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What Are Amino Acids?
Amino acids are often referred to the "building blocks of life" because they are the essential components of protein. How vital is protein? Well, proteins are the basic material of all living things. In fact, it is said that next to water, protein accounts for the greatest portion our body weight. Protein makes up our muscles, bone, cartilage, glands and vital body fluids. 

Essential vs. Non-Essential
It is estimated that there are over 20 commonly known amino acids. Of these, about 8 or 9 are considered essential because they must be obtained from dietary sources. They include: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. 

Non-essential amino acids are classified as such, not because they are not important-to the contrary, your body needs all the amino acids in the proper balance for optimum health-but because they are manufactured in the body. Some of these are alanine, arginine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamine, glutamic acid, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

What Do Amino Acids Do?
Without a doubt, amino acids are involved in every function of the body. They promote healthy brain function, support immune health, enhance the effectiveness of vitamins and minerals, and much, much more. However, in his authoritative guide, the Amino Acids Book- What You Need To Know, noted author Carlson Wade outlined four basic functions of amino acids:

  1. They help in the growth and repair of tissues and cells

  2. They produce hormones, enzymes and secretions needed for digestion and reproductive function

  3. Vital for the functioning of the bloodstream

  4. Amino acids give you energy

Each amino acid plays a specific role in the body. Below is a brief summary of some of the most common amino acids and their basic functions: 

  • Alanine: Enhances immune system; aids in glucose metabolism.

  • Arginine: Generally touted as the man's amino acid because it accounts for a large portion of seminal fluid. It's thought to increase sperm count and enhance male sexual performance.

  • Aspartic Acid: Increases stamina; enhance immune function.

  • Carnitine: Promotes cardiovascular health and used by the body for energy production. Carnitine is also said to help prevent fatty acid buildup.

  • Isoleucine, Leucine and Valine: These 3 amino acids are know as branched chain amino acids, and are of particular importance to athletes. Why? References cite their important role in the building, maintaining and repair of muscle tissue, and serving as energy sources for the muscle. Strenuous and intense physical exercise tend to cause a decrease of protein metabolism in the muscle, ranched chain amino acids are thought to help decrease and even prevent muscle protein breakdown during exercise. 

Who Needs Amino Acids?
Whether the majority of us consume adequate protein is a subject of debate. In his book, Doctor's Guide To Natural Medicine, Dr. Paul Barnes noted that a despite high meat consumption, if a diet is not balanced, and is high on empty carbohydrates, it can become protein deficient. A balanced diet is the key. High fat red meats are not the only source of protein. Protein-rich foods such as soy products, beans, fish and eggs are excellent sources. He stated, "Unfortunately the majority of Americans eat diets that are deficient in the total amino acid array we need to maintain our health."  

However, it is generally agreed that dieters, athletes and strict vegetarians may need additional supplementation of amino acids. And, no matter what you're normal daily routine includes: working in the garden, taking care of the children, or working 9 to 5 (or longer) -  we could all use a little energy boost! 

 

 Centaurum erythraea (Centaury)

Plant part used: herb.

Main active constituents: anthocyanins

Actions: indigestion, liver, gall bladder.

 Circumfuga racemosa (Black cohosh)

Plant part used: root and rhizome.

Main active constituents: triterpene glycosides, aromatic acids including salicylic acid, isoflavones.

Actions: emmenagogue, treats pre-menstrual tension, endocrine activity, pituitary and oestrogen-mimicker.

 Crataegus monogyna (Hawthorn)

Plant part used: berry.

Main active constituents: proanthocyanidins

Actions: antiviral, antimicrobial, antioxidant, hepato (liver) protective

 Dioscorea villosa (Wild Yam)

Plant parts used: root and rhizome.

Main active constituents: diosgenin (sometimes referred to as "natural progesterone" or "DHEA precursor"), glycosides of diosgenin including helonin and chamaelirin.

Actions: emmenagogue (assists menstrual flow); uterine tonic; treatment of amenorrhoea (lack of menstruation), dysmenorrhoea (menstrual pain), leucorrhoea (white vaginal mucous discharge). Relieves menopausal symptoms when activated.

 Echinacea purpurea (Echinacea)

Plant part used: root.

Main active constituents: alkamides, caffeic acid esters, polysaccharides, betaine, phytosterols.

Actions: immunostimulant (boosts immune system); anti-inflamatory; antibacterial; antiviral; vulnerary (promotes healing).

 Gentiana lutea (Gentian or Bitterwort)

Plant part used: root.

Main active constituents: iridoid glycosides (incl. iridoids and secoiridoids), oligosaccharides, polysaccharides and xanthones.

Actions: hepatoprotective (protects liver); digestive stimulant; anti-emetic (helps prevent or treat nausea); treats lack of appetite, beneficial in treating anorexia.

 Ginkgo biloba(Ginkgo)

Plant part used: leaf.

Main active constituents: bioflavonoids, ginkgolides (polyacetones), proanthocyanidins, flavoglycosides,

Actions: antioxidant, treatment of circulatory disorders, esp. peripheral vascular disease (stimulates circulation, tissue oxygenation, esp. brain tissue); strokes and cerebral insufficiency.

 Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice)

Plant part used: root.

Main active constituents: saponins, esp. glycyrrhizin, flavonoids, polysaccharides carbenoxolene.

