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  • 15 Subtle Signs You’re Eating Too Much Junk Food Wednesday May 20th, 2020

    A bagel with cream cheese for breakfast. Salami on white bread for lunch. A blueberry muffin for a snack, followed by frozen chicken pot pie for dinner. What’s wrong with this picture? Besides the fact that your calorie count might be too high, all of these foods are highly processed. Here’s what you need to know about processed foods, including subtle signs that you’re eating too many of them.

    While junk food is delicious, it’s no secret that eating a lot of it isn’t great for your body. Here are some of the side effects of eating junk food—if you’re experiencing these, you may want to cut back.

    What are processed foods?

    Processed foods are those that have undergone any level of alterations once they’re plucked from nature—commonly freezing, canning, baking, or drying. “It’s food that’s been changed or made a bit different from its natural form,” says Torey Armul, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).

    Technically, processing can be as simple as precutting apple slices or washing and bagging salad. “Most foods are processed in some way unless you’re eating out of your garden,” says Angela Lemond, R.D. and AND spokesperson.

    In other words, not all processing is bad for you. “For a long time, we’ve been adding iron and minerals to grains and cereals in the U.S., and we’ve been able to reduce a lot of nutrient deficiency and save people’s lives,” she says.

    When most of us think of processed foods, however, we’re thinking of highly-processed stuff, like sodas, cookies, and candy, that simply don’t exist in nature and are slapped together in a factory. “Highly-processed foods tend to be made of too many of the wrong ingredients, like white flours, white sugars, and unhealthy fats. And they tend to have additives that increase fat, sodium, and sugarlevels to increase shelf life or palatability,” says Armul.

    The more whole and natural a food is, the better it is for you because it has more fiber, vitamins, and minerals, along with a better balance of macronutrients (i.e. protein, carbs, and fat). But keep in mind, the amount of processing in similar foods can vary quite a bit—and it matters.

    For example, consider bread. The whole-grain stuff includes all three parts of the grain: the kernel, bran, and seed. But in white bread, the bran, which contains a lot of the food’s fiber, vitamins, and minerals, is pulled out. “I try to get people to eat more food in its most whole form. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have bread because it’s processed. That’s when it goes overboard,” says Lemond.

    How much processed food is too much?

    While experts won’t put a number on the maximum amount of processed foods you should eat in a day or week, they recommend making a majority of your meals and snacks whole, natural foods. That means loading up on fresh fruits and veggies, lean protein, nuts, beans, and legumes. “I would say one processed food a meal is a place to start,” says Armul. Not sure if you’re eating way too much of the packaged stuff? Here are 15 side effects of processed food to look out for.

    1

    You’re thirsty all the time.

    Packaged foods tend to be loaded with sodium to improve taste and to prolong shelf life. All that salt, however, can make you thirsty by displacing it from where your body really needs it. “Sodium draws water out of your system, so you need to drink more to stay hydrated,” says Lemond.

    Keep in mind, if you’re really active or it’s very hot outside, you’ll need to drink more water. And some people process sodium differently, so you might feel super thirsty after a serving of fries while your friend is just fine. But if you’re constantly thirsty despite sipping on lots of beverages, it might be worth looking into the amount of highly-processed foods in your diet.

    2

    You’re feeling bloated.

    All of that excess salt intake inevitably leads to water retention—i.e. bloating and swelling—which tends to pool in your hands, ankles, and feet. “Sodium removes water from the cellswhere it’s needed, and it collects in these other areas,” says Armul.

    Getting more of another electrolyte, potassium—found in natural, plant-based foods like bananas, sweet potatoes, and plain yogurt—counteracts sodium. “Potassium and sodium work in a balance, so having enough can help counteract the negative effects of too much sodium,” says Armul. In just one to three days of swapping processed for these potassium-rich foods, you’ll very likely feel a whole lot lighter and less swollen, she says.

    3

    You get regular headaches.

    Dehydration is a common source of headaches, researchers say. Too much salt in your diet pulls the water out of your cells, where it’s needed—and that can make you dehydrated, even if your body as a whole is retaining more water. “Sodium is the main cause of dehydration headaches,” says Armul.

