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Information About Nutrients and Herbs - Uses, Benefits

SAFFLOWER SEED AND OIL

Saffiower is an annual grain cultivated in the USA and Europe. A tea made trom the flowers is diuretic and increases perspiration. Of all the kitchen oils, saffiower oil is highest in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Its 79 per cent polyunsaturates. which contain the essential linoleic and linolenic acids, are known to lower cholesterol levels and prevent heart attacks and strokes. However, this is only a nutritional asset when the oil is fresh, because the higher its content of unsaturates, the more vulnerable an oil is to oxidation and rancidity and, once rancid, the unsaturated fatty acids are converted to irritating substances. Widely available.

SAFFRON (CROCUS SATIVUS)

A small perennial plant cultivated in many parts of the world, including Europe and Asia, saftton is both an expensive aromatic spice and a medical herb with several benefits. Traditionally, its flower stigmas are a well-known aphrodisiac. Saffion is also believed to strengthen the appetite, soothe the alimentary canal, increase bile flow, clear liver stagnancy, help menopausal difficulties and relieve phlegm. In small doses, saftton has been used to treat coughs, bloated stomach, colic and insomnia, and it is sometimes used in herb liqueurs as an appetite stimulant. Widely available.

Caution

Saftton contains a poison that can damage the kidneys and nerves and 10 g can be a fatal dose for humans. It should therefore be used only in small amounts.

SAGE (SAUVIA OPPlClNAUS)

A perennial shrub that grows wild in the Mediterranean regions, sage is also widely cultivated for its culinary and medicinal properties. Traditionally used to improve mental acuity, new research now suggests that sage may restore mental function and improve memory. Sage tea is astringent, sedative and expels gas; it clears the respiratory tract, makes a good gargle for sore throats and helps overcome colds. Sage is useful for night sweats as it reduces sweating. It also reduces milk flow in nursing mothers prior to weaning, prevents the formation of kidney stones by dissolving residues of uric acid, and regularizes menstruation. An infusion of sage can be applied to the scalp to reduce dandruff. Widely available.

SALMON

The salmon is a fish with the least saturated fat and cholesterol. It contains a valuable source of the highly beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. These essential fatty acids are effective in preventing serious cardiovascular conditions, such as hardening of the arteries, blood clots, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, heart attacks and strokes.

SALMONELLA

Salmonella is a bacteria that can be found in spoiled foods, raw eggs, unpasteurized milk, and also in the intestines of animals. It is the commonest cause of food poisoning and is mainly contracted from contaminated foods, particularly eggs, chicken and meat products - poorly cooked meats areA great risk. It is also easily transmitted by unhygienic food preparation, storing and handling and unclean cutery or cooking utensils. The effects of salmonella poisoning can vary in severity and range from diarrhea, cramps and vomiting to fever and infections, and these can sometimes be fatal, particularly in those whose immune system is weak, such as infants and the elderly.

SALT (SODIUM CHLORIDE)

The richest contributor of sodium in the average diet, table or culinary salt has been indiscriminately condemned as a risky food, leaving many people confused about its use. It should be remembered, however, that in the right amounts, sodium is a much-needed mineral in the body. For example, it stimulates the kidneys and also gastric juices, enabling proper digestion; it promotes sweating and energy, helps to maintain a proper acid-alkaline balance and assists the transmission of nerve messages (see SODIUM).

Salt has been incriminated for increasing water retention and elevating blood pressure. Until resend, people who were overweight or hypertensive, and those with heart con­ditions, were warned to avoid salt and many were put on sodium-free diets. However, a new study of thousands of hypertensive patients has shown that reducing salt intake is unnecessary, unless people are aged over 45 and suffers from high blood pressure. Lowering the salt intake of younger people, even with hypertension, has been found to be of limited value. The study recommends instead that patients should take more exercise and drink less alcohol. The harm­ful effects of severe salt restriction on a large scale are only now becoming appreciated.

SAM (S-ADENOSYLMETHIONINE)

Recently becoming increasingly popular, SAM is naturally formed in the body by an enzymatic reaction between methionine and ATP (the energy molecule). SAM works (with folic acid and vitamin B12) as a methyl donor, donating methyl molecules necessary to restore brain compounds. SAM acts as an anti-depressant, improves memory and can benefit Alzheimer's patients. As an antioxidant, SAM protects from fee radical damage, helps detoxify the liver and prevent allergies, heart disease and cancer. As a component of joints, it protects cartilage and prevents arthritis.

