An antioxidant is a molecule capable of slowing or preventing the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals which start chain reactions that damage cells. Antioxidants stop these chain reactions by removing free radicals and inhibit other oxidation reactions by being oxidized themselves. Although oxidation reactions are crucial for life, they can also be damaging. Specific plants, herbs and spices contain a variety of important antioxidants of which many are famous in Asian cooking where they play an important role in dietary health.
Insufficient levels of antioxidants or excessive oxidative stress may damage or kill human cells. Oxidative stress is an important factor in many human diseases. We now have a greater understanding of why certain plants are beneficial in supporting human health due to the potent antioxidant compounds they contain that help replenish our bodies own natural antioxidant defences.
Because they have one or more unpaired electrons, free radicals are highly unstable. They scavenge your body to grab or donate electrons, thereby damaging cells, proteins, and DNA (genetic material). It is impossible for us to avoid damage by free radicals as these arise from sources both inside and outside our bodies. Oxidants that develop from processes within our bodies form as a result of normal aerobic respiration, metabolism, and inflammation. Exogenous free radicals form from environmental factors such as excessive sunlight, strenuous exercise, X-rays, smoking and alcohol. Ever increasing environmental pollution generates additional free radical damage and toxicity overwhelming our already overburdened detoxification systems.
Antioxidant compound target different cellular reactions and cells of different organs and these are now believed to play a role in preventing the development of such chronic diseases as cancer, heart disease, stroke, alzheimer's, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, liver disease and cataracts.
Nuclear radiation and free radical damage
The recent concerns about radioactive isotopes being released into the environment as a result of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant reactor leakage has the potential to emit some of the most dangerous forms of free radical damage from ionizing radiation. Radioactive elements undergo decay and emit high-energy particles energetic enough to ionize atoms by knocking off their electrons. This ionizing radiation can damage DNA molecules directly, by breaking the bonds between atoms, or it can ionize water molecules and form free radicals (our cells are mostly water and ionizing radiation breaks H20 down into harmful free radicals H+ and OH-), which are highly reactive and also disrupt the bonds of surrounding molecules, including DNA. This DNA damage is enough to kill cells or cause them to mutate in ways that may eventually lead to cancer. The DNA damaging effects of radiation is measured in units called sieverts, which take into account the type and amount of radiation, and which parts of the body are exposed, allowing us to compare different kinds of exposures in one scale. In a typical year, a person might receive a total dose of two or three millisieverts from things like ambient radioactivity, plane flights and medical procedures. 100 millisieverts a year is the limit above which cancer risk starts to increase, according to the World Nuclear Association. The greatest danger is for people living in an affected area and winds can carry radioactive isotopes many hundreds of kilometers (as evidenced from the Chernobyl disaster in Europe), which can accumulate in the body, water table and food chain further damaging tissue over time and causing disease and cancer.
Effects of ionizing radiation
Free radical organ damage depends on which free radical is involved, how high concentration, the target of damage and predisposing factors. Ionizing radiation produces the most rapid free radical damage to various organs, and may produce immediate or delayed damage as follows;
- Brain: Nerve cells and brain blood vessels can die, leading to seizures.
- Eyes: Radiation exposure increases the risk of cataracts.
- Thyroid: The thyroid is very sensitive to the effects of Radioactive iodine (I-131) (in fact, I-131′s affinity for the thyroid is used therapeutically to specifically attract radiation to the thyroid in order to treat thyroid cancer and overactive thyroid). When a healthy thyroid is exposed to I-131, it can lead to decreased thyroid function and, over time, thyroid cancer.
- Lungs: When you breathe in invisible nuclear fallout particles, it can lead to lung cancer.
- Heart: High doses of radiation can damage the cells in the blood vessels that feed the heart, reducing cardiac function.
- Digestive tract: Sensitive cells in the intestinal lining can be damaged, leading to loss of appetite, nausea, bloody vomiting, and bloody diarrhea.
- Reproductive organs: Rapidly dividing cells (eggs and sperm) in the ovaries and testes can die, leading to sterility.
- Skin: Rapidly dividing skin cells can be damaged, leading to skin lesions and burn.
- Lymphatic organs: Rapidly dividing lymphatic cells die and damaged bone marrow may have trouble replenishing these immune-boosting cells, increasing the risk of infection.
