Saturday, April 7, 2012

Ode to Herbs

Oh Herbs, jewels of the earth!
Thy gifts so divine!
Oh joy! You feed me and mine.
You bring bliss to mine heart
And cleanse body and soul.
How can I choose my one true love?
Nay can I, and so shall I not.
In my treasure trove ye all shall go!
My apothecary will grow and grow;
My pantry will bulge with thine harvest!
I shall not be without thee,
Mine herbs so dear, so beloved, so pure!

Author: Pamela Harrington

Monday, June 6, 2011

Herbal Knights

One of the greatest antioxidants is clove Syzygium aromaticum. In a well publicized study (Niwano et al., 2010) over a thousand herbs were tested for antioxidant activity to find potential alternatives for food preservation under heated and non-heated applications. Clove bud extract performed well as one of the four top polyphenol containing herbs. It is believed that phenolic compounds act as antioxidants. A 2009 study (Viuda-Martos et al.) showed clove ranking highest in free radical scavenging and polyphenol content . In 2007 a study (Ydav & Bhatnagar), showed clove out-performing other tested spices for the same scavenging ability. A most recent study (Aisha etal, 2011) tested the leaves, stems and bark of clove rather than clove bud to see if the other parts of the plant yielded similar results of antioxidant value. All parts ranked high in both antioxidant potential and phenolic content with clove bark taking the lead. Finally, a study (Halvorson etal., 2006) ranked over one-thousand food samples for the USDA National Food and Nutrient Analysis Program. In this study clove was number one in antioxidant content. Though admitting more studies are needed, the authors suggest that eating foods high in antioxidants could assist the body in fighting free-radical damage and oxidative stress. The authors hope the comprehensive food table will assist scientists in further testing of this hypothesis.

Note that clove oil can cause harm if taken in excess because it is highly concentrated, and it can cause irritation for some people. It's toxic constituent is eugenol. According to the American College of Healthcare Sciences (2011), all oils containing phenols can be toxic to the liver, therefore not overdoing consumption of clove oil is very important. It shouldn't be used if there is liver disease or in pregnancy, especially first trimester. As in all discussion of using essential oils, because of their extreme concentration, you should consult your primary health provider before using them, or a properly qualified and trained aromatherapist. I mention all this because it is important to always use herbal products with common sense and knowledge because of their potency. But it is because of this potency of many beneficial constituents within plant essential oils that can be so helpful for maintaining health.

Other herbs and essential oils (from herbs) that have shown antioxidant capabilities are basil Ocimum basilicum, black pepper Piper nigrum, cayenne, cinnamon Cinnamomum zeylanicum, cilantro and coriander (seeds) Coriander sativum, dill Anethum graveolens, ginger Zingiber officinalis, helichrysum (Immortelle) Helichrysum angustifolium, marjoram Origanum majorana, mustard seeds Brassica nigra, nutmeg Myristica fragrans, parsley Petroselinium crispum, rosemary Rosmarinus offcinalis, thyme Thymus vulgaris, turmeric Curcuma longa, and vetiver Vetiveria zizanioides.

As time goes on, we will discuss more about the above herbs and their attributes. Until then, please comment as you feel inspired to do so! Until next time, be balanced!

Aisha, A.F.A., Nassar, Z. D., Siddiqui, M. J., Abu-salah, K. M., Alrokayan, S. A., Ismail, Z., & Majid, A.S. (2011). Evaluation of antiangiogenic, cytotoxic and antioxidant effects of syzygium aromaticum l. extracts. Asian Journal of Biological Sciences 4 (3): 282-290. 
Halvorson, B. L., Carlsen, M. H., Phillips, K. M., BΓΈhn, S. K., Holte, K., Jacobs, D. R., & Blomhoff, R (2006). Content of  redox-active compounds (ie, antioxidants) in foods consumed in the United States. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 84: 95-135.
Mateljan, G.; The world's healthiest foods; Seattle: George Mateljan Foundation: 2007; pp. 694-715.
Niwano, Y., Saito, K., Yoshizaki, F.,, Masahiro, K., & Ozawa, T. (2011). Extensive screening for herbal extracts with potent antioxidant properties. Journal of Clinical Biochemistry Nutrition 48 (1):78-84.
Peterson, D., American College of Healthcare Sciences, Aroma 303 and Aroma 304 Essential Oil Monographs, Portland: ACHS: 2011; pp. 69-74.
Viuda-Martos, M., Ruiz Navajas, Y., Sanchez Zapata, E., Fernandes-Lopez and Perex-Alvarez, J. (2009).  Antioxidant activity of essential oils of five spice plants widely used in a Mediterranean diet. Flavour    and Fragrance Journal, 25: 13-19.
Ydav, A.S., Bhatnagar, D. (2007). Free radical scavenging activity, metal chelation and antioxidant power of  some of the Indian spices. [Abstract]. Biofactors, 31(3-4): 219-227.

