Sunday, September 17, 2006

Drug use falls, except among older adults

Youngsters are using fewer illegal
drugs but a spike in use has been seen among older adults,
perhaps because a few aging baby boomers have clung to their
rebellious ways, according a U.S. substance abuse report
published on Thursday.

Just 6.8 percent of teenagers aged 12 to 17 said they used
marijuana in 2005, down from 8.2 percent in 2002, according to
the annual survey done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration.

Overall illicit drug use also fell, from 11.6 percent in
2002 who said they had used drugs in the past month to 9.9
percent in 2005, the report said.

"Something important is happening with American teens,"
said John Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy.

"They are getting the message that using drugs limits their
futures, and they are turning away from the destructive
patterns and cruelly misinformed perceptions about substance
abuse that have so damaged previous generations," he said.

But baby boomers, now entering their 50s and 60s, are
apparently not all tuning in to the message.

The rate of current illicit drug use increased from 2.7
percent among adults aged 50 to 59 in 2002 to 4.4 percent in

"Could kids be rejecting drugs because it's some lame thing
that old people do?," asked Tom Riley, a spokesman for the
White House National Office of Drug Control Policy.

"To what extent is boomer 'recreational' use now more
accurately understood as 'dependency'?"

The illegal use of alcohol fell among teens, with 16.5
percent of 12- to 17-year-olds saying they were drinkers and
9.9 percent reporting binge drinking -- defined as having five
or more drinks in a row. Both are down more than a full
percentage point from 2004.


"The news today is there is a fundamental shift in drug use
among young people in America," said Assistant Surgeon General
Eric Broderick, who is SAMHSA Acting Deputy Administrator.

"We first saw this shift toward healthier decisions when
rates of tobacco use among young people began to go down. Now,
we see a sustained drop in rates of drug use. We will see if
the decline in drinking among 12-to 17-year-olds becomes a
continued pattern as well," he said.

But certain dangerous patterns of alcohol use did not
change -- nearly 23 percent of all people aged 12 and older
admitted to binge drinking.

"This translates as about 55 million people, comparable to
the 2004 estimate," SAMHSA said in a statement. "The binge
drinking rate among young adults ages 18-25 was 41.9 percent,
and the heavy drinking rate was 15.3 percent."

Close to 89 percent of people who said they had tasted
alcohol for the first time were under the legal drinking age of
21, the survey found.

About 6 percent of people said they had smoked or eaten
marijuana in the past month, and 2.6 percent said they had
abused prescription drugs.

About 4 percent of people surveyed said they had used
methamphetamine. Just about 1 percent said they had used
cocaine, about the same as in past years, while about 0.1
percent used heroin, also not much of a change.

The survey found that 71.5 million Americans ages 12 and
older used tobacco. Just over 29 percent of people said they
had smoked or chewed tobacco in the past month.

Among children aged 12 to 17 tobacco use fell to 10.8
percent in 2005 from 13 percent in 2002.

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Taking preventive medications curbs diabetes risk

Individuals at risk for
developing type 2 diabetes who are prescribed the drug
metformin should stick with it, doctors say. In a large study,
individuals who adhered to a metformin-based diabetes
preventive strategy had a reduced risk of developing diabetes,
they report.

The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) investigated the
value of intensive lifestyle intervention (diet and exercise)
or metformin in delaying or preventing type 2 diabetes in
high-risk individuals with impaired glucose tolerance, a
precursor to full-blown diabetes.

Dr. Elizabeth A. Walker, of George Washington University,
Rockville, Maryland, and colleagues examined medication
adherence and health outcomes in the metformin and placebo arms
of the DPP.

A total of 2155 subjects who were randomly assigned to
either the metformin or placebo treatment arms were included in
the analysis.

The overall adherence rates -- that is, the proportion of
patients taking at least 80 percent of the prescribed dose --
were 71 percent in the metformin group and 77 percent in the
placebo group.

Compared to patients who were adherent to placebo, those
adherent to metformin had a 38.2 percent reduced risk of
developing diabetes, the investigators report. In this study,
"the level of medication adherence predicted the primary
outcome of diabetes," they write in the journal Diabetes Care.

Among patients taking metformin, older subjects were more
adherent than younger subjects.

Walker's team reports that the most commonly reported
barriers to taking the medication as prescribed were forgetting
to take doses (22 percent), adverse effects (8 percent), and
disruption of routines (8 percent). Overall, 15 percent of
women and 10 percent of men reported adverse effects in the
metformin group.

These results, the team concludes, "lend support for future
development and evaluation of brief, practical medication
adherence interventions for primary care settings."

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, September 2006.

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Study: Impact of drugs on kids confusing

Finding out how prescription drugs affect children isn't easy, even for pediatricians, a new study says.

That's because very little research on children and drugs is
published in medical journals that help guide doctors on treatment. The
result is that some prescribe the wrong dose or use drugs that could be
harmful to kids.

"Ironically, some of the times when drugs do work (in children),
they're still not getting published," said Dr. Danny Benjamin, an
associate professor at Duke University who led the study and also works
for the U.S.

Food and Drug Administration.

He said an FDA program meant to encourage drug companies to test how
drugs affect children has led to hundreds of studies. The problem is
that about half the time, the results don't get published in
peer-reviewed medical journals, mainly because researchers and sponsors
don't submit them for publication, Benjamin said.

Drug companies that conduct or sponsor pediatric research are
motivated mostly to get their products on the market, "not to tend to
the public health concerns," Benjamin said.

Also, parents often are reluctant to let their children participate
in studies. So the research often involves many institutions with a few
children at each location, which complicates compiling data and
submitting them for publication, Benjamin said.

Examples the authors cited include unpublished data suggesting that
an anesthesia drug might increase children's risk of death when used
for sedation. Also, unpublished data has suggested that some steroid
creams used for skin rashes in adults could cause a hormone imbalance
in children.

"People slather this on children, particularly babies," said study
co-author Dr. Dianne Murphy, director of the FDA's office of pediatric

In both cases, precautions are listed on the drug label but not in
much detail. They also appear on the FDA's Web site, but that's not
where doctors usually look for such information, the researchers said.

"We've just got to get the data out to people who are caring for children," Benjamin said.

His study appears in Wednesday's

Journal of the American Medical Association.

JAMA is among the top peer-reviewed journals but editor-in-chief Dr.
Catherine DeAngelis said few studies submitted to JAMA involve the
effects of medication on children.

The researchers studied the impact of 1997 legislation authorizing a
measure that grants drug companies longer patent protection when they
agree to study a medication's effects in children.

Between 1998 and 2004, 253 pediatric studies were submitted to the
FDA under this program but only 45 percent were published in
peer-reviewed journals, the researchers found.

Dr. Peter Lurie of the watchdog organization Public Citizen's Health
Research Group said drug companies and academics need to push harder to

"It really is like the tree falling in the woods. The study is of no
use whatsoever if it never reaches the practicing physician," Lurie

Scott Lassman of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of
America, an industry trade group, said drug companies shouldn't be

While he agreed publication in a peer-reviewed journal is "the gold
standard for getting information out," Lassman said companies often
present data at medical conferences and or post them in an online
industry database,

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Marijuana helps patients stay on medication

Recovering drug addicts who are
infected with hepatitis C virus may stick to their medications
better if they are allowed to use marijuana, U.S. researchers
reported on Wednesday.

Smoking or eating cannabis may help them tolerate the side
effects of the antivirals, which can clear the virus but often
cause fevers, chills, and muscle and joint aches, the
researchers said.

Diana Sylvestre and colleagues at the University of
California, San Francisco tested 71 recovering substance users
given interferon and ribavirin to treat their hepatitis C --
which is common among injecting drug users.

