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Posted by Mia Ponzo | Posted in Complementary Alternative Medicine, Information About Essential Oils, Information About Herbs, Medical Terminology, Natural Alternative Diet, Natural Beauty, Natural Health, Natural Weight Loss, Quick and Easy Natural Remedies You Can Do At Home | Posted on 03-11-2016

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What good sweeteners are there for low carb, ketogenic, Paleo eating? (Part 1)


Posted by Mia Ponzo | Posted in Complementary Alternative Medicine, Information About Herbs, Medical Terminology, Natural Alternative Diet, Natural Beauty | Posted on 27-08-2015

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One of the misinformed dieting fads in Kuwait is using fructose in cookies and cakes and calling it part of a weight loss or low carbohydrate diet. This is part of a campaign in which many companies are marketing various “diet” desserts in bakeries and various supermarkets around the country. The first time I ever encountered this phenomenon here I took the time to call up the so-called “doctor” and discuss it with her. When I asked what sort of sugar substitute was in the desserts, she said fructose. I was quite surprised, knowing full well that fructose reacts the exact same way in a body as glucose does. She informed me that there were some other sugar substitutes as well, but mostly fructose. She argued that it is better than “regular” sugar and is metabolized differently. I, naturally, disagreed and informed her of the correct scientific facts, which we will discuss below. She continued to argue her point, and only after I brought up more and more information did she finally remain quiet, admitting defeat. The worse part is that she isn’t the only person out there who is confused. Although her confusion is inexcusable, (particularly because she is a health professional in the field of dietary medicine), she is certainly not alone.

So, when is sugar not sugar? Never! (That is unless it has been chemically altered, and we will discuss that later). While we have several kinds of sugar substitute, sugar is always sugar, no matter which name you decide to call it, and it has plenty of names. The bottom line is that when the body takes in sugar it reacts the very same way no matter where it was from (unless you have a food sensitivity to beets, for example, in which case you will react to that sort of sugar).

Sugar goes by many aliases, including the following:

*sugar (sucrose, fructose, etc)
*glucose (pure sweetness found in fruits, honey, and vegetables)
*sucrose (table sugar)
*fructose (sugar from fruit)
*(crystalline) solid disaccharide
*cane sugar (sugar made from sugar cane)
*beet sugar (sugar made from beets)
*lactose (milk sugar)
*galactose (found in dairy products)
*dextrose (pure sugar from fruit
*maltose (sugar formed as a breakdown of starches)
*trehalose (sugar disaccharide)
*disaccharide (double molecule sugar)
*monosaccharide (single molecule sugar)
*ribose (kind of sugar found in human cells, often used as a supplement for athletes, particularly body builders)
*white sugar (basically table sugar made from either sugar cane or beets, also known as granulated sugar)
*brown sugar (which is just white sugar with molasses)
*table sugar (pure sugar, normally consisting of one molecule of sucrose and one of fructose)
*castor sugar (super finely ground)
*powdered/confectionary sugar (finely ground)
*fruit sugar (fructose, often said to be absorbed slightly slower into the blood, but having almost the same rating in a glycemic index, which judges rates of use by the blood)
*raw sugar (initial pressing of unrefined sugar)
*turbinado sugar (filtered through wood charcoal)
*muscovado sugar (a type of less refined sugar with some molasses content, thus more nutrients)
*demerera sugar (a type of raw cane sugar, thus more nutrients)
*honey (what bees make)
*molasses (the byproduct of sugar production, full of nutrients)
*corn sweetener (sugar derived from corn)
*corn syrup (sugar derived from corn)
*maple sugar/syrup (sugar/syrup derived from the maple tree, full of nutrients)
*high fructose corn syrup (sugar derived from corn)
(The following are sugar alcohols, which are not supposed to act quickly on the blood, and thus are suitable for diabetics and low carbohydrate dieters).
(This is one of the newest forms of sweetener. This one is derived from sugar but isn’t supposed to react in the body as sugar).
*sucralose (otherwise known as Splenda)
(There are other artificial sweeteners as well, but we won’t go into them right now).

While each of these sugars is different in a variety of ways, they are still all sugar. While they don’t act on the body in exactly the same way, they are all basically the same in the long run, as they increase the level of sugar in our blood, thereby requiring that our bodies deal with it, which can cause a variety of symptoms including weakness, exhaustion, and worse, in certain cases. In fact, all this hype about fructose and other so-called “diet” sweeteners being healthier looks like it is going to go the opposite way as scientific studies delve into the side effects and detriments of using it. Tune in right here next week to get the low down on what that research is discovering.

There are millions of people out there desperately trying to be healthier, lose weight, or keep their weight at a normal level. I am one of them, and I am certainly one of those people who have tried a variety of sugars and sugar substitutes in my quest to be healthier and thinner. The problem with this is that it is apparently not working. There are several reasons for this, and the main one is that the information that business minded people are giving out is incorrect. It is simply not true! Giving these companies the benefit of the doubt, the probably have good intentions most of the time, but still, regardless of their intentions, millions of people are being misled by false advertising with regard to these sugars and sugar substitutes that are being marketed.

Let’s take the fructose issue, since that seems to be one of the more sensitive ones. Here in Kuwait and all over the world there are people who are marketing fructose as a healthy alternative to sugar. Well, the lowdown is that fructose is just another kind of sugar. In fact it is sweeter than table sugar, and while you need less of it to get your foods sweet, the basic analysis of its use is something you’re going to want to hear.

There are several reasons why fructose isn’t a great idea, even though in some forms it has a lower glycemic index than table sugar (remember in the form of high fructose corn syrup its glycemic index is very high). According to studies that have been done, diabetics and heart patients often have adverse effects from the use of fructose because of how it raises their blood lipid levels abnormally, specifically cholesterol and LDL, which are fats that you don’t want to have, and this is apparently true for diabetics particularly, and in men this reaction is higher than in women. It also increases blood clotting, which is another dangerous side effect, particularly when you are suffering from heart disease or a circulatory disease. Don’t forget that diabetics have a higher rate of heart disease than most other people too, so the use of fructose is definitely a dangerous endeavor for them. Fructose has also been found to affect the natural absorption of certain minerals, including copper, which is important for healthy blood. It has also been linked to the heightened process of aging, and causing the skin to deteriorate resulting in wrinkles, lines and age spots.

