Information About Nutrients and Herbs - Uses, Benefits
It is most important to breast feed for the baby's first six months at least, if at all possible. The mother's milk ( colostrum) in the first few days after delivery is rich in antibodies and lymphocytes, which boost the immunity of the child to diseases. Once established breast feeding largely determines the baby's health, not only in the first few months but for many years to come, and saves needless miseries such as ear infections, colic and allergies. Research has shown that the substitution of cow's milk in the early months can be correlated with later obesity and heart disease. It would seem that the high cholesterol level in a mother's milk as opposed to low cholesterol in cow's milk - serves in fact to establish lower cholesterol levels in later years. Recent studies have also indicated that when cow's milk is introduced before four months of age, this may trigger the autoimmune process and increase the risk of diabetes developing in later years
From the age of six months, mashed vegetables and other foods should be introduced gradually, while at the same time decreasing the consumption of milk. Then, when the first molar appears - usually at about 18 months - this is a sign that the pancreatic enzymes in the intestines are ready to synthesize more solid foods. Of course, this is only a general timetable and every baby is different: some can be weaned at a very early age while others will refuse weaning even after the first birthday. When mother's milk is not available it is advisable to use either the milk from another mother (a wet nurse) or goat's milk, or a combination of both. Babies born to vegan mothers are known to thrive on almond milk or soya milk.
Baking Soda, Baking Powder
Baking soda or baking powder, which are commonly used to leaven bread, deplete two of the B vitamins - thiamine and folic acid - and neutralize vitamin C. They also contain aluminium salts, which can accumulate in the brain and damage brain cells, causing memory loss and presenile dementia. One way to avoid this is by using the sourdough leavening process. In this method, the starter is made from just flour and water which is allowed to stand for three days, by which time live airborne yeast will have turned the mix sour. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) provides a very useful dentrifice as it neutralizes acidic plaque and prevents gum infections. It can also eliminate bacteria that cause tooth decay. A simple care for athlete's foot is to dust the affected area with baking soda. Caution: Baking soda should not be used as an antacid for stomach over-acidity or heartburn by people on low sodium diets.
Balm, Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis)
A perennial plant, originally native to the eastern Mediterranean, it can now be found growing wild throughout most of Europe, and is cultivated mainly as a culinary herb for its lemon-scented leaves. An infusion of the leaves can be used to dull pain, ease toothache, and relieve flatulence, cramps, indigestion and colic. Since it increases perspiration, it is useful in treating colds by reducing feverishness. Traditionally, it has been used to treat nervousness, depression and insomnia, and it is also claimed to stimulate the onset of menstruation and relieve period pains. The leaves can be used to prepare a pleasant, aromatic tea with soothing and relaxing properties. Available from larger health food stores and herbalists.
An aromatic fruit, which originated in Asia, it is now grown in the hot, damp climates of tropical and sub-tropical countries. Bananas are rich in potassium and low in sodium: an average-size banana contains a whopping 440 mg potassium and only 1 mg sodium. As such, bananas are used to treat hypertension and detoxify the body. Their principal aroma is amyl acetate and they contain large amounts of tryptophan, an amino acid that is converted to serotonin, an inhibiting brain neurotransmitter which makes bananas a calming food, especially when taken with milk before bedtime. Bananas serve as a good internal lubricator for the intestines as they moisten dryness and, although they are commonly given to children, they are suitable for everyone, especially for people who tend to suffer from hypertension,weak digestion and general weakness. Bananas are astringent before fully ripened, which makes them useful in the treatment of diarrohea and haemorrhoids. When fully ripe, bananas can be beneficial in the treatment of constipation and ulcers. Traditionally, the African Zulus used to rub banana peels on their skins as a tribal medicine for any skin condition. Modern research has found that banana peel rubbed on the red, scaly patches of psoriasis can provide relief without the side-effects of conventional treatments. The active ingredients in banana peels, the esterified fatty acids, have been isolated and incorporated in to a patented lotion, Exorex Lotion, which is now being marketed.
