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Friday, August 31, 2007

Tea -- Best Teas Come from Asia

Tea is produced in over thirty countries around the world, though the finest comes from just five: India, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan and Japan. Home to most of the world's tea drinkers, these countries continue to pay much attention to how tea is grown and processed. In many, tea continues to be produced by hand in accordance with age-old traditions.

is the birthplace of tea and continues to produce more intricate varieties than any other country. Prior to WWII, nearly half the world's output originated here, but now it accounts for less than ten percent, and has fallen into second place, behind India. Green teas account for almost two-third of Chinese crop. The relatively short tea season is divided into three pickings: 'first spring' in April when the delicate leaf buds appear, 'second spring' in early June when the bushes are full, and the less interesting 'third spring' in July. The most famous Chinese teas are Keemun, (black), Dragonwell (green) and Ti Kuan Yin (oolong).

is the world's largest tea producer, accounting for about a third of the world's total. However, the size of its population, and the latter's large appetite for tea, means that only about half of it is available for export. Famous growing regions include Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri, and they produce nearly all black tea. Tea continues to be cultivated on small family plots, which number close to forty thousand.

Sri Lanka
often called Ceylon - its old colonial name, is the third largest producer of tea in the world. It is a relative newcomer, growing tea for little over one hundred years. The three famous growing regions are Dimbula, Uva and Nuwara Eliya. Most of the Ceylon tea gardens are situated at elevations between 3,000 and 8,000 feet, where the hot and steamy weather makes the tea bushes flush every seven to eight days. The teas are generally classified by altitude; higher-grown generally regarded as superior.

is a sizeable producer of almost exclusively green tea. However, because it is a nation of many (and voracious) tea drinkers, only about 2 percent of Japan's crop is available for export. The most famous of teas to escape are Sencha, Genmai Cha and Gyokuro. Japan's role in the world of tea, however, is disproportionate to the size of its crop. Tea plays a very import role in this country's art, philosophy, history and daily life. World famous is its spiritual dedication to the esthetics of tea, known as the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

is often called Formosa, a name given it by Portuguese traders, meaning "beautiful island." The bulk of the tea produced here is oolong, a cross between black and green. In the early years of its economic growth, much of Taiwan's tea was exported. However, recent economic prosperity had produced a local population with a taste for what many consider to be the world's finest oolongs. Presently, only about two percent of the island's famous teas are exported. These fall into three categories: dark oolongs, jade oolongs, and the almost-green pouchong tea.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tea -- Must to Know

Gourmet vs. Supermarket Tea

Remember when your choice of coffee ranged from Folgers to Sanka? And then Starbucks came along to show how much better it can be. The same is true of tea. The varieties on offer in your supermarket are the bottom of the barrel: low-quality bags containing tea dust - the tiny leaf particles that break off when tea leaves are processed. They'll add color to your cup, but not much flavor. A far cry from the abundance of flavor and intoxicating aroma found in a cup of full-leaf gourmet tea. Chances are, you are no longer drinking Sanka. Once you try our teas, you will not wish to drink anything sold in the supermarket either.

Keep Air and Light Out

Tea tastes best when consumed within a year after production. To shield tea against the damaging effects of air and light, it should be stored in opaque and airtight canisters. Metal tins seem to function best in this role. Most of our teas, including the one-ounce samples, are available in the airtight, UV-blocking tins pictured here.

Two Factors: Time and Temperature

Suggested ratio is one teaspoon of leaves per cup of water. However, the light and voluminous teas will taste best with twice that. To steep, please use boiling water (212F) when preparing black, dark oolong and herbal teas. And it's important to use cooler (180F) water when steeping green, light oolong and white teas. And remember to not over-steep, or your tea will taste bitter. Rule of thumb is 5 min. for most black, 7 min. for dark oolong and white, and only 3 min. for light oolong and green teas.

Assuring the proper temperature for green tea is easy with our variable-temperature kettle and electric tea maker. Both permit you to set the goal of 180F to assure a perfect cup of green or white tea.


Tea -- Various of

Determine final classification

How the leaves are processed will determine their final classification as black, green, and oolong teas. The main difference between the many tea varieties is how much oxygen the leaves are allowed to absorb during processing.
  • Much oxygen produces dark-colored black teas.
  • Little oxygen results in green tea.
  • Unprocessed leaves are called white tea.
Varieties of tea

Black tea

Undergoes a full fermentation process composed of four basic steps - withering, rolling, fermenting, and firing (or drying). First, the plucked leaves are spread out to wither. The withered leaves are then rolled, in order to release the chemicals within the leaf that are essential to its final color and flavor. The rolled leaves are spread out once more to absorb oxygen (oxidize), causing the leaves to turn from green to coppery red. Finally, the oxidized leaves are fired in order to arrest fermentation, turning the leaf black and giving it the recognizable tea scent.

Green tea
is often referred to as "unfermented" tea. The freshly picked leaves are allowed to dry, then are heat-treated to stop any fermentation (also referred to as oxidation). In China, traditional hand-making methods are still employed in many places, particularly in the manufacture of the finest green teas you'll find offered here.

Oolong tea
is generally referred to as "semi-fermented" tea and is principally manufactured in China and Taiwan (often called Formosa, its old Dutch name). For the manufacture of oolongs, the leaves are wilted in direct sunlight, then shaken in bamboo baskets to lightly bruise the edges. Next, the leaves are spread out to dry until the surface of the leaf turns slightly yellow. Oolongs are always whole leaf teas, never broken by rolling. The least fermented of oolong teas, almost green in appearance, is called Pouchong.

White tea
is produced on a very limited scale in China and India. It is the least processed of its many varieties. The new tea buds are plucked before they open and simply allowed to dry. The curled-up buds have a silvery appearance and produce a pale and very delicate cup of tea. We invite you to view photos and descriptions of individual white teas.

