Alternative Health & Holistic Medicine D-F

A glossary of terms including vitamins, minerals, herbs and supplements.

A-C | D-F | G-I | J-M | N-Q | R-T | U-Z

D.Ac.: Doctor of Acupuncture.

D.C.: Doctor of Chiropractic.

D.D.: Doctor of Divinity.

D.H.M.: Doctor of Homeopathic Medicine.

D.N.: 1. Doctor of Naprapathy (see below). 2. Doctor of Nutripathy. 3. Doctor of Naturology.

D.O.: Doctor of Osteopathy.

D.Pharm.: Doctor of Pharmacy.

Daidzein, Genistein A type of phytoestrogen found in soybeans and soy-based foods which may reduce menopause symptoms.

Dandelion   Is a bitter but nutritious herb prepared from the roots and leaves of the well-known, yellow flowered weed. Traditionally, the young leaves have been eaten as salad green and have been used in herbal medicine for diuretic action. The roots are used to help stimulate appetite and digest rich, fatty foods.

dental cariesPopularly known as cavities, dental caries occur when bacteria in the mouth feed on fermentable carbohydrates and produce acids that dissolve tooth enamel. Various conditions affect this process, such as heredity and the composition and flow of saliva. Any fermentable carbohydrate (starches and sugars) can serve as food for cavity-causing bacteria. The amount of carbohydrate is not as important as how often these foods are eaten and how long they stay in the mouth. Widespread use of fluoride in water supplies and oral health products is credited with the dramatic decline in dental caries among children and adults alike over the past 20 years. Also, see "fluoride."

Depression   A mental disorder marked by an altered mood. There is loss of interest in all usually pleasurable outlets such as food, sex, work, friends, hobbies or entertainment.

Dextrose   A simple sugar of the monosaccharose group; a crystalline solid that can be made by the action of acids on starches.

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)   This Omega-3 fatty acid is a major structural component of brain, nerve and retinal membranes. DHA is transformed to newborn babies through breast milk. This fatty acid plays a unique role in fetus development and is extremely important during the first few months of life.

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone)   This is the most abundant hormone. It is a precursor to other hormones. Like other hormones, the production of DHEA decreases with age, produced by the adrenal gland. Primary function is to produce estrogen and testosterone.

Diabetes   A condition characterized by the body's inability to produce enough insulin to use it properly. Diabetes is found in two forms: Insulin dependent and non-insulin dependent. The name for a group of medical disorders characterized by high blood sugar levels. Normally when people eat, food is digested and much of it is converted to glucose—a simple sugar—which the body uses for energy. The blood carries the glucose to cells where it is absorbed with the help of the hormone insulin. For those with diabetes, however, the body does not make enough insulin, or cannot properly use the insulin it does make. Without insulin, glucose accumulates in the blood rather than moving into the cells. High blood sugar levels result.

diallyl sulfide A type of sulfide/thoil found in onions, garlic, olives, leeks and scallions which may provide the health benefits of lowering LDL cholesterol and of maintaining a healthy immune system.

Dicalcium phosphate   A compound used as a source as calcium to supplement the diet.

Dietary fiber – Consists of both soluble (dissolves in water) and insoluble (does not dissolve in water) fiber. Diets high in dietary fiber and low in fat may have a protective effect against many chronic illnesses, including heart disease and some cancers, and may reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans Issued by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services (USDA/DHHS) every five years, the Dietary Guidelines are based on scientific consensus and form the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy. The fifth edition, issued in 2000, contains ten guidelines. Its message, built around three actions "Aim, Build and Choose," strives to motivate Americans with the following advice: 1) Aim for Fitness 2) Build a Healthy Base and 3) Choose sensibly. This revised set of guidelines is the first to recommend daily physical activity and the first to include a guideline specific to food safety.

divination (divining): Alleged supernatural (a) foreseeing of events or (b) attainment of occult knowledge.

DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol)   Precursor to neurotransmitters, which are substances released into the body, permitting the nervous system and the muscles to function properly. DMAE is naturally present in fish.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid): Any of various acids that are found in cell nuclei and are the principal components of chromosomes; the molecular basis of heredity.

DNA Also known as Deoxyribonucleic acid. This is the molecule that carries the genetic information for most living systems. The DNA molecule consists of four bases (adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine) and a sugar-phosphate backbone, arranged in two connected strands to form its characteristic double-helix.

doctor: 1. One whose occupation is to treat diseases, particularly a physician, dentist, or veterinarian with an appropriate license. 2. A teacher (particularly at a college or university), a scholar, or one who holds a postgraduate degree (especially a Ph.D. degree). 3. A shaman.

