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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Alternative medicine: Basil

Wed, 16 Jan 2008 22:04:07
By Patricia Khashayar, MD., Press TV, Tehran

Since ancient times, basil has been used to treat diabetes, asthma, heart problems, inflammatory diseases and respiratory ailments.

Botanical: Ocymum basilicum
Family: N.O. Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
Synonym: Basilic, basilikum, basilienkraut, tulsi, albahaca, sweet basil


It is native to warm, tropical climates such as Central Africa and Southeast Asia.


Basil is a perennial low-growing herb with light green, silky leaves. Its big white-colored flowers are arranged in terminal spikes.

There are over 60 varieties of basil, each with a specific flavor.

Part Used Medicinally:

Leafy tops.


Basil is an excellent source of dietary fiber, manganese, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and vitamin A, C and K.

It contains high concentrations of carotenoids like beta carotene which are converted to vitamin A in the body. Beta carotene has more benefits than vitamin A alone, and is known to be a powerful antioxidant.

The different scents of various basils are attributed to different essential oils.

Medicinal Uses:

Basil is a traditional treatment for headaches, coughs, diarrhea, constipation, warts, worms, and kidney malfunctions.

Basil has sedative, diuretic, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic and cough-relieving properties and is therefore used to treat coughs, colds, and pharyngeal inflammations.

It is also used as a remedy for chronic gastritis, stomachaches, bronchitis, fever and renal ailments.

Like other aromatic plants such as fennel and tarragon, basil contains estragole, a known carcinogen and teratogen.

Basil's flavonoids protect the cell structures as well as chromosomes against radiation, oxygen-based damage and unwanted bacterial growth.

Its essential oil is believed to be effective in treating special pathogenic bacterial species resistant to antibiotics.

Scientists suggest adding basil and thyme to foods particularly uncooked ones like salads, helps fight against Shigella and the diarrhea secondary to it.

The eugenol component of basil's volatile oils has cyclooxygenase inhibiting enzyme similar to anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

Basil is also a good source of magnesium, which promotes cardiovascular health. It relaxes muscles and blood vessels thereby improving blood flow. It also reduces the risk of irregular heart rhythms.

It can also help stress management.

Basil is a natural beta-carotene source and prevents blood vessel damage and cholesterol build-up. By slowing down the atherosclerosis process it prevents heart attacks and strokes.

Basil is a good remedy for inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel conditions.

By enhancing insulin secretion basil leaves help control blood sugar levels in diabetics.

Basil leaf tea is good for fatigue, insomnia, seizure, painful menstruation and helps treat ringworms.

Fresh basil leaf extract is used to threat insect bites.

Gargling basil leaf tea will help relieve sore gums.

Basil seed has antibacterial and laxative effects.


Diabetics should consult a physician before using basil.

Sweet basil oil has possible carcinogenic effects and should not be used.


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Friday, January 18, 2008

FDA: Cold Medicines Too Risky for Tots

Updated 10 hours 21 minutes ago

(AP) - Parents may be left with only love and lots of liquid to give their sniffling babies and toddlers now that the government is declaring over-the-counter cough and cold medicines too risky for tots. The Food and Drug Administration was issuing that warning Thursday to parents of children under 2.

It's a move expected for months: Drug companies last October quit selling dozens of versions of nonprescription cold remedies targeted specifically to babies and toddlers. That month, the FDA's scientific advisers also voted that the drugs don't work in small children and shouldn't be used in preschoolers, either _ anyone under age 6.

The FDA still hasn't decided if OTC decongestants, antihistamines and cough suppressants are appropriate for older children, officials told The Associated Press. Expect a decision on that by spring, the deadline necessary to notify manufacturers before they begin production for next fall's cold season.

For now, FDA's first official ruling focuses on youngsters under 2, warning that "serious and potentially life-threatening side effects can occur."

FDA is worried that parents haven't gotten that message despite all the publicity last fall. They may still have infant-targeted drugs at home, or they may buy drugs meant for older children to give to tots instead, said Dr. Charles Ganley, FDA's nonprescription drugs chief.

"We still have a concern," Ganley said. "It falls out of people's consciousness. We're still in the middle of cold season right now."

Ganley was particularly struck by recent surveys that suggest many parents don't believe OTC remedies could pose a problem, especially if they've given them to an older child without harm.

Thursday's move is a good first step, said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Baltimore's health commissioner. He petitioned the FDA last year to end use of nonprescription cold remedies by children under 6, a move backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The reason: There's no evidence that these oral drugs actually ease cold symptoms in children so young _ some studies suggest they do no good at all. And while serious side effects are fairly rare, they do occur. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year reported that more than 1,500 babies and toddlers wound up in emergency rooms over a two-year period because of the drugs.

"It's one thing if you're curing cancer, but we're talking about a self-limiting illness," said Sharfstein. "If there's really no evidence of benefit, you don't want to risk the rare problem. Then you're left with tragedy that you can't justify."

