Echinacea 'does not treat colds'

The herbal remedy echinacea is not effective in treating children's colds, researchers have found.

A study compared the treatment with a dummy pill and found no difference in how long the children were ill for.

Over 500 children were studied by doctors at the University of Washington in Seattle.

But herbalists said the study contradicted other research which showed that echinacea was "powerful and effective".

The study looked at upper respiratory tract infections in children.

Most children have between six and eight such infections each year, each of which lasts around a week.

Children may be given drugs such as decongestants, antihistamines, or cough suppressants, but there is little evidence that these are effective in those under 12.

Source BBC News

Garlic 'beats hospital superbug'

The ingredient which gives garlic its distinctive smell is the latest weapon in the battle to beat the hospital "superbug" MRSA.

University of East London researchers found allicin treated even the most antibiotic-resistant strains of the infection.

MRSA (Methecillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) causes an estimated 2,000 deaths in UK hospitals each year.

Researchers are now testing allicin products in a six-month study.
Dr Ron Cutler and his team discovered the effectiveness of allicin in laboratory tests five years ago.
They found it can cure MRSA within weeks.

Source BBC News

Garlic could provide cancer drug

The chemical which gives garlic its flavour could be used in a "smart bomb" to fight cancer, scientists say.

The finding comes just days after it was revealed the same chemical, allicin, could treat the hospital superbug MRSA.

The cancer treatment harnesses the natural chemical reaction in which allicin is produced.
The journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics details how the reaction can be triggered at tumour sites.

Allicin is a toxic, but unstable, chemical which breaks down quickly and harmlessly when it is eaten.

It is not present in unbroken cloves of garlic, but is produced as a biochemical reaction between two substances stored apart in tiny, adjoining compartments within each clove - the enzyme, alliinase, and a normally inert chemical called alliin.

If the clove is broken, as it is in cooking, the membranes separating the compartments are broken and allicin is produced.

Source BBC News

Steroids in herbal eczema creams

So-called "natural" creams for eczema have been found to contain the steroid drugs customers were trying to avoid.

Researchers from Sheffield tested 24 herbal creams bought from herbalists, clinics and by mail order, and found the majority had traces of the drugs.

Long-term use of steroids for eczema can cause permanent damage.

The results, reported in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, have led to renewed calls for tighter regulation of herbal medicines.

Source BBC News

Vitamins 'help treat depression'

Vitamin B supplements may help people to fight depression, research suggests.

Scientists found that people with depression responded better to treatment if they had high levels of vitamin B12 in their blood.

They suggest taking vitamin B supplements may be a way to boost the effectiveness of anti-depressants.

The research, by Kuopio University in Finland, is published in the journal BMC Psychiatry.

Source BBC News

Vitamin may cure smoking disease

A form of vitamin A could one day provide the basis for a cure for the smoking disease emphysema.

British researchers have found that retinoic acid, a derivative of vitamin A, can cure the disease in mice.

Writing in the European Respiratory Journal, they said it reverses damage done to tiny air sacs in the lungs.

There is currently no cure for emphysema. The disease causes progressive damage to the lungs and can eventually kill.

Source BBC News

Flower oil 'no good for eczema'

A popular alternative eczema treatment called "starflower oil" has little impact on the condition, say doctors.

Patients given the extract fared no better than those trying a placebo drug, experiments found.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, is also bad news for those using Evening Primrose Oil to tackle eczema.

It shares the same ingredient as starflower oil, though in different concentrations.
"Starflower oil" is actually an extract of borage, a herb which grows in the UK.

It has been suggested that it could have an anti-inflammatory effect which could ease the symptoms of eczema.

Source BBC News

Tomato ingredients 'fight cancer'

Several components of the humble tomato act together to help fight prostate cancer, say researchers.

It had been thought just one chemical, lycopene, had an anti-cancer effect.

But researchers at the Universities of Illinois and Ohio State found lycopene's effect is boosted by other chemicals in the fruit.

The finding, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, suggests lycopene-only dietary supplements have only a limited effect.

Lead researcher Professor John Erdman said: "It has been unclear whether lycopene itself is protective.

"This study suggests that lycopene is one factor involved in reducing the risk of prostate cancer.
"But it also suggests that taking lycopene as a dietary supplement is not as effective as eating whole tomatoes.

