Alternative Health & Holistic Medicine U-Z

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

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

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) The United States Department of Agriculture comprises of many agencies charged with different tasks related to agriculture and our food supply. Among these is ensuring a safe, affordable, nutritious and accessible food supply. The USDA also enhances the quality of life for the American population by supporting production of agricultural products; caring for agricultural, forest and range lands; supporting sound development of our rural communities; providing economic opportunities for farm and rural residents; expanding global markets for agricultural and forest products and services; and working to reduce hunger in America and throughout the world.

umami In addition to the four main taste components (sweet, sour, salty and bitter), there is the additional taste characteristic called "umami" or savory. One of the food components responsible for the umami flavor in foods is glutamate, an amino acid. Also, see "glutamate" and "MSG."

Unsaturated fats   Fats that may be either semisolid or liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are missing hydrogen atoms in specific places on the fatty acid molecule. Depending on the number of missing atoms, these fats are classified as monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Sources of these fats are plants and fish.

Valerian   Also known as capon's tail, all-heal, garden heliotrope and English valerian. Valerian promotes restful sleep and has a distinct odor. Valerian's active ingredients include volatile oils, acetic acid, formic acid, glycosides, valeric acid and valerine. It also contains calcium and magnesium. Promotes restful sleep

validity The extent to which a study or study instrument measures what it is intended to measure. Refers to accuracy or truthfulness in regard to a study's conclusion.

Valine   An essential amino acid that your body cannot manufacture, valine is essential for protein structure.

Vanadyl sulfate – Trace mineral which works like insulin to increase the amount of glucose and amino acids driven into the muscle.

variable Any characteristic that may vary in study subjects, such as gender, age, body weight, diet, behavior, attitude or other attribute. In an experiment, the treatment is called the independent variable; it is the factor being investigated. The variable that is influenced by the treatment is the dependent variable; it may change as a result of the effect of the independent variable.

veganism: The custom of refraining from using, or at least from ingesting, anything derived from animals.

Vegetable stearate   A specified saturated fat. It is either palm oil or palm kernel oil.

vegetarian According to the Vegetarian Resource Group, less than 1 percent of Americans are true vegetarians. Such people never eat meat, fish or poultry, although they may eat foods derived from animals such as dairy products and eggs (lacto-ovo vegetarians). There are even fewer vegans, strict vegetarians who avoid all animal-derived foods -- even honey.

virus A simple, noncellular particle (entity) that can reproduce only inside living cells (of other organisms). The simple structure of viruses is their most important characteristic. Most viruses consist only of a genetic material—either DNA or RNA—and a protein coating. Viruses are “alive” in that they can reproduce themselves, but they have none of the other characteristics of living organisms. Viruses cause a large variety of significant diseases in plants and animals, including humans.

vital force (bioenergy, cosmic energy, cosmic energy force, cosmic force, cosmic life energy, cosmic life force, elan vital, energy of being, force of life, force vitale, inner vital energy, internal energy, life, life energy, life force, life force energy, life power, life source energy, nerve energy, nerve force, personal energy, spirit, subtle energy, universal energy, universal life energy, universal life energy power, universal life force, universal life force energy, universal life principle, vital cosmic force, vital element, vital energy, vital energy force, vitality, vital life force, vital life force energy, vitalistic principle, vitality energy, vital life spirit, vital magnetism, vital principle, vital spirit): An alleged nonmaterial "force" that sustains life.

Vitamin A – Fat-soluble vitamin that promotes good vision; helps form and maintain healthy skin, teeth and skeletal and soft tissue; possibly increases resistance to infection. Is involved with the maintenance of the cornea, epithelial cells, mucous membranes, skin, tooth and bone growth, immunity and reproduction.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) – Essential in metabolism; help cells convert carbohydrates into energy; necessary for healthy brain and nerve cells and heart function. Vitamin B1 is water-soluble. It functions as part of the co-enzyme thiamin pyrophosphate, which is used in energy metabolism. It also supports normal appetite and nerve function.

Vitamin B12 – Important for metabolism regulation and red blood cell production; helps maintain a healthy central nervous system. Vitamin B12 is a component of co-enzymes that are involved in new cell synthesis. It also helps maintain nerve cells, reform folate co-enzyme and helps break down some fatty acids and amino acids. Vegetarians often have a difficult time getting enough of this water-soluble vitamin because it is found only in animal sources.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – Helps release energy from carbohydrates; interacts with other B vitamins and is essential for growth and for the production of red blood cells. Vitamin B2 is part of many co-enzymes that are used in energy metabolism. It also supports normal vision and skin health. Vitamin B2 is water-soluble.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)   This water-soluble vitamin is a component of co-enzymes that are used in energy metabolism. It also supports the health of the skin, nervous system and digestive system. Niacin is a precursor of the amino acid tryptophan. Nicotinamide, a form of vitamin B3, has been used to treat elevated levels of cholesterol with great success.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)   Vital in the utilization of protein; helps with the formation of red blood cells and plays a role in synthesizing antibodies in the immune system.  Vitamin B6 is a component of several co-enzymes that are used in amino acid and fatty acid metabolism. It also helps to convert the amino acid tryptophan to niacin. Water-soluble Vitamin B6 assists in the production of red blood cells.

