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Information About Nutrients and Herbs - Uses, Benefits

1. RADISH (RAPHANUS SATIVUS)

An annual plant, cultivated for its succulent tubers, radish is eaten raw and mainly used in salads. It is an astringent and diuretic, and is used to promote bile flow. Radishes and their juice are an old home remedy for coughs, rheumatism and gall bladder problems. The leaves of the plant, which are usually discarded, are very nutritious, containing almost ten times as much vitamin C as the roots. They are also rich in calcium, iron, sodium, phosphorus, sulphur and potassium. In Yemenite folk medicine, radishes are used to eliminate kidney stones. Half a cup of fresh radish juice each morning on an empty stomach usually dissolves even the most stubborn stones, passing them out of the body in the urine.

Caution: Large kidney stones can scratch the urinary passage and cause bleeding as they are passed out. Two tablespoon of olive oil can supply lubrication and ease the elimination. Radishes are not recommended for people with gastrointestinal inflammations or ulcers.

2. RASPBERRY (RUBUS IDAEUS)

A widespread shrubby plant which grows wild, raspberry is cultivated for its red berries. It is an effective astringent and the leaves are rich in vitamins, minerals and fragarine, a substance which prevents uterine contractions. Infusion of the leaves can be used to prevent premature labour and painful menstruation. Fresh raspberry juice is an excellent cooling beverage for fevers. Raspberry leaf tea, which is available from health food stores as tea bags, can be used to stop diarrhoea, treat stomach and intestinal ulcers, and help with the healing of wounds. It is also used as a gargle.

3. RDA (RECOMMENDED DAILY ALLOWANCES)

These are the amounts of vitamins and minerals required on a daily basis by the average adult. The RDA values have been created by calculating the amounts of nutrients in average diets and then adding a 'margin of safety'. However, RDA values tend to be set extremely low and have been challenged by many nutritional authorities, especially as RDAs represent average amounts for populations, rather than individuals, and people are brioche miscall very different from each other. For example, some people burn vitamins quicker than others, and some may have absorption defects of certain nutrients and therefore need an additional intake of these nutrients.

Initially, RDAs were intended to prevent nutrient deficiencies, but today the major public trend is towards optimal nutrition, which provides an optimal feeling of well­being and an optimal lifespan. This is the reason why many people use nutritional supplements, sometimes supplementing their diets many times above the RDA levels.

4. REISHI (GANODERMA LUCIDUM)

This is an exceptional Chinese mushroom that has long been highly rated in traditional Chinese medicine as a care-all and has been used in the treatment of a variety of disorders. It is believed to promote health and longevity and to be the best booster of the body's immunity against diseases. Reship contains germanium and is considered to have a powerful effect against tumours and cancers. Recent research has found reship to be beneficial in relieving fatigue and stress, treating viral infections and joint inflammations, lowering high cholesterol and triglycerides, reducing heart disease symptoms, regenerating the liver, alleviating allergies, calming the nervous system, helping with the treatment of diabetes and reducing the side effects of chemotherapy. Reship mushrooms (available from health food stores as capsules) are now increasingly incorporated as an ingredient in many multivitamin-mineral supplements.

5. RENNIN, CHYMOSIN

Rennin, or chamois, is a protein-splitting enzyme which is used to coagulate milk in the making of cheese. It is contained in rennet, a substance found in the lining of calves' stomachs. Rennin is used to make the milk separate into curds and whey. The curds are then pressed to drain off the whey and, at this point, they can form a soft cheese, such as cottage cheese, or be allowed to mature to form the harder cheeses.

6. RETINOL

Retinol is the fat-soluble, absorbable form of vitamin A which is present only in animal food (especially liver), fish, dairy foods and eggs. It is thought to serve as a precursor to two active forms of vitamin A, retinal and retinoic acid. Retinal is mainly involved with improving vision and reproduction, while retinoic acid performs the other duties of vitamin A, such as proper growth and skin health. Ninety per cent of the body's retinol is stored in the liver. The vegetable form of vitamin A, beta carotene or provitamin A, cannot be used as such and must first be converted in the body to retinol.

7. RHUBARB (RHEUM PALMATIJM)

A perennial vegetable that grows wild in China, it is used mainly for its roots and rhizomes. As an appetite stimulant and astringent, rhubarb is effective for both constipation and diarrhoea, depending on the amounts used. Large amounts can promote diarrhoea while tiny amounts will have a constipative effect.

Caution: The leaves are high in oxalic acid, which in itself can be poisonous; it can also bind with calcium to form insoluble crystals, which are the precursors of kidney stones, and people with a tendency to kidney stones or gravel should avoid rhubarb.

