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Articles from 2002 In October


RFI, Nat-Trop Merge

A merger agreement has been signed between RFI Ingredients, Blauvelt, NY and Nat-Trop, San Leandro, CA. Under terms of the merger, RFI will take over all operations of Nat-Trop and Nat-Trop will become a brand name under the RFI portfolio. Nat-Trop’s product line includes Chocamine™, a patent-pending cocoa extract and other South American botanicals such as Sumax™ Brazilian ginseng, acerola, guarana, maca, pau d’arco and yerba mate.

Paul Altaffer, Nat-Trop president, commented on the merger. “We are proud and happy to be affiliated with RFI Ingredients, which offers us strong sales and customer service capabilities. We believe the combined capabilities of the two companies will provide the best service to existing and future Nat-Trop customers.”

RFI chief executive officer Jeff Wuagneux added, “The merger with Nat-Trop provides us with valuable experience and high quality product lines in the South American market, rounding out our product offerings and building on existing capabilities in China, Europe and North America to allow us to offer true global sourcing.”

The merger was effective as of November 1. Nat-Trop customers can now call RFI for sales and customer service information at 800-962-7663. Mr. Altaffer will remain with RFI, heading up South American sourcing and new product development.

About RFI: RFI, Blauvelt, NY, is a leading supplier of innovative natural ingredients for the food, functional food and dietary supplement industries. The company specializes in proprietary GRAS products for functional food applications, antioxidants, antimicrobials and natural preservatives and natural colors and extracts.

About Nat-Trop: Founded in 1987 and headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, Nat-Trop, a division of New World Enterprizes, has become a leader in developing and marketing value-added and proprietary ingredients originating from popular food and other natural sources. The company creates proprietary nutritional blends and premixes and distinguishes itself through superior technical support, customer service and science based technology.

For more information:

Ellen Schutt, marketing director
RFI Ingredients
300 Corporate Drive, Suite 14
Blauvelt, NY 10913
Tel: 845-358-8600, ext. 121
Fax: 845-358-9003
E-mail: [email protected]

Editorial: It's About Efficacy

By Len Monheit
[email protected]

Many have been critical of Consumerlab.com, as they report various industry categories, but each time one of their reports gets published, questions get asked about natural products and supplements—in several cases, legitimate questions. One may disagree with the negative slant or the report focus on a few outliers, or the sensationalizing of results, but fundamentally, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

This past week, Consumerlab.com released a report based on the analysis of garlic products. (http://www.npicenter.com/index.asp?action=NBViewDoc&DocumentID=3476) examining thirteen non-aged and one aged garlic product. Although the titling of the report talked about strength variation, atypically, a key focus of this release was to compare shelf strength with efficacy data from research. The results indicated that one quarter of the non-aged garlic products yielded less allicin than what was considered therapeutic. When one compares this fact to the marketing material of the products examined, it is clear that marketing statements are consistently made with no connection to ingredient levels and research.

Critics will argue that in many cases, actives are unknown and determining efficacious amounts based on marker compounds is not acceptable practice. Yet tying marketing statements to the science and only allowing these statements to be used if certain levels are met would seem responsible on the part of ingredient suppliers and the industry as a whole. When you combine this approach with a higher awareness and cataloging of products, processes and batches of materials used in trials and studies, you begin to produce a framework of statement qualification. At a certain point, perhaps you’re even able to make a ‘privileged claim’, supported by either an industry supported regulatory framework or possibly even regulatory authorities themselves that truly differentiates your product and company, that translates into value and market share and at the same time, provides a barrier to the cannibalization of science and IP.

Perhaps this is just a wistful moment, but I cannot help but feel that tying analytical results of products on store shelves to ingredient and therefore product efficacy is a strong step in the right direction.

There are stories of companies using nominal amounts of ingredients so that these appear on the label and the company can then benefit from powerful consumer associations and the marketing efforts of innovators. There are also examples of companies who take cheaper ‘knock-offs’ of proprietary ingredients at a fraction of the cost and incorporate them into finished goods. The financial benefits are obvious, and if the market environment permits it, to some, particularly those with a short term focus, this practice makes good business sense.

