Thursday, 22 November 2012

Why Include Pomegranates in Your Healthy Diet

Introducing Pomegranates

One of my teenage memories is of my father bringing home pomegranates to eat when they were in season.  He would slice them in half and then show me how to pick out the pulp-covered seeds one by one with a small teaspoon. It was a time consuming process eating each seed individually, great care had to be taken digging into the fruit with the spoon and inevitably you ended up covered in sticky juice.  Since then pomegranates have become much more popular; not only to eat as a fruit, but also to drink as juice, and taken as supplements and teas to promote good health. They have been cultivated since ancient times and are a species native to Iran and the Himalayas. They have been grown in the Caucasus since antiquity and can now be found being cultivated all around the world from South East Asia to California.

The fruit’s Latin name is Punica granatum, and the word pomegranate is derived from the Latin pomum or apple and granatus which means seeded.  It is a deciduous shrub that has a small, bright red flower and bears a roundish fruit that is around the size of a small grapefruit.  The fruit is covered in a thick skin that is reddish in colour and contains around six hundred seeds that are encased in a juicy pulp.  These seeds and the surrounding pulp are called arils, and the arils can range in colour from white to a dark red. They are a long living, hardy shrub, and there are some trees in Europe that are over two hundred years old, although the vigour and productivity of the trees tends to start declining after fifteen years or so.


Pomegranates in History

They have been cultivated and eaten in Europe and the Middle East since ancient times and one of the earliest literary references to pomegranates was in Homer’s Hymns.  In ancient mythology they were regarded as symbols of birth, death and then eternal life because of the multitude of seeds that they contained.   They were also linked in mythology to forbidden desire, because of the deep red colour of the outer skin that resembled the colour of blood.  In the South Caucasus, the decayed remains of pomegranates have been excavated that date back at least a thousand years. A dried out fruit was found preserved in the tomb of Queen Hatshepsut’s butler, and they were mentioned on Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets.   Pomegranates were grown and eaten in Southeast Asia and China in early times and may have been introduced by traders on the Silk Road or by early sea merchants.  The city of Granada in Spain is named after the pomegranate, and in early English they were called ‘apple of Grenada’.  They were introduced into the New World by the Spanish Conquistadors, and their cultivation spread rapidly through the Caribbean and Latin America. They started to be cultivated in Britain in the seventeenth century, but did not fruit well, and were then introduced into North America by the early colonists.

 Pomegranates – Eating and Cooking

If you want to eat pomegranate as a fruit, you need to score the tough skin with a knife and then break open the fruit. You can then separate the arils from the skin and the outer pulp relatively easily.  This task is made even easier by placing the fruit in a bowl of water, as the arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the skin and pulp will stay floating on the surface. The whole of the aril is eaten, both seed and pulp, but the taste and juice is derived almost entirely from the reddish, semi-translucent pulp.  In cooking, the arils are made into sauces, which are widely used in dishes in Iran and the Middle East, as they have a flavour that is both sweet and sour. In India and Pakistan, wild pomegranate seeds are made into a spice called anardana, which is popularly used when making curries and chutneys.

Health Benefits of Pomegranates

So what are the potential benefits of including pomegranates in your diet? Pomegranate juice is very high in vitamin C, and a 100ml serving contains around 16% of an adult’s daily vitamin C requirement.  They are also a good source of vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid, vitamin E, iron, antioxidant polyphenols, tannins, anthocyanins and potassium.  A study undertaken by scientists in Israel, suggests that drinking pomegranate juice can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and that it has been shown to contain higher levels of antioxidants than any of the other fruit juices, green tea or red wine.  Antioxidants are an important part of your diet because they protect your body from the free radicals in your bloodstream.  Free radicals act on cholesterol during a process known as oxidation, which is thought to contribute to the hardening of the arteries.  The Israeli study showed that drinking pomegranate juice halved the speed of the cholesterol oxidation and reduced the amount of LDL retained in the body, LDL being the type of cholesterol that forms the fatty deposits in human arteries that can then lead to heart disease.