Naturally though, practically anything in small enough quantities isn’t going to have an adverse effect on much, but still, quantities can add up when you’re not looking! Fructose and its not-so-nice sister high fructose corn syrup are not diet foods and are implied in many studies showing detrimental effects to our health when we eat them, even for normal weight people.

Did you know that fructose metabolism causes the body to store fat more than regular sugar? Indeed, when it is metabolized in the liver (which is the only place it is metabolized), as opposed to glucose (which is used by the entire body), it is almost completely converted to fat. Also, another interesting fact is that since fructose doesn’t stimulate insulin production, and because of this, it encourages overeating. In fact, over time, it can even create insulin resistance! In addition to that, fructose doesn’t contain even one single vitamin, mineral, or enzyme, and in its metabolism by the body, these things are actually leached from our bodily store of them!

I bet you didn’t know that most of the fructose out in the market today isn’t even derived from fruit, did you? It’s derived from corn for the most part, and corn alone is one of the grains that I always tell people to stop eating when suffering from any kind of health problem, particularly allergies and food sensitivities. It can also be made from beets, sugar cane and other plants. Hmm…. that is exactly where table sugar comes from! In fact high fructose corn syrup has been linked directly to the increase in obesity of children and adults all over the world, due to its high use in processed foods everywhere. It is turning up in foods that don’t even need to be sweetened! And, apparently, according to the research, the fatter you are the worse you are affected by fructose!

So, reading ingredients lists is your first defense. Just don’t buy products containing fructose, corn syrup, or high fructose corn syrup. When you begin reading, you will be surprised at what you will find. High fructose corn syrup is everywhere! You will find it in cereals, soft drinks, bottled and canned juices, fruits, and vegetables, canned foods (such as sauces, soups, etc), grain products, frozen prepared products, prepared spice blends, and more! And you will find tons of it in fast foods, even in the most unlikely places, like in your “healthy” salad dressing, for example!

Now, keeping in mind that some forms of fructose are better than high fructose corn syrup, still the better route is to go as natural as possible. The best idea is to completely cut the sugar out. The bottom line is, if you want high quality, “good for you” fructose, eat whole fruit! You can’t go wrong with a couple pieces of healthy, preferably organic fruit a day. Try to choose fruit with plenty of fiber for the best results.

More on Sweeteners in the next post (stay tuned)… but in the meantime… check out my two favorite natural, safe, GMO-free, sweeteners that can be effective with low carb, ketogenic, and Paleo diets.

xylitol zveet   eryrthritol



What Is Anemia?


Posted by Mia Ponzo | Posted in Complementary Alternative Medicine, Information About Herbs, Medical Terminology, Natural Alternative Diet | Posted on 31-03-2015

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anemia 1

            Millions of people all over the world from every conceivable country suffer from anemia of one form or another at one time or another. Many of these people have chronic anemia that can sometimes be so severe that it is life threatening. Others have anemia that is so mild that they don’t even know theyhave it. So, what is anemia anyway?

            Anemia (which actually means “lacking blood”) is when your blood doesn’t have enough good red blood cells (hemoglobin is found in the red blood cells, and is the agent that carries the oxygen from the lungs around the body). When this happens there isn’t enough oxygen in the blood, thus the various organs in the body won’t be able to get enough oxygen, which they require to function properly. This usually occurs when the body doesn’t have enough iron for one reason or the other (but there are many other causes as well). Women are more likely to have anemia than men, but men can get it as well. There are several possible causes of anemia including; specifically a lack in the body’s production of red blood cells, too much red blood cell destruction, blood loss (such as that which occurs during menstruation or childbirth), lack of iron in the diet, pregnancy, lack of certain other vitamins (like B12, for example), certain cancers or other acute or chronic diseases, inherited anemia due to genetic problems, hormonal imbalances, and a host of other more obscure causes, including anemia that has no known cause at all.

Herbs for Common Ailments

            The way that you can know that you have anemia is if you feel any of the following (but many people who have anemia don’t even know that they have it): fatigue, weakness, a fast heart beat, heart palpitations, difficulty in breathing (shortness of breath), uncalled for sweating, drained looking skin color, and sometimes dizziness. So, if you are suffering from any of these symptoms without knowing the cause, then please go get a blood test and confirm whether or not you are suffering from anemia, what type, and why (if possible). Then, you really need to begin some sort of curative program right away in order to preserve your health.

            Generally, the most common anemia (iron deficient anemia) is treated with iron supplements. This is fine, but there are several problems that taking iron supplements can cause, such as constipation (or diarrhea), nausea (even vomiting), and more. Be particularly careful when using iron supplements with children, since it can be severely toxic to them, even causing death. So, instead of taking ordinary iron supplements, try to do something to help your self without artificial (or even real) iron and get to the nature of the problem naturally. There are tons of great tasting foods out there that are loaded with iron. Some of them are: red meats (beef, lamb and goat, which are all widely available in Kuwait), particularly liver, beets (particularly a blend of carrot and beet juice expressed juice), beet greens, chives, green leafy vegetables (like romaine lettuce, spinach, sea vegetables (your local Japanese restaurant will love you since that is the best place to get seaweed in Kuwait, although it is sold at Sultan Center in the Oriental foods section), and more), blackstrap molasses, eggs, okra, raisins, almonds (and almond milk, which you can make by blending almonds in a blender with water and drinking the resulting milky liquid, making sure that you don’t let the almond paste float to the bottom). Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables that contain vitamin C, like strawberries, or anything bright or dark red, purple, bright orange, bright yellow, or bright green. Also, if you are suffering from anemia, you should really discontinue coffee, tea, soft drinks and smoking, since the use of those things really impairs your absorption of the important vitamins that you need to recover. This also goes for foods containing preservatives, additives, etc. Here in Kuwait stuffed and plain grape leaves are widely available too, so eat up!

