Herb for Your Heart

natural healer

Berberine combats high cholesterol

• WHAT IT IS Berberine is an alkaloid--a plant-based substance that can have a medicinal effect. (Morphine, nicotine, and caffeine are alkaloids. Berberine is found in herbs such as Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), and barberry (Berberis vulgaris), at right.

• WHAT FOLK MEDICINE SAYS In use for centuries, berberine-containing herbs have been prescribed for liver disease, skin inflammations, diarrhea, and other disorders.

• WHAT NEW RESEARCH CONFIRMS Scientists from several Chinese medical schools examined 700 Chinese herbs to see which might lower cholesterol. The berberine from huang lian (Coptis chinensis) was most active. The researchers then divided 91 people with high cholesterol into two groups and gave one group berberine twice a day for 3 months; the others got a placebo. Blood tests taken before and after the trial showed that the herb lowered "bad" LDL cholesterol by 25% and triglycerides by 35%; levels of "good" HDL cholesterol remained constant.

• WHY IT MIGHT WORK "Berberine increases the number of LDL receptors on the surface of liver cells; these receptors clear cholesterol from the blood," says the study's principal investigator, Jian-Dong Jiang, MD, of the Institute of Medicinal Biotechnology, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing.

• DOSE One teaspoon of Oregon grape tincture 1:5 three times a day. Try it for a month or two to see if it works for you; discuss it with your doctor if you're already on cholesterol medication. Good brand to try: Vital Botanicals; link to them via www.prevention.com/links. Pregnant women and new mothers should avoid berberine--it can act as a uterine stimulant.

PHOTO (COLOR): This plant contains a statinlike substance

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By Sara Altshul

Section: goodnews

It's the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the United States, accounting for 2 million doctor visits a year. If you're thinking diverticulosis, ulcers or even heartburn, forget it. Americans spend $725 million a year on laxatives to treat the little-studied condition of constipation. Dehydration is a common factor.

Many people assume they're blocked up if they don't have a bowel movement every day, although frequency has no bearing on the issue. But once afflicted with dry, hard stools — the actual symptoms of constipation — it's important to rehydrate the body and get traffic moving quickly. Otherwise, experts advise, toxins may be reabsorbed by the system.

When this problem hits you, remember that there are herbal alternatives to bottled laxatives. Chief among them, and best known, is cascara; it's extremely effective. Additionally, try these natural remedies: senna, rhubarb, black walnut, aloe, Oregon grape root, yellow dock root, valerian and slippery elm.
<10%

percentage of teenage girls in the United States who consume the amount of daily calcium necessary to build optimal bone density.
SOURCE: Council for Responsible Nutrition

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