SARSAPARILLA (SMILAX OFPlCINAUS)

A tropical perennial plant, which is found wild in South America, its root is used to make root beer, a popular beverage in North America, particularly in the American Midwest. A tea prepared from the root has both tonic and diuretic properties, and is used to expel gas and increase perspiration. It is also said to help in the treatment of colds, fevers, gout and rheumatism. In Spanish folk medicine, sarsaparilla was claimed to have a regenerative effect on the genital organs, and was used to help the treatment of venereal diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea. Available from health food stores, herbalists and as formulas.

SASSAFRAS (SASSAFRAS ALBIDUM)

A tree of the laurel family, it grows wild in the eastern and Pacific north-west regions of the USA. A tea prepared from the bark is a strong stimulant and was used by the American Indians as an aphrodisiac. An infusion promotes perspirationand urination, purifies the blood, and is used in conditions such as gout, rheumatism and arthritis. Sassafras tea was once popular as a tonic drink. Available from larger health food stores and herbalists.

SAUERKRAUT

A healthy probiotic food, sauerkraut is made by fermenting (pickling) cabbage, with or without salt. It is easily made at home by crushing raw cabbage and storing it in a ceramic or glass container for about a week. Cabbage can be combined with a variety of herbs and vegetables, such as garlic, carrots or seaweeds, to produce different types of sauerkraut, which can be stored in the retrigerator for several months, although the salted variety has a longer storage life. Sauerkraut can regenerate the intestines and rejuvenate the body by increasing the intestinal flora; it balances stomach secretions, and improves digestion. Saltless sauerkraut helps to maintain a correct acid-alkali balance, strengthen the immune system, improve resistance to disease, stimulate blood formation and increase energy and well-being. For best results, sauerkraut should be eaten on a daily basis by adding a small amount to meals.

SAW PALMETTO (SERENOA SERRUIATA)

A small palm tree that grows wild in coastal regions of North America, it is also known as 'dwarf palm'. Saw palmetto was traditionally used as a food by the south-eastern American Indians, and it has recently made headlines in the media as a treatment for enlarged prostate in men. The therapeutic value of saw palmetto lies in its berries, which contain an unusual mix of fatty acids, phytosterols and alcohols that has been found to have a beneficial effect on the size and health of the prostate. This is a muscular gland that surrounds the urethra of males at the base of the bladder and it becomes enlarged when its cells reproduce quicker than normal as a result of over-secretion of hormones. This can be due to age-related changes, so that enlargement of the prostate gland can be a potential problem for any man over 50. Enlargement of the prostate can produce several uncomfortable symptoms such as difficult or frequent urination, interrupted sleep patterns due to frequent night-time visits to the bathroom, or incomplete emptying of the bladder. In extreme cases, the prostate can develop inflammation or cancer. Saw palmetto berries have been found to inhibit the hormonal secretion of the prostate and relieve much of the discomfort. Saw palmetto extracts are available in capsule form at health food shops. The normal recommended dose is 160 mg, taken once or twice daily.

SEAWEEDS

Seaweeds, or marine algae, is a general descriptive name for sea vegetables. They are extremely rich in iodine and in other minerals, such as calcium, iron, and fluorine, and have been known for centuries for their ability to promote health. They are especially beneficial to thyroid function, and can also lower cholesterol, alkalize the blood, remove radioactivity residues, help with weight loss and are important in bone mineralization and density. Seaweeds are used to treat conditions such as goitre, water retention (oedema) and swollen lymph glands. They come in several colours - brown, red, green, blue-green and yellow-green ­each of which has its own individual properties in addition to the properties common to all. The most commonly used seaweeds include kelp, agar, dulse, hijiki, kombu, arame, wakame, nori and Irish moss.

