Flaxseed Oil Health Benefits

Flaxseed Oil Facts

Flaxseed oil is the primary medicinal constituent of the flax plant, L. usitatissimum, which has been cultivated since at least 5,000 BC. Its medicinal properties were known to the Greek: Hipocrates recommended it for inflammation of the mucous membranes. In 18th-century France, Charlemagne passed laws requiring seeds to be consumed to keep his subjects healthy. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Wherever flaxseeds become a regular food item among the people, there will be better health.”*

Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseed Oil

Flaxseed oil is the most concentrated source of essential fatty acid alpha linolenic acid. Essential fatty acids are fats which the body needs but is unable to make, so they must be obtained from the diet. We only need a small amount of this particular fat; about 2% of our body fat is made of alpha linolenic acid, but is absolutely essential. Without it, the membranes which surround and protect all the cells in all our body tissues will not function properly. Signs of deficiencies are apparent in skin and hair condition and brain function.*

Alpha linolenic acid is converted by the body into two other critical fatty acids, the omega-3’s: eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids. These are found in abundance only in certain cold-water fish, such as salmon, thus linolenic acids are the only source of omega-3 fatty acids in vegetarian deits. DHA both inhibit the production in our body of damaging prostaglandins, powerful body regulators (xenohormones or xenobiotics). Prostaglandins are a group of naturally occurring, chemically related, long-chain hydroxyl fatty acids stimulating contractility of the uterine and other smooth muscles and have the ability to lower blood pressure, regulate acid secretion of the stomach, regulate body temperature and platelet aggregation, and control inflammation and vascular permeability; they also affect the action of certain hormones. First found in semen, prostaglandins have since been found in menstrual fluid and various tissues of many species and have been synthesized chemically. There are six types: A, B, C, D, E and F, the degree of saturation of the side chain of each being designated by subscripts 1, 2 and 3. The types of prostaglandin are abbreviated PGE, PGF2, and so on.* (14, 15)

In the rush to follow a low-fat diet, many people forget the critcal importance of getting enough essential fatty acids.*

Flaxseed Oil Reduces Heart Attacks

The alpha linolenic acid in flaxseed oil is the subject of intense investigation because of recent studies indicating it may dramatically reduce heart attacks and strokes. One impressive study recently conduct at Harvard University in 1996 showed that men aged 40 to 70 who consume more linolenic acids are less apt to die from heart disease or a heart attack than men who get less of the fatty acid in their diet. In fact, linolenic acid was the only protective factor identified in the study. The authors concluded, “The data…also supports a specific preventive effect of linolenic acid intake.” The study looked at the amount of linolenic acid already present in the diets of these men, showing a correlation between the fatty acid and heart health.* (1)

An astounding new study conducted on men who had survived a heart attack shows the direct benefits of supplementing with flaxseed oil. One half (the control group) were put on the standard American Health Association diet while the other half was supplemented with alpha linolenic acid. After two years, the men who did not supplement with additional flaxseed oil had five times the number of fatal heart attacks, three times the non-fatal heart attacks, and two and a half times the deaths from all causes as the men fortunate enough to receive supplementation. The results from this small study are so impressive that large-scale intervention trials on alpha linolenic supplementation are expected.* (2)

Reduces Strokes

Alpha linolenic acid may also reduce the risk of stroke. The Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRFIT) found that men with blood level of alpha linolenic acid one standard deviation above normal had a 37% decrease in their risk of stroke. The authors concluded, “Our findings suggest that higher serum levels of the essential fatty acid alpha linolenic aid are independently associated with a lower risk of stroke in middle-age men at high risk for cardiovascular disease.” While not a supplementation study, this finding add to the evidence that alpha linolenic acid has a protective effect on atherosclerotic related conditions, especially since dietary intake of flaxseed oil raises blood levels. (3)