Scented tea
is created when the additional flavorings are mixed with the leaf as a final stage before the tea is packed. For Jasmine tea, whole jasmine blossoms are added to green or oolong tea. Fruit-flavored teas are generally made by combining a fruit's essential oils with black tea from China or Sri Lanka. We invite you to view photos and descriptions of individual flavored teas.


Tea -- Common Ingredients

Tea made from loose leaves has more antioxidants than tea bags, which tend to have lower-quality, powdered leaves. Prevention, April 2003

Black tea is turning out to be just as healthful as green tea. Univ of California Wellness Letter, March 2002

One cup of black or green tea has more antioxidant power than a serving of broccoli, carrots, or spinach. Prevention, Aug 1998

Tea decaffeinated using a natural CO-2 process retains 90% of its cancer-fighting properties. Prevention, Feb 2000

Java junkies, perk up: Substituting tea for coffee will cut your caffeine intake by more than half. Prevention, May 96

White tea appears to have more potent anticancer qualities than green tea. Reuters Health, March 30, 2000

Tea -- The Benefits

Tea is good for you. What are the scientifically recognized benefits of tea? The following is a brief synopsis of the latest findings.

If you are the type to fret over the appearance of wrinkles, age spots and other signs of growing old, oolong tea may be the answer to your worries. In a recent experiment carried out jointly by researchers from the US, Taiwan and Japan, mice which were fed tea displayed fewer signs of aging than mice that were fed water. The Straits Times, Sept. 24, 01

The wonder cup just got even more wonderful. Green tea, rich in antioxidant treasures that protect against heart disease and cancer, now shows promise as an allergy fighter. In laboratory tests, Japanese researchers have found that the antioxidants in green tea, block the biochemical process involved in producing an allergic response. Green tea may be useful against a wide range of sneeze-starting allergens, including pollen, pet dander, and dust. Prevention, April 2003

Green tea catechins are chondroprotective and consumption of green tea may be prophylactic for arthritis and may benefit the arthritis patient by reducing inflammation and slowing cartilage breakdown. The Journal of Nutrition, Mar 2002

Green tea may be useful in controlling inflammation from injury or diseases such as arthritis. Boston Globe, April 26, 99

Tea flavonoids may be bone builders. A report in this week's Archives of Internal Medicine looked at about 500 Chinese men and women who regularly drank black, green, or oolong tea for more than 10 years. Compared with nonhabitual tea drinkers, tea regulars had higher bone mineral densities, even after exercise and calcium-which strengthen bones-were taken into account. U.S. News & World Report, May 20, 2002

"Tea is one of the single best cancer fighters you can put in your body," according to Mitchell Gaynor, MD, director of medical oncology at the world-renowned Strong Cancer Prevention Center in New York City and co-author of Dr. Gaynor's Cancer Prevention Program. The latest tea discovery? Strong evidence that both green and black tea can fight cancer-at least in the test tube-though green tea holds a slight edge. In a new study, both teas kept healthy cells from turning malignant after exposure to cancer-causing compounds. Prevention, May 2000

People who drink about 4 cups of green tea a day seem to get less cancer. Now we may know why. In recent test-tube studies, a compound called EGCG, a powerful antioxidant in tea, inhibited an enzyme that cancer cells need in order to grow. The cancer cells that couldn't grow big enough to divide self-destructed. It would take about 4 cups of green tea a day to get the blood levels of EGCG that inhibited cancer in the study. Black tea also contains EGCG, but at much lower concentrations. Prevention, Aug 1999

Tea can lower 'bad' cholesterol levels. Researchers at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland, asked test subjects to eat low-fat, low-calorie prepared meals and drink five cups of caffeinated tea or caffeinated and non-caffeinated placebos that mimicked the look of tea. Levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol dropped 10 percent among the test subjects who drank tea. Vegetarian Times, Jan 2003

Drinking black tea may lower the risk of heart disease because it prevents blood from clumping and forming clots. In a recent study, researchers found that while drinking black tea, the participants had lower levels of the blood protein associated with coagulation. Better Nutrition, Jan 2002

Better to be deprived of food for three days than tea for one,� says a Chinese proverb. Research is showing it may just be true. Dr. Kenneth Mukamal of Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center reported that out of 1,900 heart-attack patients, those who drank two or more cups a day reduced their risks of dying over the next 3.8 years by 44 percent. Newsweek, May 20, 2002

Trying to lose weight? Reach for a cup of green tea instead of a diet beverage. Compared to the placebo and caffeine, green tea extract consumption produced a significant 4% increase in 24-hour energy expenditure. If you consume 2,000 calories per day and don't gain or lose weight (you're in energy balance), an increase of 4% would translate roughly into an 80-calorie daily difference. Over a year, this could result in 89 pounds of weight loss. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Nov 1999

Recent evidence shows that in the battle of fat loss, green tea may be superior to plain caffeine. According to a new study, green tea appears to accelerate calorie burning - including fat calories. Researchers suggest compounds in green tea called flavonoids may change how the body uses a hormone called norepinephrine, which then speeds the rate calories are burned. Joe Weider's Muscle & Fitness, April 2000


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Alcohol -- Top 10 Consuming Countries

Top 10 Alcohol Consuming Countries on per capita Basis Country / Consumption in Gallons of absolute or pure alcohol.

1. Portugal 2.98
2. Luxembourg 2.95
3. France 2.87
4. Hungary 2.66
5. Spain 2.66
6. Czech Republic 2.64
7. Denmark 2.61
8. Germany 2.50
9. Austria 2.50
10. Switzerland 2.43


Alcohol -- Facts & Fiction

This page corrects common alcohol and drinking myths, with research based facts and statistics.

Myth: Alcohol destroys brain cells.
The moderate consumption of alcohol does not destroy brain cells. In fact it is often associated with improved cognitive (mental) functioning.