Drinking pomegranate juice may also be very good news for men, especially men who have undergone treatment for prostate cancer. A long-term medical study showed that men who were given the juice to drink daily after their prostate cancer treatment, but were showing signs of the cancer returning, had lower levels of PSA than the men who had pulled out of the study and were no longer drinking it. PSA or ‘prostate specific antigen’ is an enzyme that acts on breaking down proteins in seminal fluid and PSA levels are often high in those who suffer from prostate cancer, so the effect of the pomegranate juice lowering PSA levels is a very beneficial one.  Some of the men on the study continued to show lower levels of PSA after more than three years, even though they had not received any further prostate cancer treatment other than drinking the juice.

They are also now widely used in diets and as a weight loss supplement.  They are regarded as a superfood because of the high level of antioxidants that they contain, and diet pills and supplements that contain pomegranate extract are becoming very popular.  However, this is probably more due to their high nutritional value, rather than any properties that pomegranate has to aid in weight loss, as studies so far have not indicated that they can help or speed up weight loss in any way.  The use of pomegranate supplements and drinking the juice is also very popular in programmes designed to detox your body, again because of the presence of all those wonderful antioxidants and vitamins.

How to Get the Benefits of Pomegranate into Your Diet

If you find that eating pomegranate as a fruit or using them in your cooking is too much of a hassle and too time consuming, then there are other ways of ensuring your daily intake of this healthy fruit.  You can now get juice, supplements, teas, molasses and sauces, all of which will help you get those all-important vitamins and antioxidants into your body.  You can find all of these products in your local health food stores and also very easily online.

Pomegranate Tree With Fruit
Pomegranate Tree With Fruit

Drinking pomegranate juice has been popular in Persia and India since ancient times, and recently has also become very popular in the United States and the UK, both for its taste and its perceived health benefits.  It has also become the trendy juice to mix with champagne when creating champagne cocktails. Grenadine has long been a staple ingredient of cocktails and is made of thickened and sweetened pomegranate juice.  Grenadine is also used in several Iranian recipes, such as fesenjan which is a thick sauce made from ground walnuts and pomegranate juice that is poured over poultry and rice.

So, if you have never tried pomegranates before, why not reap the health benefits and give this colourful fruit a try?

Pomegranate image SriniG Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Pomegranate Tree With Fruit Image Amnon S Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

What Are The Best Zinc Rich Foods?

Do you know how much zinc that you should be ingesting every day to keep yourself healthy? These days there are so many different vitamin and mineral supplements out there on the market that it can make your head spin!   But is taking supplements always the best way to get the essential nutrients that we need to keep our bodies fit and healthy?   Wouldn’t it be better to get all the minerals and vitamins that we need from our diets?  All the experts say that a health supplement is no substitute for a healthy, balanced diet and that we cannot expect to reach our optimum health and fitness if we continually eat rubbish and then just pop a few vitamin pills. We need to eat every day to provide our bodies with fuel and nutrients, so wouldn’t it be better if we made sure that we ate the foods that were the richest sources of the minerals and vitamins that we need?

Pacific Oysters

So let us take zinc as an example.  Zinc is an essential mineral that our bodies need on a daily basis and the recommended dietary allowance or RDA is currently around 8mg for an adult woman and 11mg for an adult male.  So why do we need to include zinc in our diets? 

  • Helps boost the immune system
  • Vital for creating protein, new cells and DNA in the body
  • Aids digestion
  • Help to control diabetes and balance blood sugar levels
  • Helps balance metabolic rate
  • Helps you to retain a good sense of taste and smell
  • Eases stress
  • Helps wounds to heal faster

Not getting enough zinc in your diet can lead to some unpleasant symptoms and conditions such as hair loss, skin problems, a lowering of your immune system that can leads to infections such as colds and flu, diarrhoea, poor growth and lack of appetite.  But it is also important to realise that taking too much zinc can also be bad for you as having too much of this mineral in your diet can lead to the other minerals copper and iron being poorly absorbed into your body, which can eventually cause conditions such as anaemia and weakening of the bones.  So if you are a health supplement enthusiast, it is always a good idea to check what is in all the different things that you are taking so that you do not dangerously exceed the RDA of any one mineral or vitamin.

