Arnica montana as an Anxiolytic

Arnica is a group of plants that belong to the Asteraceae family of flowering plants. Arnica montana, one plant in this group has been researched for its anti-inflammatory effects. In this regard Arnica montana has been evidenced to be effective at inhibiting a number of inflammatory pathways, confirming its traditional use as an anti-inflammatory herb. Anxiety is a mood disorder that centres around the development of inflammation in the brain tissue. As a result it might be expected that Arnica montana is useful in the treatment of anxiety. In one study, researchers investigated the effects of Arnica montana at a dose of 100 mg per kg in rats. The rats were administered arnica and then exposed to experimental stress. The results of the study showed that the arnica was significantly effective at inhibiting anxious behaviour in the rats. The researcher compared arnica to the anxiolytic drug alprazolam, but found that it was not as effective. Arnica montana may therefore have significant mood elevating effects. 

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Jha, P., Bhalerao, S. and Dhole, M. 2018. Comparison of antianxiety action of Arnica montana and alprazolam for acute anxiety in wistar rats. The Pharma Innovation Journal. 7(2): 230-233
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Can Arnica montana Compounds Diffuse Through Skin?

Arnica is a group of plants that have medicinal uses against inflammation. It has been reported that compounds within arnica, including a group of sesquiterpene lactones, are able to attenuate the inflammatory process and in doing so may reduce pain (as pain is a by-product of the inflammatory process). Arnica preparations are often used topically to treat bruises and inflammation, and there is evidence that the sesquiterpene lactones in arnica can permeate the skin. For example, in one study, researchers used a tissue culture model to replicate the cells of the skin, and administered sesquiterpene lactones to epidermal cells. The results of the study showed that by 12 hours no sesquiterpene lactones had diffused through the skin cells. However, after 12 hours sesquiterpene lactones derived from the main active principle in arnica (helenalin) were detected as permeants. When a 10-fold concentration of the arnica extract was used, these compounds were detected within 3 hours of application.  

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Tekko, I. A., Bonner, M. C., Bowen, R. D. and Williams, A. C. 2006. Permeation of bioactive constituents from Arnica montana preparations through human skin in‐vitro. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 58(9): 1167-1176
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Arnica montana: Effective Anti-Inflammatory?

Arnica is a well known traditional remedy for the treatment of inflammation and its associated pain. Arnica actually includes a large number of closely related plants from the Asteraceae family including Arnica montana, Arnica chamissonis, Arnica fulgens, Arnica cordifolia and Arnica sororia. Like many plants arnica contains anti-inflammatory compounds and therefore its use as a herbal treatment for inflammations is logical and scientifically validated. One possible candidate for the anti-inflammatory effects or arnica is the sesquiterpene lactone called helenalin and similar compounds. Evidence shows that arnica can decrease the release of proinflammatory cytokines such as nuclear factor kappa beta and that this in turn is able to lower pro-inflammatory eicosanoids including 5-lipoxygenase and leukotriene C4. In addition, helenalin may also downregulate tumour necrosis factor alpha, nitric oxide and cyclooxygenase as an alternative route for decreasing inflammatory pathways.  

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Iannitti, T., Morales-Medina, J. C., Bellavite, P., Rottigni, V. and Palmieri, B. 2016. Effectiveness and safety of Arnica montana in post-surgical setting, pain and inflammation. American Journal of Therapeutics. 23(1): e184-e197
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Saffron (Crocus sativus): Potential Weight Loss Benefits?

Saffron (Crocus sativus) is a herb that is known to possess potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. These effects relate to the presence of a number of phytochemicals in the plant including crocetin, safranal, crocin and picrocrocin. Evidence suggests that saffron may have some effects that may be useful against obesity. For example, studies investigating the blood glucose effects of saffron have found that crocetin is able to significantly lower experimentally raised blood glucose levels and that saffron is able to significantly raise blood insulin levels and concomitantly significantly lower blood glucose levels in insulin resistant rats. Further crocetin may be able to normalise levels of adiponectin and leptin in insulin resistant rats, which may have anti-obesity effects. In addition, saffron may also reduce appetite and cause significant weight loss in human subjects if taken for 2 months. Therefore the metabolic effects of saffron may indicate that it could be used as part of a healthy diet to cause weight loss. 

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Mashmoul, M., Azlan, A., Khaza’ai, H., Yusof, B. N. M. and Noor, S. M. 2003. Saffron: A Natural Potent Antioxidant as a Promising Anti-Obesity Drug. Antioxidants. 2: 293-308
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Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum): Medicinal Plant

Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum) are evergreen trees that grow in tropical locations. The flower buds of clove plants are known to possess an oil with a number of medicinal effects including germicidal properties as well as anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiseptic and antifungal activity. The oil may aid skin disorders, may relieve systemic stress, purify the blood, boost the immune system, prevent indigestion, have anti-cancer effects, prevent damage from toxins and be cardioprotective. The reason for these wide ranging effects relates to the wide range of phytochemicals found in the oil of cloves including acetyl eugenol (the main ingredient, the dried buds of cloves contain about 15 to 20 percent of essential oils, and the bulk of this is eugenol, a kilogram of dried buds provides about 150 ml of eugenol), β-caryophyllene, vanillin, crategolic acid, tannins, gallotannic acid, methyl salicylate, flavonoids (including eugenin, kaempferol, rhamnetin, and eugenitin) and triterpenoids such as oleanolic acid. 

