INFORMATION ABOUT NUTRIENTS AND HERBS - USES, BENEFITS
An evergreen tree native to tropical Australia, it was taken to Hawaii in the nineteenth century and the nuts are now an important crop there. They are considered by many to be the finest-tasting nuts and, since they provide a very concentrated food, rich in natural oils, particularly monounsaturates, they are often used as a substitute for meat. Widely available in supermarkets.
Magnesium is an important mineral which, together with calcium and phosphorus, is found mainly in the bones. Smaller amounts in the blood activate hundreds of enzymes and participate in various biochemical activities. Magnesium maintains strong bones and tooth enamel, calms the nervous system, regulates heartbeat, strengthens digestion, maintains a healthy prostate in men, prevents swelling, keeps calcium soluble, prevents kidney stones, and regulates thyroid function. It also improves urine retention and so helps to control incontinence in the elderly and prevent bed-wetting in children. Magnesium can be depleted in the body by alcohol, sweet foods, and the excessive consumption of milk enriched with vitamin D. Magnesium deficiencies are manifested in irregular heartbeat and heart attacks, jumpy nerves and weak musclesconvulsions and seizures, prostate enlargement, fatigue, bedwetting and kidney stones. Its best natural sources include green vegetables, figs, lemons, yellow corn, apples and raw wheat germ. Dolomite is a natural supplement. The normal daily requirement is 350 mg for adults and 250 mg for children; pregnant and lactating women need 450 mg per day. As a supplement, magnesium is available in tablet and capsule form.
MA HUANG (EPHEDRA SINICA)
Mahan is the Chinese name for ephedrine, a low-growing evergreen shrub native to the arid and desert regions of the Americas and Asia. It contains ephedrin, an alkaloid that has been shown to reduce excess weight in overweight animals by speeding up the burning of fat into energy and by satisfying hunger. Its action is improved when used with caffeine and theophylline.
Caution: Ma huang has been incorporated as an ingredient in a number of weight loss formulas over the past few years. However, its action is similar to that of adrenalin in that it stimulates the central nervous system, thereby increasing heartbeat and blood pressure. Therefore, ma huang should not be used by hypertensive people or by those with a heart condition.
MAITAKE (GRIFOLA FRONDOSA)
A newly rediscovered ancient mushroom, native to northeast Japan, maitake was traditionally highly prized in Japan as both a culinary ingredient and a herbal medicine. Oriental folk medicines used it as an important aid to wellbeing, to maintain health, preserve youth and increase longevity. The maitake grows in clusters at the base of trees, and in bygone times it was exchanged for its weight in silver. Maitakecontains many important vitamins and minerals like Bl, B2, B3, C and D, calcium, magnesium, potassium and protein. New research also shows that, besides those nutrients, maitake contains a special class of polysaccharides such as beta glucan, and more specifically, its D-fraction. These are complex sugar polymers in maitake extracts, which were found to boost the immune system. Most studies by Japanese scientists, done with the D-fraction of maitake extract, showed maitake to have anti-tumour and anti-cancer properties. Further research is presendy being conducted at the Cancer Treatment Center of America to evaluate its anti-cancer properties. A recent study in New York with a group of hypertensive human volunteers showed that two 500 mg capsules of maitake a day taken orally for six weeks lowered blood pressure. Dr Abram Brea homoeopathic physician from Phoenix, Arizona, is reported to treat hypertension with higher doses: 3 g mistake per day for the first week, 4 g per day for the second week, then 5 g per day as blood pressure indicated, since blood pressure is dose-related. Other studies have demonstrated mistake’s ability to inhibit uterine fibroids, counteract diabetes and even to help weight loss without a change in the diet! Mistake capsules and tablets, as well as the D-fractions, are now increasingly being sold in health food stores as herbal extracts. A significant body of research shows that mistake is the most effective of the other medicinal mushrooms such as shiitake and reships. Mistake doses should best be determined by a qualified practitioner.
