseng are the ginsenosides which produce effects in the body similar to the stress hormones released naturally. Depending on the level of potency of the ginseng, these effects can improve a person’s well-being in a number of ways.

Ginseng is most often thought of for its stimulating effects and indeed many of its benefits are due to its effect on the body’s secretion of hormones. Ginseng is known to improve mental and physical performance over time as well as stimulating metabolism, improving stamina, and alleviating fatigue. It has also been used to relax the nervous system and lower blood sugar and also improves immune system response and encourages resistance to disease.

Ginseng has been used to treat a variety of health problems, such as:

  • Reducing mental stress and anxiety
  • Increasing mental clarity and alertness
  • Stimulating the immune and nervous system
  • Treating diabetes
  • Preventing the growth of certain types of cancer cells
  • Lowering cholesterol levels
  • Improving digestion
  • Reducing fatigue
  • Improving athletic endurance

 

Studies on Ginseng

There are a number of studies that have been done on ginseng and its properties to determine if the health claims are true. Many of these studies have shown some strong data in favor of the claims made about ginseng, yet others have proved inconclusive and further studies need to be completed before any results can be shown.

The strongest results from studies on ginseng have been in relation to improving blood sugar, aiding in immune system function, and providing benefits for those with heart conditions. Most studies in these areas have already shown positive results, and further studies are underway to provide more conclusive evidence.

Other conditions that have been tested for treatment with ginseng include anemia, ADHD, cancer, dementia, erectile dysfunction, high blood pressure, improving mental performance, supporting liver function, and a number of other illnesses. Most of the results on these studies have been positive in nature, but the data is not yet conclusive enough to be shown as proven. More studies are underway all the time, so results are likely to change over time.

For more information on ginseng studies visit MEDLINE at:
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/databases/databases_medline.html

Usage & Dosages of Ginseng

Ginseng is available in a number of forms for use. Fresh ginseng can be sliced and brewed into a tea for consumption or added into soups. It can even be chewed or eaten fresh. The most common form of ginseng found is the dried root or some variation of that.

The dried root can also be sliced and brewed into tea, or it can be ground and placed under the tongue for quick absorption. Most ground ginger root is actually put into a pill format for consuming daily. The benefit of buying the actual dried root is that one can ensure that they are receiving a high quality product. It is common that pill formats of ginseng will not have a high potency of the herb.

The typical dosage in capsule format is 100 to 200 milligrams taken once or twice per day. If using a liquid form of ginseng, it is best to take 1 to 2 grams and mix it with water and then drink the mixture. Again, this can be taken once or twice per day.

A good standard is to start with a lower dose and then work up to a maximum of 200 milligrams twice per day after determining physical response and potential side effects from taking ginseng. After a three month period of taking ginseng on a daily basis, one should stop using the herb for a period of two weeks to one month before resuming use. Prolonged use without taking a break can cause nervousness and fluid retention.

Summary

Ginseng is a viable option for supplementing one’s diet to aid in mental focus, lowering blood sugar, and providing an energy boost. It is not without its concerns, however, and it will be some time before enough studies are completed to show the benefits or disprove the claims related to ginseng. Anyone deciding to use it should take it slowly and check with a sales clerk at their local health food store to find a quality brand. As always, remember to check with a physician before starting any new herbal supplement to ensure that it will not conflict with any other health issues or medications.

Caution – Those on blood thinning medications or with blood clotting issues should speak with a doctor before taking ginseng because it can reduce the effectiveness of medications.

 

For a list of herbs and their benefits please visit our herbal directory here – http://www.celestialhealing.net/herbal_guide.htm

Watermelon: A Natural Viagra

A cold slice of watermelon has long been a Fourth of July holiday staple. But according to recent studies, the juicy fruit may be better suited for Valentine’s Day. That’s because scientists say watermelon has ingredients that deliver Viagra-like effects to the body’s blood vessels and may even increase libido.

