Category Archives: News Posts

Biofilms and Disease: Why should I care?

Slime biofilm
The application of biofilm science to the study and control of chronic bacterial infections
William Costerton, Richard Veeh, Mark Shirtliff, Mark Pasmore, Christopher Post, Garth Ehrlich
Published in Volume 112, Issue 10
J Clin Invest. 2003; 112(10):1466–1477 doi:10.1172/JCI20365

Anyone who has felt plaque on their teeth, seen films at the edge of a pond, found  thick slimy glop when cleaning out a sink or fountain or suffered a respiratory infection has come into contact with biofilms.  When certain bacteria are in wet environments, they attach and send out signals to attract other bacteria called  “quorum sensing” molecules.  When the other bacteria start congregating, they start differentiating into bacteria that attach, that transport nutrients, that digest, that form protective films or crusts, adjust resistance and become far more formidable than any bacterium alone.  The biofilms are made of the bacteria, the water and the proteins, sugars and DNA that the bacteria exude.

efflux pumps
Source: The Antibiotic Paradox (Stuart B. Levy, M.D.)

For instance, when you get a respiratory virus, your bronchi are moist sites for bacterial complications.  When a bacteria lands, it calls others and makes a biofilm that blocks oxygen intake, causing you to cough. The biofilm protects the most interior bacteria. When you take antibiotics, the surface bacteria adapt by taking in samples of the antibiotics, “tasting” them with tiny efflux pumps and figuring out how to adapt.  They communicate this information to other bacteria in the biofilm.  This is how bacteria get resistant to the antibiotics.  They are even able to recombine with dead bacteria from other diseases to learn chemically how to protect themselves.  This is why our antibiotics have become less effective and why we have resistant “superbacteria”.

Bacteria take on different functions.

There are herbs that being weaker than antibiotics, sneak in under the radar of the bacteria and disable their efflux pumps, which is why you ought to take those herbs together with antibiotics.  This is a direct attack on bacterial resistance.  But new biosignal technology based on plant compounds called furanones disrupts the biofilm in different ways.

Biosignal technology prevents or disrupts resistant biofilms without killing bacteria.  Instead it blocks the quorum sensing molecules that allow the bacteria to congregate and other signaling molecules that affect virulence and resistance.  This approach to bacterial control is aimed at delivering treatment while sidestepping  bacterial resistance.

There is a red seaweed, Delisea pulchra, that is not colonized by bacterial films, unlike most.  This is used by the Australian firm Biosignals which has synthesized the chemicals and uses them for medical equipment and contact lenses.  The scientists found that the seaweed was rarely covered in bacterial biofilm colonies. They established that the seaweed uses natural chemicals, furanones, to keep it free of biofilms. The furanones jam cell-to-cell signaling systems that are pivotal to the ability of bacteria to form and maintain biofilms.

Delisea japonica may contain biofilm-inhibiting substances.

Preventing bacterial communication suggests that furanones may be effective against a wide range of bacteria.   In vitro studies have found that many furanones are useful against cholera, penumonia, cystic fibrosis-related infections, food poisoning,  golden staph infections and tuberculosis. Some of these bacteria have become resistant to current antibiotics.  Now, in vitro studies bathe the bacteria in a solution with the furanones, which is not the way your body works, so there isn’t direct oral administration evidence yet.  More research needs to be done.

Furanones are found in a variety of herbs.  Andrographis, for instance, and members of the parsley family.  There may be other seaweeds that have not been identified.  A colleague who is studying biofilms suggested putting vanillin into my fountain to stop the biofilm formation and it has probably slowed it down (as well as making the waiting room smell like vanilla.)

The class of furanones is large enough however that we should first look at the traditional uses of the plants, rather than looking first for constituents in the plants.  The traditional use has thousands of years of trial and error, while new drugs are unproven in the long term.

Not all biofilms are bad.  The probiotic bacteria that forms a living wallpaper along your gut, protecting you from disease, heavy metals and allergens, is one you want.  The appendix stores a biofilm of  probiotic bacteria in its cul de sac, to protect the body from potential pathogens in the GI tract that might wipe them out.  It allows us to be re-colonized by our symbionts.  We have good bacteria, most likely in thin films all over out bodies.

The appendix is a reservoir of microbiota. Source: NY Times Illustration by Bryan Christie Design

We evolved as clusters of bacteria, which differentiated into a superstructure housing lots of partially incorporated microorganisms like mitochondria and independent microorganisms like the lactobacilli in our gut.   We do need to be sure that strategies we use in preventing disease will not disrupt our own biological processes.

Lynn Margulis’ book,  Symbiotic Planet

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How Chinese Herbs Help the Heart

This study only looks at one mechanism, but it is quite interesting, and found that Chinese herbal patents (OTC herbal formulas, confusingly referred to as “TCMs”) helped produce nitric oxide to widen blood vessels.  heart zoomAll of the herbal patents tested reveal nitric oxide bioactivity. Many of the TCM extracts contain a nitrite reductase activity greater by 1000 times that of biological tissues.