So if you want to make sure that you are including some zincrich foods into your diet then what do you need to eat?


Shellfish are an excellent source of zinc, and oysters are one of the best as they contain more of this essential mineral per serving than any other type of food.  They are also a good source of protein and supposedly an aphrodisiac. Lobster and crab are also excellent sources

Red Meat

Red meat is also a good source of the mineral, with good quality beef steak being one of the best.  Calf’s liver is also a great provider of zinc in the diet.  When you are choosing red meat, try and get it as lean as possible and trim off any excess fat before you cook it. Lamb is also a good dietary source.
Seeds and Nuts

Many seeds and nuts are also an excellent source of zinc, so snack on some cashews, almonds, roasted pumpkin and squash seeds, sesame seeds or peanuts instead of your usual biscuits and sweets to get some great health benefits.

Dairy Products

Milk and dairy products are a great source of zinc, so again why not think of snacking on yoghurt and cheese?  Organic milk is the best, as you will not be introducing so many chemicals into your body as the cows will have been raised on pastures and feed free from chemical pesticides and fertilisers.

Pulses and Beans

Chick peas, kidney beans and garden peas are all bursting with zinc as well as other nutrients, so why not put together a seafood and bean salad for a really healthy lunch or dinner?

Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder

You are probably glad to see one ‘naughty’ food on the list after all those super healthy ones aren’t you?  But eating a few squares of good quality dark chocolate a day is also good for your heart, so is an indulgence that is actually beneficial for you.

Now you may be thinking that all these zinc rich foods also all sound like quite expensive foods, but buying the best quality, organic food that you can afford is an investment in yourself and your family that you will never regret.  Your health is one of the most precious things that you have, so why not improve and maintain it every way that you can through your diet.  Eating junk food and sugary snacks also costs quite a bit of money, and can also cost your health dearly leading to serious conditions such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease.  So ensure that you get enough zinc into your body through eating the right foods today, and give yourself the very best chance of a healthy, happy future.

Pacific Oysters image Guido Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Saturday, 14 January 2012

What is a Skin Tag and the Best Ways to Remove Skin Tags?

What is a Skin Tag?

Skin tags are very common and cause many people great distress because they feel that they are very unsightly. Skin tags are usually not present at birth, but over half of the population will develop a skin tag at sometime during their life. However, skin tags are totally benign and harmless, but, depending where they occur on your body, they can catch on clothing, jewelry or purse straps and become painful or even infected. Skin tags are small bits of skin that hang off your skin by a narrow, fleshy stalk. Skin tags start off by looking like a small, raised bump and they usually do not grow any bigger than a couple of millimetres in diameter, although large skin tags can be as much as 5 centimetres in diameter. Skin tags are also known as acrochorons and the parts of the body that they are most commonly found on are the neck, eyelids, underarms, in the groin area and under the breasts. Skin tags are generally the same colour as the surrounding skin, but can sometimes be darker in tone. Skin tags are not caused by disease, they just form naturally and some people are more prone to developing skin tags than others.  Heredity plays a part in whether you will develop skin tags during your lifetime, and other triggers can be putting on weight, pregnancy and getting older.

Do You Need to Have Skin Tags Removed?