Vitamin C – Antioxidant that performs a variety of roles in the body, helping to promote healthy gums and teeth, aids in mineral absorption, helps heal wounds. May provide a variety of other health benefits. This water-soluble vitamin is involved in collagen synthesis and the formation of scar tissue. Vitamin C also provides the matrix for bone growth and aids in amino acid metabolism. It functions as an antioxidant in immune resistance and helps in the absorption of iron.

Vitamin D – Promotes absorption of calcium and helps maintain proper blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that promotes mineralization of bones. It raises blood calcium and phosphorus by increasing absorption from the digestive tract, withdrawing calcium from bones and stimulating retention by the kidneys.

Vitamin E – Antioxidant that protects tissues from oxidation damage; helps in the formation of red blood cells and in the utilization of vitamin K.

Vitamin K – Vital to blood clotting; may help maintain strong bones with aging.

Vitamins   These are organic, essential nutrients required in small amounts by the body to perform specific functions that promote growth, reproduction or the maintenance of health and life. Vitamins do not yield energy when they are digested, such as proteins, fats and carbohydrates. They assist the enzymes that release energy from these foods. There are two types: The water-soluble vitamins are the B-vitamins and Vitamin C. The fat soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E, and K.Vitamins are organic compounds that are nutritionally essential in small amounts to control metabolic processes and cannot be synthesized by the body. Vitamins are usually classified by their solubility, which to some degree determines their stability; occurrence in foodstuffs; distribution in body fluids, and tissue storage capacity.Each of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K has a distinct and separate physiologic role. Several have antioxidant properties to depress the effects of metabolic byproducts called free radicals, which are thought to cause degenerative changes related to aging.Most of the water-soluble vitamins are components of essential enzyme systems. Many are involved in the reactions supporting energy metabolism. These vitamins are not normally stored in the body in appreciable amounts and are normally excreted in the urine. Thus, a daily supply is desirable to avoid depletion and interruption of normal physiologic functions.

Water   Is the basic ingreident for digestion and is vital for removing wastes from the body. Water regulates the body temperature. As much as three fourths of the weight of the body can be water. Water helps to prevent constipation and to keep the body functioning properly. Although deficiencies of energy or nutrients can be sustained for months or even years, a person can survive only a few days without water. Experts rank water second only to oxygen as essential for life. In addition to offering true refreshment for the thirsty, water plays a vital role in all bodily processes. It supplies the medium in which various chemical changes of the body occur, aiding in digestion, absorption, circulation and lubrication of body joints. For example, as a major component of blood, water helps deliver nutrients to body cells and removes waste to the kidneys for excretion.

Water-soluble   The water-soluble vitamins are a class of substances that are found in the watery portion of foods and are absorbed directly into the blood stream. The B-vitamins and Vitamin C are water-soluble, and they are needed in frequent doses because they are not stored for prolonged periods in the body. It is interesting to note that many of the B-vitamins serve as co-enzymes in metabolic reactions.

White Willow (Salix alba)   Also known as purple willow. Only the bark is used. Ingredients include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zInc, manganese, potassium, selenium, B complex, iron and silicon.

whole grains The whole kernel of grain which includes the bran (outer shell), germ (nutrient rich core) and endosperm (starchy portion). The health benefit provided by whole grains is the reduced risk of cardiovascular disease which results from the combination of fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals found in whole grains.

WIC Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. Established in 1972, the WIC program provides food and nutrition education to improve the nutritional status of medically high-risk pregnant and lactating women and children up to 5 years of age from low-income families. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

xenobiotics Synthetic chemicals believed to be resistant to environmental degradation. A branch of biotechnology called bioremediation is seeking to develop biological methods to degrade such compounds.

Yeast (Brewer's Yeast)   Is highly nutritious, superior source of nutrients. Although considered an excellent source of B-Vitamin, yeast is also one of the richest sources of RNA, DNA and iron. It contains amino acids, minerals and vitamins.

Yohimbe Bark – A hormone stimulant, particularly effective in the production of testosterone. Primary Uses: as an aphrodisiac affecting both the male impotence and female frigidity. Secondary Uses: in bodybuilding and athletic formulas where more testosterone production is desired.

zeaxanthin A type of carotenoid found in eggs, citrus fruits and corn which positively contributes to the maintenance of eye vision.

Zinc – Mineral important to the activity of enzymes needed for cell division and repair. Aids in proper functioning of the immune system. Zinc is a trace mineral and an important part of many enzymes. Zinc supports the work of numerous proteins in the body, assists in immune function and growth and development. It is also important to healthy reproductive functioning.