Archive for September, 2009

Try Kava Kava for natural stress reduction

kava_KavaSeptember is over and the mad rush to Christmas has started. The tube is busy again, work can be manic and you have many things to be anxious about.

Natural and gentle help is at hand
Instead of popping prescription meds for that new bout of anxiety, stop it before it gets too far with a little bit of natural help. The Kava kava plant is here to help slow your mind and reduce your workday, school day, and dinner time anxieties.

What is Kava Kava?
Kava kava—or scientifically termed Piper methysticum—is native to many island nations in and around Polynesia (including Hawaii) where it has been used for centuries as a ceremonial herb to induce intoxication as a way to calm the patrons of celebrations. Although the kava plant has large, green leaves and stems, the actual root is the only part of the plant that is used for medicinal or recreational purposes.

What is Kava Kava good for ?
Besides anxiety, kava kava has been used in numerous natural remedies for insomnia and back pain as well as help with children who are hyperactive or have trouble sleeping. It has been used by business associates trying to keep up with their workload, athletes crushed by their vigorous schedules, and intellectuals hoping to take that pressure off and assist in focusing their minds.

What does Kava Kava do to you ?
Kava kava helps make the body as calm as possible and stay that way as long as the root is in your system. Kava root relaxes your muscles, gives you a feeling of well-being, creates peaceful and relaxing feelings, increases concentration, lowers inhibitions, and can act as an organic form of aphrodisiac. By making people more sociable and less self conscious, it makes sense that it’s the premier “ice breaker” drink of Polynesia.

Kava is also used as an alternative to alcohol among the islands and is a well-known drink available at large functions like weddings, graduations, funerals and community gatherings. There is no known hangover quality to imbibing a kava concoction and has little known side effects when used sparingly.

Potential side effects and warnings

Potential side effects of taking kava are drowsiness, headache, and reaction with certain drugs, indigestion or skin rash; more serious conditions may occur with dangerous amounts of kava and people interested in adding kava to their routine should always consult their healthcare provider before taking anything new.
In addition, pregnant women and people with liver problems have been cautioned not to take it. Kava kava, while used as a drink or a medicine should also never be taken along with alcohol.

How do you consume Kava Kava ?

Traditionally, the kava root was chewed for the medicinal effects or crushed and simmered and made into a beverage. In modern times, kava kava is now available in capsules, teas, liquids, extracts, tablets, and mixed into natural health beverages.

How does it work?
Scientists believe that the root of the kava plant seems to be used as a type of neurotransmitter sending good feelings in the form of chemicals to your brain cells. A 2004 study came to the conclusion that kava, “appears to be an effective symptomatic treatment option for anxiety.” The study also showed, however, that it should not be abused because although there is a percentage of effectiveness against anxiety, it is not high, and should not be used for prolonged or extreme cases of anxiety.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a natural anti-stress, Kava Kava may well reduce your natural anxieties and help you cope with demanding situations

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Written by Health Link - I maintain this blog because i like to keep a trace of various Health news through time. I have a wide ranging interest of subject from Massage to Reflexology and other alternative medecines. But the bulk of my interest are scientific discoveries. Visit my website -> Reflexology London
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Cervarix, vaccination and side effects

cervarix_picToday Q&A about the news that a 14 year old girl died soon after receiving the Cervarix vaccine in the UK.

My view

It’s always sad when someone dies.

I have no objection to the safety of vaccinations. It is a fact that there are risks, but they are remote, especially when compared to the diseases they prevent.  We do not know yet what caused the accident but this is the first death in England.

Any doctor will tell you that death caused by vaccine will be very rare and that since 750 women die from cervical cancer in England every year the benefits outweigh the costs.

One issue does remain, the vaccine has not been proved to work beyond the 5 year period and the vaccine is marketed as working for 5+ years, so there may be a need for vaccinate again all those young girls (see death stats here).

I have to say there are a lot of critics out there. Some will question the success rate of the vaccine, some will question the link between the HPV virus and having cervix cancer, some will attack the marketing techniques, some will say that regardless of the vaccine a yearly review will still be needed, some regard the vaccination program as an experiment. So many more…

Apart from all these views which are well worth listening to,  I am of the view that this vaccine program is worth being undertaken. I just hope a better vaccine will in time be developed  that has lesser side effects.

