Monday, 19 September 2016

I have just started my new job...

... And that is the main reason why I have been so quiet lately. I need to reshape the blog, direct it to my professional interests, but still responding to my biggest passion of all - TOXICOLOGY.

About my new job? I'll let you know soon when all is up and running!

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Avocado for iron deficiency?

On the 2nd of July, exactly 20 days before my PhD Viva, Zansali from Uganda posted this question left on the avocado leaves tea post from January 2011 you can access it here. His question was:

"In Uganda, my country (East Africa), some herbalists advise to boil 5 to 8 avocado leaves and take that for 3 to 4 days, when one is anaemic. It is believed [that] exceeding 4 days could be catastrophic. What is your opinion on their prescription?"

Well my friend, before anything let me apologise for the time it took me to post a reply to your query. My Viva was on the way and I had to prepare myself for it the best way possible.

Now, specifically on your question I must say that every time I reply to a toxicology related question I base myself on scientific articles and never on a theoretical or empirical belief system like many herbalists attempt. The answer I got for you is supported by scientific data on articles that I could find published in available science libraries on the web.

Immediately, one of the aspects that comes to my mind is the content of iron in the avocado fruit (6%), but bear in mind we are talking about fruit, not leaves. The leaves of the Persea Americana 'version' of the avocado fruit (see image above), when infused, are mentioned by many authors as having medicinal properties. Another important aspect is that the sources of this folklore knowledge are well widespread through the globe, from Africa to Mexico, there is plenty of old records of tribes and herbalists using avocado for medicinal purposes:

a) the stems when boiled alongside 'one' seed produces an infusion that is suggested to treat anaemia [1];

b) for stimulating menstrual flow [2];

c) for treating stomach and menstrual cramps [1];

d) as an anticonvulsant, as is typical of the Lauraceae [3];

e) for treating or preventing cancer as mentioned previously in the original post.

However, two books [4] [5] talk about some products of the avocado plant that have been successfully  used in counteracting anaemia. I personally have no access to these books but if they provide this information it would be useful for someone like you to purchase it and learn a bit more about the subject. Nevertheless, when searching the web, what the American School of Natural Health advises in regards to avocado therapeutics for iron deficiency is that one should eat a minimum of three avocados per week for a minimum period of two weeks [6]. This practice is even suggested for those who do not cope very well with iron tablets (like my wife who had serious indigestion problems and nausea due to ferric sulphate tablets). The action is supposedly by an indirect pathway where certain nutrients in the avocado will increase iron absorption in the body.

Specifically addressing your concerns is very hard due to the limited literature on that precise topic, but what the toxicology data suggests in regards to the avocado plant is that, in its pure form, the toxic principle of avocado, persin, can result in mastitis in lactating mice models at 60-100 mg/Kg [7] whereas dosages over 100 mg/Kg can result in myocardial necrosis. Below there is more data on the toxicology of the avocado fruit and parts collected from [7].

(click to enhance)

In fact, most of the literature I could find at reach out there provides information suggested by herbalists and popular folklore, therefore any application of said science is to be decided on a personal level and with lots of common sense (whenever possible with the support of a nutritionist). But with the above info on the toxicology of the avocado plan, one has already a principle for guidance in what concerns the preparation of any infusion of avocado plant leaves for tackling anaemia.

[1] Alfaro, M. A. M. (1984). "Medicinal plants used in a Totonac community of the Sierra Norte de Puebla: Tuzamapan de Galeana, Puebla, Mexico". Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 11, pp. 203-221.

[2] Sussmann, L. K. (1980). "Herbal Medicine on Mauritius". Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2, pp. 259-278.

[3] Ojewole, J. A. O. and Amabeoku, G. J. (2006). "Anticonvulsant effect of Persea americana Mill (Lauraceae) (Avocado) leaves aqueous extract in mice". Phytotherapy, 20, pp. 696-700.

