With thanks to the Daily Mail 22.9.08:

A herbal medicine made from rosehips may regenerate joints in people crippled by arthritis, say scientists.

Studies show it can protect the cartilage cells which facilitate joint movement.

Researchers claim the red hips – one of nature’s richest sources of vitamin C – also improve activity levels by damping down an over-active immune system.

Nature’s source: Rosehips can regenerate arthritic joints

The Swiss studies looked at the action of the sugary fatty acid GOPO, the active ingredient in the rosehip supplement LitoZin.

Researchers from the department of human nutrition and health in Basle, Switzerland, measured the effects of different doses on human cartilage cells.

They found GOPO switched off genes responsible for producing proteins and enzymes which have been implicated in inflammatory joint destruction.

It also switched on genes that help produce collagen and cartilage, essential components of a healthy joint.

The findings were announced at the Osteoarthritis Research Society’s International World Congress in Rome.

One in two people of 50 and over suffers from osteoarthritis, particularly in the knees.

And again from the Daily Mail 16.9.08:

They’re bursting with health benefits, require no prescription and cost nothing. Research shows that Britain’s hedgerow plants are full of vitamins and antioxidants. Furthermore, scientists are investigating their uses as medicines for a host of conditions, including cancer and high blood pressure.

Rosehips: Orangey-red, oval berries, sometimes as much as an inch long. They’re the fruit of the dog rose and found in hedgerows from August until November. Seeds should not be eaten because they can irritate the mouth and stomach.

Contain: One of the richest sources of vitamin C, but also A, D and E, iron, calcium, antioxidants and fatty acids. Rosehip syrup was given to children during World War II for its vitamin C content. One cup of 30 berries contains as much as 40 oranges.

What’s new: Powdered rosehip is three times better at reducing the pain of osteoarthritis than paracetamol, according to research at the University of Copenhagen, though just why is unclear. There were also none of the sideeffects associated with conventional painkillers such as constipation, diarrhoea or drowsiness.

‘There is now good evidence for rosehips for osteoarthritis from a series of studies,’ says Professor Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula School of Medicine in Exeter and Plymouth.

At home: Make rosehip tea for a cold. Boil one tablespoon of fresh, ripe rosehips in two cups of water for ten to 15 minutes, and then strain, getting rid of any seeds. Traditionally sweetened with cinnamon. Rosehip can also be used to make jellies and syrup.

Tip: Remove hairs from rosehips before use because they can cause irritation – they were used in joke itching powders.

Hazelnuts: Grow in large clusters on hazel in the hedgerow and turn chocolate brown when ready. Usually harvested in the last week of September.

Contain: Good source of fibre, manganese, potassium, copper, thiamine, B6 and E, folate and antioxidants. Among nuts, they have the highest levels of monounsaturated fats.

What’s new: Oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid in hazelnuts, has been shown to lower bad cholesterol, while arginine, an amino acid, widens blood vessels and improves bloodflow.

Scientists at Hacettepe University in Turkey found that 11/2oz of hazelnuts a day lowers the risk of heart disease.

Men who consumed hazelnuts twice or more in a week had half the risk of dying of heart attack, according to American research.

Hazelnuts may also help fight cancer. Portland University researchers found they contain the chemical paclitaxel, which is the active ingredient in drugs used to treat ovarian and breast cancers.

At home: Can be eaten raw, roasted, fried, boiled or dried. Roasting adds flavour and preserves goodness.

Sloes: The fruit of the blackthorn bush, it is the ancestor of cultivated plums and the same colour, but smaller and more tart. Prolific in hedgerows now and can be picked until November. Usually too bitter to eat raw.

Contain: Vitamin C, antioxidants.

What’s new: Sloes may have an anti-bacterial effect, according to a study at the University of Salford. Polish researchers have found the fruit is high in the antioxidants that have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease.

At home: Sloe syrup has traditionally been used as a tonic to fight flu. Put 4lb of sloes in a pan, cover with boiling water, put on a lid and leave for 24 hours. Drain off the liquid, bring it to the boil and put back over the sloes. Repeat this process. Finally, strain the juice, add 11/2 lb sugar and bring to the boil before bottling.

Tip: If you wait to pick until October or November, or even after the first frosts, sloes are sweeter and juicier.

Blackberries: Hedgebrow berries in fruit from mid August to late September.

Contain: Have one of the highest antioxidant levels of any fruit. Also rich in vitamin C – a half-cup (three handfuls) provides 100 per cent of the recommended daily vitamin C for an adult. The compound that gives blackberries their colour, anthocyanins, is also a potent antioxidant.

What’s new: ‘Fresh berries are some of the most powerful disease-fighting foods available,’ say Oregon

University researchers. Blackberry is being tested for its use against lung cancer in women – scientists have found that the berries could reduce the oestrogen activity which feeds the tumour. Animal studies have shown similar effects.

