Herbs with an Antioxidant Punch
The bilberry is related to the blueberry and blackberry. The leaves of the plant help keep capillaries and red blood cells healthy, which can lower blood pressure. Bilberry also protects the eyes; inhibits bacterial growth; has anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties; and helps to lower blood-sugar levels. The collagen-stabilizing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of bilberry extract make it helpful for the treatment of arthritis.
Bilberry contains phytochemicals known as anthocyanidins, which studies suggest can provide up to 50 times the antioxidant protection of vitamin E and 10 times the protection of vitamin C.
A relative of the sunflower, burdock is an amazing plant. When taken with vitamin E, burdock root is extremely effective in eliminating harmful free radicals. It also helps prevent cell mutation, which might otherwise lead to cancer. Burdock purifies the blood and as an infusion (a tea) has proven beneficial for ridding the body of kidney stones and gallstones. It eliminates toxins, supports digestion, and is a good source of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and protein. It is believed to help heal liver damage. Also, some people with diabetes have benefitted from incorporating burdock into their diets.
Among its many amazing qualities, garlic is very effective at neutralizing the effects of free radicals. Considerable evidence suggests that organo-sulfurs found in garlic and onions may help to prevent atherosclerosis. It has been found to protect the body against cholesterol buildup, prevent blood clots, and lower high blood pressure. Fresh garlic cloves are the best means of ingestion.
Garlic's sulfur compounds have the ability to reduce the formation of carcinogenic compounds, inhibiting the growth of different types of cancer, including colon cancer. Garlic also has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Aged garlic extract provides the greatest concentration of beneficial compounds; however, fresh garlic and garlic oil can be used daily for good results.
Ginkgo biloba has powerful antioxidant effects in the brain, retina, and cardiovascular system. It is the most widely prescribed drug in Germany, where it is considered an effective treatment for Alzheimer's disease and other severe forms of decline in mental function, including depression. Continuing evidence suggests that it is helpful for ordinary age-related memory loss, tinnitus, balance disorders, impotence, and macular degeneration, and may reduce symptoms associated with Raynaud's disease. Ginkgo is available in an extract in liquid, tablet, and capsule form. The least useful form is "energy" drinks.
Ginkgo is contraindicated for those who are prone to strokes or have had a stroke in the past.
Recent studies have supported the already substantial evidence that the polyphenols in green tea have anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties. Other studies have suggested that green tea may also protect against damage done by cholesterol and may help prevent blood clots. Tea polyphenols are increasingly being used to treat diabetes and skin disorders.
Drinking as little as one cup of green tea each day appears to offer some protection against heart disease, and five cups a day have proven beneficial in combatting cancer. Green tea is the dried, unfermented leaves of the plant. The fermentation process, which produces black tea, destroys most of the polyphenols, making black tea much less effective as an antioxidant.
Milk Thistle and silymarin, a compound extracted from the seeds of the milk thistle, have been used for centuries to treat diseases of the liver. This powerful antioxidant guards the liver from oxidative damage; protects the liver from toxins, drugs, and the effects of alcohol (cirrhosis) and the hepatitis B and C viruses; and promotes the growth of new liver cells. In addition, silymarin increases levels of glutathione. Milk thistle extract has virtually no known side effects and can be used by most people. Silymarin gelcaps contain the greatest concentration of active ingredients. It can also be beneficial as a tea.
Turmeric, which has a rich history within Ayurvedic medicine, comes from the large, deep-yellow rhizome (or root) of the plant Curcuma domestica. Traditional Chinese healers prescribe it for liver problems and colic. American herbalists recommend turmeric for reducing the pain and inflammation of arthritis and for preventing gallbladder disease.
The active constituent in turmeric is curcumin, a strong antioxidant. Other substances in turmeric help remove toxic byproducts that may contribute to the formation of cancer cells. It soothes inflammation by reducing levels of histamine, a body chemical that is released as part of the immune response. Research raises hope that turmeric may help to prevent blood clots, reduce cholesterol levels, and possibly protect against gallbladder disease. It is available as a powdered root, in capsules, and as a liquid tincture.
Often referred to as "the poor man's saffron," turmeric is best sprinkled conservatively over hot foods just before eating. This can be done at every meal, if desired.