Keeping your skin smooth, supple, and taut may not be something that you ponder on a daily basis. But as the skin ages, cell numbers decrease and the dermis (the layer of skin lying immediately beneath the epidermis) becomes thinner. As a result, the dermis is less capable of retaining its moisture content. New cell growth is minimal, and existing cells have a difficult time repairing themselves.
Charles Zugerman, M.D., associate professor of clinical dermatology at Northwestern University and a dermatologist in private practice in Chicago, explains it this way: “There are two types of aging. The first is chronological, which means we get older physiologically and this causes wrinkling. Aging is also caused by sun exposure. Chronological aging is a result of diminishing elastin and collagen resulting in less resilient skin. This sort of aging is very difficult to reverse.”
Zugerman likens popular resurfacing techniques like microdermabrasion (an exfoliation process), chemical peeling, and CO2 laser peeling to stripping an old wood floor. “Once you take off all of the scratched and unattractive wood, you find untouched wood that is lovely,” he says. “The deeper the peeling technique, the more you will find wonderful skin. There is a possibility that collagen is produced because of the damage caused during the process. Because of this, the skin will look better. Some fine lines and wrinkling will be removed.”
Lori Van Wormer, an esthetician for Great Skin, a skin-care provider and retailer in New Mexico, employs more natural approaches. Van Wormer advocates the topical use of antioxidants, particularly vitamin C (ascorbic acid).
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Always hydrate your skin with a good moisturizer.
“It’s very important to apply serums and vitamin treatments right after cleansing with warm water so that the pores are open and the product can penetrate,” Van Wormer says. She advises alternating retinolic acids or fruit acids with the vitamin C treatment.
Van Wormer also says that vitamins taken internally are very effective. Antioxidants, vitamin B5, and coenzyme Q10 are among her favorites. “It’s very important to do blood and urine screening to decipher what your needs are nutritionally. Nutrients can harm or help and you need expert advice about your specific needs,” she says.
Essential fatty acids, borage oil, flaxseed oil, and omega-3 fish oils are also excellent for the skin, nails, and hair. A sign of an essential fatty oil deficiency is dry, lifeless skin, brittle nails, and straw-like hair. It’s important to always hydrate your skin with a good moisturizer. Dehydrated skin feels like crepe paper, is easily damaged, more easily wrinkled, formless, and lifeless. What is more, pollutants have a greater chance of penetrating your skin without the protective layer a moisturizer can provide. If you have oily skin, choose a quality oil-free formula and use sparingly.
When it comes to wrinkling, remember that prevention is the key. Sun damage and smoking are both extremely damaging to the skin. Sun protection is very important, so remember to use lots of sunblock with at least 15 SPF (and reapply it regularly) and to wear a wide-brimmed hat!
Purple grape juice protects the heart
Nondrinkers, take heart! New research suggests that purple grape juice may offer all the heart-healthy benefits of red wine—without the alcohol. The small study was the first human trial to show that purple grape juice may have antioxidant effects, similar to those of red wine.
Red wineand purple grape juice are both rich in flavonoids, powerful antioxidant compounds that protect heart health by reducing the oxidation of blood fats and through antiplatelet or “blood thinning” effects. Both of these actions are important in preventing the development of atherosclerosis, a hardening and narrowing of the arteries that can lead to heart attack, stroke, and other serious heart problems.
While the health benefits of red wine are increasingly well-known, no human studies have put purple grape juice to the test until now. The new study showed that two weeks of treatment with purple grape juice relaxed blood vessels and reduced harmful oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad” cholesterol) in people with coronary artery disease. The fifteen study participants drank approximately 21 oz. of purple grape juice a day. Although the study was too small and short in duration to allow for definite conclusions about purple grape juice, the results support the idea that flavonoids—not alcohol—are responsible for the health benefits of red wine.
In red grapes, the flavonoids are concentrated in the skins and seeds, and are easily extracted when the grapes are crushed in the process of making wine or juice. White grape juice and white wine, however, have a lower flavonoid content than red. Although red grapes are also used in making white wine, the skins and seeds are separated from the juice immediately, before the antioxidant compounds can be extracted.
Stein, J. H., et al. “Purple grape juice improves endothelial function and reduces the susceptibility of LDL cholesterol to oxidation in patients with coronary artery disease.” Circulation 1999, 100:1050–1055.