Dong Quai   A favorite Chinese herb for women, is derived from the root of Chinese angelica. It is used primarily in formulas for its anti-spasmodic and related menstrual functions. Don Quai should not be taken during pregnancy.

double-blind placebo-controlled study Considered the "gold standard" of clinical research studies, the double-blind placebo-controlled study provides dependable findings that are free of bias introduced by either the subject or the researcher. In this type of study, neither the subject nor the researcher conducting the study know whether the test substance or a placebo has been administered. For the results to be valid and to ensure that the subject cannot violate the "blindness," the placebo and the test substance must be virtually identical (i.e., look, smell and taste similar). The "blindness" of the study is crucial. It eliminates the possibility that a participant’s personal beliefs will undermine the study’s validity. It also prevents the researcher’s expectations from influencing the test results.

E. coli: O157:H7 The bacteria Escherichia coli: O157:H7 is a type of E. coli associated with foodborne illness. Healthy cattle and humans can carry the bacteria. It can be transferred from animal to animal and animal to human, and from animal to human on food. Transmission from person to person through close contact is a potential problem, especially among young children in daycare.

eating disorders Eating disorders may be classified as anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeating, binge eating, or any combination of these. Each is based on specific diagnostic criteria.

ecchymosis: 1. An epidermal or mucous-membrane spot discolored by the coagulation of blood from ruptured blood vessels. 2. The process of such discoloration.

Echinacea   Known to many as the "purple coneflower", echinacea resembles the daisy and can be traced back hundreds of years to Native Americans. It is popular for its ability to support natural resistance.

ecologist An individual who studies the interrelationships between organisms and their environment.

Ed.D.: Doctor of Education.

edema (dropsy): The presence of excessive watery fluid in intercellular (especially subcutaneous) spaces or in a bodily cavity; the condition characterized by such presence; and/or the swelling that the presence of excessive fluid causes.

Elderberry   Is a shrub native to Europe that has been used for centuries for its numerous health benefits. The edible berries are rich in Vitamin C and get their dark color form their high anthocyanin and bioflavonoid content. They are primarily used to treat flu symptoms and as an immunostimulant. Anthocyanins are special class of bioflavonoids, which offer powerful antioxidant protection against cellular aging. The increased popularity of elderberry is based on research that suggests it is useful in treating cold and flu symptoms by increasing the body's immune system response.

ellagic acid A natural-cancer fighting agent found in strawberries.

endocrine disruption Not considered as an adverse endpoint per se but as a step or mechanism that could lead to toxic outcomes, such as cancer or adverse reproductive effects.

enriched foods Enriched foods are those that nutrients have been added to replace the nutrients which were lost during food processing. For example, B vitamins are lost in processing wheat to white flour and these are then added back to the flour.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) The EPA's mission is to protect human health and safeguard the natural environment—air, water and land—upon which life depends. Through regulation, EPA tries to ensure the human population and the environment are protected from environmental risks and exposures.

Enzyme   Proteins produced by the cells that are crucial in chemical reactions and in building up or synthesizing most compounds in the body. Each enzyme has a specific function. The two classes of enzymes are metabolic and digestive. Metabolic enzymes catalyze the many chemical reactions in the body. Digestive enzymes are responsible for breaking down food into smaller absorbable units. There are specific enzymes that break down protein, fat and carbohydrate; these are protease, amylase and lipase respectively. Any of numerous proteins and protein-nonprotein compounds that living cells produce and that can initiate, or affect the speed of, specific chemical reactions.

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)   EPA and DHA are Omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids have been linked to cardiovascular health and lower incidence of several types of cancer. EPA is found in mackerel, salmon, herring, sardines and albacore tuna.

Ephedra (Ma Huang)   Also known as yellow river, General of Respiration and Mormon Tea. Ma Huang is a Chinese herb whose active ingredient is ephedra (ephedrene). In recent years there have been many concerns surrounding the use of Ma Huang. However, when taken according to prescribed instructions and warnings, Ma Huang is a safe natural product. The dietary supplement industry has been working with the FDA to set dosage limitation and standard warnings for all ephedra-containing products. If you use ephedra products, please read the label directions and warnings prior to use. Not intended for use by persons under 18 years of age.

