Month: June 2007
And it fits in a vase! (Sorry, John.) Echinacea, or purple coneflower, was widely panned after a rock-solid controlled study proved its inefficacy in 2005.
You can put away your Puffs: echinacea is the toast of the sniffle set again.
In a meta-analysis of fourteen studies and a whole bunch of people (okay, 1,630 for those who like numbers), scientists found that echinacea does, in fact, reduce both cold infection rates (by 58%) and duration (by 1.44 days).
There are three different parts to the echinacea plant (you know, leaf, stem, flower…) This does appear to make a difference in effectiveness. There are also three different species of echinacea, and there are three different substances in the plant that are thought to be the active ingredient.
There are 800 different echinacea products made from these three different parts and/or three different species and/or three different extracts, and they come in teas, drops, powders and pills. Good luck trying each one – my advice is to be a princess (or prince) and buy the best. You only get a cold a few times a year (I hope), so spend the extra cash and you’re likely to get a better product. Or check out online customer reviews at sites like Epinions.
The reason why echinacea does…and doesn’t…work:
There are over 200 different cold viruses. That’s why you always catch the common cold and that’s why there’s no cure. Echinacea seems to be less effective on induced colds (scientists use rhinovirus to induce a cold).
The great thing is that whether or not you take echinacea, your body will develop immunity to any cold virus that infects you. The not-so-great thing is that after you get your first one, you still have 199 or so to go. But, since the average person gets between 2 and 4 colds a year, by the time you’re about 50, there shouldn’t be many more to go. Instead, you can concentrate on building up immunity to every flu virus in existence. Isn’t that awesome?
Jill Doughtie Flickr Photo CC
Psst…and we all know what Mark would recommend: eat right, work out, reduce stress, and you’ll have a better immune system!
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What does echinacea tea taste like? I don’t know, but I bet it would be great in the Fuming Fuji mug! 😉
[tags] echinacea, cold remedies [/tags]
We talk a lot about hot topics like Big Pharma and carbs. But today we’re going to share some of the best tips for both preventing and addressing stress. Stress is ultimately at the root of many, if not all, of our most pressing health issues, including aging. Of course this depends on your understanding of “stress”. An unhealthy diet that triggers an inflammatory response or the development of arterial plaques is one definition of “stress”. So does the emotional anguish of being in an unhealthy relationship. Another big one: the oxidative stress that promotes cellular breakdown. And simply failing to use your body actively – not moving your body daily – is stressful to your heart, muscles, bone tissue and even to your brain. A little stress is useful: it’s how we learn, and grow, and survive. Indeed, when you work out, you’re stressing your body, just as if you were pruning a rosebush. There’s some value in moderate amounts of stress, which is a good thing, since life will never be free of it. But most of us probably suffer from too much chronic stress, and if we aren’t taking prudent steps to healthily deal with stress, the cumulative effects are devastating. Whether from the environment, lifestyle, injury or the way you use – or don’t use – your body, stress is really an umbrella term for a critical host of factors affecting your health. Here’s what we recommend: 10. Take a vacation. Really. Just find a way to do it – even for two days. For some of you that means actually taking the weekend off. It’s amazing how a brief change of scene literally refreshes your spirits and helps you gain some perspective. On a daily basis, apply this shift logic and take a brisk walk outside or call a friend. 9. Say no. This one is on every stress list, but everyone has a hard time following it. No one needs you that much. Strangely, the world will go on without you. If someone is trying to make you feel otherwise, you need to go on without them. 8. Stay away from processed food. Most processed, packaged foods are land mines of sugar, empty calories, fat, sodium, chemicals, dyes and other ingredients detrimental to overall health. Refined foods spur inflammation, but they also can alter your mood, especially if you’re sensitive to drugs and chemicals. Very simple: eat food, not food products. You can get salads, veggies and fruit to go, just about anywhere. (What to eat in a day.) No excuses…unless you like running around at 80% all the time. Eat food that nourishes you, energizes you, and strengthens your brain. 7. Exercise. Most Americans don’t. We’ve blogged about one major overlooked reason why. Here’s a trick: just put on your sneakers. Don’t think about the workout. Just don’t think. Simply think “I’m going to put my sneakers on.” If you do that, and give the workout three minutes, you’ve won the battle. Exercise … Continue reading “Ooh! I’ll Have the Stress, Please”
This just out from Business Week: “Are Pharmas Addicted to Lifestyle Drugs?”
I know I rail against drug use. I have no problem with life-saving technologies that honor and extend the lives of human beings. And the good news is that the FDA is finally taking action (it only took half a dozen scandals). What I get furious about are the lifestyle drugs. For example, Alli, Ambien and Prozac. Obesity, insomnia and depression are all common and they are all seriously detrimental to health and longevity. They are all frequently preventable through lifestyle changes. In some cases, they aren’t, and for those cases, I say do whatever needs to be done. There are individuals who work out daily, eat a clean diet of vegetables and lean protein, supplement with plenty of high-quality fish oil, and take steps (like therapy and meditation) to manage stress, yet still fight depression. I can’t stand the harbingers of the extreme who believe everything can be resolved with a salad and a chipper attitude. People are unique.
