Letter from Dr. Janson
The health potential of MSM
Essential fatty acids (EFA) for depression
and mental health
Why Standardized Herbs?
Ginseng -- American, Korean or Siberian?
Sleep Helps Prevent Accelerated Aging
In the Health News
By the Way
I recently returned from the meeting of the American College
for Advancement in Medicine in Reno, Nevada. Many speakers
reported their research on various treatments in alternative
medicine, including nutrition and dietary supplements. The
speakers presented information on supportive cancer therapies,
immune support, toxic metals, athletic performance, and more.
One of the reports was about the dietary sulfur supplement
called MSM, or methyl sulfonyl methane. This was presented
by Dr. Ronald Lawrence of the UCLA School of Medicine. Sulfur
is an essential mineral, it is a component of antioxidant
defense systems, and it has many therapeutic uses. It is present
in the B-vitamin thiamine, and in several amino acids. MSM
is an organic form of sulfur present in all living things.
Sulfur is part of the liver detoxification systems, as it
is often added to toxic molecules as a way of eliminating
them. You may have heard about the benefits of DMSO, but one
of the drawbacks of DMSO is its strong garlic-like odor residue,
and local skin irritation where it is applied topically.
MSM is a derivative of DMSO, having the benefits without
the odor or skin irritation. It is usually taken as a pill
or powder, and it is both tasteless and odorless. MSM has
been effective in treating the pain and swelling of arthritisboth
osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Other rheumatic disorders,
such as lupus (SLE) with joint pain and inflammation may respond
to supplements of MSM. Research is ongoing on the use of MSM
for allergies, asthma and diabetes.
MSM inhibits the cross linking of collagen and therefore
is useful to reduce hardening of connective tissue with age.
One suggestion is to take it to prevent the signs of aging
in the skin. The typical doses of MSM range from 500-1000
mg daily as a maintenance or preventive level, and up to 5000
mg daily as a treatment for allergies, arthritic disorders
and fibromyalgia syndrome with a reduction of the dose after
a period of a few days to a few weeks. Some people appear
to benefit if they stay on MSM at a range of 2000 to 4000
mg daily. Taking it for only a day or two is probably ineffectiveat
least several days to several weeks of supplementation are
necessary to see benefits.
Another presentation at the ACAM meeting, by Dr. David
Horrobin, was about the value of the omega-3 oils called EPA
and DHA (found in supplements of fish oil) for the treatment
of depression and other psychiatric disorders. I have been
recommending supplements of essential fatty acids (EFA) for
many years, even before I first heard Dr. Horrobin speak in
1981. I was using supplements of gamma-linolenic acid from
either evening primrose oil or borage oil to treat many different
diseases. Now this new report shows even further value of
the right balance of the EFA in treatment. I often recommend
flaxseed oil for its omega-3 content, but EPA and DHA from
fish oil may be better for some patients. This information
is confirmed in a recent psychiatry journal. Typical doses
of EPA/fish oil supplements are from 4 to 12 capsules daily,
each one containing about 300 mg of the omega-3 oils. They
are valuable not only for psychiatric disorders but also for
heart disease, skin disorders (eczema and psoriasis), the
immune system, and high blood pressure.
Although herbs have a long history of use for medicinal purposes,
it is only recently that they have been analyzed to reveal
their most active components. These active chemicals are commonly
present in very variable amounts in herbs, depending on where
and how they are grown, soil quality, when they are harvested,
the amount of rain and sun, and other factors. Standardized
herbs have guaranteed specific amounts of the known, active
herbal components, as well as the other factors that might
be of help but are not as well studied.
Recently, the German government formed a Commission (Commission
E) to conduct a review of the clinical value of many herbs
in common therapeutic use for natural prevention and treatment
of disease. The main focus of their review was on standardized
herbs, in order to control as many variables as possible.
This Commission E has published the results of their review
in a monograph, and they concluded that many herbs do have
the effects that are claimed.
In order to benefit the most from herbal treatments, I recommend
that you buy standardized herbs for your specific needs. You
can then be assured of getting the most therapeutic value
from your purchase. High quality standardized herbal supplements
usually contain all of the other possible active components
of the herb, but they have at least the measured amount of
the known active principles. This is not to say that non-standardized
herbs are not valuable, but their levels of active principles
are not as well known.
Examples of standardized herbs (standardization percentage
in parentheses) include ginkgo biloba (24 percent ginkgo flavonglycosides),
milk thistle extract (80 percent silymarin), kava kava (30
percent kavalactones), St. John's wort (0.3-0.5% hypericin),
and bilberry (25 percent anthocyanosides).
The Commission E Monographs are available from the American
Botanical Council (512-331-8868; www.herbs.org),
but they are rather technical for the general reader.
Many people ask me which ginseng they should take as a general
tonic, and what are the differences between the different
sources of ginseng. Ginseng is considered a "restorative"
or aid in adaptation to stress. The American ginseng (Panax
quinquefolium) is more sedative and relaxing, while helping
stress, fatigue, and nervousness.