Reduces Blood Clotting

How does flaxseed oil help maintain normal artery and heart functioning? A key factor of both the development of atherosclerosis and the actual event of a heart attack or stroke is blood clotting. Flaxseed oil reduces the likelihood of blood clotting in several ways. First, it reduces a specific clotting system factor called plasma factor VII. The authors of a recent study hypothesized “high dietary polyunsaturated fatty acid intake (especially alpha linolenic acid) may reduce the risk for CHD (coronary heart disease) by an improvement of a number of risk factors, including lowering the plasma factor VII (both activity and antigen).* (4)

Alpha linolenic acid also reduces the clumping together, or agglutination, of the body’s clotting cells, called platelets. When young men were given flaxseed oil, their platelets were less apt to clump together, an effect not found with supplementation with other oil. The researchers concluded, “This study provides further evidence that consumption of alpha linolenic acid-rich oils may offer protective effects against cardiovascular disease over linolenic acid-rich oils via their ability to decrease the tendency of platelets to aggregate.* (5, 6)

Effect on Blood Lipids

The effect of flaxseed oil on blood lipids such as cholesterol and triglycerides is less clear, as there have been conflicting studies. Some studies show flaxseed (and other oil) supplementation lowers cholesterol. (7) Other studies have not confirmed this. (8) One study examined the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol, a ratio considered to be indicative of heart attack risk than a simple cholesterol measurement. The researchers from the Framingham Study found that higher intake of alpha linolenic acid and other essential fatty acids reduced this ratio and therefore heart disease risk. (9) It also seems clear that large amounts of alpha linolenic acid lowers triglycerides in the blood, probably by creating DHA and EPA oils found in fish.*(10)

Immune System Functioning

Essential fatty acids are important for proper functioning of the immune system. One double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study found supplementing school children with a combination of alpha linolenic acid and another essential fatty acid reduced respiratory tract infections. Supplementing with the oil decreases the production of several problem-causing factors including cytokine production, tumor necrosis factor alpha, and interleukin 1 beta synthesis. (11) Flaxseed oil also suppresses the proliferation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells and the delayed hypersensitivity response to recall antigens. (12) There may be other roles for flaxseed oil. Early studies indicate a possible role in migraine headache treatment. (13)

References

  1. Ascherio, A., Rimon, E.B.. et al. Dietary fat and risk of coronary heart disease in men: cohort follow up study in the United States. BMJ. 1996. July 13;313(7049):84-90
  2. Hartman, I.S.. alpha-Linolenic Acid: a preventive in secondary coronary events?. Nutr Rev. 1995. Jul;53(7):194-7
  3. Simon, J.A. Serium fatty acids and the risk of stroke.. Stroke. 1995. May;26(5);778-82
  4. Cigolini. M. et al. Plasma factor VII and its relation to adipose tissue fatty acids and other atherogenic risk factors in health men. Eur J Clin Invest. 1996. Mar;26(3):247-53
  5. Mutanen, M. Freese R. Polyunsaturated fatty acids and platelet aggregation.. Curr Opin Lipidol. 1996. Feb;7(1):14-9
  6. Allman, M.A. Supplementation with flaxseed oil versus sunflower seed oil in healthy young men consuming a lot fat diet: effects on platelet composition and function.. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1995. Mar;49(3):169-78
  7. Chan, J.K., et al. Dietary alpha-linolenic acid is as effective as oleic acid and linolenic acid in lowering blood cholesterol in normolipidemic men. Am J Clin Nutr. 1991. May;53(5):1230-4
  8. Harris, W. S. n-3 fatty acids and serum lipoproteins: human studies.. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997. May;65(5 suppl): 1645S-1654
  9. Siguel, E. A new relationship between total/high density lipoprotein cholesterol and polyunsaturated fatty acids.. Lipids. 1996. Mar;3131 Suppl: S51-6
  10. Caughey, G.E., et al. The effect on human tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin 1 beta production on diets enriched in n-3 fatty acid from vegetable oil or fish oil. Am J Clin Nutr. 1996. Jan;63(1):116-22
  11. Kelley, D.X., et al. Dietary alpha-linolenic acid and immunocompetence in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 1991. Jan;53(1):40-6
  12. Wagner W, and Nootbaar-Wagner U. Prophylactic treatment of migrane with gamma-linolenic and alpha-linolenic acids. Cephalalgia. 1997. Apr;17(2):127-30

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Garlic: What Are Its Health Benefits?