    In addition, foods that are aged, fermented, or prepared to last on the shelf—like processed meats, canned foods, and pickled foods—contain preservatives and additives like the amino acid tyramine, which can cause headaches in certain people, according to the National Headache Foundation. “These foods can increase vasoconstriction, which causes headaches,” says Lemond.

    Not sure how much sodium is too much? Armul says any food that has 400 milligrams of sodium or more per serving is a red flag. “Each person’s sodium needs vary, so that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a deal-breaker,” she says. “But sodium content adds up quickly in a day, especially if you tend to eat more processed, restaurant, or takeout foods. So more than 400 milligrams should be considered a ‘watch what else you’re eating’ that day.”

    4

    Your teeth are a mess.

    Regularly chowing down on foods packed with simple carbs like candy and chips will do a number on your teeth. According to the American Dental Association, these kinds of simple sugars lead to cavities by feeding the bacteria in your mouth, which in turn produce acids that damage your tooth enamel. Sodasand sports drinks are particularly bad for your pearly whites. They’re acidic, and acid attacks tooth enamel, says Ansel.

    5

    Your hair is thinning.

    Have your locks lost their shine? When you’re eating too many processed foods, you rob your body of nutrients that are essential for a thick, healthy mane. The next time you’re craving for some crunch, pass on the bag of chips and go for a handful of walnuts.These nuts are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which will help you grow stronger, longer tresses.

    6

    You’re tired and foggy.

    Eating processed foods with loads of simple sugar—which includes, of course, straight-up sugar but also white flour and “natural sweeteners” like fruit juice—quickly spikes your blood sugar. Your insulin levels follow in order to transfer glucose—your body’s main fuel source—into your cells. But what comes up quickly comes down, leaving you feeling tired and mentally pooped.

    Whole foods like fruits, veggies, and whole grains, however, contain fiber. And lean meats, dairy, nuts, and legumes contain fats and protein. Fiber, healthy fats, and protein, in turn, help slow down the absorption of glucose, helping you to maintain more stable energy all day long. “Eating the right amounts of the right nutrients at the right times throughout the day can fuel your brain and help with concentration and focus,” says Armul.

    7

    You’re feeling down and you don’t know why.

    “Processed foods can lead to volatile ebbs and flows in energy, where a healthy balanced diet can lead to more stable moods,” says Armul. That’s in part because processed foods are high in simple carbs, which not only spike your insulin but also release certain feel-good neurotransmitters (chemicals in your brain that regulate your moods) like serotonin. While that might make you feel zippy for a minute, your levels quickly drop off, leaving you more likely to feel down soon after, explains Karen Ansel, MS, RDN, CDN.

    Eat more whole foods, however, and you’re likely to get a longer-lasting mood boost. “Studies have found that healthy foods like fruits and veggies naturally improve your mood by boosting neurotransmitters,” says Armul. That effect is prolonged by the healthy fiber slowing down absorption. In fact, a 2018 study even found that eating more raw fruits and veggies was associated with fewer depressive symptoms, anxiety, and negative moods than diets with more processed versions of the same foods.

    And while filling up frozen pizza and donuts can make you feel guilty, piling your plate with leafy greens and quinoa feeds a positive emotional cycle around food. “People tend to eat better when they feel better,” says Armul.

    8

    You can’t lose weight.

    If your diet mainstays include foods like burgers and cookies, there’s a good chance you’re eating too many calories—and not necessarily because these foods are calorie bombs. “A lot of highly-processed foods don’t tend to have a lot of fullness-causing nutrients like lean protein, healthy fats, and fiber, all of which are very important for filling you up and keeping you full,” says Armul.

    That means that after downing a cupcake, you’re more likely to feel hungry againquicker than if you snack on Greek yogurt and a handful of berries. You’ll then go back for a refill sooner—and ultimately eat more calories throughout the day, sabotaging your weight loss goals. “We know when you focus on diet quality, it’s a lot more satisfying, and calories balance naturally,” says Lemond.

    9

    Your bones break easily.