Apart from their unsightly appearance and the chance that they may catch on things, there is no medical reason why you should remove a skin tag if you do develop one. Many people worry that if they start developing skin tags it is a sign of skin disease or even a precursor to skin cancer, but it must be stressed that skin tags are totally benign. Having a skin tag removed is therefore a personal decision, that you must make depending on how you think that the skin tag affects your appearance, how embarrassed you are by your skin tags or by how much pain and aggravation they are causing you when they catch or rub on something.  Another reason for deciding to have your skin tags removed is if you have quite a few that have grown on one part of your body. Another concern that some people have is that if you have a skin tag removed that it will cause the skin tags to spread and grow back.  This is a totally unfounded worry, it is just an unfortunate fact that some people are more prone to developing skin tags than others, and may have to regularly have their skin tags removed. Skin tags are also not contagious, so you do not catch them from somebody and you cannot infect others with your skin tags.

Does Your Skin Tag Need to Be Removed by a Medical Practitioner?

Once you have decided that you want to have your skin tags removed, you need to decide on whether to treat them yourself or go and have them professionally removed by your doctor. If you are suffering from a serious medical condition like diabetes, or are elderly, it may be wise to have any procedures, even one as minor as skin tag removal, carried out by your medical practitioner. Also, if you are unsure that what you have is really a skin tag and not some other more serious skin complaint, it would be a good idea to get a definitive diagnosis from your doctor or dermatologist.  If you do opt to have your skin tags removed by your doctor there are several procedures that they could use.  Your doctor could opt to laser the skin tag off, cut it off, cauterize the skin tag to remove it, or freeze it off with liquid nitrogen.  Small skin tags can be removed without any anaesthetic, but the removal of larger skin tags may require an injection of local anaesthetic. As skin tag removal is usually regarded as a cosmetic surgical procedure, you need to check whether or not it is covered by your medical insurance, and if it is not cost may be a factor in which method you choose to have your skin tags removed.

Removing Skin Tags at Home

One of the simplest ways to remove a skin tag at home it to tie a piece of cotton around the base of the stalk, so that the skin tag will die and shrivel off over the course of a few days. Once the skin tag has fallen off, keep the base of the tag clean and apply an antiseptic cream regularly until the area is completely healed. Very occasionally a skin tag will suddenly turn a purplish black colour without any intervention, which means that the blood has clotted and the skin tag will typically fall off within a few days. There are over-the-counter products that you can buy in the chemist or online to remove skin tags, but you should be careful using wart removers or any other skin medication for skin tag removal, and you should always check that they are suitable to be used for skin tag removal.  However, there are also some natural remedies that you can try at home if you do not fancy undergoing a surgical procedure or tying off your skin tag. Mix some baking soda with castor oil and apply it to your skin tags and they should fall off, apple cider vinegar applied to skin tags at regular intervals will cause skin tags to drop off as will applying aspirin dissolved in water.  If you want to be a little bit more creative, try tying a piece of potato to your skin tag; the potato should turn the flesh of the tag to go black and fall off.  Tea tree essential aromatherapy oil is also excellent for skin tag removal, just dab neat tea tree oil onto the skin tag a couple of times a day and the skin tag should be gone within a couple of weeks.

So you do have quite a few options if you choose to have your skin tags removed. If they are making you feel uncomfortable about the way you look, or causing you problems with catching and rubbing, then decide which method is the best for you.

Disclaimer:  Please be aware that any information given in this article should in no way be used to replace advice given to you by your medical practitioner.  Anybody suffering from a medical condition or is at all concerned should always consult their doctor before attempting to remove skin tags at home or applying any form of skin tag remover or essential oil.

Monday, 5 December 2011

What Yoga Accessories Do You Need When You Take Up Yoga?

Thinking of Taking Up Yoga?

We all know that exercise is good for us, but there are so many classes and physical activities out there to choose from that can be hard to know which one would be the best for us to take up.  One type of exercise that is really popular and is very good for fitness, flexibility and relaxation is yoga. There are several different types or styles of yoga to choose from, such as Hatha, Iyengar, Vinyasa, Kundalini, Ashtanga and, if you like it hot, Bikram yoga. Do some research on the different yoga styles and see what appeals to you, and see if there are any suitable yoga classes being run in your area.  Go and meet with the yoga teacher before you sign up, as it is important to feel comfortable with their style of teaching and the level of the class.  One of the best things about yoga is that is a holistic form of exercise that promotes emotional balance and relaxation as well as physical health and fitness. Yoga is also an exercise that you can do at home and there are plenty of Yoga dvds to choose from that you can follow and will help you perform the various yoga poses. So now that you have chosen your teacher and booked your class, what yoga accessories are you likely to need to get the most out of your yoga class?