Garlic Health Is In The Smell

Garlic contains several substances that when mixed together correctly form a powerful healing compound call allicin. Not only does allicin have therapeutic value, it is also the substance in garlic that is responsible for the smell and flavor – it’s made out of sulfur. Very freshly sliced garlic has no odor because the allicin has not yet been formed. Only when it’s two precursors, the amino acid “allin” and the enzyme “allinase”, combine through contact after crushing or chewing does allicin appear. The reason that very old or well-cooked garlic has no flavor, and hence no allicin, is because the compound is also very volatile – heat and oxygen destroy it. Thus, proper processing is critical in the production of a garlic supplement.

Ally against Infections

Garlic BenefitsThe most ancient use of garlic is as an antibiotic, and certain components of garlic have been synthesized and used in China against bacteria and fungus infections since 1981. While there has been surprisingly little research into whether taking garlic protects against infection, ample evidence shows that garlic destroys pathogen of all kinds. In the laboratory, garlic destroys Heliobacter pylori, the bacteria indicted in stomach ulcers and stomach cancer, a dangerous new form of e.coli 0157:H7, Shigella (species of bacteria that cause digestive upset ranging from mild to severe diarrhea), and staphylococcus (1, 2, 3). Fungus infections such as candida, and the Giardia protozoa, also succumb to garlic (4). The potent bulb may also be effective against viruses ranging from the common cold to herpes (5, 6). In an age when current pharmaceutical antibiotics are losing their effectiveness or inducing resistance, garlic holds great promise. In certain cases, it is more effective than traditional antibiotics such as tetracycline.

Antioxidant for Anti-Aging

Garlic is a powerful protector against damage from free-radicals – the highly unstable oxygen molecules that damage (or oxidize) body tissue and blood fats and may be responsible for many effects of aging (11). Japanese research on a strain of animals which age prematurely shows that garlic extracts actually improved learning, cured memory problems, and prevented the brain atrophy expected in the animals. (12)

Cancer Fighter

Garlic by itself can neither prevent nor cure cancer. However, studies have shown that certain sulfur compounds found in garlic can help to prevent specialized tissues and cells from undergoing initial undifferentiation (13, 14). Other studies have shown that garlic can also help cells, which have recently lost their identity and become cancerous, to regain their original form and function. The types of cancer where garlic hold the greatest promise include those of the stomach, breast, prostate, colon and skin (14, 15, 16, 17, 18 19).

Clotting Reducer

Garlic is a potent inhibitor of blood clotting. Among those who suffer from clogged arteries, blood clots can pose a particular threat, since they can shut off blood to the heart, causing a heart attack, or to the brain, resulting in a stroke (22, 23, 24, 25).

Cholesterol Leveler

Garlic and garlic supplements also have been proven to lower cholesterol levels as much as 14%, which by itself is associated with a lowered risk of heart and vascular system diseases (20). Garlic has also been shown to inhibit LDL cholesterol oxidation, a key step in the process of cholesterol deposition into the artery wall. Thus, it keeps the arterial walls free of plaque and reduces the risk of constricted blood flow and medical conditions, including peripheral arterial disease and heart attacks (21). Garlic also lowers elevated levels of other blood fats, known as triglycerides, associated with heart disease.

Protection Against Toxins

Garlic also helps protect the body against a wide variety of toxins. It makes liver cells more effective at disarming poisons ranging from arsenic (7) to Tylenol (acetaminophen) overdose (8). Experiments have found that adding fried garlic to animals’ feed protect them from mutagens (9) and even from radiation (10).

Promise for Diabetics

Some evidence shows that garlic may be of benefit to diabetics. In animal studies, garlic supplementation helped control diabetes almost as much as insulin or oral diabetes drugs, and it stimulated the release of insulin (26).