Manganese is a trace element with a wide range of effects. It forms part of many enzymes, such as those involved in sugar metabolism, and is needed to form thyroxin, the thyroid hormone. It also helps in the synthesis of cholesterol and fats, and is important for the production of breast milk and sex hormones, promoting fertility and male potency. Manganese was found important in reversing osteoporosis, by stimulating the production of mucopolysaccharides, protein-like molecules that help the calcification of bones. Manganese can be used in the prevention of diabetes and nerve-muscle disorders and its best natural sources include whole grains, nuts, leafy green vegetables and tea. The estimated daily requirement is 2.5-5 mg, although lactating women may need up to 9 mg a day. In tea-drinking countries, an average one-third of the daily manganese requirement is obtained from this beverage. Supplements available from health food stores and as multi-vitamin formulas.
A delicious and highly nutritious fruit originating in India from which it has spread to many parts of the world, the mango is one of the most popular tropical fruits. Mangoes are very rich in the antioxidant vitamins C, A, E and bioflavonoids. One mango provides more than the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin C, two-thirds of the vitamin A and a third of the vitamin E. Mangoes are also an excellent source of potassium, iron and niacin. Easily digestible, mangoes are especially suitable for people with sensitive digestion.
Margarine is made from vegetable oil which undergoes hydrogenation. During this process, hydrogen is added to the oil, saturating its fatty acids and rendering it solid or semi-solid. Saturated fatty acids are not biologically as active as unsaturated ones and they adversely affect cell membranes, leading to various disorders, including high cholesterol levels and diabetes.
The hydrogenation process also changes the structure of the fatty acids from the natural type of cis-fatty acids to the unnatural type of trans-fatty acids that interfere with the utilization of essential fatty acids and, in fact, are not 'recognized' by the body chemistry. For example, they prevent fatty acid transformation to immune cells, inhibiting the synthesis of GLA and prostaglandins (see EVENING PRIMROSE OIL). In the USA and the UK, most of the consumption of trans-fatty acid consists of margarine and shortening. In a recent analysis of the connection between eating habits and disease from the ongoing Framingham study in the USA researchers found that margarine, but not butter, was linked to a higher risk of coronary heart disease. The researchers concluded that this supports the hypothesis that 'margarine intake increases the risk of coronary heart disease'.
MARJORAM (MAjORANA HORTENSIS)
A scented herb, it is both an annual and a perennial, and was originally native to northern African and south-western Asia. Nowadays, it is widely cultivated as a popular culinary herb and is available from supermarkets and grocers. Sweet marjoram tea is pleasantly carminative. It can relieve flatulence and colic in children - upset stomach and gastritis can be soothed, both internally and externally, by massaging the abdomen with a clockwise rotation. The essential oil of sweet marjoram is also used externally for arthritis, gout, rheumatism and varicose veins. It is claimed to have a calming effect and can be used to alleviate grief.
Caution: Marjoram should not be used during pregnancy.
MARSHMALLOW (ALTHEA OFFICINAUS)
A wild, perennial plant with soft hairy leaves, it is found mainly in marshy areas and damp, watery places. Marshmallow leaves and roots have long been known for their demulcent, soothing and softening properties and infusions prepared from the plant are excellent for the treatment of coughs and cystitis and for soothing the digestive tract in cases of ulcers. Externally, a poultice prepared from the leaves steeped in boiling water can be applied to boils and abscesses.
MATE (ILEX PARAGUAYENSIS)
Also called Paraguay tea, mate tea is a stimulating beverage made from the dried leaves of a South American oak which is very popular in Latin America. The dried leaves are also exported and are available in many health food stores. Mate tea has a high caffeine content and is renowned as a tonic and stimulant, increasing alertness and mental acuity. It contains iron and is useful in the treatment of irondeficiency anaemia. It is also a diuretic, stimulating the kidneys, and alleviating arthritis and gout. Mate tea is very satisfying and can help slimmers lose weight. Once made,the tea should be drunk fresh as it becomes black and bitter if allowed to stand.
Caution: People with cardiovascular or nervous conditions, or those allergic to caffeine, should avoid mate. Excessive consumption can cause diarrhoea.
MEADOW SAFFRON (COLCHICUM AUTUMNALE)
A perennial herb that grows wild in damp places, but is also cultivated in the USA for its bulb and seeds. It contains colchicine, a poisonous alkaloid, which inhibits cell multiplication. It is used medicinally in very tiny amounts in the treatment of gout and arthritis.
Caution: The whole herb is poisonous and must not be used as a home remedy.
