Herbs

Dandelion Health Benefits

The dandelion herb has been used for centuries to promote good health. It is full of vitamins, minerals, and other natural chemicals the body can use to overcome illness. Not only does it have medical uses, but it also has popular culinary uses.

What Is The Dandelion Herb?

Taraxacum officinal, meaning “the official remedy for disorders”, is a perennial herb with a long, brown taproot. The leaves are jagged and pointy. They grow close to the ground and outward from a central point. They are a dark green on the edges and a lighter green towards the center. The stems are light green to a dark reddish purple.

The flowers are a bright yellow on the outside to a dark orange in the center. When the flowers are mature, they turn into a white puffball of seeds that scatter everywhere when the wind blows. The scattered seeds sprout into new plants. Every part of the dandelion exudes a milky substance when it is damaged. The name Dandelion comes from the French word for Lion’s Tooth, Dent de Lion, because the leaves are jagged like teeth. Other names for Dandelion are:

    Benefits of the Dandelion

  • Blow Ball,
  • Cankerwort
  • Puffball
  • Pu-kung-ying
  • Telltime
  • White Endive
  • Wild Endive
  • Swine’s Snout
  • Pu Gong Ying
  • Dent de Lion
  • Priest’s Crown.

Where Does It Come From?

The dandelion herb is thought to have originated in Europe and Asia, but it can now be found throughout the northern hemisphere, including the United States. Most people consider the dandelion a weed, especially when it takes over their front lawn! However, it is also grown and cultivated for medical and edible uses. When used for medicine, the dandelion can be taken in powdered or liquid form.

There are several ways to make a liquid dandelion extract. To make a tea, steep the dandelion in water. A tincture can be made by adding either alcohol or glycerin to the tea. If alcohol is used, the tincture is preserved for up to three years and it is absorbed more easily than if glycerin is used. However, glycerin tastes better.

To make the powder, they use a low temperature distillation process that removes the active ingredients from the raw herb. The liquid is then condensed and dried to make a fine powder, which is put in gelatin capsules.

The History and Origin of the Dandelion

The first recorded use of dandelion for medicinal purposes is from the Arabians around 900 AD; however, it is believed the Chinese were using dandelions long before that. Dandelion is believed to be one of the original bitter herbs used for Passover in the Bible. There are records of the Welsh using it in the 13th century.

The pilgrims brought it to North America. In 1620, when the Mayflower arrived, there were no dandelions in America. By 1671, they were growing abundantly all over what is now the United States.

How the Dandelion is Used Today

Today, the dandelion has both medical and culinary uses. Dandelion greens are one of the most nutritious greens available. One cup of raw greens has:

  • 112% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A
  • 535% RDA of vitamin K
  • 32% RDA of vitamin C
  • 103 mg of calcium
  • 1.7 mg of iron
  • 218 mg of potassium.

Additional Uses

They are also a good source of beta carotene, lutein, vitamin H, which has been proven to help weight loss, and over two dozen other nutrients. Dandelion greens add color and texture to salads, stir-fry, and soups. The greens are the leaves. It is best to harvest them in early spring, well before the last frost is expected. They need to be gathered before the flowers bloom or they will be bitter. The best time is when the leaves have just emerged.

The root is also used for culinary purposes. It can be added to soups or ground up and roasted to make a drink similar to coffee without the negative side effects. The root of the dandelion is full of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients, including inulin, which is helpful in controlling diabetes.

Drinking dandelion coffee helps stimulate the digestive system. It is best to harvest the roots in early spring or late fall when most of the nutrients are stored there. The flowers are used for making dandelion wine and dandelion fritters. They are good for the antioxidant luteolin, which is found in them.

Benefits of the Dandelion Herb

Dandelion herb has been associated with improving liver function and liver diseases such as hepatitis and jaundice. It is a strong diuretic that does not deplete potassium in the body. It has been shown to improve both constipation and diarrhea. It purifies the blood, cleanses the digestive system, removes heavy metals from body tissues, and can help dissolve kidney stones. It has been shown to help weight loss, cure acne, lower high blood pressure, cure anemia, lower serum cholesterol levels, reduce acid indigestion and gas, improve some cancers, and help control diabetes all with no negative side effects. The dandelion herb is full of so many vitamins, minerals and micronutrients that alone might be the reason it is so beneficial in so many different areas.

  • The sodium in dandelions is thought to reduce the inflammation of the liver.
  • Vitamin A helps fight cancers in the mouth and the lungs.
  • Potassium, along with magnesium, has been shown to help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke.
  • Dandelions are full of both potassium and magnesium.
  • The fiber in dandelions lowers cholesterol, is beneficial to diabetes, and fights cancer and heart disease.
  • Calcium has been shown to build strong bones and reduce high blood pressure.
  • B vitamins lower the effects of stress.
  • Romanian lab mice lost 30% of their body weight in 30 days by taking a dandelion extract with their food.

Helpful Chemicals

Along with all the vitamins and minerals in the dandelion, there are also numerous chemicals that are important in many bodily functions.

Inulin is converted into fructose as it is digested. Fructose does not use insulin, which results in a slower rise in blood sugar making it ideal for those with diabetes or hypoglycemia.

  • Tof-CFr is similar to lentinan, which has been proven to fight cancer cells in Japanese lab mice.
  • Pectin helps diarrhea; it removes heavy metals, and lowers cholesterol especially if it is combined with vitamin C. The dandelion herb has both.
  • Coumestrol mimics estrogen. It stimulates milk production and balances hormones.
  • Apigenin and luteolin are diuretics, antioxidants, and antispasmodics. They have liver protecting properties and strengthen the heart and blood vessels. They are antibacterial and estrogen mimics.
  • Gallic Acid helps diarrhea and is antibacterial.
  • Linoleic and linolenic acid are fatty acids the body needs to produce prostaglandins that regulate blood pressure, suppress inflammation, regulate the menstrual cycle, and prevent platelet aggregation.
  • Choline has been shown to improve memory.
  • The dandelion herb has many sesquiterpene compounds that are thought to give it its bitter taste. These compounds promote good digestion, liver, spleen, and gall bladder function. They are also antifungal.
  • Triterpenes are helpful for liver and bile stimulation.
  • Taraxasterol is good for the liver and gall bladder. It also balances hormones.

Purchasing Options

Dandelion is sold as capsules, tea leaves, powder, or tincture. Capsules are easy to take and have little taste. Teas can be enjoyable and relaxing, while tinctures are absorbed quickly. They are all good choices depending on preferences. Dandelion leaves average about $1 to $2 an ounce whether they are cut up or a powder and the capsules average about $8 for 60 capsules. Dandelion root is about the same for the powder, but the capsules are considerably cheaper, about $2 to $4 for 100 capsules. Moreover, the tincture can be found between $4 and $5 an ounce.

To make dandelion coffee, the roots have to be roasted which will double the cost. Some good brands to try are Now, Yogi, Traditional Medicines, and Starwest Botanicals. A local health food store would be a good place to buy dandelion. If the internet is used, shop around because different sites frequently have sales. One good site to try is www.takeherb.com.

How Much to Take?

  • The recommended dose for dandelion leaf tea is 1-2 teaspoons steeped in hot water 3 times a day.
  • For dandelion root tea, the recommended dose is ½ -2 teaspoons steeped in hot water 3 times a day.
  • Whether the capsules are the leaf or the root, the recommended dose is 500 mg 3 times a day.
  • The recommended dose for both the leaf tincture and the root tincture is 100-150 drops 3 times a day.

Precautions

While there are no negative side effects from taking the dandelion herb, some people have been known to have allergic reactions to it, including a rash or mouth sores. If you are allergic to yarrow, iodine, ragweed, marigold, chrysanthemums, chamomile, or daisies, you should avoid taking dandelion. Dandelion might cause stomach acid or heartburn in some people. If you have gallbladder problems or gallstones, you should consult a doctor before taking dandelion. Dandelion is a diuretic and may cause your body to expel any drugs you are taking faster than normal. Consult a doctor if you are taking Lithium, quinoline antibiotics, and antacids like Pepcid, Zantac, and Taganet.

Conditions

Abrasion Remedies

Abrasions, often referred to as a burn, skin, or scrape, occur when the skin is rubbed away; commonly abrasions occur when one falls on a hard or rough surface. Children are extremely prone to abrasions, commonly suffering from a skinned knee as a result of playing and falling. Abrasions remove layers of skin from the epidermis, which is the outer layer of skin that protects the body from outside forces. Typically, abrasions are accompanied by bruising or small cuts. Fortunately, abrasions do not usually result in scarring; however, with severe abrasions scarring can occur.

Causes

The common causes of abrasions are coming into contact with or scarping up against a rough surface such as cement or asphalt, sports injury, bed sores, falls, and scratching in sleep. Children and the elderly are at a greater risk for contracting abrasions. Young children can be clumsy may fall while playing. Often, children experience a skinned or scraped knee as a result of a fall or accident. The epidermis in the elderly is thinner and at a greater risk of for abrasions. Bedsores and falls can be common for older individuals, thus resulting in an abrasion.
Abrasion Information

Symptoms

Symptoms of an abrasion may include, pain, redness, swelling, oozing, rash, or even bleeding. The wound will appear pink or reddish in color, and some people may feel a hot or burning sensation around the abrasion. Some individuals may experience a slight fever in reaction to bacteria that got into the abrasion. It is best to always wash the affected area with anti-bacterial soap and treat with a topical antibiotic ointment to kill any bacteria.

Types of Abrasions

Abrasions in the skin can range from grazed skin, which is a minor abrasion that appears pink in color and may or may not bleed, to a rash, which can remove several layers of skin and results in bleeding. Many abrasions are referred to as burns. Rug burns and rope burns are a common abrasion that is caused by slipping or gripping too tightly on a rope or slipping or falling on carpet. These types of abrasions are less serious, only removing a few layers of the epidermis. Corneal abrasions occur in the eye. A foreign body, such as dirt or sand, can enter into the eye and cause an abrasion on the outer layer of the eye. Typically, corneal abrasions are easy to treat and do not result in scarring.

Cleaning Abrasions

Wash the affected area thoroughly using antibacterial soap, such as Dial or Softsoap. Be sure to remove all dirt and debris from the wound. You can use hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol to clean and disinfected the abrasion, but some pain may occur. After you have cleaned the open wound, place an antibiotic cream such as Neosporin over the abrasion and cover it with gauze or an adhesive bandage such as Band-Aid. Always check any abrasions for deeper cuts, or lacerations, as these will need medical attention. . If you cannot remove all the debris or if the wound is very deep, see a doctor as soon as possible.

Antiseptics

Many supermarkets, drug stores, and grocery stores sell antiseptics that will clean and disinfect the abrasion. These antiseptics will help to rid the area of bacteria and stimulate the healing process. It is important never to scrub or rub the area too hard as this may cause further infection or irritation.

Iodine

You can clean the wound with iodine. After washing the area with water, simply pour some iodine on a cotton ball or soft, clean washcloth and rub the wound. This works to clean and disinfect, preventing infection and scarring.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen Peroxide is a very effective antiseptic and is often used in wound care. It is inexpensive and sold in almost every supermarket, drug store, or grocery. Dip a cotton ball or clean washcloth into some hydrogen peroxide and rub gently onto the abrasion. The hydrogen peroxide may bubble, but it is not harmful. It will clean and disinfect the wound and help it heal faster. Do not use hydrogen peroxide for a prolonged period of time to treat abrasions. Studies have shown that extended use of hydrogen peroxide can actually irritate and in some individuals damage the skin.