"We believe people should consume whole tomato products - in pastas, in salads, in tomato juice and even on pizza."

The researchers exposed laboratory rats to a chemical that causes prostate cancer, and then fed them on diets containing whole tomato powder, pure lycopene or no lycopene at all.

Source BBC News

Cup of cocoa may keep doctor away

A cup of cocoa a day may help to keep the doctor away.

A study by scientists in the United States has found that a cup of hot cocoa is rich in powerful antioxidants.

Previous studies have also shown these chemicals, which can protect against a range of diseases and reduce the effects of ageing, are found in cocoa.

However, this latest study suggests cocoa may be richer in antioxidants than better known "healthy" drinks like tea and red wine.

Source BBC News

Hot Cocoa Tops Red Wine And Tea In Antioxidants

There's sweet news about hot cocoa: Researchers at Cornell University have shown that the popular winter beverage contains more antioxidants per cup than a similar serving of red wine or tea and may be a healthier choice.

The study adds to growing evidence of the health benefits of cocoa and points to a tasty alternative in the quest to maintain a diet rich in healthy antioxidants, chemicals that have been shown to fight cancer, heart disease and aging, the researchers say.

Their study, which they say is the most complete comparison to date of the total antioxidant content of these three popular beverages, will appear in the Dec. 3 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

Source American Chemical Society

Cinnamon spice produces healthier blood

Just half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day significantly reduces blood sugar levels in diabetics, a new study has found. The effect, which can be produced even by soaking a cinnamon stick your tea, could also benefit millions of non-diabetics who have blood sugar problem but are unaware of it.

The discovery was initially made by accident, by Richard Anderson at the US Department of Agriculture's Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland.

Source New Scientist

Green tea extract may fight HIV

Green tea could form the basis of a new generation of HIV drugs, say experts.

Scientists in Japan have found a component of green tea can stop HIV from binding to healthy immune cells, which is how the virus spreads.

Their laboratory tests suggest a chemical called Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) protects cells.

Writing in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the scientists said the discovery could lead to new treatments to fight the disease.

Source BBC News

Buckwheat 'controls diabetes'

A type of herb called buckwheat may be beneficial in the management of diabetes, say researchers.

Extracts of the seed lowered blood glucose levels by up to 19% when it was fed to diabetic rats.
Scientists at the University of Manitoba in Canada say diabetics should consider including the grain in their diet, or taking dietary supplements.

The study, part funded by the food industry, is published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Lead researcher Dr Carla Taylor said: "With diabetes on the rise, incorporation of buckwheat into the diet could help provide a safe, easy and inexpensive way to lower glucose levels and reduce the risk of complications associated with the disease, including heart, nerve and kidney problems.

"Buckwheat won't cure diabetes, but we'd like to evaluate its inclusion in food products as a management aid."

Source BBC News

Red wine 'may treat lung disease'

Drinking a little red wine could protect against a serious lung disease, researchers have shown.

A chemical in wine, resveratrol, appears to damp down inflammation in the potentially fatal lung condition chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Researchers writing in the journal Thorax found the chemical was more effective than existing medications for COPD.

But experts say the best way to stop lung damage is not to smoke.

Source BBC News

Ginger 'could halt bowel cancer'

Ginger may protect against bowel cancer, scientists have claimed.

Test showed gingerol - which gives ginger its flavour - could slow the growth of human tumours in mice.

Plants from the ginger family have been used for thousands of years, and have been reported to have anti-cancer properties.

A second study presented to the American Association of Cancer Research showed a relative of mint could slow prostate cancer.

Source BBC News

Cranberry Juice in Blood Clot Warning

Patients taking the anti-clotting drug warfarin have been warned to limit or avoid cranberry juice consumption. The Committee on Safety of Medicines is concerned that mixing the two increases the risk of haemorrhage.

It has received five reports which suggest that cranberry juice acts to increase the potency of the drug.

One man died after his blood clotting levels changed dramatically six weeks after starting to drink the juice.

Source BBC News

Tea lotion could stop skin cancer

A nice cuppa may be a treat at the end of the day - but tea could also be the basis for a lotion to fight skin cancer.