References:

  1. Sivam, G.D. et al. Heliobacter pylori-in vitro Susceptibility to Garlic Extract. Nut Canc 1997 27(2):118-21
  2. Choudhurry, A.R. et al. Efficacy of aqueous extract of garlic and allicin in experimental shigellosis in rabbits. Indian J Med Res 1991. Jan 93:33-6
  3. Shashikanth, K.N. et al. A comparative Study of Raw Garlic Extract and Tetracycline on Caecal Microflora and Serum Protein of albino Rats. Folia Microbiol (Phaha) 1984, 29(4):348-52
  4. Yoshida, S. et al. antifungal Activity of Ajoene Derived From Garlic Apt. Envir. Microbiol. 1987, Mar 53(3):615-7
  5. 5. Esanu, V. Recent Advances in the chemotherapy of Herpes Virus Infections. Biologie 1981, Jan-Mar 32(1):57-77
  6. Weber, N.D. et al. In Vitro Virucidal Effects of Allium Sativum (garlic) Extract and compounds. Planta Med 1992. Oct 58(5):417-23
  7. Choudhurry, A.R. et al. Inhibition of Clastogenic Effects of Arsenic Through Continued Oral Administration of Garlic Extract in Mice in Vivo. Mutat Res 1997, Aug 14:392(3):237-42
  8. Hu J.J. Protective Effects of Diallyl Sulfide on Acetaminophen Induced Toxicities. Food Chem Toxicol 1996, Oct 34(10):963-9
  9. Olasa K., et al. Reduction of Urinary Mutagen Excretion in Rats Fed Garlic. Cancer Lett 1997 Mar 19, 114(1-2); 195-6
  10. Jaiswal, S.K. and a Bordia. Radioprotective Effect of Garlic Allium Sativum Linn. In albino Rats. Ind J Med Sci 1996, Jul 59(7):231-3
  11. Prasad, K. Evaluation of Hydroxyl Radical Scavenging Property of Garlic. Mol Cell Biochem 1996, Jan 12 154(10):55-63
  12. Moriguchi, T et al. Anti-aging Effect of Aged Garlic Extract in the Inbred Brain Atrophy Mouse Model. Clin Exper Pharmacol Physiol 1997, Mar-Apr 24(3-4):235-42
  13. Milver, J.A. Garlic: It’s Anticarcinogenic and Antitumorogenic Properties. Nut Rev 1996, Nov 54 (11 Pt 2):582-6
  14. Lea, M.A. Organosulfur compounds and Cancer. Ad Exp Med Biol 1996. 401:147-54
  15. Ip c. et al. Potential of Food Modification in Cancer Prevention. Cancer Res 1994, Ap 1:54(7 sup):1957s-1959
  16. Dorant, E. et al. Garlic and its Significants for Preventing Cancer in Humans: A Critical view. Br J Cancer 1993, Mar 67(3):424-9
  17. Pinto, J.T. et al. Effects of Garlic Thioallyl Derivatives on Growth, glutathione concentration, and Polyamine Formation of Human Prostate Carcinoma Cells in Culture. Am j Clin Nut 1997, Aug 66(7):398-405
  18. Key, T. J. et al. a Case-controlled Study of diet and Prostate Cancer. Br J Cancer 1997. 76(5):678-87
  19. Witte, J.S. Relationship of Vegetables, Fruit, and Grain consumption to Colorectal Adenomatous Polyps. Am J Epidem 1996, Dec 1,144(11):1015-25
  20. Tonstad, S. Dietary Supplementation in treatment of Hyperlipidemia. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen 1991. Nov 20, 11(78):3378-400
  21. Adler, A.J. and B.J. Holub. Effect of Garlic and Fish Oil supplementation on Serum Lipid and Lipoprotein Concentrations in Hypercholesterolemic Men. Am J Clin Nut 1997. Feb 65(2):445-50
  22. Beretz, A. Old and new Natural Products as Source of modern Antithrombotic Drugs. Planta med 1991, Oct 57(7):568-72
  23. Bordia, T. Effect of Garlic on Platelet Aggregation in Humans: A Study in Healthy Subject and Patients with coronary Artery Disease. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 1996, Sept 55(3):201-5
  24. Agarwal, K.C. Therapeutic Actions of Garlic Constituents. Med Res Rev 1996, Jan 16(1):111-24
  25. Bordia, R. an Evaluation of Garlic and Onion as Antithrombotic Agents. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 1996, Mar 54(3):183-6
  26. Augusti, K.T. and a. G. Sheela. Antiperoxide Effect of S-allyl cysteine Sulfoxide, an Insulin Secretagogue, in Diabetic Rats. Experientia 1996. Feb 15, 52(2):11520