Ephedrine – A sympathetic nerve stimulant resembling adrenaline, its effect on the unstriped muscular fibres is remarkable. It acts promptly in relieving swellings of the mucous membrane. It has valuable antispasmodic properties, acts on the air passages and is of benefit in asthma and hay fever; it is also employed for rheumatism; a 5 to 10 per cent solution has mydriatic properties, prophylactically used for low blood pressure in influenza, pneumonia, etc. Used in tablet form for oral or hypodermic administration and in ampuls for hypodermic, intramuscular and intravenous use. It can advantageously be used in solution with liquid paraffin, either alone or in conjunction with methol camphor and oil of thyme. Dose, 1/2 to 1 grain. Synonyms include Ephedra, and Ma Huang.

epidemiology The study of distribution and determinants of diseases or other health outcomes in human populations. It seeks to expose potential associations between aspects of health (such as cancer, heart disease, etc.) and diet, lifestyle, habits or other factors within populations. Epidemiological studies may suggest relationships between two factors, but do not provide the basis for conclusions about cause and effect. Possible associations inferred from epidemiological research can turn out to be coincidental.

epinephrine An adrenal hormone that stimulates autonomic nerve reaction. It is used in the treatment of anaphylaxis to open airways and blood vessels.

Ergogenic   Having the ability to increase work, especially to increase the potential for work output.

erythema: Inflammation or abnormal redness of skin or mucous membranes, especially epidermal redness that is localized or patchy and caused by congestion and dilatation of capillaries.

Essential Fatty Acids   Cannot be synthesized in humans and must be provided with food. EFA's are found in supplements such as flax seed oil. Borage oil, black currant oil. and evening primrose oil. EFA's are precursors for two groups of polyunsaturated fatty acid series omega-3 and omega-6.

Ester C   Ester C is a trademarked Vitamin C that contains calcium ascorbate. It is a non-acidic, bioavailable (easy to absorb) version of Vitamin C.

Estrogen   One of the female sex hormones produced by the ovaries.

Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)   An American herb that is popular among women, it is especially popular during the menstrual cycle. It contains high concentration of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an important omega-6 fatty acid that provides energy for growth and development.

Excipient   Any substance added to a medicine so that it can be formed in to the proper shape and consistency; the vehicle for the drug.

exogenous: Originating or developed outside a particular system (e.g., a living being or a bodily cell) or induced or introduced in a particular system by exterior factors or agents.

experimental group The group of subjects in an experimental study which receives a treatment.

fat replacers Fat replacers are developed to duplicate the taste and texture of fat, but contain fewer calories per gram than fat. Fat replacers generally fall into three categories: carbohydrate-, protein- or fat-based. The ingredients that are used to replace fat depend on how the food product will be eaten or prepared. For example, not all fat replacer ingredients are heat stable. Thus, the fat replacer that worked well in a salad dressing may not work well in a muffin mix.

Fats – Provide essential fatty acids that cannot be produced by the body. They transport fat-soluble vitamins and regulate blood cholesterol levels. Provide energy when the body’s carbohydrate level is depleted. Provide protection to vital organs. While fats are essential to the body, many people consume much more than necessary to remain healthy. The body's most concentrated source of energy. All fats are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms arranged in combinations of glycerol and fatty acids. Fats found in food are either in solid or oil form. In the body, fat is part of all cell membranes, where it serves as a stored form of energy, helps cushion organs and helps create certain hormones.Fats are referred to in the plural because there is no one type of fat. Fats are composed of the same three elements as carbohydrates—carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, However, fats have relatively more carbon and hydrogen and less oxygen, thus supplying a higher fuel value of nine calories per gram (versus four calories per gram from carbohydrates and protein). One molecule of fat can be broken down into three molecules of fatty acids and one molecule of glycerol. Thus, fats are known chemically as triglycerides. Fats are a vital nutrient in a healthy diet. Fats supply essential fatty acids, such as linoleic acid, which is especially important to childhood growth. Fat helps maintain healthy skin, regulate cholesterol metabolism and is a precursor of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that regulate some body processes. Dietary fat is needed to carry fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and to aid in their absorption from the intestine.

Fat-soluble   The class of substances found primarily within the fatty portion of foods. The fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, K usually occur in the fats and oils of foods. They are absorbed initially into the lymph glands and then the blood. They are less readily excreted and tend to remain in the body for longer periods of time than the water-soluble vitamins.

Fatty acid   Chemical chains of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms that are part of fats and are the major component of triglycerides. Fatty acids are often referred to as saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Fatty acids are generally classified as saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. These terms refer to the number of hydrogen atoms attached to the carbon atoms of the fat molecule. In general, fats that contain a majority of saturated fatty acids are solid at room temperature, although some solid vegetable shortenings are up to 75 percent unsaturated. Fats containing mostly unsaturated fatty acids are usually liquid at room temperature and are called oils.

