|Botanical: Persea americana
Family: Lauraceae (laurel)
Other common names: Alligator Pear, Midshipman's Butter, Aguacate, Palta, Butter Pear
Discover the beauty secrets that the ancient Mayans knew about the Avocado. This delicious and nutritious fruit with its healthy high fat content appears to fight the ravages of age, sun and wind damage as it softens and smoothes the skin. Its high mineral, vitamin and nutrient compounds help to support healthy cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, improve brain function, fight serious malignant disease and promote good eye health.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
The Avocado probably originated in southern Mexico sometime between 7000 and 5000 B.C., and was cultivated from the Rio Grande to central Peru by 500 B.C. This nutritious fruit has been a part of the New World diet for over two thousand years. The Aztecs called the Avocado the Nahuatl word, ahuacatl, meaning "testicle," because of its shape, and considered it to be a sexual stimulant. The Mayans thought it to be a multifaceted beauty treatment for smooth skin and lustrous hair, and the Spanish conquistadors, who could not pronounce the Aztec name, changed it to a manageable aguacate. The first English-language mention of Avocado was by Sir Henry Sloane in 1696, and by 1871, when Judge R. B. Ord of Santa Barbara, California, successfully introduced avocados to the United States with trees from Mexico, growers soon afterward realized the potential of the Avocado as a valuable cash crop. A single California Avocado tree can produce up to sixty pounds of fresh fruit (or about 120 Avocados) annually, and it is a fruit - not a vegetable - and is actually botanically classified as a berry. The Avocado tree is a dense, perennial, evergreen tree that may reach a height of eighty feet, and the fruit of the Alligator Pear (one of its common names) is highly nutritious and has a soft, smooth, buttery flesh with a bland, nutlike flavor. The fat content of the flesh is very high, and the center of the fruit has a large smooth stone (pit). The skin of the Avocado has a coarse texture and may vary from green to maroon in color. The flowers are inconspicuous, greenish-yellow, and the size of the fruit may also vary from one to eight inches in length, with a weight of between two ounces to four pounds. There are three cultivated species of Avocado: Mexican, Guatemalan and West Indian, with many hybrid forms among all three types. Although not low in calories, the Avocado is nourishment-dense and rich in more than twenty five essential nutrients, including more protein, fiber, an exceptionally high potassium content (sixty percent more than banana), magnesium, vitamin E, folate, thiamin, niacin and riboflavin than any other of the twenty most commonly eaten fruits. The Avocado is naturally cholesterol and sodium free and also includes rich sources of chlorophyll, lutein, phosphorus, glutathione, beta-sitosterol, alpha- and beta-carotene, B-vitamins and vitamin K.
Avocado is exceptionally nutritious; it is a wonderful source of phytonutrients, which are thought to help combat many diseases. Its high potassium content helps to balance electrolytes and relieve cramps. Moreover, Avocado acts as a "nutrient booster" by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha- and beta-carotene, as well as lutein (nutrients important for good eyesight).
Avocados are a source of lutein, a carotenoid or pigment compound, which is also found in other green vegetables like spinach, kale and broccoli, and it is believed to promote good eye health. The lutein content is said to filter or absorb cell-damaging, high-energy blue light from the visible light spectrum, which may protect human cells in the eye's retina.
High in carbohydrates, Avocados are useful in the treatment of malnutrition, anorexic conditions and bulimia.
Avocados are thought to be very beneficial for good heart health. The fruit contains healthy fatty acids, which help to reduce artery-clogging LDLs (the "bad" cholesterol), while increasing HDLs (the "good" cholesterol). Recent studies in a V. A. Hospital in Florida have indicated that blood samples taken from those who ate Avocados showed a definite decrease in serum cholesterol. This action works to improve circulation to the heart, brain and elsewhere in the body, as well as reduce hypertension. Avocado may help meet the dietary guidelines set forth by the American Heart Association, which are to eat a diet that is low to moderate in fat, and the fats should be primarily unsaturated and low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Avocado is virtually the only fruit that contains monounsaturated fat. Furthermore, the high fiber content has been said to be helpful in achieving and maintaining good coronary health.
Avocados help in treating constipation as a quick and fast-acting laxative that promotes a vigorous bowel movement. The Avocado's high fiber content may also play a contributing role in this important function.
The beta-sitosterol, a
phystosterol found in Avocado, is thought to have a beneficial effect on prostate health. According to a paper presented by Dr.
John Birkbeck, Professor of Nutrition at Massey University in New Zealand, the sitosterol
has been used in the management of a variety of conditions, including benign prostatic hypertrophy, as carried out in a trial reported in the British medical journal, The Lancet, and in fact is the basis of drugs sold in Germany for this purpose. There is also evidence that phytosterols may reduce the risk of malignant prostate disease at least in animal models.
High in vitamin E, vitamin A and lutein content, Avocado acts as an antioxidant, helping to reduce the harmful free radicals that can occur in cells and contribute to cell and tissue damage. The protective qualities that enable lutein to protect plant cells from sunlight and oxidative stress may also protect human cells in the skin and other organs and tissues from these same free-radical damaging factors.
For thousands of years Avocado has been considered a beauty treatment and to possess anti-ageing properties as an emollient that helps to improve dry skin. It works internally (perhaps because of its high vitamin E content) toward the surface of the skin, soothing deep muscle inflammation; and applied topically, the oil extract keeps both the skin soft and the hair lustrous. Avocado fights the ageing process and helps the skin ward off the damaging effects of sun and wind. There is some evidence that Avocado may be of some help in relieving symptoms of osteoarthritis when applied topically (see below for related article).
Further combating the ageing process, Avocado is said to help improve brain function. Steven Pratt, M.D., who is on staff at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California, wrote, in 2006, that Avocados may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, since the reduced cholesterol and increased blood circulation not only helps to lower blood pressure but also improves blood flow to the brain, which is said to promote brain health, as hypertension is considered a risk factor for the decline in cognitive abilities.
Recent evidence indicates that Avocado may be very helpful for relieving osteoarthritis. A combination of Avocado and Soybean unsaponifiables (an extract made from Avocado and Soybean) is considered one of the most promising arthritis remedies. Four high-quality clinical trials suggest that the extract can improve the pain and stiffness of knee and hip osteoarthritis and reduce the need for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). It appears to decrease inflammation and stimulate cartilage repair. In France, Avocado and Soybean extracts have been approved as a prescription drug.
Regarding blood sugar balance, there is some dispute with regard to Avocado's actions upon insulin production and glucose levels. Recent American Diabetes Association findings present evidence that a diet high in monounsaturated fat can improve glucose tolerance and may also reduce insulin resistance allowing for better control of the disease. While the new dietary guidelines warn that total fat intake should be limited, people with diabetes are encouraged to replace saturated fats with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and Avocados are the only fruit that provides this fat. On the contrary, Avocados contain a rare seven-carbon sugar called D-Mannoheptulose that is said to depress insulin production and may, therefore, raise glucose levels and thus be effective in cases of hypoglycemia. Obviously, there has been nothing definitive written with regard to Avocado's evident affects on blood sugar, but, hopefully, continuing research will light the way. Concurrently, the D-Mannoheptulose is also the subject of an Oxford University study regarding how this Avocado sugar extract may be helpful to patients with malignant tumor cells by limiting glucose uptake of those cells.
Currently, there are no warnings or contraindications with the use of Avocado Herbal Supplement.