Scientists help explain effects of ancient Chinese herbal formulas on heart health

New research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston suggests that ancient Chinese herbal formulas used primarily for cardiovascular indications including heart disease may produce large amounts of artery-widening nitric oxide. Findings of the preclinical study by scientists in the university’s Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases (IMM) appear in the Sept. 15 print issue of the journal Free Radical Biology & Medicine. Continue reading How Chinese Herbs Help the Heart

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Acupuncture Affects Brain’s Ability to Regulate Pain

This study is quite important because it explains one way that acupuncture works to regulate pain at a cellular level.  While those of us who have experienced acupuncture need no proof that it works for pain, it is still useful to have a mainstream university explaining the mechanism for doctors and (dare I say it) insurance companies who restrict coverage to one or two codes. 

Pain is regulated in a variety of ways by acupuncture.  Like all medicine there is the reassuring placebo effect.  But gate theory explains how the presence of a little pain drives out great pain which is why lancing or electrostimulation works.  And when a needle is inserted, blood rushes to the site with all of its hormones and immunological constituents.  Here is one other way acupuncture helps:

U Michigan Study; How Acupuncture Affects the Brain’s Ability to Regulate Pain

The University of Michigan Health system has just released the results of a new UM study that showed Chinese acupuncture affects your brain’s ability to regulate pain.

Continue reading Acupuncture Affects Brain’s Ability to Regulate Pain

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Numen, an Extraordinary Film About The Plants

Numen is a film that previewed at the International Herbal Symposium this June. It features prominent herbalists, botanists and ethnobotanists like Rosemary Gladstar, Tierona LowDog, the late Bill Mitchell, Stephen Buhner, Phyllis Light, Ken Ausubel, James Duke and Rocio Alarcon, among others. Numen, defined as the animating force in nature, brings together innovative thinkers to discuss how our disconnection from nature affects human and environmental health and the healing made possible by embracing our place in the wider web of life.

You can view a 15 minute preview here:

Rosemary Gladstar

The 80 minute film features wonderful time lapse photography and will be an extraordinary DVD to show and replay. The DVD will include tutorials on growing and harvesting medicinal herbs, preparing kitchen medicine, and on the growing field of ecological medicine and should be available later this month from the site above.

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John Virapen, Ex Eli Lily Executive Recants

John Virapen is a German who spent 35 years in the international pharmaceutical industry, who describes his hands as dirty as anyone’s:  he personally bribed the “clean” Swedish government to register Prozac.  He describes how Zyprexa was pushed when executives knew it caused the diabetes that the company made the medicine for.  (The side effects were hidden.)  He claims that big Pharm kills more people each year than war- and he is right!

The piece is entirely in English, despite the Hebrew titles.  It is well worth listening to, since his book isn’t available here.  (In fact there are no English versions.)

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European Court declares Fluoridated Water A Drug.

Fluoridated water must be treated as a medicine, and cannot be used to prepare foods. That is the decision of the European Court of Justice, in a landmark case dealing with the classification and regulation of ‘functional drinks’ in member states of the European Community. (HLH Warenvertriebs and Orthica (Joined Cases C-211/03, C-299/03, C-316/03 and C-318/03) 9 June 2005)

What are the implications of this?  Tap water cannot be used in prepared foods of any kind, foods made with tap water cannot be imported either between European states or from the US.  Unless they do full medical testing on it as for any other drug or functional food.

I do note that the European countries seem to be ignoring the Court of Justice decision which was given a few years ago and only the anti-flouridation forces are making much of it.

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Chinese Herbal Medicine Used in Outer Space

The Shenzhou Vll spacecraft successfully lifted off from China carrying traditional Chinese herbal medicine to prevent the astronauts (taikonauts) from getting motion sickness.  taikanauts-to-take-herbal-medicine

Taikong Yangxin, or “space heart-nourishing” capsules, are “made of more than 10 types of Chinese herbs and have proven to be effective in improving the astronaut’s cardiovascular condition,” according to Li Yongzhi, director of the medical arm of the country’s astronaut training centre.

She told Xinhua News Agency that TCM pills are superior to western motion sickness cures because they do not have side-effects.  The herbs will be taken in granule form which can be diluted with water and taken to treat motion sickness during the space flight.

Astronauts Yang Liwei, Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng, who flew in 2003 and 2005, took the herbal medicines before and after their spaceflight but not during it.

Li said the pills on the spacecraft will be particularly useful for the two astronauts who are schehawthornduled to carry out the extra-vehicular activities. “The medicine will boost their physical conditions and improve their adaptability in an extreme environment,” she said.

Li said that the herbal pills, which have previously been found effective in rats, will be mass-produced for market sales in the future.  Ingredients have not been disclosed but it is likely that they contain ginger and Chinese hawthorn.

