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Four genes that reprogram adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells can also reverse some signs of ageing

Anti-Ageing Herbs


By —— Bio and Archives May 27, 2017

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Researchers at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, announced late last year that four genes that reprogram adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells can also reverse some signs of ageing [Cell: 167, 1719-1733 (2016)]. It was merely the latest in a long line of investigation into longevity.

Methuselah, son of Enoch, according to the Bible (Genesis 5.21) lived 969 years. The story of the Fountain of Youth was ancient before it became connected—erroneously—with Juan Ponce de L√©on, having surfaced in the 5th century B.C. writings of Herodotus, who was inclined to believe anything. Chinese medicine and myth is replete with accounts of anti-ageing herbs while India’s ancient Ayurvedic medicine is literally the “knowledge of longevity.”

Now, never a day passes without the popular press presenting fresh parables of pseudoscience proclaimed by entertainers and fellow travelers touting the latest way to a long life.

On The Dr. Oz Show, alternative health guru Dr. Joseph Mercola revealed his top ten herbs and spices to prevent disease and combat aging: Top of the list was turmeric, followed by cloves, cinnamon, all spice, ginger, oregano, marjoram, sage, thyme and basil.

Sage, Salvia officinalis, certainly has a long history as a promoter of longevity. The Romans called it the herba sacra, and the Italian medical school at Salerno declared: “Cur moriatur homo cui salvia crescit in horto?” (Why should a man die who grows sage in his garden?). A medieval English proverb advised:

He that would live for aye,

Must eat sage in May

One may or may not agree with Dr. Mercola ‘Top Ten’ herbs and spices but they certainly add to innumerable dishes of many a cuisine. If as well, they prolong life, it would prove a not unwelcome bonus.

Then there are traditional medicinal herbs often offered up by oriental cultures. Unfortunately, enthusiasts seldom seem able to agree in describing them. Or perhaps they do not live long enough to affirm their findings.

Asian Pennywort or Indian Pennywort, Centella asiatica, also known as Gotu Kola, is a common weed of tropical Asia. Wee Yeow Chin and Husian Keng (1990) record folklore longevity tradition of the T’ai chi ch’uan master Li Ching-Yuen who purportedly lived to be 197 or 256 partly because of his use of various traditional Chinese herbs including gotu kola. However, another source ascribes this to Chinese Knotweed or Fo-Ti, Polygonum multiflorum with the additional information that ‘Professor Li’ died in 1933 having outlived 23 wives, and leaving behind 11 generations of descendants. Certainly then, this would seem to be the ‘Elixir of Life.’

Various ginsengs also feature high on lists of longevities. Asian Ginseng, Panax pseudodoginseng, indeed This is considered to be a panacea. Closely related American Ginseng, Panax quinquefolius, has been suggested as having similar properties ever since its discovery in Canadian woods by Jesuit missionaries. They exported the roots to China at not inconsiderable profit. While not a true ginseng, Eleutherococcus senticosus or Siberian Ginseng is often offered up as an adaptogen, claimed to be used by Russian astronauts and athletes. Given recent revelations about the latter, some suspicions might be raised . . . Another Siberian herb, Maral Root, Leuzea carthamoides, is also said the be used by Russian athletes.

Buddha Fruit or Lou Han Gou, Siraitia grosvenorii, also known as Monksfruit are harvested from a cucumber-like vine from southern China. Eaten fresh, the bitter rind is used for making an infusion. Interestingly, this is accepted by the US FDA but not for any anti-ageing properties. However, it is believed in southern China to be a longevity aid. In areas in which it is cultivated people are claimed to commonly live to live to 100.

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One of the toughest plants to flourish in extreme northern climates is Roseroot, Rhodiola rosea (Golden Root, Hong jing tian). A perennial flowering plant of the Crassulaceae found through the Arctic from Asia and in eastern North America from Baffin Island to mountains of North Carolina and in the Alps of Europe. An acclaimed adaptogen for centuries in Scandinavia and Russia, research regarding its efficacy is contradictory. Most emphatically not approved by the FDA which demanded some products be withdrawn.

While Chin and Keng avoid any claims of Vietnam’s Gac Melon or Spiny Gourd, Momordica cochinchinensis, for promoting longevity, saying only that the seeds used to treat chest complaints, liver and spleen disorders, piles, malaria, wounds, bruises, swellings the bright orange fruit would certainly create a talking point in the vegetable garden. The seeds, as with many of the plants listed above are available from Richters.com.

Nevertheless, let Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) have the last word. “Money cannot buy health,” she observed, “but I’d settle for a diamond-studded wheelchair.”



Wes Porter -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Wes Porter is a horticultural consultant and writer based in Toronto. Wes has over 40 years of experience in both temperate and tropical horticulture from three continents.

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