Latest research shows that the common elderberry, which has been used for centuries to treat various conditions, can provide protection from cold and flu-like symptoms after long-haul flights.
According to lead author, Evelin Tiralongo, from Griffith University, a clinical trial showed that an elderberry supplement can provide protection to holidaymakers from cold and flu symptoms on long-haul flights. The holidaymakers were divided into active group and placebo group. The placebo group were not given elderberry as supplement, while the active group were given 300mg of standardised elderberry extract capsules. While the placebo group reported significant increase in cold episodes, with more symptoms, in active group it was not significant.
The clinical trial involved 312 economy class passengers travelling from Australia to overseas destination. The results were presented at Annual International Integrative Medicine Conference.
The elderberry extract was seen to be effective in working against respiratory bacteria and influenza viruses. Episodes of cold, duration of cold and symptoms of participants were recorded before, during and after travel.
Early this year too, there have been medical researches that suggest use of elderberry may reduce swelling in the mucous membranes and relieves congestion. This is because Elderberry contains chemicals which are flavonoids and anti-inflammatory agents. Several parents and paediatricians also believe that elderberry extract or syrup may help children stay healthy and lessen the symptoms when they get sick.
Elderberries are small black-blue berries with a delicate tangy taste. They grow in cluster and are much in demand across the globe, mainly due to their immense health value. They are packed with antioxidants and will surely be the favourite of all when taken into account the following medicinal values too.
- Viral and bacterial infections: Due to the antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties of berries, elderberry juice is used as treatment for viral infections or bacterial infections. The diverse range of vitamins and minerals present in the extracts offer relief from ailments that arise from bacterial or viral infections. Respiratory illnesses like bronchitis and asthma can be effectively treated with a three-week course of diluted elderberry administered twice a day.
- Urinary Tract Infections: Diluted elderberry can be administered for people with urinary tract infections. Elderberry juice has the ability to flush out toxins that accumulate around the urinary tract.
- Immunity: Elderberry juice is excellent for building up the immune system, and hence, highly recommended for individuals with suppressed immune system.
- Diabetes: Elderberry juice is used as treatment for diabetes. They have plenty of bioactive compounds and carb-degrading enzymes that help in absorption of carbohydrates, thereby controlling blood sugar levels. Hence, elderberry can even be considered as alternative treatment for blood sugar regulation.
- Cancer: As Elderberries are loaded with antioxidants they have the ability to fight free radicals by minimizing the risk of life threatening diseases. The bioflavonoids in elderberry juice prevent cell damage and minimize risk of cancer.
- Constipation: Elderberry juice has high fibre content, and hence is an excellent remedy for constipation. The ripe berries have diuretic properties, and the berry juice also acts as laxative.
- Cold and flu: This ancient herbal remedy is foremost in treating common cold/sore throat, inflammation, asthma, influenza, sinusitis and bronchitis.
- Kidney: When used in dried form, in tea, elderberry tea is also referred to as kidney tea as it increases urine output and helps eliminate excess water from the body.
- Inflamed intestines: The elderberry jam is mildly laxative and helps in treating rheumatism.
- Injuries/wounds: They are used in treating wounds, bruises and injuries. The leaves of Elderberry help in relieving pain and promote healing of injuries when applied as poultice
- Elderberry is also an excellent skin tonic.
How to use:
For infusion: Put 2gm to 5gm of dried flowers into a cup of boiling water and infuse for 5 to 10min. do not strain and drink thrice a day.
Tincture: Take 20 drops in a glass of water, and consume thrice a day after meals.
Mouthwash: Boil water and add 50g of flowers and boil for 5 minutes. Allow to cool. This can be used as gargle or mouthwash four to six times a day, and is good for sore throat, inflamed gums and other such issues.
Curcumin, present in turmeric, when combined with omega-3 fat, could potentially delay or prevent the onset of type2 diabetes, reveal researchers.
The scientists from University of Newcastle’s Nutraceuticals Research Group, led by Prof. Manohar Garg, revealed that they are conducting a clinical study to find out if the Indian spice, turmeric, when combined with an omega-3 fat can actually delay the onset of type 2 diabetes or prevent its onset altogether.