About a third of the patients also used marijuana.

Half of the marijuana users were successfully treated with
the antivirals, versus 18 percent of those who did not use
cannabis, the researchers reported in the European Journal of
Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

And just 14 percent of the cannabis users relapsed,
compared to 61 percent of non-smokers.

"It may in fact be an ironical truth that those persons who
contracted hepatitis C virus through a form of illicit drug use
may be aided in ridding themselves of this potentially fatal
virus by the use of another drug in addition to their HCV
therapy," Benedikt Fischer of the Center for Addictions
Research of British Columbia in Canada wrote in a commentary.

The hepatitis C virus damages the liver and can kill people
if not treated. A combination of interferon, to boost immune
response, and ribavirin, to attack the virus, can help clear it
from the liver, but it can take months.

"The majority of patients develop significant
treatment-related side effects, with almost 80 percent
experiencing an initial flulike syndrome that includes fevers,
chills, and muscle and joint aches," the researchers wrote.

They are often given a range of drugs to treat the side
effects, including medications to stop vomiting, analgesics,
antihistamines and sleeping pills.

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Report highlights Britons' drug abuse

The extent of Britain's drug problem was laid bare in a survey which
highlighted increasing steroid abuse among young men and the rise of a
potentially deadly heroin/crack cocaine cocktail known as speedballing.

The comprehensive annual study, from the DrugScope charity, found that
use of anabolic steroids among professionals, construction workers and
students aged 16 to 25 was spiralling as they strive for physical

"The rise in the number of young men misusing steroids is extremely
worrying and seems to be in response to a growing obsession with the
ideal body image," Drugscope chief executive Martin Barnes said.

Barnes added that many do not consider themselves drug users and called
on gyms and health services to provide more information on the problem,
found in 11 out of 20 areas where some 80 drug action teams and police
forces were surveyed in July and August.

The research says that most people are introduced to steroids, a human
growth hormone which in Britain it is illegal to supply but not to
possess, at gyms and buy them there or over the internet.

Alex Georgijev, a gym owner in south Wales, said that young men are
pressured into believing they need "a six pack and a good set of arms
hanging out of their shirt" by media images.

"People come in and ask how much it is to train -- the next sentence is
how much are steroids: it's their first consideration rather than their
last," he told Drugscope's magazine, Druglink.

Increasing numbers of young Asian men, particularly of Pakistani and
Kashmiri origin, are also being pulled into steroid use, the magazine

Meanwhile the use of speedballs, known as "curry and rice" because of
the colour of the drugs involved, was reported as a growing problem in
eight cities.

Although it is not a new phenomenon -- Blues Brothers star John Belushi
died from a speedball overdose in Los Angeles in 1982 aged 33 -- the
report expresses concern over its increased popularity.

The average speedball, made by crumbling crack into heated, liquid
heroin which is then injected, costs 20 pounds (29 euros, 37 dollars).

A separate, previously unpublished study by Dr. Russell Newcombe, of
drugs charity Lifeline, found that speedballing was the main method of
drug-taking for 80 per cent of 100 addicts questioned, compared to 25
percent a decade ago.

This survey added that speedballers spent 500 pounds a week on average
on the drugs, compared to 110 pounds for heroin-only users.

The findings on steroids and speedballing add a new dimension to
Britain's reputation as one of Europe's heaviest drug consumers -- last
year, it was named the continent's top cocaine user by the Observatoire
europeen des drogues et des toxicomanies (OEDT).

The situation is linked to the consistently low price of drugs in
Britain, where an Ecstasy pill often costs the same as a pint of beer
and a gram of cocaine, enough for up to 20 lines, can be as cheap as 30

The British media's fascination with the tempestuous relationship
between supermodel Kate Moss, photographed snorting cocaine last year,
and Babyshambles pop star Pete Doherty, regularly in court on drug
charges, hints at many, particularly young, peoples' ambivalent
attitude to drug use.

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Latest clinical trials, courtesy of Thomson CenterWatch:


This research study will test a new medication to treat opiate
withdrawal. You may be eligible if you are physically dependent on
opioids (i.e. Oxycodone, Lortab or Vicodin), 18 years and older, and
willing to undergo detoxification in the hospital for up to eight days.
Participation in the study is free and will include medical screenings,
meals, and snacks.

The research site is in Lexington, Ky.

More information

Please see


Ulcerative Colitis

Volunteers 18 or older with a history of mild-to-moderate active
ulcerative colitis and symptoms of acute flare within the past four
weeks may be eligible for this clinical trial. People may not
participate if they have had bowel surgery,

Hepatitis C or B, cancer within the past five years, unstable
cardiovascular history, or renal disease. There is a stipend of up to

The research site is in DeLand, Fla.

More information

Please see


Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

This is a randomized trial of Paclitaxel, Carboplatin and
Bevacizumab with or without the study drug for people with advanced
nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer. Candidates with
histologically/cytologically-confirmed NSCLC except squamous cell may be included. Additional criteria apply.

The research site is in Beech Grove, Ind.

More information

Please see

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Health Tip: Prevent Yeast Infections

Vaginal yeast infections are caused by a fungus that thrives when a woman's body changes because of a period, pregnancy or medication she may be taking.

Here are suggestions to prevent these infections, courtesy of the American Academy of Family Physicians:

  • Avoid underwear and pants that are made of synthetic fibers. Stick to all-cotton underwear.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing.
  • Avoid wearing pantyhose daily.
  • Remove wet swimsuits, clothing, or underwear immediately.
  • Avoid artificially fragranced or colored products such as sprays, tampons, pads, douches, or bubble baths, as they can affect the area's acid balance, which can promote symptoms of a yeast infection.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

herbal medicine


of 2000+ herbs from
around the world.
Herbal Remedies
and Tonics / Herbal Combinations

Herbal combinations for various illnesses.
to Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine is
the oldest form of healthcare known to mankind. A concise introduction to this fascinating
Between Herbs, Foods and  Drugs

this in addition to the safety issues listed under individual herbs
Standardized vs. Whole Herb

More and more
manufacturers are supplying standardized herb extracts. What are they? How are they
different from whole herbs?
Forms of Herbs

Herbs can be
prepared in a variety of forms depending on their purpose. Learn about such techniques.

Herbal Medicine for Healing

Detailed coverage of herbs for treating various diseases/conditions.

Glossary of Properties of

does terms like abortifacient, alterative,
anthelmintic, etc. mean?

Look it in our glossary of terms.

In the United
States, herbal products can be marketed only as food supplements. An herb manufacturer or
distributor can make no specific health claims without FDA approval. The situation is
different another parts of the world...

phytomedicines are among the world’s best studied medicines. Learn more about it..

Friday, August 04, 2006

Alternative vs Conventional

Pseudoscience is nothing about advanced equipment, or anything of the sort. Science is using the scientific method. A theory will explain how something works, and then an experiment is used to back up the explanation. The experiments must be repeatable by anyone at all, and if performed correctly, will always show the expected results. Scientists must also be wary that the theory may be proved wrong, of course. Someone may argue that the experiment does not demonstrate the theory's validity, or they may find another experiment that shows flaws in the theory. Science is ever evolving, but it is more than just guesswork.

Equipment is nothing. Charles Babbage and George Boole invented the science of computing over 100 years before the first computer was built, yet they would recognise their work in the PC you are are using now, even though they had no concept how such a machine could be made. It's science that creates the real miracles in this world. They were convinced they were right, not because of a belief in gaia, but because of the definitive proof of mathematics. Science is a whole lot more reliable than pseudoscience, and to say otherwise is to show your ignorance.

