Return to the Herbalism Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Antioxidants - not a panacea?

Posted by eric_oh 6a (My Page) on
Fri, Dec 12, 08 at 14:55

Antioxidants (as found in herbs as well as vitamin supplements) have been promoted heavily in recent years for their health benefits, including supposed anti-aging and anticancer effects. The basic mechanism is claimed to be protection of cells from oxidant damage. However, evidence keeps accumulating that antioxidant supplements aren't working out like they're supposed to.

One new study suggests antiaging effects (claimed by the beauty products industry and others) don't occur (this study is limited by the fact that it took place in nematodes, which while they share many genes with humans and are convenient to study, are not strictly comparable to people).

Also just out - a large extended trial of selenium and vitamin E, which found that these antioxidants in general don't decrease the risk of prostate cancer.

Another report which reviewed hundreds of clinical trials has found that antioxidants don't decrease the risk of early death, and may even increase risks (though by small amounts for various diseases). The bottom line seems to be that eating an overall good diet (and not too many calories) is what's best, not relying on antioxidants to make up for poor diet:

"Dr Frankie Phillips, a nutritionist at the British Dietetic Association, said food contained a complex matrix of different components which could not be replicated by supplements.

"Our advice is to eat a wide range of foods in a balanced diet which can provide all of the nutrients the body needs to protect itself and combat diseases.""

What I take away from all this is that benefits of herbal drugs and other supplements should not be assumed on the basis of their antioxidant content, and that healthy eating and lifestyle are much more important than "magic bullets".


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

I think a common misconception amongst the general population is that a food or herb can be replaced with a supplement. I call this the Jetson's effect. Someone hears that betacarotene is good for you (and it is in the right doses). They should be ingesting whole foods high in betacarotene, not bopping down to the local GNC and picking up a tablet of such. Or they hear echinacea might be helpful at the start of a cold. Instead of getting the plant part and making a tea or tincture, they get a capsule and think that is the same thing. Just as a vitamin supplement isn't the same as the whole food, an herbal supplement isn't the same as the whole herb. The problem is isolating that constituent from the whole plant part that we suspect might be the "active ingredient", we lose the synergistic effect of the other constituents of which we might not be aware. Indeed, look at St. John's and in the last 20 years how scientists have decided first one and, no, another chemical is the active ingredient. Now, the mindset is going to, "Oh, it is a combination of these unique compounds found naturally in the plant which is most effective." And, the isolated, concentrated single constituent may now be a form that our bodies no longer can recognize nor utilize. An example of this would be ephedra. Herbalists used this as a bronchodilator in asthma. (I am NOT recommending home use of ephedra!!!) Get to a doctor if you have asthma. Ephedra was never used as a weight loss product by herbalists traditionally. But, someone noticed if you took a bit of ephedra, your appetite decreases and your heart rate and metabolism speeds up. (Some people have noticed this and abused asthma inhalers in the same manner.) So, ephedra was processed into a concentrated form and a weight loss industry was born. Stupid and dangerous! People died. People die from abusing asthma inhalers also.

Very often I witness the attitude of others that if you recommend herbs, you are endorsing ALL alternative healing ideas or are somehow anti Western medicine. There are many quack "remedies" and snake oil salesmen out there. Just because their product has (or did have at one time) an herb in it, doesn't mean they are using it in any useful way nor does it mean an herbalist would use that product. And if I mention to someone that I like to drink a sage/ginger tea when I have a sore throat, it doesn't mean I endorse getting a tablet of sage and ginger and using that.

The important issue here is education. Educate yourself and make an informed decision on your health care. For some that means herbal medicine, for some allopathic medicine, for others no medicine at all. The choice is up to the individual.


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

Often times herbal supplements are dried pulverized or shredded herb in a gelcap, so yes they are the same thing. Echinacea, SJW, Goldenseal, and many others come simultaneously in pill and whole herb form. How do you feel about these?


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

I agree with some of what herbalbetty is saying, particularly about eating sensibly and not expecting a supplement to be a magic bullet.

What's problematic is assuming that the "whole herb" must be superior because there is "synergy" between its components for our benefit. In some cases this might be true (though evidence for this claim is typically lacking); in others the components might work against one another or be a mixture of active and inert ingredients. A generalized assumption of synergy often goes hand in hand with the belief that herbs were put on earth for our benefit, a human and/or deity-centered view that doesn't jibe with facts (as a gardener, I sometimes get the feeling that I was put on earth to serve plants ;).

It's worth considering whether a negative study about a herb's effectiveness is related to the type of preparation used (and researchers often take this into account in recommending additional work). It's also useful to ask whether complaints about a study not using a particular component or preparation are really an excuse for when the herb doesn't do under controlled conditions what folklore claims it does.


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

I beleive the medical community was the first to come out with the theory that antioxidends were a godsend. Glad to see they've changed their minds. But i've noticed over the years that the medical industry seems to follow their own fads than change course as each proves false before being fully researched, any medicine needs to be resarched for years before it can be deemed truely safe and effective as indeed herbal drugs have been studied for thousands of years. To be fair the astronomy geography and social sciences do the same in changing theories and even make full circles.