Speaking on this, Garg said, the root cause of Type 2 diabetes is systemic inflammation, which impacts insulin secretion and functioning. The aim is to nip this inflammation in the budy. The study will make use of two bioactive compounds commonly found in food, curcumin and omega-3 fat, and both are very vital anti-inflammatory agents.
Derived from turmeric, curcumin forms part of ginger family, and is used as a common spice in Indian kitchen and also used for food colouration. The healing properties of turmeric are well-known in India. For centuries, turmeric has been used in healing sprains, bruises, wounds and inflammation.
But even in India, the level of intake of curcumin has significantly reduced as Indians have switched over to westernised fast foods, and hence, there has also been considerable increase in cases of type 2 diabetes. In fact, diabetes is more like an epidemic in India now, and growing to be a major health burdern, Garg said.
The randomised control trial will test both compounds, with recruitment group being segregted into four – one group with just curcumin, second with omega-3 fat only, third with curcumin and omega 3, and fourth will be the control group.
Capsules containing 200mg of curcumin and 1g of omega-3 fat respectively will be given to people who are prone to develop diabetes due to impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose, in the age group 30 to 70 years.
The anti-inflammatory mechanism of curcumin and omega-3 fats are different, and hence it should be tested if they complement each other, and have treatment synergies beyond their individual effects. It is however, presumed that the combination is safe and free of any associated side-effects, and will prove to be as effective as the drugs used for management of diabetes, he pointed out.
Numerous therapeutic activities have been assigned to turmerice for treatment of a great variety of disease and conditions, including skin, pulmonary and gastrointenstional systems like pains, wounds, sprains and liver disorders, since the time of Ayurveda.
Over the last half century, extensive researches have proven that most of the activities associated with turmeric are due to the presence of ‘curcumin’, which has shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial and anticancer, and hence has a potential against various malignant diseases, allergies, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic illness.
Tumeric has been used for centuries in Ayurveda, and is believed to balance the three doshas vata, pitta and kapha. Ayurvedic practioners recommend turmeric as medicine internal in the form of fresh juice, tinctures, boiled tea, or in powdered form, and also topically used in the form of lotions, pastes, creams and ointments. Moreover, now science believes that ‘multitargeted’ therapy is better than ‘monotargeted’ therapy for most diseases, for which, curcumin is ideal. Hence curcumin is also considered to be an ideal ‘ Spice for Life’.
In our day-to-day life, hardly anything can be done to reduce the quantum of work we do, but, it is in our hands to decide how we can help our body to cope with it, and maintain our energy and vitality.
Ayurveda, the unique combination of science and values, implies that to lead a balanced and healthy life, there should be equilibrium and synchronization between our mental and physical energies, our constitutions and the five elements of nature. If we adapt and adopt these natural principles in our daily life, it is possible to realize the spiritual harmony and holistic wellness.
We divert ourselves from balanced state when we are over stressed and overworked, and tend overeating and thereby increasing our waistlines. Food and lifestyle play a huge role in maintaining our work-life balance. Getting back to basics and getting back to nature by living the Ayurveda lifestyle, may be the best way ahead.
Sleep well: Our body requires 6 to 8 hours of undisturbed sleep daily. More so, nothing can match a good night’s sleep. Half-an-hour before bedtime, ensure that you stay away from all electronic gadgets including television, mobiles or laptops, and instead read your favourite book, or listen to soothing music for relaxation. Reserve late-night parties only for the weekends.
Begin your day with the right note: Having tea or coffee is the wrong beginning to start your day, as it makes your system acidic. Instead, start your day with an alkaline note. Early morning our body is very receptive to what we eat or drink and absorbs very fast. Hence, start your day with a glass of fresh vegetable juice or plain lime water (lukewarm) with a dash of honey added to it. If not all this, simply have a cup of chamomile or jasmine tea.
Warm-up: Make sure you do at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, including stretches, mobility exercise, walking, followed by yoga. Exercising in open is the best, as it will fill your lungs with oxygen, and soothe your eyes and freshen your mind. Do ‘pranayam’ to relax tired body and nerves.
Meditation: Set aside a few minutes every day for meditation. You can also consider this as the quality ‘me’ time which gives you inner peace and strength to face daily life stress. Meditate either in the morning or in the evening, or if time permits, twice a day. But, ensure that you choose a calm and quite place and time for meditation.