I never said all complimentary medicine was crap, if you read back, I always said 'most', 'many' and 'some'. Never 'all'. You're making things up again, and putting words in my mouth. I'm not exactly going to be able to discount therapies I have never heard of. I'm sure sometimes people have stumbled accross things that work. You say that the definition of alternative medicine is not the narrow one I cited from a dictionary. Yet again, you're telling me what I'm saying. What I meant in my post was exactly the defintion in the dictionary. If you read between the lines and find things that aren't there, I can hardly be held accountable.

You pointed out many plants used in chinese medicine, and that studies have shown that substances in those plants are used to treat various illnesses. I have only a very limited knowledge of chemistry, but I know enough to see that many of the links you provided (fot example the the three links you provided for ginger) showed chemicals being extracted from these plants, concentrated massively, and then applied to cancerous cells in a petri dish. There is no indication from any of the studies that eating ginger would have the same effect. When these chemicals are consumed their effect is very much more complex than what you would see in a petri dish, and any positive or even negative effects on a real human would have to be studied before you could suggest this as a real treatment.

In fact, even the articles you linked too (for example, this one) don't suggest we go out and eat tons of ginger, licourice, or coffee, as they will have other effects, and perhaps some of them won't be beneficial. These studies merely suggest that the effect is in need of further study. This is an important step, but not really the miracle cure suggested by statements that 'Apple skin reduce liver cancer by 57%'. Eventually, if the effect is real, science will discover the effect these chemicals have, and the range of treatments you can buy in your local chemist will increase to include them. This is how it has always worked, and how you can buy pills like Aspirin, which is made from a extract of tree bark.

What you show by linking to these studies is conventional medicine in operation - research is being done to discover new ways of treating illness in ways science has been doing for a long time. This is nothing to do with alternative medicine. The fact that Chinese medicine uses ginger is lucky, but they can harly have given it to cancer patience, since cancer wasn't known about until a long time later.

You talk of the system of yin and yang to balance the human body - there is no reason to think this, as we now know the body doesn't work like that, just like there is no sense in believing the Earth is flat now that we know otherwise. Diagnosing illness like that is just like telling the future by looking at tea leaves or reading your horroscope in the paper.

As shown here, Ayurvedia says that disease is caused by demons, devils, and the influence of stars and planets. I doubt many of the people who suggest these treatments believe in demons. Ayurvedia also suggests bloodletting as a treatment for many diseases, including Cancer. Forced vomiting is also suggested as helpful. The thousands of years of knowledge that you so trust created these ideas. These are both very dangerous, and their use was originally suggested alongside with herbal treatments used today by Ayurvedic practitioners.

You also link to an article which is in fact a press release from the US Apple Association. I don't consider advertising to be a useful source of information. You said that drug companies had a vested interest and couln't be trusted, and so the same must be said of a trade organisation that exists soly to promote apples!

Studies of differing diets in various countries often find varying amounts of disease. For example, the mediterranean diet is thought to be very healthy. Other factors may be at work here, though, such as vitamin A production through the skin as these countries tend to be sunny. The Japanese tend to be quite healthy too, as they consume plenty of fish, which is very high in protein. There are also downsides to this though. These cultures almost always have high incidences of other diseased, for instance the death rate through suicide is very high in Japan, something which is partially cultural, but also could have a chemical cause.

Doctors shouldn't be prejudiced against anything - alternative or otherwise. They should be encouraged to look at the evidence, and make their own mind up. They also shouldn't be scared to voice the opinion that certain treatments don't work. Everyday food items no doubt have many effects on our health, good and bad, but tabloid-like suggestions that apples cure liver Cancer is misleading and creates false hope.

Vegetarian Fun Food for Young Kids

Vegetarian Fun Food for Young Kids

Cooking with the participation of my children and their friends has always been an instant spirit-lifter for all. I found this activity particularly successful when my sons and their friends were between the ages of 5 and 8, when hand-eye coordination is excellent and the willingness to do adult-supervised activity is still a plus.

By the age of 3, children can pour measured ingredients into bowls, peel bananas, tear lettuce, open packages, sort ingredients, and place toppings on food. From ages 4 and up they can help grease pans, knead and shape dough, slice soft foods like bananas, attempt to measure accurately, wash fresh produce, and spread jam, margarine, or peanut butter.

Cooking teaches children the spirit of cooperation, a little bit of math, and a smidgen of chemistry. But best of all is that it teaches them to appreciate the effort and artistry that goes into the preparation of food. And when that lesson sinks in, they're far more likely to eat something if they've helped make it!

Here are several tried-and-true hands-on food projects, some more involved than others, that my kids and their friends have enjoyed when they were young and were most often requested.

Alternative Medicine

Alternative Medicine

I'm nearly at a loss for something to write: you have shown a complete inability to read what I have said and even make sense of your own sources. You then try and shoehorn groundless ancient beliefs into science, and in doing so, show that you have no apreciation of the advances in thinking that have been made in the last few hundred years.

"Alternative medicine isnt medicine that hasnt been proven by science. As i pointed out in my last post, many aspects of alternative medicine have been proven by scientific method."

Everyone else in the world uses the word alternative medicine to describe treatments not accepted by science. I can't help what you may personally understand it to mean, but if I say I think black means white, it doesn't make it true. The word's meaning is still the same.

Google Definitions automatically compiles word meanings from their usage on the web. Looking for alternative medicines produces the following possible definitions:

    "...Alternative medicines share the common characteristic of nonacceptance by the biomedical (ie mainstream Western) establishment..."

    "any form of therapy used alone, without recommended standard/conventional treatment."

    "Any form of medicine or healing other than the type approved by medical doctors and hospitals..."

    "is a broad term for any diagnostic method, method of treatment or therapy whose theoretical bases and techniques diverge from generally accepted medical methods."

    "treatments and techniques that differ from mainstream medical practices."

People agree on what the word means. So that's what it means. When I wrote about alternative medicines, it was those I was talking about.

The homeopathy article you link to doesn't say that homeopathy works. It basically says that there are no clear results, but there is a suggestion that it's worthy of more study. That's hardly reason for me to go out and take all the homeopathy I can find.

The writer of your article about oranges helping cancer also has reservations:
"Yes, limonin can help, but drinking seven glasses of juice a day isn't really practical. But oranges are a great source of a lot of different chemicals, and people should definitely have them as part of their diet."

So, she's not saying that this is a miracle cure, just examining the properties of a chemical, like all chemists do. She also admits that things are more complicated than just this one chemical, and that you should just eat a healthy balanced diet, which is something all of us know.

"The othe thing thats mising is the double blind bit, some medicines will no doubt will be so effective that they can be seen to be working beyond the placebo effect."

No. Without a control group, any attempt to prove the effectiveness of a treatment would be useless. Surely you can see that? I bet I could persuade a group of people that water cures cancer if I wanted, but it doesn't make it true, except in your eyes. Read this for some astounding clinical results from doing absolutely nothing.

"Other medicines might stimulate the placebo effect, such as blood letting and accupuncture, but the still have an effect."

Do you want your doctor to prescribe a placebo to you? I wouldn't. Blood letting is known to be harmful, so surely any placebo effect is countered by the actual damage it does?

"These types of alternative medicine represent thousands of years of trial and error, just like the double blind studies we do today."

Again, by equating those things, you're missing the point of what a double blind study actually is.

"How about the acid and alkaline balance as the modern equlivalent of yin and yang. Acids in foods, proteins and alchohols need to be balanced with alkaline minerals such as magnesium and calcium."

But that's not what Chinese medicine says. Yin and Yang applies in chinese medicine to any opposing forces, you're just suggested two opposing chemicals that really do exist - how does that validate Chinese medicine? You're just shoehorning it in.