Myth: White wine is a good choice for a person who wants a light drink with less alcohol.
A glass of white or red wine, a bottle of beer, and a shot of whiskey or other distilled spirits all contain equivalent amounts of alcohol and are they same to a Breathalyzer. A standard drink is:

* A 12-ounce bottle or can of regular beer
* A 5-ounce glass of wine
* A one and 1/2 ounce of 80 proof distilled spirits (either straight or in a mixed drink).

Myth: A "beer belly" is caused by drinking beer.
A "beer belly" is caused by eating too much food. No beer or other alcohol beverage is necessary.

Myth: Switching between beer, wine and spirits will lead to intoxication more quickly than sticking to one type of alcohol beverage.
The level of blood alcohol content (BAC) is what determines sobriety or intoxication. Remember that a standard drink of beer, wine, or spirits contain equivalent amounts of alcohol. Alcohol is alcohol and a drink is a drink.

Myth: Drinking coffee will help a drunk person sober up.
Only time can sober up a person...not black coffee, cold showers, exercise, or any other common "cures." Alcohol leaves the body of virtually everyone at a constant rate of about .015 percent of blood alcohol content (BAC) per hour. Thus, a person with a BAC of .015 would be completely sober in an hour while a person with a BAC of ten times that (.15) would require 10 hours to become completely sober. This is true regardless of sex, age, weight, and similar factors.

Myth: Drinking long enough will cause a person to become alcoholic.
There is simply no scientific basis for this misperception, which appears to have its origin in temperance and prohibitionist ideology.

Myth: Drinking alcohol causes weight gain.
This is a very commonly believed myth, even among medical professionals, because alcohol has caloric value. However, extensive research around the world has found alcohol consumption be does not cause weight gain in men and is often associated with a small weight loss in women.

Myth: Alcohol stunts the growth of children and retards their development.
Scientific medical research does not support this old temperance scare tactic promoted by the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the Anti-Saloon League, the Prohibition Party, and similar groups.

Myth: Binge drinking is an epidemic problem on college campuses.
Binge drinking is clinically and commonly viewed as a period of extended intoxication lasting at least several days during which time the binger drops out of usual life activities. Few university students engage in such bingeing behavior. However, a number sometimes consume at least four drinks in day (or at least five for men). Although many of these young people may never even become intoxicated, they are branded as binge drinkers by some researchers. This practice deceptively inflates the number of apparent binge drinkers. In reality, the proportion of college students who drink continues to decline, as does the percentage of those who drink heavily.

Myth: Men and women of the same height and weight can drink the same.
Women are affected more rapidly because they tend to have a slightly higher proportion of fat to lean muscle tissue, thus concentrating alcohol a little more easily in their lower percentage of body water. They also have less of an enzyme (dehydrogenase) that metabolizes or breaks down alcohol, 9 and hormonal changes during their menstrual cycle might also affect alcohol absorption to some degree. 10

Myth: A single sip of alcohol by a pregnant woman can cause her child to have fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).
Extensive medical research studying hundreds of thousands of women from around the world fails to find scientific evidence that light drinking, much less a sip of alcohol by an expectant mother, can cause fetal alcohol syndrome. Of course, the very safest choice would be to abstain during the period of gestation.

Myth: People who abstain from alcohol are "alcohol-free."
Every person produces alcohol normally in the body 24 hours each and every day from birth until death. Therefore, we always have alcohol in our bodies. 11

Myth: Alcohol abuse is an increasing problem among young people.
Heavy alcohol use among people in the US 17 years of age or younger actually dropped by an amazing two-thirds (65.9 percent) between 1985 and 1997, according to federal government research. 12 The proportion of young people who consumed any alcohol within the previous month dropped from 50% to 19% in about the same period. 13 Other federally funded research also documents the continuing decline in both drinking and drinking abuse among young people. 14 Similarly, alcohol-related traffic injuries and fatalities among young people continue to drop. Deaths associated with young drinking drivers aged 16 to 24 decreased almost half (47%) in a recent 15-year period.

Myth: People in the US are generally heavy consumers of alcohol.
The US isn't even among the top ten alcohol consuming countries. Top 10 Alcohol Consuming Countries on per capita Basis Country / Consumption in Gallons of absolute or pure alcohol: At a consumption rate of only 1.74 per person, the US falls far down at 32nd on the list. 16

Myth: The US has very lenient underage drinking laws.
The US has the most strict youth drinking laws in the Western world, including the highest minimum drinking age in the entire world. 17 And this is buttressed by a public policy

Myth: Alcohol advertising increases drinking problems.
Hundreds of scientific research studies around the world have clearly demonstrated that alcohol advertising does not lead to increases in drinking abuse or drinking problems. Alcohol advertising continues because effective ads can increase a brand's share of the total market.

Myth: Bottles of tequila contain a worm.
There is no worm in tequila. It's in mescal, a spirit beverage distilled from a different plant. And it's not actually a worm, but a butterfly caterpillar (Hipopta Agavis) called a gurano. 19

Myth: People who can "hold their liquor" are to be envied.
People who can drink heavily without becoming intoxicated have probably developed a tolerance for alcohol, which can indicate the onset of dependency. 20

Myth: Many lives would be saved if everyone abstained from alcohol.
Some lives would be saved from accidents now caused by intoxication and from health problems caused by alcohol abuse. However, many other lives would be lost from increases in coronary heart disease. For example, estimates from 13 studies suggest that as many as 135,884 additional deaths would occur each year in the US from coronary heart disease alone because of abstinence.

Myth: Drunkenness and alcoholism are the same thing.
Many non-alcoholics on occasion become intoxicated or drunk. However, if they are not addicted to alcohol, they are not alcoholic. Of course, intoxication is never completely safe or risk-free and should be avoided. It is better either to abstain or to drink in moderation. While consuming alcohol sensibly is associated with better health and longer life, the abuse of alcohol is associated with many undesirable health outcomes.