Early tests on animals have suggested tea can stop ultraviolet light rays damaging the skin.

The researchers, who presented their findings to a meeting of the American Chemical Society, say drinking tea could give the same benefits as a cream.

But they say people would have to drink 10 cups a day to get the same effect.

Tea contains chemicals called polyphenols which the researchers from the University of Minnesota say appear to block the formation of non-melanoma skin cancer.

Source BBC News

Slugs take fright at garlic

Garlic could be the new way to drive slugs away from our lettuce without using pesticides.

The smelly herb not only seems to keep vampires at bay, but scientists say it also drives slugs and snails out of the garden.

Biologists from the University of Newcastle, UK, have found that a barrier of garlic oil repelled the molluscs.

Dr Gordon Port, who heads the research project, described at the British Association's science festival in Salford, Greater Manchester, how exposure to refined garlic can even kill slugs.
Garlic has been co-planted as an anti-pest control for hundreds of years.

Source BBC News

Herbal remedy secret uncovered

British scientists believe they may have discovered how the popular herbal remedy arnica works.

Researchers from the Bradford School of Pharmacy say it contains powerful anti-inflammatory agents which can be absorbed into the skin.

Speaking at the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Harrogate, they suggested it may protect damaged blood vessels.

Arnica is used in creams to treat a wide variety of ailments, including bruising, muscle ache and sprains.

Source BBC News

Herbal remedy pregnancy warning

Women should be cautious about using the herbal remedy ginseng in the early stages of pregnancy, say researchers.

A team from the Chinese University of Hong Kong has found evidence that one of the main active components of ginseng can cause abnormalities in rat embryos.

Lead researcher Dr Louis Chan said: "Before more information in humans becomes available, women should be cautious about using ginseng in the first three months of pregnancy."

The study is published in the journal Human Reproduction.

Red wine may protect smokers

Drinking red wine may help to protect against the harmful effects of smoking, a study suggests.

Researchers have found that two glasses of red wine counteract the damage to the arteries caused by one cigarette.

However, smokers have been warned against drinking gallons of red wine in an effort to protect themselves.

Speaking at a major European conference, the researchers, said there was no evidence to suggest it protects beyond a single cigarette.

Dr John Lekakis and colleagues at Alexandra University Hospital in Athens, in Greece based their findings on a study of 16 healthy adults.

Source BBC News

Herb and drug mix alert

Millions may be taking potentially dangerous combinations of herbal and conventional medicines, pharmacists have warned.

Researchers told the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Harrogate many people do not view herbal remedies as medicines.

Two thirds did not admit to taking herbal medicines when they collected prescriptions.

Pharmacists said more awareness was needed of the risks of combining drugs and remedies. ´

Researchers from the Department of Pharmacy at Kings College, London, questioned 929 people visiting four pharmacies in West London in the study.

They found that, even when people were asked what medicines they were taking, 41% did not mention herbal remedies because they did not class them as medicines.

Source BBC News

Mediterranean diet 'extends life'

Drinking red wine and cooking with olive oil may help us to live longer, say scientists.

They have found that key ingredients in both substances can significantly increase the lifespan of yeast.

Since yeast and humans share many genes, scientists have speculated they may have the same effect in people.

The findings provide more evidence to suggest that the Mediterranean diet may be the secret to living a long and healthy life.

Source BBC News

Vitamin cuts passive smoke damage

Vitamin C may help to reduce the risks associated with being exposed to second-hand smoke, a study suggests.

Scientists in the United States have found non-smokers who took daily doses of vitamin C protected themselves against the cell damage that can cause cancer.

Their findings follow a study by researchers at the University of Cambridge three years ago, which found the vitamin can also reduce the risks for smokers.

Scientists believe the vitamin's anti-oxidant properties are responsible.

Source BBC News

Clue to elixir of life

Substances found in food and wine may be able to extend human life, according to new scientific research.

Scientists in the United States found that the substances - called polyphenols - can prolong the life of yeast cells significantly.They seem to work inside human cells too.

Polyphenols are produced by many plants - perhaps the best known is resveratrol, found in red wine.

Scientists have been interested in them for a long time because they seem to reduce a person's chances of developing heart disease and cancer.