SELENIUM

Selenium is a trace element that works best when combined with vitamin E. It is needed by the body to form glutathione peroxidase, an important antioxidant enzyme that protects the body from the damaging effects of free radicals and prevents the degenerative diseases of ageing. In fact, selenium deficiency is a known factor in premature ageing, heart attacks and cancer, and it has been estimated that if the majority of people took selenium supplements, the incidence of cancer could be reduced by 70 per cent! In conjunction with vitamin E, selenium helps the body to eliminate toxic elements such as lead, cadmium and mercury. The beneficial effects of selenium are many and varied. It increases immunity to diseases, slows down ageing, alleviates menopausal discomfort, promotes energy and sexual potency, and helps to prevent auto-immune diseases such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis and degenerative diseases such as cancer and atherosclerosis. Some of the deficiency symptoms of selenium are manifested as fatigue, susceptibility to infections, premature ageing, predisposition to cancer and low sexual potency ­selenium is concentrated in the male sex glands and is lost in ejaculated semen. Dietary sources of selenium are limited as plants do not require selenium for growth and can happily prosper in selenium-poor soils. Among the best natural sources are brewer's yeast, raw wheat germ, tuna, onions, nuts and seeds. An average daily consumption for adults of 50-200 mcg is recommended, with a range of 50-80 mcg for children. Selenium is available as a supplement in health food shops

SENNA (CASSIA ACUTIFOUA)

The dried pods and leaves of the cassia tree, which grows wild in North African countries, senna contains two active glycosides and is a well-known remedy for chronic constipation. An infusion of the leaves and pods will act as a strong laxative. Senna is often combined with other substances to eliminate intestinal worms; it can also help to counteract bad breath. Available from health food stores and widely incorporated in laxative formulas.

Caution

Senna should not be used in cases of haemorrhoids.

SEROTONIN

Serotonin has recently been receiving considerable media attention for its many beneficial effects. It is one of the neurotransmitters, i.e. brain chemicals that carry messages between the nerve cells, and unlike other excitatory neuro­transmitters, such as adrenalin, serotonin is an inhibiting orcalming neurotransmitter and reduces brain cell activity. It counteracts depression, anxiety and fear, lifting the spirits; it also increases libido, induces sleep, improves memory and concentration, supresses the appetite and aids weight reduction. In fact, drugs which raise serotonin levels are now being used to help with weight loss. Unfortunately, serotonin cannot be taken as a supplement because it is broken down during digestion. It is derived in the body from the amino acid tryptophan which is abundant in foods such as milk and bananas. Starchy foods such as potatoes, pasta and breads can also help to raise serotonin levels by increasing insulin, which in turn raises tryptophan levels.

SESAME SEEDS

A annual herb that originated in Africa or India, it is now widely cultivated in the tropical regions of China, India, Japan, Mexico and the south-western states of the United States. Sesame seeds are very nutritious and provide an excellent source of protein, calcium, omega-6 fatty acids, magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamins A and E and niacin. Available hulled or unhulled, the unhulled seeds - as used in breads or grain dishes - are more nutritious because most of the mineral content of the seed is contained in the hull. The hull is high in minerals. However, the hull also contains aflatoxins and oxalic acid which deplete calcium. Hulled sesame seeds are purer, safer, more digestible and more alkaline. Hulled sesame seeds are commonly available as sesame butter, called tahini, which can be used in a number of ways. Combined with honey, tahini makes a delicious spread; blended with water, lemon and garlic, it provides a base for a healthy salad dressing which is very popular in the Middle East. Allowed to stand for a while, the oil separates from thin and can be used as excellent cooking oil; it can also be used externally to soothe skin problems. Thin can be combined with water to prepare sesame milk, which is used to lubricate the intestines, help to relieve constipation, and is also recommended for stiff joints, weak knees, nervous spasms and increasing milk secretion in nursing mothers.'

SHEPHERD'S PURSE (CAPSEILA BURSA-PAS1DRlS

An widespread annual herb, growing wild throughout Europe, particularly in poor soils and wastelands, it is rich in calcium, sodium, and vitamins C and K. The whole plant has medicinal properties and is an effective blood coagulant, which can be used to stop bleeding, both external and internal, including excessive menstrual bleeding. It is also a diuretic. Available from health food stores and incorporated in nutritional formulas.

SHOR -CHAIN FATTY ACIDS (SCFA)

Sofas are produced naturally in the intestines from dietary fiber by the intestinal flora. The three Sofas, acetic acid, prop ionic acid and butyric acid, have important functions. Acetate and propionate are stored in the liver and used for energy production. Butyrate is an important energy source for the metabolic activity of the colon. It has effective anti-cancer effects and is thought to be responsible for the cancer-inhibiting properties of dietary fiber. Butyrate is also used in enemas in the treatment of ulcerative colitis. Different fibers produce differing amounts of Sofas in the colon. Pectin’s from apples, guar gum and legume fibers produce more Sofas than oat bran or corn fiber.