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration

Benefits of Yohimbe You May Not Know About

What You Need to Know About Yohimbe

Yohimbe has long been used in Africa for its medicinal properties before many people became aware of it in the West. It offers a variety of health benefits. The efficacy is not just based on hearsay, but it is something that has been proven by some researchers.

Yohimbe Bark
Yohimbe Bark

You will find yohimbe extract in many supplements today. Why do these products include it? We discuss a number of the expected health benefits here. You will also find information on how it is used as well as safety.

What is Yohimbe?

Yohimbe is an evergreen tree belonging to the family of plants known as Rubiaceae. Its scientific name is Corynanthe yohimbe. The tree, which is native to Central and West Africa, is also called Pausinystalia yohimbe. It can be widely seen in countries such as Cameroon and Gabon.

The bark of this evergreen tree is medicinal. It has been used for this purpose in western and central Africa for centuries. It is being investigated today in Western countries for its potential to help in treating certain conditions, especially those that are sexual in nature.

The main active ingredient in yohimbe bark is yohimbine. This indole alkaloid is responsible for the health benefits you get from the herb. It was first extracted from the bark of the tree towards the end of the 19th century. Yohimbine was synthesized for the first time, using a 23-step process, in the late 1950s.

A standardized form of this active compound called yohimbine hydrochloride is a constituent of some prescription drugs in the United States.

The alkaloid is also said to come from the South America tree species Aspidosperma quebracho blanco and the perennial shrub Rauwolfia serpentina.

Yohimbe extract is used in veterinary medicine. It helps to reverses sedation in dogs and deer.

The herb also offers a number of benefits in humans. We shift our attention to some of these in the sections that follow.

Corrects Erectile Dysfunction

The most popular benefit of yohimbe is treatment of erectile dysfunction. The bark has long had a reputation of being a powerful aphrodisiac. You can find the extract in certain prescription medications used for correcting erection problems in some places outside the U.S. Many supplements today include it with the hope of it improving sexual function.

Yohimbe helps in this regard as a result of its ability to cause blood vessels to dilate. This allows blood to flow more freely around the body, including to the penis. The belief is that this effect can make it possible for men with ED issues to achieve firm erections.

The efficacy of yohimbe in resolving erectile dysfunction is such that some people describe it as “herbal Viagra.” It supposedly can correct sexual dysfunction in individuals who are even older than 75 years! There are clinical studies showing this herb has potential in the treatment of organic impotence in men.

The active ingredient in the bark can also stimulate the central nervous system. It enhances nerve impulses that contribute to orgasm. It is, therefore, not only beneficial for improving sexual function in men, but also in women.

Regulates Blood Sugar

High glucose levels in the blood are dangerous. This can predispose you to several unpleasant medical conditions. But the kinds of diet many people maintain expose them to risk of having excess levels.

You may get help from yohimbe in keeping the amount of sugar in your blood in check. There is research showing that it may possibly help in this regard. It blocks certain receptors to increase insulin levels and reduce blood glucose.

But there are experts who say yohimbe has no effect on blood sugar levels. They admit, however, that it improves the efficacy of drugs for treatment of diabetes.