Specialists are back to recommending old-fashioned steps, such as plenty of fluids and rest, saline drops to loosen stuffy noses, and humidifiers while sleeping.

Why is this an issue now? Child versions of cold remedies came on the market decades ago, when scientists thought that what worked in adults would automatically work in children. Scientists today know that is not always the case.

In fact, FDA never formally allowed infant-targeted cold remedies in the first place; Ganley said they evolved through a legal loophole.

But the FDA is investigating an even bigger question: Are OTC cold remedies safe and effective for children under 12? The agency's advisers last fall called for no use just by the under-6 crowd, but did recommend more research to determine the medicines' effects in children overall.

The drug industry says these medicines are used 3.8 billion times a year in treating children's cough and cold symptoms and are safe for those over 2.

Health groups acknowledge that while low doses of cold medicine don't usually endanger an individual child, the bigger risk is unintentional overdose. For example, the same ingredients are in multiple products, so using more than one for different symptoms can quickly add up. Also, children's medicines are supposed to be measured with the dropper or measuring cap that comes with each product, not an inaccurate kitchen teaspoon.

An internal FDA working group has a February deadline to recommend to agency leaders any action for 2- to 11-year-olds, Ganley said. The goal is a spring announcement.

Meanwhile, the FDA's advice for children over 2:

_If you try these drugs, carefully follow label directions.

_Avoid giving a child more than one product. If you do, make sure they don't contain some of the same or similar ingredients.

_Understand that these drugs only treat symptoms. Colds are viruses, and the drugs will not make them go away any faster.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Twins separated at birth met and married

LONDON (Reuters) - A couple discovered after they had married that they were twins who had been split up at birth and adopted by separate families, according to a member of Britain's House of Lords.

British peer David Alton recounted the story to parliament last month to support his argument that artificially conceived children should be told who their biological parents are.

Alton said he had heard the story of the separated twins from a High Court judge who had dealt with the case.

"This did not involve in vitro fertilization: It involved the normal birth of twins who were separated at birth and adopted by separate parents," said Alton, an independent member of the Lords. "They were never told that they were twins."

"They met later in life and felt an inevitable attraction, and the judge had to deal with the consequences of the marriage that they entered into and all the issues of their separation," he said.

"I suspect that it will be a matter of litigation in the future if we do not make information of this kind available to children who have been donor-conceived," he said.

Alton could not immediately be reached for comment and no further information was available about the twins or where they were from.

"I think it's a very tragic story for the people involved," said Pam Hodgkins, head of a group that helps adults affected by adoption.

"It is a lesson that we need to learn and apply to the situation of donor-conceived children," she told Sky News.

"Whilst ... nowadays it would be most unusual for siblings to be separated ... the risk of secrecy affecting the lives of people born as a result of egg and sperm donation is exactly the same as the risks that have affected adopted people in the past," she said.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Stephen Addison)

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

ADHD: a childhood psychological disorder

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a childhood psychological disorder characterized by persistent hyperactivity-impulsivity.

ADHD children are hyperactive; they have difficulty sitting still and controlling their physical activity. Their impulsiveness and lack of self-control creates annoyance and exhaustion which can cause many problems especially in school.

These children tend to encounter academic problems, because not only does their condition erode their ability to concentrate and focus on the tasks at hand, but it also wears down their capability to integrate in social and academic settings.

This may lead to inability to organize work and to pay attention to lessons. These children distract other children in class as well.

ADHD Children have a very low threshold for sensory stimuli such as noise, touch and visual cues. Over exposure to such cues can result in dramatic behavior changes including giddiness or aggressiveness.

About 4% of the general population is affected by ADHD; boys are six times more likely to be affected. ADHD reportedly continues into adulthood in approximately 40% to 60% of the cases.

ADHD and ADD (attention deficit disorder) are generally thought to be two different conditions, but in fact, they are interchangeably used to refer to the same condition.


Although the exact cause of ADHD is still unclear, biological factors seem to constitute the root cause of the disorder. Brain chemical imbalances are responsible for the majority of the symptoms exhibited by an ADHD child.

Genetic predisposition is another risk factor for developing the disorder.

Close family members of ADHD children are at a four-fold higher risk of having this medical condition; the incidence of the disorder is also reportedly higher in identical twins compared with non-identical ones or siblings.

However, no scientific research has yet specified chromosomes contributing to the development of this condition has not yet been identified in any.

Antenatal or postnatal brain injuries altering cerebral function can also give rise to the ADHD symptoms. Furthermore, any exposure to drugs, alcohol or radiation during cerebral development phase of the fetus may cause ADHD.

Certain postnatal infectious diseases such as meningitis or encephalitis can affect the brain tissue and thereby changing the process by which the brain sends signals and, ultimately, result in the manifestation of these symptoms.

Food additives and refined sugar, lead poisoning and ineffective parenting are amongst other factors responsible for the development of ADHD symptoms.


Attention deficit disorder is the condition which surfaces before the age of seven and causes extensive disruption in school, social and family life.

ADHD symptoms are grouped into three major categories: hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention.

