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Information About Nutrients and Herbs - Uses, Benefits

OATS (AVENA SATIVA)

Oats are an exceptional cereal and are used primarily for their outstanding nutritional value. They are a few times higher in protein and fat content than any other cereal and are also rich in vitamin E, some of the B vitamins and minerals, particularly zinc, manganese and silica. They are high in fibre and, prepared as a porridge, can help to prevent constipation, soothe the digestive system, reduce cholesterol and strengthen the heart. They are also useful in conditions such as weakness, diabetes, hepatitis, indigestion and bloating. Oats help to strengthen bones as they are rich in silica, and a tincture of oats has been reported to reduce cravings for cigarettes. In addition to porridge, oats are also used in soups, puddings, breads and desserts. Although oats do not contain gluten, the issue of oats for coeliacs is not entirely clear.

OCTACOSANOL

An ingredient of wheat germ oil, it has been found to increase energy, endurance and strength by increasing oxygen utilization in muscles during exercise. Octacosanol also benefits muscular dystrophy and other nerve-muscle disorders. It is available on its own or incorporated into nutritional formulas (see WHEAT GERM OIL).

OLIVE OIL

One of the most desirable culinary oils, especially when it is extra virgin, cold pressed and unrefined, the main fatty acid in olive oil, oleic acid, is a monounsaturated, omega-9 fatty acid. Being monounsaturated, olive oil is more stable, less vulnerable to rancidity and more resistant to heat than polyunsaturated oils such as safflower, sunflower and corn. It is therefore highly recommended for cooking. Olive oil is also excellent used fresh in salad dressings, and is a popular folk remedy in Mediterranean countries for gallstones; it is also claimed to help flush out kidney stones, particularly when a tablespoon of olive oil is taken following fresh lemon juice made of two medium-size lemons. Olive oil is also used for constipation and its continuous use is well­known0 to help lower high cholesterol levels. Externally, olive oil can be used to treat burns, bruises and sprains.

OLIVE TREE LEAVES

A food and medicine since biblical times, olive leaves have now been 'rediscovered' as an energizing food with antiviral and antibacterial properties. As far back as 1855, information started to spread that drinking bitter tea brewed from olive tree leaves was a potential care for malaria. More recently, the active ingredients in the leaves, two phenolic compounds (oleuropein and elenolate), have been isolated. Oleuropein has been found to inhibit two types of fermentative bacteria - which, incidentally, is why olives are often cracked before pickling and the phenols removed, since they inhibit fermentation. Olive leaf extract is increasingly used as a supplement to treat chronic fatigue and boost the immune system. It is also recommended for sore throats, coughs and sinus problems. Oleuropein has been found to be an effective antioxidant, preventing cholesterol from oxidization. As such, it is used to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease in vulnerable people, since oxidized cholesterol is easily deposited, causing blocked blood vessels. Olive leaf extract is now available in capsule form from the Allergy Research Group in San Leandro CA, USA.

MOMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

These are types of essential, polyunsaturated fatty acids. They include EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which are found mainly in ocean fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines, and ALA (alpha­linolenic acid) found mainly in flaxseed oil. The omega-3 fatty acids are very important to the body's health. They reduce blood stickiness, blood clotting, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and inflammations. In this way they help to prevent heart attacks and strokes. In one study, a daily consumption of 1-5 g of omega-3 fatty acids was found to reduce the death risk of coronary heart disease in men by 40 per cent. Supplemental EPA was shown to reduce the levels of ttiglycerides and fibrinogen, a protein involved in blood clotting.

ALA can be converted in the body to EPA, and similarly, EPA can be converted to DHA. EPA however, is considered the most beneficial of the omegas. It is the best source for the body's own production of beneficial prostaglandins that also help reduce inflammation. As such, EPA is considered very helpful in heart disease and inflammatory conditions like arthritis, and is the reason why heart patients and arthritics are often advised to eat ocean fish instead of meat. EPA is now also available in capsule form, and is sold as a food supplement in health food stores. DHA is particularly important for the eye tissue and for brain development in infancy.

ONION

Probably first grown in central or south-western Asia, nowadays onions are grown throughout the world, mainly for their culinary properties, although for many centuries they have been recognized also for their medicinal value. The healing properties of onions are now scientifically established and are attributed to their many important components, such as quercetin, mustard oils and sulphur-containing compounds. Onions can reduce blood stickiness, preventing blood clots and heart attacks. Crude extracts of onion have been shown to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Onions are also used to expel phlegm and alleviate coughs, colds and inflammations of the nose and throat. Onion soup can help care hangovers and is good for coughs, colds and bronchitis.

ORANGE

The orange is among the oldest cultivated fruits known to man and has been grown for more than 4,000 years. It probably originated in the south-western regions of Asia, but nowadays is cultivated in subtropical climates worldwide. Orange is an acidic fruit, best known for its high Vitamin C content - 60 mg per 100 g edible fruit - which is always highest in the early part of the season and much lower in the late season. Oranges also contain vitamin A, potassium, calcium, phosphorus and folic acid. The white part of the rind is a rich source of pectin, which lowers cholesterol, and of bioflavonoids, which benefits weak gums, capillaries and blood vessels. In fact, sweetened orange peel is a popular Middle Eastern treat. The fruit itself has strong anti-inflammatory effects and can be used as a general tonic; it improves digestion and is beneficial for conditions such as colds, arthritis and fevers. The oil derived from the orange rind can relieve flatulence.

OREGANO (ORIGANUM VULGARE)

A perennial herb, native to the Mediterranean regions, oregano is commonly used as a culinary herb. Infusions of the leaves, flowers and stalks can benefit an upset stomach, colic, headaches, nervousness, coughs, whooping cough and other respiratory disorders. Oregano also promotes perspiration, relieves flatulence and expels phlegm. Oregano tea can be used to relieve abdominal cramps in women and regulate the menstrual cycle when taken three or four days before the period is due.

Caution:

Oregano should not be used during pregnancy.

ORNITHINE, L-ORNITHINE

Onetime is derived from argentine, and shares its properties in that it is a growth hormone releaser and strengthens the immune system. However, supplemental ornithine should be taken in half the quantities recommended for arginine.

OXALIC ACID

Oxalic acid is a nutrient found in various vegetables and fruits, particularly in spinach, rhubarb, beets and cranberries; it is also found in chocolate. Consumption of oxalic acid-containing foods can increase any tendency to kidney stones or gravel since the oxalic acid in the food may combine with calcium, resulting in calcium-oxalate kidney stones. People with a known tendency to kidney stones or gravel would therefore do well to cut down on the amount of oxalic acid-containing foods in their diet.

OKRA

A native of Attica, okra - also known as gumbo, Ladies' Fingers or bamia - is grown in large quantities in the southern states of the USA. It is also very popular in Middle Eastern cooking. An annual, the vegetable is produced for its green pods which contain large amounts of vitamins A and C, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. Okra is the number one vegetable source of manganese. The plant is also rich in mucilaginous substances, which lubricate the intestines and are recommended for soothing duodenal ulcers and reducing high cholesterol levels.

OYSTERS

Found mainly in oceans and coastal regions with mild to tropical climates, oysters are one of the richest sources of Zinc and are often recommenended as an aphrodisiac to increase fertility and sex drive. Fresh oysters contain 149 mg zinc per 100 g of the edible portions. The shell is a rich source of calcium and is sometimes used in calcium supplements.

Caution:

Because of their zinc content, oysters should be eaten only in moderation.

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