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

"I beleive the medical community was the first to come out with the theory that antioxidends were a godsend. Glad to see they've changed their minds."

This is incorrect. There was never a consensus in "the medical community" that all antioxidants are uniformly wonderful as a preventative or treatment for a wide range of ailments. Some initial evidence suggested that heart disease and other conditions might be prevented by added intake of certain antioxidants, but more comprehensive studies have refuted some of those initial findings. It doesn't mean that now all antioxidants must be considered bad, but that it's wise to rely on good evidence before chugging down large quantities of antioxidant supplements (which may even be harmful).

The real bandwagon-jumpers were vitamin and supplement-selling enthusiasts and companies. Don't expect them to limit their marketing appeals now that further evidence is emerging that antioxidants are a mixed blessing.


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

There is a recurring pattern seen in this sort of thing, the legitimate medical research will show something promising (antioxidants did some amazing things in Pitri dishes) And the mainstream press who have been cutting their science reporting budgets in order to make room for more news about Britney and Paris and Lindsey will write about how its the new miracle drug, then while mainstream medicine is doing tests to see if the effect continues to work in people alternative medicine starts selling the products and making big claims with out doing research for safety or efficacy and then when things don't pan out in people and the mainstream medical community moves along the alt med community continues to sell the product(s). Its not a good effect,and you need people in there examining closely what medical practitioners and altmed folks are doing or selling in order to slow it, and protect people for disingenuous uses of medical claims and litterateur. Hey that's what I do!


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

Are the medical people saying they don't follow fads? Remember when surgeons could'nt wait to get their lil hands on women. for hystorectomys.
Remember when cardiologists would'nt touch a patient unless they had a stress test which of course caused heart attacks. eric,nothing is a panecea and every thing that thinks has fads of somekind. Would'nt you be happier on a medical forum? Heck even the hot topics forum. I warn you though they think better than you? bUT YOU COULD PROVE ME WRONG YA KNOW.


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

No, fads certainly occur, Medicine just gets past them and moves on, you can still get hysterectomies or be neutered to deal with hysteria if you go to an alternative medicine surgeon, although they are harder and harder to find because they keep loosing their licenses for doing things like giving hysterectomies to deal with hysteria. You can still find alternative practitioners who let blood and prescribe homeopathics to fight off diseases that kill in days and are very easily treated with few side effects, and ones who prescribe prayers rather than insulin for diabetes. The defining difference between modern medicine and other endevors for health is that modern medicine has cut out everything that doesn't appear to work when studied in the most reliable ways we can.

Since this forum is for the discussion of herbalism, the use of herbs for medicinal purposes I think that it is reasonable to assume that we should stick to recommending herbs which have been shown to work for the issues that we want to deal with. We should stick to the many herbs that are supported in the medical literature.


 o
lil medical person

Are you stiLL here? Hot Topics would suit you so much better. I dare you to start a thread on herbalism or Medicine? You would get eaten alive.but you would have fun for a couple of minutes. Why don't you start a thread on this forum asking if you are relevent to this forum by anyone? I dare you. As you said this is an herbal forum not a medical forum. Even if medical people were welcome. You would'nt even come close to being qualified. Read and understand what other people say to you and grow up.


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

I am providing useful information about logic and reasoning in my opinion, I don't think asking other people their opinions of the matter is going to negate the importance of my own opinion. You are welcome to start a thread asking about your utility, or mine, but please avoid being mean to either of us, and allow that to affect your own opinion, personally I think that we should all post based on the content of the arguments we are faced with rather than the character or history of the people posting them.


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

Any added information on antioxidants would be welcome.


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

I agree eric , What herbs have a good supply of anti- oxidants? Does garlic and onions since they are good heart herbs. Actually first why are antioxidants not good for you. Guess i thought they were or did i not understand?
Thanks


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

Its not that antioxidants are bad for you (although your heart muscle can metabolize using the free radicals that they are supposed to scrub from the blood, and an extremely large dose of any given antioxidant can create problems, some more easily than others). Garlic is referred to as a heart healthy food is because it reduces cholesterol deposition in the blood vessels, calcification of the vessels, and platelet aggregation. It does increase the antioxidant potential of the blood but the relevance of this effect is unknown, I do not know about onions, but would assume that similar things apply. People following the antioxidant fad proclaimed loudly that it was responsible for the benefits of virtually everything (there were actually studies that failed to find a link between the garlic and the antioxidants but mentioned the antioxidants prominently in the title for more attention) in much the same way as saturated fat then carbohydrates were blamed for all of our diet related diseases.

Bottom line Garlic works, not necessarily because of the antioxidants.


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

All I know about them is that I was sold an extremely expensive antioxident which resembles Kool-aide and can be mixed with water to drink.

I have found that when I am short on sleep and my whole body is aching from lost sleep the antioxidant makes me feel better, but I don't know why it works.