"Particularly since your mum is a reflexology practicioner, i would have thought you would be more open."

What sort of argument is this? You should believe in it because your parents do? Surely you can do better than that. My parents don't tell me what to believe.

"By writing that saying alternative medicine has any benefits is being politically correct, you are implicitly saying that alternative medicine is groundless, crap."

I'm pretty much given up hope that you read what I'm writing, but I never said that. What I said was that doctors should be able to discount treatment which have been proven to have no effect.

Here's a quote from my very first post, at the bottom of this page:
"Don't get me wrong, there are many things medical science has yet to learn, and I'm sure some alternative treatments have a strong grounding in fact which we have yet to discover, but many are pure rubbish."

Now, where does it say that all alternative medicine is rubbish? Nowhere, that's where.

If doctors are pressured to accept treatments which have been proved false, we could end up in the dark ages. However, we should always keep an open mind about discovering new medicines, and investigating their effects in a scientific way. Once they've been investigated we'll know whether there's any truth to their effects, and whether they have any negative ones to go with it. Some will work, but many will not. However, accepting treatments because they've been performed for thousands of years, or because it will balance your yin with your yang, is dangerous.

Oh - and personal attacks will get you nowhere.

Alfalfa benefit

Alfalfa dries dampness, diuretic, appetizer, benefits the urinary system and intestines, detoxifies the body. Alfalfa cleans and tones the intestines and takes harmful acids out of the blood. Used for arthritis, edema, weight loss, bladder stones, plantar warts, chronic sore throat, fevers, gas pains, peptic ulcers, drug and alcohol addiction recovery.
Contains: protein, carotene, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, sulfar, silicon, chlorine, cobalt, zinc, Vit. K & P and chlorophyll.
For a 1 quart jar full use 2 tablespoons seed, soak 6 hours. 5-6 days sprouting time.

Dangers in Genetically Engineered/ Modified Food

Dangers in Genetically Engineered/ Modified Food

Government agencies should evaluate the safety of new food crops based on what they contain rather how they were created, according to a report released yesterday by the National Academy of Sciences. Foods designed to have novel compounds or altered levels of natural substances require a special attention for unintended health effects, the committee concluded.

The panel, chaired by Bettie Sue Masters of the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, distinguished between crops that are genetically engineered (GE) — having a gene deleted or transferred between species — and those that are genetically modified by other methods. It noted that no harm to humans has been found from GE crops, but concluded that transferring genes does raise the risk of surprise effects. However, the panel noted, techniques other than gene-splicing, such as mutagenesis from radiation or chemicals, have a higher risk of creating genetic surprises. Even crops whose genes are modified and shuffled by conventional breeding can turn out to have harmful effects, such as heightened levels of naturally occurring toxic compounds.

Agencies should take a broader look at all new foods, the panel recommends. If a product contains an unknown substance, or if levels of known compounds are significantly different than those in current products, then a detailed safety analysis should be conducted. In order to know the normal range of food compositions, federal agencies need to build a comprehensive database of several hundred compounds in crops grown in a range of environmental conditions. To that end, companies should make public compositional information that's currently held as confidential business information, the committee recommended.

In some cases, such as foods with improved nutrition, monitoring should continue after the product is on the market to make sure the products are in fact safe. To make that possible, the committee recommends, agencies need to find ways to track foods and consumer habits. The study was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In an addendum to the report, the committee reported it could find no evidence that food from cloned animals was any more risky than food from other animals.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) in Washington, D.C., lauded the report as affirming the safety of biotech crops, but Gregory Jaffe of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says the recommendations don't go far enough. "The obvious conclusion is that there should be a mandatory approval process by FDA prior to commercialization" of GE foods, he says. Health Source: 0223,2005 Nursing/Academic Edition



Support is growing for the idea that immune system problems in a pregnant woman or developing child set the stage for autism.

Zimmerman and his colleagues recently found that rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders, in which the immune system attacks parts of the body, are unexpectedly common in families of autistic children. Zimmerman says that other studies have shown that from 30 to 70 percent of autistic children have subtle immune system abnormalities, although such children aren't exceptionally vulnerable to everyday infections.

To study whether impaired immunity might put some children at risk of developing autism after being exposed to thimerosal, Mady Hornig of Columbia University and her colleagues did experiments using mice vulnerable to autoimmune diseases. The researchers injected newborns of this susceptible strain and of two other strains with thimerosal alone, with a thimerosal-vaccine combination, or saline solution. The doses were comparable to those that children receive in typical vaccinations.

In the September Molecular Psychiatry, Hornig's team reports that virtually all the mice in the immune-compromised strain that received either form of thimerosal showed autismlike symptoms. They behaved oddly and had delayed growth and brain abnormalities. The other two strains of mice showed no such effects.

Some scientists caution against reading too much into the findings. Epidemiologist Craig Newschaffer of Johns Hopkins says that animal experiments such as this are important to determine the physiological effects of exposure to toxic substances. But, he notes, it's impossible to say with certainty that lab animals exhibiting certain kinds of behavior have autism or that what happens in lab animals translates to people. "We have to keep in mind that these are largely preliminary studies," he says.


Environmental agents under scrutiny in autism research include drugs, vaccines, viruses, and poisonous substances such as lead and mercury. "There certainly isn't a shortage of environmental suspects that may play a role in autism," notes Andy Shih, chief science officer of the National Alliance for Autism Research in Princeton, N.J. "But these are not all necessarily artificial or manmade and may have to do with influences in the womb."

Zimmerman, a pediatric neurologist, is one of many specialists who think that environmental influences in utero may contribute to autism by disrupting normal early development. To a fetus, any effect from outside the womb-hormones triggered by a mother's stress, for example-is environmental. "It's anything that affects pregnancy," says Zimmerman.

Isaac Pessah, director of the Center for Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research at the University of California, Davis, agrees. He also points out that newborns and infants are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of toxic exposures because the human nervous and immune systems "undergo considerable remodeling in the first 2 years of life."

Some scientists suspect that maternal viral infections are one of the principal noninherited causes of autism. Epidemiological studies have found a significantly increased risk of autism in the offspring of mothers exposed to the rubella, or German measles, virus early in pregnancy.

In the Jan. 1, 2003, Journal of Neuroscience, scientists led by Paul H. Patterson of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena reported that when pregnant mice were infected with a modified human-flu virus, they produced offspring that, as adults, behaved in ways similar to those of many autistic children. Compared with a control group, the affected mice interacted less and were unusually anxious under mildly stressful situations and around unfamiliar objects.

The scientists also found unusually low numbers of critical signaling components, called Purkinje cells, in brain tissue of the affected mice. Autopsies of people with autism have revealed fewer than normal of these cells.

In an upcoming International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, Patterson's group reports that altered brain development in the mice doesn't appear to occur as a direct result of viral infection in the fetus. Instead, "there's evidence it's related to a natural immune response in the mother, [but the] mechanism is something we're still working on," says Patterson.

Some of the molecules that the mother uses to fight the virus may be crossing the placenta and affecting brain development in the fetus, he explains.

If so, the problem wouldn't be specific to the flu virus. "Lots of kinds of infection could lead to the same effects," Patterson says.


Beth Crowell remembers the day in 1989 when her triplets, Casey, Andrew, and Erin, were about 15 months old. Crowell put Erin down on the floor to crawl. "But she just sat there, fixated on the red shag carpeting," says the Housatonic, Mass., mother of four. The toddlers were often sick, and "none of them made eye contact," Crowell recalls. A medical evaluation was devastating: All three babies had autism. Children with autism typically have trouble communicating, interacting socially, and controlling their behavior. Those most severely affected seem to live in a world of their own. Various treatments sometimes reduce symptoms, especially if children are diagnosed early. But there is no cure for autism, which has baffled the medical community since the disorder was first described in 1943.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently estimated that 1 of every 1,000 children may have autism, or 1 in 500 if those with autism-related disorders such as Asperger syndrome are included.