FDA The Food and Drug Administration. In the United States, the FDA is an official regulatory body for foods, drugs, cosmetics and medical devices. It is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

fertilizer Any organic or inorganic material, either natural or synthetic, used to supply elements (such as nitrogen, phosphate and potash) essential for plant growth. If used in excess or attached to eroding soil, fertilizers can become a source of water pollution.

ferulic acid A type of phenol found in various fruits and vegetables and citrus fruits which has antioxidant like activities that may reduce the risk of degenerative diseases, heart disease and eye disease.

Feverfew   Also known as featherfew or bachelor's button. Feverfew provides dietary support for normal, healthy cerebral blood vessel tone. Its active ingredients include camphor, terpene and borneol. Other ingredients include B complex, magnesium, selenium, iron and vitamins A and C.

Fiber   Also called dietary fiber and roughage. Fiber is the part of the plant that is resistant to the body's digestive processes. Fiber retains water, thus making stool softer and bulkier by speeding up the passage of stool and keeping the colon clean. Fiber helps the stomach empty itself of food and provides an all-natural way to promote regularity and colon health. Dietary fiber generally refers to parts of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and legumes that can't be digested by humans. Meats and dairy products do not contain fiber. Studies indicate that high-fiber diets can reduce the risks of heart disease and certain types of cancer. There are two basic types of fiber - insoluble and soluble. Soluble fiber in cereals, oatmeal, beans and other foods has been found to lower blood cholesterol. Insoluble fiber in cauliflower, cabbage and other vegetables and fruits helps move foods through the stomach and intestine, thereby decreasing the risk of cancers of the colon and rectum.

Fingerprinted herb   Scientifically confirmed to be the true botanical species. Tested and analyzed using thin layer chromatography to verify the herb's true identity. This verification method is as accurate and reliable as human fingerprinting. Whole ground herb is minimally processed; dried and pulverized. Offers the widest assortment of single and combination herbs. Economically priced.

Fish oil   The fatty acids in fish oil have been found to be a rich source of omega fatty acids such as DHA and AA which helps to support the cardiovascular system.

Five Elements (Five Phases): Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire as manifestations ("phases" or "transformations") of chi. The expression "five elements" derives from two Chinese words: wu ("five") and xing ("move" or "walk"). Its implicit meaning is "five processes." According to ancient Chinese cosmology, the Five Elements compose everything. In Chinese medicine, each of the Five Elements symbolizes a group of physiologic functions: "Earth" (soil) represents balance or neutrality; Metal (coal, fossils, and inorganic matter), decay; Water (moisture), a state of maximum rest leading to a change of functional direction; Wood (organic matter), a growth phase; and Fire (gases), maximum activity.

flavanones A type of flavonoid found in citrus fruits which provides the health benefits of neutralizing free radicals and possibly reducing the risk of cancer.

flavones A type of flavonoid found in various fruits and vegetables which provides the health benefits of neutralizing free radicals and possibly reducing the risk of cancer.

Flax Seed Oil   One of Nature's source of Alpha Linolenic acid (Omega-3) Adequate levels of omega fatty acids are needed for healthy and radiant skin and hair.

fluorideFluoride is a natural component of minerals in rocks and soils. Widespread use of fluoride in water supplies and oral health products is credited with the dramatic decline in dental caries among children and adults alike. All water contains fluoride, but it is sometimes necessary to add it to some public supplies to attain the optimal amount for dental health. Fluoride makes tooth enamel stronger and more resistant to decay. It also prevents the growth of harmful bacteria and interferes with converting fermentable carbohydrates to acids in the mouth.

Folic acid – Vitamin important in the synthesis of DNA, tissue growth and the production of red blood cells. As a member of the B-Vitamin family, folic acid (or folate) is active as a co-enzyme helping chemical reactions take place. Folic acid also has been indicated as a dietary factor in the prevention of neural tube defects, congenital disorders and more recently, as an ingredient that can support the cardiovascular system. Folic acid, folate, folacin, all form a group of compounds functionally involved in amino acid metabolism and nucleic acid synthesis. Good dietary sources of folate include leafy, dark green vegetables, legumes, citrus fruits and juices, peanuts, whole grains and fortified breakfast cereals. Recent studies show, if all women of childbearing age consumed sufficient folic acid (either through diet or supplements), 50 to 70 percent of birth defects of the brain and spinal cord could be prevented, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.) Folic acid is critical from conception through the first four to six weeks of pregnancy when the neural tube is formed. This means adequate diet or supplement use should begin before pregnancy occurs. Recent research findings also show low blood folate levels can be associated with elevated plasma homocysteine and increased risk of coronary heart disease.