Ginseng reduces blood sugar
American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) caused a 20 percent drop in blood sugar levels in Type II diabetics as well as nondiabetics when taken forty minutes before a meal, according to recent research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The research was conducted on nineteen people, nine with diabetes and ten without. Blood sugar levels dropped 20 percent in both groups, compared to those given a placebo capsule. Though encouraged by their results, the researchers say it’s too soon to recommend ginseng as a treatment for diabetes.
Cocoa for cholesterol
Cocoa, the compound behind chocolate’s well-known flavor, may help prevent cholesterol-related artery damage, preliminary research suggests. The researchers, who presented their findings at the Experimental Biology 2000 conference, discovered that cocoa seems to have high levels of flavonoids—the antioxidant compounds found in tea, fruits, and vegetables. So should you run out and buy a stash of chocolate bars? Not so fast, say the researchers. The cocoa they tested was defatted cocoa extract, a far cry from high-fat candy bars or hot chocolate mixes.
Lower your cataract risk
People who eat foods containing high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, two important carotenoids, may have a lower-than-normal risk of developing cataracts, a gradual clouding of the eye’s lens and one of the most common causes of vision loss. The best lutein sources include spinach, kiwis, corn, red grapes, and yellow squash. To get adequate zeaxanthin in your diet, be sure to include plenty of oranges, corn, honeydew melon, and orange bell peppers. Previous studies have shown that the carotenoids may also reduce macular degeneration.
Vitamin C for gallbladder health
Researchers from the University of California at San Francisco have found that vitamin C may help prevent women from developing gallbladder disease and that a lack of the vitamin may be a risk factor for developing the disease. According to the researchers, just one large orange per day could be enough for women to raise the levels of vitamin C in their blood. The researchers did not recommend an excess of 1,000 mg daily of the vitamin, saying larger amounts are not well absorbed by the body. No association among men was found—men are less likely to develop gallstones.
Help for painful periods
Danish researchers have discovered that a program that combines omega-3 fatty acids (particularly fish oil) with vitamin B12 can help ease the pain many women experience with menstruation. In the study, seventy-eight young women with painful periods were given five capsules daily of either fish oil, fish oil with B12, seal oil, or a placebo. After three months, the women in each of the marine-oil groups reported reduced pain, but the most significant reductions were found in the fish oil with B12 group.
Barberry bush fights bacteria
The barberry bush (Berberis vulgaris), which produces a natural antibiotic called berberine, can combine with antibiotics to make the antibiotics more powerful, according to recent findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. So-called super germs—those that resist even the most powerful antibiotics—have evolved as a result of antibiotic misuse and overuse, and are becoming a common problem. In the lab, researchers found that berberine combined with antibiotics to inhibit the growth of staph, one of the most drug-resistant germs.
New health websites
If the idea of taking control of your health sounds appealing, grab your mouse and log on to the Internet. WholeHealthMD.com is a comprehensive website focusing on integrative medicine and overall wellness. A joint venture between Whole Foods Market (a purveyor of natural foods and personal care products), American WholeHealth (a network of specialists trained in integrative medicine), and Rebus, Inc. (consumer health publishers), it’s an extensive source that provides information on conventional care coupled with alternative therapies.
Once you’ve entered the site, click “Healing Centers” where you may identify a particular chronic condition or common ailment such as migraines, asthma, or PMS and follow a healing path described by a particular integrative practitioner. You’ll learn about symptoms, causes, treatments, preventive measures, helpful supplements, and self-care remedies. All of the recommended treatment products and supplements can be purchased online by following the link to WholePeople.com.
Next click “Healing Kitchen” and learn which foods will ease the symptoms of your particular ailment and then download easy-to-make recipes rich in these ingredients. Other features include “Ask Our Experts,” “News and Perspectives,” “Reference Library,” and “Find a Practitioner.”
Learn about symptoms, causes, treatments, preventive measures, and more.
Log on for healthy eating tips
If you’re looking to improve your diet, visit the new U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Interactive Healthy Eating Index website, www.usda.gov/cnpp. The site allows visitors to compare their own diets against ideal dietary guidelines.
When first logging on to the site, visitors are asked to complete a simple login of name, age, and gender. After you enter all the foods you’ve eaten in the past day, the program provides a score on overall diet quality and tells how much total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium is present in your diet.
