The Health Benefits of Food Neutraceuticals

Learn about the health benefits of food neutraceuticals, food or food products that are believed to provide medical or health benefits and help in the prevention and treatment of disease.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Editors
December 2000/January 2001
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Green tea has been shown to lower blood pressure, block the attachment of bacteria to the teeth, and protect against respiratory and digestive infections.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/NATALITERR


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They may be the biggest thing to hit our dinner tables since broccoli, but what are the health benefits of food neutraceuticals? And where can we find them without paying for the privilege? 

American Ginseng has been used by Native Americans for centuries as a general tonic. Nowadays, it is valued for increasing stamina and memory, and is also used to reduce stress, fatigue, insomnia, poor appetite and anxiety.

Grape seed extract is a derivative of pine bark, and contains some of nature's most potent antioxidants: bioflavonoids. Bioflavonoid antioxidants are 50 times stronger than those in vitamins C and E, beta carotene or selenium. Grape seed extract promotes tissue elasticity, reduces swelling, improves circulation and hastens the healing process.

Green tea extract is known to contain a high content of polyphenols, a class of bioflavonoids. It has been shown to lower blood pressure, block the attachment of bacteria to the teeth, and protect against respiratory and digestive infections. (See "True Brew")

Pennyroyal is a member of the mint family. Pennyroyal oil can also be fatal if taken internally, can cause damage if put on the skin and you should not drink pennyroyal tea. It is often used in pet collars as a tick repellent.

Turmeric showcases the health benefits of food neutraceuticals, its beneficial properties exceed its rich golden hue. A spice long found in traditional Indian cuisine, turmeric has been used to treat arthritis, high cholesterol and obesity. It also possesses antifungal and antibacterial properties.

Goldenseal has been used to treat a wide variety of problems including skin infections, high blood pressure and excessive bleeding. In addition, goldenseal has antibacterial and antitussive (cough-relieving) properties.

Glucosamine is a natural compound formed in the human body from glucose that, if taken orally, can combat osteoarthritis. By creating important sugars in the body, glucosamine is important for tissue structure in the eyes, blood vessels and heart valves.

Echinacea is currently one of the most widely used and versatile members of the neutraceutical family. It is used extensively by herbalists and alternative health care providers to boost the immune system, heal wounds, reduce swelling, treat colds and flu, and fight infections. The herb is recommended for use only a few weeks at a time because the body quickly becomes used to it.

Garlic was originally used by ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans to treat tumors, headaches, fatigue and infections, and was used by the first Olympic athletes as an energizer. Today, garlic has been proven effective against heart disease and cancer, possesses antibiotic properties, and promotes low blood pressure and healthy cholesterol levels.

Gingko biloba has been used in China for over 5,000 years to treat asthma, bronchitis and other cardiovascular diseases. Recent studies indicate that gingko's antioxidant properties increase blood circulation and oxygen levels in brain tissue. Research also shows that gingko scavenges free radicals that can damage cells and accelerate aging.

Coenzyme Q10 is essential in facilitating the process that provides cells — and therefore, your body — with energy. As we age, however, its levels begin to fall. Exercise can also raise levels of coenzyme Q10.


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