SHOYU

A wheat-containing type of soy sauce, shout is a traditional Japanese seasoning made from soybeans, wheat, salt and kopi (a fermentation starter made from a special yeast culture, aspergillums orzo). The fermentation of shout usually takes a few months. It is commonly used to salt and flavor foods.

Caution:

People with an allergy to wheat or celiac should not use shout. Instead they can use tamari.

SILICON

Although, as a constituent of sand and rocks, silicon is the most abundant element contained in the earth's crust, in the human body it is found in only trace amounts as silica (silicon dioxide). In spite of this small overall amount,however, silica is present in almost every tissue of the body and is essential for cell growth. It is especially concentrated in the hair, nails and connective tissues such as the skin. It can inhibit the greying of hair, keep the skin smooth and supple and prevent brittle nails. For these reasons, it is incorporated into many cosmetic formulas. However, a distinction should be made between water-soluble silica and the controversial silicone breast implants. Despite the similarity in the name, natural silica differs considerably from breast implant silicone, which is an industrial polymer containing controversial hydrocarbons suspected of being carcinogenic. Silica and silica gel have been reported to be beneficial in treating many disorders, including heartburn, ulcers, gastritis, colitis, varicose veins, bronchitis, arteriosclerosis, gum recession, allergic rashes and many others. The best natural sources of silica include horsetail herb, oats, millet, barley, onions, whole wheat and red beet. Silica supplements, for both internal and external use, are available from health food shops in many forms, such as effervescent or chewable tablets, capsules, powders and silica gel. All come with directions for use.

SOD (SUPEROXIDE DISMUTASE)

This very important antioxidant enzyme, which includes copper and zinc, is found naturally within cells. It protects cells and tissues from the damage of super oxide free radicals and is a general anti-ageing enzyme. It is reported to be especially helpful in preventing the damage to joints, membranes and lubricating fluids that occurs in rheumatoid arthritis. It also helps to prevent cataracts. SOD is available as a supplement although, when taken orally, it is mostly destroyed in the digestive tract. However, when administered by injection, it is reported to have been beneficial for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

SODIUM

The main component of salt is sodium, a mineral prevalent in the body that is found mainly in the fluids surrounding body cells rather than within them. Sodium is highly important in maintaining osmotic pressure in tissues, enabling oxygen and nutrients to move in or out of cells; it stimulates the kidneys and keeps calcium soluble, preventing kidney stones; it also stimulates the secretion of gastric juices, helping digestion, promotes sweating and helps to prevent heatstroke, and improves feelings of lassitude in people with low blood pressure. Together with potassium, it participates in nerve transmissions and maintains a correct acid-alkaline balance. Excessive sodium tends to elevate blood pressure, constrict blood vessels and cause water retention, resulting in oedema and hypertension. People with high blood pressure, heart disease, oedema, or those who are over­weight, are usually advised to avoid salt and use low-sodium diets. This can be done by using potassium-based salt substitutes, as well as herb powders such as celery, basil, caraway, mustard or parsley. Salt deficiency is very uncommon, but can occur as a result of excessive perspiration. Some of the best natural sources include table salt, kelp and seaweeds, meats, beets,carrots, chard and dandelion greens.

Caution:

Excessive sodium intake should be balanced by increased potassium, since sodium causes the excretion of potassium in the urine.

SORBITOL

Orbital is a type of sugar, that is commercially refined from glucose and sucrose. It is about 60 per cent as sweet as sugar and is popular among diabetics since it does not raise insulin levels as sharply as table sugar. Most sorbitol is converted in the body to carbon dioxide and fructose, with only a small part of it being converted to glucose; this is then absorbed through the intestines over a relatively long period of time so that a sharp insulin release is not triggered as is the case with table sugar. Since insulin is known to promote detrimental changes in the cardiovascular system, sorbitol is therefore a much more desirable sweetener than ordinary sugar, even for healthy people. In addition, the slow metabolism of sorbitol does not tax the sugar-balancing glands and causes much less tooth decay. Sorbitol also increases the absorption of certain vitamins, such as B 12, which is why it is included in many multi-vitamin tablets