What happened?

All we know at this stage is that a 14-year-old girl tragically died shortly after being given the vaccine. We do not know her past medical history, and a post-mortem has yet to be held to ascertain the cause of death.

What do we know about the vaccine?

Cervarix vaccine prevents infection with the two commonest types of HPV involved in cervical cancer. HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus.

Cervarix is given in three doses during a six-month period to trigger immune responses that help protect against two strains of HPV responsible for most cervical cancer cases.

The vaccine is approved for females ages 9 to 26. The vaccine has not been tested beyond 5 years so it is not known how long the immunity from the vaccine will last beyond that.

Even with the cervical screening program, in England, each year, there are:

• 21,617 cases of advanced precancerous disease.

• 2,221 cases of invasive cancer of the cervix.

• 899 deaths from cancer of the cervix.

The vaccine will probably prevent around 70% of these. It has been used in this country for just over a year, and more than a million doses have been given. Worldwide, many more doses have been administered with a good safety record.

Here are links to some stats and infor from the NHS

Is the vaccine safe?

The vaccine is safe, there will always be events of bad reactions and some mild to serious side effects.  Since the vaccine was introduced (it is now licensed in over 90 countries), its safety has been monitored very carefully. In spite of millions of doses being given, we haven’t heard of other deaths.

Now i don’t want to appear biased but the side effects do exist.  In the UK, Cervarix has been used for a year now, there have been over 2000 adverse reactions and over 4000 suspected adverse reactions. About 10 of these are so serious that their families are suing Glaxo Smith Kline, the manufacturer of the vaccine. Read here on page 2.

My conclusion is that overall, rarely a person does have a life-threatening allergic reaction after a vaccine and things have not changed with this one.

Could there be a problem with a particular batch of vaccine?

Until we know more, this is impossible to say. However, as a precaution, the batch from which this young girl was immunised (AHPVA043BB).

Should we go on using the vaccine?

The worldwide track record of this vaccine is such that it is most unlikely there is any problem with the vaccine in general.

Written by Health Link - I maintain this blog because i like to keep a trace of various Health news through time. I have a wide ranging interest of subject from Massage to Reflexology and other alternative medecines. But the bulk of my interest are scientific discoveries. Visit my website -> Reflexology London
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Why should you care about your cholesterol level and what can you do about it ?


Simply, many men and women are not aware of the risk factors for heart disease, especially when it comes to cholesterol.

About the risks

To put it bluntly, high cholesterol will cause your heart to fail. As an example  high cholesterol can cause anything from Diabetes to Heart failure.

For women, if you’re a middle-aged, 40 to 60, high cholesterol is the single most important risk factor for heart disease and heart attacks.

Evidence strongly indicates that high cholesterol levels can cause narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart attacks and strokes. The risk of coronary heart disease also rises as the blood’s cholesterol level increases. If other risk factors, such as high blood pressure and smoking, are present, the risk increases even more.

Some background
Millions of British people get a diagnosis of high cholesterol every year. Cholesterol comes from two sources: your body and your food. Your liver (and to a smaller degree, your cells) makes about 75 percent of blood cholesterol. The remaining 25 percent comes from the foods you eat.

Cholesterol is divided into two main types. HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, is the “good” cholesterol because it helps to clear excess fats from the arteries. LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, is the bad cholesterol because it clogs the arteries, increasing a person’s risk for heart attack and stroke.

Women are particularly at risk in the premenopausal period. At First etrogen tends to raise HDL (good) cholesterol, but as estrogen drops during menopause, HDL levels drop too, and LDL levels rise. That’s why women need to know their cholesterol level.

In some people, improving diet and adding exercise can lower the overall number, but when lifestyle remains the same or people have a genetic predisposition for high cholesterol, medication is usually prescribed.

Cardiologists say many people think that because they are taking medication, they’re protected and don’t need to worry about their cholesterol level. That’s just not the case.

Know your cholesterol levels
So what are good cholesterol levels? Your overall cholesterol number should be under 200. If you have other risk factors — like smoking, high blood pressure or a family history of heart disease — your doctor may want it lower.

A good HDL level of 60 mg or greater is considered protective. LDL should be under 100 mg for those with no risk factors for heart disease and 70 mg for those at higher risk. But again, depending on your health and family history, your doctor may want different readings.