The Gift of Healing Herbs

            In the herbal medicine world there are many plants that are known to increase iron, help red blood cell and hemoglobin production, and improve the general health of the body, which will be run down with anemia, particularly if it has gone unnoticed for any length of time. One of the newly discovered ones is called “Cassia grandis” (which is not the same as regular cassia, which is like cinnamon), and hails from Puerto Rico. Alfalfa leaf is another great herb to take, along with any of the green herbs, like spirulina (which is algae), yellow dock, dandelion, stinging nettles, gentian, burdock (leaf and root), Dong Quai, St John’s wort, astragalus, licorice (which also helps by keeping the adrenal glands going strong), horsetail, red raspberry leaf, parsley, and Panax ginseng (the Asian version).


            You also need to get out there and exercise, even if you really don’t feel like it. Because exercise will help your glands to work better, and get your circulation moving. Walking is good, swimming too, and any other kind. You can dance, jump, lift weights, do Karate, or anything else!

            So, if you suffer from anemia, help is right around the corner at your local grocery store and right in your own kitchen! Get out and do something now, so that you hang on to your good health for as long as you can!

Mia Ponzo

May 9, 2006

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  spirulina   spirulina  Dandelion Leaf


Alfalfa Leaf                                                  Spirulina                                       Dandelion Leaf


Red Raspberry Leaf  Horsetail Herb      Stinging Nettle leaf cut

Horsetail Herb                        Red Raspberry Leaf                           Nettle

Some Medical Terminology to Get You Started


Posted by Mia Ponzo | Posted in Medical Terminology | Posted on 15-02-2014

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Most people on the street have little trouble understanding ordinary English, but even the most fluent English speaker has trouble with medical terminology. Some of the worlds are strange and don’t sound even remotely like what they mean. When you go to a doctor, whether the doctor is a conventional one (allopathic) or an alternative one (holistic), it is important to be able to understand what he (or she) says. Also, when you are written a prescription, whether it is for a conventional (chemical type) medication, or an alternative (natural type) one you may not even be able to understand what it is for.


            If you read books about alternatives, particularly aromatherapy, you will need to know several terms that are used throughout when describing the properties of the various oils. When I did the recent essential oil articles I tried not to use too many of these terms without explaining what they were, but you will hear these terms in your life, on the news, at the doctor, and it is better if you know what they are. So here we go!


Useful Medical Glossary (remember this is, by far, not exhaustive, and is a general help when it comes to alternative medicine, if you wish to get more depth in your glossary, then there are several excellent glossaries on the Internet):


Acute: Of abrupt onset, in reference to a disease. Acute often also connotes an illness that is of short duration, rapidly progressive, and in need of urgent care.

Allergen: A substance that is foreign to the body and can cause an allergic reaction in certain people. For examples, pollen, dander, mold.

Amenorrhea: Absence or cessation of menstruation. Amenorrhea is conventionally divided into primary and secondary amenorrhea:

  • Primary amenorrhea — menstruation never takes place. It fails to occur at puberty.
  • Secondary amenorrhea — menstruation starts but then stops.

Analgesic: A drug that relieves pain. With an effective analgesic, there is an inability to feel pain while still conscious.

Anemia: The condition of having less than the normal number of red blood cells or less than the normal quantity of hemoglobin in the blood. The oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is, therefore, decreased.

Antibacterial: Anything that destroys bacteria or suppresses their growth or their ability to reproduce. Heat, chemicals such as chlorine, and antibiotic drugs all have antibacterial properties.

Antibiotic: A drug used to treat infections caused by bacteria and other microorganisms. Originally, an antibiotic was a substance produced by one microorganism that selectively inhibits the growth of another.

Anticoagulant: Any agent used to prevent the formation of blood clots.

Anticonvulsant: A medication used to control (prevent) seizures (convulsions) or stop an ongoing series of seizures.

Antidepressant: Anything, and especially a drug, used to prevent or treat depression.

Antiemetic: 1. As a noun, a drug taken to prevent or treat nausea and vomiting.
2. As an adjective, pertaining to the prevention or treatment of nausea and vomiting.

Antifungal: A drug used to treat fungal infections.

Antihistamines: Drugs that combat the histamine released during an allergic reaction by blocking the action of the histamine on the tissue. Antihistamines do not stop the formation of histamine nor do they stop the conflict between the IgE and antigen. Therefore, antihistamines do not stop the allergic reaction but protect tissues from some of its effects.

Antimicrobial: A drug used to treat a microbial infection.

Antipyretic: Something that reduces fever or quells it.

Antiseptic: Something that discourages the growth microorganisms

Antispasmodic: 1) A medication that lowers the incidence of or prevents seizures. 2) A medication that lowers the incidence of or prevents muscle spasms.

Antiviral: An agent that kills a virus or that suppresses its ability to replicate and, hence, inhibits its capability to multiply and reproduce.

Arrhythmia: An abnormal heart rhythm. In an arrhythmia the heartbeats may be too slow, too rapid, too irregular, or too early. Rapid arrhythmias (greater than 100 beats per minute) are called tachycardias. Slow arrhythmias (slower than 60 beats per minute) are called bradycardias. Irregular heart rhythms are called fibrillations (as in atrial fibrillation and ventricular fibrillation). When a single heartbeat occurs earlier than normal, it is called a premature contraction.

Arteriosclerosis: Hardening and thickening of the walls of the arteries. Arteriosclerosis can occur because of fatty deposits on the inner lining of arteries (atherosclerosis), calcification of the wall of the arteries, or thickening of the muscular wall of the arteries from chronically elevated blood pressure (hypertension).

Arthritis: Inflammation of a joint. When joints are inflamed they can develop stiffness, warmth, swelling, redness and pain. There are over 100 types of arthritis.

Asphyxia: Impaired or impeded breathing.

Asthma: A common disorder in which chronic inflammation of the bronchial tubes (bronchi) makes them swell, narrowing the airways. Asthma involves only the bronchial tubes and does not affect the air sacs (alveoli) or the lung tissue (the parenchyma of the lung) itself.

Atherosclerosis: A process of progressive thickening and hardening of the walls of medium-sized and large arteries as a result of fat deposits on their inner lining.

Autoimmunity: A misdirected immune response that occurs when the immune system goes awry and attacks the body itself.

Bacteria: Single-celled microorganisms which can exist either as independent (free-living) organisms or as parasites (dependent upon another organism for life). Examples of bacteria include:

Bacteriocidal: Capable of killing bacteria. Antibiotics, antiseptics, and disinfectants can be bactericidal.

