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Information About Nutrients and Herbs - Uses, Benefits

1. NAC (N-ACETYL CYSTEINE)

As part of glutathione, NAC is a powerful antioxidant and antiviral. It provides protection from free radical damage and strengthens resistance to disease by increasing immune cell levels. As an antioxidant, NAC helps detoxify the liver, prevents cholesterol oxidation, reduces the risk of heart attacks and facilitates the removal of mucous in cystic fibrosis and bronchitis. Available at health food stores.

2. NADH (NICOTINAMIDE ADENINE DINUCLEOTIDE)

A vitamin B3-dependent coenzyme, NADH is essential for cellular energy metabolism and helps produce energy from food. A potent antioxidant and stimulant of adrenaline and dopamine, NADH is used to relieve chronic fatigue (CFS) and treat Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Available as a supplement called 'Enada' in health food stores.

3. NETTLE, STINGING (URTICA DIOICA)

Although a coarse herb that grows freely as a weed across Europe, Asia and North America, the leaves, flowers and seeds of the stinging nettle contain a wide range of useful medicinal and culinary properties. The plant makes an effective tonic and can be used to promote appetite and eliminate intestinal worms, while its fresh juice will stimulate digestion and promote milk flow in nursing mothers. It is also an astringent and can inhibit urinary tract bleeding, haemorrhoids and excessive menstrual flow. As a decoction, netde can be used to strengthen the hair and, when used as a wash, to rejuvenate the skin. The leaves of the netde, which are rich in vitamins and minerals, are often used to flavour salads and make infusions.

4. NEUROTRANSMITTERS (NT)

Neurotransmitters are special chemicals that carry messages between brain cells. All learning, remembering, sleeping and emotions depend upon the ability of the brain cells to produce and deliver neurotransmitters to other brain cells, as well as to respond to messages from other brain cells. Neurotransmitters are produced from nutrients absorbed from food. For example, acetylcholine, which is needed by the brain for learning, memory and long-term planning, is made in the body from choline, a B vitamin found in egg yolk, grains, legumes, leafy green vegetables, and from lecithin, which is rich in phosphatidyl choline. Another neurotransmitter, norepinephrine (brain adrenalin), which is needed for wakefulness, sex, learning and body movement, is produced in the brain by phenylalanine and tyrosine, two amino acids that are found in meat, eggs and cheese. A deficiency of norepinephrine can cause stress, depression and low sex drive. Other important neurotransmitters include dopamine, GADA, melatonin and serotonin. Some neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine, have an excitatory action, while others such as serotonin, have a calming effect.

5. NIGHTSHADES

The nightshades are a class of vegetable that includes potato, tomatoes, aubergine, peppers and tobacco. They all contain solanin, a toxic alkaloid that can cause headaches, osteoarthritis, diarrhoea, and vomiting in sensitive people. Solanine is usually neutralized by cooking, baking, roasting or frying

6. NITRATES, NITRITES

These are chemicals that are used to treat and preserve bacon and other meats, to give them an attractive red colouring and to prevent botulism and aflatoxin mould. Nitrates are toxic as they react with protein to form nitrosamines, which are cancer-causing substances. However, this risk can be reduced by taking supplemental vitamin c.

7. NORI

A seaweed with fibrous, jade-coloured fronds, nori has the highest pJotein content of all the seaweeds (48 per cent dry weight) and is also rich in iodine, sodium, vitamins A, B1 and niacin. It can help in the treatment of goitre, and is also used to reduce cholesterol levels, alleviate painful urination, reduce high blood pressure and aid digestion. It is sold in sheets in health food stores and used in cooking. Nori is best known for its use in the preparation of sushi.

8. NUCLEIC ACIDS

Nucleic acids are special proteins that contain the genetic code and heredity information for the human body. They are present in all cells and supervise their growth, multiplication and functioning. They consist of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), which contains the master 'blueprint', and RNA (ribonucleic acid), which acts as the messenger to the cells. Nucleic acids are vulnerable to tree radical damage in that tree radicals oxidize the nucleic acids and cross-link their molecules, distorting their information. This distorted information can lead to mutations in cell multiplication and performance, cancer and premature ageing. DNA and RNA can be protected by antioxidant vitamins and nutrients. Nucleic acids are available as nutritional supplements.

Caution: Nucleic acid supplements are not suitable for people with gout as they increase uric acid levels.

9. NUTMEG (MYRISTICA FRAGRANS)

A tropical evergreen tree native to the Molucca (Spice) Islands, it is now cultivated in Indonesia, the West Indies, Brazil, India and Sri Lanka for its aromatic seeds which are used mainly as a culinary spice, also known as mace. The ground seeds improve appetite, stimulate digestion and relieve flatulence. It is also a mild hallucinogenic.

Caution: Eating nutmeg in more than seasoning amounts can be dangerous. Overdoses can produce poison­ing symptoms such as stomach pain, dizziness and delirium. Widely available ground or whole in supermarkets.

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