HealthKeeper started out as a regional publication in 1999, published by the same people who developed HERBSatHOMEMagazine. This area of the Herbal Super Site will explore ideas and practises surrounding ancient and modern day herbalism, as a safe and effective health therapy. 

Blueberries for Boomers: A Cup A Day May Keep Memory Loss Away

Lately, we have all heard the words "nutracuticals and phytochemicals" used more often with common references to the health benefits of consuming fruits, vegetables and herbs. Blueberries are another example of how the gap between "herbs" and "fruits and vegetables" is closing in around the nutritional value of plant based foods in general. 

Some "fruits and vegetables" have been long associated with some medicinal benefits such as oranges with vitamin C for colds, and carrots to help you see better, well you can now add blueberries to that list to help you with memory loss!

ARS News - Blueberries are increasingly popular as more consumers reach for the fruit that's high in antioxidants and long on taste. Antioxidants shield cells from the plundering effects of free radicals. These rogue molecules corrupt healthy cells—a process that ultimately underlies cellular aging. With such high-stakes health benefits, it's no wonder blueberries have become a media darling among the food press.

Blueberries are among the fruits and vegetables highest in antioxidant capacity, according to tests developed by ARS, says Ronald L. Prior, chemist with the Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center in Little Rock.

Preliminary research in rats shows blueberries may also improve cognitive function—a term scientists use for mental capacities, such as memory and concentration. 

"Our research on aging shows that blueberry supplementation at about 1 to 2 percent of the diet may reverse short-term memory loss and improve motor skills," says James A. Joseph, physiologist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts.

Consumption has never been higher. More cultivated fresh blueberries and more frozen wild ones were consumed or purchased through U.S. supermarkets last year than ever before, according to industry experts. U.S. growers produce about 350 million pounds of blueberries worth between $187 million and $260 million annually.

Blueberry's powerful nutritional punch is likely due to the fact that its antioxidants come in the form of both long-established vitamins and newly defined phytochemicals. The berries are particularly well endowed with a series of phytochemicals called anthocyanins—the source of their blue, purple, and red pigments—and proanthocyanins.

Also, blueberry is one of the few fruits that contain so wide a spectrum of anthocyanins, which fall within a phytochemical class called flavonoids. Another class, carotenoids, makes carrots and pumpkins orange.

Naturally, the amount of nutrients in any crop may differ among varieties or because of growing conditions, such as geographic location and soil content. Still, while many fruits contain only about 3 to 6 individual anthocyanins, various cultivated blueberries contain about 15 on the low end, rising to about 25 in wild blueberries, says Prior.

In test tubes, these anthocyanins yield about 2 to 2.5 times the antioxidant power of vitamin C. The next step, now under way, is to assess the bioavailability of these antioxidant heavyweights. Bioavailability refers to how well the body digests, uses, and stores a given chemical. Stay tuned.—By Rosalie Marion Bliss, ARS.

Spices Hike Your Antioxidant Protection
Ounce for ounce, many herbs used to flavour our foods are proving to have more.

Oxidative damage to cells is thought to culminate in the onset of several maladies associated with aging. But foods that score high in antioxidant capacity may protect cells and their components from such damage. While berries, fruits, and vegetables are known to have antioxidant power, many herbs used to flavor our foods are proving to have more, ounce for ounce. But their potency can vary, depending on species and growing conditions.

Now, a variety of fresh culinary and medicinal herbs has been grown under the same environmental conditions, at the same location, and evaluated for antioxidative activity. They've been measured for their ability to disarm oxidizing compounds that our bodies naturally generate as a byproduct of metabolism. Three different types of oregano—Mexican, Italian, and Greek mountain—scored the highest, even higher than vitamin E. Also, they were comparable to the food preservative BHA against fat oxidations. Sweet bay, dill, and winter savory also showed strong antioxidant activity. Medicinal herbs generally scored lower in antioxidant activity, suggesting that their health benefits stem from other types of activity in the body. 

Shiow Wang, USDA-ARS Fruit Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland.