Meat is the principal provider of high-quality protein and fat with other important vitamins such as B 12 and minerals such as zinc. Organ meats, like liver, heart and kidney, are the most nutritious. Generally, meat is considered a tonic: blood-building and helping relieve general weakness. However, its metabolic by-products in the body are very toxic. People on meat-centred diets are often thirsty; they need fluids to flush these toxins out. More and more studies published in the media are advising the public to cut down on red meat. With higher standards of living in the west meat consumption soared. The accelerating incidence of heart disease and cancer has been linked with beef consumption, which has increased from 120 kg per person in 1950 to almost 300 kg today. Beef in the 1950s provided more nutrients and was much leaner, with five to ten per cent carcass fat, largely unsaturated. Today's cattle, intensively raised on high-energy feeds, deprived of grazing and treated with antibiotic drugs, hormones and tranquillisers, have 30 per cent fat. Most of these drugs, hormones and pesticide sprays accumulate in this fat. Meat is often treated with nitrites to preserve it. These can combine in the stomach to form nitrosarnines, potent carcinogens that were found to produce cancer in rats after only one dose. Cooked meat has other hidden hazards. When meat is grilled or barbecued at high temperatures, carcinogenic substances called HCAs (heterocyclic arnines) are created. These substances generate tree radicals, which hasten ageing and increase the risk of cancer and heart disease. Most HCAs are found in tried bacon. Stewing, boiling and poaching meat is much safer: they generate virtually no HCAs. Pre-marinating meat in garlic-based sauce was found to cut down the rate of HCAs. Processed ground meat products like sausages and hot dogs are the most dangerous, since poor grade meats and preservatives, which can be used in their preparation are hard to detect in these highly seasoned products. Livers of beef, calf, veal, lamb and pork have been known to strengthen the body in stressful conditions. Chicken liver is known to strengthen both liver and kidneys; helping in treating conditions such as iron-deficiency anaemia, impotence, tendency to miscarry, blurred vision and urinary incontinence. Desiccated liver tablets are available at health food stores.
MEDIUM CHAIN TRIGLYCERIDES (MCTS)
MCTs are a special type of saturated fat derived from coconut oil and are used by the body differently to most other fats. In the main, fats such as butter, margarine, animal fats and even edible oils are composed of long chain triglycerides (LCTs), which are absorbed into the lymph system and stored for future use. They take a long time to be converted into energy. MCTs, on the other hand, have much shorter molecules so that they can pass easily through the liver and are directly absorbed into the bloodstream. In this way, they are converted much more rapidly into utilized energy rather than being deposited as fat. MCTs have been found to promote weight loss, increase energy and are also useful for treating epilepsy. They are now increasingly available in supplements and also as MCT oils, which can be used in the kitchen in the same way as any of the other edible oils.
Melatonin is a natural hormone secreted mainly in the pineal gland, a pea-sized gland in the mid-brain. It is in fact produced by pineal enzymes that are respectively activated and depressed by darkness and light. As a result, the pineal increases its secretion of melatonin during darkness, thus inducing sleep. As a natural sleeping aid, melatonin swept the world during the 1990s, and melatonin supplements (sold in health food stores and pharmacies) in potencies of one to three mg are now widely used in the USA to combat jet lag and insomnia. Melatonin is also thought to alleviate depression and it has also been found to be a powerful antioxidant. As such, it boosts the immune system and stimulates the production of antibodies and other immune cells that fight disease, especially the degenerative diseases of ageing such as heart disease and cancer. Its sale has been discontinued in health food shops in the UK but is still available as a prescription drug. (It is still a controversial supplement.)
