Alfalfa uses and Benefits

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), also known as lucerne, is a member of the pea family. Sometimes called Buffalo Herb, Alfalfa means “Father of all Foods”. Alfalfa leaf contains essential vitamins including of B-vitamins, A, D, E and K. Also alfalfa is a source of iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and phosphorous.

Alfalfa Uses

Traditional Chinese Medicine used young alfalfa leaves to treat disorders of the digestive tract.  The Ayurvedic physicians has used alfalfa leaf to relieve water retention, arthritis, and ulcers. In the 19-th century American physicians recommended alfalfa as a tonic for digestive dysfunctions, dyspepsia, lack of appetite, and anemia.

The vitamin K in alfalfa promotes healthy blood clotting, which is necessary for wound healing. Vitamin K plays major role in blood clotting process, is essential for prothrombin formation in the liver, thus alfalfa helps to prevent bleeding, and normalizes blood coagulability during hemorrhaging by strengthening the blood vessel walls and increasing the prothrombin production.

Alfalfa plant is a good source of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is actually responsible for the green pigmentation in plants. Plants use chlorophyll to trap light needed for photosynthesis. The chlorophyll molecule is very similar in structure to the haemoglobin molecule. The difference between them is that the heme molecule contains the element iron at its centre, whereas the chlorophyll molecule, also an oxygen-carrier contains magnesium. Chlorophyll enhances the capability of nutrients that build iron in the body and so it develops the production of red blood cells. Also, because it contains magnesium, enhances the transportation of oxygen to the tissues, develops circulation and oxygen supply.

Anemia happens when your blood does not have enough red blood cells to properly carry oxygen to organs and tissues. Alfalfa, dandelion root or leaf, burdock and yellowdock have traditionally been used to fortify and cleanse the blood. Also, a study reported in 2012 by the “Institute of Soil Science and Plant Cultivation“, shows that alfalfa extract enriched with vitamin C supports the human body in fighting malnutrition, ischemic diseases and problems of the digestive tract.

Alfalfa may offer liver-protective effects according to a study reported in the 2012 edition of the American Journal of Chinese Medicine. In the animal-based study, supplement with alfalfa extract for 3 weeks prevented elevations in liver enzymes and reduced oxidative stress in response to a chemical irritant. The present study was performed to determine whether lyophilized aqueous extract of alfalfa, could exert antioxidant activity against carbon tetrachloride-induced oxidative stress and liver injury in rats. Results shows that the alfalfa extract possesses hepatoprotective and antioxidative stress effects possibly through its antioxidant phytochemical constituents and substantiate its use in various liver disorders as a hepatoprotector.

Alfalfa appears to lower blood glucose levels in animals. In a study, streptozotocin diabetic mice fed alfalfa experienced reduced hyperglycemia when compared with normal mice.

Alfalfa, has traditionally been used for women with menopausal symptoms. Alfalfa leaves contain flavones, isoflavones, coumarin  and sterols derivatives. The isoflavones may cause the estrogen-like effects seen in animal-based studies. Supplementing with alfalfa  and sage leaf (Salvia officinalis) extract completely eliminated hot flushes and night sweats in 20 of 30 women in one clinical trial. Sage leaf and alfalfa seem to have a central slight antidopaminergic action without adverse effects and appear to be an useful combination in the therapy of menopausal symptoms.

Artichoke Benefits and Health Effects

The artichoke is a member of the thistle family. The 2 compound  found in artichokes are silymarin and cynarin. Cynarin an active ingredient found in artichoke leaf is known to break down fats and improve bile flow. Also are rich in silymarin, an antioxidant that may improve liver health.

Artichoke Benefits and Researches

Artichoke is usually recommended for liver disease or damage, poor liver function and gallstones. It is also taken for digestive conditions like loss of, indigestion, appetite, bloating nausea, abdominal pain, and constipation. The active chemical compound in artichoke is cynarin. This ingredient is found in highest concentrations in the leaves. Artichokes also contain the flavonoid silymarin, a strong liver protectant. Like silymarin, cynara has showed important liver-protecting and regenerating properties.

Artichokes are high in the dietary fiber. A single boiled artichoke contains a whopping 10 g of fiber, and you’ll get 7 g of fiber from a half cup of artichoke hearts. The USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services ‘ Dietary Guidelines recommend women consume 21 to 25 g per day andmen consume 30 to 38 g per day of dietary fiber. Fiber has been found by scientists to be preventative for digestive disorders and colon cancer. Some of the strong antioxidants in artichokes are anthocyanins, rutin, quercetin, luteolin, silymarin, and cynarin. A July 2006 research examined the antioxidant levels of 1,113 foods and beverages and found that artichoke hearts had the highest level among all vegetables measured; they came in fourth among all foods and beverages tested. Antioxidants are associated with reducing the risk of cancers, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and other chronic diseases.