Barberry (Berberis Vulgaris)
The common barberry is a deciduous shrub that grows wild throughout Europe and the eastern United States. Both its roots and berries can be used in infusions. An infusion of the root promotes the secretion of bile and is therefore beneficial in liver disorders. The bark of the root has a laxative effect. Decoctions of either the root or berries make a good mouthwash or gargle for mouth and throat irritations. Available from herbalists. Caution: Neither high nor low blood pressure should be treated with barberry
Probably one of the first cultivated cereals, barley is grown in almost all the temperate regions of Europe and North America. It is a nutritious and easily digested cereal, providing a good source of fibre, iron, calcium and protein. It isknown to strengthen the stomach and intestines and to soothe inflamed membranes, and is believed to help reduce tumours and oedema. It can be used in the alleviation of painful urination and as a mild laxative. Sprouted barley is even more nutritious and can help indigestion and abdominal bloating. It is also a strong blood purifier. Barley grass, which can be grown at home, is richer in chlorophyll, vitamin A and enzymes, making it easier to digest. It also contains the antioxidant enzyme SOD and mucopolysaccharides which give it anti-inflammatory properties. Barley grass has a high protein content of 20 per cent, about the same as that of meat. Barley malt is a sweetener prepared from sprouted barley. During sprouting, starch is converted to maltose, which does not harm teeth as sugar does and is therefore a much safer and more nutritious sweetener. Ground roasted barley is fIequently used as an ingredient in several brands of coffee substitute and is recommended as a relief for fatigue. Available in health food shops.
Basil (Ocimum Basilicum)
An annual with a pungent aroma, the plant is native to India but has been grown throughout the Mediterranean regions for thousands of years. It is now cultivated throughout southern and western Europe as an aromatic culinary herb. The leaves have appetite-stimulating properties and are generally used as a culinary flavouring. Infusions of the leaves can be used to relieve flatulence, fermentation, stomach cramps and constipation and the plant is also said to relieve nausea. Available from supermarkets.
Beans See Legumes Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Bearberry, also called uva ursi, is an evergreen shrub of the Ericaceae family. It has small bitter leaves and produces juicy but insipid berries. The leaves contain tannins, which are astringent, and glycosides, which are excellent antiseptics and anti-bacterial. Until the advent of antibiotics, bearberry was used as a urinary tract antiseptic. The astringent properties of the leaves can also be utilized in an infusion to help alleviate diarrhoea and bleeding. Bearberry also has diuretic properties and can be used to reduce uric acid levels, for the relief of pain caused by kidney stones and gravel, and for the alleviation of the symptoms of chronic cystitis. Available from larger health food stores and herbalists.
Caution: Excessive use of bearberry can cause stomach pain.
Pollen is the yellowish dust produced by the anthers of male flowers. It is transferred by bees to the ovaries of the female flowers resulting in their fertilization and the development of fruit or seeds. Specific types of pollen are also collected by bees for storage in their hives as food for the young bees The composition of bee pollen varies according to the type of flower it has come from but, whatever its source, it is one the most nourishing foods available to mankind. On average, it contains 30 per cent amino acids (protein), 50 per cent carbohydrates, 14 per cent polyunsaturated fatty acids, a large concentration of minerals and trace elements, many of the A, C, D, E and B-complex vitamins and bioflavonoids. The protein is complete and rates higher than meat in essential amino acids. Nutritionally, it is so perfectly balanced that, in itself, it represents a complete survival food.
Bee pollen has been extensively studied for its beneficial effects. It has been given to athletes as it has been found to improve energy and endurance; in the Republic of Georgia, the consumption of bee pollen has been correlated with longevity. Bee pollen has also been found to prevent colds and flu, help the immune system to fight virus infections, relieve fatigue, improve appetite, increase sexual potency and fertility, alleviate painful menstruation, reduce the hot flushes of menopause for women and alleviate enlarged prostate in men. Bee pollen is considerably less allergenic than windborne pollens. It should be taken regularly for at least one month: up to 20 grams a day provides a normal supplement, while 40 grams constitutes a therapeutic dosage. Available from larger health food stores.