Antibiotics

Topical antibiotics can be used after effective wound cleaning to prevent infection. Brands such as Neosporin or Triple Antibiotic increase the healing process and kill bacteria in the abrasion. These ointments can be purchased at most health food stores, supermarkets, grocery stores, and drug stories.

Natural Remedies

Many natural plants and herbs can stimulate the immune system and increase the healing process of abrasions. Home remedies have been used to treat abrasions for generations and many scientific studies have shown their effectiveness.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is known for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It works to soothe the pain of the abrasion and ease any burning sensation you may feel. It encourages the healing process by helping to rid the body of harmful bacteria. You can purchase aloe vera gel at local supermarkets, pharmacies, and health food stores. If you have an aloe plant at home, you can extract the gel by cutting a leaf down the center and draining the yellow latex from the plant. Be careful not to touch the latex as it can cause skin irritation. Once the latex has drained, use the gel from the leaf on your wound.

Honey

Honey has many healing benefits. It works as a natural disinfectant, can help to clean out debris in the wound, and keep the skin soft and moist to encourage healing. Simply apply enough honey to cover the abrasion and cover with gauze or an adhesive bandage.

Lavender

Lavender has many beneficial healing qualities such as encouraging cell regeneration and antiseptic properties. After cleaning the abrasion, apply 3 or 4 drops of lavender essential oil to a piece of gauze. Apply the gauze to the wound using medical tape. The lavender oil will help to relieve pain and inflammation associated with the abrasion. Be sure to change the dressing on the wound at least twice a day to ensure proper healing.

Vitamin C

Consuming vitamin C will help to give the immune system a much-needed boost and help to fight off infection due to an abrasion. Try to eat foods such as oranges, tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli, and red peppers. You can also take vitamin C supplements to give your immune system an extra push. Vitamin C supplements are sold at local health food stores, supermarkets, drug stores, and groceries.

Be sure to purchase a vitamin C supplement that is made from natural plants, not from the synthetic supplement ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid does not work as quickly or as well to stimulate the immune system.

Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel is often used to clean and disinfect the skin. It contains resin, procyanidin, and flavonoids, which reduce inflammation and soothe pain associated with abrasions. Drug stores commonly sell Witch Hazel mixed with rubbing alcohol that can clean and treat abrasions. It works to reduce swelling and take away pain and any burning sensations.

Garlic

Garlic has been shown to have antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal properties. It rids the abrasion of harmful bacterial and stimulates the healing process. Simply slice a garlic clove and place a piece on the wound. You can also use garlic oil, which is sold at health food stores, and place it on a piece of gauze and apply to the wound. Do this 2 to 3 times a day for best healing results.

Thyme

Thyme has antiseptic properties and works with the body to regenerate new skin. Apply 2 to 3 drops of thyme essential oil to a piece of gauze and apply it to the cleaned wound. Tape the gauze down with medical tape and change the dressing 2 to 3 times a day. You can also mix 5 to 6 drops of essential oil with a cup of water and clean the abrasion with the mixture 2 to 3 times a day. Be sure to always use a clean washcloth or cotton ball to clean the wound.

Turmeric

Turmeric is commonly used in Indian culture as a cure-all. It has been proven to stimulate skin regeneration and effectively clean wounds. Simply clean the abrasion, and put a small amount of turmeric powder on the open wound. Let the powder absorb into the skin for approximately 5 minutes then cover with an adhesive bandage or gauze.

Turmeric can also be used to help in scab formation. Mix a ¼ of a teaspoon of turmeric powder with 1 teaspoon of clarified butter. Using a cotton ball or clean washcloth, gently apply the mixture to the wound. You can repeat this up to 3 times a day until the scab is naturally removed. Turmeric powder is available at health foods stores, international markets, and some grocery stores. Be very careful when using the powder as it can stain your clothing yellow.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E oil applied to the wound can stimulate the healing process and help the abrasion heal faster. After cleaning the abrasion, apply the vitamin E oil to the wound using a clean washcloth or cotton ball. Vitamin E oil can be found at health food stores, drug stores, and most supermarkets.

Additionally, try increasing your diet in foods that are rich in vitamin E. Eggs, milk, avocados, spinach, asparagus, and whole grains are all rich in vitamin E. The antioxidants found in vitamin E and a diet rich in vitamin E can help to boost the immune system to accelerate healing.

What to Avoid

When you have an abrasion, avoid consuming unhealthy foods. They can prevent your immune system from fighting off any underlying infection caused by the abrasion. Avoid alcohol consumption as it can weaken the healing process. Avoid wearing clothing that can cling or rub the area; this will prevent healing and make the wound worse.

The Healing Process

Abrasions can range in healing time based on the severity and the treatment options used. Typically, the wound will heal 5 to 14 days after the initial injury. When healing, the skin around the wound may look red or pink and raw. As the abrasion heals, the new skin will form, looking smooth and pink in appearance.

When to See a Doctor

Home remedies are perfect treatments for mild abrasions. For more severe abrasions, you may need to see your doctor. If your wound is large, deep, and difficult to clean, if there is a pus-like discharge, if infection develops, or if you are not up to date on your tetanus shot, you need to see a doctor. If you have not had your tetanus shot within the last five years, be sure to see your doctor and have the shot within 48 hours of your injury

Prevention

If engaging in sports activities, always wear the proper protection, such as knee pads, skin guards, and elbow pads. Wear gloves or protective clothing if your will be engaging in an activity that may require you to pull rope or be around rough surfaces.

Vitamins

Naphthoquinone (Vitamin K)

Naphthoquinone is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is an organic compound that has the formula C10H6O2. It can be viewed as derivatives of naphthalene through the replacement of two hydrogen atoms by two ketone groups. It is a yellow crystalline substance that is related to quinone, procurable by oxidizing naphthalene with chromic acid.

Naphthoquinone has an odor similar to benzoquinone. It is slightly soluble in cold water and petroleum ether. It is soluble in most polar organic solvents. Naphthoquinone derivatives possess anti-bacterial and anti-tumor properties. 1,4-naphthoquinone derivatives occur naturally in the form of vitamin K.

Vitamin K Overview

The “K” in vitamin K comes from the German work “koagulation.” Coagulation refers to the process of blood clotting. Vitamin K is a group of vitamins (K1, K2, and K3) which promote clotting of the blood. They are a class of compounds that contain the naphthoquinone structure. Vitamin K regulates normal blood clotting and prevents hemorrhaging.
Vitamin K

The anti-hemorrhagic factor in vitamin K and its synthetic analogues have a specific effect on prothrombin deficiency.

Vitamin K increases the synthesis of prothrombin, which is a blood-clotting protein, by the liver.

It helps prevent calcification in the arteries and it may also help to reduce the risk of bone injuries and fractures.

Types of Vitamin K

There are two types of vitamin K found in nature. Vitamin K1 or phytonadione is found in plants, and vitamin K2 or menaquinone can be synthesized by multiple bacteria. Vitamin K3 or menadione is not considered to be a natural vitamin K.

The group of vitamin K vitamins have a methylated naphthoquinone ring structure. The naphthoquinone is the functional group, which makes the structure of action similar in all K-vitamins. The lipophilicity of the various side chains and the different food matrices in which they occur cause the differences in each of the vitamins.

Vitamin K1

Vitamin K1 is a form of vitamin K. It has the chemical name 2-methyl-3phytyl-1, 4-naphthoquinone. It’s compound formula is C31,H46,O2. It is a clear, yellow to amber, viscous liquid that is odorless or almost odorless. It is one of the oil-soluble vitamins found in green plants and prepared synthetically. It is soluble in chloroform, but insoluble in water. It is used as a prothrombinogenic agent. Vitamin K1 was named phylloquinone because it is an indirect product of photosynthesis in plant leaves.

Vitamin K1 is found in green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, avocado, brussel sprouts, kale and cabbage, cauliflower, kiwi, alfalfa and some vegetable oils, or it can be made synthetically. It can be given orally to treat prothrombin deficiency that may result from anticoagulant drugs.

Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2, also known as menaquinone, has the chemical name 2-methyl-3-difarnesyl-1, 4-naphthoquinone. It’s compound formula is C41H56O2. It is a naturally occurring vitamin that is found in various large intestine bacteria. Vitamin K2 helps activate vitamin K dependent proteins responsible for healthy tissue and bone. It helps to activate the protein, osteocalcin, which is required to bind calcuim to the mineral matix, which strengthens the bones. It is found in sources such as butter, eggs, cow liver, cheese and fermented products.

Vitamin K3

Vitamin K3 is also known as menadione. It has the chemical name 2-methyl-1, 4 naphthoquinone. It’s compound formula is C11H8O2. It is a bright yellow crystalline powder that is soluble in vegetable oils. It is a synthetic analogue that acts as a provitamin. It is used as a vitamin K supplement. Menadione is necessary for the production of prothrombin and other blood clotting factors. It can also help regulate the calcification of bones. Too large a dose of vitamin K3 can cause serious problems, and even death.

Vitamin K Deficiency

Vitamin K and all other liposoluble vitamins are stored in the fat tissue of the human body. A vitamin K deficiency in healthy adults is not common, however, there is an increased risk of a deficiency in newborn infants. Also, infants who are breast-fed are at a higher risk for a vitamin K deficiency.

Adults who take anticoagulant drugs or individuals who have liver damage or disease are at a higher risk of vitamin K deficiency. Individuals who suffer from cystic fibrosis, inflammatory bowel diseases or have had recent abdominal surgeries may be at a higher risk for deficiency. Individuals who have a problem with intestinal absorption of fats may also be at an increased risk of vitamin K deficiency.

Drugs Causing Deficiencies

Individuals who have strict diets or have eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia, may suffer from secondary vitamin K deficiency. Some drugs also interfere with vitamin K deficiency such as salicylates, barbiturates, and cefamandole.

Vitamin A and vitamin E have been shown to interfere with vitamin K if they are taken in large doses. Vitamin A may effect the absorption of vitamin K and vitamin E can inhibit vitamin K dependent carboxylase enzymes.

There are no differences in the causes of deficiency of vitamin K between men and women.

Symptoms of Vitamin K Deficiency

Some of the symptoms of a vitamin K deficiency in the body include bleeding and bruising easily, gastrointestinal bleeding, nose bleeds, bleeding gums, the presence of blood in the urine, blood in the stool, tarry black stools, and abnormally long or heavy menstruation in women.

Vitamin K deficiency in infants may result in a bleeding disorder, vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB), that is life-threatening, but easily preventable. Because VKDB is preventable, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that an injection of vitamin K1 or phylloquinone be given to all newborn babies. Human milk is low in vitamin K, however, baby formula tends to be much higher in the content of vitamin K.

Dosage Recommendations

Because of the occurrences of vitamin K deficiency bleeding in newborn infants, the Committee on Nutrition of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that 0.5 to 1.0 mg of vitamin K be administered to newborns once they are born.

The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine recommends the following dosages for children:

  • Children ages 1-3 years of age should have 30mcg/day
  • Children ages 4-8 years of age should have 55mcg/day
  • Children ages 9-13 years of age should have 60mcg/day
  • Children ages 14-18 years of age should have 75mcg/day

The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine recommends the following dosages for adults:

  • Adult males 19 years and older should have 120 mcg/day.
  • Females 19 years and older should have 90 mcg/day.
  • A woman 19 years and older that is pregnant or breastfeeding should have 90 mcg/day.
  • A woman 18 years and younger that is pregnant or breastfeeding should take 75 mcg/day.

