Author: Paul Yih
Date: 04-07-11 10:37
Subject: Chiropractic Economics - Print Article
Chiropractic Economics Magazine
A matter of degree
When it comes to nutrition, know the difference between herbs, vitamins, and minerals.
By Tsu-Tsair Chi, NMD, PhD
There is a misconception regarding herbs, vitamins, and minerals. Some use these terms interchangeably to refer to any type of supplement they take. However, there is quite a distinction among them.
Essentials for health
Several centuries ago, during the circumnavigation era, many sailing voyages were plagued by disease. One such disease is scurvy ó the lack of vitamin C. Due to long transatlantic routes and poor nutrition, many sailors suffered and died from the disease.1
About 600 years ago, however, the crew of the Chinese explorer Zheng He successfully traveled long distances with almost no evidence of serious sickness, especially scurvy. Zheng He purportedly discovered the New World first, about 70 years before Christopher Columbus did.2
One historian in Heís fleet, Ma Huan, recorded what the crew did to prevent contraction of disease. The Chinese supply ships carried huge amounts of soy beans, herbs, wheat, millet, and rice. These types of foods could be stored for a long period of time without losing their nutritional value.
Even more remarkable was the fact they carried large open tubs where the soy beans could sprout under the sun. This allowed the soy beans to develop substantial amounts of vitamins. The sprouted beans, herbs, and other plants they brought provided the sailors with adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals daily.3
The crew of Zheng Heís fleet is a prime example of how much vitamins are necessary to the bodyís health. Vitamins are organic compounds essential for the bodyís normal growth and development.
Similarly, dietary minerals are required by living organisms. There are 13 universally recognized vitamins and 16 minerals required by the body to support various biochemical processes.
When the body becomes deficient in some vitamins or minerals, certain bodily processes are affected. In mild cases of deficiency, fruits and vegetables can be a good source of vitamins and minerals. In more serious cases where deficiency can lead to certain diseases, a vitamin or mineral supplement may be needed to replenish the bodyís nutrients.
The case for herbs
While herbs may not be required by the body, they have medicinal and therapeutic properties that are beneficial when certain diseases develop.
There is a long history of herb use, perhaps even predating written records. For centuries, indigenous cultures in Africa have used herbs in healing rituals while the Chinese have developed more traditional medicinal systems (Traditional Chinese Medicine).
In China, herb use is both widespread and backed by centuries of research and experience. Chinaís large geographic area allows for cultivating virtually all types of herbs. Depending on the location, climate, and altitude, these plants can have varied natural chemical compositions.
Herbs contain many naturally occurring chemicals that humans need. Not only do they contain vitamins and minerals but also saponins, triterpenes, steroids, alkaloids, flavonoids, anthroquinones, coumarins, essential fatty acids (e.g., DHA, EPA), and polysaccharides.
Some commonly used herbs include ginkgo, St. Johnís wort, echinacea, saw palmetto, garlic, and ginger. There are other plants classified as herbs, but we do not normally consider them as such.
For example: Asparagus extract is obtained from the whole herb, Asparagus officinalis. Besides being a good source of vitamins A, B6, C, E, and K, asparagus also contains calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc, glutathione, and 18 amino acids. It is also the richest source of organic folic acid, which makes it beneficial for heart disease patients (to reduce homocysteine levels) and for pregnant women to reduce the risk of neural defects in fetuses.
Asparagus is also a natural source of asparaginase, an enzyme listed in the USP DI drug information book as a treatment for lymphoma and leukemia.4
Another example is bamboo extract from a special type of bamboo containing vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, iron, fiber, silica, and proteins. It also has an active ingredient with a similar structure to guaiacol, a naturally occurring organic compound that is excellent for respiratory symptoms.
People with conditions such as cough, colds, and the flu will not only get vitamins and minerals from bamboo extract, but also experience relief of associated symptoms due to its restorative properties.5
In many cases, a combination of herbs is used instead of individual herbs for more potent therapeutic effects.
Some broad-spectrum supplements contain a combination of Tibetan herbs rich in polyphenolic acids, shown to have several mechanisms beneficial for heart and lung health.
Some of these mechanisms include the protection and repair of vascular endothelial cells as well as DNA repair. When compared to CoQ10, both are effective in reducing oxidative stress, but polyphenolic acids work faster than CoQ10 in increasing energy.6-8
Vitamins, minerals, and herbs are equally important ó but for different reasons.
Vitamins and minerals are vital to the bodyís natural processes. Herbs, on the other hand, may not be necessary, but they contain vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients which, in combination, provide therapeutic effects.
Tsu-Tsair Chi, NMD, PhD, is the founder of Chiís Enterprise Inc., a nutraceutical company marketing supplements. He is the author of Dr. Chiís Fingernail and Tongue Analysis, 3rd edition; Dr. Chiís Herbal Formulas, 2nd edition; and more than 14 scientific publications in various journals. He also holds a patent for the detection of antibodies against a chronic gonadotropin-like substance. He can be reached at 714-777-1542 or through http://www.chi-health.com/.
1 Menzies G. 1421: The Year China Discovered the World. New York: William Morrow; 2003.
2 Paterson E. James Lind, Zheng He and the Prevention of Scurvy. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine. 2005;20(4):255-258.
3 Huan, M. The Overall Survey of the Ocean Shores. Boston: Cambridge University Press; 1970.
4 Li DH, et al. Preliminary experimental results on the anticancer and immune-stimulation effects with the extract of Asparagus officinalis Linn. Chinese Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 1988;4(1):32-39.
5 Liang T, et al. The clinical effects of bamboo extract on coughing and fever. Liaoning Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 2000;27(8):362-363.
6 Chen W, et al. Evaluation of mutagenicity and anti-mutagenicity of two health foods by Comet assay. Modern Preventive Medicine. 2008;35(1):1-3.
7 Ma HY, Chen JY, Zhang LS. Study on protective effect of OxyPower capsule against vascular endothelial cells injury induced by hydrogen peroxide. Submitted for publication.
8 Ma HY, Chen JY, Zhang LS. Study on protective effect of Oxypower capsule on blood lipids, internal antioxidant system, and vascular endothelial system in hyperlipidemia rats. Submitted for publication.