Considered a low-alcohol recreational drink, beer is drunk socially in large quantities, more like a soda than an alcoholic drink. Made from malted barley, flavoured with hops and brewed by slow fermentation, beer can contain anything from four to eight per cent alcohol. Therefore, large consumption of beer can easily become an alcohol abuse. Beer can also contain additional flavourings and additives, particularly caramel , which gives many beers their colour. Beers flavoured with hops contain small amounts of xanthohumol, a powerful antioxidant compound in hops that protects against heart disease and cancer. The amounts however, are too small to be preventative. Perceptions of safety of beer are conflicting and are expressed by both enthusiastic proponents and ardent opponents. Sensible consumption seems to raise the level of the 'good' HDL cholesterol and helps prevent blockages in the heart arteries of healthy people. But do not rush to use beer to lower your high cholesterol: a famous German study revealed that the alcohol did not benefit people with existing high cholesterol. Several studies suggested that light beer drinkers have less heart disease than heavy drinkers. And cobalt added to beer to preserve its foam was shown to contribute to heart disease in heavy beer drinkers. Heavy beer drinkers should remember that beer is also high in purines, digestive by-products that convert to uric acid, the build-up of which can bring on or worsen gout. Heavy beer drinking was found to increase the risk of rectal and lung cancer in men, and breast cancer in women. Higher alcohol consumption may also lead to cirrhosis of the liver, high blood pressure, varicose veins and haemorrhoids, heart irregularities, coronary thrombosis and foetal defects. A study done in Finland in 1997, confirmed the danger of beer binges. Drinking six cans of beer a day increased fourfold the risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those who drank only one or two cans. In addition, a high rate of behavioural problems, such as aggressiveness and violence, were observed in beer bingers. No wonder that more brands of non-alcoholic or low-alcohol beer are now vailable. Practicing moderation in beer drinking seems to be good advice
Beet (Beta Vulgaris)
Table beet is a vegetable that originally grew wild in the Mediterranean regions. It is rich in iron and also contains vitamins B1, B2, C and the minerals potassium, manganese, phosphorus and silicon. Although it is normally the root part of the plant that is eaten, in fact its leaves are a very good source of beta carotene. Beet has a number of useful medicinal properties. For instance, it can be used for purifying the blood, improving circulation, promoting menstruation and stimulating the bowels. Beet can also be helpful for the treatment of liver problems. Some healers recommend beet for intestinal cleansing of parasites. In addition, it can help calm nervousness and is of benefit in vascular congestions. Available from supermarkets and grocers.
Caution: Green beets are rich in oxalic acid and, if eaten in excess, they can interfere with calcium metabolism and promote the formation of calcium-oxalate kidney stones.
Belladona (Atropa Beiladona)
Commonly known as deadly nightshade, this poisonous plant grows wild throughout Europe and many Asian countries. It contains several alkaloids, including atropine, which relieves asthma, hyoscyiamine, which induces sleep and can cause paralysis, belladonine, which is a narcotic and painkiller, and scopolamine, another painkiller which reduces high blood pressure and produces twilight sleep.Caution: The narcotic action of belladona affects the central nervous system and can cause paralysis. It is availablen rescription in tinctures and extracts and it should only be used under medical supervision.
A commonly used preservative in many processed foods, it is known to cause allergies in sensitive people. Children are especially vulnerable and allergic reactions can include hyperactivity, abdominal pains, diarrhoea, asthma and rashes. Saccharin is a derivative of benzoic acid.
Beta carotene is a Vitamin A precursor (also called provitamin A) and one of the many plant pigments known collectively as carotenoids. It is the most prevalent cartenoid in plants. These plant pigments are potent antioxidants, protecting the plants from destruction by the free radicals generated by dangerous sun rays and without these protective carotenoids, the plants would quickly shrivel. People can acquire the same protection from antioxidants by eating foods high in beta carotene, such as carrots, sweet potato, cantaloupe, pumpkin and leafy green vegetables. The microalgae spirulina and dunaliella are among the highest sources of beta carotene.
Although beta carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body, it has additional biological properties of its own. It is a stronger antioxidant than vitamin A and studies have shown that it protects the body from several types of cancer, especially lung cancer. Beta carotene also acts as a filter, protecting the eye lens from cataract. In addition, it boosts the immune system and stimulates the T-cells, providing a strong protection to the thymus gland.
This is a stomach acid supplement available in health food shops for people with low gastric secretion. A betaine HCI tablet taken after a meal can improve food tolerance and digestion and its use can also help conditions resulting from low stomach acid, such as heartburn. Since low stomach acid is known to cause allergies, betaine HCI can also help reduce various allergy symptoms. Gastric secretions are known to be reduced with age
Bilberry (Vaccinium Myrtillus)
Also known as whortleberry, this small perennial plant grows wild in the poor soil of sandy areas and moors and both its berries, which are black, and its leaves can be used for medicinal purposes. Bilberry is rich in flavonoids, particularly proanthocyanidins and anthocyanidins, both of which are powerful antioxidants and have an anti-inflammatory effect, strengthening capillaries and collagen. Bilberry extracts, which are rich in anthocyanidin compounds, are now increasingly used to treat eye conditions such as near-sightedness, and to improve night vision and reverse diabetic retinopathy. An infusion of the leaves is antiseptic and can be used to treat diarrhoea and dysentery; it can also act as a diuretic. Capsules and formulas for improving eyesight are available from larger health food stores.