Now researchers at Harvard University have discovered that the chemicals can prolong the life of yeast by about 70%.

They do this by a mechanism which was previously unknown, by increasing production of enzymes called sirtuins.

Anti-ageing pill

The researchers also found that resveratrol increases sirtuin production in human cells in the lab; and, most compellingly, that it appears to prolong the life of flies and worms.

"Everyone's been interested in the polyphenols because of their anti-oxidant properties," said Dr Konrad Howitz, one of the team, and director of molecular biology at BIOMOL, a research company also involved in the study.

"But this mechanism with the sirtuins is new and I guess people are going to go back to the epidemiological data on heart disease and cancer and figure out how much is down to the anti-oxidant mechanism and how much to the sirtuins."

It is too early to conclude that the researchers have found an elixir of human life - further work is needed, and the first step is to see if resveratrol can make mice live longer.

That experiment is scheduled to start in a few months' time, and should give results in less than a year.

If polyphenols do give mice extra life, and if that extra life is healthy, the stage will then be set for human trials of something which scientists have dreamed of for centuries - a pill or potion to make us live longer.

Source BBC News

Herb 'does not lower cholesterol'

Scientists say there is no evidence to support claims that a popular herbal supplement reduces cholesterol.

They have suggested that guggul may actually increase cholesterol rather than lower it.

Guggul extract has been used in traditional Indian medicine for thousands of years.

Besides its supposed impact on cholesterol, there have been claims that it protects against heart disease, stroke, tonsillitis and bronchitis.

Dr Philippe Szapary and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine tested the extract on a group of volunteers.

Source BBC News

Sage herb 'can boost memory'

Centuries-old theories that the herb sage can improve memory appear to be borne out by modern research.

Scientists at the Universities of Newcastle and Northumbria tested 44 people, who were either given the herb or a dummy placebo pill.

They found that those given the sage oil tablets performed much better in a "word recall test".

Experts believe the active ingredient may boost levels of a chemical that helps transmit messages in the brain.

Source BBC News

Green tea 'can block cancer'

Green tea's ability to fight cancer is even more potent and varied than scientists suspected, research suggests.

Scientists already know that green tea contains anti-oxidants which may have a protective effect against cancer.

But now they have discovered that chemicals in the tea also shut down a key molecule which can play a significant role in the development of cancer.

The molecule, known as the aryl hydrocarbon (AH) receptor, has the ability to activate genes - but not always in a positive way.

Tobacco smoke and dioxins, in particular, disrupt the functioning of the molecule and cause it to trigger potentially harmful gene activity.

The researchers, from Rochester University, found that two chemicals in green tea inhibit AH activity.

Source BBC News

Vitamins 'could prevent pregnancy danger'

Vitamins could prevent women developing a dangerous pregnancy complication which can prove fatal for mother and child, researchers suggest.

A new study will give women at high-risk of pre-eclampsia vitamin supplements in an attempt to stop them developing the condition.

Pre-eclampsia causes a pregnant woman's blood pressure to rise to dangerously high levels.

Source BBC News

Ancient headache cures proven effective

Many ancient headache treatments, recorded by Persian physicians, have been proven in modern-day studies to be effective pain relievers according to a new German report.

Medieval Persian texts revealing that opium and cannabis were often used, as well as oil from willow trees - from which aspirin was derived centuries later - suggest that many other such remedies should be scientifically tested for therapeutic value as well, says Dr Ali Gorji, of the Institute for Physiology, Munster University, in Germany, in a report in the journal Trends in Pharmacological Sciences."

Despite progress in the development of therapy in recent years, effective and potent drugs are still required for the treatment of headache," Gorji says. "The search for new pharmacologically active analgesics obtained from plants has led to the discovery of some clinically useful drugs that, during the past two centuries, have played a major role in the treatment of human diseases. However, most medicinal plants prescribed by Persian physicians remain largely unexamined.

"Persian headache treatments go back to the 6th century BC, but physicians there in the medieval era scrupulously observed and diagnosed different headache types and assembled much information on traditional remedies from ancient Greece, Egypt, India and China to augment their own innovative treatment arsenal, he says.

In turn, Persian medical theories and knowledge were brought to the West during the renaissance and some of them have influenced medicine ever since, although they are little recognised as such.