ArtichokeArtichoke leaf extract (ALEs) is made from the long, deeply serrated basal leaves of the artichoke plant. Some researches have shown that artichoke leaf extract can be beneficial for individuals suffering from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and dyspepsia, or upset stomachs. Irritable bowel syndrome is a illness reported to affect up to 20 % of the general population. According to a research reported in the Aug 2004, issue of the “Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine“, artichoke leaf extract (ALEs) can improve symptoms of IBS. In a study done at the “University of Reading“, 208 participants who suffered from irritable bowel syndrome and dyspepsia were monitored over a 2-month period of intervention with artichoke leaf extract. Results demonstrated a 26 % reduction in irritable bowel syndrome incidence among the patients at the end of the study. Dyspepsia symptoms decreased by 41% after therapy, and the patients noted a 20% increase in quality of life after therapy.

Commission E (Germany’s regulatory agency for herbs) approves the use of artichoke leaf for dyspeptic problems. In a study demonstrated an improvement of symptoms in 50% of participants with dyspeptic syndrome after 14 days of therapy with artichoke-leaf extract. In a 2003 study reported in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics , 129 participants with functional dyspepsia were given 640 mg of ALEs (artichoke-leaf extract) daily, while 115 patients took a placebo. After 6 weeks of therapy; those who received ALEs reported a significantly greater reduction in symptoms and improvement in quality of life than patients who took a placebo. In one study of 553 participants, digestive disturbances improved after 6 weeks of treatment with artichoke leaf extract on average 70%. Improvements in flatulence (68%), severe constipation (71%), loss of appetite (72%), abdominal pain (76%), nausea (83%) and vomiting (88%) were noted. These improvements of symptoms were seen after 2 to 6 weeks of therapy.

Artichoke extract is made from the leaf of the artichoke and called Cynara scolymus. Artichoke leaf extracts have showed important benefits and potential as an antioxidant and hepatoprotective. A 1987 study that focused on the effects of rat liver cells (hepatocytes) subjected to harmful chemical agents found both cynarin and caffeic acids to have important protective properties. The use of ALEs clearly indicated an apparent decreased of liver injury. As reported in the Sept 2008 issue of “Experimental and Toxicologic Pathology“, scientists studied whether pre-treatment with artichoke extract could protect against liver damage. Researchers found that artichoke extract administered prior to exposure to a known liver toxin demonstrates the ability to prevent liver injury. Important findings were showed in a open label study of 417 patients with liver or bile duct disease. Most of these participants had long-standing symptoms. These participants were treated with ALEs for four weeks. After 1 week, approximately 70% of the participants experienced healing of their symptoms, and after 4 weeks, this proportion was 85%.

Researches have shown that the antioxidants quercetin, rutin, and gallic acid found in artichoke leaf extract are able to induce apoptosis and reduce the proliferation of cancer cells. Studies done with artichoke leaf extract have found that they induce apoptosis and reduce cell proliferation in many different forms of cancer, including  leukemia, breast and prostate cancer. Artichoke polyphenols induce apoptosis and reduces the invasive potential of the human breast cancer cell line MDA-MB231. One in vitro study using the MDA-MB 231 breast cancer cell line showed that the polyphenols of artichoke was able to induce 60% apoptosis at 600 uM concentration over 24 hours.

Stinging Nettle BPH Treatment and Researches

Stinging Nettle are from the plant family of Urticaceae. Urtica urens and Urtica dioica are botanically very similar and are usually distributed together in the wild. Especially useful for men, nettle root plays a key role in promoting a healthful prostate and urinary tract function. Nettle root is used widely in Europe to treat BPH (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia).

Stinging Nettle and Prostate Health

Nettle root has 5-alpha reductase enzyme blocking properties and is thus beneficial for conditions associated with an enlarged prostate, such as frequent or difficult urination. This enzyme converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, a strong androgen hormone associated with prostate enlargement, low testosterone levels in older men. Nettle root has been shown to inhibit the binding of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) to the prostate cell membrane. Several researches have showed a combination of nettle root,  pygeum, saw palmetto, and pumpkin seed may be effective as an BPH therapy and in reducing post urination dripping, improving urinary flow, emptying the bladder completely, and decreasing frequent nighttime urination.

Lab experiments have shown stinging nettle to be comparable to finasteride (Proscar®) in slowing the growth of certain prostate cells. The polysaccharide fraction, of the 20 percent methanolic extract of nettle roots, was able to decrease the induced growth of prostate gland by 33 % in mice. Germany Universitätsklinik Essen formally investigated the efficacy of nettle root extract and found the antiphlogistic and antiproliferative properties of the nettle extract to provide a safe treatment option for enlarged prostate.