BileA thick fluid secreted by the liver, bile is produced from cholesterol through the action of an enzyme and with the help of vitamin C. It is used by the duodenum to emulsify fats and assist with the absorption of fatty acids. Excess bile is stored in the gall bladder, where it is discharged into the duodenum as it is needed. A high level of vitamin C in the diet helps to promote bile production, which, in turn, assists in the reduction of cholesterol levels. At the same time, dietary improvement can help to increase the production of bile since, when a diet is low in protein or high in sugar, little bile is produced. As a result of this, fats are poorly dissolved in the digestive tract and parts of the undissolved fats will then
combine with calcium and iron from food to form insoluble soaps. These can be harmful in two respects: they can prevent absorption of calcium and iron, causing deficiencies, and can also harden the stools, causing constipation. A fat-free diet is also undesirable because it does not stimulate bile flow and, as a result of this, sediments may form which can promote the development of gallstones.
This term specifies to what extent various micronutrients in food are absorbed and become available to their target tissues or organs after eating. In other words, it is not a matter of what is consumed, but what the body is able to absorb and assimilate from the foods ingested. There is a variety of factors that can influence bioavailability, such as ageing, food processing, reduced digestive secretions, shortage of enzymes in the body, and nutrient interaction - in which some nutrients inhibit or increase absorption of other nutrients.
Bioflavonoids (Vitamin p)
Bioflavonoids are complex compounds closely associated with vitamin C and found in a wide range of plants, particularly the citrus fruits. All the bioflavonoids enhance the effectiveness of vitamin C, and are recognized as potent antioxidants. Together with vitamin C, they strengthen the capillaries and help prevent excessive menstrual bleeding. They are also anti-viral and anti-inflammatory, protect from free radicals and inhibit histamine release. Bioflavonoids are therefore indicated in inflammatory and allergic conditions. As a group, several hundred flavonoids have been identified in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, leaves and flowers. Onions and garlic provide rich sources of quercetin, a bioflavonoid with potent anti-carcinogenic activity, which has been shown to inhibit the growth of several types of cancer cells, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer and leukaemia. Quercetin has also been found to be effective in healing wounds, preventing diabetic cataracts and in treating oral herpes. Cherries, hawthorn berries, bilberries and other berries are rich in anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins, the flavonoids that give these berries their dark reddish-blue colour and which are powerful antioxidants, preventing free radical damage and helping to maintain healthy collagen and capillaries. Buckwheat is rich in the bioflavonoid rutin, which is a well-known treatment for haemorrhoids, varicose veins and hypertension. Hesperidin, the predominant flavonoid in citrus fruits, is chemically similar to rutin. Since bioflavonoid strengthen the capillaries, they can assist in the treatment of duodenal ulcers and retinal haemorrhages.
A water-soluble B vitamin, biotin is stable when heated. It is involved in the utilization of glucose, by increasing insulin action, and can be used in the control of sugar levels in diabetes. It also assists with the utilization of protein, folic acid and vitamin B12.
Biotin is synthesized in the body by the intestinal bacteria (flora) so that healthy flora are an important factor in the maintenance of correct biotin levels and the prevention of deficiency symptoms. In this respect, eggs are best eaten cooked since raw egg white is rich in avidin, a protein that binds biotin and prevents its absorption. Biotin helps to maintain the skin in a healthy condition and alleviate eczema and dermatitis. It also eases muscle aches and is reputed to prevent the hair from graying. Its deficiency symptoms include eczema and dermatitis, lack of appetite, fatigue and muscle pains. Biotin is useful in the treatment of hair and scalp conditions. For instances, it is sometimes used in case of hair loss, and a scalp condition in infants known as seborrheic dermatitis appears to improve with biotin supplements. The best natural sources of biotin are brewer's yeast, liver, brown rice, nuts, egg yolk, milk and fruits. The recommended daily dosage is 150-300 mcg. The body's requirement of biotin increases during pregnancy and lactation.