Myth: Alcohol is the cause of alcoholism.
As a governmental alcohol agency has explained, "Alcohol no more causes alcoholism than sugar causes diabetes." The agency points out that if alcohol caused alcoholism then all drinkers would be alcoholics. 22 In fact, a belief common among members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is that people are born alcoholic and are not caused to be alcoholic by alcohol or anything in their experience. They argue that many people are born and die alcoholic without ever having had a sip of alcohol. Of course, a person can't be a drinking or practicing alcoholic without alcohol.

Myth: If alcohol were less available there would be fewer alcoholics.
This is an idea that has been tested through prohibition in the US and a number of other countries. There is no association between the availability of alcohol and alcoholism.

Myth: College life leads to drinking by most students who enter as abstainers.
According to Federal statistics, most students arrive at college with prior drinking experience and te proportion of drinkers doesn't increase greatly during college.

Myth: Although not totally incorrect, but certainly not the whole truth, is the assertion that the younger children are when they have their first drink the more likely they are to experience drinking problems.
Generally speaking, people who on their own begin drinking either much earlier or much later than their peers begin are more likely to experience subsequent drinking problems. 27 This appears to result from the fact that either behavior tends to reflect a tendency to be deviant. Therefore, delaying the age of first drink would not influence the incidence of drinking problems because it would not change the underlying predisposition to be deviant and to experience drinking problems. 28 And, of course, children who are taught moderation by their parents are less likely to abuse alcohol or have drinking problems.

Prohibition problems

Unfortunately, prohibition leads to a number of alcohol and other problems such as death and disability from contaminated illegal alcohol, the growth of organized crime, an increase in heavy drinking when alcohol can be obtained, a serious loss of tax revenue, the discouragement of moderation in consumption, a widespread disrespect for the law, and many other social ills.

Even if it were somehow possible to prohibit the consumption of alcohol, people who have emotional or psychological problems and need a "crutch" would simply turn to the abuse of other, frequently illegal, substances.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Caffeine -- Myths and Facts

People throughout Asia have enjoyed foods and beverages containing caffeine for thousands of years. Whether green, black or oolong, tea has been savoured in Asia for almost 5,000 years. Coffee, a relative newcomer discovered some 1,000 years ago, continues to bring people together in the coffee houses and cybercafes springing up across the region. Over the last hundred years, cola drinks, ready-to-drink tea and coffee beverages and a new crop of "energy drinks" have steadily gained in popularity.

All these beverages have a common ingredient - caffeine. Although products containing caffeine have been enjoyed all over the world for centuries, there are still many misperceptions about this common food component. Food Facts Asia looks at some of the more common myths regarding caffeine.

MYTH: Caffeine's effects are addictive.

FACT: People often say they are "addicted" to caffeine in much the same way they say they are "addicted" to shopping, working or television. The term "addiction" actually refers to a strong dependence on a drug characterised by severe withdrawal symptoms, tolerance to a given dose and the loss of control or the need to consume more and more of the substance at any cost. Addicts tend to exhibit anti-social behaviour or even commit crimes to perpetuate the abuse. Consumers of caffeine-containing beverages do not fall into this category. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (1994), a document that characterises various addictions, does not list caffeine as a substance that causes addiction. According to the World Health Organization, "There is no evidence whatsoever that caffeine use has even remotely comparable physical and social consequences which are associated with serious drugs of abuse."

MYTH: Pregnant women should avoid caffeine.

FACT: Just as with nearly everything else they do, pregnant women can take caffeine in moderation. Many women find they experience taste changes during pregnancy and cannot drink tea or coffee. For those who continue to enjoy their tea and coffee, most physicians and researchers agree that moderate amounts of coffee daily will have no adverse effects on the outcome of the pregnancy or the infant's health.

MYTH: Caffeine is a risk factor for osteoporosis.

FACT: The established risk factors for osteoporosis are insufficient dietary calcium and vitamin D, high protein diets, smoking, the onset of menopause, low oestrogen levels, low body weight and a lack of physical activity. Several well-controlled studies have concluded that consuming moderate amounts of caffeine does not increase the risk of developing osteoporosis. A 1994 National Institute of Health Consensus Statement on optimal bone health does not list caffeine amongst the risk factors which modify calcium balance and influence bone mass. A study by Penn State Medical School found that lifetime consumption of caffeine (up to 800 mg daily or the equivalent of 6-7 cups of coffee a day) had no effect on bone density in 188 post-menopausal women.

Nevertheless, caffeine does cause a small amount of calcium to be lost in the urine รข€“ about the amount in one to two tablespoons of milk per cup of tea or coffee. For this reason, nutritionists recommend that women take their coffee with added milk, drink one extra glass of milk daily or take a calcium supplement if they are heavy coffee drinkers (over 5 cups of coffee daily).

MYTH: Caffeine increases the risk of heart disease.

FACT: Despite previous controversy on the subject, scientists now agree that regular caffeine use has little or no effect on blood pressure, cholesterol levels or risk of heart disease.

Studies show that while first-time caffeine use can cause a slight increase in blood pressure (similar to that experienced when walking up stairs), the changes are minimal and disappear with regular use.

It has also been found that only boiled, unfiltered coffee, such as that taken in some Scandinavian countries, elevates cholesterol. It seems the oils in the coffee that are not filtered out are responsible for this effect, not the coffee or caffeine. Consumption of caffeine-containing beverages does not typically affect cholesterol levels.

MYTH: Caffeine causes cancer.

