Foraging in Freezing Weather Uncovers Bounty of Wild Edibles

winterAs the temperature drops and snow begins to fall, many foragers put their baskets away until the first whispers of morels in spring. On closer inspection there is much for a forager still to find. Trails are lined with winter edibles which can be made into delicious meals all winter long. Continue reading

43 Natural Alternatives for Colds and Flu

Dandelion Health Benefits

dandelion… a common weed has such astonishing medicinal benefits that gardeners may want to start growing it instead of uprooting it?

While gardeners can’t get rid of the dreaded dandelion fast enough, Western medicine is eager for more of this potent medicinal plant.  Used for centuries by herbalists for healing and preventative purposes, scientific scrutiny confirms that Continue reading

Seven Ways to Supercharge Your Immune System Fast

In a 2002 Jon Rapoport interview of a retired vaccine industry researcher turned whistleblower, the whistleblower, whose identity is protected, dismisses the false premise of vaccinations creating immunity by stimulating antibodies.

Here is part of what he told Jon, … “the immune system is much larger and more involved than antibodies and their related killer cells.” Jon responded with, “The immune system is?”

The scientist/whistleblower responded with, Continue reading

Four Bitter Herbs Heal the Liver, Gall Bladder, and Other Ailments

Certain bitter herbs are considered liver herbs because they stimulate, cleanse, and protect the liver and gall bladder. While Western palates are not fond of bitter tasting foods, they do stimulate and support digestion. German research shows that bitter tonic herbs stimulate bile and hydrochloric acid production. They stimulate nervous system and immune system function, Continue reading

Discover a Common Yard Weed that’s Proven to Kill Cancer Cells

 Most natural health advocates know that dandelion is a good liver tonic. But now research is showing that it’s also a cancer fighter. This research discovery occurred at Windsor University in Windsor, Canada.

A Windsor University biochemist, Siyaram Pandey, reluctantly took up dandelion research from a Windsor oncologist’s suggestion. Dr. Caroline Hamm noticed a few cancer patients who had been drinking dandelion tea seemed to be getting better. Continue reading

Super Healing Powers Found in these Nutritious Foods

As part of a healthy diet, whole foods play a significant role in helping our bodies function at their best. There are hundreds of extremely nutritious whole foods, but the dozen on this list do more than contribute healthy nutrients — they help you heal. In fact, every food on this list boasts multiple healing effects, from fighting cancer to reducing cholesterol, guarding against heart disease, and more. Eat these super-healing picks and start feeling pretty super yourself.

Kiwifruit

This tiny, nutrient-dense fruit packs an amazing amount of vitamin C (double the amount found in oranges), has more fiber than apples, and beats bananas as a high-potassium food. The unique blend of phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals  Continue reading

7 Natural Ways to Lower Radiation

Radiation worries are at an all-time high as we watch the unfolding events in Japan. At my own practice, many anxious patients and readers have called this past week wanting to know the health impact of radiation from Japan’s nuclear reactor meltdown. This article is intended to address your radiation concerns, relating both to the reactor meltdown and general exposure in everyday life, as well as what you can do to naturally protect yourself from exposure and reduce radiation load in your body.

Radioactivity from Japan has little impact on people in the U.S.

So far, the news is reporting that the four reactors in partial meltdown spewed radiation as high as 500 meters or 1,640 feet, according to John Beddington, U.K.’s Chief science officer. For some perspective, compare to the Chernobyl blast, which sent radioactive particles 30,000 feet high for months. Reports from last week found that minute radiation was detected in Sacramento, but the amount was extremely minor — one-millionth of what people get from natural background radiation. Health officials assured us that it posed no threats to residents on the west coast of the United States.

That said, you should take care to avoid foodstuff grown or raised near the fallout zone.  Continue reading

Coffee Can Give Kids Sleepless Nights, Breathing Problems

TORONTO – Giving coffee to babies won’t keep them awake as in case of adults, in fact the hot beverage would have a long-lasting and detrimental effect on little ones’ sleep and breathing patterns in adulthood, says a new study.