Birch, White Birch
Also known as the paper birch because its bark separates into sheets almost like paper, this is a tall, slender tree which grows wild in northern Europe and North America. Its leaves and bark are astringent, diuretic, and promote perspiration and infusions of the leaves are claimed to dissolve kidney stones and eliminate gravel. Birch can also stimulate kidney functions and help with the elimination of uric acid. A decoction of the leaves provides a mild sedative when taken at bedtime. The decoction is made with one tablespoon of fresh leaves boiled in half a cup of water. This should be left to steep for two hours, after which half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda should be added. An infusion can be made with one tablespoonful of leaves soaked in half a cup of hot water. Available from larger herbalists.
Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills are known to deplete several important vitamins in the body such as B6, folic acid and B12. Prolonged use of oral contraceptives can create typical deficiency symptoms of these nutrients such as weight gain, oedema, allergies, anaemia, fatigue, depression, and even loss of sex drive. To prevent such symptoms, long-term users of the pill would do well to supplement their diets with these vitamins.
Birthwort (Aristolochia Clematitis)
A perennial plant which grows wild in hedges and along fences, both its roots and clustered flower heads can be used for medicinal purposes. The ancient Egyptians used the plant as a remedy for snake bite, and infusions of the roots have traditionally been used to heal ulcers and also to arrest tumours in animals. In addition, infusions of the root and flowers will stimulate perspiration, act as a diuretic, reduce fever, and stimulate delayed menstruation. Available from larger health food stores and herbalists. Also incorporated in nutritional formulas.
Bishop Weed (Ammi Visnaga)
A Middle Eastern herb commonly used in Yemenite and other Arab folk medicine, it contains the glycoside khellin, which has been found to reduce the pain of kidney stones by relieving muscle spasms caused by their pressure. It is also known to alleviate the pain of angina pectoris by dilating the arteries of the heart. Available from larger herbalists.
Bitter Melon (Momordica Charantia)
A tropical fruit, also known as balsam pear, bitter melon is a vegetable widely cultivated in Asia, Africa and South America. The fresh juice and the extract of the unripe fruit have been found in various studies to have a blood sugar lowering effect. As such, bitter melon is extensively used in folk medicine as a treatment for diabetes.
Bitter melon contains several compounds that have anti;diabetic properties. One of them, charantin, is an efficientsugar-lowering agent composed of mixed steroids. Another active ingredient, momordica, is a polypeptide (protein) which reduces blood sugar levels, in much the same way as insulin, when injected into insulin-dependent diabetics. Drinking 50-60 ml of the juice has also shown positive results in clinical trials. Available :from larger health food stores and herbalists
Blackberry (Rubus Villisus)
A perennial plant whose sour and sweet :fruits are rich in chlorophyll and manganese. Blackberries and blackberry leaf infusions are well known for their astringent and blood building properties. They have traditionally been used in folk medicine to treat anaemia and diarrhoea and as an astringent for the urinary system. They also have tonic and decongestant properties and can help relieve the symptoms of enteritis.
Black Cohosh Root (Cimicifugua Racemosa)
A perennial plant, native to North America it grows wild from Maine to Missouri, mainly on hillsides. Infusions of the root are astringent, diuretic and anti-spasmodic. Black cohosh was traditionally used by the American Indians to treat female complaints such as menstrual cramps, delayed menstruation and hot flushes of menopause. The root
contains 27 -deoxyacetin, an active ingredient with oestrogenic like activity. Studies have shown that black cohosh can increase oestrogenic activity and thus alleviate the symptoms of menopause. Recommended for PMT, hot flushes, depression and nervousness. Do not use when pregnant. Available at health food stores.
Blackcurrant (Ribes Nigrum)
Best grown in northern regions where the weather is generally cool and wet, blackcurrants were traditionally used, much like blackberries, to prepare delicious drinks, teas or home-made syrups. Blackcurrants are extremely rich in vitamin C, containing four times as much as in an equivalent weight of oranges. A 100 g serving can contain up to four times the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin C The purple-black skins of blackcurants contain antho cyanidins, important antioxidant flavonoids with an antiinflammatory effect, which explains the practice of sipping hot blackcurrant syrup for sore throats in folk medicine. Blackcurant seed oil contains essential fatty acids and is one of the richest sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in fact it contains about 15 per cent more GLA than evening primrose oil - and is sold in capsules under different brand names in health food stores. Applied externally, blackcurrant seed oil has been found beneficial for skin care, improving skin softness and suppleness.