Food & water intake: Watch for food, as food is the fuel that keeps your body running. Fibre-rich cereals like oats, corn, barley, whole wheat, brown rice are the best. Include plant proteins like grams, lentils, and beans, apart from animal proteins. Avoid egg yolk and red meat if you have high cholesterol. Limit your daily fat intake, opting for baking or sautéing instead of frying. Use low fat cheese and other dairy products, and avoid trans-fats. Have whole fruits rather than fruit juices. Nuts are good too. Healthy nuts like almonds and walnuts can be consumed in minimal quantities.
Work stress or any kind of stress can lead to production of free radicals in the body, which can lead to degeneration, and premature ageing. To fight them, include foods like citrus fruits, apple and amla, broccoli, wheat grass juice, sprout, pumpkin, carrots and soy.
Also, keep sugar and salt to minimum. To meet your sugar cravings, indulge in fruity delights or raisins and dates. Avoid spicy food, as they contain more salt than usual.
Keep a glass of water handy and sip at regular intervals while at work. Out body requires minimum of 6 to 10 glasses of fluid per day, and nothing can replace a glass of pure water. Instead of tea/coffee, have green tea/lemonade/vegetable or herbal juices.
It is important to maintain an ideal body weight.
At work: While at work, take a five-minute break every hour to stretch your body. Look away from the computer screen and do few rounds of deep breathing. Devote exclusive time to eating and do not have food in front of computer, or speaking over phone. Drink water only after an hour after your meals. Stroll a while after lunch and dinner.
Pamper your body: When back from work, soak your feet in hot water tub to which few drops of aroma oil like lavender is added, if time permits. Sprinkle your eyes with clean water while holding water in your mouth for a few seconds. Repeat three times, as this gets your eyes hydrated.
Early dinner: An early dinner complements the active body, and goes a long way in preventing weight gain and helps induce better sleep. Moreover, drinking a glass of lukewarm milk at bedtime can help in giving you a sound undisturbed sleep.
Plan an outing: Plan weekly getaways or outdoor excursions. If picnic is not possible, go cycling or do any such outdoor activity that you enjoy doing.
It has been said that while yoga is an ancient science devoted to balancing the mind for self-realization and awareness, Ayurveda is its inseparable sister science, devoted to balancing the mind in relation to the body.
Ayurveda has been practiced for centuries now, along with yoga, and is based on the vedas. Yoga has its origins in ‘Yajur veda’, while Ayurveda originates in ‘Atharva Veda and Rig Veda’. Ayurveda focuses on the individual balance and the balance between the individual and the laws of nature.
Ayurveda’s methods have been based on the principles of the five elements, and when they are balanced, the individual is healthy, and when one of them is out of order, it manifests as illness. Most yogis are aware of this concept of Ayurveda and doshas (vata, pitta and kapha). Both yoga and Ayurveda are based on the principles of trigunas (sattva, rajas and tamas), and the panchamahabhutas or the five elements (earth, fire, air, space and water). Yoga and Ayurveda encompass an understanding of how the body works, and the impact that food and medicines have on the body.
Balance, prevention and self-care is the key in Ayurveda, and for this, several simple practices that are particularly beneficial for our body can be incorporated into our daily routine easily. In fact, Ayurveda and yoga are inter-dependent on each other. For instance, Abhyanga (daily massage with warm oil) helps prepare the muscles and joints to do asana. Simple cleansing procedures like Nasya (nasal irrigation using neti pot) helps in breathing and meditation during yoga. Following a diet based on one’s dosha, can actually help improve digestion and increase energy.
Yoga ultimately focuses on self-realization, and Ayurveda helps in building a foundation for self-realization by rendering a practical means by helping us understand how our body works.
Both Ayurveda and yoga have eight branches, and hence the term ‘Ashtanga yoga’ and ‘Ashtanga ayurveda’. They share a common understanding of a healthy body being dependent on physical and mental balance. They share the same metaphysical anatomy and physiology.
Both Ayurveda and yoga promote sattvic diet (light and pure) in nature, i.e, foods that are in balance to one’s constitution (based on doshas) and categories of food – sour, salty, sweet, bitter, pungent and astringent. Yoga believes that we are what we eat.