"Medieval Persian physicians described the treatment of headache using many substances with variable modes of action. They attributed the therapeutic actions of plants to a specific analgesic, sedative or prophylactic drug property of variable strength," he says.

Their medicines were mainly applied topically to the head: they were mixed with vinegar, the head was shaved and the skin was washed with water and salt to increase their penetration. To reduce side-effects and dilute potent substances, some were mixed with flour, egg white, or milk. Others were given orally, nasally and rectally.

Treatment plans, which recognised trauma and environmental factors as the causes of some headaches, included abstinence from certain foods or activities, foot and head massage, as well as the use of ointments, essential oils and even leeches. All are finding renewed favour in mainstream and alternative medicine today.

Medicine cabinet in the garden

But it is the long list of medicinal herbs and plant extracts - some of them toxic in large doses – recorded in these old documents that Gorji believes may hold hidden chemical treasures. They include garlic, camomile, artemisia, deadly nightshade, camphor, caraway, frankincense, myrrh, saffron, spearmint, turmeric, henna, Spanish lavender, gum arabic and rose oil.

Myrrh, for example, has been shown to delay the onset of pain in mice through its interaction with the brain receptors for narcotic drugs such as opium. Opium poppy itself - and cannabis - was widely used by the Persians for strong pain and was applied to the skin or ingested.

Garlic contains antioxidants and other active compounds that may inhibit some of the causes of migraines, and frankincense has been shown to have pain-relieving and sedative effects in rats. Rose oil, which was prescribed for recurrent unilateral and bilateral headaches, contains several active substances including eugenol, which acts on pain receptors in the spinal cord in rats.

"Medieval Persian physicians accumulated all the existing information on medicine at that time and added to this knowledge their own astute observations and experimentation, with the introduction of many new remedies," said Gorij. "Such information provides comprehensive data on clinical remedies based on centuries of experience in the field of headache, and thus might help the testing of the probable benefits of these remedies for the treatment of cephalic pain [headache]."

Source ABC Science

Vitamin D could prevent arthritis

Scientists hope adding vitamin D to the diet could help prevent one of the most common and painful forms of arthritis.

Osteoarthritis affects more than a million people in the UK, many of them elderly.

There is currently no cure and all doctors can do is control pain and keep patients active and mobile.

With the growing number of elderly people and better life expectancy, the number of people with osteoarthritis is expected to soar over the next five years.

Source BBC News

Irish moss may have role in protecting against HIV

Next month in Bangkok at an international AIDS conference, the world will hear about a new product offering women a way to protect themselves.

The topical treatment, an HIV blocking agent, is made with carrageenan. The registered name of the still-experimental vaginal gel is Carraguard.

The primary source of carrageenan is the Irish moss found in Nova Scotia's rich seaweed beds. Three-quarters of the world's Irish moss comes from the Maritime provinces, where it's harvested from the wild.

The product is called a microbicide - although it doesn't kill microbes but rather prevents infection by binding to the surface of the virus, preventing the microbes from adhering to nearby cells and infecting them.

Source - Novaserve Magazine

Chinese herb 'good for the mind'

A herb used in China for centuries may help stroke patients suffering from dementia.
Experts tested the herbal medicine in a clinical trial and found it lived up to its reputation.

The drug, extracted from an orchid and six other plants, has been used since 100 AD for treating dizziness, headache and stroke.

It was found to significantly increase mental function in a three-month study of 120 stroke patients.

The remedy, known as gastrodine compound granule, is the first herbal drug for dementia to be tested in clinical trials at hospitals in China.

Cooking oil 'fights fat'

Volunteers fed a diet containing a particular blend of oils actually lost weight and fat, according to researchers.

Over a 27-day period, male volunteers, despite eating the same quantity of oil as others given conventional cooking oil, lost an average of one pound.

Women did not fare as well - none lost any weight.

The researchers, from McGill School of Dietetics in Montreal, Canada, say that their blend of oils is sent straight to the liver and burned up.

The ingredients of this oil are mostly "tropical oils" such as palm oil and coconut oil, with some olive oil and flaxseed oil.

The results of the study are published in four scientific journals.