Toxicity

There is no known toxicity associated with high doses of vitamin K1 or vitamin K2. However, vitamin K3, a synthetic form of vitamin K, has been proven to be toxic. It can interfere with the function of glutathione, one of the body’s natural antioxidants. The FDA has banned menadione, or vitamin K3, from over-the-counter supplements because large doses can cause allergic reactions, induce liver toxicity, jaundice and hemolytic anemia.

Vitamin K Sources

Vitamin K is found in many food sources. Vitamin K sources include leafy green vegetables such as:

    Benefits of Vitamin K

  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Collard greens
  • Turnip greens
  • Kale
  • Parsley
  • Spinach.

Other sources are:

  • Soybeans
  • Tomatoes
  • Egg yolk
  • Cauliflower
  • Raw watercress
  • Olive, Soybean, & Canola Oil
  • Beans & Olives
  • Cereals
  • Dairy products such as milk, cheese, & butter
  • Some fruits
  • Liver and Pork

Research and Osteoporisis

Studies of vitamin K suggests that it may play a potential role in bone density changes. In Japan, a form of vitamin K2, called menatetrenone, has been used to treat osteoporosis. However, this type of treatment is controversial. The United States is currently conducting their own studies of the relationship between vitamin K2 and bone health.

The latest studies are showing a positive corrolation between vitamin K intake and osteoporosis. People taking Warfarin, an anticoagulant, may need to take extra vitamin K. Warfarin prevents the recycling of vitamin K, which reduces the levels available to the body. This can contribute to weaker bones and increased fractures.

Research and Cardiovascular Disease

New studies are suggesting that vitamin K may play a crucial role in cardiovascular health. Vitamin K2 is needed for activating the protein matrix Gla-protein, which is an inhibitor of vascular calcification. When enough vitamin K2 is present it can help prevent calcium buildup in blood vessels that assist in vascular disease.

Patients who take Warfarin to prevent blood clots that can trigger heart attacks and strokes, may need to supplement with a low dose of vitamin K.

Research and Alzheimers

Research has also shown that vitamin K may reduce neuronal damage and that giving vitamin K supplements to Alzheimer’s patients may have benefits. However, more research is needed to find out the specifics.

Research and Cancer

Scientific evidence and research do not support the use of vitamin K for the prevention or treatment of cancer. A small clinical trial, however, found that a similar vitamin 2 compound may help reduce the recurrence of liver cancer after surgery.

Some studies have suggested that a low vitamin K intake may increase the risk for certain types of cancers. A 2008 published European study found that men with a low intake of some forms of vitamin K are at a higher risk for prostate cancer. A Japan study suggests that vitamin K may lower the risk of developing liver cancer in women who have cirrhosis of the liver.

Potential Benefits

Some alternative medicine practitioners use vitamin K3 as an anticancer supplement, and others claim that taking high doses of Vitamin K3 and Vitamin C may inhibit tumor growth. However, there is not any scientific evidence to support these claims.

Some studies in mice have shown that vitamin K may slow the growth of cancer cells. More clinical studies will need to be done on humans to determine the role in which vitamin K may have on cancer.

Other Uses for Vitamin K

Vitamin K, if applied topically, may help diminish bruising from postoperative procedures, scarring, redness caused by broken blood vessels, rosacea, skin irritations such as burns and sunburns, dark circles under the eyes and aid in the fading of hyper pigmentation.

References & Resources

Applied Therapeutics for Clinical Pharmacists
Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary
Oregon State University
Usda.Gov
Cancer.Org
Lef.Org

Conditions

Treating Nasal Congestion

Nasal congestion, commonly known as a stuffy nose, congested nose, or stopped-up nose, is a common health problem that affects millions of people. It occurs when there is a blockage of the nasal passage, usually when the membrane lining inside of the nose becomes swollen from inflamed blood vessels. While nasal congestion may just be a minor annoyance in older children and adults, in many infants, nasal congestion can pose serious health risks. Nasal congestion has many causes and ranges in severity.

Causes

Nasal congestion is commonly caused by allergic rhinitis, or hay fever. This occurs when pollen, dust, mold spores, or other allergens are inhaled and irritate the nasal passage. Other causes of nasal congestion include the common cold or flu, a deviated septum, sinusitis or sinus infections, reaction to certain medications. Additionally, nasal congestion occurs in many women during pregnancy. In many individuals, nasal congestion is caused by food allergies. Those who are lactose intolerant often find themselves suffering from a stuffy nose. Your doctor can conduct allergy tests to identify your specific type of food allergy and recommend a new diet. Reducing the amount of dairy in your diet in addition to carbohydrates and sugar can improve the quality of your diet and reduce nasal congestion.
Stuffy Nose Remedies

Symptoms

A stuffy nose, or nasal congestion, is just, a feeling as though your nose is stuffed with something. Symptoms may include difficulty breathing through your nose, a runny nose, and sneezing. Those who suffer from severe nasal congestion can have trouble in sleeping, speaking, and hearing and even experience bothersome snoring.

When to See a Doctor

It is usually not necessary to see a doctor when you experience nasal congestion. You need to seek medical attention if you experience other symptoms such as blurred vision, swelling of the eyes or forehead, a cough that produces yellow or green mucus, a bloody nose, or if your congestion lasts longer than 2 weeks.

Home Remedies

There are many home remedies used to relieve nasal congestion. Simple remedies include using an allergy filter in your air conditioner, using a vaporizer with additives such as vinegar, and dusting regularly. Dusting and allergy filters help to reduce nasal congestion caused by allergies and hay fever while vaporizers work to open the sinuses up using steam.

Foods

Many home remedies for relieving nasal congestion center around spicy or strong foods. In many cultures, chicken soup is the perfect cure for nasal congestion. Adding black or red pepper in the chicken soup can help to open up the sinuses, allowing for the inflammation of the nose to decrease. Many spicy foods such as curries, Chinese soups, and Mexican dishes contain peppers and spices that can help relieve congestion. These foods may cause your nose to run, so be sure to keep tissues near you.

Vapor Rub

Vapor rub contains menthol, which helps to temporarily open the nasal passages. Rub a small amount of the vapor rub on your chest or under nostrils works to soothe and relieve congestion. There are many different brands of vapor rub, but all are very similar so any brand will work.

Hot Drinks

Drinking hot drinks such as green tea can help to reduce nasal congestion. The steam from the drink opens up the nasal passages and many warm liquids such as tea or chicken soup are old cures for colds. Try to avoid consuming too much caffeine as it can cause congestion to worsen.

Elevate Your Head

Often, nighttime can be the worst period for nasal congestion. Lying down can also aggravate nasal congestion. Elevating your head with extra pillows at night can help the nose to drain better and open up clogged nasal passages.

Hot Compresses

Placing a hot, moist towel under your eyes encourages sinus drainage. This can relieve congestion and pain associated with allergies or a cold. You can apply warm compresses several times a day as needed to relieve the congestion. Gently pressing on the hot compress can shift the facial bones to allow for better sinus drainage.

Steam

When you have nasal congestion, often the best relief is taking a hot shower. The steam from the shower opens up the nasal passageways. You can boil a pot of water on the stove and carefully breathe in the steam to help reduce nasal congestion.

Tomato Tea

Tomato tea works to open the sinuses and give the body a much-needed boost of vitamin C to help improve the immune system. Combine a cup of tomato juice, V8 works great, a teaspoon of minced garlic, ½ a teaspoon of hot sauce, and a teaspoon of lemon juice. You can heat the ingredients in a pot on the stove or in a container in the microwave. Be sure to drink the tomato tea hot. The tomato juice contains large amounts of vitamin C, which helps the immune system. Garlic also works to help fight infection. The hot sauce works to open up the sinuses and reduce nasal congestion.

Oil of Oregano

Oil of oregano is an essential oil known for its ability to strengthen the immune system and improve respiratory health. You can add 2 or 3 drops of oil of oregano to your favorite juice and drink it 3 or 4 times a day to treat nasal congestion. The juice can help boost the immune system in addition to the oil of oregano. You can also add 8 drops of oil of oregano to hot water and breathe in the steam. This will help to open up the nasal passageways to reduce nasal congestion.

Nasal Sprays

Nasal sprays are a great way to relieve the pressure and difficulty breathing associated with nasal congestion. These sprays can be purchased over the counter, prescribed by a physician, or even homemade.

Over-the-Counter Sprays

Nasal sprays such as Afrin offer decongestant properties and work to quickly relieve the nose of congestion. Zicam and Vicks offer a more natural nasal spray. The side effects of these over-the-counter sprays include dizziness, burning, drying of the sinuses, and sneezing. These sprays are available at most supermarkets, drug stores, and pharmacies. Costing approximately $6 US per bottle, over-the-counter sprays are an inexpensive cure for nasal congestion.

Prescription Sprays

For more severe cases of congestion, a physician may prescribe a nasal spray. Products such as Nasonex and Omnaris offer relief from allergies and allergy-caused nasal congestion. Atrovent is used to treat severe nasal congestion in individuals who also suffer from lung problems such as COPD and emphysema.
Side effects of these medications include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Bitter taste
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety.

Prescription nasal sprays can be expensive; however, many insurance companies or prescription medical plans can assist in reducing the cost of these medications. Do not take these sprays if you have certain heart conditions, are on medication for hypertension, have high blood pressure, or have thyroid disease.

Saline

Saline Solution Saline spray is one of the most common treatments for nasal congestion. It is available in supermarkets, drug stores, and grocery stores. You can even make your own saline solution easily and with little cost. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil and pour in 1/4 teaspoon of non-iodized salt and a 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. Stir lightly until the salt and baking soda is diluted, leaving the water a bit cloudy in color. Allow the solution to cool until it is at room temperature and place in a clean and sterilized 8-ounce container. You can use this solution in a neti pot or with a nasal bulb.

Tea Tree Oil

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add approximately 8 drops of tea tree oil. Pour the tea tree oil solution into a bowl and inhale the steam. You can place a towel over your head to create a tent, which will catch the vapors and help to open up the sinus passages.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Placing 8 ounces of warm water into a glass bowl or container, add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a ¼ teaspoon of non-iodized salt. Mix the solution together until the salt has dissolved. Gently tilt your head back and use an eyedropper or nasal bulb to put the solution into your nasal cavity. Breath deeply with your head back, ensuring the solution is able to work to clear the congestion. Then, blow your nose; this will rid your nose of mucus and congestion.

Decongestant Pills

Decongestant pills work to alleviate the nose of congestion. Psuedophedrine and phenylephrine are the most common active ingredients in decongestant pills. Phenylephrine acts directly to reduce inflammation while pseudophedrine acts indirectly on the adrenergic receptors, which helps to reduce the swelling of the blood vessels in the nose. Decongestants are typically paired with antihistamines to treat the two main causes of nasal congestion. Some common brands of decongestants are Claritin D, Sudafed, and Mucinex D.

These pills can be purchased at local supermarkets, drug stores, and pharmacies. They are relatively inexpensive, costing $8 to $12 US per box, depending on the amount and dosage size. The side effects of these medications include dizziness, anxiety, fatigue, stomach cramps, nervousness, and an increased heart rate. Do not take decongestant pills if you certain heart conditions, are on asthma medication, have high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease.

Risk Factors

Those with a weakened or suppressed immune system, young children, infants, and the elderly are at a higher risk of contracting the flu or a cold. This can lead to nasal congestion. Those with allergic rhinitis are extremely likely to suffer from chronic and prolonged nasal congestion. Women who are pregnant can experience nasal congestion due to the increased blood flow throughout the body. Newborn infants often suffer from nasal congestion, which can potentially be harmful. Infants can only breathe through their noses and nasal congestion can interfere with breastfeeding or cause difficulty breathing.