This does create a responsibility issue, though, one which I’m sure some ingredient suppliers are pointing out. If a junior buyer makes an ingredient switch and marketing makes a misleading or inappropriate statement (not to speak of any potential safety issues) , or if the product developers (outsourced or internal) knowingly put less than adequate and efficacious amounts of an ingredient into a final product, ultimately, whose responsibility is it? In these days of increasing focus on corporate responsibility, at the highest level of the organization, it’s not hard to imagine senior executives, directors and managers with a renewed interest in how their products are made and just what goes into them.

High selenium consumption may protect ex-smokers from bladder cancer

PHILADELPHIA, PA. -- Former smokers with high quantities of selenium in their toenails experienced half as many bladder tumors as their counterparts with low amounts of the element, according to a study published in the November issue of the American Association for Cancer Research's journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention.
By comparison, the study found that selenium – present in certain foods and supplements -- appeared to have little or no effect on non-smokers or current smokers. A possible explanation, the scientists suggest, is the element's reputed anti-oxidant activity.

"The lack of effect of selenium status among non-smokers is consistent with this hypothesis, since those who never smoked have not been exposed to smoking induced oxidative stress," said Maurice P.A. Zeegers, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and the study's lead author.

Also participating in the study, titled "Prediagnostic Toenail Selenium and Risk of Bladder Cancer," are Alexandra Goldbohm, with the Department of Nutritional Epidemiology at TNO Nutrition and Food Research, Zeist, the Netherlands; Peter Bode, with the Interfaculty Reactor Institute, Delft University of Technology; and Peit van den Brandt, also with the Department of Epidemiology, Maastricht Univerity, in Maastricht.

Bladder cancer is the most common cancer of the urinary tract and is the seventh most common cancer among men, accounting for about 200,000 new cases per year worldwide. Over the last four decades, many epidemiological studies and several reviews have suggested that bladder cancer is linked to environmental factors, including cigarette smoking, diet, fluid consumption, shistosomal infections and exposures to industrial chemicals.

Past research has suggested that diets rich in selenium result in lower incidences of cancer, particularly lung, colorectal and prostate cancers.

The most important dietary sources of selenium are meats, fish, cereal, dairy products and eggs. Some nuts, particularly Brazil nuts, contain high quantities of this element.

This latest study, supported by the Dutch Cancer Society, represents the largest and most definitive evidence that selenium intake may help prevent bladder cancer in both men and women, particularly among former smokers.

Study participants included some 120,852 men and women living in the Netherlands, including 431 with bladder cancer, enrolled in a larger population-based prospective study on diet and cancer. Each participant was asked to complete a questionnaire on risk factors for cancer -- including diet, exposure to industrial chemicals, and smoking history – and to provide toenail clippings to detect trace quantities of selenium.

"A selenium marker should preferably reflect long-term selenium intake," said Dr. Zeegers. "For this reason, we used levels of selenium in toenails to assess selenium intake instead of serum selenium, a short-term marker of selenium intake.

"Available evidence suggests that selenium levels in toenails reflect intake integrated for the previous 12 months or longer."

Results of this prospective study showed that men and women in groups with the highest quantities of selenium in their toenails -- at least 30 percent higher than the lowest quantities of selenium -- experienced slightly fewer cases of bladder cancers.

However, the biggest impact was seen among former smokers. No other factor, including other known anti-oxidants including Vitamin C, E and beta-carotene, lowered the incidence of bladder cancer in the study groups. What's more, the association was mainly confined to invasive carcinomas of the bladder. It's been recently suggested that urinary bladder cancer might be divided into two separate diseases: non-invasive and invasive. In addition to different prognostic and pathogenic properties, these two diseases appear to result from diverse molecular events.

"Further research is needed to evaluate the influence of selenium on one of bladder cancers, the invasive form, when compared to the non-invasive form," said Dr. Zeegers.

###

Hyla Cass noted author to present at Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine

NUTRITIONAL MEDICINE TODAY

presents

HYLA CASS, M.D.


Natural Highs: Supplements, Nutrition, and Mind/Body Techniques to Enhance Your Mood and Energy, Naturally

For details:
http://www.cassmd.com

A graduate of the University of Toronto School of Medicine, Dr. Cass is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, UCLA School of Medicine, and the author of several best-selling books, the latest being Natural Highs: Supplements, Nutrition, and Mind/Body Techniques to Help You Feel Good All the Time. A frequently sought-after lecturer and consultant, she has appeared on numerous radio and TV shows.