Basal cells: Small, round cells found in the lower part, or base, of the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin.

Basal metabolic rate: A measure of the rate of metabolism. For example, someone with an overly active thyroid will have an elevated basal metabolic rate.

Benign: Not cancer. Not malignant. A benign tumor does not invade surrounding tissue or spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor may grow but it stays put (in the same place).

Beta carotene: A vitamin that acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells against oxidation damage. Beta carotene is converted by the body to vitamin A. Food sources of beta carotene include vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and other leafy green vegetables; and fruit such as cantaloupes and apricots. Excessive carotene in the diet can color the skin yellow, a condition called carotenemia.

Biliary: Having to do with the gallbladder, bile ducts, or bile. The biliary system itself consists of the gallbladder and bile ducts and, of course, the bile.

Blood clot: Blood that has been converted from a liquid to a solid state. Also called a thrombus.

Blood glucose: The main sugar that the body makes from the food in the diet. Glucose is carried through the bloodstream to provide energy to all cells in the body. Cells cannot use glucose without the help of insulin.

Blood group: An inherited feature on the surface of the red blood cells. A series of related blood types constitute a blood group system such as the Rh or the ABO system.

Blood pH: The acidity or alkalinity of blood. The pH of any fluid is the measure of the hydrogen ion (H) concentration. A pH of 7 is neutral. The lower the pH, the more acidic the blood. A variety of factors affect blood pH including what is ingested, vomiting, diarrhea, lung function, endocrine function, kidney function, and urinary tract infection. The normal blood pH is tightly regulated between 7.35 and 7.45.

Blood pressure: The blood pressure is the pressure of the blood within the arteries. It is produced primarily by the contraction of the heart muscle. It’s measurement is recorded by two numbers. The first (systolic pressure) is measured after the heart contracts and is highest. The second (diastolic pressure) is measured before the heart contracts and lowest. A blood pressure cuff is used to measure the pressure. Elevation of blood pressure is called “hypertension.”).

Blood-thinner: A common name for an anticoagulant agent used to prevent the formation of blood clots. Blood-thinners do not really thin the blood. They prevent it from clotting.

Boil: A skin abscess, a collection of pus localized deep in the skin. A boil usually starts as a reddened, tender area and in time becomes firm and hard. Eventually, the center of the abscess softens and becomes filled with white blood cells that the body sends to fight the infection. This collection of white cells is the pus

Botulism: An uncommon but potentially very serious illness, a type of food poisoning, that produces paralysis of muscles, via a nerve toxin called botulinum toxin (“botox”) that is manufactured by bacteria named Clostridium botulinum. There are various types of botulism, including:

  • Food-borne botulism — from eating food that contains the botulinum toxin.
  • Wound botulism — caused by the toxin produced in a wound infected with the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.
  • Infant intestinal botulism — when an infant consumes the spores of the bacteria, the bacteria grow in the baby’s intestines and release toxin.
  • Adult intestinal botulism — due to infection with Clostridium botulinum in adults, typically following abdominal surgical procedures.

The symptoms of botulism can range from mild, including transient nausea and vomiting, to severe cases that progress to heart and lung failure and, sometimes, death. Food-borne botulism occurs typically in unrefrigerated or poorly refrigerated foods and foods without preservatives (especially uncooked or half-cooked meats). It can be prevented by careful use of refrigeration and preservative techniques, and the toxin can be destroyed with heat.

Brown fat: Brown adipose tissue, a rapid source of energy for infants in whom it forms about 5% of their body weight. It is brown because the cells in it are packed full of small cellular organs called mitochondria, which are energy factories, and it has a rich supply of blood vessels. Brown fat is virtually gone by adulthood.

Caffeine: A stimulant found naturally in coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans (chocolate) and kola nuts (cola) and added to soft drinks, foods, and medicines. A cup of coffee has 100-250 milligrams of caffeine. Black tea brewed for 4 minutes has 40-100 milligrams. Green tea has one-third as much caffeine as black tea.

Capillary: One of the tiny blood vessels that connect the arterioles (the smallest divisions of the arteries) and the venules (the smallest divisions of the veins). The capillaries form a fine network in many parts of the body.

Although minute, the capillaries are a site where much action takes place in the circulatory system. The walls of the capillaries act as semipermeable membranes permitting the exchange of various substances between the blood stream and the tissues of the body. The substances that are interchanged through the capillary walls include fluids and the key gases oxygen and carbon dioxide.

The word “capillary” originally had more to do with hair than blood vessels. It comes from the Latin “capillaris” = hair-like, which was derived from “capillus” = a hair of the head and “caput” = head.

Carbuncles: A skin abscess, a collection of pus that forms inside the body. Antibiotics are often not very helpful in treating abscesses. The main treatments include hot packs and draining (“lancing”) the abscess, but only when it is soft and ready to drain. If you have a fever or long-term illness, such as cancer or diabetes, or are taking medications that suppress the immune system, you should contact your healthcare practitioner if you develop an abscess.

Carcinogen: A substance or agent that causes cancer.

Cardiac: Having to do with the heart.


Cardiac arrest: A medical emergency with absent or inadequate contraction of the left ventricle of the heart that immediately causes bodywide circulatory failure. The signs and symptoms include loss of consciousness; rapid shallow breathing progressing to apnea (absence of breathing); profoundly low blood pressure (hypotension) with no pulses that can be felt over major arteries; and no heart sounds.

Cardiac arrest is one of the greatest of all medical emergencies. Within several minutes, there is lack of oxygen (tissue hypoxia), leading to multiple organ injury. Unless cardiac arrest is quickly corrected, it is fatal.

Cardiovascular: The circulatory system comprising the heart and blood vessels which carries nutrients and oxygen to the tissues of the body and removes carbon dioxide and other wastes from them.

Cataract: A clouding of the lens of the eye. The normally clear aspirin-sized lens of the eye starts to become cloudy. There are many causes of cataracts including cortisone medication, trauma, diabetes, many other diseases and simply aging. Cataracts will affect almost all people if they are fortunate enough to live long enough. The symptoms of cataracts include double or blurred vision and unusual sensitivity to light and glare. Cataracts can be diagnosed when the doctor examines the eyes with a viewing instrument.

