Can Ginseng treat and prevent influenza?



Ginseng is the most commonly used name to refer to any of the 11 species from the perennial plant belonging to the Panax genus [1]. This perennial plant is known for its fleshy and full of properties roots. In fact Ginseng polysaccharide has been known to have multiple immunomodulatory effects, promoting the production of cytotoxic cells against tumors and stimulating macrophages to produce helper types 1 and 2 (Th1 and Th2) cytokines [9], a type of small proteins that affect the behavior of other cells. 

Among the different species from Ginseng one is specially known for its use in traditional Chinese medicine, Panax ginseng, a plant that is known since thousands of years and that has already been used for more than 2,000 years not only in China but also in Korea, other countries in Asia and most recently Europe and the rest of the world. Its commercial importance has exponentially grown over the past century. Now the question is, Can ginseng treat and prevent influenza?


Family: Araliaceae

Genus: Panax

Common name: Ginseng 


The origin of Chili peppers



Chili peppers, as they are commonly known, belong to the genus Capsicum, a genus that represents a complex variety of wild and domesticated species [2] which origin has long been discussed. In spite it was a general believe that the genus Capsicum originated in America, little was known about how long ago were they used as culinary ingredients. One added difficulty to achieve that is the fact that little is left after eating chili peppers, as most of them dissolve and are digested completely.

Only by analyzing the remaining of ancient pottery it was possible to find out an approximate date. In a study named "Prehispanic Use of Chili Peppers in Chiapas" where samples obtained from different pottery samples where analysed, it is mentioned how scientists believed that Chili peppers were used as culinary ingredients in different ancient dishes as well as part of beverage preparations used for religious purposes, in festivals or in a daily culinary use [2]. Other studies on the subject have brought more light into what seems to be the oldest domesticated food source in America. Image: Chili peppers by Morguefile.


Family: Solanaceae

Genus: Habanero

Common name: Habanero, yellow latern chili. 


From fossil fuels to poplars



I can't believe how did we managed to survive so long depending on fossil fuels. Crude oil, petrol, has been our main source of energy since the industrial revolution and about 90% of our vehicles nowadays use it as main source of energy, however this won't last long, or at least not long enough.

Other sources are needed and governments are desperately looking for other ones, some as the wind energy are already playing a big role in this migration towards renewable energies. Some countries are already meeting a big percentage of their daily needs using a combination of wind and solar energies, but those ones alone won't be able to meet our current and future needs, others as bio-fuel are being investigated.

Within these new options, some as algae, have been identified as a potential source for the replacement of petrol. Within this line, a new source of energy, poplars, has also been identified recently researchers of Michigan State University as another possible option towards the creation of future bio-fuels. Image: Morguefile.


Family: Salicaceae

Genus: Populus

Common name: Poplar


Health benefits of vanilla



Vanilla planifolia is an Orchid commercially cultivated for the production of natural vanilla flavor. The genus Vanilla belongs to the family Orchidaceae, which consists of more than 110 described species [2]. Orchids have been among us long before we thought, in fact ancient fossilized remains of a pollen-bearing bee as the first hint of orchids in the fossil record were found to be the first reference of their existance as Harvard University biologists recently discovered [16].

Their study suggest that orchids may have co-existed with dinosaurs some 76 to 84 million years ago, including groups of modern orchids as the genus Vanilla, that also evolved very early during the rise of the plant family [16], something that may remind us about others as Ginkgo biloba, a plant that belongs to a group of trees, the ginkgoales, with an existence on earth dated more than 200 million years ago. 

A lot has been said about Vanilla but in fact, the most important, the health benefits of vanilla, are so much and so important that it was due time to do it, let's see some of them. Image: Morguefile.


Family: Orchidaceae

Genus: Vanilla

Common name: Vanilla