Lobelia (Lobelia inflata), also called Indian tobacco, has a long history of use as an herbal remedy for respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and cough. Historically, Native Americans smoked lobelia as a treatment for asthma. In the 19th century, American physicians prescribed lobelia to induce vomiting in order remove toxins from the body. Continue reading →
Migraine sufferers are often anxious to rid themselves of the terrible pain characterizing this condition. Health-conscious individuals choose natural treatments to avoid drug side effects. Many migraine sufferers don’t realize the effects certain foods and chemicals may have on their systems, contributing to the development of migraines, or to their resolution. Diet, herbs Continue reading →
If you have been drinking diet soda and chewing gum, chances are you have been enjoying aspartame in generous quantities. Aspartame is a popular sugar substitute that can be found in diet soda drinks, chewing gum, fruit spreads and sugar-free products to name a few. It is also known by the brand names, Sweet One, NutraSweet and Spoonful. Despite its popularity in the market, what many do not know is that aspartame accounts for 75 percent of side effect complaints received by the Adverse Reaction Monitoring System (ARMS) of the US Food and Drug Administration. Continue reading →
Getting answers is easy. Living the answers is where character and successes call home.
Why do most who’ll swear they want bigger and better continue to do what’s easy rather than what’s right? The reasons are no mystery. Some reasons have to do with comfort.
1. It’s common knowledge that it takes 2-4 weeks to change a habit or attitude. For many, this is a quick fact, yet something which is held as information-only, rather than used as a tool to inspire the shifting of personally limiting habits. We need to say “It’s true for me, not just “It’s true” or “It’s true for that other guy.”
Many folks treat their depression with psychotherapy or prescription antidepressant drugs. And though many experts think a combination of these two are effective, no scientific evidence supports this supposition. In reality, simple, natural measures like more sleep, exercise and efforts at sustaining a positive attitude work better to combat depression than medication. Continue reading →
WASHINGTON – A gene that influences how the brain responds to stress may also play a key role in depression, according to a new study.
Numerous studies have shown that the brain molecule neuropeptide Y (NPY) helps to restore calm after stressful events.
However, a team of University of Michigan-led researchers has found that people whose genes predispose them to produce lower levels of NPY have a more intense negative emotional response to stress and may be more likely to develop a major depressive disorder.
They now hope the research will eventually help with early diagnosis and intervention for depression and other psychiatric illnesses, and could help lead the way toward developing more individualized therapies.
“We’ve identified a biomarker – in this case genetic variation – that is linked with increased risk of major depression,” said the study’s senior author Jon-Kar Zubieta, a professor of psychiatry and radiology and research professor at the Molecular and Behavioral Neurosciences Institute.
“This appears to be another mechanism, independent of previous targets in depression research, such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine,” he added.
The study found that people who produce lower amounts of NPY had measurably stronger brain responses to negative stimuli and psychological responses to physical pain.
They were also over-represented in a population diagnosed with a major depressive disorder.
The researchers used three different approaches, each with a varying number of research subjects ranging from 58 to 152, to study the link between NPY gene expression and emotional processing.
First, they classified subject participants into three categories according to low, medium or high NPY expression.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), they then observed the brain activity as the subjects viewed different words – some neutral (such as ‘material’) negative (like ‘murderer’), and positive words (like ‘hopeful’).
In response to negative words, subjects in the low NPY group showed strong activation in the prefrontal cortex, which is involved with processing emotion, while subjects with high NPY demonstrated a much smaller response.
In the second trial, researchers looked at how subjects described their emotional state before and after a stress challenge in which saline solution was injected into their jaw muscles, causing moderate pain for about 20 minutes.
Those in the low NPY group were more negative both before and after the pain – meaning they were more emotionally affected while anticipating the pain and while reflecting on their experience immediately afterward.
Finally, the researchers compared the NPY genotypes of subjects with major depressive disorders with control subjects and found that people with low NPY were ‘over-represented’ in the group with depression.
“These are genetic features that can be measured in any person. We hope they can guide us toward assessing an individual’s risk for developing depression and anxiety,” said lead author Brian Mickey, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School.
The findings are published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Research shows that Velvet bean, a natural source of L-Dopa, improves the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. This herb has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries.
Mucuna pruriens, or Velvet bean, is an ancient herb that has received much attention in recent years because of its effectiveness in treating Parkinson’s disease, a debilitating neurological condition that affects millions, particularly with advancing age. Velvet bean’s active chemical ingredient is a natural form of dopamine, making it very specific for Parkinson’s disease, as well as for any disorder caused by insufficient levels of this critical neurotransmitter. Research has shown that when natural dopamine is chemically removed from the herb, Velvet bean is still effective against the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, indicating that the herb possesses multiple anti-Parkinsonian properties.