Breathing problems are the leading causes of hospitalization and death in premature babies. These babies are therefore often given caffeine because of its qualities as a respiratory stimulant.

Up till now, the long-term effects of this treatment in humans have not been examined.

However, in the Journal of Physiology, Gaspard Montandon and colleagues showed that the use of caffeine in neonates can cause serious alterations in the sleeping patterns of adult rats as a result of its effect on the developing respiratory system.

Sleep abnormality is a significant indicator for ill health and reduced life span.

When the caffeine-treated rats reached adulthood, their sleeping time was reduced, the length of time they took to reach the first stage of sleep was increased, and their non-REM sleep was fragmented. Breathing at rest was higher than in rats not treated with caffeine.

In his review of the study, F1000 Faculty Member James Duffin of the University of Toronto says the results “raise concerns about the long-term consequences of neonatal caffeine administration on brain development and behavior.”

Introducing – Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep. It also appears to influence other hormones in the body. Melatonin supplements have become popular as natural sleep aids.

The amount of melatonin we produce is determined by how dark or light our surroundings are. Our eyes have specialized light-sensitive receptors that relay this message to a cluster of nerves in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN. The SCN sets our internal biological clock, also called our circadian rhythm, which regulates a variety of body functions including sleep.

Melatonin is made from an amino acid called tryptophan. When our surroundings are dark, the SCN tells the pineal gland to produce melatonin, which is thought to trigger sleep. Some melatonin is also made in the stomach and intestines.

Melatonin levels were originally thought to decline with age. Early reports said that a person’s melatonin levels peaked at age 20 and gradually decreased to 20% at age 80. This theory was used to explain why many older people have sleep difficulties. Melatonin supplements became marketed as a “youth hormone,” contributing to its rise in popularity. Recent evidence, however, suggests that melatonin levels don’t actually decline with age.

Why Do People Use Melatonin Supplements

Melatonin supplements are popular as natural sleep aids for the following sleep disorders:

    * Jet Lag

      Travel across time zones disrupts the circadian rhythm. Evidence suggests that melatonin supplements can decrease jet-lag symptoms, particularly in people traveling eastward and/or crossing five or more time zones. Melatonin has been found to lessen the time it takes to fall asleep, reduce daytime tiredness, and boost alertness during the day.

      The best results occur when melatonin supplements are started on the day of travel and taken at the desired bedtime at the destination. It is usually taken for several days. Melatonin doesn’t work for everyone: Evidence suggests that approximately half of the people who take melatonin notice an improvement.

    * Shift Work

      Although night shift work also disrupts the circadian rhythm, the evidence that melatonin can improve sleep after night shift work is less solid. It also hasn’t been found to improve alertness during shift work. More research is necessary.

    * Insomnia in Older Adults

      A number of studies have found that melatonin supplements taken between half an hour and two hours prior to the desired bedtime can shorten the time it takes older adults to fall asleep. It isn’t clear, however, whether melatonin can help people stay asleep.

    * General Sleep Improvement

      Melatonin appears to lessen the time it takes to fall asleep, promote sleepiness, and lengthen sleep time when taken by healthy people. Most studies have been small and short in duration, so more research is needed.

    * Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome

      Delayed sleep phase syndrome is a circadian rhythm disorder. People have trouble falling asleep until late at night and then have difficulty waking in the morning. Melatonin may help establish a regular sleep-wake cycle.

    * Sleep Problems in Children with Neuro-Psychiatric Disorders

      There have been a number of well-designed studies and case reports on the use of melatonin in children with neuro-psychiatric disorders that result in sleep difficulties, such as autism, psychiatric disorders, visual impairment, or epilepsy. The studies conducted so far suggest that melatonin can shorten the time to fall asleep and lengthen sleep duration.