FACT: Substantial scientific evidence demonstrates that caffeine is not a risk factor for cancer. A number of human epidemiological studies have examined the risk of developing cancer at different locations in the body. Two studies of large numbers of people in Norway and Hawaii found no relationship between regular coffee consumption and cancer risk. Two projects conducted on caffeine - one in Japan and the other in Germany - demonstrated no link between caffeine consumption and the incidence of tumours in test animals. This confirms the position of the American Cancer Society, that states, "Available information does not suggest a recommendation against the moderate use of coffee. There is no indication that caffeine, a natural component of both coffee and tea, is a risk factor in human cancer."

MYTH: Caffeine adversely affects the health of children.

FACT: Children generally consume much less caffeine than adults do, since soft drinks and tea are their primary sources of caffeine. Children generally have the same ability to process caffeine as adults. Studies have shown that foods and drinks containing caffeine, when taken in moderate amounts, have no detectable effects on activity levels or attention spans in children.

MYTH: Caffeine has no health benefits.

FACT: Recent research has found some surprising health benefits associated with caffeine consumption. Many caffeine-containing beverages, most notably tea and more recently coffee, have been found to contain antioxidants. Antioxidants may have health benefits in terms of heart health and cancer prevention.

Caffeine is well recognised as increasing both alertness levels and attention spans. A cup of coffee or tea is often recommended to counter sleepiness, especially for those driving long distances and many people resort to an afternoon "cuppa" to get back on top of their workload.

Recent reports suggest that caffeine may be useful in treating allergic reactions due to its ability to reduce the concentration of histamines, the typical body response to an allergy-causing substance. More research is needed in this area before conclusions can be drawn. Caffeine has long been known to help many people suffering from asthma.

There is also evidence to suggest that caffeine may reduce the risk of kidney stones.


Coffee -- The Common Ingredients


Call it food or beverage, coffee is free of any nutritional value. As indecent as it may sound, we consume it exclusively for pleasure.

Yes, the caffeine content in coffee is partly responsible for that pleasure. Caffeine acts as a mild stimulant across the central nervous system. It leads to a better memory, better judgments and idea associations, better coordination of body movement.

A single-serve espresso contains between 80 and 120 milligrams of caffeine. A normal cup of coffee (even drip coffee) contains about 100 - 150 milligrams of caffeine. Common sense calls this moderate consumption at one sitting. Within several hours (although this may vary from one person to another) caffeine is eliminated from the body. Average coffee drinkers can have three or four cups of coffee every day without from any health risk.

As with other foods and beverages, the effects of coffee consumption vary with the dose. Moderate coffee-drinking can be medicinal. Excessive coffee-drinking can be poison. The average female coffee drinker can experience ill-effects after ingesting 550 milligrams at one session. The amount for males is 700 milligrams. These effects refer to headaches, nausea and petulance. Ten grams of caffeine constitutes an overdose. This would be impossible to reach exclusively by drinking coffee. You would need to ingest 100 cups at one session. If you ever do, this may be the last thing you will ever do.

Coffee consumption is not recommended when certain health problems arise. While we have no solid proof for this it is wise to avoid unwanted risks.


Acidity describes the sour component of the coffee taste. It is particularly strong in Arabica coffee and in light roasts. It may have a negative effect on digestion. People less tolerant of acidity but who still wish to drink coffee, can choose a decaffeinated coffee or a natural low-acidity coffee from Brazil, India or the Caribbean.

Other effects noted (for example, in pregnant women) have not been proved to be significantly negative. The medical community today has tended to clear coffee of long-term negative effects upon human health.

The beneficial effects of coffee

Coffee has proved beneficial for asthma sufferers. Two to four small cups of coffee throughout the day will help to reduce the recurrence of astma-attacks, and moderate their intensity.

Coffee contains natural antioxidants called 'flavonoids' which are widely known as disease protectors.

The beneficial effects of moderate caffeine consumption are widely recognised: caffeine works on alertness, mood, sensorial activity and memory. Of course, you may choose to take your daily caffeine ration from other foods and beverages, such as chocolate, carbonated drinks based on coca-nut extract, or tea.


Herbal Medicine -- The Practitioner

Who is using herbal medicine?

Nearly one-third of Americans use herbs and it is estimated that in 1998 alone $4 billion was spent on herbal products in this country. Unfortunately, a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated that nearly 70% of individuals taking herbal medicines (the majority of which were well educated and had a higher-than-average income) were reluctant to reveal their use of complementary and alternative medicine to their doctors. Because herbal medicines contain a combination of chemicals, each with a specific action, many are capable of eliciting complex physiological responses—some of which may create unwanted or unexpected results when combined with conventional drugs. Be sure to consult your doctor before trying any herbal products.

What happens during a visit to an herbalist?

When you visit an herbalist, the treatment goals are often more broad than stopping a single complaint. Herbalists aim to correct imbalances, resolve patterns of dysfunction, and treat the underlying cause of your complaint. Specific symptoms may also be treated if necessary.

A session with an herbalist typically lasts one hour. You may be physically examined and asked about your medical history and your general well-being (that is, how well you sleep, what you eat, if you have a good appetite, good digestion and elimination, how often you exercise, and what you do to relax). The herbalist might recommend one or more herbs, dietary changes, and lifestyle modifications. Because herbal medicines are slower acting than pharmaceuticals, you might be asked to return for a follow-up in two to four weeks.

Are there experts in herbal medicine?

Herbalists, chiropractors, naturopathic physicians, and practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine all use herbs to treat illness. Naturopathic physicians believe that the body is continually striving for balance and that natural therapies can be used to support this process. They are trained in four-year, postgraduate institutions that combine courses in conventional medical science (such as pathology, microbiology, pharmacology, and surgery) with clinical training in herbal medicine, homeopathy, nutrition, and lifestyle counseling.


Herbal Medicine -- The History

Plants had been used for medicinal purposes long before recorded history. For example, ancient Chinese and Egyptian papyrus writings describe medicinal plant uses. Indigenous cultures (e.g., African and Native American) used herbs in their healing rituals, while others developed traditional medical systems (e.g., Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine) in which herbal therapies were used systematically. Scientists found that people is different parts of the globe tended to use the same or similar plants for the same purposes.