For years, Crowell combed the medical literature trying to figure out what might have gone wrong in her triplets. She doubted that a genetic mutation was solely responsible. Crowell came to suspect that terbutaline, a drug she had taken during pregnancy to prevent premature labor, might have played a role.

A team of researchers in Baltimore found her assertion plausible. They knew of experiments showing that rats exposed to terbutaline before birth had brain abnormalities. More recently, they completed a yet-unpublished clinical study that found a higher-than-expected incidence of autism in both children in sets of fraternal twins whose mothers also took terbutaline during pregnancy. The investigators are Andrew Zimmerman of the Kennedy Krieger Institute, independent researcher Susan Connors, and researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

This research reflects a shift in scientific thinking about what causes autism, and a push to look harder at potential environmental influences.

"For years, the emphasis [in autism research] has been on neurobiology and genetics," says Michael Cuccaro of Duke University in Durham, N.C., a psychiatrist specializing in autism. "It was thought we could identify the causes if we could understand those connections, but we're still left searching for causes. There was a missing piece of the puzzle, which was the environment."

Some scientists are convinced that environmental factors must be at play because autism appears to be increasing rapidly. They argue that genetic factors alone can't account for such rapid growth. For example, California Department of Developmental Services data show that autism cases in the state more than doubled between 1987 and 1998. Scientists from the CDC found a 10-fold increase in autism in Atlanta from 1986 to 1996.

However, perinatal epidemiologist Lisa Croen of Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research in Oakland, Calif., says that some of the apparent increase probably reflects inconsistencies in data-reporting methods and changes in diagnostic criteria over the past 15 years.

A highly controversial piece of the autism picture in the past decade has been the issue of whether childhood vaccines can trigger the disorder. Suspicions arose because autism is often diagnosed around the time when children receive a series of routine vaccinations. A mercury-based vaccine preservative called thimerosal seemed a likely culprit.

In the past 5 years, thimerosal has been phased out of most pediatric vaccines, and a committee of the National Academies' Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C., has consistently found no conclusive evidence for an autism-vaccine connection. But two new studies are reviving the argument that thimerosal can act as an environmental factor promoting autism in certain children.

Geneticist Thomas Wassink of the University of Iowa in Iowa City says that most researchers studying the genetics of autism now assume that the disorder is caused by interplay between genes and factors from outside the body. He speculates that environmental factors trigger the disorder in children in whom 5 to 15 genes have created an underlying susceptibility. Gene hunters are homing in on several autism-related genes, he says.

Much of the current research on autism is in early stages. Payoffs in treatments or preventive measures are likely to be years to decades away.

Vaccination, Toxins and Autism

The article examines how drugs and other environmental agents may contribute to autism. Children with autism typically have trouble communicating, interacting socially, and controlling their behavior. Various treatments sometimes reduce symptoms, especially if children are diagnosed early, but there is no cure for autism. Some scientists believe environmental factors are at play because autism appears to be increasing rapidly. They argue that genetic factors alone can't account for such rapid growth. A highly controversial piece of the autism picture has been the issue of whether childhood vaccines can trigger the disorder. Much of the current research on autism is in early stages. Payoffs in treatments or preventive measures are likely to be years to decades away. Environmental agents under scrutiny in autism research include drugs, vaccines, viruses, and poisonous substances such as lead and mercury. Some scientists suspect that maternal viral infections are one of the principal noninherited causes of autism. Support is growing for the idea that immune system problems in a pregnant woman or developing child set the stage for autism. As in other diseases, finding the roots of autism is challenging because things can go awry at so many points on the long and complicated road to normal human development.



* Start with a good juicer. Look for one with a strong motor (½ horsepower or more); also, fewer parts make cleanup easier.
* Clear a space on the counter. Position your juicer where it wilt be convenient to juice every day.
* Invest in a good book. You want your juices to be delicious and to suit your individual health needs. While you're still new, trust the experts.
* Co organic. There are extra nutrients in the peels of organic fruits and vegetables — but wash them thoroughly to remove any dirt. Skip the skins of conventionally grown produce, which are more likely to contain pesticides.
* Think ahead. Wash, peel, and cut fruits and veggies in advance. You can leave prepped produce covered in the refrigerator overnight.

Drink your health

FRESH JUICE SAVES lives. So says Cherie Calbom, whose poor dietary habits had taken a serious toll on her health. "I had such terrible chronic fatigue, I had to quit work," she recalls. "I used to crawl down the hall, I was so weak." Scouring her local healthfood store for solutions, Calbom learned about the rejuvenating power of fresh fruit and vegetable juices. She began a daily regimen of fresh juices, and temporarily dedicated herself to a vegetarian diet. "The results were astounding," she says. Within three months, she felt like a new person — one who possessed boundless energy, renewed strength, and vibrant good health. She was inspired to return to graduate school for a degree in nutrition, and to author The Juice Lady's Guide to Juicing for Health. Do-it-yourself juicing gives you a powerful nutrition boost without the bite. We asked Calbom and other experts how to make the most of this healthy habit.

Why juice? If you're looking to get the maximum concentrations of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and phytonutrients from fruits and vegetables, juice provides them in a form that's easy for your body to absorb, says Steve Meyerowitz, author of Power Juices Super Drinks. Juicing usually removes fiber, which means minimal digestive effort is required and nutrients can reach cells quickly. When you have more time to digest, get the fiber you need from whole grains and raw fruits and vegetables; you also can add bran or wheat germ to your juice if your fiber count is falling behind.

HOW much is enough? The new USDA guidelines recommend 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables per day for an average 2,000-calorie diet. Since different fruits and vegetables produce varying amounts of juice, keep track of serving sizes by measuring the raw foods. A single serving for dense produce like beets or carrots is about ½ cup; for greens, it's closer to 1 cup. You can easily get multiple servings of fruits and veggies in a glass of juice that would be tiring to eat in whole form, says Meyerowitz.

Fruit or vegetable? "Fruit is loaded with nutrients, but has a fair amount of natural sugars," says Dee Sandquist, R.D., nutrition and diabetes manager at the Southwest Washington Medical Center in Vancouver. She advises drinking no more than 8 ounces of pure fruit juice a day, since the concentrated sugars add calories and, for people with diabetes, may cause blood sugar to spike. Instead, combine a few leaves of spinach, some carrots and celery, and maybe a beet or two to get diverse benefits in a single drink. "Mixing more vegetables gives you a flourish of creativity and wider variety of nutrients, and may be more palatable," says Sandquist.

Does it last? Light, heat, and air break down nutrients, so drink fresh juice sooner rather than later, and keep it refrigerated (up to 24 hours) in an airtight, opaque container. For convenience, Meyerowitz makes two servings of vegetable juice at a time, drinks one immediately, and slows nutrient loss by chilling the second serving to 38 degrees Fahrenheit in the freezer for 10 to 20 minutes before moving it to the refrigerator.

Can't I just buy it? To prevent spoilage, all store-bought juice is pasteurized, a process that destroys some of its naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Manufacturers supplement their beverages to replace the loss, but most dietitians prefer nutrients in their natural form. "That's how they work best," says Noralyn Wilson, R.D., spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. If you can't juice it yourself, visit a juice bar. Or if you do go commercial, look for products containing 100 percent juice without added sugar or water, such as Evolution, Odwalla, and Naked.

