Sleep supplements found to contain habit-forming drug: warning

June 23, 2007  
Filed under Uncategorized

Health Canada release – Health Canada is advising consumers not to use Optimum Health Care SleePlus TCM or BYL SleePlus, because the products contain the undeclared drug clonazepam, which can be habit-forming when used for as little as a few months.

Consumers who may still have one of these products in their homes are advised to consult with a health care professional before they stop taking the pills, because of the risk of withdrawal symptoms.Optimum Health Care SleePlus TCM and BYL SleePlus have different names but are the same formulation, and both products are promoted as a sleep aid. The products are not authorized for sale in Canada.

Clonazepam belongs in the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which should only be prescribed by a health care professional. Clonazepam should not be used by people with an allergy to any benzodiazepines, such as Valium (diazepam), Restoril (temazepam) and Ativan (lorazepam), or those individuals affected by the neuromuscular disorder myasthenia gravis or by sleep apnea. Benzodiazepines, including clonazepam, should only be used by pregnant women if absolutely necessary and with caution by the elderly and those with a history of substance abuse. The side-effects associated with the use of products containing clonazepam vary according to the individual and can include dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, depression, loss of memory and hallucinations.

Salt Spring Herbals Sleep WellHealth Canada has issued four advisories on similar products since August 2006. Eden Herbal Formulation Serenity Pills II, Salt Spring Herbals Sleep Well Dietary Supplement, Sleepees and Eden Herbal Formulations Sleep Ease Dietary Supplement were advertised as herbal health products to relieve sleeping difficulty, and were found to contain the undeclared drug estazolam, also in the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. None of these products have been authorized for sale by Health Canada. Drugs and natural health products that are authorized for sale in Canada will have an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN), a Natural Product Number (NPN) or a Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM) on the label. These numbers indicate that the products have been assessed by Health Canada for safety, effectiveness and quality.

Optimum Health Care SleePlus TCM, labelled in Chinese script, was sold to patients by Optimum Health Care, a clinic in Vancouver. BYL SleePlus was distributed to retail stores by BYL Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Vancouver. The products are being recalled; however consumers may still have the product in their homes.

Consumers who have purchased Optimum Health Care SleePlus TCM or BYL SleePlus should return it to the place of purchase. To date, no adverse reactions suspected to be associated with the use of Optimum Health Care SleePlus TCM or BYL SleePlus have been reported in Canada.

Health Canada also advises Canadians to contact the Health Products and Food Branch Inspectorate at 1-800-267-9675 if they find Optimum Health Care SleePlus TCM or BYL SleePlus for sale in Canada.

Consumers requiring more information about this advisory can contact Health Canada’s public enquiries line at (613) 957-2991, or toll free at 1-866-225-0709.

FDA issues manufacturing standards for dietary supplements

June 23, 2007  
Filed under Uncategorized

PRWire – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today released its long-awaited final regulation on good manufacturing practices (GMPs) for dietary supplements.

The rule, according to the FDA, will ensure that “dietary supplements are produced in a quality manner, do not contain contaminants or impurities, and are accurately labeled.”

“We think the final regulation is strong, but more reasonable than the proposed version. It offers a more flexible framework in meeting standards, such as testing and facility design. This will help smaller companies control costs — costs that would have been be passed along to the consumer — while still maintaining quality standards,” said David Seckman, executive director and CEO of the Natural Products Association.

“At 800-plus pages we’ll need to take a longer, more careful look at this document to fully determine its impact on the industry and consumers, but it appears that FDA took some of our concerns into account.”

The regulations establish controls throughout the manufacturing process, including packaging, labeling, and storing, to ensure quality and purity standards are met. The final rule includes requirements for establishing quality control procedures, designing and constructing manufacturing plants, and testing ingredients and the finished product. It also includes requirements for recordkeeping and handling consumer product complaints.

“With heightened consumer concern over the safety of food ingredients, particularly those coming from overseas, this new regulation should help to increase consumer confidence in the dietary supplement products they buy,” said Seckman. “Consumers want to be assured that what’s on the label is in the bottle — nothing more, nothing less — and this regulation aims to make sure that is the case.”

The regulation released today will be officially published in the Federal Register next week. In addition to the final regulation on good manufacturing practices, the agency also issued an “interim final rule” for identity testing that will allow the public and others to comment.