Yoga Mats and Yoga Blankets

One of the best parts of starting any new activity, such as yoga, is that it a great shopping opportunity!  One of the first things that you need to think about buying, if you are going to be serious about yoga, is your very own yoga mat. What type of yoga mat that you go for depends on what style of yoga that you have decided to take up, your age and physical health, whether you want to have an eco-yoga mat, budget, and of course what color and designs appeal to you. Sticky yoga mats have a textured, non-slip surface that stops the mat from moving when you are exercising, which could potentially lead to an accident.  Sticky yoga mats can be bought in most sports shops and yoga studios, come in a veritable rainbow of colours and you can also buy sticky yoga mats that have a variety of different designs on them. You can also look online for your perfect sticky yoga mat, and Amazon has a great range for you to choose from today.  If you are elderly or suffer from joint or skeletal problems, you might want to think of buying an extra thick yoga mat, as the extra padding will cushion your knees, elbow and spine.  Thicker yoga mats are also more comfortable for some of the more active types of yoga, such as Ashtanga, when you might need a bit of a softer landing! If you are concerned about the effects that some of the nasty chemicals found in PVC can have on your health, you can also buy eco friendly yoga mats that are made from materials that do not contain potentially toxic phthalates, dioxins, heavy metals or phenol. These mats are also produced in a way that is sustainable and better for the environment and the workers who produce them.  To keep your yoga mat clean and smelling fresh as a daisy, you can also now buy special yoga mat spray, which will disinfect, clean and destroy all the bacteria on your yoga mat without degrading or damaging it in any way.

Yoga Blocks

Another yoga accessory that you might think of buying is a yoga block. You would use a yoga block to help you to perform your yoga poses more easily, and can be very helpful for people who are injured, are not very flexible and for ladies who are pregnant, as a yoga block helps to align the body correctly , support your weight and give you stability.  Yoga blocks can be made in a variety of materials such as dense foam or cork and they come in a variety of different sizes and colours.  You can also buy yoga blocks in packs, if you need to get several yoga blocks.

Yoga Straps

Your yoga class or yoga practice at home may include the use of a yoga strap.  Yoga straps are used to add an extra challenge to your yoga exercises, as they can help to extend certain stretches and increase resistance when doing strength training. Yoga straps can help you to maintain certain poses for a longer time period and let you achieve some of the more challenging poses. Yoga straps can be bought in a variety of materials, lengths, colours and resistance levels.

Yoga Bolsters and Yoga Meditation Cushions

Some yoga poses may need you to use a yoga bolster.  Yoga bolsters are filled cushions that help with supporting your body and being able to adopt some of the more advanced yoga positions. Yoga bolsters are usually round, oval or square in shape, and can be covered in a variety of coloured fabrics. The best type of filling for a yoga bolster is cotton, as some of the cheaper and synthetic fillings can lose their shape and firmness over time.  Like all things, with yoga bolsters and other yoga accessories you get what you pay for, so paying a bit extra for a quality yoga bolster is a good investment if you are planning to be serious about your yoga.  Many yoga classes also incorporate a session of meditation for relaxation at the end and this meditation is also a wonderful thing to add to your home yoga practice. To help you meditate and drift deeply into relaxation, you can buy a huge selection of yoga meditation cushions in lots of different styles, sizes and colours.