The oil has been developed by Forbes Medi-Tech, which funded the study, but the oil is unlikely to hit supermarket shelves before further tests are carried out.

While conventional oils contain fats called "long chain triglycerides", "functional oil", as it has been dubbed, contains different fats called "medium chain triglycerides".

Source BBC News

Miso soup 'cuts breast cancer risk'

Eating three or more bowls of the Japanese delicacy Miso soup every day could cut women's risk of developing breast cancer, researchers suggest.

The soup contains fermented soy paste along with other ingredients including seaweed, bean curd and vegetables.

Most people in Japan eat the soup at least once a day.

Vitamin D boosts cancer treatment

Giving cancer patients a form of vitamin D could help radiotherapy work more effectively, researchers have suggested.

The combination could help wipe out cancer cells altogether.

Radiation therapy is commonly used prior to surgery to reduce the size of the tumour, and after surgery to eradicate any remaining cells and to reduce the chance of the tumour returning.

But there are often some cells which are resistant to the treatment and which could cause the cancer to recur.

Excess calcium

Tests on mice have now shown combining a form of vitamin D with radiotherapy means these remaining cells can be destroyed.

In the study, researchers from Dartmouth Medical School compared tumour growth in mice given the combined therapy, using a derivative of vitamin D called EB 1089, and others given radiation therapy alone.

Source BBC News

Vitamin could prevent arthritis

Scientists hope adding vitamin D to the diet could help prevent one of the most common and painful forms of arthritis.

Osteoarthritis affects more than a million people in the UK, many of them elderly.

There is currently no cure and all doctors can do is control pain and keep patients active and mobile.

With the growing number of elderly people and better life expectancy, the number of people with osteoarthritis is expected to soar over the next five years.

Source BBC News

Herb wrap wards off food poisoning

The herb basil is the crucial ingredient in a super wrap being developed to protect food more effectively from contamination by dangerous bugs.

Scientists are using anti-microbial extracts from the herb to create a plastic wrapper for meat and cheese.

The chemicals slowly ooze out from the wrapper - and extend the product's shelf-life by killing off bacteria such as E. coli and listeria which can cause severe food poisoning.

New Scientist magazine reports that tests have shown the new wrapping can keep bacteria at bay in Cheddar cheese for a week longer than ordinary packaging.

The wrapper has been developed by scientists at the Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, and the Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia.

It is laced with two chemicals extracted from basil: an ether called methyl chavicol and the alcohol linalool.

Both contain compounds that attack and destroy cell walls, and have been shown to be active against eight types of bacteria.

Source BBC News

Herbal tea 'damages teeth'

Drinking herbal tea may damage teeth, dentists have warned.

Researchers at the University of Bristol Dental School have found these teas erode the enamel or protective layer on teeth.

Some are even more harmful than orange juice, which is very acidic and is known to harm teeth.
The researchers said the findings should act as a warning to people who regard herbal teas as a healthy alternative to other drinks.

Source BBC News

Tea 'may fight tooth decay'

Drinking tea may ward off tooth decay and bad breath, according to scientists.

A study suggests chemicals in tea can destroy bacteria and viruses that cause throat infections, dental caries and other dental conditions.

It raises the prospect of adding tea extracts to toothpaste and mouthwash to protect the teeth.
The study, presented at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, is the latest in a string of health claims about tea.

According to research by US microbiologist, Milton Schiffenbauer, of the independent Pace University, green tea is better at fighting viruses.

"Our research shows tea extracts can destroy the organism that causes disease," he told a conference in Washington DC.

Source BBC News

Herb treatment for herpes

A common herb may provide a new and effective treatment for the sexually transmitted infection herpes.

Scientists have successfully used an agent derived from the herb, Prunella vulgaris aka (self heal, heal all, common self heal), to prevent the disease in animals.

The herb, commonly found in Britain, Europe, China and North America, has been used in the past to treat sores in the mouth and throat.

There is also some evidence that it has been used as a crude anti-cancer drug and to lower high blood pressure.

Dr Song Lee and his colleagues from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, extracted a compound from the plant.

This was then added to a cream and tested on mice and guinea pigs who had been infected with two types of the herpes simplex virus.

Use of the cream significantly cut the death rate among mice, and the development of skin lesions in guinea pigs.

