Phytosterols | Health Dictionary

Plant lipids, with little other than dietary value, but often excitedly referred to as “Hormone Precursors” with incorrect but well-meaning pseudo­science. See: STEROIDS, PLANT

Phytosterols | Health Dictionary

Keywords of this word: Phytosterols

Beneficial Teas

If you’re a fan of herbal teas, you have to try saw palmetto tea! It’s special, as it is made from the berries of a small palm. Read more about its health benefits and side effects! About Saw Palmetto Tea Saw palmetto tea is made from the fruit saw palmetto, also known by its scientific name, Serenoa repens. It is the sole species which remains classified in the genus Serenoa. It is a small palm, native to the southeastern part of the United States. Its height varies between 2 and 4m. Its leaves are 1-2m long and have a bare petiole, with a rounded fan of about 20 leaflets at the end; the petiole has fine, sharp teeth or spines. The flowers are small, yellowish-white and produced in dense panicles, and the fruit is a large, reddish-black berry. How to prepare Saw Palmetto Tea A cup of saw palmetto tea can be prepared with either the plant’s berries, or normal teabags. In case you’re using saw palmetto berries, add a teaspoon of the fruits to a cup of freshly boiled water. Let it steep for about 5 minutes, before you strain to remove the berries. Sweeten it, if necessary, with honey or fruit juice. If you’ve got saw palmetto tea bags, follow the instructions on the tea box. Saw Palmetto Tea Constituents Saw palmetto tea gets many active constituents from its main ingredient: saw palmetto berries. The constituents of the berries include a high concentration of fatty acids and phytosterols, as well as beta-sitosterol, capric acid, ferulic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid. Saw Palmetto Tea Benefits Saw palmetto tea is known for its important role in treating urinary tract infections. Drinking this tea helps to gently stimulate urination; thanks to this, the infectious microorganisms are “flushed out” along with the urine. Drinking saw palmetto tea helps remove toxins and waste products which can affect and reduce the functions of the kidneys, liver, and bladder. It also helps with the digestive system; it is drunk to treat diarrhea, acid reflux, gas, bloating, and irritable bowel syndrome. Saw palmetto tea also helps calm coughs and treats various forms of chest congestion. It is useful if you’ve got a headache. It can be used to treat benign prostate enlargement and prostatitis, as well. Saw Palmetto Tea Side Effects You shouldn’t drink saw palmetto tea if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. It can act like a hormone, which might lead to problems. Drinking saw palmetto tea before a surgery is also bad. It might slow down the blood clotting process, which might lead to extra bleeding both during and after the surgery. It is recommended that you stop drinking this tea two weeks before you’ve got a surgery scheduled. Although rare, the possibility of getting an allergic reaction to saw palmetto tea still exists. Symptoms include rashes, itchiness, difficulty in breathing, and swelling of the mouth, tongue or nose. Also, be careful with the amount of saw palmetto tea you drink. The recommended amount is 3-4 cups a day. If you drink too much, you might get some of the following symptoms: dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea. Saw palmetto tea can easily be used as a daily hot beverage. You’re bound to enjoy both the taste and its many health benefits.... Beneficial Teas

Indian Medicinal Plants


Synonym: Vigna unquiculata (L.) Walp.

Family: Papilionaceae; Fabaceae.

Habitat: A pulse crop, particularly in Madras, Mysore, Mumbai and Hyderabad.

English: Horsegram.

Ayurvedic: Kulattha, Kulittha, Khalva, Vardhipatraka.

Unani: Kulthi.

Siddha/Tamil: Kollu, Kaanam.

Action: Plant—used in measles, smallpox, adenitis, burns, sores. Seeds—astringent, antipyretic, diuretic. Decoction or soup is used in affections of the liver and spleen, intestinal colic, in leucorrhoea and menstrual dissorders, urinary discharges. A valuable protein supplement.

The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India recommends the decoction of dry seeds in calculus and amenorrhoea.

The seeds contain crude protein 20.8, pentosan 10.8 and water-soluble gum 2.8%. The presence of antinu- tritional components such as haemag- glutinin and a protease inhibitor has been reported. The inhibitor activity decreased during germination.