In the early 19th century, when methods of chemical analysis first became available, scientists began extracting and modifying the active ingredients from plants. Later, chemists began making their own version of plant compounds, beginning the transition from raw herbs to synthetic pharmaceuticals. Over time, the use of herbal medicines declined in favor of pharmaceuticals.

Recently, the World Health Organization estimated that 80% of people worldwide rely on herbal medicines for some aspect of their primary healthcare. In the last twenty years in the United States, increasing public dissatisfaction with the cost of prescription medications, combined with an interest in returning to natural or organic remedies, has led to an increase in the use of herbal medicines. In Germany, roughly 600 to 700 plant-based medicines are available and are prescribed by approximately 70% of German physicians.


Herbal Medicine

What is herbal medicine?

Herbal medicine, also called botanical medicine or phytomedicine, refers to the use of any plant's seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark, or flowers for medicinal purposes. Long practiced outside of conventional medicine, herbalism is becoming more mainstream as up-to-date analysis and research show their value in the treatment and prevention of disease.

How do herbs work?

For most herbs, the specific ingredient that causes a therapeutic effect is not known. Whole herbs contain many ingredients, and it is likely that they work together to produce the desired medicinal effect. Many factors affect how effective an herb will be. For example, the type of environment (climate, bugs, soil quality) in which a plant grew will affect its components, as will how and when it was harvested and processed.

How are herbs used?

For the reasons described in the previous section, herbalists prefer using whole plants rather than extracting single components from them. Whole plant extracts have many components. These components work together to produce therapeutic effects and also to lessen the chances of side effects from any one component. Several herbs are often used together to enhance effectiveness and synergistic actions and to reduce toxicity. Herbalists must take many things into account when prescribing herbs. For example, the species and variety of the plant, the plant's habitat, how it was stored and processed, and whether or not there are contaminants.

What is herbal medicine good for?

Herbalists treat many conditions such as asthma, eczema, premenstrual syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine, menopausal symptoms, chronic fatigue, and irritable bowel syndrome, among others. Herbal preparations are best taken under the guidance of a trained professional. Be sure to consult with your doctor or an herbalist before self-treating. Some common herbs and their uses are discussed below.

  • Ginkgo ( Ginkgo biloba ), particularly a standardized extract known as EGb 761, appears to produce improvements in awareness, judgment, and social function in people with Alzheimer's disease and dementia. In a year-long study of 309 people with Alzheimer's disease, those taking EGb 761 consistently improved while those on placebo worsened.
  • Kava kava ( Piper methysticum ) has become popular as a treatment for anxiety, but recent reports have traced liver damage to enough people who have used kava that the U.S. FDA has issued a warning regarding its use and other countries, such as Germany and Canada, have taken kava off of the market.
  • St. John's wort ( Hypericum perforatum ) is well known for its antidepressant effects, and an analysis of 27 studies involving more than 2,000 people confirmed that the herb is an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression.
  • Valerian ( Valeriana officinalis ) has had a long tradition as a sleep-inducing agent, with the added benefit of producing no hangover feeling the next day.
  • Echinacea preparations (from Echinacea purpurea and other Echinacea species) may bolster immunity. In a study of 160 volunteers with flu-like symptoms, echinacea extract reduced both the frequency and severity of cold symptoms.

Is there anything I should watch out for?

Used correctly, many herbs are considered safer than conventional medications, but because they are unregulated, herbal products are often mislabeled and may contain undeclared additives and adulterants. Some herbs are associated with allergic reactions or interact with conventional drugs. Self-prescribing herbal products will increase your risk, so it is important to consult your doctor and an herbalist before taking herbal medicines. Some examples of adverse reactions from certain popular herbs are described below.

  • St. John's wort causes sensitivity to the sun's ultraviolet rays, and may cause an allergic reaction, stomach upset, fatigue, and restlessness. Studies show that St. John's wort also interferes with the effectiveness of many drugs, including warfarin (a blood thinner), protease inhibitors for HIV, possibly birth control pills, and many other medications. In addition, St. John's wort must not be taken with anti-depressant medication. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a public health advisory concerning many of these interactions.
  • Kava kava and echinacea have both been linked to liver toxicity. Again, kava has been taken off the market in several countries because of the liver toxicity.
  • Valerian may cause oversedation, and in some people it may even have the unexpected effect of overstimulating instead of sedating.
  • Feverfew ( Tanacetum parthenium ) may cause agitation.
  • Bleeding time may be altered with the use of garlic, ginkgo, feverfew, ginger ( Zingiber officinale ) and ginseng.
How is herbal medicine sold in stores?

The herbs available in most stores come in several different forms: teas, syrups, oils, liquid extracts, tinctures, and dry extracts (pills or capsules). Teas are simply dried herbs left to soak for a few minutes in boiling water. Syrups, made from concentrated extracts and added to sweet-tasting preparations, are frequently used for sore throats and coughs. Oils are extracted from plants and often used as rubs for massage, either alone or as part of an ointment or cream. Tinctures and liquid extracts are solvents (usually water, alcohol, or glycerol) that contain the active ingredients of the herbs. Tinctures are typically a 1:5 or 1:10 concentration, meaning that one part of the herbal material is prepared with five to ten parts (by weight) of the liquid. Liquid extracts are more concentrated than tinctures and are typically a 1:1 concentration. A dry extract form is the most concentrated form of an herbal product (typically 2:1 to 8:1) and is sold as a tablet, capsule, or lozenge.