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Coffee Beats Statins In Reducing Diabetes Inflammation

From Harvard:  a two years old trial found that  diabetic women who drank coffee had 10% less inflammation in their blood vessels,  shown by lower CRP levels than controls for each additional cup of coffee drunk per day.  These results are much better than the recent Crestor statin trial on CRP.   From other research, the likely antiiflammatory constituent is chlorogenic acid, also present in

Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Oct;84(4):888-93.

Coffee consumption and markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction in healthy and diabetic women.

Lopez-Garcia E, van Dam RM, Qi L, Hu FB.

Department of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA,

BACKGROUND: In several short-term studies, coffee consumption has been associated
with impairment of endothelial function. OBJECTIVE: The objective was to assess the relation coffee_beansbetween long-term caffeinated and decaffeinated filtered coffee consumption and markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction.  … CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate that neither caffeinated nor decaffeinated filtered coffee has a detrimental effect on endothelial function. In contrast, the results suggest that coffee consumption is inversely associated with markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction.

See Related Posts:

Coffee Herbs

November Herbal Blog Party on Morning Wake Up Beverages

Caffeine Halts Progression of Alzheimer’s

Simple Ways to Support Brain Function

Health Myths About Hydration

Fewer Serious or Lethal Prostate Cancers in Male Coffee Drinkers

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Butter is Good for Your Health

Butter has been eaten since Biblical times and even before:  In Mesopotamia, butter from goats and sheep has been eaten since 9000-8000 BC,  and cows were domesticated for such use a thousand years later.  The first reference to butter in written history was found on a 4,500-year-old limestone tablet illustrating how butter was made.  Although butter was part of the human diet for tens of thousands of years,  a series of misleading studies in the 1950s and 1960s vilified it. butter

At the turn of the 20th century, heart disease in America was so rare that medical students from all the New York City medical schools were summoned to see a heart attack.   By 1960, it was our number one killer. Yet during the same time period, butter consumption had decreased – from eighteen pounds per person per year, to four.   A researcher named Ancel Keys  first proposed that saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet were to blame for coronary heart disease  but numerous subsequent studies costing hundreds of millions of dollars, have failed to conclusively back up this claim. In fact a Medical Research Council survey showed that men eating butter ran half the risk of developing heart disease as those using margarine.
Continue reading Butter is Good for Your Health

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Acupuncture found Effective in Treating Breast Cancer Side Effects from Chemotherapy

Women who are being treated for breast cancer often have side effects like debilitating hot flashes, other vasomotor conditions, and depression that cannot be treated with carcinogenic hormones.  A 2008  study, in The International Journal of Radiation Oncology, found  acupuncture equal in effectiveness but superior in side effects to treat women coping with the side effects of conventional breast cancer medicine.

Dr. Elanor Walker’s study involved 47 patients who received the common breast cancer treatment of Tamoxifen or Arimidex and as a result had at least 14 hot flashes per week as well as excessive sweating, night sweats and depression. breast-cancer1

The Results

Both of the groups showed significant improvement in the adverse effects of breast cancer treatment. The study reported “that acupuncture is at least as effective as venlafaxine in reducing vasomotor and other symptoms associated with anti-estrogen hormonal treatment of breast cancer.

Although the main symptoms were decreased relatively equally among the two groups, the venlafaxine group reported a host of negative side effects such as nausea, dry mouth, headache, insomnia, dizziness, double vision, increased blood pressure, constipation, fatigue, anxiety, feeling ”spaced out,” and body spasms at night.

Patients from the acupuncture group experienced side effects as well, however they were positive in nature. The acupuncture-treated group experienced increased energy, clarity of thought, sexual desire, and an increased sense of well-being compared to before the treatment. After the 12 week trial was complete, the reduction in hot flashes lasted longer for the acupuncture patients than for the venlafaxine group.

In other words, although both conventional and acupuncture treatments decreased the negative effects of breast cancer medicine significantly, conventional treatment produced negative sides effects while acupuncture treatment provided additional benefits.

See the full article at:

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How to Make A Face Mask

First off, if you work where infectious diseases are prominent, have serious chemical sensitivity or mold issues, you probably need to purchase a respirator with a small micron opening such as the nanomasks that have shaped silicon holders.  That said, most of us benefit from the reduction of incoming germs, without total facemask protection, relying upon our immune systems to do the rest of the work.

The easiest thing to do for everyday exposures is to put a double or triple layered scarf over your nose and mouth and breathe through it while you are out in public places, or riding trains  Cover the eyes with glasses or dark glasses and wear a pair of gloves, and you are good to go.  In the summer just use a cotton scarf and sunglasses, and use your waterless hand cleaner after touching doorknobs, banisters and the like in public places.  Make sure you wash well between uses.
Continue reading How to Make A Face Mask

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