“The more we study watermelons, the more we realize just how amazing a fruit it is in providing natural enhancers to the human body,” said Dr. Bhimu Patil, director of Texas A&M’s Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center in College Station.

“We’ve always known that watermelon is good for you, but the list of its very important healthful benefits grows longer with each study.”

Beneficial ingredients in watermelon and other fruits and vegetables are known as phyto-nutrients, naturally occurring compounds that are bioactive, or able to react with the human body to trigger healthy reactions, Patil said.

In watermelons, these include lycopene, beta carotene and the rising star among its phyto-nutrients – citrulline – whose beneficial functions are now being unraveled. Among them is the ability to relax blood vessels, much like Viagra does.

Scientists know that when watermelon is consumed, citrulline is converted to arginine through certain enzymes. Arginine is an amino acid that works wonders on the heart and circulation system and maintains a good immune system, Patil said.

“The citrulline-arginine relationship helps heart health, the immune system and may prove to be very helpful for those who suffer from obesity and type 2 diabetes,” said Patil. “Arginine boosts nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels, the same basic effect that Viagra has, to treat erectile dysfunction and maybe even prevent it.”

While there are many psychological and physiological problems that can cause impotence, extra nitric oxide could help those who need increased blood flow, which would also help treat angina, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems.

“Watermelon may not be as organ specific as Viagra,” Patil said, “but it’s a great way to relax blood vessels without any drug side-effects.”

The benefits of watermelon don’t end there, he said. Arginine also helps the urea cycle by removing ammonia and other toxic compounds from our bodies.

Citrulline, the precursor to arginine, is found in higher concentrations in the rind of watermelons than the flesh. As the rind is not commonly eaten, two of Patil’s fellow scientists, drs. Steve King and Hae Jeen Bang, are working to breed new varieties with higher concentrations in the flesh.

In addition to the research by Texas A&M, watermelon’s phyto-nutrients are being studied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service in Lane, Oklahoma.

As an added bonus, these studies have also shown that deep red varieties of watermelon have displaced the tomato as the lycopene king, Patil said. Almost 92 percent of watermelon is water, but the remaining 8 percent is loaded with lycopene, an anti-oxidant that protects the human heart, prostate and skin health.

“Lycopene, which is also found in red grapefruit, was historically thought to exist only in tomatoes,” he said. “But now we know that it’s found in higher concentrations in red watermelon varieties.”

Lycopene, however, is fat-soluble, meaning that it needs certain fats in the blood for better absorption by the body, Patil said.

“Previous tests have shown that lycopene is much better absorbed from tomatoes when mixed in a salad with oily vegetables like avocado or spinach,” Patil said. “That would also apply to the lycopene from watermelon, but I realize mixing watermelon with spinach or avocadoes is a very hard sell.”

No studies have been conducted to determine the timing of the consumption of oily vegetables to improve lycopene absorption, he said.

“One final bit of advice for those Fourth of July watermelons you buy,” Patil said. “They store much better uncut if you leave them at room temperature. Lycopene levels can be maintained even as it sits on your kitchen floor. But once you cut it, refrigerate. And enjoy. It is suggested that you would have to eat 1560g of water melon as a starting dose to see “performance increases”

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Akilah M. El, N.D. is a Naturopathic Doctor and board-certified Master Herbalist with a private practice in Atlanta Georgia and Berlin Germany. Join Dr Akilah El on Facebook and Twitter

For More Health Tips Like This Check Out Our Health Tips Page

The Health Benefits of Cinnamon

Benefits of Cinnamon have been known for over 5,000 years and were recognised by the Egyptians, Ancient Romans, and in Ayurvedic Medicine in Ceylon. Cinnamon is the brown bark of the Cinnamon tree, and is available in a dried, tubular form known as a quills, or as a Ground powder.

Benefits of Cinnamon include

• lower LDL cholesterol ( the bad cholesterol ), total cholesterol, and triglycerides.