Currently, no organization or government body regulates the manufacture or certifies the labeling of herbal preparations. This means you can't be sure that the amount of the herb contained in the bottle, or even from dose to dose, is the same as what is stated on the label. Some herbal preparations are standardized, meaning that the preparation is guaranteed to contain a specific amount of the active ingredients of the herb. However, it is still important to ask companies that are making standardized herbal products the basis for their product's guarantee. If consumers insist on an answer to this question, manufacturers of these herbal products may begin to implement more quality control processes, like microscopic, chemical, and biological analyses. Again, it is important to consult your doctor or an expert in herbal medicine for the recommended doses of any herbal products you are considering.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Treatment of Arthritis With Herbal Medicine

Problems affecting the joints can often respond well to treatment with herbal medicine. The underlying damage to the joint cannot be reversed, but many people find that they can
  • reduce the level of painkillers they are taking,
  • have more pain free days,
  • reduce levels of stiffness and increase mobility
whilst undergoing a holistic treatment with herbs, diet and lifestyle changes.

There are a variety of different types of joint problems, and it is useful to know a little about their different causes, as the herbal approach will be different in each case.


The most common condition affecting the joints is osteoarthritis (OA), otherwise known as wear and tear. This is a degenerative disease, in which the cartilage at the ends of the bones forming a joint gradually becomes thinner. Eventually the bony surfaces come into contact and the bones begin to thicken and become misshapen. Sometimes there is abnormal outgrowth of cartilage at the end of the bone that becomes hardened forming little spurs of bone called osteophytes. This can be most painful.

OA most commonly occurs due to previous injury to a joint, wear and tear due to increasing age, overuse of weight bearing joints (joggers beware!), and weight gain placing extra stress on joints such as knees and hips.

Most commonly, one or more of the large weight bearing joints are affected such as hips, knees and ankles. The neck, back and hands are also common sites. There may be pain, stiffness and heat and swelling around affected joints. Most people find that their joints are worse in damp cold weather, and that heat, in the form of a hot bath or water bottle, can help.

It is important that sufferers avoid weight-bearing exercise such as jogging, and instead maintain mobility by swimming, going to yoga or T�ai chi classes or cycling.

In its mild form, OA is a very suitable condition for self-help with herbal medicine, as long as you are not taking any strong orthodox medication for any other health conditions. Herbs to consider include

  • Devil's Claw
  • Ginger
  • Willow bark
  • Wild yam
  • Black cohosh
  • Silver birch
  • Turmeric
  • Celery seed

Most people with OA are prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to help with pain and any inflammation. However, many people find that these drugs can upset their digestive systems and it is not uncommon for antacids to be prescribed alongside them. Herbal medicine can help here, too: meadowsweet herb, especially as a tea, helps to settle the digestion and has its own anti-inflammatory effects. For those with severe OA, a visit to a qualified Medical Herbalist may produce the best results.

Osteopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture can also assist with pain relief and reduction of further damage.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, also causes joint problems, but the cause is very different to OA. It is a chronic, inflammatory, autoimmune disease affecting the synovial membrane inside the joint. This membrane secretes synovial fluid, which helps to keep the joint moving smoothly.

The cause is not clearly understood but auto-immunity may be initiated by a microbial infection in susceptible individuals.

RA is characterised by periods of remission and exacerbation. The most commonly affected joints are those of the hands and feet, but in severe cases, most joints may be affected. Other body systems and organs may also be affected and flare-ups can be accompanied by general malaise. This problem is usually best treated by a qualified herbalist in conjunction with orthodox healthcare.

Other autoimmune inflammatory arthritic diseases include:

  • Ankylosing spondylitis in which the sacroiliac and vertebral joints become fused.
  • Psoriatic arthritis occurring in some who suffer with psoriasis.
  • Reiter's syndrome possibly triggered by Chlamydia infection. The arthritis is associated with conjunctivitis and urethritis.
  • Arthritis associated with acute rheumatic fever.

Again, these conditions are best treated by a qualified practitioner.


This condition is caused by deposition of sodium urate crystals in the joints and tendons. It occurs in people whose blood uric acid is abnormally high. Uric acid is a waste product of cell breakdown and is produced in excess when there is large-scale cell destruction. Defective excretion occurs in some kidney problems. It is vitally important therefore that the cause of the gout is investigated. However, in most cases it is triggered by overindulgence in meat and alcohol, or a poor tolerance to these foods in susceptible individuals

Gout is characterised by episodes of exquisitely painful joint inflammation lasting days or weeks and interspersed with periods of remission. Repeated acute attacks can lead to permanent damage of the joint. The most commonly affected joints are in the big toe, the ankle, wrist and elbow.

Useful herbs include:

  • Devil's Claw
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Celery seed
  • Nettle herb
  • Hawthorn
  • Bilberries

However, it is best to avoid herbs that contain significant levels of salicylates in gout as salicylates can reduce excretion of uric acid.

If dietary factors are to blame, then dietary changes can prove very valuable. Avoid or reduce purine-containing foods such as meat, offal, shellfish and oily fish; reduce alcohol and protein intake and avoid unrefined carbohydrates. Water intake should be high and most of the diet made up of fruit, vegetables and unrefined complex carbohydrates. Cherries, hawthorn berries, bilberries and other red-blue fruit contain high levels of anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins that are useful in the treatment of all inflammatory conditions including gout and RA.


Although not a form of arthritis, it is useful to rule out this problem as some of the symptoms can resemble OA, and both may be present at the same time. It mainly affects older women, but men are affected too. In this condition, the amount of bone tissue (both calcium and collagen matrix) is reduced because its deposition does not keep pace with reabsorption. It can be associated with immobility and hormonal changes associated with the menopause or removal of the ovaries. Severe osteoporosis is a serious condition and must be treated by a healthcare professional. There is no clear evidence that herbs can help to improve bone density, but a herbalist would be able to provide general dietary and lifestyle advice and use herbs to improve general health and well-being.