Information about both the final GMP regulation and interim final rule can be found on the FDA Web site.

The Natural Products Association is the industry leader in self-regulation, having established its own GMP certification program for dietary supplements in 1999. This program is based upon third party inspections of manufacturing facilities to determine whether specified performance standards are being met. These standards include many of the same specifications seen in the final regulation.

The Natural Products Association is the nation’s largest and oldest non-profit organization dedicated to the natural products industry. The association represents nearly 10,000 retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of natural products, including foods, dietary supplements, and health/beauty aids.

Buddhist meditation is therapeutic to the brain: neuroimaging study

June 23, 2007  
Filed under Uncategorized

Dr Matthew LiebermanUCLA release – Why does putting our feelings into words — talking with a therapist or friend, writing in a journal — help us to feel better? A new brain imaging study by UCLA psychologists reveals why verbalizing our feelings makes our sadness, anger and pain less intense.

Another study, with the same participants and three of the same members of the research team, combines modern neuroscience with ancient Buddhist teachings to provide the first neural evidence for why “mindfulness” — the ability to live in the present moment, without distraction — seems to produce a variety of health benefits.

When people see a photograph of an angry or fearful face, they have increased activity in a region of the brain called the amygdala, which serves as an alarm to activate a cascade of biological systems to protect the body in times of danger. Scientists see a robust amygdala response even when they show such emotional photographs subliminally, so fast a person can’t even see them.

If you know you’re trying to pick yourself up, it usually doesn’t work – self-deception is difficult. Because labelling your feelings doesn’t require you to want to feel better, it doesn’t have this problem.

But does seeing an angry face and simply calling it an angry face change our brain response? The answer is yes, according to Matthew D. Lieberman, UCLA associate professor of psychology and a founder of social cognitive neuroscience.

“When you attach the word ‘angry,’ you see a decreased response in the amygdala,” said Lieberman, lead author of the study, which appears in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science.

Putting feelings into words produces therapeutic effects in the brain

The study showed that while the amygdala was less active when an individual labelled the feeling, another region of the brain was more active: the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. This region is located behind the forehead and eyes and has been associated with thinking in words about emotional experiences. It has also been implicated in inhibiting behavior and processing emotions, but exactly what it contributes has not been known.

“What we’re suggesting is when you start thinking in words about your emotions —labelling emotions — that might be part of what the right ventrolateral region is responsible for,” Lieberman said.

If a friend or loved one is sad or angry, getting the person to talk or write may have benefits beyond whatever actual insights are gained. These effects are likely to be modest, however, Lieberman said.

“We typically think of language processing in the left side of the brain; however, this effect was occurring only in this one region, on the right side of the brain,” he said. “It’s rare to see only one region of the brain responsive to a high-level process like labelling emotions.”

Many people are not likely to realize why putting their feelings into words is helpful.

“If you ask people who are really sad why they are writing in a journal, they are not likely to say it’s because they think this is a way to make themselves feel better,” Lieberman said. “People don’t do this to intentionally overcome their negative feelings; it just seems to have that effect. Popular psychology says when you’re feeling down, just pick yourself up, but the world doesn’t work that way. If you know you’re trying to pick yourself up, it usually doesn’t work — self-deception is difficult. Because labelling your feelings doesn’t require you to want to feel better, it doesn’t have this problem.”

Thirty people, 18 women and 12 men between ages of 18 and 36, participated in Lieberman’s study at UCLA’s Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center. They viewed images of individuals making different emotional expressions. Below the picture of the face they either saw two words, such as “angry” and “fearful,” and chose which emotion described the face, or they saw two names, such as “Harry” and “Sally,” and chose the gender-appropriate name that matched the face.

Lieberman and his co-authors — UCLA assistant professor of psychology Naomi Eisenberger, former UCLA psychology undergraduate Molly Crockett, former UCLA psychology research assistant Sabrina Tom, UCLA psychology graduate student Jennifer Pfeifer and Baldwin Way, a postdoctoral fellow in Lieberman’s laboratory — used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study subjects’ brain activity.

“When you attach the word ‘angry,’ you see a decreased response in the amygdala,” Lieberman said. “When you attach the name ‘Harry,’ you don’t see the reduction in the amygdala response.