When entering foods into the site’s database, it’s important to be specific. For example, entering “apple” results in 107 apple-containing items to scroll through. Typing in “apple, fresh” yields just one result.
Special care for sore muscles
Try this bath and after-bath oil when your muscles are tired and sore. While the bath is soothing and relaxing, the body oil is energizing with fresh thyme and rosemary.
Post-Exercise Muscle Saver
1 teaspoon juniper (Juniperus communis) berries
2 tablespoons peppermint (Mentha ¥piperita), fresh or dried
2 tablespoons spearmint (Mentha spicata), fresh or dried
2 tablespoons lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) flowers and leaves, fresh or dried
Place all ingredients in a muslin bag or disposable bath tea bag. Add the bag to your bathtub and fill the tub with water. This bath is also enjoyable for people with arthritis.
1/2 cup sesame oil
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Combine the ingredients in a sanitized bottle. Allow the mixture to stand for a week to release the oils from the rosemary and thyme. Then store the oil in the refrigerator for up to three months, using as needed for dry skin.
Adapted with permission from The Skin Care Book (Interweave Press, 1997) by Kathlyn Quatrochi. To order, call (800) 645-3675.
Getting enough of the Bs?
We all know that vegetarian diets can be healthy for us. By limiting our intake of animal products, we can reduce our risk of developing many diseases, including cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer.
However, French researchers recently discovered that a strict vegan diet—one that includes no animal products—can cause blindness.
A thirty-three-year-old man who had been on a vegan diet for thirteen years was suffering from progressive vision loss and a severe deficiency in several vitamins and minerals. When he sought help from the French doctors, his eyesight was worse than 20/400 in both eyes, which meant he was almost completely blind.
Deficiencies of vitamins B1 (thiamine) and B12 (cobalamin) were thought to cause the vision loss. These nutrients are important to nerve health.
Here’s a breakdown of the B vitamins you need to stay healthy all around, as well as food sources where you can find the vitamins. If you think you don’t eat enough of the foods listed, consider adding a supplement to your health-care regimen.
•Vitamin B1 (thiamine). Supports brain function and nervous system health. Sources: whole grains, legumes, and nuts.
•Vitamin B2 (riboflavin). Helps maintain healthy skin, hair, and nails; may benefit vision. Sources: eggs, brewer’s yeast, and oily fish such as salmon.
•Vitamin B3 (niacin). Supports sugar metabolism; promotes healthy digestion. Sources: fish, avocados, legumes, and white-meat poultry.
•Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid). Has antistress actions; helps with some types of acne; alleviates nausea. Sources: brewer’s yeast and sweet potatoes.
•Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). Needed for healthy nerves and protein metabolism. Sources: wheat, eggs, and organ meats.
•Vitamin B12 (cobalamin). Increases energy; helps maintain a healthy nervous system. Sources: eggs, dairy products, and meat.
•Folic acid. Helps prevent birth defects; may prevent canker sores. Sources: leafy greens such as spinach and chard, beans, and egg yolks.
Effort underway to replicate gene of Sudanese tree
Thousands of miles from its native Sudan, a lone Acacia senegal grows in a greenhouse in Athens, Ohio.
The scrawny, thorny tree, or, more precisely, what it produces, is under the intense scrutiny of an Ohio University researcher. When injured, the tree oozes a saplike substance known as gum arabic, which protects flavor in soft drinks, stabilizes foam in beer, and makes medicines more “deliverable” to cells. It is an ingredient in textiles, ink, postage-stamp adhesive, and countless other products; ancient Egyptians used it to make flaxen wrappings for mummies.
The majority of the world’s supply of gum arabic comes from Sudan, where the Acacia senegal thrives on the dry, blistering heat. Workers there strip the tree’s bark to prompt the oozing, then later retrieve the gum arabic — amber-colored crystals that look like little bits of sugar candy. But because of Sudan’s civil unrest and alleged ties to terrorism, maintaining a reliable supply of gum arabic has been a concern for U.S. industries.
So Marcia Kieliszewski, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio University, is attempting to transplant gum arabic genes into tomato and tobacco plants. If her project succeeds, a new genetically engineered supply of gum arabic will be available to U.S. manufacturers. It could take a few years to complete the research and testing processes, but Ohio University has already applied for a patent.
