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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Five Herbs to Fight Cancer

Best Herbs for Health and Fighting Cancer


1. Rosemary – Contains many antioxidants such as carnosol. Antioxidants help prevent DNA damage leading to cancer. Carnosol and cineole may also help to detoxify certain carcinogens that can initiate the cancer process, especially breast, skin and lung. It is also great for the hair as a rinse and great in skin care to increase circulation. Use in soups, stews, meat or vegetables and bread.

3.  Oregano - Contains farnesol, a phytochemical that has been shown to block the growth of skin cancer in mice. Also contains quercetin, an antioxidant, which may be protective against breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers. This herb is greatin Mexican or Italian dishes with chili, garlic, tomatoes and onions (all of which also have their own health benefits).

4. Ginger - The pungency in this herb is due to gingerol. When dried, zingerone is formed. Both have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. They are believed to suppress the growth of cancer cells by inducing cell death. This herb is used fresh in many Asian dishes. This makes a great tea when you are feeling under the weather too.

5. Parsley - Rich in polyacetylenes, which seem to protect against certain carcinogens found in tobacco smoke. It may also help to regulate the body's production of some prostaglandins which can be tumor promotors. Parsley is great in any salad and with tomatoes.

6. Mint – Contains limonene which is also found in citrus peels, cherries, and lavender. Studies suggest that this phytochemical can block the development of breast tumors and shrink them. Limonene is currently being used in clinical trials for the treatment of cancer. My favorite use of mint is a mojito!

7. Turmeric - Contains the yellow pigment curcumin. Curcumin is a good anti-inflammatory agent and can block cell proliferation in the colon that results in colon polyps and possibly colon cancer. In cell culture studies, curcumin has slowed the proliferation of prostate cancer cells. Curcumin can also help with inflammatory diseases like arthritis.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Summer Skin Care with Herbs

Sunny beach
The dog days of summer are upon us. That hot sun not only dries out our skin causing premature wrinkles, but is can also increase the risk for skin cancer. Herbs can help skin in a number of ways, including cleansing, cooling, and protecting. 

Make an infusion or strong tea from herbs that can be applied to the skin or put in the bath. Also try herbs as a steam facial by putting them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Lower your face into the steam being careful not to burn yourself. Feel your pores open and your worries drift away. Yet another way to use herbs for your skin is to make a tall glass of iced herbal tea to relax with.  These are some common plants for summer skin care:

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) – Some call it a weed, but it is a very good source of vitamin A which is important for maintenance of the skin’s epithelial layer. Vitamin A is also found in stinging nettles, parsley and violets.

Rose Hips (Rosa spp.)– After the rose flower fades you still have the hips, which are high in vitamin C. This vitamin is essential for making collagen, the foundation upon which the skin rests. Rose flowers also make a good face cleanser and are considered hydrating for the skin. Parsley and strawberry leaves are also high in vitamin C.

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) –The phytoestrogens in red clover can help diminish wrinkles, giving your skin that plump youthful look. It has also been used to treat several skin conditions including eczema. Since it is a legume, it can also feed your soil!

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)– It's anti-inflammatory properties can be soothing to the skin, especially after a sunburn. It is also antiseptic which can help prevent infection of minor scrapes.

Mint (Mentha spp) – The cooling properties of the mint family are refreshing on a hot afternoon. Make a tea to drink as well as to apply to the skin in a mister or with a cotton swab. Mint can also help relieve dry cracked skin.

Green Tea (Camillia sinensis) – Although you probably don’t have this one in your garden it is an important one for summer skin care. Many animal studies have shown that green tea can prevent skin cancers when applied topically. Try making a strong infusion to put in the bathtub, or apply it directly to moles on the skin. It also provides beneficial properties as a drink. Better safe than sorry.

Calendula (Calendual officinalis) – This orange flower is great for dry skin and can hasten the healing of cracked hands or abrasions of the skin. It is also antiseptic and anti-inflammatory and has been used to treat eczema.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) – This herb can bring relief from sunburn and has also been used as an insect repellent and to treat skin allergies and rashes.