SOYBEAN

An ancient staple crop of Asia, the soybean is a legume noted for its high vegetable protein content (38 per cent), which is greater than the protein content of milk. The crop has long been considered a solution to famine in Asia, since an acre of soybeans produces 20 times more usable protein than the same acreage used for grazing beef or growing fodder. In recent years, soybeans have developed into one of the world's major sources of vegetable oil and texturized vegetable protein (TVP) and, as such, they are included in many foods, including ice cream, soy sauce, beansprouts and tofu. Soya milk does not contain the saturated fat, cholesterol and toxic residues of dairy milk. It has, to a large extent, replaced dairy milk in many people's diets and revolutionized their eating habits. Soybeans have been found to be a storehouse of phytochemicals - beneficial antioxidant nutrients, such as saponins, phytosterols and phenol acids - which protect the body from free radical damage, reducing the risk of the degenerative diseases of ageing, such as heart attack, cancer and strokes. Two of the best ant carcinogens in Soya are some plant estrogens, which prevent breast cancer, and Einstein, which inhibits the growth of cancer cells. In fact, soybeans have a mild estrogenic activity due to their is flavones, also called phytoestrogens. Eating soya products can therefore be beneficial for women in HRT and can help offset some postmenopausal symptoms. Soy beans have also been found to be beneficial in reducing cholesterol levels and preventing heart attack. A new Canadian University study found that three glasses of soya milk and one soya dessert consumed daily lowered the 'bad' LDL cholesterol by 11 per cent and increased the 'good' HDL by.9 per cent in 70 per cent of the subjects. Research has shown that the substitution of soya products in the daily diet for just part of the normal meat and dairy milk intake can provide a number of health benefits.

All widely available. (See also SPROUTS.)

SPINACH

A popular garden vegetables native to south-east Asia, spinach is an excellent source of iron, calcium, chlorophyll, beta carotene (provitamin A), vitamin C, riboflavin, sodium and potassium. It is a diuretic and laxative, and can also be used to stop minor haemorrhaging such as nosebleeds. As it is rich in iron and chlorophyll, spinach builds the blood, while its sulphur content helps to clean the liver and relieve herpes irritations. In addition, its vitamin A content can help to prevent night blindness. Although spinach provides an exceptional source of calcium, it is also high in oxalic acid, which can partly interfere with the absorption of the calcium.

Caution:

People with a tendency to kidney stones should eat spinach sparingly, since its high oxalic acid can tend to form calcium-oxalate kidney stones in susceptible individuals.

SPIRULINA

Spirulina is a blue-green, single-cell algae, which is spiral­shaped - hence its name. It thrives in warm alkaline lakes such as Lake Chad in Africa and Lake Texcoco in Mexico. The algae, which appears to be a floating green scum, is collected from the lake and dried. Spirulina was so highly valued as a sustaining food by the ancient Aztecs that it was used by them as currency - and modern science has recently discovered why. Spirulina contains over 65 per cent complete protein, a rarity among plant foods, and this protein, which is predigested by the algae, is so well-balanced that it is easier to digest than meat. Spiraling absorbs and retains many minerals from the lake, including potassium, calcium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, selenium, iron and phosphorus. In addition, it is a rich source of the B vitamins, including usable amounts ofB12, as well as vitamin E, beta carotene, GLA (essential fatty acid) and chlorophyll. Spirulina has toning and cleansing properties and can be used to detoxify the liver and kidneys, cleanse the arteries, build and enrich the blood and promote intestinal t1ora. It is also very beneficial for weight control, not only because it is a low-calorie nutrient, but also because it contains high amounts of phenylalanine, the amino acid which curbs the appetite. Spirulina has been used in the treatment of anaemia, weakness, malnutrition, hepatitis, inner inflammations, diabetes, hypoglycaemia and poor skin tone. It is a versatile food supplement which strengthens the immune system and increases resistance to disease and int1ammations. It also contains a blue pigment, phycocyanin, which is a protein known to inhibit cancer. Since it is grown and harvested in unpolluted areas, totally free of environmental pollutants, spirulina is one of the safest foods available. It is sold in health food shops in both powder and tablt form.

SPROUTS

Sprouts (young shoots from recently germinated seeds), mainly soybean, have been a part of the Chinese diet for thousands of years. Sprouts are rich in chlorophyll, vitamins A, C, D, E, K and B complex, and in minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and iron. They are also abundant in quality protein and enzymes, making them easily digestible. Sprouts have been described as 'the most living food in the world' since, unlike most plants, they are eaten at the peak of their freshness and vitality while they are still growing, and anyone who eats sprouts regularly will experience this vitality and increased energy. Sprouts are diuretics and appetizers and detoxify the body. They are used for weight loss, arthritis, oedema, peptic and duodenal ulcers, and by people with weak digestion. Miraculous things happen when grain or legume seeds begin to germinate - the starches and oils contained in the seeds are converted to vitamins, proteins, enzymes and simple sugars. For example, vitamin C increases six-fold so that a 100 g serving of soybean sprouts will contain 120 mg vitamin C, which is double the recommended daily amount. The protein content of alfalfa sprouts rises to between 16 and 31 per cent, and their carotene content equals that of carrots. The B vitamins, enzymes and other nutrients also increase spectacularly, making sprouts an easily digested form of nourishment.