    If your diet is filled with processed foods, there’s a good chance you’re missing out on foods like dairy, fish, and dark leafy greens that supply calcium and vitamin D, which that work together to fortify your bones. “So many people are missing out on these, which can lead to poor bone health,” says Armul.

    What’s more, eating too many salty foods leaches calcium from your body, leading to bone loss, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Some research has also found that sugary soda may be linked to bone loss and bone fractures.

    10

    You’re breaking out.

    Most acne has to do with factors that are definitely out of your control, including genetics and hormones. With that said, some research has linked a high-sugar diet to breakouts. That’s because a high-sugar diet is believed to boost the production of certain hormones that cause inflammatory hormonal acne, which typically appears around the jawline and the mouth, says Bruce Robinson, MD, a board-certified, New York City-based dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at Lenox Hill Hospital. While it’s far from a surefire solution, cutting out added sugars is a worthwhile tactic to try and tame pimples.

    11

    Your grocery bill is through the roof.

    Here’s one sign of processed-food overload that you might not expect: Processed foods actually tend to be more expensive than whole ones, says Armul. So if you’re spending too much on your food budget, you might want to check your grocery list. “A lot of money goes into packaging and processing foods. Single-serving foods are more expensive than buying in bulk and preparing meals yourself at home ahead of time and portioning [them] out,” she says.

    12

    Your blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels are high.

    While you won’t really know whether your blood glucose, cholesterol, triglyceride, or blood pressure levels are off until you visit your doctor’s office, they can all be excellent indicators of how healthy—or unbalanced—your diet really is. Because processed foods tend to be higher in trans fats and sodium, eating more of them can increase your cholesterol levels and blood pressure, respectively, says Armul.

    High sugar can also affect your triglyceride (fat) levels in your blood, adds Lemond. “High blood fats from eating a highly-processed diet lowers levels of good (i.e. HDL) cholesterol levels,” she says. All of these levels are linked to heart disease and other chronic health conditions.

    13

    Your glucose levels are high.

    If you’re already prone to insulin resistance—say it runs in your family, or your doctor has noted your blood glucose levels are out of whack in the past—processed foods won’t help. “Processed foods tend to be high in simple carbs and added sugars, which will increase your blood sugar if you don’t have adequate insulin,” says Armul.

    With that said, diabetes, in particular, is a complex condition that’s based a lot on genetics, so it’s impossible to say that processed foods are a direct cause. “Some people can eat lots of processed foods their whole lives and will never develop diabetes. But for the nearly one in 10 Americans who have diabetes or prediabetes, it’s a real concern,” she says.

    14

    You’re moody.

    If you’re in the mood for no good reason, take a closer look at your diet. Processed chemicals can affect how you feel because those foods aren’t actually giving your body any adequate nutrition.

    15

    You have cellulite.

    Although genes play a huge role, you can reduce the appearance of cellulite by eliminating processed foods from your diet. Deli meats, for example, cause water retention that makes your dimpled skin look even worse. And the sugar in soda weakens your skin’s elasticity and collagen, making cellulite easier to see. Find out more with our list of 21 Best and Worst Foods for Cellulite.

    Source: Eat This

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  • COVID-19 Deaths Are Being Linked to Vitamin D Deficiency. Here’s What That Means Saturday May 02nd, 2020

    A vitamin commonly produced by sun-exposed skin cells might play a role in preventing death by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, according to new research.

    Preliminary results from a yet-to-be-peer-reviewed study carried out by scientists from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Foundation Trust and the University of East Anglia have linked low levels of the hormone vitamin D with COVID-19 mortality rates across Europe.

    It’s a study that certainly deserves some attention as a potential piece of the coronavirus puzzle, reminding us that health and disease can be a complex affair involving a variety of lifestyle factors.

    But it’s also important to interpret evidence like this as part of a bigger scientific conversation, meaning it would be premature to make any recommendations and certainlyway too premature to hit the supplement aisle before further evidence arrives.

    The researchers dug through existing health literature to catalogue the average levels of vitamin D among the citizens of 20 European countries, and then compared the figures with the relative numbers of COVID-19 deaths in each country.