Source BBC News

Warning over vitamin doses

A Jersey health expert is warning that taking some vitamin and mineral pills in large quantities may damage people's health.

Jill Fa, senior dietician at Jersey's General Hospital, made her comments following the release of a report by the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The new warning follows a report from a panel of experts which conducted the most comprehensive review ever of supplements on sale in the British Isles.

The report concludes certain vitamins and minerals may have long-term health implications.

Source BBC News

Tea helps fight off infections

Drinking tea may prime the immune system to fight infections and even cancer, researchers have said.

The drink contains particular chemicals which are also present in some bacteria, tumour cells, parasites and fungi.

Because these are present in tea, the body is exposed to them so it can build up a defence against them if it comes up against them as part of a disease.

The chemicals are called alkylamine antigens.

US researchers looked at the effect of the antigens on gamma-delta T cells in the immune system, which act as a first line of defence against infection.

Source BBC News

Tea 'increases incontinence risk'

Drinking tea and smoking heavily has been linked to urinary incontinence in women, research suggests.

A study found smoking more than 20 cigarettes a day was linked to the complaint.

The common myth about urinary incontinence is that it only affects the elderly, but the condition affects one in 10 people.

Up to 25% of women and 5% of men aged 15 to 64 are affected.

Norwegian researchers surveyed almost 28,000 women aged over 20 in the Nord-Tr√łndelag area of the country between 1995 and 1997.

They wanted to see if smoking, obesity, physical activity and the drinking alcohol, coffee or tea were associated with urinary incontinence in women.

Source BBC News

Lemon balm 'may help memory'

A weed found in gardens can boost the memory, researchers in the north-east of England claim.
Lemon balm, a shrub that resembles a small nettle, improved "secondary memory" in tested volunteers according to two academics at Northumbria University.

In the laboratory it also had a biochemical effect known to be important to memory.

Dr Andrew Scholey and Dr David Kennedy, based in Newcastle, made capsules of dried lemon balm and gave them to a group of 20 volunteers.

Their memory was then tested one, three, and six hours later.

The findings, presented on Thursday at the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Bournemouth, showed no effect on working memory - the constant recall of continual events during the day.

Source BBC News

Lemon balm 'boosts memory'

Taking lemon balm can boost memory as well as improve mood, researchers have found.

The benefits of lemon balm, a common weed that resembles a small nettle, has long been recognised. In the 16th century, herbalist John Gerard gave it to students to "quicken the senses".

Tests have now shown it helps people learn, store and retrieve information.

Laboratory tests found lemon balm increased the activity of acetylcholene, a chemical messenger linked to memory that is reduced in people with Alzheimer's disease.

Source BBC News

Green tea could cut arthritis risk

Drinking green tea could help keep arthritis at bay, say scientists.

The tea, first discovered in China nearly 5,000 years ago, has long been thought to be beneficial to health.

It has been linked to preventing coronary heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer.
But now researchers in Sheffield have found that two compounds found in green tea, EGCG (epigallocatchin gallate) and ECG (epicatechin gallate) can help prevent osteoarthritis by blocking the enzyme that destroys cartilage.

Vegetables ward off Alzheimer's

Eating a diet rich in vegetables may be one way to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, research suggests.

US scientists found that a diet high in unsaturated, unhydrogenated fats - found in vegetables and some oils - may help lower risk.

However, a separate study found antioxidant vitamins - widely touted as good for general health - offer no such protective effect against Alzheimer's.

Source BBC News

Herbal stimulant 'should be banned'

US researchers are calling for the herbal stimulant ephedra to be banned, suggesting using it is hundreds of times riskier than other remedies.

Products containing ephedra, or ma-haung, are used to promote weight-loss and boost energy.
But it is known to cause side-effects including anxiety, insomnia, raised blood pressure and heart rate, and even potentially fatal heart attacks and strokes.

Researchers from the San Francisco VA Medical Center say their findings suggest the US Food and Drug Administration should either better regulate ephedra or ban it altogether.

In the UK, the sale of ephedra is already restricted so products containing less than 1,800 milligrams can only be sold following a consultation with a herbal medicine practitioner.

Products containing higher doses of ephedra can only be sold in pharmacies.