The mean protein value of the seeds is 25.47% which is more or less equivalent to soybean, winged bean and gram. Nutritionally, the horsegram seeds are richer in lysine content when compared to Cajanus cajan (Arhar) pulse and gram pulse.

Presence of vitamin A in the green pods makes them a valuable diet for children; green leaves may be used in vitamin C deficiency syndrome, due to the presence of ascorbic acid and calcium. The seeds contain several common phytosterols.

Strepogenin—several times higher than in casein.

A decoction of seeds (soaked or boiled in water) is prescribed as diuretic and antilithiatic and has been clinically established.

Diuretic activity of a dipeptide (py- roglutamylglutamine) has been found to be 2-3 times that of acetazolamide in albino rats.

Globulin fraction of the seeds showed hypolipidaemic effects in rats.

A lectin-like glycoprotein from stems and leaves possesses carbohydrate- binding activity.

Dosage: Seed—6 g powder; decoction 50-100 ml. (CCRAS.)... Indian Medicinal Plants

Indian Medicinal Plants


Synonym: F. glomerata Roxb.

Family: Moraceae.

Habitat: Throughout India. Grows wild in forests and hills. Often found around subterranean water streams.

English: Cluster Fig, Country Fig.

Ayurvedic: Udumbara, Sadaaphala, Hema-daudhaka, Jantuphala, Yagyaanga.

Unani: Anjir-e-Aadam, Anjir-e- Ahmak, Gular.

Siddha/Tamil: Atthi.

Action: Astringent and antiseptic; used in threatened abortions, menorrhagia, leucorrhoea, urinary disorders, skin diseases, swellings, boils, haemorrhages. Unripe fruits—astringent, carminative, digestive, stomachic; used in diarrhoea, dyspepsia, dysentery, menorrhagia and haemorrhages. Ripe fruits—antiemetic, also

used in haemoptysis. Root and fruit—hypoglycaemic. Bark— decoction is used in skin diseases, inflammations, boils and ulcers.

The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India recommends the use of the bark in lipid disorders and obesity.

Leaves and fruit contain gluacol. The fruit also contains beta-sitosterol, lupeol acetate, friedelin, higher hydrocarbons and other phytosterols.

Petroleum ether extract of the stem bark significantly reduced blood sugar level of rats with streptozotocin- induced diabetes. It completely inhibited glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase from rat liver. Extracts of fruit and latex did not show any significant effect on blood sugar level of diabetic rats, they inhibited only glucose-6- phosphate but not arginase from rat liver.

An alcoholic extract of the bark has been found to be very effective in reducing blood sugar in alloxan-induced diabetic albino rats. It helped in improving the damaged beta cells of islets of Langerhans, thus exerting permanent blood sugar lowering effect.

The ethanolic extract of seeds also showed hypoglycaemic activity.

Lignin, the main fiber constituent of the fruit, prevented the rise in serum cholesterol levels of some extent. Fresh whole fruits, used as a source of dietary fibre, exhibited more hypoc- holesterolemic activity than pure cellulose.

Dosage: Bark—20-30 g for decoction. (API Vol. I.)... Indian Medicinal Plants

Indian Medicinal Plants

(Nees) Kosterm.

Synonym: Machilus macrantha Nees.

Family: Lauraceae.

Habitat: Bihar and Peninsular India, up to 2,100 m.

English: Machilus.

Action: Bark—antiasthmatic, antirheumatic, purgative.

The root gave phytosterols, glyco- sides and alkaloids, the major one being machiline, shown to be identical with dl-coclaurine. Machiline exhibits hypotensive activity.

The leaves are used in external applications for ulcers.... Indian Medicinal Plants

Indian Medicinal Plants


Family: Malvaceae.

Habitat: Throughout India in moist places.

English: Country Mallow.

Ayurvedic: Balaa (yellow-flowered var.), Sumanganaa, Khara- yashtikaa, Balini, Bhadrabalaa, Bhadraudani, Vaatyaalikaa.

Unani: Bariyaara, Khirhati, Khireti, Kunayi.

Siddha/Tamil: Nilatutti.