Organic Gardening Made EZ

Life is just too fast for most of us. When a beautiful weekend rolls around - which is not too common lately - many of us do our best to take advantage of the weather and take care of outdoor jobs around the house, including our landscape maintenance.

When you're considering what you need to get your landscape in shape for spring, you might consider alternative methods for conditioning your soil, getting rid of pests and staying clear of disease and fungus.

How? Organic gardening.

"We live in a fast-paced world," says Laurie Garretson, who co-owns and operates Earth Works nursery with husband Mark. Nowadays, people want immediate satisfaction, says Laurie. With organic gardening, however, the satisfaction comes in knowing that Mother Nature is doing things naturally.

"Nature has a way of taking care of itself if you'll just let it. Unfortunately, the overuse of chemicals through the years has wiped out much of the living matter in the soil. Without that life in the soil, we have to keep adding chemicals to do what intended to be done naturally."

With organic gardening, gardeners won't necessarily see results as quickly as with standard amendments such as herbicides or pesticides, but living organisms and nutrients are being added back to the soil. When the plants need them, they're available.

Going organic is not as hard as it sounds. Simply adding something organic, such as compost, can amend soil.

"Vegetable waste, animal manure, grass clippings, weeds - pretty much anything that used to be living and has decayed - makes good compost," says Laurie.

How much compost should you add? A vegetable garden, for instance, can be made up of almost 100 percent compost, whereas a shallow layer of compost would be sufficient to spread over a lawn.

For flowerbeds, a half-and-half mixture of soil and compost would work fine.

For a good soil "multivitamin," Laurie recommends adding rock powder. "It makes things stronger and healthier overall. It's a good nutrient for soil and really helps the root development."

Fight bugs with bugs

For pest control, organic gardeners use "beneficial bugs," or bugs that survive on other bugs. "For every bad bug, there's a good bug," assures Laurie. For instance, ladybugs are one of nature's best defenses against other pests. "They're very beneficial," says Laurie. "Aphids and white flies are popular meals for ladybugs, but they like most any small, soft bug."

Combine silver lacewings with ladybugs, and you have a "killer bug combo" effective against aphids and white flies, small caterpillars and fleas.

For fly problems, especially around stables, fly parasites can make a big difference in eradicating the problem. "We've really started selling a lot of those for farmers and ranchers with animals such as goats, cattle or horses."

Another one of nature's weapons against garden pests is nematodes. Use them against fleas, ticks, grub worms, chinch bugs and fire ants.

For grasshopper or cricket problems, grasshopper bait is an effective defense. "The bait is really a bacteria that's been combined with grain. When it's ingested, it causes grasshoppers and crickets to stop eating within 24-48 hours. The bait continues to work when other grasshoppers and crickets eat the dead ones and they, too, eventually quit eating and die.

Take care of weeds, fungus

For weed problems, organic gardeners often use strong vinegar, typically not sold at grocery stores. The vinegar is particularly acidic.

When combined with orange oil, a potent weed-fighting cocktail is created that's particularly effective during the heat of summer.

For fungus problems, an age-old, well-known remedy is whole ground cornmeal. Sprinkling it on an affected area in the lawn or around a plant, such as a rose bush, is a great way to fight a nasty problem like fungus.

Tea History

One very simple and effective choice you can make to enrich your vitality is to replace coffee with tea. Yes, tea does contain caffeine but not as much as coffee. Tea also contains other healing chemicals and has a social place at the centre of a diversity of cultures. So popular is this drink that two countries claim they are its place of origin.


Chinese legend has it that the Emperor Shen Nung discovered tea around about 2700 BC. Apparently the good Emperor was meditating under a tree with a pot of boiling water in front of him. A gust of wind is believed to have blown tea leaves into the

pot. Shen Nung found the resulting brew deliciously refreshing and tea drinking was born. Indians will tell you a different story. The Indian legend states that tea was a divine creation of Prince Siddhartha Gautama (later known as Buddha). The story goes that the Prince fell asleep despite having taken a vow to stay awake. Aggrieved by this failure, he tore off both his eyelids and threw them to the ground. Supposedly the eyelids took root and germinated into tea plants. When the Prince chewed the leaves of these plants all his fatigue was lifted. In reality, both of these stories came probably about 45 000 years after tea drinking was discovered. Archaeological evidence suggests that Homo erectus was consuming boiled water with leaves in it as long as 50 000 years ago. Some of these leaves probably came from wild tea plants. Wherever it began, it is doubtful that the first tea drinker could have imagined how tea would one day sweep the globe.


Tea is made from a perennial evergreen plant known botanically as Camellia sinensis. If unplucked the plant will grow up to 10 metres high. Plantation tea plants are kept to around 1 metre for ease of harvesting. The best quality teas are made from

the first two leaves of the plant plus the bud and these must be picked by hand. Due to a variety of processing techniques and different ingredients added, there are estimated to be more than 3000 varieties of drinking tea derived from this one species. Green tea, for instance, is only different to common black tea in that green tea is not fermented. Since at least 300 BC, tea has been a popular drink in China. It has also enjoyed long popularity in India. It was only in the sixth century AD that tea arrived in Europe. It came on the backs of men who walked from China to Tibet along 5000 foot-high mountain passes with 300 pound loads of tea strapped to their backs and opium tucked behind their ears to deaden the pain. Tea was first introduced to the British through coffee houses during the reign of Charles II. In the eighteenth century, when Britain dominated world sea trade, it imported large quantities of tea from China. It then established tea plantations in India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and the drink became the most popular beverage in Britain, replacing beer (ale) for breakfast and gin at any other time. While tea drinking has assumed a quasi-religious status in the secular homes of the Western world, in some countries it is an overtly spiritual experience. In Japan, for example, elaborate tea ceremonies are performed and the drinking of tea is regarded as a sacred aspect of the art of living. Japanese monks also use tea to enhance concentration during meditation. In early twenty-first century Australia we consume about 9.5 million cups of tea every day. Thankfully, the health impacts of this popular lifestyle choice are generally good.


A cup of tea brewed for about one minute will contain approximately 32 milligrams of caffeine. This is about half that of instant coffee and only one-quarter to one-eighth of an espresso. So while caffeine is not good for you in large amounts, tea contains relatively low levels. Additionally, tea contains other chemicals, including flavonoids, tannins and theophylline. Certainly tea is a preferable health choice compared to its hot beverage competitor coffee. Indeed many studies are highlighting surprisingly diverse health benefits from tea.


In one study, 50 patients with atherosclerosis drank roughly two cups (500 millilitres) of black tea. The ability of the major artery of the arm to dilate (open) was then monitored with ultrasound. Patients drinking the tea prior to ultrasound evaluation had a greater dilation (or opening) in the arteries of the arm. The authors also found that ingestion of four cups of tea per day for a month, but no tea immediately before the ultrasound, had a similar effect. Caffeine alone did not have the same beneficial effects as the tea, suggesting that some tea component other than caffeine was

responsible for the action. Tea is a known source of flavonoids, the same health promoting substances that are found in red wine. These falconoid have antioxidant effects that are beneficial for the heart as they protect the arteries from damage and also stop damage to cholesterol, thereby perhaps acting to reduce cholesterol plaques.


A group of researchers from the University of Illinois College of Dentistry in the USA believes that black tea benefits oral health by interfering with the harmful plaque bacteria in the mouth, which cause gum disease and cavities. One of their studies had volunteers rinse their mouths with black tea for 30 seconds five times at three-minute intervals. They found that this stopped the plaque bacteria from growing. This supported an earlier Swedish study, which found that rinsing the mouth with black tea reduces plaque build-up.