Strips body fat

For those individuals having weight issues, it may be interesting to learn yohimbe can be of help. Some researchers have found that using the herbal extract may help to burn body fat.

Yohimbe bark is thought to block certain receptors that make it hard for people to do away with body fat. Suspected mechanisms of action include regulation of appetite and promotion of lipolysis, breakdown of fats.

The effect of yohimbe for fat loss was shown in a study of obese female subjects who were on 1,000-calorie diets. Those who received 20 mg of the bark extract lost three pounds more than those in the control group after a period of three weeks.

However, not all studies done to investigate possible weight loss benefits reported positive effects.

Boosts Performance

Yohimbe is a mild stimulant. This makes it potentially helpful for fighting lethargy, increasing energy, and boosting alertness.

The bark is an alpha-2 antagonist. It blocks alpha-2 receptors and improves the function of the sympathetic nervous system. This promotes the release of adrenaline to enhance athletic performance. Yohimbe can help guard against fatigue during and following exercise.

Helps with Depression

Yohimbe bark may help address the symptoms of depression, being an alpha-2 blocker. It has a chemical structure comparable to several drugs for correcting mental disorders.

There is evidence that alpha-2 antagonists can improve the efficacy of antidepressants. Dopamine is one of the neurotransmitters whose levels yohimbe is believed to increase. You may use it alone or in combination with other drugs, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), to fight depression.

It appears the active ingredient also increases the levels of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). This coenzyme offers decent potential in the treatment or prevention of neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Regulates Blood Pressure

You may find yohimbe beneficial for resolving issues related to blood pressure. It can increase or decrease blood pressure, depending on doses. Chosen dosage may bring about vasodilation or vasoconstriction – that is, the widening or narrowing of blood vessels.

Essentially, you can use it to correct low blood pressure or high blood pressure. But people are more likely to use it for the former.

Other Benefits

Among the other benefits associated to yohimbe is control of side effects. Doctors may recommend it to patients to moderate adverse reactions from the use of certain medications, especially antidepressants. For example, it can help to deal with fatigue or sexual issues resulting from the use of these drugs.

Evidence from clinical studies suggests yohimbe may be helpful for preventing fainting. Its uses in traditional medicine also include treatment of angina.

How to Use Yohimbe

There is uncertainty on the amount of yohimbine you get in a dosage. The amount of the active ingredient will depend on, among other things, method of cultivation and part of the tree used. So, the dosage will vary widely among OTC products. Researchers at the Food and Drug Administration found that most of these contain negligible amounts.

For this reason, the FDA approved only prescription drugs containing yohimbe for treating impotence. A dosage between 5 mg and 10 mg three times a day was used in most clinical trials for treatment of erectile dysfunction. The drugs are available as tablets or capsules.

Dose typically depends on the goal of treatment.

You need to do your homework on safety and reliability if you intend using yohimbe supplements. These are not regulated by the FDA. You, therefore, want to make sure you are buying a high quality, trusted brand.

How Safe is Yohimbe?

You may not experience any adverse reaction if you are in good state of health when using yohimbe bark extract.

But inappropriate use can give rise to side effects. These can include abdominal distress, dizziness, headaches, increased heart rate, cold sweating, insomnia, and irregular blood pressure. In worst case scenario, yohimbe may cause over-stimulation of the central nervous system and paralysis.

It is not advisable for people with kidney or liver issues to use yohimbe. Pregnant and nursing women should also stay away from it.

There may be interactions between the herb and some medications. For instance, you may not use it with stimulants or ACE inhibitors.

Conclusion

Yohimbe has made a name for itself more because of its perceived ability to improve sexual function. It offers a variety of other benefits as well. But research findings on efficacy are mixed, even when there are prescription drugs containing it.

If you wish to use yohimbe supplements, make sure you buy a product by a reputable company. Many offerings on the market contain very low amounts of the active ingredient yohimbine. Do ensure you speak with your doctor when planning to use any supplement or drug containing the extract.