How Do Plants Respond to Mineral Deficiencies?

As with animals, plants respond to reduced mineral availability through decreases in growth and reproduction. Firstly, plants responds to a decrease in availability of minerals through the use of vacuolar reserves to bridge the gap in available nutrients. Leaves and other tissues can store minerals and this reserve of minerals may be used while it remains intact. After the vacuoles have been drained of nutrients, the second stage occurs, whereby growth retardation is evident. This stage is also characterised by a continued reduction in nutrient reserves as the plant becomes depleted of nutrients and its nutritional quality declines significantly. Photosynthesis rates also decline and lateral branch and leaf expansion rates decline. There is also a reduction in reproduction as nutrient reserves do not provide sufficient energy or energy cofactors to allow reproductive costs to be met. In the last stage the plant begins to die due to metabolic derangement and a reduction in the efficiency of the roots is evident.

minerals plants selenium

Plants require minerals to be present in the soil for their own growth. Poor quality minerals deficient soils produce poor quality plants which produce poor quality animals and humans when eaten.

Plants therefore require minerals in the same ways a humans and animals. These minerals are required for growth and without them the plant gradually dies. However, this process is a long one, and the plants can appear to be healthy for food preparation whilst they are going through the stages of nutrient deficiency. Like humans and animals, plants can also grow with low amounts of minerals, albeit in an unhealthy form. Consumption of these plants may provide adequate macronutrients such as starch and can still be considered a good source of energy. However, consumption of mineral deficiency plants results in the mineral deficiencies being passed onto the animals or humans consumer, and this can lead to ill health. Many farmed plants are also supplemented with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium as these factors allow enhanced growth rates in the absence of adequate mineral status. Mineral deficient plant consumption is a real problem and has been particularly well documented in the case of selenium.

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Chapin III, F. S. 1980. The mineral nutrition of wild plants. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. 11(1): 233-260
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Creatine and Insulin

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Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) and Mood

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More on Creatine and Mood

Creatine supplements may have mood elevating and cognitive effects. The reason for this is the ability of creatine to increase the energy capacity of brain cells. The mood elevating and cognitive enhancing effects of creatine make it a potentially useful treatment for dementia, where cognition and mood become depressed. A number of studies have investigated the effects of creatine on dementia in humans subjects. For example, in one study researchers administered 20 grams per day of creatine monohydrate for 6 days followed by 2 grams per day of creatine monohydrate for 6 months to a group of individuals with Parkinson’s disease. The results of the study showed that there was an increase in the uptake of creatine into the brains of the patients. Further, creatine also caused an improvement in mood in the patients, supporting other studies that suggest that creatine has mood elevating properties. In addition the creatine also caused a small improvement in the effects of the dopaminergic medication being used by the patients.  

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Bender, A., Koch, W., Elstner, M., Schombacher, Y., Bender, J., Moeschl, M., Gekeler, F., Muller-Myhosok, B., Gasser, T., Tatsch, K. and Klopstock, T. 2006. Creatine supplementation in Parkinson disease: a placebo-controlled randomized pilot trial. Neurology.  67(7): 1262-1264
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Creatine and Cognitive Function

Creatine is an important component of cells because it is used to buffer phosphocreatine during energy utilisation. Higher levels of creatine mean a greater buffering capacity, and this means the cell has a larger amount of energy for important processes. Taking in creatine as a supplement in the form of creatine monohydrate has been shown to increase the creatine stores in cells, and this may translate into a larger pool of energy in cells. One of the benefits of creatine supplementation is an increase in the energy content of brain cells, and this may improve cognitive function. Creatine supplements have been shown to cause increases in blood oxygen levels, signifying increased energy utilisation. This is particularly evident in vegetarians, who naturally have lower levels of creatine when compared to meat eaters.  Vegetarians supplemented with creatine showed improvements in memory performance when compared to controls. Creatine may also enhance brain function under conditions of stress.

creatine brain

The best dietary source of creatine is red meat. However, supplements are available that let vegetarians benefit from increased creatine stores in cells.

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Andres, R. H., Ducray, A. D., Schlattner, U., Wallimann, T. and Widmer, H. R. 2008. Functions and effects of creatine in the central nervous system. Brain Research Bulletin. 76(4): 329-343
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Creatine Monohydrate: A Novel Antidepressant?

Creatine monohydrate is a popular supplement amongst athletes. This relates to the ability of creatine monohydrate to accumulate in muscle, where it increases the buffering capacity of the phosphocreatine stores, and this results in a longer duration of contraction until fatigue. However, creatine monohydrate may also have a number of beneficial effects to the brain as evidence suggests it crosses the blood brain barrier and accumulates in the brain tissue. Here it may increase the energy capacity in neurones and this may produce a cognitive benefit. One knock on effect of the increased energy in neurones, may be to mood. A limited number of studies have been performed on the ability of creatine monohydrate to improve mood, but in those that have been conducted, the supplement shows promise. In one study, 3 to 5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day for 4 weeks significantly improved the depression in patients with unipolar depression. However, further studies are needed to confirm these findings.

creatine anxiety depression

Studies suggest an increased brain utilisation of oxygen following oral creatine monohydrate supplementation. Creatine enters the brain using a specialised sodium-dependent transporter. Creatine supplementation of 5 g per day for six weeks increased cognitive function in health human subjects.