Additional Uses

Although the evidence is unclear, melatonin has been studied for the following conditions:

    * Cancer

      Melatonin has been studied for cancer, primarily using lab animals and human cells in test tubes. Although results have been promising, there isn’t enough evidence to determine whether melatonin is safe or effective, and whether or not it might decrease the effectiveness of cancer therapies.

    * Withdrawal From Benzodiazepine Medications

      There is some evidence that melatonin may help ease the withdrawal symptoms in people who are decreasing their use of benzodiazepine drugs, often used for sleep disorders and anxiety.

    * Sleep Problems due to Specific Conditions

      Preliminary evidence suggests that melatonin may improve sleep for people with specific conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and diabetes.

    * Electromagnetic Field Exposure

      There is a theory that low-frequency electromagnetic fields (such as those in household appliances) may disrupt melatonin levels. Overall, studies with humans haven’t supported this theory.

Melatonin Side Effects and Safety Concerns

Melatonin is generally considered safe when used short-term and within the recommended dosages. There is no research on the long-term effects of melatonin supplements, particularly in higher doses.

Some experts consider the doses commonly found in melatonin supplements, 3 to 5 milligrams, to be far too high and say that amounts in the range of 0.1 to 0.5 milligrams are more reasonable.

Melatonin side effects may include drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, headache, irritability, vivid dreams, and a temporary reduction in attention and balance. People shouldn’t drive or use machinery for several hours after taking melatonin. Melatonin may cause abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting, lower blood pressure, and rarely, hallucinations or paranoia.

Melatonin may increase the risk of blood clotting, so it should not be used by people using warfarin (Coumadin), other medications that influence blood clotting, or by people with clotting disorders.

Melatonin Side Effects and Safety Concerns, cont’d

 

Melatonin influences the production of other hormones. It could theoretically interfere with normal sexual development, so it shouldn’t be used by children unless they are under the supervision of a healthcare provider. For the same reason, it shouldn’t be used by women who are trying to conceive or by pregnant or nursing women. Increased male breast size and reduced sperm count have also been reported. Melatonin may also affect insulin levels.

Melatonin can influence immune function and it’s not known how it affects people with autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and type 1 diabetes.

Melatonin supplements may worsen the symptoms in people with depression, so people with depression should only use melatonin under the supervision of a health care provider. Melatonin is broken down by the liver, so people with liver disease should avoid melatonin.

Possible Drug Interactions

Melatonin may interact with the following drugs:

    * High blood pressure medication

    * Drugs that suppress the immune system, such as cyclosporine

    * Antidepressant medication

    * Corticosteroids (used for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis)

    * Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium), and other drugs that cause sedation

    * Herbs that cause sleepiness or drowsiness, such as kava kava and valerian

    * The herb St. John’s wort

Health insurance Premiums Rose Modestly in 2009

LOS ANGELES – The cost of employer-sponsored health insurance rose modestly again this year, but researchers predict a return to bigger increases that may eventually produce crippling premiums if left unchecked.

Meanwhile, more workers with single coverage are facing high-deductible plans that make them pay $1,000 or more out of pocket before coverage starts, according to a report released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust, a nonprofit research organization affiliated with the American Hospital Association.

The average annual premium — the amount charged for a fully insured policy — rose 5 percent for the third straight year to surpass $13,000 for employer-sponsored family health coverage.

Employers picked up about 74 percent of that cost, while workers paid the rest. Single coverage remained relatively flat at an average of $4,824, with employers paying 84 percent.

The 2009 increases represent much smaller growth than just a few years ago. Premiums increased anywhere from 10 percent to 13 percent from 2000 to 2004.

But the 2009 numbers still outpaced inflation, which actually fell less than 1 percent, and Kaiser CEO Drew Altman said the slower growth likely will not last.

“We’ve historically seen these peaks and valleys before, and we always have a bounce back effect,” he said.