Black Nightshade (Solanum Nigrum)
An annual which grows wild on sea cliffs and cultivated land, mainly in England and Wales, although it has been introduced into Scotland and Ireland. It contains several alkaloids, including atropine, solanine and solasodine, a derivative of diosgenin from which plant steroids are made.
Caution: All nightshades (see BELLADONNA) are highly poisonous and must be used only under strict medical supervision.
Normal blood clotting is necessary for healing wounds. Vitamin K promotes blood clotting and is used to prevent or control internal bleeding and reduce excessive menstrual flow. However, excessive blood clotting is dangerous and can result in coronary thrombosis and thrombophlebitis, the main causes of heart attacks, as well as strokes. The risk of excessive blood clotting is increased by nutrient deficiencies, alcohol and excess arachidonic acid (AA), an essential fatty acid prevalent in meat, dairy products, eggs and peanuts. A vegetarian diet can therefore be beneficial in such cases. A reduction in blood-clotting can be induced by foods such as garlic, onion and oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel and sardines), and the use of supplements such as vitamin E, calcium, evening primrose oil, omega-3 fatty acids (MaxEPA), lecithin, kelp and octacosanol, contained in wheat germ oil.
Since the body burns sugar (glucose) for energy, it is imperative that a consistently adequate blood sugar level is maintained in order to retain a feeling of well-being - an ideal blood sugar level is 90-100 mg glucose per 100 cc of blood. At this level we are energetic and feel good, but when the level drops to 70 mg, hunger, fatigue and irritability set in. At levels below this, exhaustion, dizziness, heart palpitations and nausea are common.
The pancreas is the major sugar regulator and the body has a complicated hormonal balancing mechanism which keeps blood sugar at a fairly constant level. When the level is too high, the pancreas secretes insulin which converts glucose to glycogen: when the level is too low the pancreas secretes glucagon and the adrenal glands secrete adrenalin, two hormones that convert glycogen back to glucose. However, if this balancing mechanism gets out of order, it can produce either low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) or high blood sugar (diabetes). Factors that can affect the blood sugar balance include an excessive use of white sugar, prolonged stress and nutrient deficiencies. Elimination of white sugar from the diet, together with supplements of the B-complex vitamins, chromium picolinate or GTF chromium, zinc and brewer's yeast will help to restore and stabilize blood sugar to a more acceptable level.
Blue Flag (Iris Versicolor)
Also known as flag lily or wild iris, blue flag is a perennial iris native to American swamps and wetlands, but nowadays also planted in gardens throughout Britain. Infusions of the root are diuretic and can be used as a tonic, to assist with purifying the blood, expelling intestinal worms and the relief of vaginal infections. Due to its diuretic properties, blue flag was traditionally used to treat oedema. It is also recommended for migraine caused by stomach disorders. Available from larger herbalists.
Blue-Green Algae (Aphanizomenon Flos-Aquae)
Blue-green algae, or AFA, is one of the fastest growing items in the health food market. This unique algae, which is found in Upper Klamath Lake in South Oregon, is considered to be a perfect 'green food' as it contains 60 per cent high quality protein, together with all the essential amino acids required for full utilization. It is the richest known source of chlorophyll, which is a blood purifier, is high in beta carotene and contains a vast array of vitamins, minerals and trace elements, including a high concentration of vitamin B12.AFA has been found to have many beneficial effects and regular users report experiencing increased energy and mental alertness, as well as improvement in conditions such as depression, diabetes, hypoglycaemia, anaemia and Alzheimer's disease. AFA is available from health food shops in capsule, tablet and powder form.
Caution: At the time of publication, some reports have indicated that the supplement may contain toxins linked to paralysis and long-term liver damage.
Usually derived from cattle bones, this is a calcium phosphorus supplement that is sold in health food shops in both tablet and powder form. However, since the bone meal calcium is not chelated, it is best taken with a protein meal.
A native of the Mediterranean regions, borage (also called starflower) was brought to Britain by the Romans. The oil of borage is used as a dietary source for gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and, in fact, has been found to provide a more concentrated source of GLA than the more generally used evening primrose oil - some batches can be as high in GLA as 20 per cent. A recent study has shown that borage oil can lower hypertension and, as a dietary supplement, has brought about a reduction in high blood pressure within a period of seven weeks. Available from health food stores.