- Other effects and symptoms of excessive free radical damage from radiation exposure includes: tumor growth / cancer, hemorrhages under the skin, bleeding from the nose, gums or mouth, anemia (low red blood cell count), hair loss, weakness and fatigue, fainting, dehydration and inflammation of tissues (swelling, redness or tenderness).
- Large radiation doses destroys millions of cells and tissues of the body and as such can lead to impairment of any organ function and / or death from organ failure.
Antioxidant protection from free radical damage
The therapeutic benefit of many medicinal plants is a direct result of their antioxidant properties on specific organs and bodily tissues. As such, herbals provide important protection from free radical damage and ionizing radiation. To assist detoxification from high doses of free radicals or radioactive isotopes then an understanding of plant antioxidants and their individual effects is very helpful in selecting the formulations that provide optimal antioxidant components to restore health.
The first step is always to remove oneself from the source of excessive free radicals or area of ionizing radiation exposure and to avoid consuming contaminated foodstuff or drinking contaminated water. Eat a diet high in uncontaminated fresh fruits and vegetables. Studies in Japan have shown a therapeutic effect from consuming a diet high in brown rice, miso soup, vegetables, onions and garlic and abundant seaweed, while also consuming plenty of antioxidant rich green tea. Any diet high in protective nutrients, enzymes and antioxidants will provide higher cellular protection.
Many antioxidant herbs have been studied for their effects as radioprotective agents (able to protect humans from ionizing radiation). In nature, plants have evolved an array of phytochemicals to protect them from the ionizing radiation from the sun and to survive in harsh environments. Tropical herbs and spices in particular have evolved as a response to the intense ultraviolet radiation around the equatorial regions. These herbs have been at the forefront of research into radioprotection as a result of their unique antioxidant effects. They hold immense promise to save human lives in the wake of the rise in global environmental pollution and the potential exposure to nuclear radiation, such as from the recent reactor accident in Fukushima, Japan.
RAINFOREST HERBS ANTIOXIDANT FORMULATIONS
HEMPEDU BUMI PLUS contains a combination of antioxidant-rich herbal extracts: Andrographis paniculata, Curcuma longa and Phyllanthus niruri / amarus.
Andrographis contains a group of active ingredients known as andrographolides that have been shown to have powerful free-radical scavenging properties together with some of the most well researched anticancer, liver protective and immunostimulant properties known in herbal medicine(40–82). Andrographis is now being widely researched for its anti-cancer and anti tumor effects in cancers of the liver, lymphatics, prostate, lungs, colon, leukemia and breast. As a systemic antioxidant that also markedly improves white blood cell immunity and liver detoxification, Andrographis is uniquely suited to protect human health in the face of ionizing radiation.
Cucuma longa contains the active ingredient known as Curcumin, responsible for the yellow colour in curry and which is one of the most popular antioxidant plant supplements worldwide. Together with its effects on improving antioxidant status in various diseases it has also been studied for its radioprotective effects on decreasing the damaging effects of radiation (83-91).
Phyllanthus niruri / amarus it well researched for its liver protective and antiviral effects and is widely used for viral hepatitis infection. It contains ellagitannins that have potent antioxidant and superoxide radical scavenging ability and enhance glutathione. Recent research is also focusing on the plants anticancer and radioprotective effects (131-147).
Body organs / systems protected: This product is designed to offer optimal antioxidant protection for the whole body, with emphasis on the liver, white blood cells, gastro-intestinal system and cardiovascular system. For more information please click here.
SELASIH PLUS contains one of the most well researched herbs for protecting from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation; Ocimum sanctum, also known as Asian Holly Basil. Numerous studies have revealed that it contains potent antioxidant flavonoids, orientin and vicenin that protect the white blood cells, chromosomes and bone marrow from radiation poisoning. Protective antioxidant effects were also seen in animal studies after high-dose 131 iodine exposure with increased survival time, prevention of lipid peroxidation and enhanced glutathione (22-35).
Body organs / systems protected: Whole body, thyroid, bone marrow / white blood cells, red blood cells.
PEGAGA PLUS contains Centella asiatica (Gotu Kola) that contains potent triterpenoids; asiaticoside, centellic acid and madecassic acid. Centella has been extremely well researched for the past 50 years for its effects on enhancing cellular healing, micro-circulation and brain function. Recent studies have shown Centella asiatica provides radioprotection to DNA and membranes against radiation exposure, as well as prevents radiation-induced decline in antioxidant enzyme levels and the prevention of radiation induced weight loss and taste aversion (6-12). This formulation also includes Andrographis and Orthosiphon (see references).