Dietary and Lifestyle Advice

Good circulation and nutrition are very important in any form of arthritis. As sufferers become more immobile, they tend to undertake less exercise and this can lead to a vicious cycle of increased stiffness and poor circulation. Herbs such as ginger and turmeric are useful as they are both anti-inflammatory and good circulatory stimulants. The body's nutrient needs are greater when involved in tissue healing, therefore pay particular attention to diet and consider taking a good quality vitamin and mineral supplement. Vitamin A, C, E and D are particularly useful for helping to speed the repair of connective tissue. Oily fish (best from deep sea fish from clean seas) contain omega 3 essential fatty acids, which help to reduce inflammation, as do flax seed oil and hemp seed oil.

Some people believe that a predominantly alkaline forming diet helps with many chronic health problems including various forms of arthritis. Certainly a high acid forming diet will increase the toxic load on the body. Good foods include fruit and vegetables, whereas acid forming foods include meat and dairy products.

Useful Herbs

There are many herbs that are potentially useful in the treatment of arthritis and a qualified herbalist will always devise an individual prescription of herbs to suit an individual's needs, based on a thorough case history. The following herbs however, are quite widely available and generally safe to take.

Salix alba - White willow bark

White willow contains salicylic acid that has similar anti-inflammatory and pain relieving actions to aspirin without the side-effects on the stomach and digestive system in general. It is taken for joint pain, headaches and to reduce a fever. In addition to salicylic acid, the bark contains tannins and flavonoids.

This plant should be avoided by those allergic to aspirin, and those taking anti-coagulant therapy such as Warfarin.

Filipendula ulmaria - Meadowsweet flowering tops

This beautiful and highly useful herb contains salicylic acid, tannin and citric acid. It is an excellent digestive remedy, reducing acidity in the stomach and helping to alleviate gastritis and peptic ulceration. This makes it tremendously useful for those with arthritic conditions who cannot take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs due to the side effects on the stomach. Quite a large dosage is needed for treating arthritis, but it does combine well with other herbs.

Avoid if allergic to aspirin

Harpagophytum procumbens - Devil's claw tuber

This African plant has gained its name due to the appearance of its tough, barbed fruit. It contains glycosides, phytosterols, flavonoids and harpagoquinone. It is a bitter, anti-inflammatory herb, useful for a wide-range of joint and muscular problems, including RA. It will also stimulate the digestive system.

Do not take if suffering from stomach or duodenal ulcer. Avoid during pregnancy and if taking anti-coagulant therapy.

Zingiber officinalis - Ginger root

In addition to its circulatory stimulant properties, ginger is anti-inflammatory and this makes it useful in the treatment of joint and muscle aches and pains. It contains many volatile constituents, including zingiberene, zingiberole, phellandrene, borneol, cineole and citral. It also contains starch, mucilage and resin. It can be used internally, and externally for its rubefacient and anodyne properties.

Avoid in therapeutic doses if taking anti-coagulant therapy. Avoid very high doses in pregnancy and take care if suffering from a stomach or duodenal ulcer.

Curcuma longa - Turmeric root

This ancient Indian spice is a relative of ginger and is a veritable medicine chest its own right. It is active against a range of bacterial and fungal infections; a superb liver remedy; helps to normalise blood cholesterol and keep blood thin; is a potent anti-oxidant and a powerful anti-inflammatory herb, which is also mildly analgesic and will strengthen connective tissue. This makes it useful for a range of joint problems. It contains a volatile oil, the pigment curcumin, a bitter principle and a resin.

Turmeric can increase sensitivity to sunlight so take care in strong sunlight. Avoid in therapeutic doses if taking anti-coagulant therapy. Seek advice if suffering from gallstones and avoid in obstructive gallbladder disease.

Apium graveolens - Celery seed

This cleansing herb contains volatile oils including apiol, flavonoids and coumarins. The oil has a calming effect on the central nervous system and helps to lower blood pressure. The seeds increase excretion of uric acid and improve the circulation to the muscles and joints and are also a urinary antiseptic. The stems can be juiced to make a nutritious and cleansing drink useful in many chronic health problems. Avoid celery seed medicinally during pregnancy or if suffering from a kidney disorder.

Do not use seeds sold for commercial cultivation in medicinal preparations. May cause photosensitivity reactions if taken in large doses.

Urtica dioica - Nettle flowering tops

Nettle is one of our most useful plants. It contains amines including histamine, choline, acetylcholine and serotonin; minerals including calcium, potassium, silicic acid and iron. It strengthens and supports the whole body. In addition to its major role as a skin herb, nettle improves elimination of wastes via the kidneys, in particular uric acid, making it a useful cleansing remedy and helpful in gout.

Cimicifuga racemosa - Black cohosh root

This is a Native American remedy, used for women's "problems" alongside arthritic complaints and tinnitus (ringing/noise in the ears). It contains salicylic acid, tannins, resin and bitter glycosides. It is useful in the treatment of both OA and RA, muscular and nerve pain.

It should be avoided during pregnancy and breast-feeding, by those allergic to aspirin and people on warfarin. May increase the effect of HRT and oestrogens and progestogens in general, so seek advice if taking HRT or the contraceptive pill. Contains salicylates - avoid if allergic to aspirin. Do not exceed stated dose.

Betula alba - Silver birch leaf

Silver birch is traditionally used as a cleansing, diuretic remedy in rheumatic conditions.

Contains salicylates. Avoid if allergic to aspirin.

Dioscorea villosa - Wild yam

Wild yam contains plant oestrogens that can help with menopausal problems. It is an anti-inflammatory herb, useful in joint pain, and its anti-spasmodic action can help in IBS. As a bitter herb, it stimulates digestion and supports the liver.

Avoid during pregnancy and lactation. May increase the effects of HRT and other synthetic female sex hormones, therefore seek advice if taking HRT or the contraceptive pill.