This trace element was recently found to promote the absorption of calcium and magnesium. Boron also interacts with potassium, vitamin D and methionine, and has been found to raise the level of estradiol in women, the most active type of oestrogen. Boron can therefore be beneficial in the menopause, when oestrogen levels drop and calcium absorption is impaired. Boron has also been found to be effective in alleviating symptoms of arthritis, especially juvenile arthritis. Deficiency symptoms of boron include bone demineralisation, brittle bones, arthritis, low oestrogen levels in menopause and reduced growth. The best natural sources of the element are fruits, vegetables and supplements - 3 mg a day provides a normal intake. Although no RDA was established for boron, an upper limit is officially set at 20 mg a day. Available from health food stores on its own or in combination with calcium and multimineral formulas.
Bran is made up of the fibrous husks that cover grain seeds. It contains 12 per cent polysaccharides (cellulose, pectin and lignin) and also protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. Contrary to its common description as 'roughage' food, it is not irritating to the bowels. Wheat bran contains 2.5 per cent cellulose (the indigestible part), which compares favourably with apples (3.6 per cent) and grapes (7 per cent). However, bran is recommended not so much for its nutritional value, but rather for the ability of its fibre to absorb water and give bulk to the faeces. It expands in the colon, stimulating bowel movement and elimination. High fibre diets speed up waste transit time through the colon, preventing constipation, appendicitis, diverticulosis (pockets in the colon), haemorrhoids and varicose veins, obesity and high blood pressure, cancer of the colon and coronary heart disease. With slow-moving stools, unfriendly bacteria in the colon have time to convert bile acids to carcinogens, whereas fast-moving stools facilitate bile excretion, reducing cholesterol, hypertension and heart attack. Wheat bran, oat bran and rice bran are among the most popular. Oat bran has an outstanding soluble fibre content, much more than wheat bran, for example. In many studies, 50-100 grams a day of oat bran were found effective in lowering high cholesterol levels, selectively reducing the LDL ('bad' cholesterol) level. Oat bran was also found to reduce the need for insulin by 25-50 per cent in adult-onset diabetes. And since oat bran is bulk-forming, it can also contribute to weight loss by curbing the appetite. Available from supermarkets and health food stores.
Caution: Consumption of large quantities of raw bran can result in a deficiency of minerals such as calcium unless supplements of multi-mineral tablets are taken.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)
This group contains three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. BCAA are essential for muscle growth and repair and also help to heal muscle tears, sprains and tired muscles. They are mostly used, therefore, by athletes and body builders. BCAA can also help to strengthen weak muscles after a period of being bedridden and are good stress relievers. They are available from health food stores as a food supplement.
A family of vegetables that includes cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, turnip and kale. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly sulphur, the 'beauty mineral' which produces collagen and boosts the immune system against germs and viruses. They also contain compounds with anti-cancer properties, such as dithiolthiones and indoles which protect against breast and colon cancer. This family of vegetables also has a beneficial effect on the liver.
Brewer's YeastA unicellular micro-organism, brewer's yeast was originally a by-product of the brewing industry that grew on hops, grain or malt, and which had to be debittered. Now, due to its high nutritional value, brewer's yeast is mainly produced as a supplement. The best types are those graded 'primary'. These are usually grown on molasses or sugar beets and are pleasant-tasting. Brewer's yeast is a well-balanced food, containing excellent concentrations of B-complex vitamins, including even vitamin B12 in some cases. It is up to 45 per cent complete protein, containing 17 amino acids, including all the essential ones, and is a rich source of DNA and RNA, which together form 12 per cent of dried yeast. It also contains an abundance of minerals and trace elements. For example, it is high in iron and copper, making it helpful in the treatment of anaemia. In addition, it contains high amounts of chromium and glucose tolerance factor (GTF) which benefits diabetics and hypoglycaemics. It also contains selenium in fact, some yeasts are actually grown on selenium, making them 'selenium-rich yeast'. This selenium, in particular, is easily absorbed. Initially, only small amounts of brewer's yeast should be taken on a daily basis; then, as the body adapts to it, the amounts can gradually be increased. It is available from health food shops in tablet, flake or powder form.
Caution: Brewer's yeast is contra-indicated in cases of candida (thrush).