Alfalfa sprouts are among the most popular and, because they contain more minerals, they are more nutritious than other sprouts. The roots of the alfalfa plant can penetrate as deeply as 30 m (100 feet), where access to minerals is highest, and thus the sprout can contain concentrated amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, sodium, sulphur, silicon, chlorine and cobalt. Sprouts are commonly sold in both health food shops and supermarkets. Seeds such as peas, chickpeas, wheat sesame and corn are easily sprouted at home using plastic sprouters available in health food stores

SQUASH, WINTER

A gourd-shaped vegetable native to North America, winter squash provides an outstanding source of alpha and beta carotenes (provitamin A), and contains good amounts of calcium, phosphorus and potassium. Squash can benefit the stomach, reduce inflammations and improve circulation and squash seeds are reputed to be effective in destroying worms. Some healers recommend that a handful of seeds should be eaten daily for three weeks in order to eliminate parasitic worms

STEVIA (STEVIA REBAUDIANA)

Increasingly sought-after for its sweet leaves and flower buds, stevia is a small plant that grows in south-western USA and throughout Latin America, where it is called yerba dulce. Thirty times sweeter than sugar and with negligible calories, stevia was adopted by the Japanese, who use it widely in many processed foods. As a herb, stevia has its own beneficial properties. One of the greatest is that unlike sugar stevia does not promote tooth decay. A study done by Hiroshima University's School of Dentistry revealed that stevia suppresses the growth of dental bacteria, in contrast to sugar which promotes dental bacteria. Other studies have shown that stevia does not interfere much with blood sugar regulation, and is therefore well-tolerated by both hypoglycaemics and diabetics. American studies found stevia to be a tonic and diuretic, to treat mental and physical tiredness, regulate digestion and blood pressure and help weight loss. Stevia is increasingly available in health food stores (especially in the USAhas great sweetening power: 1-3 drops of the extract can sweeten one cup of a drink. Stevia can be used for hot drinks, cooking and baking; its sweetness is not affected by heat. Stevia is reconunended as a sweetener particularly for overweight people, and for those suffering from candida (thrush) or water retention (oedema).

ST JOHN'S WORT (HYPERICUM PERFORATUM)

A yellow-flowered herb, which is both cultivated and found wild in the UK and Europe. One explanation for its name is that its flowers are most abundant around 24 June, birthday of John the Baptist. Traditionally used in folk medicine, infusions of the flowers can have a beneficial effect on metabolism and bile secretion and can positively affect mood; they can stimulate appetite, improve circulation and have a general anti-inflanunatory effect. A tea of the leaves is said to stimulate expulsion of pWegm or mucous, and is beneficial in coughs. Recent studies indicated however, that St. John's wort extracts can ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression, alleviate stress, promote sleep, boost energy and relieve PMS symptoms. A recent pilot study showed that the herb's extract (in daily doses of 135-235 mg) can reduce fatigue or depression linked to tiredness. These extracts contain 0.2 per cent of the active ingredient hypericin, and capsules made of the standardized extracts can be 'a natural alternative to prescrip­tion anti depressant drugs such as Prozac, MAO inhibitors and tricyclics. The capsules, extracts and herbs are widely available from health food stores. Positive benefits may be experienced within 4-6 weeks of initial use.

STRAWBERRIES

A delicious acidic fruit that combines well with a protein meal, strawberries are an exceptional source of vitamin C. A 100 g serving of fiesh, ripe strawberries provides 60 mg vitamin C, more than the UK RDA. They are low in sodium and high in potassium, a boon for hypertensive people on low-sodium diets. They are rich in silicon which is useful in repairing and strengthening connective tissue and arteries. Strawberries are also high in pectin, the soluble fibre that helps eliminate cholesterol. Strawberries have a strong antioxidative action and are a useful fiuit to eat in the treatment of heart and circulatory diseases. They contain a considerable amount of an anti-cancer compound, pelagic acid, which helps reduce the risk of cancer. They provide modest amounts of iron, which is well assimilated due to the presence of vitamin C, and they can therefore be helpful in the treatment of fatigue and anemia. Traditionally, strawberries were used by herbalists to treat arthritis, gout and rheumatism and to relieve urinary difficulties. Eaten before meals, strawberries can help poor digestion. They are best eaten fresh and ripe. If sugar needs to be sprinkled on them, then they are not ripe. Allergic reactions are often caused by eating unripe strawberries.