That said, how many of the thousands on Prozac are stuck in stressful, sedentary office jobs, shoved into tiny urban apartments, living on junk food and alcohol, watching television and never moving their buns off the couch? It seems to me that our modern lifestyle is a recipe for depression – I’m surprised more people aren’t depressed. Staring at a computer all day and being inundated with media and noise are fairly traumatic experiences when you consider what our grandparents did in a day, yet the ever-resilient human body finds ways to cope.
Though we can’t necessarily get different jobs or pack up and move to the Bahamas, there are significant lifestyle adjustments within the easy reach of most individuals that can effectively support proper weight, rest, and mental health.
When people are eating packets of cigarettes and driving in their sleep while taking a drug like Ambien, it’s time to rethink our approach to health. Pharma makes a load of cash off the problems created by our Western lifestyle. Who’s addicted?
Stick around for the Tuesday 10. This week: tips to beat stress…naturally!
[tags] lifestyle drugs, Ambien, Alli, Prozac [/tags]
Here’s a compelling op-ed from a chemistry PhD about the problem with randomized clinical trials. RCTs are the gold standard for testing effectiveness and safety. The problem, however, is that a randomized clinical trial puts the substance in question in a bubble. Remove the substance from its context, this writer argues, and you aren’t going to get an accurate picture. Hang on, all ye fans of the FDA. I’ll explain. Randomized clinical trials are essential for food and drugs. But the piece points out that the value is not so cut and dried when it comes to vitamin supplements. Supplements, of course, have been all over the news lately. Recently a spate of stories came out condemning antioxidants. Another called vitamins into question. I’m used to drug companies funding studies and releasing statements about the dangers of vitamins, and Sara and Aaron addressed the whole issue in a scathing little parody at Healthbolt (for adult eyes and a sense of humor only). The FDA will begin requiring supplement manufacturers to test their products and prove that they contain what they say they contain. This is a good thing as far as I’m concerned, though it’ll be 2010 before everything takes full effect, and the policing will be an honor system not unlike the current setup Big Pharma enjoys. So it remains to be seen just how much good this will do in stopping bogus supplements… At this point in the antioxidant debacle, though, I can tell you that I’m really tired of certain interests truckin’ out the same old scare, and I said as much in a flare at Technorati. Typically, a substance, such as a single antioxidant, is given to a group. Placebos are given, all is randomized, time passes. Sounds great, but it’s not. Thus far, the results from many RCTs have been dismally unconvincing, leading experts to assert that antioxidants are worthless despite loads of observational studies. I won’t regurgitate the whole op-ed here, but consider a worthy criticism of RCTs: Frequently the supplement is given to an unhealthy population – even terminally diseased groups. Should we really expect miracles here? I’m interested in the etiology of disease and chronic health conditions. I think it’s obvious enough that a combination of risk factors, diet, genetics and environmental conditions are at play in most health issues. Can we reasonably expect a year of, say, vitamin E supplementation to offset 20 or 40 years of cumulative damage from a host of factors? My advice? Take a broad spectrum of different antioxidants for prevention and overall health, not in a misguided attempt to cure a disease. Nutritional supplements are fundamentally different from drugs in their approach. The former supports prevention; the latter targets specific symptoms and eliminates or mitigates them. In the best cases, and only occasionally, drugs cure disease. In the worst cases, they merely mask pain or alleviate symptoms that indicate an unhealthy lifestyle. To me, RCTs may be missing the big picture with antioxidants: synergy, baby. Further … Continue reading “It’s All About the Synergy, Baby”
A new study out today confirms the antibacterial power of both red and white wine. Apparently, researchers have proven that wine destroys the bacteria responsible for cavities and throat infections. Interestingly, it’s not the alcohol that kills the germs, but rather acids in the wine.
Imagine the possibilities here:
– Stop fighting the nightly battle with your toddler and the toothbrush. Just get ’em tossed instead. Sure, they’ll be a little hungover at preschool, but you can never be too careful when it comes to your child’s dental health.
– Until cough syrup comes in a believable-tasting grape, wine has won points for flavor. Now we see that “Grandpa’s medicine” really is medicine. Because if you’re calling in sick, you might as well be drunk.
No wonder bums have such great teeth! I’m being facetious, of course. I don’t know if replacing your toothbrush with a wine glass is such a bright idea.
This is Kjaergaard’s Flickr Photo CC
The study was a test-tube run, and when the active acids were removed and tested on their own, they killed germs better than the wine. So while wine is a naturally antibacterial beverage, other properties in the wine probably cancel out any benefits. The study also illustrates the fact that just about anything can be promoted as having a health benefit.
For example, because wine contains the antioxidant resveratrol, it’s touted as being healthy. While there’s plenty of evidence to suggest modest amounts of alcohol may exert some protective cardiovascular benefit, to reap serious antioxidant benefit, you’d have to drink enough jugs to put Gallo out of business. I think wine, in moderation, has healthful properties. But don’t expect wine to save your arteries if you’re not also living a healthy lifestyle. You’re better off eating fresh fruits and vegetables and supplementing with a multivitamin that contains antioxidants.
The moral here is that even scientists can justify that Dionysian dinner tab as a business expense.
How to Eat More Chocolate and Drink More Wine Every Day
[tags] health benefits of wine, antioxidants [/tags]