At home: Best eaten straight off the bramble, but blackberry syrup is a traditional therapy for sore throats.

Bring to the boil three cups of blackberries, one cup of sugar, half a cup of water, grated zest from one lemon, and simmer for 15 minutes while stirring. Strain and cover, and put in the fridge for two weeks.

Tip: The lowest berry, at the tip of the stalk, is the first to ripen and the sweetest and fattest of all.

Hawthorn: Part of the rose family and a common sight in hedgerows, its small red berries (the size of a pea) taste similar to sweet potato. Can be used to make drinks, syrups and jelly.

Contains: Flavonoids and oligomeric procyanidins, which have antioxidant effects.

What’s new: Hawthorn extract (900mg/day) as a supplement taken for two months was as effective as low doses of captropril, a leading heart medication, in improving symptoms of heart failure, say researchers at Maryland University in America.

Hawthorn berries have been shown to combat chest pain in angina sufferers, and lower cholesterol.

Hawthorn leaves and fruit have also been found to be effective for high blood pressure in a group of patients with type 2 diabetes.

A study at the Institute for Medicinal Plants Research in Belgrade found hawthorn leaves and fruit to be a potent anti-inflammatory.

‘There is extremely good evidence for hawthorn and congestive heart failure,’ says Professor Ernst. ‘You should not self-medicate, but it is an approved medication in Germany.’

At home: Make hawthorn syrup as a tonic. Simmer one part hawthorn fruit in three parts water until the mixture is reduced by half. Add sugar to taste. Great on pancakes.

Tip: The leaves, which have a nutty flavour, can be eaten raw in salads.

Bilberries: Small, dark blue fruits (smaller than blackcurrants) found on bushes that grow to around 18 inches on heathland and moors. Related to the blueberry and can be eaten raw.

Contain: High levels of vitamin C and chemicals known as anthocyanosides – plant pigments that work as antioxidants and may help to prevent or reverse damage to cells in conditions such as heart disease, cancer and age-related eye conditions. Also contains tannins – an anti-inflammatory.

What’s new: A study at the University of Cincinnati is testing whether a juice made from the berries boosts memory in older people. In research similar to the blackberry study, researchers are also looking at the use of a compound found in bilberries for lung cancer in women.

At home: Bilberry tea is a traditional therapy for sore throats. Pour a cup of boiling water onto three teaspoons of crushed berries, leave for ten minutes, strain and drink.

Tip: Jam could be good for night vision, too. During World War II, British fighter pilots were reported to have improved night-time vision after eating bilberry jam.

Nettles: FoundĀ  in, around and under all hedgerows. September is the last month to harvest the leaves, as after this they wither.

Contain: Formic acid, an antibacterial, which is one of the key ingredients responsible for the stinging feeling on contact. Also contain the neurotransmitter serotonin, and histamine, which is involved in the immune system response.

What’s new: A study at Exeter and Plymouth universities shows that nettles may ease the pain of osteoarthritis of the knee. Serotonin and histamine in the nettles might block the pain signals.

At home: Make nettle tea for joint problems. Pour boiling water over a handful of fresh leaves in a warm tea pot. Leave for five minutes before straining and drinking.

Tip: A sprig of nettles in the kitchen is a traditional way to keep flies away.

Elderberries: Also known as the English grape, elderberry is abundant in hedgerows, where the blue-black fruits hang in large clusters in late summer and early autumn.

Contain: Rich in antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins, which have been shown to help treat diabetes and ulcers. May have antiviral and antibacterial effects.

What’s new: Anthocyanins in elderberry boost the immune system by increasing levels of cytokines – key compounds in the immune system defences. Anthocyanins may also help prevent obesity and diabetes, according to American research.

A study at the University of Graz in Austria showed that an extract made from elderberry lowers levels of bad cholesterol.

At home: Use elderberry cordial for a cold. Put berries in a saucepan, add a little water and cook until juice runs out. Strain off the juice, add 1lb of sugar for every pint of juice, and then boil until it is thick syrup before bottling.

Tip: When picking elderberries, use a fork to get them off the stalks to stop the fruit breaking up.

Hops: Plant with heart shaped leaves with serrated edges, and pendant-like whitish flowers.

Contain: Hops are high in bitter substances, known as humulone and lupulone, which stimulate the appetite.

What’s new: German researchers found that time spent in total sleep and deep sleep was 10 per cent greater in people taking a mix of hops and the herb valerian. It is thought that the relaxing effects are down to a compound in hops called dimethylvinyl carbinol.

A study at Howard University in America showed that hops also have an antiviral effect, while research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences showed that compounds in hops may work against HIV-1 infection.

At home: Put some hops in a pillow to combat insomnia.

AND A WARNING…

Make sure you have identified the correct plant, berry and leaf. Some are toxic. Do not self-medicate without seeking medical advice, especially if you have a diagnosed condition or are taking medication.