Study Released Shows St. John's Wort Hampers Cancer Treatment

A study lead by Dr. Ron Mathijssen of the Rotterdam Cancer Institute showed that taking St. John's wort while receiving the chemotherapeutic drug Irinotecan drastically reduced the effectiveness of the treatment in cancer patients and the effects continued for several weeks even after the patients stopped taking the herbal supplement.  The study however, was only conducted on 5 patients and researchers now feel that it would be unethical based on these findings to conduct the same study on a larger group. Medical oncologists recommend that all patients tell their doctors what herbal supplements they are taking. The results of the study were represented to the American Association for Cancer Research this year.

Get out the Cauldron for some Iron Brew

Herbal vinegars are flavourful and add zip to many recipes. But wouldn't it be great to add more iron to your meals at the same time? HERBSatHOME readers will be glad to hear about this latest report, just in time for All Hallow's Eve, as you are dusting off the cauldron! Herbal vinegars are used in stir fries, sauces, soups and much more and you will be reaching for the iron skillet when you read the following report from ARS Research News.

Cooking with iron pots may help prevent iron deficiency, according to a joint study by Cornell University and Agricultural Research Service scientists. They compared the bioavailability of iron in Chinese cabbage meals cooked in pots made of iron and aluminum.

The study was conducted at the ARS U.S. Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory on Cornell's Ithaca, N.Y., campus by graduate student Shumei Yun and epidemiologist Jean-Pierre Habicht of the university's Division of Nutritional Sciences.

They cooked three Chinese cabbage dishes--fresh Chinese cabbage, fresh Chinese cabbage with vinegar, and fermented Chinese cabbage (sauerkraut)--identically in iron and aluminum pots, following a common recipe from northwest China.

They concluded that in each case, cabbage dishes cooked in iron pots had more available iron than those cooked in aluminum ones.

The type of food being cooked also seemed to affect the pots' iron. Vinegar or acidic foods such as sauerkraut appeared to leach more iron from the pots, making more iron available for absorption. 

To measure the bioavailable iron, the researchers used the ARS lab's revolutionary "fake gut." Coupling simulated digestion with a human intestinal cell line, it is the first system to accurately model in the laboratory what occurs in the human intestinal tract. Raymond Glahn, the ARS physiologist who designed the model system, was a collaborator in this study. Information about the "fake gut" appeared in the August '99 Agricultural Research magazine, online at:

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

The researchers were drawn to recipes from northwestern China by surveys that showed significantly lower rates of iron deficiency in resource-poor regions there, in comparison to similar regions elsewhere in the country. Plant-based diets that include lots of rice vinegar and sauerkraut cooked in iron pots are common in the region.

Iron deficiency anemia, the most serious form of iron deficiency, is among the developing world's most prevalent nutritional problems. It is associated with reduced capacity for physical labor and can lead to illness and death. 

Health Canada requests recall of certain products containing Ephedra/ephedrine

OTTAWA- Health Canada is requesting a recall from the market of certain products containing Ephedra/ephedrine after a risk assessment concluded that these products pose a serious risk to health. Adverse events including stroke, heart attacks, heart rate irregularities, seizures, psychoses and deaths have been reported in association with the use of some products containing Ephedra/ephedrine. Ephedra refers to several related species of herbs. Ephedrine is one of many chemical derivatives of this herb.

This voluntary recall deals with products that are marketed without approval. These include:
· Ephedra/ephedrine products having a dose unit of more than 8 mg of ephedrine or with a label recommending more than 8 mg/dose or 32 mg/day and/or are labelled or implied for use exceeding seven days; 

· all combination products containing Ephedra/ephedrine together with stimulants (e.g. caffeine) and other ingredients which might increase the effect of Ephedra/ephedrine in the body. A full table of ingredients containing caffeine is attached to this advisory;

· Ephedra/ephedrine products with labelled or implied claims for appetite suppression, weight loss promotion, metabolic enhancement, increased exercise tolerance, body-building effects, euphoria, increased energy or wakefulness, or other stimulant effects. 

Health Canada advises those Canadians who may be consuming these products to stop using them, and return them to their points of sale. Canadians suffering from heart conditions, high blood pressure and diabetes are among those particularly at risk.