• have a regulatory effect on blood sugar levels, making it particularly helpful for people that suffer from type 2 diabetes.

• have an anti-clotting effect on the blood.

• inhibit bacterial growth and food spoilage when added to food, making it a natural food preservative.

• boost cognitive function and memory when smelt.

• a source of manganese, fibre, iron, and calcium.

• the combination of calcium and fibre in cinnamon can help to remove bile, which prevents damage to colon, which helps prevent colon cancer.

• stop the growth of bacteria and fungi (such as the common yeast, Candida)

However you must ensure that you buy real Cinnamon and not Cassia a substitute for real Cinnamon. The Cinnamon sold in the USA and Canada is mostly Casssia.

Research on Cinnamon

Studies have shown that just 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon per day can lower LDL cholesterol.

Several studies suggest that cinnamon may have a regulatory effect on blood sugar, making it especially beneficial for people with Type 2 diabetes.

In some studies, cinnamon has shown an amazing ability to stop medication-resistant yeast infections.

In a study published by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maryland, cinnamon reduced the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.

It has an anti-clotting effect on the blood.

In a study at Copenhagen University, patients given half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder combined with one tablespoon of honey every morning before breakfast had significant relief in arthritis pain after one week and could walk without pain within one month.

When added to food, it inhibits bacterial growth and food spoilage, making it a natural food preservative.

One study found that smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive function and memory.

Researchers at Kansas State University found that cinnamon fights the E. coli bacteria in unpasteurized juices.

It is a great source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium.

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Akilah M. El, N.D. is a Naturopathic Doctor and board-certified Master Herbalist with a private practice in Atlanta Georgia and Berlin Germany. Join Dr Akilah El on Facebook and Twitter

For More Health Tips Like This Check Out Our Health Tips Page

 

Hamburgers Linked To Asthma In Children

Children who eat a Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of developing asthma, but eating three or more burgers a week is linked to a higher risk, research suggests.

Researchers looked at 50,000 children from 20 countries.

Writing in the journal Thorax, they said eating fruit, vegetables and fish appeared to protect against asthma.

But they said eating burgers could be linked to other unhealthy habits, which may be the real trigger factor.

The study looked at the habits of children in both wealthy and poorer countries between 1995 and 2005. Parents were asked about their children’s diets, and whether they had ever been diagnosed with asthma or had suffered wheezing.

The effects of their diet seemed to vary depending on where they lived.

Fruit and vegetables appeared to be more protective in less affluent parts of the world, while eating lots of fish was more helpful in richer countries.

Eating at least three burgers a week was linked to a greater risk of asthma and wheezing, but only in wealthier countries.

Dr Gabriele Nagel, one of the authors, said this may be because asthma is a collection of symptoms rather than a single condition, and different things may trigger it in different parts of the world.

“This gives us more understanding of how asthma affects different people, and its effects in developing as well as developed countries,” she said.

The paper suggested that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables may be helpful because of the protective effects of antioxidants and vitamin C.

High levels of unhealthy fats in burgers could increase the risk of asthma. However, the authors said children who ate several burgers a week were likely to have other unhealthy lifestyle habits as well.

The study did not adjust for levels of obesity.

Obesity link

Asthma UK said the paper helped add to the understanding of how asthma and diet are connected.

But it urged caution because children’s weight can have a significant influence on asthma symptoms.

Dr Elaine Vickers, research relations manager at Asthma UK, said: “Previous studies have shown that a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruit and vegetables can help to reduce a child’s risk of developing asthma symptoms.

“Our advice to parents is therefore to ensure that children eat a healthy, balanced diet and also get plenty of exercise.”

Dr Keith Prowse from the British Lung Foundation said further investigation was needed for more conclusive evidence about the effects of diet and lifestyle.

“We would like to reinforce the need for children to have a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle,” he said.