Yoga postures can also be used as a form of therapy to resolve bodily complaints. This is why, when viewing from an Ayurvedic perspective, yogic postures are recommended for several bodily complaints, along with herbs and ayurvedic therapies. For instance, indigestion is considered to be due to excessive amount of pitta energy in Ayurveda, while a common cold is due to excessive amount of kapha, and constipation due to excessive amount of vata. Hence, for each such condition, along with managing diet and herbal remedies, the disease is resolved by practice of specific yoga postures.
Every imbalance of the doshas are related to certain postures, and the sequences of these postures help create better harmony in the body. For example, a pitta-based sequence will help cool off the excess heat in the body, when calming and restorative postures are practiced.
Both Yoga and Ayurveda recommend regular practice of pranayama, meditation, yoga poses, mantra chanting, and use of herbs.
On the whole, just as an ayurvedic doctor has put it, “Ayurveda is the science and yoga is the practice of science”. Hence, Ayurveda and Yoga are inseparable and continue to remain relevant in modern day, offering insights about inner human nature and our relationship with the natural world around us.
With the world celebrating the International Yoga Day tomorrow, the 21st June 2015, proposed to the UN by the Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, and accepted with acclamation, yoga’s popularity is likely to get another boost.
Originated in ancient India, yoga makes use of different movements, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques that help in leading a healthy life, while keeping stress at bay. Although yoga is a powerful technique that is absolutely relevant to the modern world, and bearing in mind that yoga is one of the best remedies ever known to humankind, it cannot be however be denied that the pure concept of yoga is often misrepresented and packaged in present day world.
Yoga has been watered down, where people now confuse it with other exercise programs, build profit making ventures in the name of yoga, and sometimes those who are unaware of its value, even regard it as a religion. On the whole, yoga has been surrounded by confusion, and it needs clarity that yoga is indeed a union of mind, body and spirit.
In ancient days when yoga originated, it was practised in the peaceful environment of forest or mountains. Today, yoga is practised in air conditioned enclosures at homes, fitness centres, attractive resorts and even at offices. Although commercialisation has boosted the popularity of yoga and helped in creating awareness among people, it has also been simultaneously glamorized to suit modern taste, thereby losing its authenticity of age-old discipline, experts worry.
According to experts, commercialisation of yoga can have both positive and negative impact. However, during the journey, we need to treasure the traditional yoga style and maintain its authenticity, rather than mix up various styles of yoga.
The origins of yoga which dates back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions have been introduced to the west by yoga gurus from India. It is estimated that there are atleast 250 million people across the world who practise yoga.
Over the years, yoga has evolved into forms like Ashtanga yoga, power yoga, hot yoga and more. Today, yoga is being offered in several venues, in different styles, and with more teachers. But, when teaching the yoga forms and values, the yoga teachers should ensure the promotion of authentic yoga, and hence, certification of yoga teacher from a good institute should be made mandatory.
However, with increasing popularity of yoga, it is also sad to note that yoga is growing to be a global business. It has lead to opening of multiple training centres all over the world. Bikram Yoga, an international chain has opened its first franchisee in India (monthly membership of Rs.6000 exclusive of taxes, or annual membership of Rs.50,000 plus tax). Further, the fact that yoga is indeed, growing to be a global business, is also proven by the variety of designer apparel and practice mats and yoga pants that are available in the market today.
So as yoga is all set to create waves across the world, and is in the process of dragging many more into its path, let the authenticity and traditionalism of yoga remain. It is in the hands of yoga gurus or teachers to see that the original and traditional form of yoga does not get adulterated due to blending of various styles, and lose out on its true value, while they pass on the techniques to millions.
Although you are aware by now, that yoga helps in dealing with various ailments from stress to arthritis, you also ought to know that there are certain specific yoga poses that are beneficial in handling certain specific health issues. Mentioned below are some of such specific yoga poses that can help you in effectively dealing with hypertension and diabetes, the two common lifestyle diseases noticed among youngsters today.