Cathartic: A laxative.

Cellulite: Popular term for deposits of fat that have a cottage cheese-like or puckered texture. Medically, cellulite is not considered abnormal.

Cerebral: Pertaining to the brain, the cerebrum or the intellect.

Cervical: Having to do with any kind of neck including the neck on which the head is perched and the neck of the uterus. The word “cervix” in Latin means “neck”.

Cholesterol: The most common type of steroid in the body, cholesterol has gotten something of a bad name. However, cholesterol is a critically important molecule. It is essential to the formation of:

  • Bile acids (which aid in the digestion of fats)
  • Vitamin D
  • Progesterone
  • Estrogens (estradiol, estrone, estriol)
  • Androgens (androsterone, testosterone)
  • Mineralocorticoid hormones (aldosterone, corticosterone) and
  • Glucocorticoid hormones (cortisol).

Cholesterol is also necessary to the normal permeability and function of cell membranes, the membranes that surround cells.

Cholesterol is carried in the bloodstream as lipoproteins. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is the “bad” cholesterol because elevated LDL levels are associated with an increased risk of coronary artery (heart) disease. Conversely, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is the “good” cholesterol since high HDL levels are associated with less coronary disease. After the age of 20, cholesterol testing is recommended every 5 years.

Although some cholesterol is obtained from the diet, most cholesterol is made in the liver and other tissues. The treatment of elevated cholesterol therefore involves not only diet but also weight loss and regular exercise (and, occasionally, medications).

Chronic: This important term in medicine comes from the Greek chronos, time and means lasting a long time. A chronic condition is one lasting 3 months or more, by the definition of the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. In ancient Greece, the “father of medicine” Hippocrates distinguished diseases that were acute (abrupt, sharp and brief) from those that were chronic. This is still a very useful distinction. Subacute has been coined to designate the mid-ground between acute and chronic.

Circulatory: Having to do with the circulation, the movement of fluid in a regular or circuitous course. Although the adjective “circulatory” need not necessarily refer to the circulation of the blood, for all practical purposes today it does. A circulatory problem is taken usually to be a problem with the blood circulation, for example with heart failure.

Clinical: 1. Having to do with the examination and treatment of patients. 2. Applicable to patients. A laboratory test may be of clinical value (of use to patients). The term comes through the French “clinique” from the Greek “kline” (a couch or bed). Clinical medicine was (and is) practiced at the bedside.

Clinical depression: Depression that meets the DSM-IV criteria for a depressive disorder. The term is usually used to denote depression that is not a normal, temporary mood caused by life events or grieving.

Clinical psychology: A professional specialty concerned with diagnosing and treating diseases of the brain, emotional disturbance, and behavior problems. Psychologists can only use talk therapy as treatment; you must see a psychiatrist or other medical doctor to be treated with medication. Psychologists may have a master’s degree (MA) or doctorate (PhD) in psychology. They may also have other qualifications, including Board certification and additional training in a type of therapy.

Clinical trials: Trials to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of medications or medical devices by monitoring their effects on large groups of people.

Clinical research trials may be conducted by government health agencies such as NIH, researchers affiliated with a hospital or university medical program, independent researchers, or private industry.

Usually volunteers are recruited, although in some cases research subjects may be paid. Subjects are generally divided into two or more groups, including a control group that does not receive the experimental treatment, receives a placebo (inactive substance) instead, or receives a tried-and-true therapy for comparison purposes.

Typically, government agencies approve or disapprove new treatments based on clinical trial results. While important and highly effective in preventing obviously harmful treatments from coming to market, clinical research trials are not always perfect in discovering all side effects, particularly effects associated with long-term use and interactions between experimental drugs and other medications.

For some patients, clinical research trials represent an avenue for receiving promising new therapies that would not otherwise be available. Patients with difficult to treat or currently “incurable” diseases, such as AIDS or certain types of cancer, may want to pursue participation in clinical research trials if standard therapies are not effective. Clinical research trials are sometimes lifesaving.

There are four possible outcomes from a clinical trial:

  • Positive trial — The clinical trial shows that the new treatment has a large beneficial effect and is superior to standard treatment.
  • Non-inferior trial — The clinical trial shows that that the new treatment is equivalent to standard treatment. Also called a non-inferiority trial.
  • Inconclusive trial — The clinical trial shows that the new treatment is neither clearly superior nor clearly inferior to standard treatment.
  • Negative trial — The clinical trial shows that a new treatment is inferior to standard treatment.

Clone: Literally a fragment, the word in modern medical science has come to mean a replica, for example, of a group of bacteria or a macromolecule such as DNA. Clone also refers to an individual developed from a single somatic (non-germ) cell from a parent, representing an exact replica of that parent. A clone is a group of cells derived from a single ancestral cell.

Cluster headache: A distinctive syndrome of headaches, also known as migrainous neuralgia. There are two main clinical patterns of cluster headache — the episodic and the chronic:

  • Episodic: This is the most common pattern of cluster headache. It is characterized by 1-3 short attacks of pain around the eyes per day, with these attacks clustered over a stretch of 1-2 months followed by a pain-free remission, a breathing spell. The average length of remission is a year.
  • Chronic: Characterized by the absence of sustained periods of remission, chronic cluster headache may start with no past history of cluster headaches, or it may emerge several years after the patient has experienced an episodic pattern of cluster headaches.

The episodic and acute forms of cluster headache may transform into one another, so it seems most likely that they are merely different-appearing clinical patterns of one and the same disease.

Although the mechanisms underlying cluster headache and migraine may have a degree of commonality, cluster headache looks to be different and distinct as a disease from migraine. For example, propranolol is effective for migraine but not cluster headache while lithium benefits cluster headache syndrome but not migraine.

Coagulation: In medicine, the clotting of blood. The process by which the blood clots to form solid masses, or clots.

More than 30 types of cells and substances in blood affect clotting. The process is initiated by blood platelets. Platelets produce a substance that combines with calcium ions in the blood to form thromboplastin, which in turn converts the protein prothrombin into thrombin in a complex series of reactions. Thrombin, a proteolytic enzyme, converts fibrinogen, a protein substance, into fibrin, an insoluble protein that forms an intricate network of minute threadlike structures called fibrils and causes the blood plasma to gel. The blood cells and plasma are enmeshed in the network of fibrils to form the clot.

