Treatments with St. John’s Wort: Going Beyond Depression

Hypericum perforatum L., better known as St. John’s Wort or goatweed, is a plant native to parts of Northern Africa, Asia, and Europe. The Hypericum extract is sold as an herbal supplement in the United States and has been used in tea, capsule, and pill form to treat a number of ailments, including depression, which appears to have research evidence supporting pharmaceutical regulation and prescription. The question remains, though: is there evidence to support the more widespread use of St. John’s Wort for other ailments?
The Active Compounds in St John’s Wort

The chemicals present in the Hypericum extract that are active in its effect are the lipophilic compound hyperforin and the photosensitizing compound hypericin. The potency of hypericin is how current supplements are measured for sale though it is directly related to the potency of hyperforin.
Hypericin is a napthodianthrone, a secondary plant metabolite. The compound has been found to prevent viral replication in animal models and to inhibit inflammatory activity. In recent years, it has been found that hyperforin is the active ingredient for anti-depressant effects.
Anti-inflammatory and Anti-Tumor Potential

Inflammation is a problem in many chronic diseases, including heart disease and asthma. Anti-inflammatory agents decrease inflammation by inhibiting the immune cells that stimulate the hallmark redness and swelling. In February, in the European Journal of Cancer, a research group presented a study in which hyperforin reduced the angiogenesis (new blood vessel creation) and spread of Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a highly vascular tumor. They found that this was accomplished by the compound disrupting the signaling pathways involved in angiogenesis and inflammation.
In initial studies into the effect of hypericin on menopausal symptoms, a range of inflammation and hormone-driven discomforts, a Canadian research group found that there is evidence to pursue larger trials. The pilot trial showed promising results for Hypericum extract in alleviating hot flashes and increasing the quality of life of women going through menopause.
Supplements vs. Pharmaceuticals

Do these promising, and admittedly few, studies mean that people should start taking St John’s Wort extract? Not necessarily. The research looks promising, and it validates the anecdotes from those who currently use it and the cultures who condoned it, but as an herbal supplement it is not regulated as it would be as a pharmaceutical. Also, the data is scarce at this point, and there may be nuances in patient responses that are unknown, in addition to the are significant photosensitivity side effects and drug interactions. For health issues that require doctor intervention, prescriptions should be given top value until Hypericum hits the safety-regulated market, which is likely to happen eventually.

Pasta! 5 Quick and Healthy Dinners for the Whole Family

Nothing says “Family Dinner” better than a big hearty pasta dish. It’s hard to deny the quick, convenient, and nutritious merits of pasta, particularly if it’s a whole wheat or bean variety. But classic spaghetti and meatballs can certainly wear out its welcome.

So here are 5 fun new recipes for throwing a little variety into your weekday meals.

Power Packed Pasta with Spinach

  • 1 lb. whole wheat linguine
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups frozen whole leaf spinach
  • 1 can diced Italian style diced tomatoes (somewhat drained)
  1. Prepare the pasta and set aside.
  2. In a sauté pan, heat 1 1/2 cups of the chicken stock to a simmer. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until thickened. Add garlic, salt and pepper; continue to cook on medium heat for 5 minutes or so.
  3. Add the spinach and tomatoes to the pan. Allow the spinach to cook and be sure to mix all ingredients together thoroughly.
  4. Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use the remaining 1/2 cup of stock to thin out sauce a bit as it thickens.
  5. Add the pasta to the spinach mixture using tongs, and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.

General Sus’ Teriyaki Noodles

  • 1 package rice noodles (or 1 lb. angel hair pasta)
  • 2 cups teriyaki sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 orange
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups cooked broccoli florets
  • 2 cups cooked diced chicken (optional)
  1. Prepare the pasta and set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, add the teriyaki sauce, brown sugar, juice of 1/2 the orange, and red pepper flakes. Cook on medium heat, allowing the sugar to melt into the sauce. Stir to prevent sticking or burning.
  3. Slice thin strips of orange peel off the outside of the squeezed half of orange. You should have about 1/4 cup of strips. Add to the sauce and continue cooking 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Pour the sauce over the pasta, add the broccoli and chicken if using. Thoroughly combine the mixture.
  5. Serve with chopsticks!