Prevention

Preventing nasal congestion can be easy. In the winter months, be sure to keep your home comfortably humid with a humidifier. Dry air can aggravate the nasal passageways and cause inflammation. Dusting and riding your home of pollen, dust mites, pet dander, mold, and fungi can reduce exposure to harmful allergens that can cause congestion. Consuming vitamin C can help to boost the immune system to prevent colds. Colds and the flu commonly cause nasal congestion; with a healthy immune system, you are less likely to experience bothersome nasal congestion.

What to Avoid

Certain foods and activities can aggravate and worsen nasal congestion. Always avoid consuming alcohol when experiencing nasal congestion. Alcohol can dry out the nasal passage and increase the rick of inflammation of the blood vessels in the nose. Additionally, avoid swimming in chlorine pools. The chlorine can irritate the mucus membranes in your nose and cause inflammation.

Many foods can cause a stuffy nose, so try to avoid food such as ice cream, cheese, and milk when you have nasal congestion. Caffeine can irritate and dry the nasal passages, further causing nasal congestion.

Conditions

Types of Eye Infections

An eye infection is a general term applied to many different conditions. Eye infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, allergies, or other microbiological means. Some common types of eye infections are pink eye, or conjunctivitis, blepharitis, and trachoma. These varieties of infections can spread easily and lead to larger problems including blurred vision, damage to the retina, cornea, or optic nerve, or even blindness.

Human eye anatomy

Causes

Individuals who wear contact lenses are likely to contract an eye infection due to the buildup of bacteria. If the lenses are not properly cleaned and disinfected, bacteria are able to build up quickly. Other causes for mild eye infections include viruses, bacteria, fungus, allergies, and other irritants. Common causes of more serious infections include ocular histoplasmosis, sexually transmitted infections, shingles, and inflammation of the cornea.

Ocular Histoplasmosis

Ocular histoplasmosis is a fungal infection of the lungs that can travel to the eyes. This is commonly contracted in the United States; approximately 90 % of individuals living in the southeastern United States have developed this specific type of infection.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as Chlamydia, gonorrhea, or herpes can cause infections and visual damage. The infection can get into the eye through genital fluids or if the eyes are rubbed after handling infected genital areas.

Shingles

Shingles are a chronic, reoccurring infection that causes chickenpox. After touching an open sore then touching the eye, the infection can move into the eye. Over 50 % of people who have singles will have an eye infection as a result of the infection.

Other Causes

Other causes of eye infections are:

  • Lyme disease
  • Crab lice
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Allergies
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Acanthamoea.

Symptoms

Unfortunately, there is no specific list of symptoms for eye infections. The symptoms vary based on the cause of the infection, which part of the eye is infected, the severity, and the reaction in the individual. Common symptoms of conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, are redness, crusting of the eyelid, itching, and discharge. For viral cases of conjunctivitis, the discharge is watery or mucous-like and with bacterial conjunctivitis, the discharge is thicker and can be green, yellow, or white in color.

Common symptoms of bacterial infections, or keratitis, include:Eye Infections

  • pain
  • itching
  • redness
  • a yellow discharge
  • swollen eyelids
  • constant, involuntary blinking

General symptoms of eye infections may include excessive tearing, redness, swelling, pain, itching, a feeling of sand in the eye, a discharge, or crusting around the eye.

Often, one can have a mild eye infection that may cause no pain or redness. These are difficult to diagnose and can damage the retina, blood vessels, or optic nerve within the eye if gone untreated.

Prevention

The most important step you can take in preventing eye infections is to always wash your hands. This will kill any harmful bacteria or viruses you come into contact with on a daily basis. If you know someone has an eye infection, do not share bedding, towels, or pillows as these items may have become contaminated with the infection.

It is best to never share cosmetics such as eyeliner, mascara, or eye shadows as they can be exposed to infectious materials easily. Once the eye infection is diagnosed, dispose of any contacts that may have been exposed to the infection in addition to any eye makeup. Do not wear contacts or eye makeup until the infection has cleared from the eye completely. Additionally, avoid swimming in chlorine when you have an eye infection. The chlorine can further irritate the eye and render medications ineffective.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis for eye infections can vary based on the cause of the infection. Often for bacterial infections, a swab of will be taken to identify the bacteria and the best treatment options. Viral cultures may be collected and tested, especially if the infection is seen in clusters throughout the eye. A doctor may do a conjunctival scrape in order to detect fungal infections or infections based on common STIs such as Chlamydia.

Treatment

Treatment for eye infections vary based on the type and severity of the infection. Typically, eye doctors will not prescribe medications for viral eye infections unless it has progressed into a worrisome state. Viral infections do not respond to antibiotics, which are the most commonly prescribed treatment for eye infections. For bacterial infections and some fungal infections of the eye, a physician may prescribe antibiotic eye ointments or drops.

Bacterial infections such as blepharitis, an inflammation surrounding the eyelid, require a topical antibiotic and a low-dosage topical corticosteroid. Styes, or small, painful lumps that occur on the upper and lower eyelid may require surgical procedures. Styes are caused by blockages of one of more of the oil-producing glands in the eyelid. An eye doctor may need to make an incision and drain the stye if treatments such as antibiotics and steroid drug injections prove to be ineffective.

Over-the-counter treatments are also available and are quite effective in treating infections caused by allergies. Antihistamines and artificial tears eye drops help to reduce debris in the eye and soothe any irritation. These over-the-counter are found at most supermarkets, drug stores, and pharmacies.

Side Effects

The side effects for medications such as steroids and antibiotic ointment and drops include redness, irritation, burning, stinging, nausea, fatigue, and mild itching. Over-the-counter treatments typically have fewer side effects, which include burning, stinging, redness, and irritation.

Home Remedies

Home remedies can be an easy, inexpensive, and effective solution to reducing the symptoms and curing uncomfortable eye infections. These remedies work best for infections caused by debris or allergies, but can also work with viral and bacterial infections.

Boric Acid

Boric acid, a weak and water-soluble acid, is easily found in supermarkets or drug stores. Occurring naturally in many fruits, vegetables, and other plants, boric acid serves as an antifungal, antiseptic, and eyewash. While boric acid is an acid, it is extremely mild and little side effects have been reported. A slight stinging or burning may occur with use.

Do not use Boric acid ophthalmic if you are allergic to boric acid. Also avoid indigestion or use near open wounds.

Flaxseed

Flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce the body of free radicals and stimulate the immune system help to fight infection. Boil a half-cup of water and add an ounce of bruised flaxseed. Allow the mixture to steep for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Strain the excess water and place the warm flaxseed onto a clean washcloth, cotton square, or piece of cheesecloth and apply directly to the eye. You can repeat this process up to 3 times a day until symptoms are gone.

The flaxseed works to reduce inflammation and soothe the pain in the eye. Do not use this remedy if you are pregnant. There have not been enough studies to show the effects of flaxseed on the fetus.

Tea

Tea bags can work to soothe the eye and reduce redness and swelling. Typically, black tea is used but other types of tea such as green or white may be used. Start by boiling the tea bags in hot water. Allow the bags to cool and place one bag the affected eye for 10 to 15 minutes. You can use the tea made by the bags and water as an eyewash and wash your eye out in the lukewarm mixture before applying the teabag compress.

Repeat up to 3 times a day until bothersome symptoms of the infection are gone. Some people have reported a slight burning or stinging associated with using tea as an eyewash. If this occurs, stop immediately stop using the tea to clean the eye.

Chamomile

Chamomile is known for its soothing and calmative properties. Boil 2 chamomile teabags with 3 cups of water. Allow to cool and apply the chamomile tea to the eye – with freshly washed hands – 3 to 4 times a day. You can also dip a clean washcloth in the tea and apply to the eye as a compress for 15 minutes.

This will help to reduce redness and irritation associated with the eye infection. Some burning, stinging, and redness has been reported with the use of this remedy. Cases were mild and lasted shortly. If these side effects persist or are too bothersome, do not continue to use this cure.

Honey

Honey has many antibacterial properties and can help to kill the harmful bacteria in the eye. There are several different ways honey can be used to treat eye infections. The first way is to mix equal parts honey with boiled water. Mix the honey and water thoroughly and allow to cool. Using a clean washcloth or cotton balls, apply the solution to the eye. You can use the cloth of cotton balls as a compress and leave on the eye for 15 minutes.

This solution can be used as eye drops or an effective eyewash; simply use 2 to 3 times a day until symptoms have cleared. Another great way to use honey to treat eye infections is to boil 3 cups of water with a few eyebright flowers, which can be purchased at local health food stores. Add 3 tablespoons of honey to the water and eyebright and stir. Allow to cool and apply to the eye with a clean washcloth or cotton balls.

This mixture can also be used as an eyewash. The final way to use honey to help reduce eye infections is to apply a small amount of honey directly to the eye. Do not dilute the honey; applied directly to the eyes, the honey binds to any dirt, debris, or discharge in the eye, cleaning the eye safely and effectively through natural tearing.

Jasmine

Jasmine flowers mixed with boiled or distilled water reduce inflammation, redness, and irritation associated with eye infections. Simply fill a clean glass jar with boiled or distilled water and 8 to 10 jasmine flowers. Cover the jar and allow it to sit over night. In the morning, gently stir the mixture and apply to the eye with an eyedropper 1 to 3 times a day for 3 days. After applying the jasmine water eye drops, you can soak a clean wash cloth or cotton balls in witch hazel and apply to the eye as a compress. Set on the eye for 15 to 20 minutes.

Baby Shampoo

Another home remedy requires you to simply dilute a small amount of tearless baby shampoo in water. Using a clean washcloth or cotton balls, gently apply the mixture to the eye and eyelids. This helps to clean out any debris in or around the eye. For best results, wash eyes with the baby shampoo mixture twice a week.

Conditions

Herbal Congestion Treatment

Nasal congestion, also known as stuffy nose or stuffed up nose, nasal blockage, blocked nose, or nasal obstruction is a condition that exists when the nasal passages’ membranes, ranging from the exterior nares or nostrils to the interior nares also called choana, become swollen and irritated from inflamed blood vessels in mucosal membranes. Although they may occur separately, nasal congestion and rhinnorrhea or runny nose, often occur together.

Additional Symptoms

Headache and Sinus Congestion Nasal congestion is usually accompanied by excess mucous occurring in the nasal passages as well. However, this may be true occasionally, but it is not the most common reason why the nose gets congested. The most common cause for a stuffy nose is that the tissue lining it (mucous membrane) becomes swollen, usually due to some sort of irritation.

For most non-infant children and adults, this is commonly more of an annoyance than a serious condition. However, for newborn infants, breathing through the nose is crucial and nasal congestion in the first months after birth could interfere with nursing and possibly cause serious breathing difficulty.

Type of Condition

Nasal congestion is an abnormal physiological condition that should not be confused with the human nasal cycle. During a twenty four hour period, the human nostrils will take turns being engorged with blood and swelling, and then shrinking so that only one nostril is working at a time. This cycle of switching from one nostril to another occurs about every four hours and is a normal human physiological process.

Symptoms

The symptoms of a nasal congestion may include an itchy, tingling, or burning sensation inside the nasal passages. Of course, the most obvious symptom is the gradual increase of stuffiness or blockage to the nasal passages. More often than not, nasal congestion itself is considered as a symptom rather than a malady or disease.

Causes

There are many causes of nasal congestion. The following is a list of some of the more common and uncommon causes of nasal congestion:

  • Acute sinusitis (sinus infection)
  • Allergies and/or hay fever
  • Decongestant overuse
  • Foreign body in nasal passage
  • Vasomotor rhinitis
  • Viral upper respiratory infection
  • Nasal polyps
  • Pregnancy
  • Complications associated with excessive cocaine use
  • Side effect or reaction to a medication

Risk Factors

Although nasal congestion is often more of a symptom than a disease in itself, there are certain factors that can be considered predispositions to nasal congestion.