Since 1995, three clinical trials of a nettle/saw palmetto combination have been reported in German medical journals. The studies used two capsules per day of 120 mg nettle root extract and 160 mg saw palmetto extract. The Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy, 2005 published a study investigating nettle (Urtica dioica)  for the therapy of BPH. It has been found that patients with BPH that underwent nettle therapy for six months showed  an improved urinary flow rate, lower postvoid residual urine volume and smaller prostate gland size.

In a study in Poland 134 people with symptoms of BPH were assigned to receive 2 capsules of the standard dose of an nettle (300 mg) and pygeum africanum bark extract (25 mg) or two capsules containing half the standard dose, twice daily for 8 weeks. After 28 days of therapy, urine flow, residual urine, and nycturia were significantly decreased in both treatment groups. After 56 days of therapy, further significantly decreased in both treatment groups. Clinical studies held in the University Clinics of Cologne in Germany, for people suffering from LUTS (Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms), caused by BHP proved to have a higher success rate of 34% for those taking the roots of nettle (Urtica dioica) compared with the patients who took Tamsulosin drug.

Stinging Nettle to Help Arthritis Pain

Stinging nettle has been used for hundreds of years to treat painful muscles and joints and arthritis. Researches have shown that the extract of the nettle leaf suppresses cytokines associated with inflammatory joint illness.

Stinging Nettle Benefits For Arthritis

In several studies nettle extracts were documented with anti-inflammatory effects as well as to be helpful at relieving arthritis pain and inflammation in humans. Studies conducted in Germany have showed scientifically that nettle is capable of inhibiting the genetic transcription factor that activates TNF-a and IL-1B. An ethanolic extract was found to suppress HLE (human leukocyte elastase). Human leukocyte elastase is one of the most destructive enzymes released by polymorphonuclear granulocytes, which migrate into tissues during the inflammatory process. Nettle extract in capsule form is prescribed in Germany for the pain of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Two clinical studies (Chubasik et al 1997) produced promising results of improvement in pain at rest (55%), pain on exercise (45%), physical impairment (38%) and reduction in consumption of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories in 60% of patients.

In a study reported in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in June 2000 issue that nettle leaf can decrease osteoarthritic pain in the base of the thumb when applied to the painful area. Using nettles may decrease the need for NSAID (Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drug). In a clinical trial of 37 people with acute arthritis, 50 g of stewed nettle leaf consumed on a daily combined with 50 mg of diclofenac was shown to be as effective as the full 200 mg dose of diclofenac in the therapy of symptoms, over a two week period. In a study reported in the Dec 2009 issue of “Arthritis Research and Therapy“, found that a combination of nettles, fish oil and vitamin E reduction the need for analgesics and other drugs to decrease the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

The tiny stingers of the nettle plant provide microinjections of several chemicals responsible for the stinging sensation the plant causes. The needles pump a mixture of formic acid, histamine, serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine), acetylcholine, moroidin and leukotrienes into the epidermis, producing a stinging or burning sensation. These chemicals are anti-inflammatory and pain reducing. These neuro-transmitters send and receive signals to the brain and act on nerve endings to block the transmission and perception of pain. The benefits of nettle as a possible local painkiller were studied in 27 participants with osteoarthritis-related pain at the base of their thumb. Participants applied nettle leaf (Urtica dioica) daily for one week to the painful area. The effect of this therapy was compared with that of placebo, Lamium album  (white deadnettle leaf), for one week after a 5-week washout period. After one week’s therapy with nettle sting, score reductions on both visual analogue scale and health assessment questionnaire were significantly greater than with placebo.

Stinging nettle leaf extracts lessen inflammation, in part, by suppressing the release of inflammatory cytokines. They do this by blocking a chemical inducer known as NF-KappaB, which alters gene expresion. This may be one explanation for the favorable effects has exhibited in rheumatoid arthritis. The Journal of Rheumatology reported Dec 1999 the findings of a study by S. Klingelhoefer et al on the antirheumatic effect of IDS 23, (a nettle leaf extract), on in vitro expression of T helper cytokines. They concluded “may inhibit the inflammatory cascade in autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.”  The nettle leaf extract IDS 30 has been recommended for adjuvant treatment of rheumatic diseases. April 2002, published a report about a study of the immmunosuppressant activity of IDS 30, on myeloid dendritic cells in vitro. The nettle extract IDS 30 has prevented the maturation of dendritic cells leading to reduced induction of primary T cell responses. Dendretic cells play an important role in the initiation of rheumatoid arthritis. Nettle extract was able to keep dendretic cells from growing, however did not kill the cells.