Tuesday, November 5 at 7:30 PM

Admission $10, $8 (students and seniors)

Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine
1255 Sheppard Ave. East (at Leslie)

For more information phone (416) 733-2117

ISOM - International Society for Orthomolecular Medicine


Natural Highs
Supplements, Nutrition, and Mind/Body Techniques to Help You Feel Good All the Time

Wouldn't it be great to get a quick energy boost without a cup of coffee? Or calm frazzled nerves at the end of the day with something that's good for you? Or feel euphoric and blissed out without drugs?

You can. Psychiatrist Hyla Cass shows you how to do it by enhancing your brain's own natural-high chemicals using substances that have no harmful side effects and will not leave you feeling hungover or energy-lagged.

In her fascinating and useful new book, Natural Highs (Avery, $23.95, June 2002), she combines the latest research in neurochemistry with her study of ancient mind-altering herbs and plants to present the most thorough guide anywhere to safe, non addictive substances that can boost or balance your own brain chemistry.

Scientists have begun to understand that moods, energy, memory, and even a feeling of spiritual oneness are largely governed by specific chemicals produced in your own brain.

The author explains how the brain works to keep us high: why certain chemicals and hormones kick in, get suppressed, or combine synergistically to help us feel euphoric, deeply relaxed, or electrifyingly alert.

Then she offers practical ways to balance your own brain chemistry naturally with nutrients, supplements, and mind/body techniques so you can:

… Manage stress effectively and feel relaxed without drugs
… Regain the boundless energy you had as a child
… Sleep deeply through the night and wake up refreshed
… Beat the blues and regulate moods without prescription medication
… Prevent mental deterioration, boost memory, and raise IQ
… Feel connected with others, and experience mind-expanding states safely
… Live your life free of caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol, pot, and antidepressants

With this book's questionnaires, top tips, chapter-by-chapter action plans, at-a-glance tables, dosage recommendations, and an extensive resource section, you will discover everything you need to experience a natural high.

About the Author and Expert

Hyla Cass, MD, author of Natural Highs, is Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and a pioneer whose work in integrating nutritional medicine with psychiatry in her clinical practice has attracted widespread acclaim. She is President of Vitamin Relief USA, a foundation that is currently providing daily multivitamins to at-risk children around the country, with remarkable results, including improvement in learning, attention, overall health, and self esteem. The children have also shown a marked reduction in violent behavior, a current major concern in our schools today. The Foundation is embarking on a national study funded by US Congress, to demonstrate these benefits, with the goals being to improve our children's future, and educate the public in this vital area.

Her holistic approach to psychiatry stems from the idea that deeper physical or physiological components often play a key role in fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Treating biochemical imbalances using safe, natural products and complementary therapies often takes care of psychological, mental, and emotional issues, and decreases or eliminates the need for prescription medications.

A sought-after educator, lecturer, and consultant in the areas of complementary medicine, psychiatry, and personal growth, Cass has been featured in many newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times, Cosmopolitan, Time Magazine, and People. She is comfortable behind the mike and camera and as well, having lent her expertise to numerous radio talk shows and such television programs as CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and Geraldo.

Along with dozens of articles she has penned for scientific journals and health magazines, Cass is the author of several previous books, including St. John's Wort: Nature's Blues Buster; Kava: Nature's Answer to Stress and Insomnia; All About Herbs; User's Guide to Ginkgo; and User's Guide to Vitamin C. Her website is www.cassmd.com.

Delicious Living

November 1, 2002

Patents File

Gut-benefit products were probably the first to achieve prominence in the international functional foods market, and they remain the leading sector in most countries. Judy Davis takes a look at new product developments by companies pushing these technologies forward.

New Probiotic Strain
Probiotics are microorganisms that beneficially influence the health of the host—for example, by decreasing levels of harmful bacteria, by stimulating immunity or by producing short-chain fatty acids that reduce colonic pH and improve mineral absorption. The bacterial genera most commonly associated with probiotic activity are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. A patent from US-based Bio Balance Corp. describes a new probiotic preparation in which the active microorganism is Escherichia coli strain BU-230-98.