Rose water toner
2 c rose petals
1 cup water
2/3 cup witch hazel
2 tsp honey

Bring water to a boil and add rose petals. Remove from the heat and steep for one hour. Strain out the petals. Add the second cup of rose petals to the water and again heat to just boiling, steep for one hour and strain. Mix in witch hazel and honey. Keep this refrigerated and use within three days.

You can find a good green tea herbal bath mix from Colorado Aromatics to use after exposure to sun here.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What's Growing This Week in June

I came back from 6 days in Tucson for a soap conference and was surprised at how much things had grown here on the farm in the time I was gone; especially the weeds. I have been weeding non stop since getting back. Ouch, my shoulders and back are sore. It rained quite a bit while I was gone so I am glad that I got some of my lavender planted and I got calendula seed planted which sprouted while I was gone! I didn’t plant chamomile yet, and looks like I have plenty of it that has reseeded; even growing up through the landscape fabric. Here are some pictures.

A row of chamomile

Mary likes to eat weeds while I work - at least I hope she is eating weeds.

Calendula just coming up.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

2014 Soap Conference Tucson

I just got home for the 2014 conference for the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetics Guild Conference held in Tucson. As a previous resident of Tucson I needed little excuse to get back. If you’ve never been to a Soap Conference before, just imagine being able to share your excitement for the craft with 400 other soapmakers! All the while being well fed and cared for at the Loews Ventana Canyon resort. Upon first arriving in Tucson I drove around and scouted out some places I had been familiar with. I learned that Tucson had changed a lot with time.

Take a look at the view I had from my room at the resort. Wow, right?
One thing I really liked about the resort was a paved nature trail that wound up the hill behind the resort.  It included signage for plants and animals along the trail with benches for sitting alongside the creek and on to a waterfall behind the resort. This walk made a nice break  between sessions involving too much sitting. I was also able to do some hiking near Tucson which I wrote about here.

There of course were many good talks to choose from. Some of the action steps I plan to take as a result of the conference include trying to make clear cold process soap. It was something I had tried unsuccessfully several years ago and didn’t have the time to work out the kinks. But now, armed with some good tips I’m sure I’ll be able to do it. I’ll also try some ‘landscape’ soaps. I’m always amazed at the skill soapmakers have in designing beautiful soaps and the bar is raised every year. I’ve been wanting to make some Colorado scenery soaps though and now feel that I can do it. Anyone want ‘Twin Peaks’ soap?
Any soapmaker is bound to find something useful from attending a soap conference. Topics range from learning technique in soapmaking and business, meeting suppliers and learning about new and better supplies, and networking with other soapmakers.  Oh, and there is the soapers showcase where you can oooh and aaah over different soaps and vote for the best. Next year it’s in Indianapolis and here is the link to find information about it. Its a bad picture, but here are some pics of the soaps entered.

As the week ended I realized that I took alot of pictures of cactus but not much else. So, I got this one at the awards dinner on the final night.
Cindy Jones, Lela Barker, Lori Nova, Ruth Esteves

Friday, May 16, 2014

Spring Salad Herbs

Spring Salad

The site of spring herbs popping from the ground in spring was a welcome site to people in the pre supermarket era who had little nutritive foods for months over the late winter. These spring herbs or bitters are packed with nutrition and can be enjoyed in salads. Looking around my yard I see tarragon, salad burnett, dandelion, chives and parsley, all of which can be chopped and put on a salad of greens that I buy from the farmers market. There is mustard growing now that would also be great on this salad. The flavors are great and are sure to interest your taste buds.

What herbs do you find for your salads?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Foods to Block UV Skin Damage

Ultraviolet radiation

Although sunscreen is important to prevent sunburn of the skin, there are also dietary measures you can take to help protect the skin against ultraviolet (UV) radiation damage to skin. UV radiation damage to the skin includes damage to both DNA and structural proteins. This damage leads to photoaging of the skin such as wrinkles, yellowing, roughness, dryness, abnormal pigmentation and a leathery appearance. 

Antioxidants can help prevent skin damage caused by UV radiation. Here are some foods that research has found to decrease skin damage caused by UV radiation:

Green Tea

Pomegranate Juice

Genistein, a phytoestrogen found primarily in Soy

Resveratrol found in grapes, nuts, fruits and red wine

Carotenoids, particularly lutein and zeaxanthin found in green leafy vegetables

Vitamin C and Vitamin E, especially in combination. Bell peppers, green leafy vegetables and strawberries are high in vitamin C while almonds and sunflower seeds are high in vitamin E.