Cognitive: Pertaining to cognition, the process of knowing and, more precisely, the process of being aware, knowing, thinking, learning and judging. The study of cognition touches on the fields of psychology, linguistics, computer science, neuroscience, mathematics, ethology and philosophy.

Congenital: Present at birth. A condition that is congenital is one that is present at birth. There are numerous uses of “congenital” in medicine. There are, for example, congenital abnormalities.

Versus “genetic”: One dictionary erroneously defines “congenital” as meaning: “Occurring prior to birth, due to parent’s genetic input.” Congenital does not mean genetic. Something that is congenital may or may not be genetic (inherited). For example, congenital syphilis is present at birth but is not genetic.

Timing: Something that is congenital may or may not occur “prior to birth.” The essential feature is that it is there at birth (if not before).

Etymology: Congenital comes from the Latin congenitus which is made up of com-, with + genitus, the past participle of gignere, to bring forth. The word “congenital” has not been used in English since its birth but first appeared in 1796. The term “congenital” is synonymous with “innate.”

Cosmeceutical: A cosmetic product claimed to have medicinal or drug-like benefits. Cosmeceutical products are marketed as cosmetics, but reputedly contain biologically active ingredients. Examples include anti-wrinkle skin creams with ingredients such as alpha lipoic acid and dimethylaminoethanol and creams containing “cellular replenishment serum” that supposedly have “antiaging properties.”

Cutaneous: Relating to the skin.

Cyst: A cyst is an abnormal, closed sac-like structure within a tissue that contains a liquid, gaseous, or semisolid substance. A cyst can occur anywhere in the body and can vary in size. The outer, or capsular, portion of a cyst is termed the cyst wall.

Cystitis: Inflammation of the bladder. Cystitis can be due for example to infection from bacteria that ascend the urethra (the canal from the outside) to the bladder.

Symptoms include a frequent need to urinate, often accompanied by a burning sensation. As cystitis progresses, blood may be observed in the urine and the patient may suffer cramps after urination. In young children, attempts to avoid the pain of cystitis can be a cause for daytime wetting (enuresis). Treatment includes avoiding irritants, such as perfumed soaps, near the urethral opening; increased fluid intake; and antibiotics. Untreated cystitis can lead to scarring and the formation of stones when urine is retained for long periods of time to avoid painful urination.

Dandruff: A mild skin condition that produces white flakes that may be shed and fall from the hair.

Dandruff is due to the sebaceous glands overworking. (The sebaceous glands keep the skin properly oiled.)

Another cause of dandruff is fungus, especially one called Pitrosporum ovale. (Most people have this fungus, but people with dandruff have more.)

For dandruff, there are several tiers of treatment:

  1. First-tier dandruff treatment: A good quality upper-end shampoo (e.g., Paul Mitchell, Aveda, Redken). If several weeks using a good quality shampoo does not stop the dandruff, it can be helpful use the second-tier of dandruff treatment.
  2. Second-tier dandruff treatment: An antifungal shampoo, (e.g., (in alphabetical order) Denorex, DHS Targel, ionil-T plus, MG217, Neutrogena T/Gel, Scalpicin, Sebulex, Selsun Blue, Tegrin, Zircon).

Decongestant: A drug that shrinks the swollen membranes in the nose and makes it easier to breath. Decongestants can be taken orally or by nasal spray. Decongestant nasal sprays should not be used for more than five days without the doctor’s advice, and if so, usually only when accompanied by a nasal steroid. Many decongestant nasal sprays often cause a rebound effect if taken too long. A rebound effect is the worsening of symptoms when a drug is discontinued. This is a result of a tissue dependence on the medication. Decongestants should not be used by patients with high blood pressure (hypertension) unless under doctor’s supervision.

Dehydration: Excessive loss of body water. Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract that cause vomiting or diarrhea may, for example, lead to dehydration. There are a number of other causes of dehydration including heat exposure, prolonged vigorous exercise (e.g., in a marathon), kidney disease, and medications (diuretics).

Dehydration: Excessive loss of body water. Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract that cause vomiting or diarrhea may, for example, lead to dehydration. There are a number of other causes of dehydration including heat exposure, prolonged vigorous exercise (e.g., in a marathon), kidney disease, and medications (diuretics).

Depression: An illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts, that affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be wished away. People with a depressive disease cannot merely “pull themselves together” and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people with depression.

Dermal: Pertaining to the skin. From the Greek word derma for skin.

Dermatitis: Inflammation of the skin, either due to direct contact with an irritating substance, or to an allergic reaction. Symptoms of dermatitis include redness, itching, and in some cases blistering.

Detoxify: To reduce or eliminate the toxicity of a substance or poison. To promote the recovery of a person from an addictive drug such as alcohol or heroin.

Diabetes: Refers to diabetes mellitus or, less often, to diabetes insipidus. Diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus share the name “diabetes” because they are both conditions characterized by excessive urination (polyuria).

The word “diabetes” is borrowed from the Greek word meaning “a siphon.” The 2nd-century A.D. Greek physician, Aretus the Cappadocian, named the condition “diabetes.” He explained that patients with it had polyuria and “passed water like a siphon.”

When “diabetes” is used alone, it refers to diabetes mellitus. The two main types of diabetes mellitus — insulin-requiring type 1 diabetes and adult-onset type 2 diabetes — are distinct and different diseases in themselves.

Diuretic: Anything that promotes the formation of urine by the kidney. (The word “diuretic” comes from a combination of the Greek “dia-“, thoroughly + “ourein”, to urinate = to urinate thoroughly).

Diuresis may be due to a huge number of causes including metabolic conditions such as diabetes mellitus (in which the increased glucose level in the blood causes water to be lost in the urine); substances in food and drink (such as coffee, tea, and alcoholic beverages); and specific diuretic drugs.