The invention includes a specific volatile fraction of a plant extract, prepared by steam distillation, which is claimed to ensure lasting viability of the microorganisms. Because the preparation is in liquid form, it is immediately active following ingestion and can be incorporated into food products. According to the patent application, this probiotic is able to restore normal gastrointestinal flora, improve weight gain and enhance immune function. (PCT Patent Application WO 02/43649)

Skin Immunity
In addition to improving gastrointestinal health, probiotics also can improve the immune status of the skin, according to researchers working for Nestlé in Switzerland. The finding provides the basis of a probiotic patent recently filed by the company. In particular, the patent suggests that probiotics might help the skin to combat the effects of overexposure to the sun, mediated by UV-light-induced immuno-suppression. Lactobacillus johnsonii and L. paracasei are the probiotics of choice. These can be included in functional foods aimed at improving the immune activity of the skin in response to stress, and reducing the skin's tendency to subsequent allergic or hypersensitive reactions. (PCT Patent Application WO 02/28402)

Prebiotic Vitamin-enriched Drinks
To be considered prebiotic, a compound needs to be resistant to hydrolysis, digestion and fermentation by microflora in the upper digestive tract, must selectively stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon and preferably suppress pathogenic bacteria. Arabinogalactin, a soluble fibre found in many edible sources, meets these criteria.

Procter & Gamble has now filed patents for health drinks incorporating this prebiotic fibre. The drinks are additionally fortified with vitamins. According to the inventors, the inclusion of arabinogalactin has the effect of stabilising fat-soluble vitamins and improving their solubility. Despite the presence of up to four per cent arabinogalactin, the drinks are claimed to lack the viscosity problems generally associated with fibre-containing drinks. (PCT Patent Applications WO 02/26055, WO 02/26054, and WO 02/26053)

Synbiotic Ice Cream
'Synbiotics' are a combination of live microbial probiotics with prebiotic fibre, the premise being that combining the two should enable greater survival of the probiotic and improved implantation in the colon. Research is still in its infancy and very few synbiotics are as yet commercially available.

Nestlé, however, has recently been granted a US patent for a novel ice cream with synbiotic properties. The product, which contains probiotic lactic acid bacteria together with prebiotic fibre, is structured so that contact between bacteria and fibre is prevented until consumption, thus forestalling excessive fermentation during the production stages. The probiotic microorganisms are included in the ice cream itself, preferably in a microencapsulated form, whilst the prebiotic fibre is incorporated into chocolate-coated wafers or biscuit layers. (US Patent 6,399,124)

Food Poisoning Prevention
UK company St. Ivel has filed a patent for food products containing an antimicrobial synbiotic combination of probiotic Lactobacillus plantarum and prebiotic oligosaccharides, such as oligofructose, inulin or xylooligosaccharide. According to the patent, this combination is particularly effective for preventing the growth of food poisoning bacteria, such as Escherichia coli, Campylobacter jejuni and Salmonella enteritidis, in the large intestine. The product can be a cultured or noncultured dairy product, such as yoghurt, cheese, spreads, sauces or milk drinks. (UK Patent Application 2 369 777)

New RDAs Add Bulk To Functional Fibre Category

United States

For the first time in the US, fibre intake levels have been established in order to address chronic health conditions.

The new US National Academy of Sciences report revises recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for carbohydrates, to between 45 per cent and 65 per cent of daily calories; for fats, to 20 to 35 per cent; while protein is unchanged, at 10 to 35 per cent.

Of particular interest to the food industry is the provision regarding fibre, with a definition that includes "dietary fibre" and "functional fibre"—the latter of which must possess measurable physiological benefits. The combination of the two equals "total fibre," with RDAs at 38g/day for adult men and 25g/day for adult women.

"This three-part definition varies from the single definition most governments use," said Leila Saldanha, PhD, VP of nutritional sciences at the Consumer Health Products Association in Washington, DC. "It may pose challenges for international harmonisation."

The report acknowledges this: "As nutrition labeling becomes uniform throughout the world, it is recognised that a single definition of fibre may be needed. Furthermore, new products are being developed or isolated that behave like fibre, yet do not meet the traditional definitions of fibre, either analytically or physiologically. A lack of consensus among international groups exists."

Fibre suppliers say the report will raise public awareness. For food technologists, the functional fibre category offers opportunities because the daily fibre intake is likely too high to meet without supplementing or eating a functional food product. "Because our OatVantage soluble fibre is more concentrated, it'll probably fall into the functional fibre category," said Greg Stephens, VP of sales and marketing for Nurture, based in Devon, Pennsylvania. "This differentiates it from commodities like guar gum."

