Superior Greens, Herbs and Foods for Life
By Zoltan P. Rona, M.D., M.Sc.
Over the past two decades, scientists have successfully extracted hundreds of novel compounds from common foods, herbs and spices that have proven medicinal value. These extracts, in turn, have been converted into tablets or capsules and sold as food supplements at pharmacies and health food stores.
While it is generally true that such bottled extracts are safe and effective natural medicines, whole food is your best medicine since it offers not only the active ingredient but also other complementary food factors, vitamins, minerals or enzymes.
Live, whole food concentrates have the unique advantage of supplying the body with enzymes and cancer-preventing phytochemicals like carotenoids, indoles, isothiocyanates, isoflavones and phytosterols. These substances do not exist in any vitamin or mineral supplement bottle. Additionally, whole foods provide vitamins, minerals, amino acids, polypeptide hormone precursors and other nutrients that support the vital life force needed by all cells for optimal health.
One of the keys to the magic created by plant life is chlorophyll, the molecule responsible for the green color of plants. Chlorophyll converts sunlight into energy through a process called photosynthesis. The chlorophyll molecule is similar to the heme molecule of human red blood cells. Instead of iron, the central element of chlorophyll is the mineral, magnesium. If it’s a green plant, it’s high in chlorophyll and, hence, magnesium. Magnesium has a profound alkaline effect, a factor tremendously important in both disease prevention and treatment.
The chlorophyll of most plants fights bad breath, detoxifies a long list of toxins that cause cancer, fights infections because of its antiseptic properties and optimizes the digestive system both in terns of nutrient absorption and waste elimination.
The following is a discussion of the most important of these foods, their active ingredients as well as how they are believed to work in boosting energy, immunity and stamina. What is also common to all these whole foods is their ability to prevent premature aging, cancer, heart disease and numerous other health concerns.
Acerola berry is one of the richest sources of vitamin C and bioflavonoids like quercetin. Quercetin is well known for its ability to prevent allergic reactions as well as inflammation.
Alfalfa’s healing properties can be attributed to its very high chlorophyll content. If you are thinking colon cleansing, detoxifying, alkalinizing and deodorizing your body, then alfalfa is one of the plants you should consider. Alfalfa is also a source of octacosanol, a high-energy source. Alfalfa lowers blood levels of cholesterol because it binds cholesterol in the gut and prevents its absorption.
Aloe vera has had a long and respected tradition of healing. It can be used topically to heal burns, acne oily skin and other injuries to the skin as well as internally to aid digestion and reduce inflammation anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract. It is a source of over 100 vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes and phytochemicals that have now all been documented to promote health and prevent disease.
Aloe vera is known to help boost the immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells and may have a place in the treatment of any infectious disease and cancer. Drinking aloe vera juice appears to be soothing for peptic ulcer disease as well as heartburn.
We have all heard the expression, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apple pectin may well be one of the reasons for this because it is one of a class of soluble fibers with profound health benefits. Some of these benefits include the lowering of serum cholesterol, improved insulin sensitivity in diabetics and bowel cleansing benefits. Many of my patients have often told me that their bowels eliminate much better if they have at least a whole apple a day. The same benefits do not occur with just plain apple juice unless pectin is added to the juice.
Apple fiber not only cleanses the gastrointestinal tract of waste material but also helps block the absorption of toxic heavy metals that may be in our food and water supply.
Barley grass is known for its rich enzyme content, especially one called Superoxide Dismutase (SOD), a powerful free radical scavenger. Sod is known to prevent aging of the heart, brain and liver.
Barley grass also contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, beta-carotene, vitamin C and chlorophyll. It is another powerful tool for body cleansing as well as a source of hard to find nutrients like iron for some vegans.
Bee pollen’s health benefits have been known for thousands of years and are something that has been a mainstay of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It contains 22 amino acids, carotene, B complex vitamins, vitamin C, polyunsaturated fatty acids and enzymes. It also contains calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper and potassium.
The major benefit of bee pollen appears to be for the immune system, especially in terms of helping you build up a resistance to allergies. Bee pollen also helps in our ability to cope with stress, increase our energy as well as our stamina. For these reasons, it has become a very popular supplement for athletes.