Body organs / systems protected: Skin, blood vessels, brain and nervous system, lungs, digestive system. For more information please click here.
MISAI KUCING PLUS contains a combination of potent antioxidant herbs, namely; Orthosiphon stamineus / aristatus, Zingiber officinale, Centella asiatica and Curcuma longa.
Also known as Java Tea, the antioxidant properties of Orthosiphon and its polyphenol fractions have been well research in Malaysia in reducing oxidative stress by inhibiting the formation of lipid peroxidation, as well as their use as a cytoprotective against free radical induced cell death (92-103).
Zingiber officinale (Ginger) contains the active ingredient gingerol, well-known for its anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory effects. Recent research is focusing on its antioxidant mechanisms whereby it shows strong potential as an anti-cancer and radioprotective agent to ameliorate symptoms of radiation exposure, such as taste aversion, learning difficulties and digestive disturbances and vomiting (113-116).
Curcuma and Centella (see references) further protect from radiation induced gastrointestinal and bone marrow cellular deaths and assist to reduce the symptoms of radiation sickness.
Body organs / systems protected: Radiation sickness, digestive disturbances; nausea, vomiting, skeletal system and bone marrow. For more information please click here.
TONGKAT ALI PLUS contains Eurycoma longifolia, Tinospora cordifolia, Centella asiatica and Glycerrhiza glabra.
Eurycoma longifolia (Tongkat Ali) has been well researched for its effects on promoting testosterone and sperm count and is used as a fertility agent for men. Eurycoma contains eurycomanone and this has been shown to have anticancer properties via enhancing p53 tumor suppressing protein and directly causing apoptosis of a range of human cancer cells.
Tinospora cordifolia has been widely studied for its radioprotective effects against radiation. It has been found to increase survival time and protect blood and immune cells from damage. Administered before irradiation significantly ameliorated radiation induced elevation in lipid peroxidation and decline in glutathione concentration in testes. These observations indicate the radioprotective potential of Tinospora cordifolia root extract on testicular constituents against gamma irradiation in mice (13-21).
The radioprotective effect of the root extract of Glycyrrhiza glabra on lipid peroxidation and white blood cell status has been studied and the extract was found to protect microsomal membranes (as evident from reduction in lipid peroxidation) DNA, as well as to protect white blood cells (enhancing the recovery of leukocyte count and the blastogenic response).
Body organs / systems protected: Testes / male reproductive, white blood cells, prevents weakness & fatigue. For more information please click here.
Melastoma malabathricum (Senduduk) has been shown to have marked anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects and contains high amounts of antioxidants, specifically flavanoids; quercetin, quercitrin and kaempferol. These flavanoids are also responsible for improving energy and relieving fatigue (104-112).
Labisia pumila (Kacip Fatima) is one of the most well known herbs used in Malaysia for indications related to female health and as a tonic after childbirth. It contains phytoestrogenic compounds that have been confirmed in animal models for polycystic ovary disease and post-menopausal osteoporosis. It has been shown to have anti-stress potential and increased response in swimming endurance. A recent study has shown an antioxidant effect against UVB irradiation when applied externally.
Curcuma longa (Turmeric) contains various active constituents, including essential oils and Curcumin with a wide range of pharmacological activities. Curcuma longa has been used extensively in Malaysian and Indonesian herbal medicine for female health and its antioxidant, hepatoprotective and anti-inflammatory effects are widely responsible for its beneficial effects in female health. Current research is focusing on its anti-cancer compounds and for protection from radiation.
Zingiber officinale (Ginger) is familiar as a culinary herb and as a remedy for nausea and indigestion. Its potent anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and analgesic properties make it a common in Asian herbal medicine. Its active ingredient, gingerol is a potent antioxidant and has been well studied for its protective effects against radiation and has been shown to improve survival and reduce the digestive symptoms and taste aversion after radiation exposure. Studies on breast and ovarian cancer have shown a protective effect.
Body organs / systems protected: Ovaries, white blood cells, prevents weakness & fatigue. For more information please click here.
REFERENCES: For the full reference list for this article and for more information please click here