Velvet bean has been used as part of the traditional herbal treatment for Parkinson’s disease in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Empirical evidence gathered over this time strongly suggests that this treatment stops the progress of the disease by helping to regenerate the nervous system and arresting damage caused by free radicals. Herbal treatment has not been shown to reverse Parkinson’s disease, however.
Velvet Bean as an Herbal Alternative to L-Dopa
Due to the high concentration of naturally-occuring L-dopa in Velvet bean seeds, it has been studied intensively for its potential use in slowing the progress of Parkinson‘s, which is characterized by progressive degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in specific areas in the brain. Dopamine does not cross the blood-brain barrier and therefore cannot be used directly as a treatment. However, L-dopa does gain access to the brain-where it is converted to dopamine.
In a clinical trial, the effects of Velvet bean were compared with standard doses of L-dopa in Parkinson’s patients. For this study, eight Parkinson‘s patients were treated with a short duration L-dopa response and completed a randomized, controlled, double blind crossover trial. Compared with standard treatment, the velvet bean preparation proved to have a significantly faster effect. The average onset was approximately 22% faster with a dose of 30 g of Velvet bean extract than that of the standard drug treatment.
Further Research on Velvet Bean and Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
In a second clinical study, the efficacy of a traditional Ayurvedic treatment including Velvet bean was studied in 18 clinically diagnosed Parkinson’s disease patients. Patients whose herbal therapy was accompanied by traditional Ayurvedic cleansing experienced significant improvements in their Parkinson’s disease symptoms, particularly in motor activities. These patients showed reductions in tremors, radykinesia, stiffness and cramps as compared to patients receiving herbal therapy alone.
This research indicates that the naturally-occurring L-dopa contained in Velvet bean may offer advantages over conventional L-dopa preparations in the long-term management of Parkinson’s disease. The necessity of combining such treatment with whole-body cleansing, such as that traditionally administered in Ayurveda, significantly enhances the effectiveness of the herbal treatment.
Brain fitness has basic principles: variety and curiosity. When anything you do becomes second nature, you need to make a change. If you can do the crossword puzzle in your sleep, it’s time for you to move on to a new challenge in order to get the best workout for your brain. Curiosity about the world around you, how it works and how you can understand it will keep your brain working fast and efficiently. Use the ideas below to help attain your quest for mental fitness.
1. Play Games
Brain fitness programs and games are a wonderful way to tease and challenge your brain. Suduko, crosswords and electronic games can all improve your brain’s speed and memory. These games rely on logic, word skills, math and more. These games are also fun. You’ll get benefit more by doing these games a little bit every day — spend 15 minutes or so, not hours.
Daily meditation is perhaps the single greatest thing you can do for your mind/body health. Meditation not only relaxes you, it gives your brain a workout. By creating a different mental state, you engage your brain in new and interesting ways while increasing your brain fitness.
3. Eat for Your Brain
Your brain needs you to eat healthy fats. Focus on fish oils from wild salmon, nuts such as walnuts, seeds such as flax seed and olive oil. Eat more of these foods and less saturated fats. Eliminate transfats completely from your diet.
4. Tell Good Stories
Stories are a way that we solidify memories, interpret events and share moments. Practice telling your stories, both new and old, so that they are interesting, compelling and fun. Some basic storytelling techniques will go a long way in keeping people’s interest both in you and in what you have to say.
5. Turn Off Your Television
The average person watches more than 4 hours of television everyday. Television can stand in the way of relationships, life and more. Turn off your TV and spend more time living and exercising your mind and body.
6. Exercise Your Body To Exercise Your Brain
Physical exercise is great brain exercise too. By moving your body, your brain has to learn new muscle skills, estimate distance and practice balance. Choose a variety of exercises to challenge your brain.
7. Read Something Different
Books are portable, free from libraries and filled with infinite interesting characters, information and facts. Branch out from familiar reading topics. If you usually read history books, try a contemporary novel. Read foreign authors, the classics and random books. Not only will your brain get a workout by imagining different time periods, cultures and peoples, you will also have interesting stories to tell about your reading, what it makes you think of and the connections you draw between modern life and the words.
8. Learn a New Skill
Learning a new skill works multiple areas of the brain. Your memory comes into play, you learn new movements and you associate things differently. Reading Shakespeare, learning to cook and building an airplane out of toothpicks all will challenge your brain and give you something to think about.
9. Make Simple Changes
We love our routines. We have hobbies and pastimes that we could do for hours on end. But the more something is ‘second nature,’ the less our brains have to work to do it. To really help your brain stay young, challenge it. Change routes to the grocery store, use your opposite hand to open doors and eat dessert first. All this will force your brain to wake up from habits and pay attention again.