Following are some Chinese tradition claims about the relationship between health and tea drinking. Tea drinking is reputed to:

Increase blood flow to all parts of the body.
Stimulate clear thinking and mental alertness.
Speed the elimination of alcohol and other harmful substances (fats and nicotine, for example) from the bodily organs.
Increase the body's power of resistance to a wide range of diseases.
Accelerate the metabolism and the intake of oxygen by the bodily organs.
Prevent tooth decay.
Have a cleansing and invigorating effect upon the skin, which assists in the preservation of a youthful appearance.
Prevent or slow down the onset of anemia.
Clear the urine and facilitate its flow.
Benefit and brighten the eyes.
Combat the effects of summer heat.
Assist the digestion.
Ease discomfort in the limbs and joints.
Decrease harmful secretions of mucus.
Assuage thirst.
Banish fatigue, raise the spirits and induce a general feeling of well-being.
Prolong the life span of the individual.



In your quest to find the ultimate in holistic, natural beauty, you'll find that the more you learn about the rituals of non-Western cultures, the more you get a real sense of the unwavering respect that the rest of the world has not only for nature's awesome rejuvenating power and tremendous beauty benefits, but for its innate life force and infinite healing wisdom.

In The Lady, the Chef, and the Courtesan (HarperCollins), the author, Marisol, describes the sensual and "cult-like" reverence for beauty known as la belleza instilled and nurtured in South American women from an early age, which she attributes in part to the continent's stunning natural splendor.

A hunger to explore the rejuvenating rituals of exotic cultures is what led 17-year spa consultant and trainer Alison Gibbs to Hong Kong, Thailand and Indonesia. She wanted to work with local healers to find out their traditional techniques.

Perhaps the most decadent rejuvenating beauty ritual she discovered was the "lulur" ritual that princesses in central Java receive for 40 days prior to marriage. It involves a special herbal scrub, massage and exotic flower bath.

Queen of Flowers

"The flower bath inspires the spirit and soothes the eyes," says Gibbs. The botanical ingredients used in the lulur, and their reason for use, says Gibbs, include turmeri (nourishing), rice (exfoliating), fenugreek (lymphatic clearing), gingerroot (circulation), jasmine (uplifting, aphrodisiac), Cernpaka (a flower prized and offered up in religious ceremonies) and ylangylang — the "queen of flowers" said to stimulate lymph flow, reduce swelling and act as an aphrodisiac.

Prior to the bath, yogurt is massaged on to remove the lulur scrub and "activate" the skin. "Yogurt is nutritious for the skin, adding enzymes and oil and working as a natural moisturizer," says Gibbs. A milk bath (mandi su su) is sometimes substituted for the yogurt. Gibbs adds that warming the body internally during the process with herbal drinks, such as ginger water, is also important.

After 8 years in Asia, Gibbs returned home to her native England, where she now shares her highly sought-after knowledge of authentic Indonesian beauty therapies with some of the most exclusive spas in the world. "Most Indonesian rituals acknowledge beauty from within and the importance of inner health," she says.

Henna's Cool

Another example of an inside-out approach using the medicinal plants native to a region are the beauty practices in India. Pratima Raichur, an Ayurvedic practitioner and author of Absolute Beauty (HarperCollins) cites the use of henna externally and the herb brahmi taken internally as two of the most relied-on Ayurvedic regimens for maintaining health and beauty in India's hot climate.

Says Raichur, "It is well known throughout the world that henna beautifies when applied on hair or on the body, but henna painting also takes away excess heat from the body and calms hives and rashes and balances hyperacidity. During summer, we paint our extremities, including the bottoms of the feet and hands, to avoid overheating." Indeed, the Arabian philosopher and physician Avicenna (908-1038) determined that henna was effective in treating inflammations and burns, Raichur notes.

As for brahmi, which is taken internally, Raichur says it rejuvenates brain cells and improves elasticity in the skin.

World of Beauty

In Europe, as well as ancient Egypt and Greece, chamomile was revered and used both internally and externally. The nobility put crushed camomile petals in their baths. As an internal remedy for digestive ails, it's among the top 10 prescribed medicines in Germany.

South Pacific Islanders have their virgin coconut oil, Mediterraneans their olive oil and Native Americans their mineral springs and mud baths.

I could take another 20 trips around the world and keep turning up one natural miracle after the next, all identified long ago by ancient cultures and yet only recently verified to be therapeutic by modern scientific methods.

Return to Nature

So it's no fluke that most of the historically revered rejuvenating substances above have today been proven to have the very benefits for which they been used for thousands of years.

Although we live in a land of plenty, the typical modern American may only rarely experience purely natural therapies using fresh botanicals. Instead, too many have to settle for infusing themselves with synthetic products that merely mimic nature. It makes one wonder if our quest to be "one-up" on nature and produce more and more high-tech "beauty" products are really advances at all — and toward what?

We can only hope that the new American beauty will be the best of all worlds.

Living with Treatment

Living with Treatment
Lets get the bad news out of the way first!

Treatment for Hepatitis C is not a pleasant experience. Nearly all patients experience side effects from the drugs to some degree, and this adds to any symptoms from the virus itself, and any pre-existing medical problems. In most cases side effects are bearable, and the vast majority of patients complete the course of treatment.

With one exception, success rates for treatment cannot be described as good. The exception is for genotype 2 where over 95% of patients are cured. They also benefit from shorter treatment duration and lower drug doses. For most of the remainder the success rate is quoted at 55-65%, but this is varied by factors such as viral load, length of infection, age and many other parameters. In most circumstances success rates are basesd on American drug trial information which is based on very poor patient compliance. The resulting figures tend to be very pessimistic. In UK practice, nearly all genotype 2's are cured, around 85% of genotype 3's, and around 65% of genotype 1's.

OK - Thats the bad news out of the way!

Patients with a positive mental attitude generally do better whilst on treatment. Your first dealings with your specialist are a good time to start. Resolve that you are going to be a 'perfect patient', by which I mean that you are going to be the patient that the specialist can rely on. You of all his patients can be guaranteed to be at your appointments at least ten minutes early, well prepared, with any necessary paperwork to hand. You will do your level best to make his life easier. Nothing will be too much trouble. You will have done your research thoroughly, and will not require answers to all the idiot questions that most patients have, and can discuss the finer points of your condition in an intelligent and informed manner. Generally cultivate a good working relationship. This is all part of a ploy to get your specialist's full attention if you do have a problem during treatment. If he expects to be bombarded with a list of problems, he is unlikely to pay much attention when a new one occurs.

Don't forget that it is vital to discuss any pre-existing medical problems that you have with your specialist before you start treatment. If you are being treated for depression with one of the SSRI drugs, it virtually certain that you will require dose modification and very careful monitoring during treatment. This is because the side effects of Ribavirin may interact with SSRI treatments. DO NOT STOP TAKING SSRI MEDICATION WITHOUT CONSULTING A DOCTOR. Patients with a history of depression represent a severe challenge to the medical profession, as theoretically Interferon/Ribavirin is contra-indicated. Hepatitis C treatment is possible in most cases, but requires very careful supervision and specialist care.

You may also need to discuss the subject of contraception. Because Ribavirin is toxic there is a high probability that any child conceived while its mother was being treated with Ribavirin would be born deformed or retarded. Whether Ribavirin damages sperm is not known, but it is a virtual certainty. It makes good sense to take simple precautions and prevent any chance of an unwanted pregnancy whilst on treatment and for at least six months after finishing treatment as Ribavirin persists that long.

