Herb Basics

A Place to Start

| November/December 2005


If you’re traveling by plane this holiday season, you may want to take supplements to help ease jet lag, especially for short holiday trips. Of the many products on the market that purport to fight jet lag, melatonin is one of the most popular and controversial. Melatonin, a hormone normally produced in the brain by the pineal gland, plays a role in regulating our daily sleep/wake cycle. Some studies also have shown, however, that taking too much melatonin or taking it at the wrong time actually can disrupt the sleep/wake cycle or cause other side effects, such as confusion, drowsiness and headache.

Advocates of taking melatonin claim that it influences the body clock and eases symptoms of jet lag. Dr. Andrew Weil, author of eight books including Eating Well for Optimum Health (Knopf, 2000), takes melatonin when he travels. He writes, “In general, I have found that, after arriving at my destination, taking 1 milligram of melatonin … at bedtime for only one or two nights significantly reduces jet lag, regardless of the direction of travel.”

Melatonin is available over the counter and marked as a dietary supplement. As always, consult a doctor before taking any supplement, especially if you are taking other medications.

Source: Zimring, Michael P., M.D. and Lisa Iannucci. Healthy Travel. Laguna Beach, California: Basic Health Publications, 2005.


High in antioxidants and full of flavor, chile peppers are excellent additions to a healthy diet. But can you take the heat? Following is the heat rating of the most popular peppers, based on the industry-standard Scoville Organoleptic Test, invented in 1912 by pharmacist William Scoville. As a general rule, the smaller the pepper, the more intense the heat.


Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”), a Peruvian plant that was the staple food of the Incas, is a nutritious grain with a unique texture and flavor. Higher in protein than any grain, quinoa is worth adding to your diet — it is a good source of calcium, phosphorus, iron, B vitamins and amino acids. Try it in an herb-rich salad for a nutrient-packed, tasty lunch.

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