People allergic to bee venom should avoid using been pollen but most people with allergies of almost any other type can probably benefit from its daily use.
Beet juice is an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, carotenoids, vitamin C, folic acid and niacin. It has become popular in natural health circles for its liver detoxification and cancer treatment benefits. Some scientific studies recently have indeed showed that beetroot has a significant anti-tumor effect.
Bilberry leaf is very high in bioflavonoids called proanthocyanidins and catechins, strong antioxidants known for their anti-cancer, anti-atherosclerosis effects. Bilberry leaf makes your capillaries stronger (i.e. reduces fragility) which helps prevent excessive bleeding and strokes. Circulation and hence, peripheral vascular disease is prevented or improved. Bilberry is also well known to improve night vision as well as age related macular degeneration (ARM), the most common form of blindness. This is because bilberry has a particularly strong ability to protect the macular part of the retina from degenerative damage caused by oxidizing agents.
Brown Rice Powder
Brown rice powder contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, vitamin E, silicon, all the B complex vitamins and many amino acids. White rice doesn’t have any of these nutrients and is vastly inferior to brown rice.
Brown rice powder also contains a complex molecule called gamma oryzanol, which is a mixture of plant sterols and ferulic acid esters. In larger amounts, it is used by natural health care practitioners to decrease high blood levels of cholesterol. It also helps various digestive disorders, especially the leaky gut syndrome. Some women also find it useful as a natural treatment for menopausal hot flashes.
Chlorella is an ancient green algae that has survived on this planet for over two and a half billion years. It is best known for its ability to detoxify the body from heavy metals such as mercury and numerous other body pollutants. It is a highly popular food supplement in Japan where millions use it to boost vitality.
Chlorella has nearly twice the protein content of soy and at least eight times that of rice. It is yet another food very rich in chlorophyll. In fact it has at least 8 times the chlorophyll content of wheat grass, 10 times that of spirulina and 20 times that of alfalfa. It also contains over 20 different vitamins and minerals including all the B vitamins, sulfur, zinc and vitamin K.
Cruciferous Vegetables and Other Greens
Asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, green bell pepper, kale, parsley, tomato and spinach are all high in indoles, sulfoxide, sulforaphane, 5-methyl methionine or other phytochemicals which have potent anti-cancer effects. Consumption of these foods helps improve liver detoxification pathways and cholesterol metabolism.
Greens in general contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoid pigments that have cancer fighting properties as well as the ability to fight macular degeneration. Greens are also high in folic acid, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and potassium.
Celery is high in a phytochemical called 3-n-butyl phthalide which has been shown in some studies to lower blood pressure as much as 10% in those with elevated blood pressures. About 4 ribs of celery consumed each day is the amount usually recommended to produce this blood pressure lowering effect.
One cup of broccoli provides 45 calories, 4.5 grams of fiber and supplies more than the recommended daily requirement of vitamin C and beta-carotene, both of which play a major role in combating heart disease. Fiber in broccoli has been shown to lower cholesterol levels, control hypertension and assist in weight loss. Many of these vegetables are also high in magnesium, a crucial mineral in the prevention of both diabetes and heart disease.
Tomatoes are high in the antioxidant, lycopene, which has powerful anti-cancer effects. One recent study from Italy found that people who ate 7 or more servings a week of raw tomatoes were 60% less likely to develop cancer of the stomach, colon or rectum compared to those who ate two or fewer servings each week.
Carrots and carrot juice are high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant with both anti-cancer and anti-heart disease effects. Two carrots every day supply enough beta-carotene to cut the risk of stroke in half in men who have signs of heart disease. Women who eat five or more servings of carrots a week have a stroke rate 68 percent lower than those who ate no more than one serving.
Ginger root has been used for millennia in China and India for a whole host of health ailments that include menstrual cramps, seasickness, morning sickness, unpleasant body odor and arthritis.
Ginger supports the digestive process and prevents indigestion and abdominal cramping. It enhances circulation and can be beneficial to those with high blood pressure. Ginger can also reduce LDL (the bad) cholesterol and boost immunity against colds and flus. In large amounts, ginger root can be blood thinning so people on prescription anti-coagulants need to be careful with its use.