folk medicine: Those medical (e.g., herbal) practices of persons not formally educated in medicine that are based on common sense, superstition, and/or tradition.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) The Food and Drug Administration is part of the Public Health Service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the regulatory agency responsible for ensuring the safety and wholesomeness of all foods sold in interstate commerce except meat, poultry and eggs (which are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture). FDA develops standards for the composition, quality, nutrition, safety and labeling of foods including food and color additives. It conducts research to improve detection and prevention of contamination. It collects and interprets data on nutrition, food additives and pesticide residues. The agency also inspects food plants, imported food products and feed mills that make feeds containing medications or nutritional supplements that are destined for human consumption. And it regulates radiation-emitting products such as microwave ovens. FDA also enforces pesticide tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency for all domestically produced and imported foods, except for foods under USDA jurisdiction.

food combining (food mixing): Any practice whose postulate is that the degree of a meal's conduciveness to health depends chiefly or considerably: (a) on the proportion of carbohydrate, fat, protein, and acid in each of its macroscopic components, or (b) on nonmaterial attributes of these components.

Food Guide Pyramid The Food Guide Pyramid is a graphic design used to communicate the recommended daily food choices contained in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The information provided was developed and promoted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

food idiosyncrasy Non-allergic reaction to food or food component that occurs through unknown mechanisms.

food intolerance A general term for any adverse reaction to a food or food component that does not involve the body’s immune system.

food irradiation The exposure of food to sufficient radiant energy (gamma rays, x-rays and electron beams) to destroy microorganisms and insects. Irradiation is used in food production and processing to promote food safety.

food preservatives All preservatives prevent spoilage either by slowing the growth of organisms that live on food or by protecting the food from oxygen. Antimicrobials are preservatives that protect food by slowing the growth of bacteria, molds and yeasts. Antioxidants are preservatives that protect by preventing food molecules from combining with oxygen (air).

Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) A law (enacted in August 1996) which significantly amended the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and thus provided increased protection for infants and children from pesticide risk. The new safety standard resulting from FQPA is a "reasonable certainty of no harm" standard for aggregate exposure using dietary residues and all other reliable exposure information.

food safety Food safety is a relative and not absolute matter. Relative food safety can be defined as the practical, certainty that injury or damage will not result from food or ingredient used in reasonable and customary manner and quantity.

foodborne disease Disease, usually gastrointestinal, caused by organisms or their toxins carried in ingested food. Also commonly known as "food poisoning."

fortified foods Fortified foods have nutrients added to them that were not present originally. For example, milk is fortified with vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus found naturally in milk.

Free radical Highly reactive substances that result from exposure to oxygen, background radiation, and other environmental factors. These free radicals cause cellular damage in the body. The damage may be repaired by antioxidants. Unstable molecules, usually containing oxygen, created by normal chemical processes in the body as well as by radiation and other environmental influences. The interaction of free radicals with DNA and other molecules leads to impaired functioning of the cells.

Fructooligosaccharide (FOS)   Which are founded in many vegetables consist of short chains of fructose molecules. When they are consumed, a portion remains undigested, forming a "friendly bacteria" that helps improve colon function.

fructo-oliogosaccharides (FSO) A type of prebiotic/probiotic found in Jerusalem artichokes, shallots and onion powder which may improve gastrointestinal health.

fructose Fructose is a monosaccharide found naturally in fruits, as an added sugar in a crystalline form and as a component of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

fruit Fruit is the usually edible reproductive body of a seed plant, especially one having a sweet pulp associated with the seed.

functional component Those components in food that provide special health benefits. The abilities of these functional components may reduce cancer risk, aid digestion, decrease risk of tooth decay or improve various other body functions or reduce disease risk.

Functional food – Food or food ingredient that has been shown to affect specific functions or systems in the body. Functional foods play an important role in disease prevention. Foods that may provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Examples include tomatoes with lycopene, thought to help prevent the incidence of prostate and cervical cancers; fiber in wheat bran and sulfur compounds in garlic also believed to prevent cancer.

fungicide A chemical that is mixed with wax and applied to fruits or vegetables to prevent mold and rot from developing.