Action: Juice of the plant— invigorating, spermatopoietic, used in spermatorrhoea. Seeds— nervine tonic. Root—(official part in Indian medicine) used for the treatment of rheumatism; neurological disorders (hemiplegia, facial paralysis, sciatica); polyuria, dysuria, cystitis, strangury and hematuria; leucorrhoea and other uterine disorders; fevers and general debility. Leaves—demulcent, febrifuge; used in dysentery.

Ephedrine and si-ephedrine are the major alkaloids in the aerial parts. The total alkaloid content is reported to be 0.085%, the seeds contain the maximum amount. In addition to alkaloids, the seeds contain a fatty oil (3.23%), steroids, phytosterols, resin, resin acids, mucin and potassium nitrate.

The root contains alkaloids—ephed- rine, si-ephedrine, beta-phenethyl- amine, carboxylated tryptamines and hypaphorine, quinazoline alkaloids— vasicinone, vasicine and vasicinol. Choline and betaine have also been isolated.

A sitoindoside, isolated from the plant, has been reported to exhibit adaptogenic and immunostimulatory activities. Alcoholic extract of the plant possesses antibacterial and antipyretic propeptide. Ethanolic extract of the plant depresses blood pressure in cats and dogs.... Indian Medicinal Plants

Indian Medicinal Plants


Family: Compositae; Asteraceae.

Habitat: Introduced from Brazil; often cultivated in Indian gardens.

English: Brazilian Cress, Para Cress.

Ayurvedic: Mahaaraashtri, Marethi, Desi Akarkaraa. Aakaarakarab- ha of Ayurvedic medicine and Aaqarqarha of Unani medicine is equated with Anacyclus pyrethrum DC. (root is used); S. acmella and S. oleracea flowering heads are used as Desi Akarkaraa and should not be confused with the original drug.

Action: Flowers—used against scurvy, gum troubles, toothache and against bladder pains and gout.

The flower heads yield 1.25% of spilanthol from the pentane extract.

The fresh plant yields an essential oil consisting mainly of spilanthol and a hydrocarbon, spilanthene. The plant also contains cerotic acid, crystalline phytosterols, tannic acid, resin, potassium malate and large amounts of choline and potassium nitrate.... Indian Medicinal Plants