Yoga Kits

If you are a complete beginner in yoga, you can also buy yoga kits. These are great because you get all the yoga accessories that you need to get going in one pack.  A beginners yoga kit will typically contain a yoga mat, a yoga block, a yoga strap and maybe a yoga bag and a yoga dvd.  What you get in your yoga kit depends on how much you want to pay, but you can get yoga kits in a wide range of colours, in a variety of materials and containing different assortments of yoga accessories

Yoga Mat Carriers and Yoga Bags

Of course, once you have bought all of your wonderful yoga accessories, you will need to buy a yoga bag or yoga mat carrier to pack it all in and take to yoga class with you. What type of yoga bag or yoga mat carrier you get depends on what you like, but there is such a wide range of styles, colours and materials to choose from that you are bound to find one that you really like
A great place to find amazing yoga accessories is online, so choose the best yoga accessories for you on Amazon today. Then you will have all the yoga kit that you will need and are ready to embark on your wonderful new journey to health and relaxation through yoga.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

What Are the Health Benefits of Fenugreek?

They say that you are what you eat and more and more these days it is being recognised that we can boost our health and improve illnesses and health conditions by changing our diets.  There are some herbs and spices, however, that we can start putting in our food that will have more health benefits than others.  Fenugreek is one of these magic culinary spices, and has been shown to have very many health benefits. Luckily, you can still get these great benefits even if you don’t like curries and spicy foods as these days fenugreek can be purchased as a supplement in most health food shops.  There have been no side effects recorded from taking fenugreek supplements, but be careful if you are pregnant as taking it can bring on labour.

Fenugreek is a very versatile plant as the whole of it is used, with the leaves being eaten as a vegetable and the seeds being used as a spice.  It is cultivated around the world in Mediterranean regions and belongs to the plant family Fabaceae.  The biggest grower of Fenugreek these days is India, but it also grown widely in Bangladesh, Argentina, Spain, Morocco, France, Egypt, China, Pakistan and Nepal.

Fenugreek has been known and used in cooking since antiquity and the name is derived from the Latin for ‘Greek hay’ and it is also sometimes called wild clover.  Charred remains of the plant have been excavated from a dig dated to 4,000 BC at a site called Tell Halal in Iraq and dried out fenugreek seeds were found stored in the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamen to flavour his favourite dishes in the afterlife.  Fenugreek seeds are widely used as a spice in Indian cuisine and are known as methi. The seeds can be used raw or they can be toasted. Widely utilised in making curry sauces and pickles, they are a deep golden yellow in colour and cube shaped.

So why is including fenugreek in your diet so beneficial?

Arthritis  -  fenugreek is thought to be very useful in reducing the pain and symptoms of arthritis because of the correlation between its wide use in Indian cooking and how relatively free of arthritis much of the Indian population is.  To alleviate arthritis pain drink a cup of tea once a day brewed from fenugreek leaves, or swallow a couple of grams of seeds with warm water when you first get up in the morning and before you have a drink or clean your teeth.  Known as Hu Lu Ba in Traditional Chinese medicine, fenugreek seeds are believed to soothe and heal pains in the joints and also have no side effects.

Boosting The Immune System – fenugreek is a rich source of Vitamin C and other antioxidants, which really help your body as they help to clear out all the free-radicals that can damage your cells.

Common Colds – for those of you who suffer from regular colds, you might want start eating curry regularly as fenugreek contains an effective antiviral that helps to prevent colds starting and if one does take hold can help alleviate debilitating and annoying systems such as coughing, sneezing, running noses, and sore throats.  It is also a useful herb to help with getting rid of all the mucous that can build up when you have a really nasty cold.

PMS and Menopause – one of the compounds contained in fenugreek is diosgenin, which has very similar properties to oestrogen. Therefore, it is thought that adding the herb to your cooking can help with some of the more distressing symptoms of PMS and the menopause such as hot flushes, and can even help to raise your libido!

