(OrganicJar) Many are aware of some of the health promoting properties of certain herbs and spices. The challenge is to get them into our daily diets.
One way is to consume “functional foods.”
Functional food or medicinal food is any food product claimed to have a health-promoting and/or disease-preventing property beyond the basic nutritional function of supplying nutrients.
Although there is not yet any consensus on an exact definition of the term, at least not in the United States, superfoods is one term used to describe food products and dietary supplement powders, drinks, and bars containing such special health-promoting ingredients.
Some common superfoods more easily found are cinnamon, licorice, milk thistle, marigold, and turmeric.
Cinnamon is a spice found in some phytonutrient green fruit and vegetable juice powders and “superfood bars.” Cinnamon is thought to help glycemic control by increasing insulin sensitivity, thereby decreasing insulin resistance. Unchecked insulin resistance can lead to metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
The active agent is thought to be a group of flavonoids called procyanidins (Type A) which are found in the water-soluble portion of cinnamon. These flavonoids are not only powerful antioxidants; they also act as an insulin mimetic.
Cinnulin PF is a proprietary water-soluble extract of Cinnamomum burmannii, and is the only extract standardized for doubly linked Type-A Polymers.
The recommended serving size for cinnamon is 250-500 milligrams twice daily, or 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon. This therapeutic target can be difficult to supply in a functional food without creating an unfavorable taste profile, but can be achieved by adding cinnamon to foods such as applesauce and oatmeal.
Licorice is the extract of the root of the legume plant Glycyrrhiza glabra, and may be used as a flavoring agent in functional food formulas. Traditional Chinese medicine commonly uses licorice in herbal formulae to “harmonize” the other ingredients in the formula and to “carry” the formula. Powdered licorice root is promoted as an effective expectorant and mild laxative.
Licorice is also considered an adaptogen, modulating the neuro-endocrine hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA). It has been used in auto-immune conditions including lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, and animal dander allergies. Traditional American herbalism uses it in the Hoxsey anti-cancer formula.
Licorice is a potent herb that also has potential for many side effects on the neuro-hormone system and related kidney/cardiovascular functions. As polyphenol and carotenoid-rich phytonutrient powders are also showing efficacy in lowering blood pressure, licorice’s use in “green drink” and “super fruit” functional food powders and “ready to drinks” (RTDs) designed for daily intake should likely be kept to small doses, if used at all.
Milk thistle, a flowering plant related to the artichoke family, has been used most commonly for the treatment of liver and gallbladder disorders. The seeds of the milk thistle contain a bioflavonoid complex known as silymarin, which is believed to be responsible for the health benefits of the plant.
A potent antioxidant in its own right, silymarin is particularly remarkable for its beneficial effects on endogenous glutathione production. Silymarin has also been shown to regenerate injured liver cells, and has the ability to block fibrosis — a process that contributes to the eventual development of cirrhosis.
Most commonly, milk thistle is most commonly found in the functional food category in “greens powders” where their usual dose is well below the therapeutic levels of 200 milligrams to 800 milligrams daily. Rather, smaller amounts are included to contribute to the over efficacy of such formulas. No drug interactions have been reported, but since milk thistle is related to the ragweed family some allergic reactions are possible.
Marigold, also known as Calendula, is widely used on the skin to protect against radiation and sunburns, and to treat minor wounds, skin infections, burns, bee stings, sunburn, warts, and even cancer.
However, marigold is used in functional foods because it is a natural rich source of the two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin. These two carotenoids are important natural antioxidants that help maintain healthy eyes and skin — the two organs most directly exposed to oxidation from sunlight, especially as we age. Specifically, the two carotenoids are naturally deposited in the macula where they filter high-energy blue light.
Research suggests 6 milligrams to 10 milligrams per day from dark green leafy vegetables and egg yolk is necessary to realize lutein’s health benefits. A large bowl of fresh spinach provides about 6 milligrams of lutein.
As truly significant amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin can not be attained by milligram amounts of spinach and kale powders found in “green drinks,” using marigold concentrates in the formula may be the best current strategy for supplementing useful levels of these carotenoids in functional foods.
Turmeric is a perennial plant native to India and Indonesia and is often used as a spice in cooking. The rhizome (root) of turmeric (Curcuma longa L.) is a member of the ginger family. It has long been used in traditional Asian medicine to treat gastrointestinal upset and arthritis pain. In America, its main dietary source is mustard.
Turmeric supplementation has resulted in HDL and LDL-lipid peroxidation decrease — the process where free radicals oxidize blood lipids and promote hardening of the arteries. It can also help support healthy fibrinogen levels. Turmeric has also been shown to lower the growth factor receptor (ErbB2) that tends to over express in prostate, breast, and colon cancer.
Turmeric is a selective COX-2 inhibitor, giving it the ability to inhibit the “bad” prostaglandins created through the COX-2 enzyme system, but not inhibit the “good” prostaglandins created through the COX-1 enzyme system. COX-2 inhibitors have become the subject of much interest and research for their potential role in preventing Alzheimer’s and colon cancer and treating arthritis without the side effects of NSAIDS.
In functional foods, turmeric is a powerful antioxidant. It can also be used as a “preservative” of sorts in high polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) omega-3 products, such as flaxseed and DHA powders, to inhibit rancidity. Dosage in functional foods will range from 20 milligrams to 80 milligrams.
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Source: chiroeco.com (By John Maher, DCCN)
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