“When you put feelings into words, you’re activating this prefrontal region and seeing a reduced response in the amygdala,” he said. “In the same way you hit the brake when you’re driving when you see a yellow light, when you put feelings into words, you seem to be hitting the brakes on your emotional responses.”

As a result, an individual may feel less angry or less sad.

This is ancient wisdom,” Lieberman said. “Putting our feelings into words helps us heal better. If a friend is sad and we can get them to talk about it, that probably will make them feel better.”

The right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex undergoes much of its development during a child’s preteen and teenage years. It is possible that interaction with friends and family during these years could shape the strength of this brain region’s response, but this is not yet established, Lieberman said.

One benefit of therapy may be to strengthen this brain region. Does therapy lead to physiological changes in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex? Lieberman, UCLA psychology professor Michelle Craske and their colleagues are studying this question.

Combining Buddhist teachings and modern neuroscience

After the participants left the brain scanner, 27 of them filled out questionnaires about “mindfulness.” Mindfulness meditation, which is very popular in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, originates from early Buddhist teachings dating back some 2,500 years, said David Creswell, a research scientist with the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

Mindfulness is a technique in which one pays attention to his or her present emotions, thoughts and body sensations, such as breathing, without passing judgment or reacting. An individual simply releases his thoughts and “lets it go.”

“One way to practice mindfulness meditation and pay attention to present-moment experiences is to label your emotions by saying, for example, ‘I’m feeling angry right now’ or ‘I’m feeling a lot of stress right now’ or ‘this is joy’ or whatever the emotion is,” said Creswell, lead author of the study, which will be featured in an upcoming issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, a leading international medical journal for health psychology research.

“Thinking, ‘this is anger’ is what we do in this study, where people look at an angry face and say, ‘this is anger,'” Lieberman noted.

Creswell said Lieberman has now shown in a series of studies that simply labeling emotions turns down the amygdala alarm center response in the brain that triggers negative feelings.

Creswell, who conducted the mindfulness research as an advanced graduate student of psychology at UCLA, said mindfulness meditation is a “potent and powerful therapy that has been helping people for thousands of years.”

Previous studies have shown that mindfulness meditation is effective in reducing a variety of chronic pain conditions, skin disease, stress-related health conditions and a variety of other ailments, he said.

Creswell and his UCLA colleagues — Lieberman, Eisenberger and Way — found that during the labeling of emotions, the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex was activated, which seems to turn down activity in the amygdala. They then compared participants’ responses on the mindfulness questionnaire with the results of the labeling study.

“We found the more mindful you are, the more activation you have in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and the less activation you have in the amygdala,” Creswell said. “We also saw activation in widespread centers of the prefrontal cortex for people who are high in mindfulness. This suggests people who are more mindful bring all sorts of prefrontal resources to turn down the amygdala. These findings may help explain the beneficial health effects of mindfulness meditation, and suggest, for the first time, an underlying reason why mindfulness meditation programs improve mood and health.

“The right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex can turn down the emotional response you get when you feel angry,” he said. “This moves us forward in beginning to understand the benefits of mindfulness meditation. For the first time, we’re now applying scientific principles to try to understand how mindfulness works.

“This is such an exciting study because it brings together the Buddha’s teachings — more than 2,500 years ago, he talked about the benefits of labeling your experience — with modern neuroscience,” Creswell said. “Now, for the first time since those teachings, we have shown there is actually a neurological reason for doing mindfulness meditation. Our findings are consistent with what mindfulness meditation teachers have taught for thousands of years.”

The research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health.

How does ginseng kill cancer cells?

June 21, 2007  
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CM NEWS – Ginseng, a herbal medicine used extensively for centuries in oriental medicine including Chinese, Korean and Japanese as a general tonic to promote longevity can be effective in combating cancer, diabetes, stress, fatigues and oxidants. These effects of ginseng are mainly attributed to a group of compounds called ginsenosides, which recent studies indicate that they might act in a similar way as steroid hormones. Read more

Machoism’s effect? Most men avoid preventive health measures: survey

June 18, 2007  
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PRNewswire – From skipping important health screenings to avoiding a visit to the doctor altogether, new results from a survey released by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) indicate men continue to fall short when it comes to managing their personal health.

The AAFP recently surveyed 2,282 men and women across the country about their health behaviours.