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Roitman, S., Green, T., Osher, Y., Karni, N. and Levine, J. 2007. Creatine monohydrate in resistant depression: a preliminary study. Bipolar Disorders. 9(7): 754-758
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The Antioxidant Components of Ginseng

Ginseng refers to Panax ginseng. Panax ginseng is also sometimes called Korean ginseng. Ginseng is characterised by the presence of adaptogenic substances called ginsenosides. These ginsenosides are able to suppress cortisol release and thereby modulate the stress reaction in humans. They also suppress the corticosterone release from animals and thereby have a similar effect. This is the main pharmacological action of ginseng. Other species of plants which contain structurally similar ginsenosides are also referred to as ginseng including North American Ginseng (Ginseng quinquefolius) and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). Ginseng also possesses a number of other phytochemical components that provide health effects through their antioxidant capacity. These components may contribute to the health effects of the main active constituents by conferring significant antioxidant protection on the consumer. The ginsenosides (triterpenoid saponins) themselves may not have any antioxidant capacity.

ginseng antioxidant

The main antioxidant components of ginseng include flavonoids (including quercetin and kaempferol), phenolic acids (including salicylic acid and vanillic acid) and certain polysaccharides.

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Luo, D. and Fang, B. 2008. Structural identification of ginseng polysaccharides and testing of their antioxidant activities. Carbohydrate Polymers. 72(3): 376-381
Han, B. H., Park, M. H. and Han, Y. N. 1981. Studies on the antioxidant components of Korean ginseng (III). Archives of Pharmacal Research. 4(1): 53-58
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Ginseng as an Antioxidant

The active principle in Panax ginseng are thought to be a group of around 30 triterpenoid saponins called ginsenosides, which can be found in the leaf stem and berries of the ginseng plants. However, many other phytochemicals are present in ginseng including sulphur containing amino acids, vitamins, minerals and the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol. Ginseng is useful in the treatment of mood disorders, probably because the ginsenosides it contains are able to modulate the stress response and protect the consumer from chronic stress. However, a secondary action in this regard may be the ability of ginseng to inhibit free radicals and oxidative stress through the presence of antioxidants. Panax quinquefolius is often referred to as North American Ginseng, and has been compared to Panax Ginseng in terms of its uses and pharmacology. Evidence suggests that Panax quinquefolius has significant antioxidant potential and may provide significant health benefits in this way.

ginseng antioxidant

The use of various forms of ginseng as a general health tonic may be related to the antioxidant potential that they possess. All plants produce flavonoids which are antioxidants, and these compounds may provide health effects.

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Kitts, D. D., Wijewickreme, A. N. and Hu, C. 2000. Antioxidant properties of a North American ginseng extract. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry. 203(1-2): 1-10
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Antidepressant Herbs as Antioxidants

A number of herbs are known for their antidepressant effects. Three popular herbal supplements that have this antidepressant effect are St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), Ginkgo biloba and Apocynum venetum (Luobuma or sword-leaf dogbane). The antidepressant effects of these herbs has been well evidenced, but it is not clear how the herbs cause this effect. One suggestion is that they possess significant antioxidant capacity, and this capacity may then lead to antidepressant effects. Antioxidants are able to have mood elevating effects because they prevent lipid peroxidation in the brain, and this has a neuroprotective effect. This neuroprotection is able to allow the neurotransmission systems of the brain to function correctly and this stabilises low mood. Studies have investigated the antioxidant capacity of St. John’s Wort, Ginkgo biloba and Apocynum venetum and found that all three herbs have significant antioxidant potential. In this regard Apocynum venetum showed the highest antioxidant capacity.

st john's wort antidepressant anxiety

Oxidative stress is associated with the progression of depression. Are the antidepressant effects of St. John’s Wort and other herbs due to the high antioxidant capacity of these herbs?

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Shirai, M., Kawai, Y., Yamanishi, R. and Terao, J. 2005. Approach to novel functional foods for stress control 5. Antioxidant activity profiles of antidepressant herbs and their active components. The Journal of Medical Investigation. 52(Supplement): 249-251
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The Phytochemistry of Convolvulus pluricaulis

Convolvulus pluricaulis is an Ayurvedic herb that is used to treat mental disorders originating from exposure to stress, including anxiety and depression. It may also have some cognitive enhancing properties. The whole plant of Convolvulus pluricaulis may be used medicinally, including the leaves, roots, petals and stems. A number of phytochemicals within Convolvulus pluricaulis have been identified, and these may explain the central nervous system effects. A number of tropane alkaloids may be present in the plant’s tissues including convoline, convolidine, convolvine, confoline, convosine which are found in other species from this family. However, only convolamine has been identified. he flavonoid kaempferol, the plant sterol beta-sitosterol are also present. Kaempferol has been shown to possess anxiolytic and antidepressant effects in animals. The coumarin scoplectin is also present, and courmarins may have central nervous system effects. These chemical may work synergistically once consumed.  

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Mishra, S. H. and Sethiya, N. K. 2010. Review on ethnomedicinal uses and phytopharmacology of memory boosting herb’ Convolvulus pluricaulis’ Choisy. Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism. 22(1): 19-26
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