Increasing Milk Supply – fenugreek seeds are regarded as galactagogue, and are consumed by nursing mothers who are having trouble producing in order to stimulate their milk supply. 
Diabetes – medical trials have been conducted that have shown that taking fenugreek seeds can ameliorate many of the symptoms of both type-1 and type-2 diabetes, by helping to reduce serum glucose and also by increasing glucose tolerance.

Constipation – if you suffer from constipation you may find that including fenugreek in your diet could help as it has a lot of dietary fibre.  One way to use it to help with your constipation is to swallow a few seeds at bedtime with a glass of warm water.  Your problem should then sort itself out the next morning.
So as you can see, you can use fenugreek in your cooking or take supplements to help improve many different health conditions and give yourself a much needed boost.

Disclaimer:  Please be aware that any information given in this article should in no way be used to replace advice given to you by your medical practitioner.  Anybody suffering from a medical condition or is at all concerned should always consult their doctor before changing their diet or starting to take any form of dietary supplement.  Also be aware that while consuming fenugreek or taking fenugreek supplements is generally regarded as being good for you, there are no guarantees that your health will improve.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Can Taking Zinc Help To Cure A Cold?

What Is A Common Cold?

Are you suffering from a cold at the moment?  If you are, then you are definitely not alone, and you are probably looking at up to seven days of feeling ill and miserable. These viral infections are known as the common cold for a reason, as on average adults catch two to four of them a year, and young children can catch as many as ten, probably because their immune system’s are not as well developed as an adult’s.  You are more likely to catch a cold during the chilly winter months, and women are more likely to develop a cold than men.  The common cold is a minor virus infection, and as there are over 200 viruses that can trigger a cold, you are unlikely to build up immunity to them all. So what symptoms can you look forward to when you develop a cold? Typically the symptoms of a cold are coughing, sneezing, sore throat, streaming eyes and nose, and a general feeling of being unwell. If your cold is more severe you may experience a high temperature, aching limbs and headaches.  Common colds are self-limiting infections and your symptoms will more than likely subside within a week, but you may be surprised to know that for all the medical expertise and knowledge we now have in the world, there is not yet a cure for the common cold or anything to really prevent them developing.

Is Zinc an Effective Cold Remedy?

The cold virus is easily spread by coughing and sneezing, and you can also pick up a cold by touching surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus.  So one way to help ward off a cold is to wash your hands frequently, and try and avoid putting your hands near your mouth and eyes.  There are also some supplements that are supposed to boost your immune system and help you to resist catching cold such as Vitamin C and echinacea, but their benefits have not been proven and they will not cure your cold.  However, experts have now announced that they believe that taking the essential mineral zinc, in the form of zinc tablets, lozenges or syrup, within a day of your cold symptoms starting may help you to recover more swiftly from your symptoms and even help you resist catching the cold in the first place.  The Cochrane Systemic Review collated data from 15 different trials that involved 1360 people and compared the efficacy of zinc against a placebo for treating the common cold.  The trials found that more of the patients who had been given zinc to take every couple of hours during the course of their cold were symptom free after seven days than the cold sufferers who had taken a placebo. It was also found that the children who had been given zinc lozenges or zinc syrup to take daily for at least five months had contracted colds less frequently and had also missed less days of school.  However, all the trials were based on different criteria, the length of the trials were different as were the dosages of zinc given, so the experts have found it difficult to reach a conclusive view of exactly how successful zinc is in combating the symptoms of the common cold.

 How Does Zinc Work Against Colds?