The Acacia Senegal tree produces gum arabic, an ingredient in countless products.
Kieliszewski’s work is part of a five-year, $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study glycoproteins, which give plants their form and structure. Gum arabic is 10 percent glycoproteins, 90 percent sugar.
Kieliszewski acknowledges that genetic modification is controversial. Without it, she says, most of the world won’t have enough to eat in fifty years; on the other hand, the process needs much more regulatory scrutiny.
“A lot of [genetic modification] is aimed at feeding the Third World,” she says. “But while the goal is to make our lives better, we have to regulate this stuff. The time to think and debate is now.”
COOL DOWN WITH HIBISCUS PUNCH
Hibiscus punch is a great recipe to make any occasion special—as a delicious iced tea, it’s also great for drinking at home on a hot summer evening. Kids and adults alike love its taste, and the drink is a healthy alternative to high-sugar fruit punches. The punch has a vibrant, deep-red color that makes it look like traditional fruit punch.
Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is a very safe herb when used appropriately. Drunk in large quantities, it can have mild diuretic and laxative effects. And in a recent Journal of Ethnopharmacology study, hibiscus tea was found to lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension. However, the small amount of hibiscus used in this tea should not be enough to affect blood pressure.
This recipe also contains red clover (Trifolium pratense), a mild tonic herb. Red clover is a safe herb, but it should not be used during pregnancy.
This recipe makes about five quarts of hibiscus punch.
1 gallon water
1 cup dried red clover blossoms
2 cups dried hibiscus flowers
5 whole cloves
1/3 cup cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup honey
1 cup lemon juice
2 cups orange juice
1 cup apple juice
Bring the water to a boil and pour it over the red clover, hibiscus, cloves, and cinnamon sticks. Steep for 20 minutes. Add the honey, lemon juice, orange juice, and apple juice. Refrigerate until chilled. Pour into a punch bowl or pitcher, and float lemon slices, orange slices, and fresh spearmint leaves in the hibiscus punch.
Vitamin C product review
ConsumerLab.com, a company that conducts independent tests of various herbal products and vitamin supplements, recently released their results from a test of vitamin C products.
ConsumerLab purchased twenty-six brands of vitamin C supplements and tested them to determine whether they contained 100 percent of the amount of the vitamin listed on the product’s label. Four of the twenty-six, or about 15 percent of the products, did not pass the testing. One product did not break down properly; three others contained smaller levels of the vitamin than their labels claimed.
To learn which specific products passed ConsumerLab’s vitamin C test (ConsumerLab does not publish the names of products that don’t pass), visit their website or contact the company directly.
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Soap Woodspirits‘ The Sun and The Sky
Tester Comments ”I might buy this one to decorate my bathroom.” “I would give this as a gift.”
Size/Price 6 oz./$3.75
Main Ingredients Olive oil, coconut oil, essential oils, natural colors
Contact Information (937) 663-4327; www.woodspiritssoaps.com
Soap Natolia’s Chamomile Herbal Olive Oil Soap
Tester Comments “I love the smell and the earthy look.”
“Interesting color and texture.”
Size/Price 6.5 oz./$5.99
Main Ingredients Crushed chamomile and olive oil
Contact Information (800) 851-6549; www.natolia.com
Soap Tom’s of Maine’s Lemon Verbena Natural Glycerin Soap
Tester Comments “Had very good lather but a strong smell.”
“The smell is spicy and unusual.”
Size/Price 3.8 oz./$2.99
Main Ingredients Sodium cocoate, glycerin
(800) 775-2388; www.tomsofmaine.com
Soap Beeswork’s Lavender and Olive Oil
Tester Comments “The lather was awesome—lots of bubbles.” “I like the small bar.”
Size/Price 1.5 oz./$1.50
Main Ingredients Olive oil, coconut oil, beeswax
Contact Information (415) 883-5660; www.beeswork.com
Soap Aubrey Organics’ Rosa Mosqueta Moisturizing Cleansing Bar
Tester Comments “Smelled subtle—I liked the smell.”
“My hands felt moisturized after using it.”
Size/Price 3.6 oz./$5.50
Main Ingredients Palm oil, coconut fatty acids, rosehip seed oil
Contact Information (800) 282-7394;