It may present itself as excessive fidgeting or squirming, difficulty in following instructions, shifting activities, uttering answers to questions, difficulty in maintaining attention, excessive talking, engaging in dangerous activities, inability to wait for ones turn, easily being distracted, and the inability to sit still.

There is a great likelihood that ADHD children experience a range of other nervous system disorders including learning disabilities, tic disorders (Tourrette's syndrome), motor control delays (reduced coordination), language difficulties, depression, autism, anxiety, conduct disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive disorder (OCD), and oppositional-defiant disorder.


There are no specific blood tests, brain activity exams, or scans for diagnosing ADHD. Diagnosis is primarily made based on the patient's symptoms.

Questionnaires completed by a child's teachers or parents are used to help the specialist decide whether or not the problematic behavior needs treatment.


The parents of ADHD children should be assured that their child's condition is not their fault; they should also be told that these children are as capable as their peers and after receiving appropriate help they can lead successful, happy, and productive lives.

Successful medical treatment must be accompanied by non-drug approaches including supportive counseling and psychiatric or psychological help. In other words, ADHD treatment is a combination of medical therapy along with familial, educational, and social changes.

Low doses of psychostimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) or dextroamphetamine are prescribed to alleviate the symptoms and filter out unnecessary distractions.

The drugs have shown an 80%effectiveness in ADHD children; they enable children to pay more attention, concentrate, and to be less impulsive.

Several minor side effects have been reported for these drugs; all of which can be controlled through adjusting the administered doses.

The major concern for the parents of ADHD children is that their children will become dependent on the drug and will not be able to lead a successful life without medication.

Researchers have found no evidence supporting any physical or psychological dependency following the use of such drugs.

Children with comorbid conditions or disorders, such as autism or depression, may require an alternative drug.

A variety of parental training methods such as effective child behavior management methods, classroom behavior modification methods, and academic intervention schemes (special educational placement), have all yielded positive results.

Furthermore, employing behavioral techniques such as behavior modification and cognitive behavioral therapy can bring dramatic improvements even in the absence of medical therapy.

Some studies suggest changing the regular diet can treat ADHD individuals; however, there is no reliable and strong scientific evidence to support of such claims.

Thu, 10 Jan 2008 19:53:52
By Said Pournaghash Ph.D.,
Press TV, Tehran -

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Supplements 'raise death rate by 5%'

by Nigel Hawkes, Health Editor

Vitamin pills commonly taken by millions of people are doing them more harm than good, an analysis of the evidence has concluded.

Three supplements — vitamins A and E and beta carotene — appear to increase death rates among those taking them. Vitamin C and selenium have no effect.

The results, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggest that money spent on vitamin supplements is wasted. In response, the British Heart Foundation said people should not take supplements but should concentrate instead on eating a healthy diet.

The new study is a meta-analysis; a procedure in which many earlier studies are collected together. It was carried out by a team led by Goran Bjelakovic, of Copenhagen University Hospital, and colleagues, using methods developed by the Cochrane Collaboration, the leading international group specialising in the analysis of what works in medicine.

Supporters of vitamin supplements, which are consumed regularly by up to ten million Britons, believe these can act as antioxidants, preventing highly active oxygen radicals in the body-damaging molecules such as cholesterol causing heart disease. The theory seemed plausible, and some initial trial results appeared to lend it support. But as better trials were done different results emerged. The Copenhagen team considered 68 randomised control trials, involving 232,606 people, and published by October 2005. Of these, they rate 47 trials as being of the best quality, with the rest more prone to bias of one sort or another.

Taking only the 47 low-bias trials, involving 180,938 people, they found that supplements as a whole increased the death rate by 5 per cent. When the supplements were taken separately, beta carotene increased death rates by 7 per cent, vitamin A by 16 per cent, and vitamin E by 4 per cent. Vitamin C gave contradictory results, but when given singly or in combination with other vitamins in good-quality trials, increased the death rate by 6 per cent.

Selenium was the only supplement to emerge with any credit. It appears to cut death rates by 10 per cent when given on its own or with other supplements in high-quality trials, but the result is not statistically significant. The team concludes: "Our findings contradict the findings of observational studies claiming that antioxidants improve health."

They say there are several possible explanations. One is that oxidative stress is not the cause of conditions such as heart disease for which it has been blamed, but may be a consequence of such conditions.

Alternatively, by eliminating free radicals we may interfere with essential defensive mechanisms. But the team adds that they examined only the use of synthetic vitamins, and their findings should not be translated to fruit and vegetables.

Ann Walker, of the Health Supplements Information Service, a body funded by the industry, said that the study combined the results of trials on two different classes of people: those with no known ill-health, and those already suffering from conditions such as heart disease. "The results of these mixed-sample metaanalyses are worthless," she said.

Ellen Mason, a cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "There are good scientific reasons for believing that antioxidant supplements might protect against heart disease but a number of clinical trials have failed to provide any robust evidence in favour of this"

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Fleeing Somalia's fighting - 18 Dec 07

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