Ginkgo Biloba Extract
Even conventional medical doctors with minimal knowledge of herbal medicine are familiar with the powerful benefits of ginkgo biloba extract. This extract is taken from a tree that has existed in China for over 3000 years and has traditionally been used by natives from around the world as “brain food”. Ginkgo boosts memory, creativity and mental acuity as well as energy and stamina. Its powerful antioxidant effects also improve the integrity and health of the entire vascular system.
Grape Seed Extract
Grape seed extract is a source of a family of bioflavonoids known as oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPC). These are powerful free radical scavenging antioxidants thought to be 50 times more powerful than vitamin E and 20 times more powerful as antioxidants than vitamin C. Its main advantage as an antioxidant is that it is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier to provide antioxidant protection of the central nervous system.
In clinical practice naturopaths and other natural health care practitioners use OPCs in the treatment of allergies, circulatory disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome and numerous other conditions affecting the nervous system.
Lecithin (a.k.a. phosphatidylcholine) is an indispensible nutrient that allows our bodies to properly utilize fats from our diet. Derived from soy, it impacts cholesterol metabolism and helps prevent fat deposition in the liver. Lecithin is found in every cell of the body but is in especially high concentrations in the brain, nerves, sexual organs, the liver and gall bladder. It is one of the most important nutrients the body uses to keep bile soluble and as such it helps prevent gall stone formation by emulsifying cholesterol.
In the brain, lecithin is broken down into choline and then transformed into acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is essential for memory, thinking and muscle control. The body uses acetylcholine to transmit messages from one nerve cell to the other. High doses of lecithin have been used therapeutically to improve brain and cognitive function. The health of the skin and hair is also enhanced by lecithin.
Lecithin is also used by the body to help with the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).
Licorice root extract
Licorice root extract has long been used to support adrenal gland function and blood sugar stabilization. In addition it has beneficial effects in the treatment of peptic ulcers in the stomach and duodenum. Many cough and cold remedies contain some licorice root because of its demulcent and expectorant properties.
In small amounts no one should be concerned with any potential harmful effects but in larger amounts, the adrenal glands can become too stimulated and this could lead to high blood pressure as well as excessive estrogen promoting effects such as fat deposition in susceptible individuals.
Nova Scotia Dulse
Nova Scotia Dulse is a fabulous source of rare minerals that have an important role to play in general health. It contains boron, a mineral important for bone and joint integrity. It is also high in iodine, a critical nutrient for optimal thyroid function. Lithium is another mineral found in Nova Scotia dulse and it has been found to be important in optimizing memory and other mental functions.
Nova Scotia is an excellent source of immune system boosting fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a class of carbohydrates also referred to as prebiotics in that they encourage the growth of friendly bacteria (probiotics) in the gastrointestinal tract.
Oat grass (aveena sativa) has traditionally been used for its anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is a good source of vitamins A, B complex, C and E as well as chlorophyll.
Oat grass is used by people to help with fatigue, all types of nerve conditions (neurasthenia), and skin problems like hives, seborrhea and eczema.
Peppermint leaf is used therapeutically to reduce indigestion and spasms in the colon. In Europe it is used to treat colds, fevers, headaches, nervous tension and insomnia. Gall bladder disorders and bile insufficiency are also conditions helped by peppermint leaf.
Peppermint oil has strong antimicrobial activity against viruses, bacteria and fungi. The oil contains menthol, a soothing natural remedy for pain and spasms, especially in muscles.
Pineapple juice is a good source of vitamin C, trace minerals and a protein digesting enzyme called bromelain. Aside from its ability to dissolve excessive mucous, bromelain has a long and successful history in healing musculoskeletal disorders including osteoarthritis.
Studies show that bromelain will reduce swelling, bruising, inflammation and pain after surgery and other injuries. Bromelain reduces nasal congestion, improves breathing and suppresses excessive coughing in people suffering from chronic sinusitis.
Bromelain is also effective as a natural digestive aid that reduces gas, bloating and cramping associated with such common conditions as the irritable bowel syndrome.
Bromelain should not be taken by anyone allergic to pineapples or who has peptic ulcers. People using blood-thinning medications should be careful using bromelain because of potential augmentation of the blood thinning effect of the prescribed medications.