So how do the health experts think that the zinc works against the cold virus? It is thought that zinc works on the cold virus by coating it and stopping it from getting into the body through the delicate lining of the nose.  Tests in the laboratory also showed that that zinc helped by stopping the cold virus replicating itself, which would mean that it could not spread through the body and cause infection. The results from the trials also suggested that taking zinc could help to boost the immune system, and also lessen the severity of the cold symptoms being experienced. These trials show that taking zinc could be a very beneficial addition to the fight against the common cold, as although there are currently lots of OTC cold remedies on the market, most of them do not put a stop to the symptoms of the cold or diminish their severity.  So should we all rush out and start taking zinc supplements so that we can recover from our colds more quickly and even prevent them altogether? The researchers who amassed the data for the Cochrane Systemic Review and the health experts have been cautious about making any recommendations about the use of zinc, as they came to no firm conclusions regarding the optimal dosage, formulation or length of time that the zinc should be taken. Some of the patients who took the zinc during the trials experienced some unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, diarrhoea and an unpleasant aftertaste, that were not felt by those taking the placebo. So before zinc can be universally regarded as a common cold remedy by medical professionals, further research needs to be done on the dosage, treatment length and possible adverse side effects.

However, if you would like to see if you could help to ward off colds or reduce the severity of your cold symptoms by taking zinc, you will find that there are already many different zinc supplements on the market.  You can buy zinc syrup, tablets, sprays and lozenges, although allowing zinc lozenges to dissolve slowly in your mouth is one of the best ways to absorb the mineral.  You can also buy supplements that combine zinc with Vitamin C, other minerals or echinacea, most of which are designed to boost your immune system and fight off infections, such as colds.  If you have any underlying chronic health conditions or are at all concerned about starting to take zinc supplements, you should consult your medical practitioner.  Of course, the most natural way to get enough zinc is to ensure that your diet contains adequate supplies of zinc rich foods.  Oysters are a very good source of zinc, as is red meat, crab, lobster, turkey, the brown meat of chicken, nuts, some beans and dairy products.

Hopefully further medical trials will go on to prove that zinc can help to ward off the common cold and alleviate the symptoms, and that we can then say that we are a bit further forward in finding a cure for the common cold.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Why Use a Herbal Toothpaste? – Meswak Toothpaste

Do you ever think of using natural products when you are thinking of your oral hygiene? Have you thought about what type of toothpaste you use when you brush your teeth in the mornings?  For years I have used the branded toothpastes that you can buy in the supermarkets, but somehow, whatever the promises on the side of the tube, my mouth never felt as fresh as I would like it to be.  However, one day my friend told me about a herbal toothpaste that she had started to use regularly and how much it had improved her bleeding gums.

The name of the toothpaste that she showed me was Meswak toothpaste, sometimes called Miswak toothpaste, and could be found in my local Asian shop.  I have started to use it every time I brush and already my mouth is feeling better and fresher.  So what is Meswak toothpaste?  Meswak toothpaste is a herbal paste that is derived from a shrub found throughout India, Asia, Africa and the Middle East called Salvadora persica.

Salvadora persica is also known as the toothbrush tree and local people would break off a small twig from the shrub to clean their teeth on a daily basis, and it was noticed that although many of these people had poor diets they still had excellent teeth and healthy gums.  Scientific research was undertaken and it was found that Salvadora persica had great natural antiseptic properties. Miswak was also recommended for use to promote oral health by the World Health Organisation in 1996.

Because of these wonderful healthy benefits it was decided to create toothpaste from the toothpaste tree and this paste is now call Meswak toothpaste.  Commercial brands contain many harsh chemicals, such as fluoride, artificial colours and sweeteners and sodium laurel sulphate that can have detrimental effects on our health when we ingest them into our bodies.  Meswak is a completely natural way to clean your tooth, and contains only natural ingredients.  It is also a suitable paste to be used by vegetarians, vegans and even the kids!  It does not have the minty taste that we generally associate with cleaning our teeth and freshening our breath, but I find that Meswak toothpaste has a fairly mild flavour with a hint of liquorice.

So if you want to move away from manufactured products, full to the brim of nasty chemicals, and start using more natural oral hygiene products, why not try out some herbal toothpaste?  If they do not stock Meswak toothpaste in your local supermarket or you do not have a local Asian shop, then have a look online.  You can find it easily on Amazon and will soon be able to clean your teeth and keep your teeth and gums healthy naturally and also be able to rest in the comfort that you are not putting any more harsh chemicals into your body.