Yoga postures for diabetics
Practise of yoga on daily basis can actually help you in preventing the onset of this chronic condition. However, practice of these yoga asanas can help in improving insulin sensitivity and in lowering blood sugar levels, while also stimulating and detoxifying all your internal organs. One of the main reasons for increase in blood sugar is when your body releases stress hormones, and yoga can help in calming stress levels effectively. Some yoga postures that can help you in keeping blood sugar level balanced are:
Gomukhasana induces relaxation, stimulates kidneys, stretches the muscles of lower back, buttocks and knees, while the pelvic and reproductive organs are toned and massaged well by regular practice of Gokhumakasana, which is considered highly beneficial in tackling diabetes, high blood pressure and sexual malfunction.
Ardha matsyendrasana is considered a boon for diabetics, as regular practice of this yoga pose helps to instruct the beta cells of pancreas to secrete more insulin, as this posture particularly stimulates the pancreas. Secretion of insulin stabilizes sugar levels in blood, and hence, is beneficial in diabetes.
When performing Paschimottanasana, the abdominal organs are highly benefitted. It stimulates the manipura chakra and life energy, increases blood supply in the back, stretches the muscles of back and along the back of the legs. It also activates pancreas and kidney functioning, and hence controls weight and keeps diabetes at bay.
Any yoga which gently compresses the organs beneath the abdomen, intestine, liver and pancrease, makes the organ to begin functioning as expected, and hence, in-turn, keeps blood sugar levels normal. Sarvangasana also gently massages the thyroid and parathyroid glands by its firm chin-lock. This gentle massage increases fresh blood circulation to the glands and helps it work to its full efficacy.
Halasana, Adho Mukho Snavasana, and Malasana are the other useful poses for diabetics, and those aiming to keep diabetes at bay.
Yoga postures for hypertension
Hypertension is also referred to as ‘high blood pressure’ and this has grown to be one of the silent killers of the modern era. Hence, if your blood pressure is on the higher side, you may try one of these yoga poses to keep hypertension under check.
If you are suffering from hypertension, your arteries are likely to contract, which may lead to heart attack or stroke. Therefore, forward-bending poses like paschimottanasana can help keep arteries flexible and lower blood pressure naturally.
Relaxation poses like shavasana or corpse pose, relieves muscle tension and releases stress, hence it is excellent to lower blood pressure.
Hypertension may result in anxiety and anger, and hence, helps free your mind of unnecessary clutter that breeds anxiety. It helps flush-out toxins, which in turn helps relieve stress.
Anulom Vilom Pranayam
This yoga pose is a great way to calm the mind. The pranayama lessens anxiety and slows down your heart-rate, lowering blood pressure and balancing the immune and endocrine systems.
Adho mukha svanasana
This is also known as ‘downward facing dog’, and is a great posture in relieving stress and tension from your shoulders and entire back.
Also known as bridge pose, it helps improve blood circulation, improves concentration, and reduces stress and tension.
Other sitting postures like Sukhasana, can also have a therapeutic effect, for people with hypertension, and helps in calming your mind and body.
For centuries Ayurveda has been using the flower, root and leaves of the dandelion plant for various medical purposes. However, it is the root part that is mostly used for medicinal purposes. Dandelion is popular for its ability to support healthy liver functioning. Moreover, there are proven evidences that emphasize on the curative properties of the great green dandelion.
For healthy liver
Dandelion tops the list of best foods for the liver. The herb has been used for centuries now to treat jaundice and also helps in cases of liver dysfunction, hepatitis, liver disease and cirrhosis (the herb increases bile production and cleanses blood stream). It is also excellent for liver detoxification.
A study in August 2010 published in the Journal of Medicinal Food demonstrated that dandelion greens extract can considerably suppress nitric oxide, cytokines and prostaglandins, the pro-inflammatory molecules.
A study published in the International Journal of Oncology has revealed that the anti-carcinogenic activity of dandelion may be of much value making it the ideal anti-cancer agent, as the extracts of the root flower blocked the invasion of both breast cancer cells and prostate cancer cells.
Ayurveda has been using dandelion for centuries now, as a natural diuretic. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine long demonstrated that dandelion extract helped in considerable increase in urination frequency demonstrated by trial subjects on administration of the extract. Hence, it is used in treating oedema commonly noticed in patients with kidney disease.
Magnesium which is available in plenty in this herb makes it very valuable in treating bone disorders. This can be mixed with juices of leaves of turnips and carrots for treating these disorders.