SUlPHUR

Dubbed as 'the beauty mineral', sculpture is important for smooth, glossy hair and healthy skin and nails. It is a none metallic mineral, abundant in nature and present in every cell. It is needed for the formation of collagen, one of the most prevalent proteins, which is found in skin, bone and cartilage. As such, sulphur contributes to a healthy looking skin. It also has a laxative effect due to its ability to absorb water in the intestines - Epsom salts are in fact sulphates of magnesium.

Sulphur detoxifies the body, cleans the arteries and helps the body to rid itself of damaging toxic elements. Together with proteins, sulphur forms the vitally important sulphur­containing amino acids cysteine, taurine and methionine. Cysteine and methionine are needed to form the important anti-ageing, antioxidant enzymes that neutralize dangerous peroxide free radicals and help to prevent the degenerative diseases of ageing, such as arthritis. In fact, sulphur has long been known to benefit arthritis, and one of its best sources is eggs, which are high in sulphur-containing cysteine. Used externally, in ointments and in the spa waters of regions such as the Dead Sea, sulphur has traditionally been considered beneficial for the treatment of psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis. Deficiency symptoms of sulphur can include arthritis, dry hair, brittle nails and rough skin. Some of the best natural sources of the mineral are eggs, meat, onions, alfalfa, broccoli, cabbage and watercress. (See also MSM.)

SUNFLOWER SEED AND SUNFLOWER OIL

Sunflowers, which originated in North America and were cultivated by the American Indians, were first introduced into Europe in the sixteenth century. Nowadays, vast fields of the brilliant golden flowers are a familiar sight across many European landscapes in the summer months. Sunflower seeds are sun-energized nutritional power­houses and it is no wonder that in pre-revolutionary Russia field soldiers received a kilo of sunflower seeds as emergency rations on which to subsist if stranded. The seeds are rich in protein (24 per cent), polyunsaturated fatty acids (66 per cent), vitamins A, E, D and several B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, potassium, fluorine and iodine. Sunflower seeds can be used as a snack, a topping for salads, as a nut butter spread, or included in bread. The seeds have been described as beneficial to eyesight, skin and fingernails and a useful adjunct in the treatment of hyper­tension and irritated nerves. Sprouted sunflower seeds are easily digestible and rich in vitamin E, lecithin and pectin. As a supplement, 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds a day are recommended, even for people on reducing diets. Both are widely available. Sunflower seed oil is one of the richest sources of essential fatty acids. It contains as much as 66 per cent essential omega-6 fatty acids, and has the highest content of all seeds of the essential linoleic acid. The oil can be used as an all-purpose kitchen oil, although it is best used fresh and raw as a base in salad dressings to obtain its full nutritional value. It can also be blended with butter, thereby enriching the butter with its essential fatty acids.

SWEET POTATOES AND YAMS

A vegetable with large, fleshy, edible roots, sweet potatoes are believed to have originated in South America. Today, they are grown throughout the world and are an important food in many countries - about 85 per cent of the world's sweet potato crop is grown in China. Outstandingly rich in vitamin A (many times more so than potatoes), sweet potatoes also provide vitamin C, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus and sodium, but they must be baked or boiled in their skins to retain these nutrients. Due to their exceptional vitamin A content, sweet potatoes can be used to improve night vision. They are also reported to increase milk secretion in nursing mothers, remove toxins from the body and treat underweight and diarrhoea. Sweet potatoes are best selected when fresh looking, firm to the touch, and preferably either with a dark grey skin colour (yams) or red skin colour (sweet potatoes) ­most 'yams' sold in the USA are in fact sweet potatoes with red flesh. The vegetables should not be refrigerated as this can cause chilling injuries. However, if stored in a cool dry place they can be kept for several months. They are widely available.

Caution:

Since sweet potatoes can cause indigestion and abdominal swelling, they should be eaten in moderate servmgs.

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