All diuretic drugs — which are usually called, more simply, diuretics — cause a person to “lose water” but they do so by diverse means, including:

  • Inhibiting the kidney’s ability to reabsorb sodium, thus enhancing the loss of sodium in the urine. And when sodium is lost in the urine, water goes with it. (This type of diuretic is called a high-ceiling diuretic or a loop diuretic).
  • Enhancing the excretion of both sodium and chloride in the urine so that water is excreted with them. This is how the thiazide diuretics work.
  • Blocking the exchange of sodium for potassium, resulting in excretion of sodium and potassium but relatively little loss of potassium. These diuretics are therefore termed potassium sparing diuretics.

Some diuretics work by still other mechanisms. And some diuretics have other effects and uses such as in treating hypertension.

Dropsy: An old term for the swelling of soft tissues due to the accumulation of excess water.

In years gone by, a person might have been said to have dropsy. Today one would be more descriptive and specify the cause. Thus, the person might have edema due to congestive heart failure.

Edema is often more prominent in the lower legs and feet toward the end of the day as a result of pooling of fluid from the upright position usually maintained during the day. Upon awakening from sleeping, people can have swelling around the eyes referred to as periorbital edema.

Dyspepsia: Dyspepsia refers to a condition (disease) in which there are upper abdominal symptoms which may include upper abdominal pain, bloating (a feeling of abdominal fullness without objective abdominal distention), early satiety (a feeling of unusual fullness with very little intake of food), nausea, or belching. The symptoms often are provoked by eating.

Dyspepsia is considered a functional disease. (Another functional disease is irritable bowel syndrome or IBS.) Functional diseases are diseases in which no abnormalities can be seen anatomically, for example, on x-rays, or histologically under the microscope. The abnormalities are believed to be due to altered function, primarily of the muscles and nerves of the gastrointestinal tract.

E. coli: Short for Escherichia coli, the colon bacillus, a bacterium that normally resides in the human colon. E. coli has been studied intensively in genetics and molecular and cell biology because of its availability, its small genome size, its normal lack of pathogenicity (disease-causing ability), and its ease of growth in the laboratory. Most strains of E coli are quite harmless. However, some strains of E. coli are capable of causing disease, sometimes disease of deadly proportions. For example, an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria in the water supply hit Walkerton, Ontario in the year 2000; the E. coli affected about 2,000 people in and around Walkerton and were responsible for the deaths of some 18 people. E. coli 0157:H7 is a major health problem. About 20,000 cases of hemorrhagic (bloody) colitis (inflammation of the bowel) due to E. coli 0157:H7 occur each year in the U.S. E coli O157:H7 produces toxins (poisons). The toxins produced by E. coli 0157:H7 can damage the lining of the intestine and are thought to participate in all of the diseases caused by E. coli 0157:H7. The hemorrhagic diarrhea (bloody colitis) caused by E. coli 0157:H7 is severe with painful abdominal cramps, gross blood in the stool, and lasts for 6 to 8 days. Children with E. coli 0157:H7 can develop a disease called the hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), a major and sometimes fatal “Hemolytic” refers to the breakup of red blood cells. This leads to anemia and a shortage of platelets (thrombocytopenia) which causes abnormal bleeding. “Uremic” refers to the acute kidney failure. Central nervous system problems with seizures and coma can also occur. HUS is the most common cause of acute kidney failure in infants and young children.Persons who get E. coli 0157:H7, particularly the elderly, can develop a syndrome similar to HUS called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) with anemia due to fragmentation of red blood cells, shortage of platelets (thrombocytopenia) with easy bruising, neurologic abnormalities, impaired kidney function, and fever. Most commonly, E. coli 01257:H7 comes from eating raw or undercooked ground beef (hamburger) or from drinking raw milk or contaminated water. Less commonly, E coli O157:H7 can be transmitted from one person to another.

EEG: Electroencephalogram, e technique for studying the electrical current within the brain. Electrodes are attached to the scalp. Wires attach these electrodes to a machine which records the electrical impulses. The results are either printed out or displayed on a computer screen. Electroencephalogram is abbreviated EEG.

Electrolyte: An electrolyte is a substance that will dissociate into ions in solution and acquire the capacity to conduct electricity. The electrolytes include sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium and phosphate. Informally, called lytes. (The clue to the word electrolyte is in the lyte which comes from the Greek lytos meaning that may be dissolved.)

Embolism: The obstruction of a blood vessel by a foreign substance or a blood clot blocking the vessel. Something travels through the bloodstream, lodges in a vessel and plugs it.

Foreign substances that can cause embolism include an air bubble, amniotic fluid, a globule of fat, a clump of bacteria, chemicals (such as talc), and drugs (mainly illicit ones).

Blood clots are the most common cause of embolism. A pulmonary embolus is a blood clot that has been carried through the blood into the pulmonary artery (the main blood vessel from the heart to the lung) or one of its branches, plugging that vessel.

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Emetic: Something that causes emesis, that makes you want to vomit. For example, ipecac is an emetic. From the Greek emein (to vomit), from the Indo-European root wem- (to vomit), the source of the words such as wamble (to feel nauseated) and vomit.

Empirical: Based on experience and observation, rather than systematic logic. Experienced physicians often use empirical reasoning to make diagnoses, based on having seen many cases over the years. Less-experienced physicians are more likely to use diagnostic guides and manuals. In practice, both approaches (if properly applied) will usually come up with the same diagnosis.

Endemic: Present in a community at all times but in relatively low frequency. Something that is endemic is typically restricted or peculiar to a locality or region.

Epidemic: The occurrence of more cases of a disease than would be expected in a community or region during a given time period. A sudden severe outbreak of a disease such as SARS. From the Greek “epi-“, “upon” + “demos”, “people or population” = “epidemos” = “upon the population.” See also: Endemic; Pandemic.

Epidermal: Pertaining to the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin.

Essential fatty acid: An unsaturated fatty acid that is essential to human health, but cannot be manufactured in the body. There are three types of essential fatty acids (EFAs): arachnoidic acid, linoleic acid, and linolenic acid. When obtained in the diet, linoleic acid can be converted to both arachnoidic and linolenic acid. It is commonly found in cold-pressed oils, and is particularly high in oils extracted from cold-water fish and certain seeds. Recent research has explored the role of EFAs in the nervous system health. Supplementation with certain EFOs appears to be useful as a treatment for certain neurological disorders. However, arachnoidic acid may lower the seizure threshold. For that reason, always consult a knowledgeable physician before starting a program of EFA supplementation.