    A simple statistical test showed there was a pretty convincing correlation between the figures, where populations with lower than average concentrations of the vitamin also featured more deaths from SARS-CoV-2.

    “The most vulnerable group of population for COVID-19 is also the one that has the most deficit in vitamin D,” the researchers conclude in their preliminary report.

    Cross-sectional reports like these aren’t without their problems, doing little more than suggesting some kind of relationship might exist. People who tend to have higher vitamin D levels in their body might be doing something else that helps limit destruction caused by the virus, for example.

    But the results aren’t surprising either, falling in line with previous, more robust studies that also suggest healthy vitamin D levels can reduce the risk of respiratory infections such as influenza and tuberculosis, as well as childhood asthma.

    Vitamin D is a fat-soluble compound we can either get as a nutrient from foods like mushrooms or fish, or produced in our skin when a form of cholesterol reacts to UV light.

    Commonly known for its role in maintaining calcium levels in our bones, deficiency in this vitamin is responsible for skeletal deformities such as rickets as well as an increased risk of bone degeneration behind conditions such as osteoporosis.

    Researchers are gradually piecing together the vitamin’s functions in the immune system as well, noting its relationship with autoimmune conditions and the discovery of receptors for the chemical on various immune cells.

    Just how it might combat coronavirus infections – if at all – is sure to be a popular subject in future studies.

    Meanwhile, as uncontroversial as the results might be, a single study ahead of peer review shouldn’t be the basis for medical advice. Science just doesn’t support making the leap between reading about healthy amounts of vitamin D in the blood and popping a supplement.

    In 2017, medical researchers Mark J Bolland from the University of Auckland in New Zealand and Alison Avenell from the University of Aberdeen in the UK argued the need for caution over how we interpret studies not unlike this one.

    “Vitamin D supplementation is a hot topic, provoking passionate arguments for and against widespread supplementation,” they write in an editorial on the diverse array of studies on the subject in the past decade.

    Results might look positive, but there’s just no way to turn a jumble of statistics into precise recommendations that can be tailored for individual needs. Even the World Health Organisation is tentative about using past research as the basis of specific recommendations.

    “We think that they should be viewed as hypothesis generating only, requiring confirmation in well-designed, adequately powered randomised controlled trials,” Bolland and Avenell write.

    Research that speculates a single, commonly available vitamin might make the difference between life and death can seem like a potential life raft in choppy waters, but we need more research to tell us just how and why these patterns exist for us to balance the risks that come with vitamin supplements.

    In the midst of a pandemic that has the potential to claim thousands of lives around the world every week, science feels painstakingly slow. But it’s always worth the wait.

    The paper is available as a pre-print on Research Square.

    Source: Science Alert

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  • COVID-19 Qing Fei Pai Du Tang Formula Composition Wednesday March 18th, 2020

    PDF

    COMPOSITION:

    • Ma Huang (Ephedra stem) 9g

    • Zhi Gan Cao (Prepared Chinese licorice root) 6g

    • Ku Xing Ren (Apricot seed) 9g

    • Shi Gao (Gypsum) 15-30g

    • Gui Zhi (Cassia twig) 9g

    • Ze Xie (Asian water plantain rhizome) 9g

    • Zhu Ling (Zhu ling sclerotium) 9g

    • Bai Zhu (bai-zhu atractylodes rhizome) 9g

    • Fu Ling (Poria sclerotium) 15g

    • Chai Hu (Bupleurum root) 16g

    • Huang Qin (Barbed skullcap root) 6g

    • Jiang Ban Xia (Pinellia rhizome cured with ginger) 9g

    • Zi Wan (Tartarian aster root) 9g

    • Sheng Jiang (Fresh ginger rhizome) 9g

    • Kuan Dong Hua (Coltsfoot flower bud) 9g

    • She Gan (Belamcanda rhizome) 9g

    • Xi Xin (Chinese wild ginger root & rhizome) 6g

    • Shan Yao (Chinese yam rhizome) 12g

    • Zhi Shi (Bitter orange immature fruit) 6g

    • Chen Pi (Tangerine dried rind) 6g

    • Huo Xiang (Chinese giant hyssop aerial part) 9g

    How Does Qing Fei Pai Du Tang Work?