Individuals that are prone to frequent sinus infections or upper respiratory infections whether they are bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic in nature will often be prone to nasal congestion.

Allergy sufferers can expect bouts with nasal congestion. Of course, not all individuals react to allergens in the same manner, but those who suffer from frequent and ubiquitous allergens (such as dust for example), are more susceptible to developing nasal congestion as a histamine reaction than those who do not suffer from allergies.

Deviated Septum

Certain anatomical conditions can be considered risk factors for nasal congestion. One of the most common of these is a deviated septum.

A deviated septum can cause nasal congestion in one or both nasal passages or nostrils. This condition is usually even more noticeable if the sufferer has a cold. A deviated septum can be congenital (present at birth) or created due to some physical source such as a sports related injury or nasal inhalation of narcotic drugs.

Nasal Growths

Another anatomical condition that could be considered as a risk factor for frequent nasal congestion in inflamed nasal polyps or other nasal growths that are benign or malignant. Even enlarged adenoids can be a risk factor for nasal congestion.

Interestingly, prolonged or excessive decongestant use can cause nasal congestion when stopped. This is due to the membranes in the nose trying to return to a normal state and overcompensating along the way. This is often referred to as a “rebound” effect.

Most cases of nasal congestion are not serious health conditions or life threatening. However, if nasal congestion is accompanied by any of the following symptoms you should seek professional medical advice as soon as possible:

  • Frequent or severe nose bleeding
  • Changed appearance or deformation of the bones of the face
  • Decreased vision or double vision
  • Loose teeth or an upper denture that once fit properly but doesn’t now
  • Facial numbness or dental numbness
  • Any pain, swelling, or inflammation around the nose, forehead, or eyes

Prevention

It is difficult to prevent nasal congestion without knowing the causal factors responsible for creating the condition. However, there are some steps that can be taken to reduce the risk factor or at least reduce the frequency of nasal congestion.

Individuals with allergies should try to avoid allergens as much as possible. In addition, allergy immunotherapy (allergy shots) may help prevent nasal congestion due to allergic responses. Avoiding irritants (such as cigarette smoke, chemicals, etc.) may also prevent bouts of nasal congestion.

Diagnostic Considerations

Nasal Decongestant Nasal congestion is easy to diagnose, however determining the underlying cause may be more difficult. Your physician will be able to determine the cause of your congestion upon a physical examination. Normally, a primary care physician will examine your nose with a nasal speculum or otoscope and a penlight.

However, this procedure cannot provide a comprehensive view of the entire nasal passage, but is often all that is needed to make an accurate diagnosis. If the primary care physician has suspicion to think that the nasal congestion is caused from a situation that requires a more comprehensive diagnostic procedure, the may refer the patient to an otolaryngologist or ear, nose and throat (ENT) physician.

CAT Scan

In addition to the above mentioned diagnostic procedure, an ENT may order a CAT scan (Computerized Axial Tomography) of the sinuses or may perform an endoscopic examination. A CAT scan will provide x-ray views in slices or cross sections of the sinuses and nasal passages providing a detailed view of the area. An endoscope is basically a narrow tube with a camera on one end that allows the ENT physician to look deeply into the nasal passages.

If a physician has reason to believe a stuffed up nose is caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection, a sample culture swab may be taken to determine the exact cause of the infection.

Treatment Options

Nasal congestion can be treated in a variety of ways including non-pharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and herbal options. Non-pharmaceutical treatment (sometimes called home remedies) for nasal congestion is often desired when pharmaceutical methods could cause undesirable side affects or the condition does not respond well to pharmaceutical therapy.

Thinning the mucous can often relieve nasal congestion or at least make breathing easier. Methods for thinning the mucous in the nose can include the following:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Warm drinks such as broth and tea for example may help by not only providing fluid but by warming the nasal passages.
  • Use a gentle over-the-counter saline (salt water) spray or a neti pot.
  • Increase the ambient humidity of the air around you by using a vaporizer or humidifier.

Keeping the head in an upright position may be helpful as well. Nasal congestion often increases when the head is in a prone or supine position.

Nasal Strips

Try using adhesive strips to widen the nasal passages. Most pharmacies sell a plastic adhesive strip that is place on the nose. Although it will not cure the underlying cause of nasal congestion, the adhesive strips work by helping to enlarge the nasal passages making breathing easier.

Inhalers may be helpful in relieving nasal congestion. Inhalers can be commercially manufactured or inhalation therapy can be performed by pouring hot water in a bowl and inhaling the steam vapors that rise off from it. Many herbal agents can be used as inhalants. Eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, spearmint oil, and menthol are just a few that have proven successful for many people. Even the smell of a freshly cut onion can have powerful decongestant effects.

Pharmaceutical Treatment Options

Pharmaceutical treatment options for nasal congestion are numerous. Pharmaceutical therapies available for congestion can be classified into over-the-counter and prescribed chemical therapies. Regardless of the pharmaceutical that is used, there are basically two methods of action by the chemical agent.

Most chemicals are either an antihistamine or a vasoconstrictor. An antihistamine inhibits the effects of histamine in the human body. Histamine is produced as an allergic reaction to an allergen; it triggers a response of inflammation. By blocking or reducing the effect of histamine an antihistamine in effect blocks or reduces the inflammation response preventing the nasal passages from becoming congested.

A vasoconstrictor shrinks the blood vessels. Nasal decongestant vasoconstrictors cause the blood vessels lining the nasal passages to shrink, thereby relieving congestion. Nasal decongestants and antihistamines can be administered orally (pill, tablet, or capsule) or can be in the form of a nasal spray.

Over-The Counter (OTC) Pharmaceuticals

The following is a list of the more common over-the-counter oral antihistamines that may be useful for treating nasal congestion:

  • Diphenhydramine – known as trade names Benadryl or Dimedrol
  • Chlorpheniramine – known as trade names Chlor-Trimton, Chlor-tripolon, Piriton and HISTA-12
  • Pheniramine – often combined with other drugs. Maybe known by the trade name Avil
  • Pyrilamine – known as trade names Phena-Plus, R-Tannate
  • Phenindamine – known as trade name Nolahist
  • Loratadine – known as trade names Claritin, Alavert
  • Cetirizine – known as trade name Zyrtec

Most oral antihistamines share the same list of possible side effects, however some specific chemicals may have side effects that are particular to that drug. Almost all antihistamines share a common side effect of drowsiness; however loratadine and cetrizine have demonstrated lower percentages of patient somnolence than many of the other antihistamines listed. Additional side effects from anithistaimes can include dizziness, headache, loss of appetite, stomach upset, vision changes, and dry mouth.

Common OTC Medicine

If you have any questions about whether an over-the-counter medicine is right for you, or about what potential harmful side effects they could cause it is best to seek professional medical advice.

The following is a list of the more common over-the-counter oral decongestants that may be useful for treating nasal congestion:

  • Pseudoephedrine – known as trade name Sudafed
  • Phenylpropanolamine – known as trade name Dexatrim or Accutrim. Phenylpropanolamine also known as PPA, was discontinued for over-the-counter sale in the United States in 2005 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, it is still available as an OTC drub in other countries and may be know as Wick DayMed (Europe) and Alerid-D and D-Cold Total (India)
  • Phenylephrine – although phenylephrine is usually not sold alone, it is one of several ingredients often found in OTC cold/flu remedies. In fact with the curtailment of pseudoephedrine use in the U.S. due to methamphetamine use, phenylephrine has become the most popular decongestant.

Some of the combination remedies with phenylephrine include:

  • Robitussin CF
  • Theraflu
  • Dayquil Capsules
  • Execedrin Sinus Headache
  • Sudafed PE, Codral
  • Demazin
  • Panadol
  • Dimetapp PE
  • Visodron
  • Neo Citran
  • Coristina
  • Lemsip
  • Flutex
  • Demazin.

Both pseudoephedrine and PPA are vasoconstrictors. They cause the blood vessels in the lining of the nasal passages to shrink; however, they do not specifically target these blood vessels. They may cause any of the body’s blood vessels to shrink. Normally this is not significant but can result in tachycardia, difficulty sleeping, tremors or shakiness, dizziness, and unusual weakness. PPA particularly was removed from OTC sale by the FDA in 2005 due to the possibility of stroke when used by young women.

As with the antihistamines, if you have any questions about whether an over-the-counter medicine is right for you, or about what potential harmful side effects they could cause it is best to seek professional medical advice.

Decongestant Sprays

There are primarily two OTC nasal decongestant sprays. These chemicals are sprayed directly into the nasal passages where they contact the tissue and topically employ a vasoconstrictor to shrink the nasal membranes. The two common nasal decongestant sprays are:

  • Oxymetazoline – known as trade names Vicks Sinex, Afrin, Dristan, Sudafed OM, and Mucinex Full Force
  • Phenylephrine – Neo-Synephrine

Side effects from nasal decongestant sprays not only include those already listed above for oral nasal decongestants but may also include burning, stinging, sneezing, and increased nasal discharge, excessive drying of the nostrils, and altered taste sensations.

Prescription Pharmaceuticals

As for the OTC solutions, prescriptions medications follow the same parallel. That is, most prescriptive medications for nasal decongestants are either antihistamines, decongestants, or a combination of the two in either oral or nasal spray forms. Some of these may even be the same medications, but under a medical prescription authorization, the concentration of the key ingredient may be changed.

A few of the prescriptive oral antihistamines that may be effective in treating nasal congestion include:

  • Desloratadine – known as trade name Clarinex
  • Levocetirizine – known as trade name Xyzal
  • Fexofenadinie – known as trade name Allegra

Prescription oral decongestants are normally the same as the OTC types except they may be dispensed at a different dosage and are often combined with other chemicals (such as antihistamines) that are prescriptive. For example, Allegra-D is a prescriptive formula containing time released fexofenadine and pseudoephedrine.

Leukotriene Receptor Antagonist

A different approach to allergy control that may also reduce nasal congestion is an oral medication known as a leukotriene receptor antagonist. Montelukast also known as Singulair is designed to prevent and manage asthma and also relieve symptoms of seasonal allergies including nasal rhinitis or nasal congestion.

Intranasal Steroids

Finally there is one other approach to controlling nasal congestion by the use of prescription medication and that is by the use of an intranasal steroid or INS. These steroids combat nasal congestion by inhibiting the inflammation response of the nasal passage but not by vasoconstriction. Instead these corticosteroids inhibit the immune system’s ability to the inflammation reaction. These medications are normally administered as nasal sprays and may include the following:

  • Ciclesonide – known as trade name Omnaris
  • Fluticasone Proprionate – known as trade name Flonase
  • Fluticasone Furoate – known as trade name Vermyst
  • Budesonide – known as trade name Rhinocort
  • Beclomethasone Diproprionate Monohydrate – known as trade name Beconase AQ
  • Mometasone Furoate Monohydrate – known as trade name Beconase AQ
  • Triamcinolone Acetonide – known as trade name Nasacort AQ
  • Flunisolide – known as trade name Nasarel

Side effects from these medications are rarely serious but may include a burning or stinging sensation in the nose, altered taste sensation, nosebleeds, nasal perforations, and (rarely) slowed growth of children.

Medical Treatment Considerations

Medicinal treatment options costs are as varied between medications as well as their purchase location. In addition, generic medications generally are cheaper than name brands, if the generic version is available.