 

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Akilah M. El, N.D. is a Naturopathic Doctor and board-certified Master Herbalist with a private practice in Atlanta Georgia and Berlin Germany. Join Dr Akilah El on Facebook and Twitter

For More Health Tips Like This Check Out Our Health Tips Page

The Health Benefits of Psyllium Husk

Psyllium husk benefits are multiple and well documented.  It’s the fiber supplement I most often suggest to clients who may benefit from more fiber than they can consume in their diet.   In the my office in Berlin Germany as well as my wellness center in Atlanta Georgia I am constantly faced with clients who will benefit from a fiber supplement.  Their conditions  consist of hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis, constipation and watery diarrhea.  In our western diets we consume far less fiber than ideal for our bodies.  As a consequence we often struggle with bowel issues that are nearly unheard of in cultures where refined grain products are not consumed.

There are lots of fiber supplement options on the market, and I have come to the conclusion that psyllium husk benefits of lowering cholesterol tip the scales toward using psyllium rather than over the counter medicine. 

Psyllium is quickly becoming one of the top recommendations for people using low-carb Atkins-style diets. It is very difficult to get enough fibre in a diet when you eliminate the carbohydrates in cereals, whole grains and fruits. Psyllium capsules are an easy way to take care of this problem. It fills you with fibre, reducing appetite without overstimulating the nervous system; a much healthier approach than other harsh stool softners prescribed by medical doctors.

Psyllium has been used for irritable bowel syndrome (a stress-related disorder with alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation). Because it will produce easy bowel movements with a loose stool, Psyllium is used by patients with anal fissures (cracks in the skin near the anus) and hemorrhoids and is often recommended following anal or rectal surgery, during pregnancy and as a secondary treatment in certain types of diarrhea.

Psyllium soaks up a significant amount of water in the digestive tract, thereby making stool firmer and, under these circumstances, slower to pass. Psyllium also has the additional advantages over other sources of fiber of reducing flatulence and bloating. It may be recommended by a physician to help soften stool and reduce the pain associated with hemorrhoids.

Psyllium husk  is what I consider the best option for most people.  You can also consume it as a powder and mix it into water or juice.  The key is to drink it immediately.  If left to sit it forms a gel that is essentially impossible to drink.  I tell my clients to mix a heaping, snow-shovel heaping, teaspoon in a small cup of water and to gulp it down.  Then chase it with a large glass of water to dilute it in the stomach.  Done this way it is palatable.  Psyllium husk unlike others OTC colon cleansers helps lower cholesterol, helps modulate postprandial glucose if taken with a meal, and helps lower the risk of heart disease.

Psyllium husk benefits digestion by keeping the colon contents moist, malleable, and in this way reduces cramps, pain, and bowel irregularity in irritable bowel syndrome.  It is also helpful in managing chronic constipation, hemorrhoids and anal fissures by leading to soft but formed stool that is easily passed and reduces the need to strain.  In cases of watery diarrhea the psyllium husk benefits by absorbing water and giving more texture to the stool which makes control of the bowels easier.

Research reported in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concludes that the use of soluble-fiber cereals is an effective and well-tolerated part of a prudent diet for the treatment of mild to moderate Hypercholesterollaemia. Soluble fibers such as those in psyllium husk, guar gum, and oat bran have a cholesterol-lowering effect when added to a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. Studies reported in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have shown psyllium to be quite effective in lowering total as well as LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, which can be helpful to those with high cholesterol and those at increased risk for developing hypercholesterolemia, such as people with type 2 diabetes.

Studies and clinical reports suggest that psyllium may enhance the sensation of fullness and reduce hunger cravings. For these reasons, incorporating psyllium and other sources of fiber into the diet may aid weight loss.


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Akilah M. El, N.D. is a Naturopathic Doctor and board-certified Master Herbalist with a private practice in Atlanta Georgia and Berlin Germany. Join Dr Akilah El on Facebook and Twitter

For More Health Tips Like This Check Out Our Health Tips Page