Might I suggest frequent salads of green leafy vegetables with a soybean oil dressing topped with bell peppers, nuts and grapes partnered with a cup of green tea, wine or pomegranate juice this summer to keep your skin healthy?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Polyphenols Regulate Glutatione

Polyphenols Regulate Glutatione

Should you choose red wine or green tea? How about both: Compounds from both beverages have been found to inhibit growth of colon cancer.

Scientists from Italy’s University of Florence concluded this after an experiment that involved treating rats with a chemical known to cause promotion of colon cancer (azoxymethane). They divided rats into four groups: a control group receiving azoxymethane and fed a normal diet, and three groups receiving azoxymethane plus a diet supplemented with polyphenols from either red wine, black tea or green tea. The amount of polyphenols in the diet was equivalent to what a moderate wine drinker or tea drinker would ingest. Although the green tea group had little or no effect, both the wine and the black tea polyphenol groups produced fewer tumors in response to azoxymethane. The scientists went further to look for biochemical differences in tumors by examining levels of a specific enzyme found in the tumors.

Glutathione S-transferase (GST) is an enzyme that regulates glutathione levels in cells. Glutathione is an important antioxidant in most cells. However, when levels of GST are increased in tumor cells, it can cause failure of chemotherapy, acting as sort of a cell protector in the tumors. In the study, GST levels were increased in tumors from control animals compared to non-tumor tissues and were also greater in tumors from control animals compared to the red wine- and black tea-treated groups.

This suggests that perhaps GST is involved in cancer progression and that the polyphenols found in wine and tea were able to inhibit the progression of cancer by inhibiting the GST enzyme levels. However, another important aspect of inhibiting GST enzymes is that by inhibiting these enzymes, a cancer cell could become more susceptible to chemotherapy, therefore rendering chemotherapy more effective in treating cancer. Studies have not yet been conducted to determine if that is the case. This study is particularly interesting, because although nutrition has been implicated in cancer prevention for some time now, this study suggests nutrition also may be important in treatment regimes for cancer.

Luceri, C., et al. “Red wine and black tea polyphenols modulate the expression of cycloxygenase-2, inducible nitric oxide synthase and glutathione-related enzymes in azoxymethane-induced F344 rat colon tumors.” The Journal of Nutrition 2002, 132: 1376–1379.

Cindy Jones, Ph.D.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Monoterpenes: Essence of a Cancer Cure

By Cindy L.A. Jones, Ph.D.

Essential oils, the highly concentrated volatile, aromatic essences of plants, are a mainstay of aromatherapy but are also used in flavoring, perfumes and even as solvents. Researchers now think that two components of orange oil and lavender oil are a good bet to prevent and treat cancer.

Most essential oils contain monoterpenes, compounds that contain 10 carbon molecules often arranged in a ring. Monoterpenes are formed in the mevalonic acid pathway in plants. This is the same pathway that makes cholesterol in animals and humans. Early on, cancer researchers realized that some aspects of cholesterol metabolism were involved in cancer growth. They then discovered that plant monoterpenes interfered with animal cholesterol synthesis, thereby reducing cholesterol levels and reducing tumor formation in animals.

Limonene and Perillyl Alcohol
Two widely studied monoterpenes are being evaluated for their anticancer activity, limonene from orange peel (Citrus sinensis) and perillyl alcohol from lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). Because limonene and perillyl affect the pathway that produces cholesterol, they can inhibit cholesterol synthesis, thereby eliminating a minor contributor to cancer formation. Monoterpenes also increase the levels of liver enzymes involved in detoxifying carcinogens, an effect that decreases the possibility carcinogens will cause cellular damage. In addition, monoterpenes stimulate apoptosis, a cellular self-destruction mechanism triggered when a cell's DNA is badly damaged. This safety feature is generally activated before a cell becomes cancerous. Finally, monoterpenes inhibit protein isoprenylation. The cell uses this process to help a protein, in this case the ras protein involved in cell growth, find its proper location within the cell. If ras is not in the right place, it becomes overactive and can spur cancerous cell growth.