10. Train Your Brain
Brain training is becoming a trend. There are formal courses, websites and books with programs on how to train your brain to work better and faster. There is some research behind these programs, but the basic principles are memory, visualization and reasoning. Work on these three concepts everyday and your brain will be ready for anything.
CHICAGO – Scientists have come up with a new way to watch bacteria as they swim, which is expected to eventually help trap Escherichia coli bacteria and modify the microbes’ environment without hindering the way they move.
The new approach uses optical traps, microfluidic chambers and fluorescence to get an improved picture of how E. coli get around.
YannChemla, a professor of Physics at the University of Illinois, says that the microfluidic chambers provide a controlled environment in which the bacteria swim, and allow them to introduce specific stimuli – such as chemical attractants – to see if the microbes change direction in response to that stimulus.
Chemla, who jointly led the study with physics professor IdoGolding, further says that optical traps use lasers to confine individual cells without impeding their rotation or the movement of their flagella.
The researcher calls the optical traps “bacterial treadmills”.
According to the researchers, movement of the bacterial cell alters the light from the laser, and, thereby, help track its behaviour.
Fluorescent markers enhance visualization of the bacteria and their flagella under a microscope, say the researchers.
While earlier studies have been unable to follow individual bacterial cells moving in three dimensions for more than about 30 seconds, the new approach allows the researchers to track a single bacterium as it swims for up to an hour, and that is why it may offer a new look at questions that so far have been unanswerable.
“For example, some people have asked whether E. coli has a nose. Does it have a front and back?” Nature magazine quoted Golding as saying.
He and his colleagues have observed that while the bacterium can travel in either direction, most E.coli have “a pronounced preference” for one over the other.
The researchers found that after most tumbles, a bacterium usually continued swimming in the same general direction, but that about one in six tumbles caused it to change direction completely.
They were also able to quantify other features of bacterial swimming, such as changes in velocity and the time spent running and tumbling.
They hope that their novel method will allow scientists to address many more questions about this model organism.
“That’s the typical way biology moves forward. You develop a new measurement capability and then you can use that to go back and look at fundamental questions that people had been looking at but had no way of answering,” Golding said.
A research article describing the new technique has been published in the journal Nature Methods.
TRENTON – Scientists from University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey have identified a protein that can repair brain damage in Alzheimer’s patients.
They said that a protein called vimentin normally appears twice in a lifetime – when neurons in the brain are forming during the first years of life and, years later when the brain’s neurons are under siege from Alzheimer’s or other neurodegenerative diseases.
“Vimentin is expressed by neurons in regions of the brain where there is Alzheimer’s damage but not in undamaged areas of the brain,” said DrRobertNagele, a professor at UMDNJ and the study’s corresponding author.
“When the patient shows up at the doctor’s office with symptoms of cognitive impairment, the neurons have reached the point where they can no longer keep pace with the ever-increasing damage caused by Alzheimer’s,” he added.
While explaining the study results, Nagele likened neurons to a tree with long strands called dendrites branching off from the main part of the cell.
The dendrite branches are covered with 10,000 tiny “leaves” called synapses that allow neurons to communicate with each other. Vimentin is an essential protein for building the dendrite branches that support the synapses.
“A hallmark of Alzheimer’s is the accumulation of amyloid deposits that gradually destroy the synapses and cause the collapse of dendrite branches,” he said.
“When the dendrites and synapses degenerate, the neuron releases vimentin in an attempt to re-grow the dendrite tree branches and synapses. It’s a rerun of the embryonic program that allowed the brain to develop in the early years of life,” Nagele added.
The researchers also reported some initial findings that indicated a similar damage response mechanism takes place following traumatic brain injury, suggesting the possibility that similar therapeutic agents could be developed to enhance repair both for sudden brain trauma and for progressive neurodegenerative diseases.
The findings are published in journal Brain Research.
SYDNEY – The build-up of iron in a cell centre may lead to debilitating diseases which can cause brain and cardiac disorders, a study has revealed.
The accumulation of iron in mitochondria, which is the centre for cell respiration and energy production, is toxic. The iron can substantially damage the cell and cause death.
Using a mouse model, University of Sydney (U-S) researchers found that the iron loading was caused by its increased iron uptake and decreased release due to reduced iron utilization in two major mitochondrial pathways.
“The terrible part is that these children (with high iron accumulation in cells) grow up knowing the joys of self-sufficiency, being able to walk and function normally before they are struck down,” said DesRichardson.
MichaelHuang, study co-author noted: “It’s great to work on such an intractable disease and by unveiling its underlying nuts and bolts to get results that can potentially help lots of people.”
