Ginseng is one of the most popular herbal medicines in the world, according to WebMD. The plant gets its name from a Chinese term meaning “person plant root” because the root is shaped like human legs. There are 11 species of ginseng. (Many other herbs are called ginseng, but they do not contain the active ingredient ginsenosides.) Ginseng grows in North America, where it is endangered in the wild, as well as Asia and Korea. It is especially prevalent in traditional Chinese medicine and holistic healing arts.



When something (or someone) is bland and unexciting, we usually say they are like vanilla. Simple, colorless, ordinary, easily overlooked – that describes vanilla accurately, right? Well, not exactly. The more you learn about vanilla – its origins, its popularity and what it takes to get it to our pantry shelves – you may refrain from ever describing anything or anyone as “just plain vanilla.”



Have you ever suffered through a bout of insomnia and had someone tell you to try drinking a cup of chamomile tea to help you sleep? Chamomile is a daisy-like plant often employed in herbal medicine. Over the centuries as people have used it, chamomile has been touted to treat a wide range of ailments, from hay fever to menstrual cramps to ulcers, hemorrhoids and, of course, insomnia. Your shower gel, shampoo or skin-care lotion may contain chamomile, which is said to treat conditions such as sunburn .....


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Who didn’t grow up watching those Popeye cartoons and envying the sassy sailor his guns, which popped up from his previously puny arms right after he ate a can of spinach?

And who, despite that, didn’t turn up his or her nose when Mom put a bowl of spinach on the dinner table?

Luckily, we’ve come a long way from despising spinach. It has quickly evolved into a must-have green for salads and smoothies.

Spinach is an annual flowering plant that was first cultivated in ancient Persia (today’s Iran). When it was introduced to ancient China, it was called the Persian vegetable. Spinach belongs to the chenopod family, which includes beets, chard and quinoa. There are three varieties of spinach: savoy, which has dark green, curly leaves and is sold in fresh bunches in most supermarkets; semi-savoy, a hybrid variety with slightly crinkled leaves; and flat or smooth leaf. When you have a spinach dish dubbed “Florentine” (such as lasagna Florentine or sole Florentine), it is because spinach was the favorite vegetable of Catherine de Medici, who was born in Florence, Italy.

Spinach packs a nutritional punch whether it’s fresh, frozen, steamed, boiled or flash fried. Low in calories, it is a good source of

vitamins A, B, C, E and K, as well as magnesium, manganese and folate. You will also find riboflavin, calcium, potassium and fiber in your spinach. Spinach is an excellent source of beta-carotene, the powerful disease-fighting antioxidant that is known to fight heart disease and cancer. The vegetable has several important phytochemicals, including lutein, which helps prevent age-related macular degeneration.

One source says the healthiest way to consume spinach is in juice form. Add a few leaves to your smoothie or blend it with other vegetables and fruit. Regular consumption of fresh, organic spinach juice has been shown to dramatically improve skin health.

Popeye probably didn’t realize spinach eases constipation and flushes out toxins from the colon. Spinach contains glycoglycerolipids, the main fat-related molecules found in the membranes of light-sensitive organs in most plants. They help protect the lining of the digestive tract from damage. New research shows spinach has the potential to protect against prostate cancer.

Although Popeye would have us believe spinach is nothing but iron and that’s why he was suddenly so strong after consuming some, spinach in fact contains substances that inhibit the absorption of iron. High levels of oxalate can bind to the iron to form ferrous oxalate, which means the body can’t use it. Another compound in spinach is oxalic acid, which blocks the absorption of calcium and iron. To counteract this problem, boil your spinach for one minute or pair it with a food that is high in vitamin C, such as oranges.

The story goes that a scientist miscalculated the iron content in spinach; a misplaced decimal point caused him to give spinach an iron value 10 times higher than it should have had. However it happened, Popeye’s message is still a good one: Eat your spinach!


Tanya Tyler is the Editor of Health & Wellness Magazine

more articles by Tanya Tyler