Treatment itself consists of tablets morning and night, and one injection per week. Sounds simple doesn't it? In the majority of cases it actually is! The tablets are best taken with food, ideally fatty food, as it improves their absorbtion by up to 60% and reduces stomach upsets. It is best to take them in the middle of a meal, not before or after. Recent studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between ribavirin levels in the blood and success rates, so make the effort to take them with fatty food where possible. The tablets tend to kill off gut bacteria which can lead to diarrhea. This can be countered by the occasional spoonful of 'live' natural yoghurt. The injections are straightforward, and full training is given. See the Hints and Tips section for more information. Spend some time and read thoroughly the manufacturers data sheets supplied with the drugs. You will find that there are certain side-effects that require you to notify your doctor immediately. Make sure that you are fully aware of these.

DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOL WHILE ON TREATMENT. This means none at all. Not a drop! Alcohol compromises the effectiveness of Interferon, and even a small amount will cause a gap in the treatment where the virus can breed and recover. Explain politely to the idiot who insists that you should have a 'proper' drink that you have no intention of throwing away all that you have been through, and that you will gladly join him for a beer the week after you finish treatment but not before! Alternatively, if you have abstained while on treatment why start again? Your liver will be a lot better off without it!

You will probably read elsewhere that patients on treatment should drink plenty of fluids. This is questionable advice. It is well known that treatment tends to cause dehydration, and hence requires extra fluid intake. However, excessive fluid intake will stimulate clearance of Interferon by the kidneys, and reduce its effectiveness. Very large quantities of fluids can be dangerous, and will increase anaemia. A balance needs to be maintained, so just be sensible with your fluid intake. A bit more than normal is fine, but don't go mad! As a general rule, if you are emptying a full bladder four or five times per day then your fluid intake is about right. For a more in-depth examination of the issue click here. There has been some research that suggests that coffee contains an ingredient that can be beneficial to the liver, whereas tea contains tannin which is definitely not. All this is unproven at this time.

Side effects of the drugs are many and vary in number and severity from patient to patient. They fall into three categories:- Those experienced by the patient, those detected by a doctor, and those noticed by associates.

From a patient's point of view by far the most common side effects are flu-like symptoms. These come in the form of feverish sensations, often with shivering and sweats. They tend to be at their worst a few hours after an injection, and three days after an injection. This is due to the two peaks in the Interferon profile. The solution, surprisingly is paracetamol. I have never been much of a believer in paracetamol, and would normally pour scorn on it but in this case it actually works well. Two tablets each morning and night have a surprising effect, and will make life a lot more pleasant.
On the subject of over-the-counter medications and supplements, my advice is to stay well clear of them. Be especially wary of herbal remedies as these can be extremely dangerous to anyone with compromised liver function. Be aware that some over-the-counter medicines and vitamins can cause false blood test readings, as can some herbal products. Make certain that your doctor knows everything that you have taken and when. Attempting to treat side-effects with anything other than paracetamol can be counter-productive and in some cases dangerous. For instance, Aspirin can cause major problems due to its blood thinning properties. If you think that your side effects require treatment, talk to the specialist. That's what they are paid for! Don't play with fire! Be aware that treatment does depress your bodies' immune system, and any minor infection that would not normally require treatment can require medical intervention. If in doubt tell the doc!

The other very common side effect is breathlessness, possibly related to anaemia. Treatment reduces the number of red cells in the bloodstream which carry oxygen around the body. This means that sudden exertion can leave you gasping and dizzy. Your body seems to adjust to this after a time, and if you are aware of the problem you can usually avoid it. Don't be afraid to stop and recover for a few minutes. The type of anaemia caused by low red cell levels is different to that normally understood by most people in that there is usually no shortage of iron in the body. In many cases iron levels are too high, as the liver removes and stores iron from dying cells. Don't be tempted to supplement your iron levels without your doctors's advice as you could make the problem worse.

From the doctors point of view, the results of blood tests are his prime concern. Treatment can have serious side effects on blood and liver chemistry, and he will be watching the results of your blood tests like a hawk! Blood tests are usually done prior to treatment starting, weekly for the first four weeks, and then four-weekly. They are usually done on injection days, but before the actual injection. The doctor is likely to be able to detect any problem before you get symptoms of it. In some cases he may reduce drug doses on either a temporary or permanent basis if he decides that the test results merit it. He will also monitor virus levels. More on that later.

From your friends and family's point of view you are likely to become irritable and short tempered. This is a well known side effect, and probably due to the treatment affecting seratonin levels in the brain. From your own point of view you are your normal sweet loveable self, and wishing to tear the postman limb from limb when he interrupted your cup of tea is perfectly normal behaviour. Normal from your point of view, that is! You are not aware that your behaviour is anything other than normal. There is not a great deal that any patient can do to prevent 'Ribavirin Rage' as it is known, but you must remember that you cannot self-assess your own state of mind. Ask your family and friends to be tolerant, and get them to tell you and your doctor if things are getting out of hand! There is a point where in rare cases suicidal feelings start to develop. If you find it happening to you YOU MUST TELL YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY. This is very important. There is an additional psychological pressure that tends to develop later in treatment. You tend to find that it requires a considerable effort of willpower to actually do the injection. The psychology of having to inject yourself with something that you know will make you feel unwell is interesting, to say the least. It may well be due to a fight between your concious will and a sub-concious defence mechanism.

There are many web-based support forums where you can correspond with other people who are either undergoing the same treatment, or have been through it. You are guaranteed a sympathetic hearing. A little advice from someone who has been through it all is often very helpfull, and if nothing else, you can blow off a bit of steam. Just watching on the sidelines can teach you a lot, and it doesn't hurt to be reminded occasionally that there are many people a lot worse off than yourself. Do bear in mind that if you visit forums in other countries their treatment systems differ considerably from ours. They often have the luxury of being able to choose when, where, and how they are treated. Their doctors are often allowed to tailor treatments to suit patient needs, and do not have their methods dictated to them by a government quango (NICE) which stifles any individual experimental treatment.

As a general rule those going through treatment have good days and bad days. Try to make the most of the good days, and take it easy on the bad ones. There is no need to completely change your lifestyle just because you are being treated, but being a little less ambitious in terms of getting things done is a good approach.

At various stages during treatment there are milestones. For genotypes other that 2 and 3 the first, and most important of which is the 12 week viral load test. The target is to see your virus count drop by a factor of at least 100 from its start-of-treatment level. This is called a 2 log drop. (see Technical Terms in Beginners Guide) It means that the virus is responding to treatment. Unfortunately, if your virus count has not dropped by this amount, it means that your chances of being cured by this treatment are very small indeed, and you will probably be taken off treatment. Treatment is expensive and the dear old NHS is reluctant to blow another big wad of taxpayers cash on you, having just spent a small fortune finding out that it was very unlikely to work! (Twelve weeks treatment costs 9500 US Dollars at wholesale drug prices alone, and thats without tests, etc) Genotypes 2 and 3 are generally treated for 24 weeks, without the twelve week virus test as nearly all would be undetectable at that point. The next milestones are end-of-treatment PCR tests. These detect just about any virus particles. A negative PCR at the end of treatment is a very good sign, but the one that you really want is the negative PCR at six months after treatment. If you get that you can regard yourself as cured, as the odds of the virus returning are very small indeed, something like 1%, and if it did, re-treatment would almost certainly work.

It is not all gloom and despair if you do not succeed in clearing the virus. There are many new treatments in the pipeline which are likely to be a lot more effective than current ones. Today's treatments will probably be seen as primitive and not very effective in the future, but at present they are all we have. The important thing to remember is that any treatment that reduces virus levels allows your liver to recover, halts the virus in its tracks for a while, and buys you time. That time gets you closer to the new treatment that will work for you.