8. RICE

Rice is a cereal grain, which is one of the world's most important food crops. It forms the main diet of more than half of the world's population, most of who live in Asia, from where the grain is thought to have originated. It thrives in the warm, wet climates of tropical areas and is available in several types and shapes. Natural rice is a rich source of the B vitamins, vitamin E, fibre and unsaturated fatty acids, but unfortunately refining removes most of these nutrients - wholegrain brown rice is both nutritious and easily digestible, while white rice is nutritionally inferior.

Rice is the least allergenic of the cereal grains and is well tolerated even by infants and people with digestive disorders. It provides a good home remedy for diarrhoea, nausea and diabetes. Its B vitamins nourish the nervous system and help to relieve depression; it is also used by celiac because it does not contain gluten. Short grain rice has a nuttier flavor and a thicker consistency and is better for nervousness than the longing­ which is less sticky. Basmati rice is slightly aromatic and lighter in texture than other varieties, making it more suitable for the overweight. Wild rice, which is known to benefit the kidneys and bladder, is a grass native to North America and is more related to corn than to rice. Rice can also be sprouted and used for people with weak digestion and poor appetite. (See SPROUTS.)

9. ROSE, ROSEHIPS (ROSA SPRY)

Although one of the most highly cultivated of flowers, the delicate pink blooms of the wild rose are still widely found adorning roadside hedges in early summer. As prickly shrubs, roses come in a great variety of species and have been used for therapeutic purposes for many centuries. Traditionally, a tea of dried rose petals can be used for headaches and dizziness, while a decoction of the petals may help mouth sores. The rosehips of the wild rose are very high in vitamin C and are used for making tisanes, syrups and vitamin C supplements. They are mildly laxative and are also useful as nerve tonics. The hips, like the petals, can be used to treat headaches, dizziness and clear mouth sores and as a mouthwash; they can also be used- to purify the blood.

10. ROSEMARY (ROSMARlNUS OFFICINAUS)

A beautiful, fragrant evergreen shrub which is native to the Mediterranean regions, it has a variety of herbal uses. An infusion of the leaves and flowering tops is a sedative that can be used to relieve flatulence and headaches, promote perspiration, increase bile flow and stimulate menstruation. Rosemary, especially its young leaves, contain canonic acid, a powerful antioxidant. Recent research identified rosemary as one of the first plants that can improve memory by inhibiting acetyl cholinesterase (a brain chemical which switches off the connection between nerve cells). Rosemary leaves are used as a culinary seasoning and to make essential oils for aromatherapy. They are also used externally, mainly in shampoos and other hair preparations.

11. ROYAL JELLY

A bee product, royal jelly is a thick milky substance that is produced by young nurse bees from pollen and honey. It is the food that converts a regular 'worker' bee to a 'queen' bee, which is then able to lay eggs and reproduce. Royal jelly contains the B vitamins, and is particularly rich in pantothenic acid, the B vitamin that relieves stress and promotes fertility and healthy reproduction. Royal jelly also contains vitamins A, C, D and E, together with minerals, hormones, a vast number of amino acids, and antibiotic and antibacterial components, not all of which are isolated.

Royal jelly is known to strengthen the immune system and to help in such conditions as fatigue, low sex drive, liver disease, stomach ulcers, and kidney disease and skin problems. Royal jelly spoils easily, and is therefore usually sold blended with honey, or in capsules. It is best kept refrigerated and taken on an empty stomach.

12. RUE (RUTA GRAVEOLENS)

An aromatic, perennial plant native to the Mediterranean countries, it is also widely cultivated elsewhere. The aromatic leaves are high in rutin, the bioflavonoid that strengthens capillaries and blood vessels. An infusion of the leaves is diuretic, slightly increases blood pressure and has an abortifacient effect (induces abortion). In Yemenite folk medicine, rue is used to treat nervous breakdowns and to stimulate the onset of delayed menstruation.

Caution: Rue must not be taken during pregnancy. Available from specialist ethnic grocers and herbalists.

13. RUTIN

Rutin is a crystalline glycoside, a bioflavonoid closely related to hesperidins. It is present in many plants but its richest source is buckwheat. Rutin strengthens fragile capillaries and blood vessels, inhibits internal haemorrhages, reduces blood pressure and increases blood circulation to the hands and feet. It is also used in the treatment of haemorrhoids. Rutin is an antioxidant and can help to prevent radiation damage: its action is greatly increased when combined with vitamin C. Rutin is available in capsules as a supplement.

14. RYE

A cereal grain widely grown in the cool climates of northern Europe, Asia, and North America, it formed the major ingredient of the bread eaten in medieval Europe. Rye is a very nourishing hard grain, regarded by many as nutritionally superior to wheat. It is high in protein, calcium and iron, and is a good source of vitamins B1, B2 and niacin. Rye bread increases strength and stamina, cleans arteries, prevents anaemia, and aids the growth of hair and nails. Rich in fluorine, rye sprouts or soaked rye flakes can strengthen teeth enamel and help bone formation. Rye flour is ideally suited to making sourdough bread. Widely available.

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