Dandelion can be used as a general body tonic for its influence in supporting waste functions of bladder, bowels and skin, which are hard-working eliminating organs of our body.
Other medicinal uses
Apart from the said, dandelion is traditionally being used for gall bladder and urinary disorders, gall stones, dyspepsia, constipation, edema associated with high blood pressure and heart disease, skin disorders, gout, arthritis, eczema, and on stings, sores etc. Sometimes it is also effective in treating certain kinds of viruses in the body.
In cases of stomach irritations, the decoction of extract of dandelion when consumed thrice or four times a day, would serve as a valuable remedy, increasing appetite and promoting digestion.
When it comes to good health, nothing can beat dandelion greens, as they provide calcium, iron, fibre, magnesium, niacin, phosphorous, sodium, Vitamin E, A and K and powerful antioxidants including Betacarotene and lutein. An analysis of dandelion is said to contain fat, protein and carbohydrates.
In fact, dandelion greens can be included in your diet or meal in the form of salads, smoothies, soups and teas. Dandelion coffee can be made too, using dried, roasted and ground roots. It serves as a natural beverage, minus the negative effects of conventional tea and coffee.
After Green tea, it is the turn of Chamomile Tea to make headlines. Chamomile tea has made it to the popularity charts with the latest study claiming that drinking chamomile tea can help in boosting longevity.
Drinking chamomile tea can be particularly beneficial for women, over 65 years of age, as it can considerably reduce the risk of death from many causes, the study confirmed.
Chamomile is one of the oldest and most widely used medicinal plants in the world, recommended for various healing applications. Consuming chamomile tea helps in 29 percent decrease in risk of death due to various causes among women, in comparison to non-users.
However, the study did not specify the reason for particular emphasis on women in the report. But it is generally believed that women consume chamomile tea more than men.
The study was conducted over a seven year period, during which, researchers tracked the effects of chamomile tea and cause of death in 1677 women and men over age 65 years.
The researchers however said, it is still unclear how the use of chamomile was associated with decreased mortality. Further, recent studies have also shown potential benefits of chamomile in treating hyperglycemia, diabetic complications, upset stomach, cholesterol lowering, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-platelet and anxiety disorders.
Further, did you know that chamomile tea can work wonders as a beauty aid too? Chamomile tea bags help reduce under-eye dark circles and soothes tired eyes, when blended with powdered milk chamomile tea works as a great facila scrub, when consumed on regular basis chamomile tea provides moisturization and nourishment to the skin, it brightens up the blonde hair instantly, is a wonderful hair lightener, and prevents and eliminates dandruff.
Ayurveda has always believed in the immense health benefits of chamomile. Ayurveda believes that chamomile oil helps in reducing excess kapha and pitta doshas.
Chamomile oil is considered to be safe enough to be used on babies, and it is believed to pacify and calm irritable babies. About 2 drops of chamomile oil can be added on bed linens or on the baby’s pillow. Else, mix a drop of chamomile oil with 10 drops of virgin olive oil and massage on your baby’s tummy to get rid of pain or colic.
Among adults too, it has been recently found that chamomile extract therapy helps treat mild to moderate Generalized Anxiety Disorder, wherein the calm and relaxing effects of the oil help in sedating the system and stimulating good sleep. Just add 2 to 3 drops of the oil to a tissue placed near your pillows. The oil (5-6 drops) can also be added to warm bathing water in the night before going to bed. It helps in tranquilizing the nervous system.
Chamomile essential oil has wonderful anti-inflammatory properties too and helps reduce pimples, blackheads, itchiness and heat rashes during summer. It is also said to reduce discomforts associated with psoriasis, eczema, diaper rashes, skin ulcers, bruises, sunburns and other skin conditions.
Mixing three drops of Chamomile oil with 1.5ml of almond oil and massaging on affected parts of the skin helps in healing of wounds, cuts, blisters, and other skin problems.
Chamomile essential oil has carminative, stomachic, digestive properties, thereby supporting the digestive system and stimulating the metabolic functions.
It is used in Ayurvedic healing in the treatment of flatulence, dysmennorhea, headache, nervous disorders in children, amenorrhea, colic, insomnia, depression and negative feelings.