Mercury is a toxic element and a common pollutant. Its main sources are fish, pesticides, fungistats (which prevent mould in seeds), emissions from coal burning and cigarette smoke. The mercury that pollutes lakes and oceans is methyl mercury, a compound that is fifty times more toxic than pure mercury. Methyl mercury is dumped into rivers and lakes by various industrial plants, such as paper mills which use mercury to protect paper from mould. As a result of this dumping, fish can become a highly concentrated source of mercury. For example, in Lake Erie irreversible pollution with mercury has occurred in such high levels that fishing has been stricdy prohibited. A build-up of mercury in the body can cause damage to the brain, kidneys and nervous system resulting in, for example, paralysis and blindness. The commonest uses of mercury in everyday life are batteries, mercury vapour lamps, dental fillings and mercury thermometers. Some nutrients, such as selenium, counteract mercury in the body. Among the other protective nutrients are calcium, vitamins A, C, E and B complex, lecithin and stomach acid, which'is sold as betaine HCI capsules
Methionine is an essential amino acid needed for the synthesis of protein in the body. It is a sulphur-containing amino acid and a lipotropic, which means that it has an Affinity to fats. As such, it helps to produce lecithin, which emulsifies fats and breaks down fatty deposits, preventing their build-up in the liver and arteries and thus reducing the risk of heart and circulatory diseases.
Methionine is a strong detoxifier and combines with toxic elements such as lead, cachnium and mercury to eliminate them from the body, preventing many related conditions such as hypertension, depression and kidney damage. It is also a strong antioxidant, which neutralizes tree radicals, the underlying cause of ageing diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Methionine is an antihistaminic, and as such, can be used in the treatment of allergies. It is best utilized with supplements of vitamin B6. Available from health food stores.
Once promoted as the 'perfect food', cow's milk is an excellent source of proteins and calcium. Its principal proteins are casein, albumin and globulin. The latter is identical to human blood globulin and, as such, strengthens the immune system by providing antibodies. Milk also provides fat, which aids the absorption of calcium, and its phosphorus content offers an ideal calcium-phosphorus ratio, which is required for calcium utilization. In addition, milk contains a good balance of vitamins A, D, E, K and B2 and one litre of milk a day can supply approximately all the required calcium phosphorus and fat. Milk is a fully digestible food except for those individuals who are unable to digest milk sugar, in a condition known as lactose intolerance. However, milk has its drawbacks. It is low in vitamin C, iron, and copper, and is increasingly affinity to fats. As such, it helps to produce lecithin, which emulsifies fats and breaks down fatty deposits, preventing their build-up in the liver and arteries and thus reducing the risk of heart and circulatory diseases.
Methionine is a strong detoxifier and combines with toxic elements such as lead, cadntium and mercury to eliminate them from the body, preventing many related conditions such as hypertension, depression and kidney damage. It is also a strong antioxidant, which neutralizes free radicals, the underlying cause of ageing diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Methionine is an antihistaminic, and as such, can be used in the treatment of allergies. It is best utilized with supplements of vitamin B6. Available from health food stores.
MILK THISTLE (CARDUUS MARJANUS)
An annual plant that grows wild in dry, rocky soils in parts of Europe and North America, its leaves provide a bitter tonic and its seeds contain flavones (silydanin and silymarin) which stimulates the evacuation of bile. Both the leaves and seeds are used in the treatment of liver diseases and to protect the liver from toxins. Milk these is also very beneficial in the treatment of hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver. And as a general detoxifyer, it can also be useful in the treatment of psoriasis. In folk medicine, milk these was traditionally used to increase milk flow in nursing mothers. It is now widely available in capsules from health food stores or herbalists
A small golden pearl grain popular in Asia and Attica, millet is highly nutritious. It is rich in vitamins and minerals, exceptionally high in protein and is the only alkali-forming grain. Millet is rich in silicon, which is important for the health of skin, hair and nails. Millet contains no gluten and is therefore suitable for celiac. It is very easily digested and useful for diarrhoea, indigestion and diabetes. Millet can be used as a thickener in soups, stews and vegetable casseroles.