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

to my knowledge short term energy was never even one of the claimed effects of antioxidants, and from my molecular bio training it seems like to opposite effect would be seen, I suspect something else is at play.


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

I wasn't claiming it made me more energetic.

I said it made me feel better.

It works every time I need to use it that way.

I was hoping Eric might know why it works, since he appears quite knowledgable about antioxidants.


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

I'm sorry, I saw tired and achy and being young and not yet achy I assumed better meant not tired, obviously that was a poor choice. Can you link to this product or describe the brand? I highly suspect that something other than the antioxidants is at work here.


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

It's called Isotonix OPC-3, and claims it has "oligomeric Proanthocyanidins," "Proanthocyanidines", and "Oligomeriques."

According to the label it is composed of grape seed extract, red wine extract, pine bark extract (Pycnogenol), bilbery extract, citrus extract bioflavenoids, potassium bicarbonate (93 mg/capful serving), and 2g sugar/capful serving.

My massage therapist sells it, sort of the way Fuller Brushes or Avon are sold, I think. I don't know if you can just go out and buy it anywhere.

I thought everyone got tired and achy when their sleep cycles were off. That's why I have always felt that swing shifts were cruel and unusual punishment to workers.


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

I think one of the keys to good health, as previously mentioned, is to eat a healthy diet which contains all necessary nutrients. However, it's likely that none of us know which nutrients are really necessary for us and in what amounts. It is a fact that we are each separate and very different organisms and may have very different nutritional requirements. It also seems very difficult for many in their fast paced lives to always eat a healthy diet. The real nutritional content of many foods we buy is also an unknown.

I have taken vitamin and nutritional supplements for 30+ years and am very thankful I discovered them. I believe I am healthier for taking them and have thus far avoided needing any pharmaceuticals and am now past retirement age. I know of very few people of my age who can say the same thing. Some of them are no longer here.

I do not, however, recommend taking massive amounts of vitamins or other supplements. It is very important to do research, listen to your body, and eat sensibly. There are few "panacea" or cure-alls. Altho I am putting some of my faith in garlic and yogurt as many who live long healthy lives are known to use those foods.


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

The above-mentioned remedy I previously purchased from my massage therapist finally ran out, and for several years I failed to try antioxidants again. Finally, I recently heard a medical researcher speak on PBS about Respiridol, a red grape-derived antioxidant, as possibly having a beneficial effect on the telomeres that begin to deteriorate on the ends of older peoples' chromosomes (apparently based on research with mice, I think he said), and wandered into a local health food store in search of some. Finding Resperidol prohibitively expensive, I purchased several bottles of other fruit-based antioxidants that were on sale for the incredibly low price of $3 a bottle and have taken
some several times when I was not feeling very well (I have begun Spring gardening and usually feel like a zombie for the first several weeks of resumed gardening activity).

The antioxidants have made me feel better each time I have taken some.

Additionally, I acquired a bottle of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) capsules at a local Indian food market, and have found that when I have onerous tasks to do that taking one 400 mg capsule gives me the energy to get the job done. Today I felt like death warmed over, but an hour after taking a capsule I was able to plant three blueberry bushes, two windflowers, three tansys, and a wormwood; move several medium-sized rocks; and begin another small spaghetti garden section by spreading out some bagged leaves and bagged composted humus. Ginseng, which I eventually read was really mainly a remedy for males, never had much of an effect on me, so I was really surprised.


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

Eibren:

Which ginseng did you try? American ginseng is totally different in many ways from Asian ginseng.

HerbDoctor


 o
Answering Herb Doctor Re: Ginseng

I have probably tried both over the years; never found either to be helpful, whereas the Ashwagandha was pretty apparent, in a very brief (about an hour) time frame.

I do believe the Ashwagandha is an alterative (?), if I am uderstanding the meaning of that term, because when I took it a day after that major (for me) exertion I became extremely tired instead and slept the rest of the day. It appears useful for short term rather than constant use, at least as I would presently choose to use it.

Basically, antioxidants are something I use when lacking enough sleep. They help the achiness due to lack of sleep to go away.


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

Eibren:

I can understand what you're saying. In my business, if a person has a quick and almost immediate "beneficial" response to a specific herb, I wait for the shoe to drop. While it may have a seemingly and immediate benefit, it actually has created a greater imbalance than what you originally had and within a day or two you'll see what seems to be a side effect. It's not really a side effect of the herb, but rather it's a response to the herb overpowering the other weaknesses in the body.

When I give a good and properly balanced tonic for a particular person, they slowly start to feel benefits in about 3 days. The longer time period is the high road.

HerbDoctor


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

Whatever the benefits of antioxidants may be, providing an immediate energy boost is not one of them.

If that's the effect one gets, I'd be concerned about what else is in the supplement that's not on the label (products from developing countries have been known in some instances to be adulterated or contaminated with other herbal or prescription drugs). A boost from caffeine or a stimulant herb like Ma Huang could explain a temporary energy boost from a supposed antioxidant product.


 o
RE: Antioxidants - not a panacea?

Eric gave a good answer.

HerbDoctor


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Herbalism Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here