Actions: demulcent (soothes mucous membranes); anti-viral (incl. herpes zoster and herpes simplex); anti-inflammatory; treatment of duodenal and gastric ulcers; expectorant; adrenocorticotropic (exerts a hormonal influence upon the cortex of the adrenal gland)

 Hordeum lutea (Barley)

Plant part used: young leaf.

Main active constituents: essential amino acids, minerals (esp. zinc and iron).

Actions: a nutritional supplement beneficial to general health. Not considered to have therapeutic effects.

 Linum usitatissimum (Flax)

Plant part used: seed oil.

Main active constituents: omega 3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acids or EPAs).

Actions: immunostimulant (boosts immune system); inhibits prostaglandins responsible for asthmatic bronchospasms; reduces cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

 Marrubium vulgare (Horehound)

Plant part used: root.

Main active constituents: diterpenes (particularly marrubiin) and flavonoids.

Actions: stomachic tonic, expectorant (clears mucous in bronchitis etc.)

 Matricaria recutita (Chamomile)

Plant part used: flower.

Main active constituents: (-)-a-bisabolol, bisabolol oxides A and B, sesquiterpenes (particularly chamazulene).

Actions: anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic (arrests spasms), vulnerary (promotes healing), antimicrobial.

 Medicago sativa (Alfalfa)

Plant part used: leaf.

Main active constituents: coumarins, isoflavones.

Actions: treatment and prevention of acid reflux.

Note: Alfalfa is not considered by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration to have any therapeutic effect and is therefore regarded as a food.

 Passiflora incarnata (Passion flower)

Plant part used: flower, leaf and fruit.

Main active constituents: flavonoids, apigenin and luteolin flavones.

Actions: sedative, antispasmodic; treatment of sleep disorders, nervous stress, anxiety.

 Petroselinum crispum (Parsley)

Plant part used: leaf

Main active constituents: myristicin, apiole, b-phellandrene and other volatile oils, flavonoids (particularly apigenin glucosides and apiosylglucosides) and furocoumarins.

Actions: diuretic (treats fluid retention), carminative (treats stomach gas), spasmolytic (arrests spasms).

 Piper methysticum (Kava Kava)

Plant part used: root

Main active constituents: kavain, methysticin

Actions: muscle relaxant, antipyretic (reduces fever), antifungal.

Note: Kava Kava is reported not to affect adversely mental alertness.

 Plantaga Indica (Psyllium)

Plant part used: seed husk

Main active constituent: soluble fibre

Actions: bowel health, prevention of bowel cancer, lowering of blood cholesterol levels.

 Polygala sibirica (Siberian Milkwort, Senega)

Plant part used: root bark

Main active constituents: triterpenoid saponins, mono- and oligo- saccharides.

Actions: expectorant (dislodges mucous), treatment of catarrh and bronchitis.

 Serenoa serrulata (Saw Palmetto)

Plant part used: fruit

Main active constituents: oleic, myristis, lauric and linoleic fatty acids.

Actions: inhibition of 5a-reductase, the enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into 5a-hydroxytestosterone which is associated with prostate enlargement, therefore used clinically in the treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy; also has anto-androgenic properties which assist with treatment of acne, female hirsutism (beard growth) and baldness.

 Smilax medica (Sarsaparilla)

Plant part used: root and rhizome

Main active constituents: saponins, parillin, photosterols and potassium

Actions: anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, diuretic (helps excrete excess fluid build-up), treatment of psoriasis, eczema and rheumatism (including rheumatoid arthritis).

 Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion)

Plant part used: whole plant

Main active constituents: seaquiterpene lactones, triterpenes, coumarins, carotenoids and potassium.

Actions: diuretic (helps excrete excess fluid build-up), choleretic and cholagogue (promotes bile flow from liver).

 Thymus vulgaris (Thyme)

Plant part used: leaf

Main active constituents: terpenes, particularly thymol and carvacol.

Actions: expectorant (dislodges mucous), anti-microbal (inhibits bacterial growth), anthelmintic (treatment of worms) and anti-spasmodoc (counters spasms).

 Tilia cordata (Lime tree)

Plant part used: flower

Main active constituents: flavonoids, phenolic acids, polysaccharides and procyanin dimers.

Actions: sedative, anti-spasmodic (counters spasms), diaphoretic (induces perspiration), hypotensive (lowers blood pressure).

 Trifolium pratense (Red Clover)

Plant part used: flower

Main active constituents: flavonoids, flavonols and isoflavones (particularly formononentin), salicylic and p-coumaric acids.

Actions: relaxant, expectorant (dislodges mucous), phyto-oestrogenic (binds to oestrogen receptors but with low oestrogenic activity), mild anti-spasmodic.

 Trillium erectum (Beth Root)

Plant part used: root

Main active constituents: diosgenin.

Actions: DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) precursor both chemically and metabolically; to be metabolic precursor requires activation either by animal glandular extracts or by herbal methods. Diosgenin has been referred to as "Natural Progesterone"..

 Vitex agnus-casta (Chaste Tree)

Plant part used: fruit

Main active constituents: not specified.

Actions: treatment of fibroids, pre-menstrual tension, "hormone balancer".

 Vitis vinifera (Grape)

Plant part used: seed

Main active constituents: proanthocyanidins (pycnogenols).

Actions: potent antioxidants of specific advantage for the vascular system and free radical scavenging.

 

     

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Disclaimer: Throughout this website, statements are made pertaining to the properties and/or functions of food and/or nutritional products. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and these materials and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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