Note: All information in this blog has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, is intended solely for educational and informational purposes only and is NOT intended to diagnose, treat or cure disease. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Knights in Shining Armor!

On my last post, which was also my first, I stated : "... many foods supply us with what the doctors and nutritionists tell us are important antioxidants that fight disease by eradicating free radicals in our bodies. But what does this really mean, and is food the best natural source of antioxidants?" Let's tackle the the first part of the question as to the internal ongoing war of antioxidants against free radicals within our bodies. Where do the free radical's come from and what are they?

Without going into a chemistry session, and keeping it so I can understand, it is simply that free radicals, or let's just say "radicals", are molecules that have a missing electron and really, really want to replace it with any other electron it can successfully capture from any other molecule nearby. This molecule then becomes radical itself, wanting to steal an electron from any other molecule as quickly as possible. Radicals really want to be more stable, bless their little hearts. Radical molecules are part of the normal balancing act of the body, being useful in several bodily systems and processes. But sometimes this balancing act becomes, well, unbalanced, and there are just too many radicals around. That's where real cell damage can occur unless, guess what? A knight in shining armor appears and neutralizes all of the unnecessary radicals!  This knight is our good friend, the Antioxidant (AO)! He is called "Anti" oxidant because oxygen, so necessary for life, believe it or not, is one of the main radical forming molecules. Why? Its electron bond is weak, allowing one of its electrons to be easily taken by a radical. AO steps in and says, "Hey Rad, here's my electron. Leave my darling Oxy alone!" AO thinks having one electron is cool and totally acceptable.

As we get older, radicals accumulate because we just haven't taken very good care of ourselves as we've matured. Too many hours in front of the TV, too much partying, too many rich foods, too much smoking, too much of everything, so those pesky radicals have a party of their own in our bodies. This overpopulation of radicals will make us sick, becoming a catalyst to all kinds of diseases. Naturally occurring antioxidants are so outnumbered they are no longer effective. So somehow we must supplement their numbers to be healthier.

Vitamins C and E and beta-carotene are the main antioxidants that willingly give up one of their electrons to turn radicals into helpless little molecules that wouldn't harm a flea. The best way to replenish stores of antioxidants is to eat enough of the right kinds of food that give us these nutrients. It that too much to ask? Apparently, because so many of us are sick. If we just can't possibly consume enough food (5 servings of fruit or vegetables daily) to get the necessary levels of these nutrients, we should take supplements. But lets not overdo it like we are want to do. Remember too much of anything is usually not the right path. Stick with the recommended daily allowance (RDA) that is on the label, or that your primary healthcare provider might recommend. RDA can be adjusted with the proper knowledge to address certain concerns for a period of time.

Now, the next post I'll focus discussion on the benefits of taking certain herbs to help replenish antioxidants in the body. Herbs have been shown to have wonderful antioxidant capabilities. Until then, keep your knight's armor shiny by eating plenty of fresh fruits, veggies and an overall balanced whole foods diet. Now, if I could just follow my own advice...

Friday, May 27, 2011


Hi everyone! I enjoy writing so I'm going down the blogging road. I don't have any idea where I'll end up but I hope I can make some friends along the way while promoting a holistic approach to wellness. Please see "about me" for more information on what I'm doing right now.

To get started, I call this blog "The Herbal Woman" because I want to focus mostly on women's health issues and how holistic herbal protocols can assist us to achieve wellness. But since both men (husbands, lovers, fathers, brothers, friends, sons) and children are an important part of our life this blog can interest them as well, and be a conduit for communication of wellness issues and protocols for the important people in our life.

I've always been interested in herbs, firstly from a gardening and culinary standpoint when I was a teen. Then in my early twenties I began experimenting with cosmetic herbal preparations.  Every year I had a large vegetable garden and herbs were a big part of it, even when circumstance put me into a communications career that would span almost three decades. Now I'm back to my "roots" so to speak, and enjoying every minute of the time I can spend learning about and making new formulas using herbal and natural ingredients while achieving a diploma is aromatherapy. I'll get more into that in future blog postings.

To pick a topic to blog about so that reading this is more worthwhile and not just about "me, me, me", I'd like to start a discussion on the use of herbs or essential oils for their antioxidant properties. As we know, many foods supply us with what the doctors and nutritionists tell us are important antioxidants that fight disease by eradicating free radicals in our bodies. But what does this really mean, and is food the best natural source of antioxidants? What do you think? I'll write more once I hear back from you. This blog is based on a good give and take, so I will get as much out of this as hopefully you will! I'll write more soon on this important topic after a few days. Stay tuned....