Where Do They Come From? Most plant matter contains a wide variety of monoterpenes. Rich sources include: herbs, spices, wine, essential oils, eggs, olive & palm oil, rice bran oil, barley oil, and dairy products.
Laboratory animal studies demonstrate that these two monoterpenes inhibit the formation of chemically induced breast, colon, liver, skin and pancreatic tumors. For example, animals fed a diet containing 5 percent orange peel oil had a significantly reduced risk of developing mammary tumors when treated with the chemical tumor inducer DMBA. Similarly, animals fed a 5-percent limonene diet had less chance of mammary tumor growth. Researchers noticed that in this experiment rat tumors also regressed, suggesting limonene may treat existing cancer as well as prevent it.

New drugs typically undergo three phases of clinical tests, each more rigorous than the previous: Phase I trials establish a toxic human dose, phase II trials determine a therapeutic dose and how it is metabolized, and phase III trials determine drug effectiveness. Extensive animal studies are done before phase I trials begin.

Phase I trials have so far shown that limonene is well tolerated by cancer patients and has little toxicity. Phase II trials, to test how well limonene actually works to reduce cancer, are under way at several institutions including the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Md. In other research, perillyl alcohol, a related compound, was found to be five times as active as limonene in regressing tumors. A diet of 2.5 percent perillyl alcohol caused 75 percent of chemically induced rat mammary tumors to regress. Perillyl alcohol is now being tested in NCI-sponsored phase I clinical trials as a treatment for advanced breast, ovarian and prostatic cancers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Researchers speculate that perillyl alcohol may also be effective against pancreatic cancer, which is extremely difficult to treat.

The amount of monoterpenes needed to prevent cancer in humans is not established. Toxicity studies are incomplete, but the high doses required for chemotherapy may cause kidney damage and gastrointestinal problems. Both orange and lavender essential oils are safe to ingest; in fact, orange oil is a common food additive used for flavoring.

Few drugs have been developed that effectively treat cancer, so NCI is constantly searching for potential drug candidates. Many of these candidates, like limonene and perillyl alcohol, are natural products from herbs. For now though, these two concentrated substances remain in the realm of the laboratory, the doses being used in clinical trials are intended for treating cancer and must be monitored by a physician.

1. Elson CE, Yu SG. The chemoprevention of cancer by mevalonate-derived constituents of fruits and vegetables. J Nutr 1994;124:607-14.
2. Gould MN. Cancer chemoprevention and therapy by monoterpenes. Environ Health Perspect 1997;105:S977-9.
3. Mills JJ, et al. Induction of apoptosis in liver tumors by the monoterpene perillyl alcohol. Cancer Res 1995; 55:979-83.
4. Hohl RJ. Monoterpenes as regulators of malignant cell proliferation. In: American Institute for Cancer Research. Dietary Phytochemicals in Cancer Prevention and Treatment. New York: Plenum Press;1996.
5. Elson CE. Suppression of mevalonate pathway activities by dietary isoprenoids: protective roles in cancer and cardiovascular disease. J Nutr 1995;125:1666S-72S.
6. [Anonymous]. Clinical Development Plan: l-Perillyl Alcohol, J Cellular Biochem 1996;26S:137-48.
7. Crowell PL, et al. Antitumor effects of limonene and perillyl alcohol against pancreatic and breast cancer. In: American Institute for Cancer Research. Dietary Phytochemicals in Cancer Prevention and Treatment. New York: Plenum Press;1996.
8. Vigushin DM, et al. Phase I and pharmacokinetic study of d-limonene in patients with advanced cancer. Cancer Research Campaign Phase I/II Clinical Trials Committee. Cancer Chemother & Pharmacol 1998;42:111-17.
9. Ziegler J. Raloxifen, retinoids and lavender: "me too" tamoxifen alternatives under study. J Natl Canc Inst 1996;88:1100-1.
10. Stark MJ, et al. Chemotherapy of pancreatic cancer with the monoterpene perillyl alcohol. Cancer Letters 1995; 96:15-21.

Originally printed April 1999 Nutrition Science News


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