Black and White Southwest Pasta

  • 1/2 pound Vermicelli
  • 1 package black bean pasta
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 2 cans Ro-Tel tomatoes with mild chilies (use the hot variety if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup crushed tortilla chips
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  1. Prepare both pastas, mix together and set aside.
  2. In a sauté pan, heat the chicken stock and garlic together.
  3. Slice the peppers into thin strips and add to the sauté pan. Add the Ro-Tel and cook until the peppers are quite soft.
  4. Add the corn and salt, continue cooking 10 minutes.
  5. Toss the pasta in with the vegetable mixture to thoroughly combine.
  6. Portion to bowls and top with a sprinkling of tortilla chips and cheese.

Bang for Your Buck Baked Ziti

  • 1 lb. Ziti or Rotini
  • 1/2 cup Italian dressing
  • 1/2 red onion thinly sliced then cut in half for strips
  • 2 cups frozen bell pepper strips
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup frozen whole leaf or chopped spinach
  • 1 jar marinara sauce (or homemade if you’re really good)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. Prepare the pasta and set aside
  2. Heat the dressing in a large pot or sauté pan. Add the onion and peppers, cook until softened. Add broccoli, cook an additional 5-7 minutes. Add spinach, cook until thawed and incorporated. Add mushrooms; cook 2-3 minutes more.
  3. In a large bowl combine pasta, sauce, vegetables and cheese. Pour into a greased 9×13 baking dish.
  4. Cover with aluminum foil. Cook on 350 for 30 minutes.
  5. Serve with a warm loaf of Italian bread for a hearty meal.

Tempted Angel White Pasta with Shrimp

  • 1 lb. angel hair pasta
  • 4 tbsp. good olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion chopped
  • 4 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (for spicy temptation)
  • 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 pound small shrimp – raw, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  1. Prepare the pasta and set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil to medium in a large pan. Add onion and cook until softened, being sure not to brown. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, continue cooking, reducing heat if necessary to avoid browning.
  3. Add the stock and salt. Continue cooking 5-10 minutes, allow to reduce somewhat.
  4. Stir the shrimp into the sauce and cook about 5 minutes or until pink and opaque.
  5. Toss the pasta in with the shrimp and sauce, thoroughly combine.
  6. Portion to bowls and top each with a generous sprinkling of the parmesan cheese. Serve with a light salad for veggies.

Damaged LDL Cholesterol Sets the Stage for Heart Disease

Since the days of Ancel Keys, the man who first introduced the theory that a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet causes heart disease, many individuals have been concerned about their cholesterol levels. While the more LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol running around in the bloodstream, the higher the potential for heart attack and coronary artery disease, the problem of plaque build-up and the resulting inflammation is more complex.

Heart Disease Begins When LDL Cholesterol Invades Damaged Arteries

Heart disease begins with repeated injury to arterial walls. This injury allows small, dense LDL cholesterol to make its way into the inner lining of the arteries, setting the stage for heart disease. Without injury to the arteries, plaque cannot form, since its presence is an attempt to heal the body of the damage. Arterial injury is thought to occur in a variety of ways:

  • high blood pressure
  • tobacco smoke
  • diabetes
  • inflammatory stresses involving the immune system
  • a virus or bacterial infection
  • chemical abnormalities in the blood

The more LDL cholesterol circulating in the blood, the greater the chance that small, dense LDL particles will get trapped in the arterial lining once it’s been injured. While high circulating insulin and the resulting insulin resistance are linked to high cholesterol synthesis and decreased cholesterol absorption, the path that actually leads to heart disease requires an immune system response. As long as the LDL particles are not chemically altered or damaged, the body won’t consider them a threat.

Coronary Artery Disease Risks: How LDL Particles Get Damaged

There are two ways that LDL particles become chemically altered or damaged. One way is through oxidation by free radicals, and the other is by being irrevocably bound to sugar in a process called glycolation. Both processes result in damaged LDL cholesterol and are, therefore, risk factors for coronary artery disease. Damaged LDL particles cause the immune system to begin an attack against them.

White blood cells called macrophages attach themselves to the artery wall and burrow into the lining. Their job is to eat and digest the damaged LDL particles. During this process, the white blood cells transform into foam cells, and begin collecting cholesterol, fatty material, and cell debris as a way to plug up the damage.