Natural recommendations to help lowering cholesterol
1. Keep your weight down, and cut down on calories, especially from saturated and trans fats, carbohydrates and alcohol. Even small amounts of alcohol can lead to large changes in triglyceride levels (although red wine may slightly bump up good cholesterol).
2. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and nonfat or low-fat dairy products. And add fish to your diet. Fish oil helps reduce cholesterol.
3. Get off the couch and get active. Even 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five days a week or more, can make a difference.

What you can do
The first step in fighting high cholesterol is simple: Get a blood test.
It is recommended that that everyone age 20 and older gets a reading of the “lipoprotein profile” every five years. It gives your doctor information about total cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglycerides, which are the main type of fat in blood.
If your numbers are unhealthy, your doctor can advise you on treatment. If you want to avoid medication and try to achieve healthy cholesterol numbers naturally.

Tomorrow i will follow up with a post of Cholesterol related illnesses…

Written by Health Link - I maintain this blog because i like to keep a trace of various Health news through time. I have a wide ranging interest of subject from Massage to Reflexology and other alternative medecines. But the bulk of my interest are scientific discoveries. Visit my website -> Reflexology London
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On the success of the HIV Vaccine Trial in Thailand Q&A

stopaidsThe two last days were filled with news about the latest large scale vaccine trials against HIV. Here’s a simple Q&A

What was the news ?
The news was that the latest HIV large scale trial of a vaccine showed that the vaccinated group had a reduced rate of 31% of infection versus the control group. The trial took place in Thailand.

What vaccine was this ?
The trial used two vaccines (ALVACR HIV and AIDSVAXR B/E) that were matched to the strain of HIV that is predominant in Thailand (Clade E). The study had hypothesized that the vaccine would reduce HIV acquisition by 50 percent. The study results were statistically significant, although they did not reach the level that had been specified as the rate of infection was reduced by 31%.

How large was the trial?
This is a big study with 16,000 adults enrolled since 2003. Budget was solid too as the US government put up 105 million dollars for the study.
The study recruited adults in the community in two provinces of Thailand with high HIV prevalence (Chon Buri and Rayong), but did not specifically target individuals at high risk of HIV infection. Volunteers for the study were adults aged 18-30. It was a randomized trial, matched for sex, behavior, age.
Out of the 16,000 adults, half got the vaccine and half got the placebo. The study started in 2003 the Volunteers were tested for AIDS for 3 years. The results were only ready just 3 weeks ago (beginning of September 09)

What should we make of the success ?

First it should be understood that the result was a surprise. After all the two strands of vaccine used were both proved to be inefficient.
The effect is modest but it’s a stepping stone. It open up doors to identify what the exact mechanisms of this protection is. Scientists now will have to identify what has protected these people in order to try to amplify that effect in future test.

Is it ethical to conduct HIV tests on people that will practice unprotected sex ? Isn’t it better to teach them to have protected sex?
Actually, in vaccine trials huge as these, all participants and everyone who gets the vaccine are intensively counseled on how to avoid being infected. It makes the vaccine trial more difficult but training is a very important part of the aid program. The training is conducted by special counselors completely dissociated from the scientists.

Why is it so hard to make a vaccine against HIV?
The virus has been discovered in 1981. It has been in the history of science the most challenging virus to tackle because of its specificity:
a) The immune response of the body is far less than for any other virus, it has been branded ‘inadequate’. Only about 2% of infected people have developed natural immunity read here

b) The ability of HIV to establish latency, allowing it to “hide” in host cells and elude immune surveillance

c) The extraordinary diversity and mutability of the virus; the capacity of the virus to avoid a protective immune response by masking more conserved components of the virus; and the ability of HIV to destroy or cause the dysfunction of critical immune system cells.

There are several other vaccine candidates in the research pipeline and today’s encouraging results will provide renewed enthusiasm for human clinical trials, as well as additional HIV vaccine discovery.

Excellent reading
Preventing HIV – the seach of an HIV vaccine

Written by Health Link - I maintain this blog because i like to keep a trace of various Health news through time. I have a wide ranging interest of subject from Massage to Reflexology and other alternative medecines. But the bulk of my interest are scientific discoveries. Visit my website -> Reflexology London
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