Herbal extracts that are derived from foods may yield medicinal benefits, according to new research reported by the American Chemical Society. Several extracts have been researched.


Chives seem to help protect against salmonella and other food-borne illnesses, says Salam A. Ibrahim, from the department of food science and nutrition at North Carolina A&T State University, in Greensboro, North Carolina. In his research. Ibrahim finds that among many plant, herb and mushroom extracts tested, the antimicrobial properties of chives proved to have the most potent effect against 38 strains of salmonella—the most common bacterial foodborne illness. But when heated above 121 degrees Celsius—about 250 degrees Fahrenheit —for more than 15 minutes, the antibacterial effect was completely lost.

Grape Seeds

Grape seeds may help lower blood pressure, reports another research team who studied 24 patients diagnosed with "metabolic syndrome," a condition characterized by heart-hurting risk factors such as high blood pressure and obesity. Half were given either 150 or 300 milligrams of grape seed extract each day; the others received a placebo.

After one month, those getting grape seeds experienced a significant drop in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Those getting a placebo had no improvement.

"I think this is not going to be a standard treatment for high blood pressure," says researcher Dr. G. Tissa Kappagoda of the department of internal medicine at the University of California at Davis. 'But it may be a potential tool for people who are prehypertensive, as part of a lifestyle management routine that includes weight management and exercise."

Pine Nuts

Pine nuts, a main ingredient in pesto, may help with weight loss, according to another study. That's because pine nuts contain high amounts of an oil called pinolenic acid, which has been shown in laboratories to stimulate the release of two appetite-suppressing hormones, CCK and GLPI.

In a study by Jennifer L. Causey, of Lipid Nutrition Co., 18 overweight women consumed three grams of pinolenic acid in gel capsule form. Four hours later, levels of these hormones had risen, and their appetites fell by approximately one third, she says.

These fatty acids induce a feeling of fullness, suggesting that pine nut oil may be useful as part of a weight-loss program that includes diet and exercise.

The Reaction

Although each study is preliminary and involves a small number of study participants, they deserve notice, says one expert.

All (these foods) certainly have the possibility to do what the researchers saw,' says Dr. Ken Fujioka, director of the department of nutrition and metabolism within the department of endocrinology at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego. 'The pine nut, in particular, has been noted before as an appetite-controller, so (this) finding makes sense...The chives finding is not surprising either...and could be a great idea to help cope with a meal that maybe we shouldn't have eaten. And many blood pressure medications—particularly the earlier ones—started off from natural plant sources. So, all of these findings seem reasonable."

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