Components of American ginseng help to reduce levels of substances
that participate in both inflammatory and allergic responses,
and help control fever and pain. It is now being studied for
benefits in sugar regulation and controlling blood fats.
Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng, also called Asian or Chinese
ginseng) has many of the same properties, but it is more stimulating,
and is probably better to take in the morning, rather than
at night. It is used for fatigue, stress, fever and inflammation.
Population studies in Korea show reduced rates of cancer among
people who regularly consume Korean ginseng. It has antioxidant
effects, and in lab studies it protects cells against radiation.
Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is reported
to reduce the effects of stress and to enhance athletic performance
as well as mental acuity. It also helps cells survive after
exposure to radiation, and it has potent antioxidant effects.
Typical doses of all of the standardized ginseng extracts
range from 200-400 mg twice a day.
Researchers at the University of Chicago recently showed that
lack of sleep can produce the signs of rapid aging in healthy
young men. They let the students sleep only four hours a night
for a week, and noted increased signs of agingpoor glucose
tolerance, meaning they appeared to be prediabetic, and changes
in their levels of the stress hormone cortisol to patterns
seen in older people. After catching up with several nights
of 12 hours of sleep, they returned to normal, but older people
might not recover so easily. Since 1910 average sleep duration
has decreased from about 9 hours per night to 7.5 hours. If
you have trouble sleeping you might benefit from regular exercise
and elimination of caffeine and alcohol from your diet (even
coffee in the morning can influence sleep the same night).
Eating sugar at any time may also disrupt sleep as it can
lead to hypoglycemia. Begin some relaxation program, especially
in the evening before bedtime. Listen to relaxing classical
music, avoid violent or loud television programs, and avoid
late-night computer work. A hot bath before bed raises body
temperature which promotes sleep.
If you still have problems, several dietary supplements may
help promote sleep. Common herbs such as valerian, skullcap,
hops, and passion flower are often helpful. Melatonin helps
to adjust the body clock, typically in doses from 3 to 6 mg
at bedtime. Timed release melatonin might be best, as your
melatonin normally peaks around 2 am, but plain melatonin
dissolved in the mouth usually works fine. If you find you
are a bit drowsy the next morningthis occasionally happenstry
taking the melatonin earlier in the evening.
Kava kava is a relaxing herb from the South Pacific islands.
The common dose is 250 to 500 mg of standardized extract at
bedtime. You can also take this herb for anxiety anytime during
the day without side effects. Another sleep enhancing supplement
is magnesium, 200 to 400 mg, which acts as a relaxant, especially
if you are deficient in the mineral.
For sleep deprivation related to depression, you might find
that 5-hydroxy tryptophan (or 5-HTP) helps. It is a pre-cursor
to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which reduces anxiety and
depression. The usual dose is 50 to 150 mg daily, most at
Similarly, St. John's wort can relieve depression and anxiety
and promote sleep. It is safer than SSRI drugs such as Prozac®,
or Zoloft®, and not addictive. The typical daily dose
is 900 mg of standardized extract.
Some combination of these health practices and supplements
should help you sleep.
Not only can alpha-lipoic acid help treat diabetic neuropathy,
but recent evidence shows that it can also help control blood
glucose and increase insulin sensitivity in type II diabetics.
Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant nutrient that helps to
regenerate vitamin C and works with vitamins C and E to protect
both fatty and non-fatty tissues as well as nerves. For diabetic
neuropathy it works well when combined with gamma-linolenic
acid (GLA). It also increases the cellular levels of glutathione
as well as Coenzyme Q10, both important antioxidants.
Other potential benefits of lipoic acid are in the prevention
of cataracts, glaucoma, oxidative heart injury, and mushroom
poisoning. Typical doses of alpha-lipoic acid are from 300
to 1000 mg daily.
Eating more cruciferous vegetables can reduce the risk
of bladder cancer. This finding was independent of the consumption
of fruits and vegetables in general, so it is important to
eat a wide variety of healthy foods, including that cabbage
family such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and
of course, cabbage itself. This is only one of many findings
that show the importance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains
and legumes in prevention of diseases including cancer, heart
disease, strokes, and hypertension.
As average Americans typically eat few vegetables and fruits,
it is important to encourage this at every opportunity. Beware
of diets that make light of a wide variety of vegetarian foods.
As I mentioned in my last newsletter, I spoke in October at
the Philadelphia College for Osteopathic Medicine for an enthusiastic
group of doctors for whom this was mostly new information.
The talk was very well received, and I am sure there were
some converts in the audience.
At the Natural Products Expo in Baltimore, I spoke on nutrition
and immunity, and the health food industry participants went
home with more information to share with their customers about
the importance of diet, supplements, exercise and relaxation
for normal immune function. One thing I introduced was the
value of "transfer factor" derived from either colostrum
or white blood cells to enhance immunity and treat chronic
fatigue, fibro-myalgia, cancer, allergies and autoimmune diseases
such as lupus.
I am now off to present some of the same information in Japan.
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