The complete report is available online at www.nap.edu/books/0309085373/html/

First Soy Health Claim Adopted In Europe

Europe

Europe's first generic health claim for soy products has been approved here following a decision taken by the country's self-regulating health claims body, the Joint Health Claims Initiative (JHCI).

The claim is based on scientific evidence submitted by the Soy Protein Association in conjunction with other UK and European trade associations.

It means soy products manufacturers that sell products in the UK and meet certain criteria are now able to label their products with the claim, "The inclusion of at least 25g of soya protein per day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat, can help reduce blood cholesterol levels." The claim also can be used in UK advertising campaigns.

JHCI Chairman Roger Manley said: "Examination of all the evidence and an independent decision is of great value to consumers. They no longer have to believe just what the seller tells them."

To carry the claim, products must contain a minimum of 6.25g of soy protein per serving and also state the level of soy protein per serving and its proportion of the recommended 25g/day.

Products must also have retained their naturally occurring isoflavones, meet the requirements for a 'low saturates' nutrient claim and not imply that consuming more or less than 25mg/day is advantageous.

Make your own natural toothpaste and mouth rinse

Make a simple natural toothpaste and mouth rinse with these recipes from Philip Memoli, DMD, dean of the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey-based Institute of Natural Dentistry.

Old-fashioned Toothpaste
 

2 teaspoons baking soda
2-3 teaspoons peroxide
1-2 drops tea tree (Melaleuca spp) oil

Put baking soda in a small bowl; combine peroxide and tea tree oil in another small bowl. Dip your toothbrush in peroxide, then into the baking soda, and brush gently.

Herbal Mouth Rinse
 

Echinacea (Echinacea spp)
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
Filtered water

Pour boiling water on dried bulk herbs (2 teaspoons per cup of water), or teabags. Strain, cool, then swish. Refrigerate extra rinse.

—D.N.


 

A reason to grin

Oral health care means more than preventing cavities and polishing your pearly whites; the way in which you treat your mouth can have far-reaching physical consequences. Although you may religiously employ the old standbys—toothbrush, paste, and floss—to maintain healthy teeth and gums, you may not realize that your daily oral regimen also affects your body's total well-being, possibly even helping prevent heart disease.

In any case, good brushing and flossing habits alone aren't enough to protect your teeth and gums—you also need a sound diet and lifestyle. "The best regimen for oral health is systemic health," says Philip Memoli, DMD, dean of the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey-based Institute of Natural Dentistry. "The mouth is a reflection of your overall health. If there's a problem with your body, oral disease presents itself, be it through tooth decay or gum disease."

Your smile, it appears, reveals to the world much more than your mood. Here are some tips to help you make your mouth the best it can be.

Gum Mayhem
So what can go wrong inside your mouth—other than getting an occasional cavity or having a severe case of halitosis? One major oral offender is periodontal disease, or gum disease, an infection caused by bacteria that accumulate between the teeth and gums. Be extra-vigilant about preventing this problem: It's the major cause of tooth loss in adults.

Your daily routine should include a regular toothbrush, a stimulator toothbrush, a tongue cleaner, and floss. Periodontal disease begins when the bacteria in plaque cause the gums to become inflamed. Bacterial toxins irritate the gums and trigger a chronic inflammatory response leading to tissue and bone destruction. Gums then separate from the teeth, forming pockets where infections begin. According to the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), periodontal bacteria can enter the bloodstream and travel beyond the mouth to major organs and begin new infections. This may even contribute to heart disease and increase the risk of stroke. Although genetics influence a person's predisposition to periodontal disease, other risk factors include hormonal changes, stress, and smoking (Journal of Periodontology 1999, vol. 70, no. 7; 2000, vol. 71, no. 5). Luckily, there are ways to reduce your chances of developing gum disease, mainly through diet and proper mouth cleaning.

Diet Matters
One of the best ways to protect your mouth is to take a whole-body approach to oral health care. A well-rounded, nutritious diet is a great place to start. Both calcium and vitamin C, for example, support robust teeth and gums, according to the AAP. Conversely, an unbalanced diet with too much sugar and processed foods increases the risk for tooth and gum problems. A poor diet, cautions Memoli, weakens the immune system, which can cause tooth decay, receding gums, and jaw bone loss. Memoli recommends a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, with some protein to help sustain the immune system.

