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Herbal antioxidants are derived from plants and help prevent damage caused by free radicals within the body. Free radicals are organic molecules that are responsible for tissue damage, aging and possibly some types of diseases. Many health professionals have encouraged the use of herbal antioxidants in the fight against free radicals. Among the different kinds of herbal antioxidants are grape seed extract, milk thistle, bilberry and pine bark extract.
Until the late 20th century, most people had never heard of free radicals or the detrimental effects that one could suffer from excessive exposure to them. Researchers have come a long way in their understanding of how free radicals form, what damage they inflict on the body and the best defenses against them. Free radicals are believed to cause a host of serious health problems such as cancer; atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries; diabetes; and a variety of other degenerative diseases.
Herbal antioxidants have also been referred to as anti-aging supplements, because they can reduce cell damage caused by oxidation at the molecular level. When an apple is cut in half and left sitting out on the counter for a while, it turns brown. After a prolonged period, the apple will dry out and wither. When the inside of an apple is exposed to oxygen in this way, it begins to deteriorate. The same thing happens to people when they are constantly exposed to free radicals; they begin to age.
Grape seed and pine bark extracts contain high concentrations of oligomeric proanthocyanidin (OPC) which is considered one of the most potent antioxidants. OPC is thought to support optimal circulation. In addition, grape seed and pine bark are among the few herbal antioxidants that can penetrate the blood-brain barrier and thus protect against free radical damage to brain cells.
Milk thistle is from the daisy family of flowering plants. The seeds of the milk thistle are reported to be a powerful antioxidant source that detoxifies the liver. Some research suggests that it can reverse liver damage by repairing cells and promoting cell regeneration. Additionally, clinical trials have shown that milk thistle also has the ability to reduce inflammation.
Bilberry extract is another weapon in the arsenal of highly effective herbal antioxidants. Bilberry contains anthocyanoside. Research has suggested that this chemical is beneficial in treating eye diseases. Studies have shown that bilberry extract can help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. Some individuals who suffer from poor circulation have found bilberry to be helpful in strengthening their weakened blood vessels.
Even though herbal antioxidants are widely used and many individuals are convinced of their benefits, it is important for them to be used with caution. It is advisable for one to seek a doctor's counsel when taking natural supplements. Patients should inform their physician of all medications and supplements that they are currently taking to ensure that there is no danger of harmful drug interactions.