If you suffer nasal congestion that lasts longer than two weeks or that does not respond to normal OTC medication, it is best to seek professional medical advice. Only your doctor can make an accurate diagnosis of the underlying cause of your nasal congestion and recommend the corrective action necessary to relive the situation.

Conditions

Anemia Symptoms & Treatment

What is Anemia?

People who suffer from anemia do not have enough red blood cells for the body to function properly. Red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body. When there is iron deficiency, the body does not produce enough red blood cells for this vital function.

Some people do not consume enough iron rich foods, specifically meats like beef that are good sources of iron. Failure to consume adequate amounts of foods with iron can be the result of not being able to afford healthy foods or not being knowledgeable about what makes up a healthy diet. When there is not enough iron in the blood, an individual is known as have iron deficiency anemia. Anemia is known by other names such as iron poor blood, or tired blood.

Symptoms of Anemia

Anemic Blood Donation Generally, the symptoms of anemia include tiredness or a feeling of having no energy. People with anemia may feel fatigued with shortness of breath. Their hands and feet may feel cold much of the time. Anemia may cause an individual to experience headaches, and dizziness. Pale skin and chest pain are also symptoms of anemia. The heart rhythm may also be affected since the red blood cell count is low. As a result, the heart has to work harder to pump oxygen carrying blood to all parts of the body. Risk factors for anemia

Males and females of all age groups and races are susceptible to anemia. Children who are under two are also at risk because their diets don’t usually contain enough iron foods. Those of other age groups who fail to eat iron-rich food may find that they suffer from anemia. The group most at risk for anemia is women who are of childbearing age. Menstruation is the primary reason for this group being at risk. For some women menstrual periods result in the loss of much blood which affects the level of red blood cells in the body.

People with chronic illnesses such as kidney problems, cancer, diabetes and related conditions are at a higher risk for developing anemia.

Pica

People with anemia often have unusual cravings otherwise known as pica. Pica is defined as eating non food items like paper, dirt, ice grass, paper and other items. It is not unusual to observe adults with pica chewing on unusual items. Young children with pica exhibit similar behaviors.

How Anemia is Diagnosed

The may be no symptoms in some people who have anemia. A physician may ask questions about a family history of anemia to determine if an individual might be at risk. A complete physical is usually needed to diagnose anemia. This includes a rectal exam or vaginal exam if deemed necessary to determine if there is any loss of blood.

One test that is usually given to diagnose anemia is a complete blood count. The CBC measures the number of white blood cells to determine if there are problems with the blood or if the body is fighting off infection or immune issues. The complete blood count test checks hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen in the bloodstream and the hematocrit, which is a measure of how much space blood cells occupy in the body. If these numbers are low, that may signal that an individual has anemia.

Hemoglobin Electrophoresis

Hemoglobin electrophoresis is an additional test that might be ordered. This test measures the different types of hemoglobin in the blood. This helps the physician determine what type of anemia a person may have. Another test that might be recommended is a reticulocyte test that measures whether bone marrow is making red blood cells as quickly as needed. Iron tests including the serum ferritan and serum iron test can be used to determine the amount of iron in the blood. All of these tests are helpful when a physician is evaluating a patient for anemia.

Causes of Anemia

There is not one specific cause of anemia. Some causes are associated with heredity, while others are related to diseases, hormonal changes and other conditions that result in either not enough red blood cells being made or red blood cells being depleted.

Iron may be lost through normal physiological processes such as during the menstrual period in women. Blood loss is the reason for iron depletion during menstruation. The most common cause of iron-deficiency anemia is blood loss. Blood loss can be the result of bleeding in the urinary tract, cancer, surgery, and trauma

Diet Issues

Diets with little to no iron, folic acid (folate), or vitamin B12 can result in the body not being able to produce enough red blood cells. Other nutrients that help the body make red blood cells are copper, riboflavin and vitamin C.

Cancer & Anemia

When there is not enough of the hormone erythropoietin present the body is not able make adequate blood cells. Erythropoietin is what stimulates the bone marrow to produce blood cells; therefore not enough of hormone can lead to anemia.

Cancer can damage red blood cells and cancer treatment can damage bone marrow and prevent it from producing enough red blood cells to carry oxygen.

Pregnancy

It is not unusual for pregnant women to have anemia due to changes that come with pregnancy. Increased plasma in the pregnant woman’s body can dilute red blood cells.

Types of Anemia caused by Heredity

There are other types of anemia that are not specifically associated with diet and cannot be correctly by taking supplements or eating healthy foods. Those anemias are the result of chronic conditions, medications and substances that affect the blood cells or heredity.

Some infants are born without the ability to make enough red blood cells. This condition is called aplastic anemia. Infants and children who have aplastic anemia often need blood transfusions to increase the number of red blood cells in their blood.

In other situations, anemia can be caused by conditions that destroy too many red blood cells. Those with enlarged spleens often have a problem with losing too many blood cells. The job of the spleen is to rid the body of worn out red blood cells. When the spleen is enlarged, it removes more red blood cells than necessary. As a result the individual experiences the symptoms of anemia.

Thalassemia

Thalassemia is also known as Mediterranean anemia. With this type of anemia, there are fewer red blood cells and less hemoglobin the body than normal. Thalassemia can cause a person to feel fatigued. Other symptoms of Thalassemia include weakness, pale appearance, slow growth, shortness of breath, jaundice, irritability, dark urine, and protruding abdomen. The condition may not need treatment, but people with serious cases often get regular blood transfusions.

The signs and symptoms you experience depend on your type and severity of thalassemia. Some babies show signs and symptoms of thalassemia at birth, while others may develop signs or symptoms later, during the first two years of life. Some people who have only one affected hemoglobin gene don’t experience any thalassemia symptoms. A healthy diet with iron rich foods can help persons with thalassemias, but if parents suspect that their children have the condition, they should take to child to a doctor for evaluation.

Sickle Cell Anemia

Anemic Blood Donation Another type of anemia is sickle cell anemia. With this type of anemia, the body produces red blood cells that are shaped like a “C” of a sickle. The hemoglobin in these cells causes the sickle shape. It is difficult for these sickle shaped cells to move through the blood vessels. Sickle cell anemia is an inherited, lifelong disease. The sickle shape of the blood cells can cause them to clump together which results in pain and inflammation for those who suffer from sickle cell.

Persons with hemolytic anemia lack enough red blood cells because the body destroys them. Certain hereditary conditions cause hemolytic anemia. Conditions such as infections, immune disorders can cause this type of anemia. Additionally, blood transfusions and certain types of medications can cause hemolytic anemia.

B-12 Deficiency

There can also be anemia due to B-12 deficiency. The body need Vitamin B-12 to make red blood cells. To boost the amount of B-12 in the body, healthy foods should be consumed. Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy products are all sources of vitamin B-12. Vegetarians must be especially careful to get enough B-12 since those food that are good sources of B-12 would not be eaten. Vitamin B-12 anemia may also be seen in infants with poor diets and in pregnant women.

Severe Anemia

When anemia is severe it can cause problems with the heart including rapid heart beat, enlargement of the heart and heart failure. Persons with severe anemia may need inpatient care to address the issue. Those with severe anemia may experience restless leg syndrome. The legs and arms can also swell when anemia is severe.

How to Prevent Iron Deficiency Anemia

Healthy eating can help prevent iron deficiency anemia. Getting adequate amounts of iron rich foods each day can help improve hemoglobin. Consuming enough iron can help an individual feel more energetic, improve resistance to infections and increase children’s ability to grow and learn. Try to consume at least three or more good sources of iron every day.

Foods that contain iron include liver, lean meat, fish, poultry, dried beans and peas; green leafy vegetables, raisins, tofu and whole wheat bread. Eating foods that are fortified with iron is another way to add iron to the diet. These foods include iron fortified breakfast cereals and enriched breads and grain foods.

Meats contain heme iron which is easier for the body to absorb and use. When eating iron fortified foods, combine them with a source of vitamin C to help the body use the iron from these foods more effectively.

Iron Supplements

When eating iron rich food does not provide enough iron, a doctor may recommend supplements. Iron supplements should be taken only at the advice of a healthcare provider to prevent taking too much. Too much iron can lead to iron poisoning with symptoms of fatigue, nausea, dizziness, weight loss, headache and shortness of breath.

When taking iron supplements choose those that provide no more than 100 percent of the daily value of iron. If you need more, your health care provider will prescribe a supplement. Women of childbearing age are usually prescribed prenatal vitamins with iron.

How Much Iron Do You Need?

Women usually suffer from iron deficiency if they are in their childbearing years due to iron lost during the menstrual cycle. Also during pregnancy iron is lost due to the need for iron in fetal development. Girls in their teens need about 15 milligrams per day and pregnant women need around 27 milligrams per day. Children also need iron for growth and development. Typically, children ages one to three need 7 milligrams a day.

Antioxidants

Ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic acid, commonly known as vitamin C, is an organic compound required for the production of collagen in humans. Humans cannot make their own vitamin C and so must obtain it either through their diet or in supplementary form.

Dietary Sources

Vitamin C can be found in many fruits and vegetables including most berries (e.g. blackcurrants, raspberries) , tropical fruits such as mangoes, guavas and papayas, and many citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits. Many vegetables, including broccoli and cauliflower, have high contents of vitamin C. Although not as popular, the Camu Camu found in the Amazon Rainforest and the Australian-native Kakadu plum have the highest concentrations of vitamin C.

The maturation of the fruit or vegetable plays an important role in the content of vitamin C, with ascorbic acid levels peaking at the time when the fruit or vegetable is at its ripest and youngest stage. Vitamin C is very unstable and begins to lose its potency once it is exposed to air, water, heat and extreme cold. Storing fruits in the freezer will cause them to lose up to a third of their vitamin C.

Boiling vegetables will also do the same, and sometimes the loss of vitamin C can be even greater. Vitamin C can also be taken as a nutritional supplement in various forms, although raw foods are absorbed more easily and many believe that the benefits of vitamin C from raw foods surpass the benefits from manufactured ascorbic acid.

History and Origin of Usage

Orange Juice The ability of citrus fruits in the prevention and treatment of scurvy was discovered in 1747 by the British navy surgeon James Lind.

During a controlled experiment on board a British ship, Lind added oranges and lemons to the diets of some of the crew members as prevention for scurvy.

The experiment concluded that citrus fruits were effective in preventing the disease.

However, it wasn’t until 1912, when Norwegian scientists Axel Holst and Theodor Frolich began their research on the antiscorbutic properties of certain foods that vitamin C was isolated and identified. The term ascorbic acid was later coined by Hungarian researchers, Joseph L. Svirbely and Albert Szent-Györgyi, and American researcher, Charles Glen King. In 1933 the Polish chemist Tadeus Reichstein was able to synthesize vitamin C, and in 1934 Sir Walter Norman Haworth, along with the British chemist Sir Edmund Langley Hirst, was also able to artificially produce ascorbic acid independently of Reichstein’s research for which Haworth received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Usage

Ascorbic acid is necessary for the production of collagen and for the proper function of connective tissues, especially bones, teeth, and cartilage. Inadequate intake of vitamin C can result in bleeding gums and gingivitis, and make bones especially susceptible to fractures.

It is a powerful antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties essential in wound healing. It is thought to prevent deterioration of the skin due to atmospheric free radicals by preventing the oxidation of the cells. In clinical trials, antioxidants were effective in reducing cardiovascular diseases including heart attacks and strokes. In combination with insulin, Vitamin C has been used to control the glucose levels in people suffering from Type 1 diabetes. Ongoing research is currently being conducted to test its effectiveness on Type 2 diabetes as well.
Vitamin C Usage
Lipoproteins also depend on vitamin C and so any tissues that contain fat are especially vulnerable to vitamin C deficiency. Smoking increases the body’s toxicity levels and so inhibit the absorption of ascorbic acid, so smokers are in greater need of high doses of vitamin C to detoxify the body.