Found abundantly on the earth's crust, minerals are essential constituents of all cells. They form mosdy the hard parts of the body (bones, teeth, nails), but are equally essential as components of gland secretions and enzyme systems which sustain life. Minerals regulate the permeability of cell membranes, control the excitability of muscles and nerves, maintain a proper acid-alkali balance and regulate blood volume. Minerals are generally classified into bulk minerals and trace elements. Bulk minerals like calcium, phosporus, sodium, magnesium, potassium and sulphur are needed in gram amounts. Trace elements, which are needed in minute amounts measured in milligrams or micrograms, include iron, zinc, copper, manganese, chromium, iodine, selenium, fluorine, boron and molybdenum. Mineral salts are daily used and excreted from the body and must be replaced through food. Minerals are as essential to the body as oxygen; the body can tolerate a deficiency of vitamins for longer periods of time than it can a deficiency of minerals. A slight change in the concentration of some minerals in blood can endanger life. Obviously the mineral content of both plant and animal foods depends entirely on the mineral content of the soil. Different parts of the earth's crust may be deficient in some. The soil of the American Midwest for example, is naturally poor in iodine and in these areas iodized salt is commonly used. On the other hand, intensive farming methods are not always matched by full mineral restoration and this leads to minerally depleted soils and mineral deficiencies in humans. The recent news that selenium levels in English soils have been severely dropping is causing great concern in the UK. On the other hand, the wide consumption of highly refined foods like white sugar and white flour, from which most of the trace elements have been removed during milling, also create mineral shortages. The refining of whole wheat to white flour, for example, depletes 80 per cent of its magnesium, 87 per cent of its chromium and 88 per cent of Its manganese. Eating mosdy unrefined foods like brown rice and wholewheat bread and cutting down on white sugar are the first steps towards meeting basic mineral needs. Minerals are not absorbed as efficiendy as vitamins. Minerals like calcium require a strong acid medium in the stomach to be absorbed, while trace elements require protein to enable their absorption into the blood stream (see CHELATION). Mineral supplementation is therefore needed by most people to ensure adequate intake and prevent deficiency symptoms. Special conditions require even higher doses. Iron and calcium, for example, are considered a must for pregnant and lactating women. It is important though not to exceed dosages, as excesses can impair the delicate mineral equilibrium of the body and in extreme cases can even become toxic
A savoury fermented soybean paste used for seasoning, miso has traditionally been used in China and Japan for many thousands of years. Miso soup is a popular dish in Japanese and Chinese restaurants. Miso is made from cooked soybeans, grain (barley or rice), salt and water which are combined with a mould starter. The mixture is then allowed to ferment for between six months and a year. Miso comes in many varieties and colours and, because it is usually very salty, can be used as a substitute for salt or soy sauce. As a result of fermentation, it is a live food, containing friendly micro-organisms that are beneficial to the intestinal flora. It is therefore best consumed uncooked. Many varieties of miso are available in health food shops.
MISTLETOE (VISCUM ALBUM)
An evergreen, semi-parasitic plant which grows on the branches of host trees, it has long been revered as a sacred plant in many European religions and closely associated with magic and healing. Both the leaves and berries are known to be useful in the regulation of both high and low blood pressure. Misdetoe has also been used as a nerve tonic in the treatment of tension, insomnia and depression and, prepared as a tea from the leaves and berries; it is a diuretic and stimulant and can be used for strengthening the heart. Available at health food stores and herbalists and as formulas. Caution: Misdetoe is potentially toxic and should not be used in doses greater than 4 g of the crude herb, or for extended periods, except under the supervision of a naturopath.
Molasses is a concentrated syrup, a by-product of sugar refining, which precipitates as residue after the sugar crystals have been separated from the sugar-cane juice. Molasses is rich in nutrients and low in sugar and, in fact, the nutrients in molasses are 30 times more concentrated than in the original cane juice. It provides an excellent source of minerals and trace elements, including iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, chromium, manganese, molybdenum and zinc. One tablespoon of molasses supplies as much calcium as a glass of milk and as much iron as nine eggs. Molasses also contains high levels of B vitamins, and is an alkali-forming food. It is reported to have a beneficial effect on many conditions such as anaemia, fatigue, arthritis, ulcers and colitis. It also has a strong laxative effect and is used to counteract constipation. Unsulphured molasses is better than that preserved with sulphur, and crude black molasses is preferable to the sweeter varieties. A normal intake is 1-3 teaspoons a day. Available in health food stores.
Caution: It is recommended that teeth are rinsed after taking molasses because, like sugar, molasses can cause tooth decay.
Molybdenum is a trace element widely present in raw foods and an essential part of several important enzymes. Molybdenum prevents tooth decay and anaemia, and is also thought to prevent oesophageal cancer and increase sexual potency in older men. Since most of the molybdenum content is lost during the milling of whole grains and the refining of raw sugar, a diet based on these refined foods can result in a deficiency. The best natural sources of molybdenum are legumes, whole grain cereals and dark green leafy vegetables, and a balanced diet should supply adequate amounts of it. The newly set RDA is 45 mcg.
MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE (MSG)
As a food ingredient, MSG is a flavour enhancer that deserves a special mention since it is commonly used in many processed foods (E621), and especially in Chinese restaurants. An amino acid, MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid (E620).
MSG was first isolated at the Tokyo University in 1908om seaweed (Laminaria japonica) which was long known by Japanese cooks to improve food taste. Initially considered safe, MSG was later linked to many allergic symptoms often referred to as 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome' because they were observed mainly after eating Chinese food. These symptoms include thirst and nausea, water retention, muscle numbness, palpitation, dizziness, headaches and cold sweats. It should be noted that many foods naturally contain various amounts of glutamate, the highest of which are in tomatoes, meatloaves, mushrooms and Parmesan cheese. Mother's milk contains ten times more glutamate than cow's milk. But while the body metabolizes food glutamates and MSG in the same way, many people who are allergic to MSG find that they can safely eat glutamate containing foods like tomatoes or mushrooms. On average, Americans are considered to consume daily 11 g of glutamate from natural sources and less than 1 g of glutamate from added MSG. It is estimated that some 25 per cent of the western population is allergic to MSG, in one way or another. Anyone allergic to MSG should realize that, while some food labels may claim 'No MSG', the presence ot MSG can be disguised with vague or technical language, such as: glutamic acid; natural flavours; seasoning; modified food starch; autolyzed food yeast.
A nutritional supplement newly arrived in health food stores, Methylsulphonylmethane, or MSM for simplicity, is a form of organic sulphur, the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. A safe, natural and highly assailable food derived from the ocean, MSM is a white, odourless crystalline powder, which does not produce the intestinal gas or body odour that may occur with other forms of sulphur. The many benefits of sulphur stem from its help in proper cell function and in creating healthy and flexible cells. MSM supplements are therefore indicated for a variety of reasons such as improving skin, hair and nails, relieving arthritic pain, increasing intestinal fitness and improving conditions like constipation, diarrhoea, over acidity and even food allergies. Considering the fact that sulphur is a widely deficient mineral that much of it is lost in food preparation, MSM supplementation is becoming increasingly popular. Average daily supplements of MSM range between 1,000 mg and 3,000 mg or more (up to 6,000 mg), depending on body size, age, diet and the nature and severity of the conditions being treated.
Caution: People prone to kidney stones should use MSM cautiously, starting with a low dose. (See SULPHUR.)
Fungi, in the wild, grow most ceremony in woods and damp areas; the cultivated varieties are available all year round. Cultivated mushrooms are one of the most valuable horticultural crops in the UK and the USA. The white Agarics bisporus mushrooms account for over 95 per cent of consumption while speciality or exotic cultivated mushrooms account for the remaining less than 5 per cent. Mushrooms of the button variety are rich in potassium, phosphorus, copper and iron. They are also a good Source of thiamine (vitamin Bl) and riboflavin (vitamin B2).As mushrooms mature; their caps open and expose their gills. It is best to avoid wide open caps and also to select mushrooms that are firm, not spongy.
Mushrooms are known to be beneficial in reducing blood fat levels and to have antibiotic properties; they are also claimed to have antitumour actions and to boost the immune system action against disease-producing microorganisms by increasing white blood cell count. Mushrooms are easily digested and are recommended for anyone suffering with digestive problems.
MUSTARD (BRASSICA NIGRA)
An annual plant native to the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, it is also widely cultivated for its seeds which contain a strong volatile oil. Mustard is a popular culinary herb that stimulates the appetite and helps digestion. A weak tea of mustard seeds can be used, in small amounts, for bronchitis or coughs. For external applications, mustard is used mainly as an irritant to promote blood flow in cases of rheumatism and colds. Mustard seed powder is mixed with wheat flour and water to form a thick paste and this is then spread on a linen cloth to form a poultice, which is laid on the affected area causing the skin to heat up. The poultice must not be used on sensitive areas and it should be removed when the heat becomes too uncomfortable. Wheat flour is added in order to reduce the warming effects of the mustard, and its quantity in the poultice should be adjusted according to the amount of warming desired. Diluted mustard seed oil can also be used externally for similar conditions.