(NaturalNews) Tell a mainstream medical doctor you are taking a herb, especially if it is for some condition Big Pharma has no treatment for, and odds are you'll be faced with warnings that herbs are unproven quackery at worst. And if you claim a traditional herbal cure is actually working, don't be surprised if you are told it is probably the placebo effect, i.e. all "in your head".
But when scientists actually investigate these natural remedies, they are frequently finding they contain powerful health building and disease-fighting properties that are nothing short of extraordinary. A case in point: bitter cumin.
A spice that flavors many Mexican, Tex-Mex, Thai, North African, Indian and Mediterranean dishes, it has also been used by traditional healers to treat maladies ranging from vitiligo (a condition causing the skin to lose pigment and develop large, sometimes disfiguring, white areas), and high blood sugar, to parasites and bacterial and viral infections. According to a new study just published in BioMedCentral's open access journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, research has backed up claims bitter cumin can reduce fever and relieve pain, too. And now a new study shows why it may have so many health benefits -- it contains high levels of potent antioxidants.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS), usually simply known as free radicals, are created in the body as the result of normal metabolic processes -- but over-production of free radicals, or the body's inability to remove them, is known to contribute to the aging process and to causing diseases ranging from heart disease to cancer. Antioxidants clean up these free radicals and are thought to prevent disease and even slow down aging.
Using biochemical and biological analyses, researchers from the Central Food Technological Research Institute in Mysore, India, have discovered seeds from bitter cumin (which is a member of the daisy family) are amazingly rich in phenolic antioxidants. The scientists announced in a statement to the media that bitter cumin extracts appear to offer complete protection against DNA damage, suggesting the herb could have powerful healing and anti-aging properties.
In additional breaking research news just published in BioMed Central's open access journal Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials, scientists from Rohtak, India, have found that plant compounds used in traditional and folk medicine could be natural weapons in fighting life-threatening secondary infections from bacteria and fungi that afflict many cancer patients whose immune systems are damaged by mainstream medicine's chemo and radiation treatments. What's more, many of the plant extracts tested were active against super bugs, such as Staphylococcus aureus, which are becoming multi-drug resistant (MRSA).
The scientists studied infections in 40 patients being treated for oral cancer; 35 had compromised immune systems with severely reduced white blood cell counts. Eight of the plants tested, including wild asparagus, desert date, false daisy, curry tree, castor oil plant and fenugreek, significantly affected the growth of bacteria and fungi infecting these cancer patients.
"Natural medicines are increasingly important in treating disease and traditional knowledge provides a starting point in the search for plant-based medicines. Importantly we found that the extraction process had a huge effect on both the specificity and efficacy of the plant extracts against microbes," Dr. Jaya Parkash Yadav said in a statement to the press.
"Nevertheless several of the plants tested were broad spectrum antibiotics able to combat bacteria including E. coli, S. aureus and the fungi Candida and Aspergillus. Both desert date and castor oil plant were especially able to target bacteria, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which are known to be difficult to treat with conventional antibiotics."