Among the findings:

  • More than half (55%) of all men surveyed have not seen their primary care physician for a physical exam within the past year.
  • Four in 10 (42%) men have been diagnosed with at least one of the following chronic conditions: high blood pressure (28%), heart disease (8%), arthritis (13%), cancer (8%) or diabetes (10%).
  • Almost one in five men (18%) 55 years and older have never received the recommended screening for colon cancer.
  • More than one out of four men (29%) say they wait “as long as possible” before seeking help when they feel sick or are in pain or are concerned about their health.

Despite this, almost 8 in 10 (79%) men describe themselves as in “Excellent,” “Very Good,” or “Good” health.

Men in the United States may not be as healthy as they say they are. The survey showed men spend an average of 19 hours a week watching television, and more than four hours a week watching sports, but just slightly more than one- third (38%) of men exercise on a regular basis.
And, the CDC estimates, almost three out of four (71%) men are overweight.

“One of the biggest obstacles to improving the health of men is men themselves,” said Rick Kellerman, M.D., President of the AAFP. “They don’t make their health a priority. Fortunately, 78 percent of the men with a spouse or significant other surveyed say their spouse or significant other has some influence over their decision to go to the doctor.”

Family physicians focus on prevention and the early detection of illness by treating the whole person and the whole family — men, women, children, and the elderly. Family physicians provide routine check-ups,health-risk assessments, immunizations, screening tests and personalized counseling on healthy lifestyle choices. They also manage chronic illnesses and coordinate care, when appropriate, with other specialists.

“Many men are unaware that simple screening tests and lifestyle changes can dramatically improve their quality of life,” Kellerman said. “Family physicians are well equipped to address men’s physical, mental and emotional health concerns and provide the medical guidance necessary to keep them in the best of health.”

For more information on men’s health and other family health topics, please visit

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive(R) on behalf of the American Academy of Family Physicians between April 30 and May 2, 2007, among 2,282 adults (aged 18 and older) 1111 of which were men. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

With a pure probability sample of 2,282, one could say with a 95% probability that the overall results would have a sampling error of +/- 5 percentage points. Sampling error for data based on sub-samples would be higher and would vary. However, that does not take other sources of error into account. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

Treating face paralysis by traditional Chinese medicine (photo story)

June 15, 2007  
Filed under Uncategorized


Traditional Chinese Medicine believe that face paralysis is caused by cold air freezing the Qi (life force) and blood that normally flow freely in the face. Meanwhile, western medicine diagnoses the condition as a viral infection that attacks the nerves in the face. TCM doctors treat patients with acupunture, as well as a ranged of other natural treatments. While they may look a bit unorthodox, many patients regain use of their facial muscles after several visits.

A walnut is placed on a patient’s eye and ignited dry moxa leaves in his ears during a traditional Chinese medical treatment for curing facial paralysis,at a hospital in Jinan, the capital of eastern China’s Shandong province. (Reuters)

A patient receives traditional Chinese medical treatment at a hospital in Jinan, China.
A patient receives traditional Chinese medical treatment at a hospital in Jinan,capital of eastern China’s Shandong province. Traditional Chinese Medicine viewsfacial paralysis as a deficiency of vital Qi, similar to deficiency in the immune system,resulting in an invasion of exogenous pathogenic factors and obstruction of channels

and collaterals.

A doctor prepares traditional Chinese medical treatment at a hospital in Jinan, China.Facial paralysis often occurs in the summertime, which traditional Chinese medicineattributes to the fact that people leave their windows open at night to stay cool.However, TCM explaines that the cold air freezes the Qi and blood so they no

longer can convey emotion with the face.

Patients place red bands across their eyes and ignited dry moxa leavesin theirears during a traditional Chinese medical treatment for curing facial cramps,at a hospital in Jinan, China.

A walnut is placed on a patient’s eye and dry moxa leavesare ignitedin his ears during a traditional Chinese medical treatment for curingfacial paralysis, at a hospital in Jinan, China.(All captions by Reuters)

‘Gold-plated’ catepillar fungus boosts immunity, lowers blood sugar

June 13, 2007  
Filed under Uncategorized

catepillar fungusCM NEWSCordyceps sinensis, or commonly known as catepillar fungus and dong chong xia cao (????) in Chinese, is an expensive traditional Chinese medicine well-known for its anti-tumour, immunostimulant and antioxidant functions. The catepillar fungus has also been proven to be anti-diabetic. Read more

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