Currently, the maximum allowable dosages for Ephedra/ephedrine in products is 8 mg ephedrine/single dose or 32mg ephedrine/day. Products containing Ephedra which are marketed for traditional medicine, will continue to be available, provided they do not contain caffeine and that the ephedrine content does not exceed 8 mg/dose to a maximum of 32 mg/day. 

If a consumer has concerns about a product with a Drug Identification Number (DIN), and is not sure if the recommended dosage exceeds the 32 mg ephedrine/day dose limit, they should consult with their pharmacist. Consumers who identify remaining products on the shelves can call their regional Health Canada offices to report complaints. Their contact information is provided as an attachment.

Health Canada is issuing letters to Canadian manufacturers, distributors and importers requesting that they discontinue sale of these products and that the products be recalled from all levels of the market, including retail. A customs lookout has also been issued, to ensure that these products are not imported into Canada.

A health advisory was issued by Health Canada in June of last year, advising Canadians not to use products containing the herb Ephedra, in combination with caffeine and other stimulants, for purposes of weight loss, body building or increased energy. At the time of that advisory, 60 adverse events had been reported in Canada related to the use of Ephedra/ephedrine. Since then, a product which combined large doses of ephedrine with caffeine has been reported as a contributing factor in one death in Canada.

Health Canada will be issuing a regulatory letter to manufacturers of products which exceed this recommended dosage. Products with DINs that are being sold as nasal decongestants and have doses equal to or less than the upper limits of 8 mg ephedrine/dose and 32 mg ephedrine/day will continue to be available.

Health Canada will continue to monitor reports of adverse events associated with Ephedra/ephedrine, and will take further action if necessary. A random market survey will be undertaken within 6 months of the requested recall to determine whether these products have found their way back onto the Canadian market. Non-compliant products will be removed from the shelves.

Health Canada is advising consumers not to use any products containing kava

OTTAWA - Health Canada is advising consumers not to use any products that contain the herbal ingredient kava (also known as kava-kava), with or without drug identification numbers (DINs), in light of recent reports of liver toxicity related to use of kava products in Europe. Kava is found in herbal and homeopathic preparations, and marketed to treat anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, pain and muscle tension. It may also be found as an ingredient in food products. It is widely used in Europe, and has become increasingly used in Canada.
There have been at least 24 reports of liver toxicity associated with the use of kava products internationally, including one reported death, and several cases which required liver transplantation. However, no cases of liver toxicity have been reported in Canada. Like Health Canada, other international regulatory agencies (Germany, France, Switzerland, U.K., U.S.A.) are taking steps to prevent liver-related risks associated with the use of kava-containing products.

As a result of these international reports, Health Canada is now reviewing the safety and effectiveness of kava. To ensure the safety and health of consumers in the interim, Health Canada is issuing this advisory, advising consumers not to use any products which contain kava until the safety assessment can be completed. Once the safety assessment is completed, and all international safety data are analyzed, Health Canada will communicate the results to the public, and take further action if required.

Consumers are advised to check the labels of any herbal products for the presence of kava, and to discontinue use of any product labelled to contain kava. 
Kava may be identified by the following names:
· kava 
· kava kava 
· kava-kava 
· kava root 
· kava-kava root 
· kavain 
· kava pepper 
· kavapipar 
· kawa 
· kawa kawa 
· kawa pepper 
· kawapfeffer 
· maori kava 
· rhizoma di kava-kava  · ava 
· ava pepper 
· ava root 
· awa 
· gea 
· gi 
· intoxicating pepper 
· intoxicating 
· long pepper 
· kao 
· Piper methysticum 
· Macropiper Latifolium 
· Piper inebrians  · Malohu 
· maluk 
· meruk 
· milik 
· kew 
· Rauschpfeffer 
· sakau 
· tonga 
· Wurzelstock 
· yagona 
· yangona 
· yaqona 
· yongona 

Consumers are also advised to consult with their health care practitioner if they have experienced any adverse effects from taking products containing kava. The following symptoms may be associated with liver problems:
· jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes) 
· brown urine 
· nausea 
· vomiting 
· unusual tiredness 
· weakness 
· stomach or abdominal pain, and /or 
· loss of appetite. 
Additionally, health care professionals and practitioners of alternative medicine are being asked to report any cases of liver toxicity in association with use of kava-containing products.