By making his patients aware of their diets, Dick Thom, DDS, ND, of Natural Choices Health Clinic in Beaverton, Oregon, sees improvements not only in oral health, but also in whole-body wellness. Thom makes similar dietary recommendations, emphasizing whole foods and minimizing saturated fats and processed foods. Drinking plenty of water, he adds, not only keeps tissues lubricated but reduces bad breath, tooth decay, and infection. One more reason to get your eight to ten daily glasses.

Tools Of The Trade
Keeping your mouth clean, however, is still the most important way to prevent mouth disease. And here's the good news: "If you 'disorganize' plaque within a 24-hour period," says Thom, "you'll keep the incidence of tooth decay and periodontal disease to a pretty minimal level." He recommends your daily routine include a regular toothbrush (electric toothbrushes aren't necessary), a stimulator toothbrush (also called a sulcus brush), a tongue cleaner, and floss. A stimulator toothbrush has two rows of bristles and is typically used without toothpaste to massage the gums, which Thom says improves blood and lymphatic circulation, thereby removing waste products.

Toothbrush designs vary widely, from the I-forgot-to-pack-my-toothbrush $2 specials to various ergonomically-shaped brushes—some with unique flexing capabilities and bristle differentiations only marketers can appreciate. Dentists agree that the right toothbrush is the one you enjoy using so you'll brush longer and more frequently. Try different shapes and switch often to see what feels best to you. After all, Thom says, most people don't replace their toothbrushes often enough. (Replace yours when the bristles begin to fray; this could be every few weeks to every few months.) The pros say to opt for soft bristles and go easy on your teeth and gums. "People tend to act like they're scrubbing the floor when they brush their teeth," says Thom. "You don't need to brush hard."

Choosing a toothpaste is another personal decision, most likely driven by flavor and texture. Many natural toothpastes feature nonabrasive vegetable fibers in lieu of the sand and chalk found in some other brands. Some are saccharine- and sugar-free. Natural toothpaste ingredients also often include herbs that are astringent, antibacterial, and soothing, plus essential oils to add flavor. Toothpaste purists can even mix a batch themselves (see "Make Your Own"). Many dentists who espouse natural oral care recommend avoiding toothpastes with fluoride and sodium laurel sulfate—ingredients that some believe are toxic. But Thom says the extremely small amounts people are exposed to from toothpaste aren't worth worrying about. "People are exposed to a lot of other additives in the food they eat compared with what they're getting in toothpaste," he says. "I'm more interested that they brush their teeth, period."

Surprisingly, Thom says toothpaste is optional, though using it does help people to brush longer—something we could all stand to do. Turns out, most people brush for less than a minute when it might take three or four to clean teeth thoroughly. If you're speeding through the process, consider setting a timer or brushing for the length of a song to stay motivated. Brush after every meal if possible, twice a day minimum, plus clean your tongue and floss your teeth daily.

Although the benefits of breath-freshening toothpastes are often touted in commercials, researchers have shown that 90 percent of bad breath is from bacteria on the tongue, not the teeth (Journal of the American Dental Association, 1998, vol. 129, no. 11). To combat this, dentists recommend scrapers and tongue brushes, which are specifically designed to remove bacteria from the tongue's crevices. These tools are also less likely to trigger the gag reflex, which toothbrushes often do. Tongue brushes can be used alone or with toothpaste.

Myriad kinds of flosses and rinses stand in colorful array on supermarket shelves. Natural choices include infused flosses made with essential oils and enzymes that help eliminate plaque, reduce tooth decay, and freshen breath. Mouth rinses enhanced with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial herbs, such as echinacea (Echinacea spp), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), and tea tree (Melaleuca spp), are also available. If you can't find one that suits your tastes, try making your own (see recipe). Soothing aloe vera and astringent witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) are nice additions to some mouth rinses, but avoid rinses containing alcohol, which can dry sensitive mouth tissues (Acta Odontologica Scandinavica, 1993, vol. 51, no. 1).

No matter how tedious they may seem, daily brushing, flossing, tongue cleaning, and mouth rinsing do help prevent gum and maybe even heart disease. Likewise, a healthy diet helps maintain a healthy mouth. So take care of your teeth—and simultaneously take a bite out of other serious health risks.

Dena Nishek, a freelance writer and editor, has renewed her vow to floss daily.