A member of the Brassica family, it is a green vegetable that can be eaten either cooked or raw: It is exceptionally rich in nutrients, containing an abundance of sulphur, iron and chlorophyll, which purify the blood; it is also rich in vitamins A, B-complex and, especially, C. In fact, it contains more vitamin C than oranges - one cup provides 70mg of vitamin C which can be readily absorbed and utilized by the body, unlike the synthetic vitamin.
Broccoli was also found to contain good amounts of sulphoraphane, a sulphur-based compound, which helps to kill cancer-causing substances in food. When sulphoraphane is released in the gut, it steps up production of powerful enzymes that destroy carcinogenic substances such as found in heavily barbecued meat. Recently, scientists at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK, have developed a new type of ' super broccoli' which contains 100 times more sulphoraphane than ordinary broccoli, and which is expected to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Caution: Broccoli should be avoided in cases of thyroid deficiency, goitre or low iodine conditions, since it contains substances that inhibit the absorption of iodine
A protein-splitting enzyme present in pineapple, which has traditionally been used in the Caribbean regions as meat tenderizer. This is why pineapple can combine well with meat dishes. As a supplemental digestive aid, bromelain is available in health food shops in tablet and capsule form.
A member of the Brassica family of vegetables, Brussels sprouts are similar to cabbage in flavour and nutrient content and provide an excellent source of vitamins C, B1 and beta carotene. Similarly, they are also rich in potassium, calcium and sulphur but, unlike cabbage and broccoli, which can be enjoyed both raw and cooked, Brussels sprouts are palatable only as a cooked vegetable.
Buchu (Borosma Betuuna)
A small shrub native to South Africa, when its leaves are dried and used as a tea that is drunk as a tonic. It is also exported to Britain and the USA, where it is recognized as an excellent herb tea for those who suffer from cystic, urinary gravel and other urinary problems. Available from health food stores.
Buckwheat is an alkali-forming grain which, when roasted, is known as 'kasha'. It is rich in fibre and silica and strengthens the intestines, which makes it a useful food in the treatment of chronic diarrhoea and dysentery. Buckwheat is noted for being a very rich source of rutin, the bioflavonoid that is known to strengthen capillaries, inhibit inner bleeding, treat and prevent haemorrhoids and varicose veins and help reduce high blood pressure. Sprouted buckwheat is rich in chlorophyll, vitamins and enzymes. Available from supermarkets and health food stores.
Burdock (Arctium Lappa)
A small biennial plant which grows wild in North America and Europe, its leaves, roots and seeds all have nutritional and medicinal uses. It is a diuretic and blood cleanser, promotes perspiration and stimulates digestion. In addition, burdock also has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-tumor factors. As such it is used to treat chronic skin disorders like eczema and in the prevention of cancerous growths. Burdock also contains the polysaccharide inulin, which is known to reduce inflammation and, as an anti-bacterial, it can help with the treatment of staph infections. The fresh plant is used in macrobiotic cooking. For infusions and decoctions, the fresh root can be grated to a juice, or used dried. It is available from health food stores in capsule form. It is also incorporated in nutritional formulas and available as a dried herb from herbalists
Butcher's Broom (Ruscus Aculeatus)
An evergreen shrub of the lily family, the rhizome of the plant has medicinal properties as it contains active alkaloids that have many physiological effects. For instance, they are anti-inflammatory and can constrict blood vessels. The plant was traditionally used in treating vein disorders, both internally and externally, such as haemorrhoids and varicose veins. In addition, infusions made from the rhizome are recognized as a good herbal drink for jaundice, oedema and gout. Capsules are available from health food stores. It is also incorporated in nutritional formulas and is available as a dried herb from herbalists.
Butter, Butyric Acid
Butter consists mainly of saturated fat and cholesterol, containing only a scant amount of protein and unsaturated fatty acids. As such, it can raise cholesterol levels and contribute to heart disease, although in this respect it is less harmful than standard margarine. For instance, butter contains four to six percent essential fatty acids, which help to prevent heart attack, while margarine contains only two to five percent. Butter is also a rich source of vitamin A and contains butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid needed for cell health and repair. As with other fats, when heated above certain temperatures, butter oxidizes and decomposes, producing irritating substances in the digestive tract. For frying purposes, it is important to note that the fatty acids in butter decompose at 226°F (or 108°C). It is best to adjust frying temperatures accordingly, and never refry previously heated butter.