The study appeared in the latest edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
VANCOUVER – Depression can decrease a cancer patient’s chances of survival, a new research suggests.
Published in the November 15, 2009 issue of Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the finding of an analysis highlights the need for systematic screening of psychological distress and subsequent treatments.
In order to determine the effects of depression on cancer patients’ disease progression and survival, graduate student Jillian Satin, MA, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and her colleagues analyzed all of the studies to date they could identify related to the topic.
The researchers found 26 studies with a total of 9417 patients that examined the effects of depression on patients’ cancer progression and survival.
“We found an increased risk of death in patients who report more depressive symptoms than others and also in patients who have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder compared to patients who have not,” said Satin.
In the combined studies, the death rates were up to 25 percent higher in patients experiencing depressive symptoms and 39 percent higher in patients diagnosed with major or minor depression.
The increased risks remained even after considering patients’ other clinical characteristics that might affect survival, indicating that depression may actually play a part in shortening survival.
However, the authors say additional research must be conducted before any conclusions can be reached. The authors add that their analysis combined results across different tumor types, so future studies should look at the effects of depression on different kinds of cancer.
The investigators note that the actual risk of death associated with depression in cancer patients is still small, so patients should not feel that they must maintain a positive attitude to beat their disease.
Nevertheless, the study indicates that it is important for physicians to regularly screen cancer patients for depression and to provide appropriate treatments.
Kava is a tall shrub in the pepper family that grows in the South Pacific islands. It has been used there for thousands of years as a folk remedy and as a social and ceremonial beverage.
The part of the plant used medicinally is the root. Although the root was traditionally chewed or made into a beverage, kava is now available in capsule, tablet, beverage, tea, and liquid extract forms.
Why People Use Kava:
Because kava can cause sedation, and in high amounts, intoxication, kava drinks are consumed in some parts of the world in much the same way as alcohol.
How Kava Works:
The main active components in kava root are called kavalactones. Specific types of kavalactones include dihydrokavain, methysticin, kavain, dihydromethysticin, dihydrokawain, yangonin and desmethoxyyangonin.
Although it’s not clear exactly how kava works, kavalactones may affect the levels of neurotransmitters (chemicals that carry messages from nerve cells to other cells) in the blood. Kava has been found to affect the levels of specific neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) and dopamine.
Scientific Evidence for Kava:
A number of well-designed studies have examined kava’s ability to relieve anxiety compared to anxiety medication or a placebo. The results have been promising.
In 2003, a review by the Cochrane Collaboration examined the existing research to see how kava fared compared to a placebo in treating anxiety. After analyzing the 11 studies (involving a total of 645 people) that met the criteria, the researchers concluded that kava “appears to be an effective symptomatic treatment option for anxiety.” However, they added that it seemed to be a small effect.
Concerns About Kava and the Liver:
Although rare, case reports have linked kava use with liver toxicity, including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure.
As a result, the FDA issued a warning about kava in 2002. Several countries have banned or restricted the sale of kava.
Clinical trials have not found liver toxicity. Adverse liver reactions appear to be linked to factors such as pre-existing liver disease, alcohol consumption, excessive doses, genetic variations in the cytochrome P450 enzymes, consumption of other drugs or herbs that, combined, may have a toxic effect, or the use of stem or leaf extracts or extracts made with acetone or ethanol.
Potential Side Effects of Kava:
Side effects include indigestion, mouth numbness, skin rash, headache, drowsiness and visual disturbances. Chronic or heavy use of kava has linked to pulmonary hypertension, skin scaling, loss of muscle control, kidney damage, and blood abnormalities.
Kava may lower blood pressure and it also may interfere with blood clotting, so it shouldn’t be used by people with bleeding disorders. People with Parkinson’s disease shouldn’t use kava because it may worsen symptoms.
Kava should not be taken within 2 weeks of surgery. Pregnant and nursing women, children, and people with liver or kidney disease shouldn’t use kava.
Possible Drug Interactions:
Kava shouldn’t be taken by people who are taking Parkinson’s disease medications, antipsychotic drugs, or any medication that influences dopamine levels.
Kava shouldn’t be combined with alcohol or medications for anxiety or insomnia, including benzodiazepines such as Valium (diazepam) or Ativan (lorazepam). It may have an additive effect if taken with drugs that cause drowsiness.
Kava may have an additive effect if combined with antidepressant drugs called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI).
Kava shouldn’t be taken with any drug or herb that impairs liver function. Kava also may interfere with blood clotting, so people taking Coumadin (warfarin) or any drug that influences blood clotting should avoid it unless under a doctor’s supervision.
Kava is a diuretic, so it may have an additive effect if combined with drugs or herbs that have diuretic properties.