Experts say premium growth may be slower due to the recession and the possibility of health care reform, both of which make it harder for insurance companies to increase prices. It also may be impacted by growth in high-deductible plans, which generally come with lower premiums, and wellness programs that help employees lead healthier lifestyles in an attempt to pare medical costs.

But Altman said they haven’t seen anything meaningful done to address big drivers behind medical cost increases, like advances in expensive medical technology.

He expects premium increases to return to more typical growth of 7 percent to 9 percent annually, and that could lead to big numbers.

If annual premiums for family coverage grow by an average of 8.7 percent per year over the next decade — as they did from 1999 to 2009 — they will increase to more than $30,000, Altman predicted.

“That was a pretty shocking number,” he said. “It just underscores the urgency of reaching a stronger consensus about how we’re going to tackle the problem of health care costs.”

Premiums track directly with the cost of medical care, according to Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for the insurance industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, which was not involved in the study.

“In order to make health care coverage more affordable for families and small businesses, policymakers need to address the underlying cost drivers,” he said.

Congress is currently debating several bills that aim to lower costs and cover the uninsured. But benefits consultants have said that if any reform is passed this year, it won’t have a major impact for a few years.

Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust surveyed more than 3,000 employers from January to May. Their study does not include the federal government, and it does not estimate the number of workers who lost coverage due to company cuts or closings.

It also doesn’t measure the total cost of health care to employees, a figure that would include co-payments and other expenses.

The study also found that the percentage of workers enrolled in a single-coverage plan with an annual deductible of $1,000 or more increased to 22 percent this year from 18 percent 2008. These plans offer lower premiums but generally require the person covered to pay more out of pocket before insurance coverage starts. These higher upfront costs have been shown to cause some people to skip routine care or tests.

Among companies with less than 200 workers, that percentage rose to 40 percent this year from 35 percent in 2008 and only 16 percent in 2006.

A total of 60 percent of companies surveyed in 2009 offered benefits, down from 66 percent in 1999. Only 46 percent of companies with three to nine employees offered benefits, down from 56 percent 10 years ago.

The study also reports that 21 percent of companies offering coverage reduced the scope of their benefits or increased cost sharing due to the economy. A total of 15 percent said they increased the worker’s share of the premium.

 

Genetically Engineered Dandelion Can Ooze More Rubber

MUNICH – Scientists have developed a genetically engineered dandelion that produces more latex that could be used in gloves, tires and drugs.

For thousands of years, most of the world’s rubber has come from tropical rubber trees.

A diagonal cut in the trunk allows the white latex to drip into hanging cans, which can then be harvested and eventually turned into a variety of materials.

But, natural rubber contains trace amounts of biological impurities.

For car Tire makers, those impurities give vulcanized rubber a give and elasticity they can’t get anywhere else.

For some hospital workers, however, those same impurities can trigger life-threatening allergic reactions.

Synthetic or petroleum-based rubber typically has fewer impurities than natural rubber, which makes it ideal for applications like allergy-free gloves.

But, according to a report in ABC Science, dandelion-derived latex has both the elasticity of natural rubber but lacks the allergens, making it an ideal alternative to rubber tree latex.

Unfortunately, dandelion-derived latex is also difficult to obtain.

Because dandelion latex transforms from a liquid to a solid on contact with the air (known as polymerisation), turpentine and naphtha are usually required to chemically extract the latex from the shredded remains of Russian dandelions.

To eliminate polyphenol oxidase, the enzyme responsible for the phase change, German scientists engineered a special virus.

Once inside, the virus deleted the offending genetic sequence from the Russian dandelion’s DNA. Pop the head off an infected dandelion, and the latex begins to flow freely.

Eliminating polymerisation means dandelion latex can be harvested using a low-speed centrifuge, a much easier and cheaper alternative than chemical solvents.

It also means up to five times the amount of rubber can be harvested than with chemical extraction.