Although the plug makes the blood vessel lining bulge slightly into the artery, it is not large enough yet to restrict blood flow. However, once the first stage of plaque build up begins and the mass firmly attaches itself, smooth muscle cells from deeper within the artery lining migrate upwards.

Insulin Resistance Speeds Plaque Build Up

If an individual is insulin-resistant, high fasting insulin levels cause these muscle cells to migrate rapidly. Once at the area of plaque build up, with the help of insulin’s ability to stimulate increased synthesis of collagen and other connective tissue, the muscle cells grow or merge with the macrophages.

When enough foam cells accumulate, they form patchy deposits large enough to restrict blood flow. If plaque build-up continues, it can attract calcium crystals which attach themselves to the plaque mass resulting in hard, brittle arteries. Calcium is the last stage in the process of heart disease; after which the plaque can crack, ulcerate, and release debris into the bloodstream, further narrowing the passageway.

Reduce Insulin Levels to Reverse Heart Disease

Reversing the damage before plaque reaches the stage of calcification is possible, but only if insulin levels are reduced; artery recovery is not possible in the presence of hyperinsulinemia. This is because elevated insulin levels encourage glycolation and excess LDL cholesterol formation, speed up the migration of smooth muscle cells from the artery interior, and increase synthesis of collagen and connective tissue.

Heart disease is when plaque builds up in an artery leading to the heart. However, any artery can be injured, laying the initial groundwork for damaged LDL particles to invade and begin the process of coronary artery disease. To reverse the process of plaque build up and thereby regain cardiovascular health, a diet that lowers basal insulin levels needs to be considered and implemented.

Eating Fruits and Vegetables at Home: Tips for Enjoying More Vegetables and Fruits When Home

A balanced eating plan should include fruits and vegetables. They can be added to breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinners. Individuals may choose to eat more fruits and vegetables and less unhealthy fats and sugars.

Fruits and vegetables may be enjoyed by anyone ,including dieters. They have fiber, vitamins and minerals and most provide less calories than other foods.

Individuals can speak with a dietician to help develop a healthy eating plan based on age, gender and current health status. According to the Center for Disease Control, a slightly inactive woman between the ages of 19 to 30 should eat 2 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables daily.

Breakfast Dishes with Fruits and Vegetables at Home

An healthy meal plan should begin with a well-balanced breakfast. Some breakfast options with fruit and vegetables can include:

  • Prepare an egg omelet with 1/4 cup of dices tomatoes and red peppers.
  • Add sliced apples or dried raisins to bowl of plain hot oatmeal.
  • Mix fruit in a 4-ounce cup of plain yogurt such as dried cherries or cranberries..

Snacks with Fruits and Vegetables at Home

Some individuals at home snack once daily ,while other individuals snack all day. Some healthy fruits and vegetables for snacking includes:

  • Select a supermarket fruit platter for daily snacks.
  • Eat from a raw vegetable platter such as carrots.
  • Keep home-made fruit bars in the freezer such as strawberries, peaches and kiwi.

Lunch Dishes with Fruits and Vegetables at Home

Lunch may come from leftovers or a quick meal prepared at home. Some good choices for lunch dishes can include:

  • Prepare a club sandwich with sliced cucumbers or bell peppers.
  • Chop grated zucchini, kale or bell peppers to home-made pasta sauces.
  • Enjoy a medium-sized turkey salad with diced apple chunks or dried raisins.

Dinner Dishes with Fruits and Vegetables at Home

Dinner may be consider family time or a quiet time of the day. Individuals may prefer light meals to wind down the busy day. Choices for dinner time fruits and vegetables can include:

  • Place sliced citrus fruit on broiled fish for extra flavor.
  • Eat vegetarian meals once per week to replace a meat and potato meal.
  • Enjoy two vegetables with dinner.

Fruits and vegetables can be enjoyed at home without boredom. For instance, one should purchase a variety of fruits and vegetables ,including strawberries, bananas, raisins, bell peppers, corn and cucumbers.

Experimenting with different fruits and vegetables may lead to better eating habits and a better lifestyle.