Rhubarb is rich in polyphenols, a class of natural chemicals with known cancer cell killing abilities. Rhubarb has traditionally been used as a natural laxative due to its content of anthraquinones and it can also help lower cholesterol levels by inhibiting certain enzymes involved in cholesterol synthesis by the liver.
The one drawback to the use of large amounts of rhubarb is the fact that it contains high amounts of oxalates and this can increase the risk of kidney stones in susceptible individuals.
Royal jelly is the only source of nutrition for the queen bee and it allows her to outlive all the other bees in the hive. It is a creamy white liquid secreted by other bees for her exclusive use and is a very rich source proteins, essential amino acids, gamma globulin, essential fatty acids, sterols and acetylcholine.
Royal Jelly is also high in vitamins A, B complex (especially pantothenic acid aka vitamin B5) and minerals like calcium, potassium, silicon, sulfur, iron and copper. People who use royal jelly report a more youthful appearance to their skin, higher energy, a heightened libido, better memory, a greater resistance to infection as well as less anxiety, sleeplessness and moodiness.
Rye grass is best known as a source of a pollen extract called Cernilton that has been used to help improve urinary flow, especially in older men confronted with an enlarged prostate.
Rye grass works by decreasing inflammation in the urinary tract.
Siberian ginseng is known as an adaptogenic herb or one that adapts to the needs of the individual as opposed to just being a stimulant. It is basically very effective in helping the individual deal with stress, fatigue, immune system impairment and stamina.
Siberian ginseng also improves oxygen utilization because of its trace content of germanium and helps the body detoxify from various poisons, especially those derived from its own metabolism.
Spirulina is a whole food and considered by most experts to contain the highest nutrient density of any of the blue-green algae. It’s always been presumed that one cannot get all the nutrients one needs unless animal products are consumed. This is a false belief.
If you are a vegan concerned about getting adequate amounts of protein, iron and vitamin B12, spirulina may be a terrific addition to your diet because it fulfills these and many other daily nutritional needs. After all, it contains all the nine essential amino acids. Other nutrients derived from spirulina are iron, vitamin B12, the essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), beta-carotene and many naturally chelated minerals (calcium, zinc, magnesium, copper, iodine, potassium, chromium, selenium and others).
Being a whole food, spirulina contains complex carbohydrate (rhamnose glycoside), a very good source of time released energy. In fact many athletes use spirulina as a natural way of boosting energy and stamina. It is also a commonly used healthy snack that can be of great help to those dieting to lose weight.
Wheat grass is basically the wheat grain which has been harvested at full nutritional maturity but before the gluten component has developed. It looks and tastes much like grass and has had an almost cult-like following for its “fountain of youth” claims. Wheat grass is highly concentrated in health promoting ingredients, including large amounts of chlorophyll, 20 amino acids, hundreds of enzymes, 90 minerals, numerous vitamins and other phytochemicals.
Wheat grass was popularized by Dr. Ann Wigmore of the Hippocrates Health Institute in Boston in the late 1960s and 70s and was heavily promoted as part of various natural cancer cures. Like many green foods, the body is made less acidic or more alkaline by consumption of large amounts of wheat grass. This alkalinity factor is thought by many scientists to be important for healing from any degenerative disease, including cancer.
A Practical Solution
Very few people have the time, money or energy to grow or purchase any number of these whole foods or herbs on a regular basis. Swallowing capsules of dehydrated extracts or their active ingredients might be an option but a great deal of the nutritive value of the whole food would be lost.
Fortunately, products containing all these foods and herbs can be found in a concentrated liquid form. Look for a purity, potency and freshness. The brand name you choose should be able to provide you with a detailed biochemical and toxicological analysis of the contents of the bottle and contain the majority of the foods and herbs discussed in this article. If you are on prescription medication for a health problem, check with your doctor if you are clear to take such a supplement.
Dr. Zoltan P. Rona practises Complementary Medicine in Toronto and is the medical editor of “The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing.” He has also published several Canadian best-selling books, including “Return to The Joy of Health.”
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Rye Grass: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-466RYE%20GRASS.aspx?activeIngredientId=466&activeIngredientName=RYE%20GRASS