Women who are taking oral contraceptives should take higher doses of vitamin C as oral contraceptives reduce vitamin C absorption. People using antibiotics should also take vitamin C to replenish the nutrients lost when taking antibiotics and to strengthen the body’s immune system in order to help the body’s ability to better utilize the antibiotics.

Popular Variations

Vitamin C can be found in several pill forms, the most popular being water-soluble tablets, capsules, chewable tablets and powder formulas. Emergen-C is a brand popular for its single dose packaged powdered vitamin C. Many vitamin stores like GNC and Vitamin Shoppe sell vitamin C under their own brand name. High concentrations of vitamin C can be found in several plants used to make tea, especially rose hips and the Chinese Camellia sinensis, otherwise known as green tea.

Nowadays, many drinks and foods are packed with high levels of vitamin C. Drinks such as Vitamin Water and cereals such as All Bran have high levels of vitamin C. In the cosmetic industry, Ascorbic acid is used for reducing skin discoloration, preventing photo-aging, treating wrinkles and healing blemishes as a result of acne. Obagi, SkinCeuticals and Cellex-C are high end cosmetic lines that use vitamin C to make creams, cleansers and serum formulations in varying strengths with considerable market success.

Proven and Unproven Health Benefits

Some claims have been made about the effectiveness of topical vitamin C as a contraceptive immediately following intercourse. This procedure is thought to increase the acidity levels in the vagina and thus create an inhospitable environment for the sperm.

It also works by inhibiting the production of progesterone, a hormone needed for a successful pregnancy. However, these claims are unsupported by medical evidence. Because of the vitamin’s ability to protect the body from free radicals, many believe that vitamin C can help in the prevention and treatment of cancer, especially stomach cancer. Although these claims have not been proven, no adverse reactions have been observed in administering vitamin C in addition to tradition cancer treatments.

Vitamin C also helps the body utilize better absorption of iron. For this reason people with illnesses prone to high iron should avoid high intakes of vitamin C.

Typical Dosage and Usage

The recommended dietary dosage from national and international organizations varies from 45 milligrams per day to a maximum of 2 grams (2,000 milligrams) per day. In the United States the recommended dose for adults is between 60 and 90 milligrams per day, while the World health organization recommends an intake of 45 milligrams per day. The

National Academy of Sciences recommends a daily intake of 90 milligrams for men, 75 milligrams for women and between 45 and 60 milligrams for adolescents. However, this should just be used a s general guidelines as each person’s absorption of vitamin C varies and higher doses are recommended for people with weak immune systems or people living in urban environment who are prone to second hand smoke and air pollution.

People working in labs or factories that deal with chemicals will also benefit from an increased daily intake of vitamin C to counteract toxic poisoning.

Regional Legal Status

Vitamin C is legal in all states and recommended as a necessary vitamin for the prevention of scurvy and for the proper function of all organs. Parents are encouraged to start administering vitamin C to their children at a young age and especially during teeth formation to ensure strong teeth and healthy gums.

Side Effects

It is generally believed that the necessary daily intake of vitamin C can be achieved through a balanced diet without the use of supplements. However, overdosing on vitamin C has no long term effects. Diarrhea is one of the most common temporary side effects. Orthomolecular scientists believe that diarrhea is an indication of when the body has reached its maximum necessary daily intake as it begins rejecting the unused vitamin.

Because vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron, iron poisoning can occur at extremely high levels of vitamin C, and people with hemochromatosis should avoid vitamin C beyond the recommended daily dosage.

Product Cost and Availability

Vitamin C is readily available and accessible in all western countries either in manufactured form of by maintaining a well balanced diet. Third world countries that do not have access to supplements and raw fruits and vegetables are commonly affected by cardiovascular diseases.

The cost of vitamin C can vary greatly depending on the brand name and formulation of the product. Raw foods are affected by regional and global availability, as well as weather and agriculture conditions and some people claim that organic fruits and vegetables help the body to better absorb the vitamin because synthetic materials are thought to interfere with the absorption of vitamins in general, although there is no clinical evidence to support this theory.

Vitamin c serums used for the face and primarily the skin can vary between 10 and a 100 plus dollars for a one ounce bottle. Since vitamin C is very unstable, especially in liquid form, how vitamin C is synthesized before it enters the bottles and how it is store also affect the effectiveness and longevity of the product. Manufacturers of high end vitamin C serum claim to create their vitamin C in a hospitable environment that stabilizes vitamins C in order to maintain its potency for the longest time possible.

Manufacturing and Packaging

Since vitamin C oxidizes very quickly, the manufacturing process plays an important role in the effectiveness of the product. Vitamin c serums should generally be stored in dark bottles to prevent light from entering. Vitamin C serums should be store in a controlled room temperature between 15 and 30 degrees Celsius in a dry place away from exposure to sunlight. The pH balance of the skin product also plays an important role in the absorption of the vitamin C. A pH balance between 2.0 and 4.0 provides the best skin absorption.

Because L-ascorbic acid is not stable, a stabilization process has to occur to prevent the serum from oxidizing and turning a dark yellow-brown. Homemade creams are increasing in popularity especially because of the high cost factor to purchase these creams and due to the oxidation process that naturally occur with stored products. By using a mixture of L-ascorbic acid and glycerin which can be purchased from any pharmacy counter, a homemade cream can be stored in the fridge for three to five days.

Additional Resources

US National Library of Medicine
University of Maryland Medical Center
KidsHealth.Org

Conditions

Scabies Information

Scabies is a type of skin infection caused by the sarcoptes scabiei mite, characterized by skin itching. Also termed “sarcoptic mange”, the term scabies is actually derived from the Latin word for “scratch”, scabere. The tiny mites burrow within the skin, causing an allergic reaction which in turn leads to a rash and acute itching. Worldwide, there are an estimated 300 million people infected with scabies at any one time.

History of Scabies

An ancient disease, scabies is thought to be over 2,000 years old. Historians speculate that references to scabies are found in the Bible as well as the writings of Aristotle.
Scabies Itching
The mite affects humans regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status, or race.

Personal hygiene is often not considered a factor in scabies, although washing contaminated items with hot soap and water can often kill the mites.

Scabies occurs when female mites burrow into the human skin to lay eggs, creating tunnels underneath the surface. The mites feed on human skin and deposit their eggs waste products, which further exacerbate itching.

The eggs, over the course of three to four days, hatch into larvae, which further infect the skin and live on the human host for three to four weeks inside the skin. The scabies feed on the blood of the host to survive, and further burrowing in the skin. The allergic reaction humans have to the mites’ salive, waste, and eggs cause the deep seated and persistent trademark itching of scabies.

Symptoms

The first and most obvious sign of scabies is localized itching. Mites may or not be visible, but usually will leave small red bumps and tiny zig zag pathways where they have burrowed into the skin. These bumps may look like tiny pustles or blisters or resemble small pimples on the skin. Scabies tends to affect areas of skin folds, such as the inside of elbows, between fingers, behind knees, wrists, and other areas.

In patients where the immune system is weakened, scabies can develop to form crusted scabies, an advanced form of the disease where crusted patches of scabs form as a result of infestation. Thickened patches of skin containing hundreds of mites can form in crusted scabies.

Typically, the face and scalp are not affected by scabies. Scabies may remain localized in one area or gradually spread over the surface of the skin.

Risk Factors

Scabies is transferred via skin to skin contact from one human being to another. There have been cases where humans contract scabies from their pets, such as an infected dog or cat, but such occurrences are rare. Highly contagious, scabies mites can live in infected bedding, furniture, mattresses, clothing, keyboards, towels, and literally almost any surface where an infected human’s skin may have rubbed off. Additionally, scabies can survive without a host for up to three days. Once they have infected a human host, the parasitic mites can live anywhere from three to four weeks.

The most common way of contracting scabies is from prolonged physical contact with an infected person. While patients have been known to get scabies from infected bedding or clothing, this is less common. Prolonged physical contact usually means skin to skin contact with an infected person which lasts longer than the average handshake.

High Risk Areas

Scabies often becomes a problem in areas where people exist in close quarters, such as nursing homes, summer camps, or schools. In these environments, one infected individual can spread the disease to anyone he or she comes in close contact with.

The type of scabies that affects humans is different from the mite that infects dogs and cats. Humans typically cannot be infected by the same type of scabies mite that affect pets.

Diagnosis

Scabies can exhibit clinical symptoms and external signs from four to six weeks following the initial infestation for patients who have not previously contracted the disease. In cases where patients have previously contracted scabies, symptoms can develop in as quickly as two to four days.

Once patients have exhibited symptoms, several methods can be used to diagnose the symptoms as scabies. Ink from a pen or topical tetracycline ointment can both be rubbed onto the surface of the skin, then wiped off with an alcohol pad. A special light is then shown on the skin; if the characteristic Z pattern appears under the light, the person has scabies.

Skin Scraping

Another method of diagnosis is to do a skin scraping and examine the specimen under a microscope for presence of mites or their waste. Detecting the presence of mites can often be very elusive, and doctors may have to do numerous skin scrapings in order to effectively rule out or confirm the disease. The skin scrapings must often penetrate several layers of skin in order to correctly test for the presence of mites.

Doctors have been known to order treatment for scabies even if microscopy and other detection techniques do not completely verify the infection. Due to the difficulty of detecting mites under a microscope and sometimes unconfirmed external presence, patients who exhibit the majority of symptoms for scabies are best served undergoing treatment as a preventative measure even if skin scraping or skin tests do not precisely confirm presence of the mite.

Weak Immune Systems

In patients with compromised immune systems such as HIV, AIDS, or auto immune deficiency, healthcare providers should be alerted immediately to the possibility of scabies. Secondary infections can occur as complications in these patients who contract scabies, as well as increased likelihood of acute infection.

Treatment Options

It is highly recommended that patients visit a doctor fordiagnosis and recommendations of treatment options for scabies.

Itching from Scabies While some infestations may resolve on their own, left untreated scabies can escalate into a highly unpleasant problem. Increased itching, formation of bloody scabs, and patches of scaly skin may accompany an advanced infestation. In such instances, medical treatment is the most efficient and best option. Scabies can also become resistant to medications over time, though this usually only occurs in repeat infections.

Once an infection is confirmed, the patient’s nails should be cut to prevent scabies from hiding under the fingernails or toenails.

Sulfur Soap

Sulfur soap in concentrations of 6% to 10% is a long standing treatment to combat scabies. Patients should wash thoroughly with sulfur soap at least once daily for four days in order to effectively treat the skin. Bedding, clothing, and any other items should be washed in extremely hot water and soap to prevent recontamination.

Neem Oil

Along with sulfur soap, Neem Oil is another effective homeopathic treatment for scabies. Neem Oil is known to have anti fungal and antibacterial properties, which can help treat or soothe the skin of patients infected with scabies.

Tea Tree Oil and Elimite

Tea Tree Oil has been used but with only moderate to little success. For this reason, prescription medications are often warranted for treatment.

One of the most commonly prescribed topical treatments for scabies is Elimite, a cream that must be applied to all areas of the skin (including under the fingernails and toenails) to effectively penetrate the epidermis. Elimite is topically applied all over the infected individual’s body, taking care to cover all surfaces of the skin. After 10 to 14 hours, the Elimite is washed off of the skin in the shower with hot water and soap. A follow up treatment is usually required one to two weeks after the initial treatment.