Essential oil: An oil derived from a natural substance, usually either for its healing properties or as a perfume. Some pharmaceuticals, and many over-the-counter or “holistic” remedies, are based on or contain essential oils. Examples include products containing camphor or eucalyptus that help relieve congestive coughs, and the essential oils used in the practice of aromatherapy.

Exacerbate: To make worse.

Expectorant: A medication that helps bring up mucus and other material from the lungs, bronchi, and trachea. An example of as expectorant is guaifenesin which promotes drainage of mucus from the lungs by thinning the mucus and also lubricates the irritated respiratory tract. Sometimes the term “expectorant” is incorrectly extended to any cough medicine. From the Latin expectorare, to expel from the chest, from ex-, out of + pectus, chest.

Fascia: A flat band of tissue below the skin that covers the underlying tissues and separates different layers of tissue. Fascia encloses muscles. Inflammation of the fascia is referred to as fasciitis.

Fat, saturated: A fat that is solid at room temperature and comes chiefly from animal food products. Some examples are butter, lard, meat fat, solid shortening, palm oil, and coconut oil. These fats tend to raise the level of cholesterol in the blood.

Fat, trans: An unhealthy substance, also known as trans fatty acid, made through the chemical process of hydrogenation of oils. Hydrogenation solidifies liquid oils and increases the shelf life and the flavor stability of oils and foods that contain them. Trans fat is found in vegetable shortenings and in some margarines, crackers, cookies, snack foods and other foods.

Trans fats are also found in abundance in “french fries.” To make vegetable oils suitable for deep frying, the oils are subjected to hydrogenation, which creates trans fats. Among the hazards of fast food, “fries” are prime in purveying trans fats.

Trans fats wreak havoc with the body’s ability to regulate cholesterol. In the hierarchy of fats, the polyunsaturated fats which are found in vegetables are the good kind; they lower your cholesterol. Saturated fats have been condemned as the bad kind. But trans fats are far worse. They drive up the LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. which markedly increases the risk of coronary artery heart disease and stroke. According to a recent study of some 80,000 women, for every 5% increase in the amount of saturated fat a woman consumes, her risk of heart disease increases by 17%. But only a 2% increase in trans fats will increase her risk of heart disease by 93%!

The US FDA in 1999 proposed that the Nutrition Facts labels on vegetable shortenings and some cookies, crackers, margarines, and other foods may soon carry information about trans fatty acids, or trans fats. Beyond requiring that some labels list the amount of trans fats in the food, the FDA rule would also define the term “trans fat free” and limits the use of certain nutrient or health claims related to fat content, such as “lean” and “low saturated fat.”

In the realm of dietary dangers, trans fats rank very high. It has been estimated that trans fats are responsible for some 30,000 early deaths a year in the United States. Worldwide the toll of premature deaths is in the millions.

Fatigue: A condition characterized by a lessened capacity for work and reduced efficiency of accomplishment, usually accompanied by a feeling of weariness and tiredness. Fatigue can be acute and come on suddenly or chronic and persist.

Fatty acid: One of many molecules that are long chains of lipid-carboxylic acid found in fats and oils and in cell membranes as a component of phospholipids and glycolipids. (Carboxylic acid is an organic acid containing the functional group -COOH.)

Fatty acids come from animal and vegetable fats and oils. Fatty acids play roles outside the body; they are used as lubricants, in cooking and food engineering, and in the production of soaps, detergents, and cosmetics.

Febrile: Feverish.

Flatulence: Excess gas in the intestinal tract.

Flora: The population of microbes inhabiting the outside or inside surfaces of people (or other animals). Also, the population of plants including flowers, usually in a particular area.

Freckle: A flat circular spot on the skin about the size of the head of a nail that develops after repeated exposure to sunlight, particularly in someone of fair complexion. Freckles may be red, yellow, tan, light-brown, brown, or black. They are always darker than the skin around them since they are due to deposits of the dark melanin, a dark pigment.

There are two basic types of freckles — ephelides and lentigines. Ephelides (singular: ephelis) are flat red or light-brown spots that typically appear during the sunny months and fade in the winter. Lentigines (singular: lentigo) are small tan, brown, or black spots which tend to be darker than an ephelis-type freckle and which do not fade in the winter.

The sun is not the only factor that induces freckles. Heredity also influences freckling, as witnessed by the striking similarity in the total number of freckles on identical twins. Such similarities are considerably less marked in fraternal twins. A gene for freckles has been mapped to chromosome 4q32-q34.

Freckles are harmless. They may sometimes be confused with more serious skin problems. Conversely, more serious problems such as skin cancer may at times be passed over as a mere freckle. Anyone who has one or more pigmented spots of which they are not certain should be seen by a physician (or dermatologist). Effective treatments are available to lighten or eliminate those freckles whose appearance bothers their owners.

Fungal: Pertaining to a fungus. For example, a fungal skin infection.

Gangrene: The death of body tissue due to the loss of blood supply to that tissue, sometimes permitting bacteria to invade it and accelerate its decay.

The word “gangrene” comes from the Greek “ganggraina” denoting “an eating sore that ends in mortification” (of the flesh).

Gas gangrene involves the invasion of a deep penetrating wound (in which the blood supply is compromised) by anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that can survive with little or no oxygen) such as members of Clostridium family of bacteria. The bacteria generate gas and pus. Gas gangrene is an acute, painful, dangerous condition.

Dry gangrene is the death of tissue due to vascular insufficiency without bacterial invasion. The tissue simply dries up and shrivels.

Gastric: Having to do with the stomach.

Generic: 1. The chemical name of a drug. 2. A term referring to the chemical makeup of a drug rather than to the advertised brand name under which the drug may be sold. 3.A term referring to any drug marketed under its chemical name without advertising.

Generic drugs marketed without brand names are generally less expensive than brand-name drugs, even though they are chemically identical to brand-name drugs and meet the same standards of the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) for safety, purity and effectiveness. Generic drugs can be legally produced in the US if a patent has expired, or for drugs which have never been patented. The expiration of a patent removes the monopoly of the patent holder on drug sales licensing.