[4] Ross, I. A. (2003). "Medicinal Plants of the world, Volume 1: Chemical constituents, Traditional and Modern medicinal uses".

[5] Watt, J. M. Brandwijk, B. and Gerdina, M. (1986). "The medicinal and poisonous plants of Southern Africa and Eastern Africa: being an account of their medicinal and other uses, chemical composition, pharmacological effects and toxicology in man and animal", 2nd edition, Published by University Microfilms International.  

[6] Avocados for Iron Deficiency?, American school for natural health, [], last visited on the 3rd of August 2016, last update unknown.

[7] Avocado: Food hazards, The Merck Veterinary Manual,, last visited on the 3rd of August 2016, last updated on May 2013.

momondo – The DNA Journey from YouTube

Words in this specific case are useless. Stick to the little letters A C G T and live in peace, if you know what I mean.

An open world begins with an open mind

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

'Wash salad' advice after two die from E. coli

"Shoppers are being reminded to thoroughly wash mixed salad leaves amid concern that this food could be the source of an E. coli outbreak that has killed two and infected more than 150 people in the UK.

Public Health England says it is still working to establish the exact cause.
Many of those struck down by the E. coli O157 bug had eaten pre-packed salad, including rocket leaves.
The infection can cause bloody diarrhoea and abdominal pain.
People usually notice symptoms three to four days after they have been infected, but symptoms can start any time between one and 14 days afterwards and last for up to two weeks.
Some people will have no symptoms, but others can develop serious complications and will need medical help.

Rocket leaves

Public Health England says the strain involved is likely to be imported, possibly from the Mediterranean area.
To date, it has been informed of 151 cases - 144 people in England, six in Wales and one in Scotland.
Of these, 62 needed hospital care and two patients died.
Most of the cases of the outbreak in England were clustered in the South West.
Dr Isobel Oliver from PHE, said: "All food sample results to date have been negative for E. coli O157 - but it's important to be aware that where food has been contaminated with E. coli O157, it is not always possible to identify the bacteria on food testing.
"As an additional precautionary measure, we have advised a small number of wholesalers to cease adding some imported rocket leaves to their mixed salad products pending further investigations."
People can help protect themselves from possible infection by washing their hands before eating and handling food and by thoroughly washing vegetables and salads that they are preparing to eat (unless they have been pre-prepared and are specifically labelled "ready to eat").
E. coli O157 is found in the gut and faeces of many animals, particularly cattle, and can contaminate food and water.
Outbreaks of O157 are rare compared with other food-borne diseases.
PHE was first alerted to the outbreak at the end of June.
A spokeswoman for Health Protection Scotland said: "We are supporting Public Health England and working with them on this issue.
"We would encourage people to follow the advice that has been issued.

Avoiding E. coli infection

  • Wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet, before and after handling food, and after handling animals
  • Remove any loose soil before storing vegetables and salads
  • Wash all vegetables and fruits that will be eaten raw
  • Store and prepare raw meat and unwashed vegetables away from ready-to-eat foods
  • Do not prepare raw vegetables with utensils that have also been used for raw meat
  • Cook all minced meat products, such as burgers and meatballs, thoroughly
  • People who have been ill should not prepare food for others for at least 48 hours after they have recovered

  • Source: Public Health England"

from BBC News, 18th July 2016

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Quotedown to thesis submission

Although the country has been a scientific powerhouse since the 19th century, its recent performance owes a lot to an inflow of EU funding, which has compensated for flat UK government support. Britain contributes 12 per cent to the total EU budget but receives more than 15 per cent of its science funding — and it wins a particularly large share of grants from the European Research Council set up in 2007 to support world-class science.

Read full article at

Image from

Monday, 20 June 2016

Quotedown to thesis submission

Quotedown to thesis submission

"Mushrooms are miniature pharmaceutical factories, and of the thousands of mushroom species in nature, our ancestors and modern scientists have identified several dozen that have a unique combination of talents that improve our health."

Paul Stamets

Nature, Health, Unique"