Spirulina Helps Boost Immunity

Spirulina (also called blue-algae) may boost your immune system by increasing antibody production in response to pathogens. These algae was found to increase immune response through enhanced production of the immunoglobulin IgA, interleukin-6 and interferon-gamma. Also, enhances immunity through increased phagocytic activity of macrophages, stimulates production of antibodies and cytokines, increases accumulation of natural killer cells in tissue, and activates and mobilizes T and B cells.

Spirulina Benefits and Immune System

Spirulina activates very of the several immune cells, including macrophages, T-cells, B-cells, and natural killer cells. Besides, activates the organs involved with immune function such as the spleen, liver, bone marrow, and thymus gland. In vitro experiments found that spirulina had antiviral activity against cytomegalovirus, mumps, measles, influenza A viruses, HIV and herpes simplex. Researchers discovered that it not just stimulates the immune system, also, improves the body’s ability to generate new blood cells.

In 1979, Russian researchers reported first research on the immune stimulating effects on rabbits from lipopolysaccharides in spirulina. More new researches in Japan and China have shown polysaccharide extracts increased macrophage function, antibody production and infection-fighting T-cells. Natural killer cells target and kill cancer in the body as well as enhance the ability to fight off disease. Some clinical trials have shown that spirulina may help the immune system fight off cancer cells by increasing NK (natural killer) cells. Two preliminary studies using spirulina at 400mg daily noted that natural killer cell activity increased by 40% and mRNA production of natural killer cells increased by 37-55% after a week of supplementation. Spirulina significantly increases cytokine production in cultured immune system cells, according to a research reported in the Fall edition of the “Journal of Medicinal Food“. According to a study reported in October 2005 in the Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology; spirulina develops the activity of white blood cells, stimulates antibodies and enhances the number of natural killer cells.

At the 30th Annual Meeting of the Japanese Society for Immunology held in Nov, 2000, researchers from the “Osaka Institute” reported a spirulina clinical study. In the study, spirulina significantly increased the tumor-killing ability of natural killer cells and interferon-gamma in participants aged 40 and above, and it continued for  12 to 24 weeks after stopping the administration of spirulina. A new twelve-week study involving 30 participants over 50 who took Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica, produced by Cyanotech, found improved immune blood markers in the majority of participants. The study found a steady improve in haemoglobin in both sexes with women benefiting more rapidly. Furthermore, found improved immune blood markers in the majority of participants.

The radioprotective properties of an extract of  Spirulina platensis has been investigated using the micronucleus test in polychromatic erythrocytes of bone marrow of mice. In this system the extract caused a important decreased of the micronucleus frequencies induced by gamma-radiation. Spirulina has a dark blue-green color, because it is rich in a brilliant blue polypeptide called phycocyanin, which affects the stem cells found in bone marrow. Researches show that phycocyanin affects the stem cells found in bone marrow. Phycocyanin also stimulate hematopoiesis, simulating the effect of the hormone erythropoietin. Hormone erythropoietin. is produced by healthy kidneys and regulates bone marrow stem cell production of red blood cells. Phycocyanin  regulates production of white blood cells, even when bone marrow stem cells are damaged by toxic chemicals or radiation. Based on this property, spirulina is approved in Russia for treating radiation sickness. This nutrient was shown to correct the immune cell parameters in a study with children exposed to prolonged low dose radiation in Chernobyl. In all the children an improve in T-lymphocytes and T-helper cells was seen, and T-suppressor cells were normalized. IgA levels became normal. In an animal-based study, spirulina was shown to modulate radiation induced hematological and biochemical alterations. Swiss Albino mice were exposed to gamma radiation. The average hemoglobin, total erythrocyte count and total leucocyte count were elevated in the group receiving spirulina.

Spirulina Against HIV

Compounds isolated from spirulina inhibit the replication of HIV in test-tube studies. A study reported in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome found that the use of spirulina inhibited HIV replication in the blood. Taking extract concentrations between 0.3 and 1.2 micrograms per milliliter reduced viral production by approximately 50 %. In 1989, the results of a study in vitro, demonstrated that sulfoglycolipids in blue-green algae (like spirulina) exhibited powerful antiviral activities. Other study, reported in the “Journal of Natural Products“, demonstrated that Ca-SP (Calcium Spirulan), a spirulina polysaccharide extract, too has antiviral effects. Recent studies indicate that spirulina also presents clinically important anti-viral and immuno-stimulating effects in people infected by HIV. A study conducted in Cameroon and reported on the May 2011 in “Nutrition and Metabolic Insights” showed the nutritional efficiency of spirulina in terms of weight gain in HIV-infected malnourished patients.