Herbal Medical

The previous subject is obviously an endless one, but as this is the glossary of an herbal nature, let me assure you, virtually no plants have a direct steroid hormone-mimicking effect. There are a few notable exceptions with limited application, like Cimicifuga and Licorice. Plant steroids are usually called phytosterols, and, when they have any hormonal effect at all, it is usually to interfere with human hormone functions. Beta sitosterol, found in lots of food, interferes with the ability to absorb cholesterol from the diet. Corn oil and legumes are two well-endowed sources that can help lower cholesterol absorption. This is of only limited value, however, since cholesterol is readily manufactured in the body, and elevated cholesterol in the blood is often the result of internal hormone and neurologic stimulus, not the diet. Cannabis can act to interfere with androgenic hormones, and Taraxacum phytosterols can both block the synthesis of some new cholesterol by the liver and increase the excretion of cholesterol as bile acids; but other than that, plants offer little direct hormonal implication. The first method discovered for synthesizing pharmaceutical hormones used a saponin, diosgenin, and a five-step chemical degradation, to get to progesterone, and another, using stigmasterol and bacterial culturing, to get to cortisol. These were chemical procedures that have nothing to do with human synthesis of such hormones, and the plants used for the starting materials-Mexican Wild Yam, Agave, and Soy were nothing more than commercially feasible sources of compounds widely distributed in the plant kingdom. A clever biochemist could obtain testosterone from potato sterols, but no one would be likely to make the leap of faith that eating potatoes makes you manly (or less womanly), and there is no reason to presume that Wild Yam (Dioscorea) has any progesterone effects in humans. First, the method of synthesis from diosgenin to progesterone has nothing to do with human synthesis of the corpus luteum hormone; second, oral progesterone has virtually no effect since it is rapidly digested; and third, orally active synthetic progesterones such as norethindrone are test-tube born, and never saw a Wild Yam. The only “precursor” the ovaries, testes and adrenal cortices EVER need (and the ONLY one that they can use if synthesizing from scratch) is something almost NONE of us ever run out of...Low Density Cholesterol. Unless you are grimly fasting, anorectic, alcoholic, seriously ill or training for a triathlon, you only need blood to make steroid hormones from. If hormones are off, it isn’t from any lack of building materials...and any product claiming to supply “precursors” better contain lard or butter (they don’t)...or they are profoundly mistaken, or worse. The recent gaggle of “Wild Yam” creams actually do contain some Wild Yam. (Dioscorea villosa, NOT even the old plant source of diosgenin, D. mexicana...if you are going to make these mistakes, at least get the PLANT right) This is a useful and once widely used antispasmodic herb...I have had great success using it for my three separate bouts with kidney stones...until I learned to drink more water and alkalizing teas and NEVER stay in a hot tub for three hours. What these various Wild Yam creams DO contain, is Natural Progesterone. Although this is inactive orally (oral progesterone is really a synthetic relative of testosterone), it IS active when injected...or, to a lesser degree, when applied topically. This is pharmaceutical progesterone, synthesized from stigmasterol, an inexpensive (soy-bean oil) starting substance, and, although it is identical to ovarian progesterone, it is a completely manufactured pharmaceutical. Taking advantage of an FDA loophole (to them this is only a cosmetic use...they have the misguided belief that it is not bioactive topically), coupled with some rather convincing (if irregular) studies showing the anti-osteoporotic value of topical progesterone for SOME women, a dozen or so manufacturers are marketing synthetic Natural Progesterone for topical use, yet inferring that Wild Yam is what’s doing good. I am not taking issue with the use of topical progesterone. It takes advantage of the natural slow release into the bloodstream of ANY steroid hormones that have been absorbed into subcutaneous adipose tissue. It enters the blood from general circulation the same way normal extra-ovarian estradiol is released, and this is philosophically (and physiologically) preferable to oral steroids, cagily constructed to blast on through the liver before it can break them down. This causes the liver to react FIRST to the hormones, instead of, if the source is general circulation, LAST. My objection is both moral and herbal: the user may believe hormonal effects are “natural”, the Wild Yam somehow supplying “precursors” her body can use if needed, rejected if not. This implies self-empowerment, the honoring of a woman’s metabolic choice...something often lacking in medicine. This is a cheat. The creams supply a steady source of pharmaceutical hormone (no precursor here) , but they are being SOLD as if the benefits alone come from the Wild Yam extract, seemingly formulated with the intent of having Wild Yam the most abundant substance so it can be listed first in the list of constituents. I have even seen the pharmaceutical Natural Progesterone labeled as “Wild Yam Progesterone” or “Wild Yam Estrogen precursor” or, with utter fraud, “Wild Yam Hormone”. To my knowledge, the use of Mexican Yam for its saponins ceased to be important by the early 1960’s, with other processes for synthesizing steroids proving to be cheaper and more reliable. I have been unable to find ANY manufacturer of progesterone that has used the old Marker Degradation Method and/or diosgenin (from whatever Dioscorea) within the last twenty years. Just think of it as a low-tech, non invasive and non-prescription source of progesterone, applied topically and having a slow release of moderate amounts of the hormone. Read some of the reputable monographs on its use, make your choice based solely on the presence of the synthetic hormone, and use it or don’t. It has helped some women indefinitely, for others it helped various symptoms for a month or two and then stopped working, for still other women I have spoken with it caused unpleasant symptoms until they ceased its use. Since marketing a product means selling as much as possible and (understandably) presenting only the product’s positive aspects, it would be better to try and find the parameters of “use” or “don’t use” from articles, monographs, and best of all, other women who have used it. Then ask them again in a month or two and see if their personal evaluation has changed. If you have some bad uterine cramps, however, feel free to try some Wild Yam often helps. Unless there is organic disease, hormones are off is because the whole body is making the wrong choices in the hormones it does or doesn’t make. It’s a constitutional or metabolic or dietary or life-stress problem, not something akin to a lack of essential amino acids or essential fatty acids that will clear up if only you supply some mythic plant-derived “precursor”. End of tirade.... Herbal Medical