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Bhowmik, D., Kumar, K. S., Yadav, A., Srivastava, S., Paswan, S. and Dutta, A. S. 2012. Recent trends in Indian traditional herbs Syzygium aromaticum and its health benefits. Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry. 1(1): 13-22
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β-Caryophyllene as an Anxiolytic

β-Caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene found naturally in plants. β-Caryophyllene is considered a dietary cannabinoid because it can activate the CB2 receptor and cause metabolic changes to brain chemistry. β-Caryophyllene has been researched for its ability to affect anxiety in animal models of mood disorders. For example, in one study, researchers administered β-caryophyllene to mice and measured the behavioural changes that occurred when stressful situations were created for the animals. The results of the study showed that a number of behavioural changes that could be related to anxiousness were favourably altered by the β-caryophyllene including the amount of time spent in the open (relating to anxious behaviour) and reductions in burying and digging behaviour (related to compulsive behaviour, a form of anxiety). Administration of a CB2 receptor agonist attenuated the beneficial effects of the β-caryophyllene suggesting that it was likely having its effects through the CB2 cannabinoid receptor. 

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Bahi, A., Al Mansouri, S., Al Memari, E., Al Ameri, M., Nurulain, S. M. and Ojha, S. 2014. β-Caryophyllene, a CB2 receptor agonist produces multiple behavioral changes relevant to anxiety and depression in mice. Physiology & behavior. 135: 119-124
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Citrus Aurantium, St John’s Wort and Caffeine for Weight Loss

Herbal treatments for weight loss have been shown to be effective when given in certain combinations or when taken as part of a healthy lifestyle. Citrus autanteum in one herb that has shown promise as a weight loss supplement because it contains synephrine, an alkaloid that may stimulate the central nervous system. When combined with caffeine, a known weight loss agent and also a stimulator of the central nervous system, synephrine may cause effective weight loss. Because weight gain may in part be caused by depressive symptoms whereby food is used as a comforting agent, antidepressants such as St John’s wort may also provide some weight loss benefits. For example, it has been shown that a combination of Citrus aurantium (975 mg per day), caffeine (528 mg per day) and St John’s Wort (900 mg per day) causes a significantly greater loss of body weight and a significantly greater loss of body fat compared to the placebo group when combined with a 1800 kcal per day diet over 6 weeks. 

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Colker, C. M., Kaiman, D. S., Torina, G. C., Perlis, T. and Street, C. 1999. Effects of Citrus aurantium extract, caffeine, and St. John’s wort on body fat loss, lipid levels, and mood states in overweight healthy adults. Current Therapeutic Research. 60(3): 145-153
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Reducing Sugar Sweetened Drinks: Weight Loss

Consumption of sugar in beverages can significantly contribute to overall energy intake. In addition, sugar is a metabolic poison that can disrupt normal metabolic pathways and hormonal control through its influence of the sensitivity of the insulin receptor. Limiting drinks containing sugar, or reducing sugar added to drinks such as tea has been shown to be beneficial to weight loss as it causes a removal of a metabolic poison from the diet. One study showed that energy from beverages accounted for around 356 kcals per day in a group of individuals which is 19 % of total energy intake. Reducing energy intake from liquids by 100 kcals per day was associated with weight loss of 0.25 kg after 6 months. Reducing liquid intake of energy through limiting sugar intake from drinks was more effective than removing solid food from the diet, supporting the hypothesis that sugar is a metabolic poison and can cause weight gain beyond its simple energy content through damage to the metabolic systems of the body. 

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Chen, L., Appel, L. J., Loria, C., Lin, P. H., Champagne, C. M., Elmer, P. J., Ard, J. D., Mitchell, D., Batch, B. C., Svetkey, L. P. and Caballero, B. 2009. Reduction in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with weight loss: the PREMIER trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 89(5): 1299-1306
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Effects of Fasting on Testosterone

Fasting has some interesting metabolic effects. For example, the fall in insulin levels seen with fasting may induce weight loss, and the fall in inflammatory markers may improve immunity. Testosterone levels are known to drop in males undergoing fasting and this could be seen as detrimental, particularly if maximising muscle mass is a concern to that person. For example, in male rats, fasting has been shown to result in a significant reduction in plasma testosterone, plasma luteinising hormone and plasma insulin, as well as liver and muscle glycogen stores. This could therefore be seen as a detrimental effect of fasting. However, in addition to a reduction in plasma testosterone are a reduction in plasma cortisol. Therefore while testosterone levels may be reduced, the testosterone to cortisol ratio is not as detrimental as it would if cortisol levels remained high. Muscle catabolism may therefore be spared somewhat by the lower levels of cortisol, despite the lower than normal testosterone levels. 

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Guezennec, C. Y., Ferre, P., Serrurier, B., Merino, D. and Pesquies, P. C. 1982. Effects of prolonged physical exercise and fasting upon plasma testosterone level in rats. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology. 49(2): 159-168
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Stress and Fasting

Fasting is known to cause significant hormonal and neuronal changes. These changes are thought to be responsible for some of the health effects of fasting. Fasting can change brain chemistry through a number of mechanisms and one mechanism might be the availability of particular energy substrates. During fasting glucose levels fall, and this reduces the availability of glucose to the brain, forcing a switch to the use of ketones as an energy substrate. Evidence suggests that the stress response may rely on glucose to be fully activated, and without a ready supply of glucose the pituitary-hypothalamus-adrenal axis may become blunted. The effect of this would be to lower circulating levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and this may provide some health effects where chronic stress is present through an attenuation of the cortisol response. This may explain some of the mood changes that are seen with fasting, which include reductions in anxiety and depression, both of which may be caused by cortisol from the stress response. 

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Kirschbaum, C., Bono, E. G., Rohleder, N., Gessner, C., Pirke, K. M., Salvador, A. and Hellhammer, D. H. 1997. Effects of fasting and glucose load on free cortisol responses to stress and nicotine. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 82(4): 1101-1105
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