    Zhang Boli, a member of the Chinese central government’s expert committee for coronavirus treatment, member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and director of personnel at Jiangxia TCM hospital in Wuhan, perhaps said it best, quoting a tenet of TCM philosophy:

    “When the right force (Qi) is preserved, the evils have no place to stay.”

    The evil that Dr. Zhang is referring to is an external pathogenic attack such as coronavirus. Qing Fei Pai Du Tang, on a top-level theory, expels the evil, viral insult.

    In addition to Qing Fei Pai Du Tang, Dr. Zhang also recommends the formula Sheng Mai Yin to support Qi. (From a Western perspective, Sheng Mai Yin increases blood-oxygen saturation levels, thus improving respiration.)

    According to TCM theory, coronavirus is an epidemic damp disease (湿疫), ranging from damp cold to damp heat, depending on the stage of disease progress and individual conditions. Qing Fei Pai Du Tang works by releasing the exterior, clearing heat and phlegm, and promoting water removal; the formula is acrid and cooling in nature.

    Is There Proof That Qing Fei Pai Du Tang Works?

    As mentioned in our previous blog post, the formula has been dispensed to coronavirus patients throughout China with successful results.

    In one study announced by China’s State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 701 confirmed coronavirus cases treated by Qing Fei Pai Du were analyzed. The 701 cases spanned 57 medical institutions in 10 provinces. Out of the 701 patients, 130 were cured and discharged; symptoms of 51 patients completely disappeared; 268 patients showed improvement in symptoms, and 212 presented with stable symptoms (those symptoms did not worsen).

    Containing 21 herbal ingredients, Qing Fei Pai Du Tang has been used to treat thousands of patients, ranging from the mild to severe.

    Before taking Qing Fei Pai Du Tang, 112 cases presented with a body temperature exceeding 37.3°C (99.14 F). After the herbal decoction was taken for just one day, 51.8% of the patients returned to normal temperature. After taking the remedy for six days, 94.6% of patients’ temperatures returned to normal.

    And out of the 701 cases, 214 patients presented with cough symptoms. After one day of taking Qing Fei Pai Du Tang, 46.7% of the patients’ cough symptoms disappeared. After six days, that figure increased to 80.6% of patients.

    TCM doctors also observed taking Qing Fei Pai Du Tang lessened the severity of other symptoms such as fatigue, poor appetite, and sore throat.

    Of the 701 patients, detailed, completed case information of 351 patients has become available. And out of the 351 patients, none of the patients categorized as “light and ordinary” (i.e., mild) were downgraded to severe or critically ill; 3 of the 22 severe patients were cured and discharged; 8 were improved to general condition, and a total of 46 patients were cured and discharged.

    How Is Qing Fei Pai Du Tang Made?

    Unfortunately, the remedy is not available in tablet format. Rather, the herbs are cooked as an herbal decoction. It is administered once in the morning and once in the evening, 40 minutes after food.

    The unique ratio of each herb can be altered by a TCM expert, depending on an individual’s condition. For example, with high fever, the dosage of Shi Gao (Gypsum) is increased.

    TCM experts recommend drinking a bowl of rice porridge (congee) after consuming the decoction. If a patient presents with thirst and dryness of the throat, two bowls of congee should be served.

    Each treatment period lasts three days. If symptoms disappear, TCM experts advise to stop using the remedy, as it is not intended for maintenance.

    Conclusion

    According to research published in Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines, the cure rate of novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP) was a paltry 2% in the early days of the virus. More recently, in certain provincial areas, the cure rate for NCP, which, is, of course, one of the most critical symptoms, has reached 40%.

    So while the world waits with bated breath for a COVID-19 vaccine or cure, the TCM remedy, Qing Fei Pai Du Tang has successfully managed symptoms of thousands of patients in China.

    References:

    Traditional Chinese Medicine: an effective treatment for 2019 novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP)

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