Permethrin, Oral Medications, & Antihistamines

Permethrin is another popular topically applied medication for the treatment of scabies. The ointment is applied at night and washed off after eight to fourteen hours.

A newer treatment for scabies is an oral medication Ivermectin, taken twice: once at onset, and then another dose two weeks later to completely eradicate the infection. While Ivermectin has some mild side effects, these disappear after treatment and are typically a minimal trade off compared to the uncomfortable constant itching of scabies. Ivermectin is sold as Stromecol in brand name, and is typically given as two 3mg doses two weeks apart.

Antihistamines may also be prescribed to combat the itchiness that often accompanies scabies outbreaks.

Sterilization of Household Items During and After Treatment

All items the infected person has touched- bedding, clothing, towels, etc – should immediately be washed in very hot water to kill remaining mites. A dryer should also be used on a high heat setting to sterilize washed items. Mattresses, carpets, rugs, toys, and any other items that the infected person has touched should be thoroughly disinfected and washed.

Carpets and floors should be steam cleaned whenever possible. Tile, hardwood, kitchen, and bathroom floors should be washed with hot soapy water and bleach. This regimen of household disinfecting should be performed on a daily basis until the scabies outbreak has been confirmed as cured by a healthcare professional, and on a routine basis for several weeks after to prevent re-infection.

Treatment of Family Members

Due to the highly contagious nature of scabies especially in close quarters, doctors frequently recommend treating the entire family for scabies even if only one member has contracted it. Given the propensity of the mite to spread and populate bedding, furniture, clothing, and other areas, it is highly likely that if one member of a family has scabies, other members either already have it or will have it shortly. Therefore, treating all family members for scabies at the same time is an effective method at preventing continual re-infection.

Care must be taken to ensure that once all family members are treated, scabies does not return and continue to re-infect members of the family. This requires a diligent household cleaning routine during and after treatment as the entire house must be disinfected in order to eradicate the outbreak.

Treatment Cost

Treatment for scabies is relatively inexpensive compared to other skin ailments. A 60ml tube of Elimite retails at around $35; sulfur soaps are much less, at an estimate $10 a bar. An 8oz bottle of Neem Oil has a comparable cost to sulfur soap.

Ivermectin (brand name Stromectol) is typically available in 3mg tablets. Costs for Stromectol are considerably higher (around $110 for treatment without insurance),

Prevention

There is no vaccine against scabies. Therefore, the best way to prevent scabies is to avoid prolonged contact, or any contact, with people infected with scabies. If scabies contact is suspected, any bedding, clothing, towels, or items the infected person may have touched should be immediately washed in very hot water and soap.

Adding a small amount of borax to laundry can also be helpful. Rugs and floors should be steam cleaned and vacuumed.

Permethrin sprays are often used to treat items or areas that cannot be laundered. A synthetic chemical and pesticide, care should be taken when using Permethrin around infants and pets. The EPA has also categorized Permethrin as a carcinogen in extremely strong concentrations. For household use, however, Permethrin sprays can kill scabies mites, dust miles, fleas, termites, and ticks.

Borax powder is natural remedy than can be sprinkled on carpets, floors, and other areas of the house to prevent and kill mites. While natural, boric acid can still irritate the skin in some individuals and animals, so caution should be used when applying.

Antioxidants

Reduce Uric Acid

About Uric Acid

Uric acid is another substance that is created naturally by our body as it goes through the process of eliminating purine from the body. Purine is a substance that is naturally occurring in many food products with high concentrations in meat products. In another mystery of nature and biology it has been shown that too much uric acid can cause problems for the body while also showing some beneficial characteristics. How does this conflict work itself out and how is it possible to maintain a balance between overly high levels of uric acid and amounts that are too low to maintain essential benefits?

This article will provide a brief history of Uric Acid including a look at where it comes from, what foods contain the building blocks for uric acid, and popular uses. I will also show how it is used today and then I will examine some claims and myths about uric acid to discover the truth regarding this often misunderstood compound.

Where Does Uric Acid Come From?

As mentioned earlier, uric acid does not occur naturally but is a by-product of a natural process. Uric acid is produced when the kidneys process purines. Purines are a natural element found in almost all food types. The reason for this ubiquity is that purines are really an essential element for life as they are a part of the chemical structure of all plants and animals. There is a small sub-set of foods that contain a high concentration of purines. These include organ meats like kidneys, livers or fish such as mackerel and herring. When these foods are ingested, the purines are then broken down. The end result of this process is uric acid.

It seems like almost all of our natural processes have a downside, however, and it is not any different with uric acid production. Too much uric acid production can be taxing on the kidneys. The human kidneys is a master balancer as it ensures the right balance between uric acid that is needed for different bodily processes and left over uric acid that needs to dealt with. When too much uric acid is taken in, the kidneys process what is needed and then use the excess uric acid to form crystals. These crystals are then deposited into natural storage areas in our bodies.

Gout.

Gout

Unfortunately for humans, these storage areas are in various joints like elbows and knees, or far off appendages like toes. When too many of these crystals build up in these areas they can cause inflammation of the joints which can cause unbearable pain and swelling.

These are the unmistakable symptoms of gout. Gout has been with us for centuries. We have read about many a king who suffered from gout as a result of his unlimited appetite. King Henry is a historical sovereign who comes to mind immediately. It is due to the history of gout that we often think of it as a dead ailment. That is far from true. The same processes that created gout in the past are still around today causing suffering for new generations of humans.

Gout Myths

Gout from Uric Acid

That leads us to examine our first claim about uric acid; that uric acid and purine consumption will ultimately lead to gout. The statement is only half true. It is an excess consumption of purines that lead to an overabundance of uric acid and ultimately, gout. Uric acid, as it turns out, is an important element for humans to have around. Uric acid is actually an anti-oxidant that is responsible for maintaining the health of our blood vessel linings.

As a consequence, it is vitally important to maintain a moderate level of uric acid in our bloodstream. So, we can lay to rest the myth that all uric acid is damaging. Like all things natural, there needs to be a balance in order to maintain health and a complete lack of uric acid would actually lead to major problems.

Another claim around uric acid and purines is that all meat products are responsible for the same level of uric acid production. Recent research has turned this assumption on its head. When it comes to purines, not all foods are equal. Research is beginning to show that purines from meat products and fish will lead to gout more quickly than purines from vegetables. Vegetable consumption, surprisingly, actually neither increases nor decreases gout risk, while purines obtained from dairy products may decrease gout risk. So it may be important to include more dairy products in our diet to maintain our daily average of 600mgs of uric acid a day.

Decreasing Uric Acid Production

The problem that many run into when forced to decrease their uric acid production is that the foods with the highest concentrations of purines are some of the healthiest foods available. Chief among foods with high purine content is liver. Liver is also considered to be a vital, healthy food. Many people need to continue to eat some of these foods for other health reasons not related to their issues with uric acid and purines. A simple solution is to continue to eat healthy foods such as salmon, liver and asparagus. It may be wise to cut back on the portions.

Dietary Considerations

Another possible solution would be to boil some of these foods rather than frying or sautéing them. This leads us to the exploration of another claim regarding uric acid and purines.

Boiling Food

This claim states that cooking foods high in purine content actually increases the chance that excess uric acid production will occur. Recent examinations of this claim show that the way these foods are cooked is extremely important.

For instance, when boiling some of the high purine content foods, some of the purines become separated and end up in the water.

If the water is discarded, then the purine content of the food is actually decreased.

This leads to the conclusion that those people on a purine restricted diet due to high uric acid levels may not have to eat the majority of their foods raw.

They can actually cook some of their favorite foods and still decrease their uric acid levels.

Alcohol and Uric Acid

There has also been a claim throughout history that increased alcohol intake also leads to an overabundance of uric acid in the body and eventually, gout.

Again if we go back to our history lesson we often recall that many of the historic gout sufferers had a propensity for drinking copious amounts of red wine.

This claim is in fact true. Research has shown that alcohol does reduce the body’s water content. Water is needed to process purines into uric acid and to flush excess uric acid from the body. If this does not happen, then more uric acid crystals may be formed which again is a leading cause for a serious case of extremely painful gout.

Kidney Stones

Another side effect of increased uric acid in the blood is kidney stones. Kidney stones develop from inefficient kidneys. Kidneys that are busy processing very high levels of purines tend to lose their efficiency. This is obviously another important reason for monitoring purine and uric acid levels in the body.

Weight Loss

People that are severely overweight also usually have higher levels of uric acid than the general population. Researchers are not completely sure why this is the case but repeated studies have shown that people who reduce their weight also tend to increase the body’s efficiency in processing purines. Obviously, losing weight can help the body improve purine processing but if excess weight is dropped too rapidly, there can actually be a short-term spike in uric acid levels.

The reason for this is quite simple due to the fact that the body loses muscle during periods of extreme hunger. This is a reason that fasting or extreme dieting is not a good idea for lowering purine and uric acid levels. It is a much better idea to go on a stable diet that focuses on food with lower purine levels while drinking plenty of water.

Soft Drinks and Uric Acid

Now it’s time for a quick word about soft drinks and their link to increased uric acid levels. It turns out that alcoholic beverages are not the only liquid villain when it comes to high uric acid levels and gout. People who drink just two soft drinks a day have an 85% greater chance of developing a case of gout than those who do not. This is due to the high levels of fructose in soft drinks.

The kidneys have a tough time processing large amounts of the fructose found in soft drinks. This naturally leads to questions about other sugary foods such as candy or syrups. It would be wise to avoid those food choices as well. Candy is high in fructose and should be avoided as well.

Ways to Avoid Issues

That covers most of the claims regarding uric acid. There are some things that can help reduce the potential for developing gout that can be used in conjunction with drinking plenty of water and following a diet with lower levels of purine.

Exercise

First and most important is regular exercise. It seems like exercise is indeed the magic elixir for maladies and it helps with high uric acid levels as well. It may be the fact that exercise is related to lower levels of uric acid through weight reduction alone but it has been shown to be helpful.

Fruit & Vegetable Supplements

It also appears that celery and celery extracts can have a positive impact on uric acid levels. Celery can now be taken in a capsule form. Celery extract is perfectly legal and is available through a number of online herb shops. It looks like most sites are selling doses that run from 50 to 100mgs and the price ranges from $6 to $20 a bottle and most bottles contain anywhere from 50 to 100 capsules.

As with any drug, herb or extract, do your homework and check with your doctor to ensure that there will not be any dangerous conflicts with prescriptions you are currently taking and that there will not be any side effects that could also detract from the effectiveness of some of your prescriptions.

Eating Cherries

Finally, there is some late breaking research that shows that cherries might also contain elements that are effective in battling increased uric acid levels. The cherries have to be tart and they work by dissolving some of the uric acid crystals that build up in the joints.

Water

It also bears repeating that water is an essential ingredient for processing purines. The kidneys, and every other organ, for that matter need water to function. Drinking 8 glasses of water a day should dramatically reduce uric acid levels in the body in a short period of time.

Keeping a Healthy Uric Acid Level

That wraps up this brief look at purines and uric acid. In summary, it is important to note that purines and uric acid are not necessarily bad things. Purines are found in just about every conceivable food and are an essential element of life. The production of uric acid is a completely normal process and we humans need uric acid to improve the condition of our blood vessels.

Like everything else in nature and in life, there has to be a balance. The body does react negatively when uric acid levels get too high by storing the excess in joints and appendages. It is important to remember that when this happens, balance can be restored by switching to a low purine level diet and increasing the intake of water to help the kidneys process purines effectively.