On Nutrition

Herbs Can’t Erase Dark Circles

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I am concerned about the dark circles under my eyes. They seem to run in my family, and I wonder if there are any vitamins, minerals or herbs I can take that might help. -- D.C., Tucson, Arizona

DEAR D.C.: Darkness under the eyes can be brought about by certain medical conditions, including allergies, dehydration, sleep difficulties and stress, and you should consult your physician if you have questions as to whether any of these might be involved.

Another common cause is the natural thinness of the skin under the eyes. The skin itself isn’t dark, but it is often thin enough to see the vascular bed underneath. This trait can indeed run in families, and its presence does not necessarily reflect any health problems. If one is fatigued, ill or under stress, the skin can become pale, and this would accentuate the darkness.

I am sorry to report that aside from using a normal, healthful diet and lifestyle to cope with life’s stresses, I am unaware of evidence showing that particular vitamins, minerals or herbs can help eliminate this problem.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: During my childhood, my grandmother from northern Italy made delicious candy from the seeds of peaches. Every fall, after we feasted on the fresh fruit, she took the seeds and fried them in butter, then added sugar till it all melted. It became the most delicious brittle candy. Now I have learned that there is poison in peach pits. Was the candy dangerous? We never got sick from it. -- L.D., Hillside, New Jersey

DEAR L.D.: It is fortunate that you did not get sick from that candy. Peach pits are not really the safest items to have in one’s diet. They, along with apricot kernels and apple seeds, are sources of a cyanide-containing compound known as amygdalin. Although a natural substance, cyanide is a very potent poison because it can effectively shut down metabolism. The body has a recovery mechanism, and as with most toxic materials, it’s the dose that determines the impact. The fact that you’re around to relate this story shows that the amount of cyanide in the peach pit brittle was insufficient to cause any obvious harm. But this is not a recipe I would pass down to future generations.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I like to grind flax seeds and use them in my foods. I do not want them to go rancid, and was wondering if they need to be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Also: Can fish oil capsules and other omega-3 supplements go rancid in the same way? -- E.A., San Diego

DEAR E.A.: You are correct in your approach to flax. The seed wall is designed to protect the oils within, but once the seeds have been ground, there needs to be some protection from oxidation. I would not recommend purchasing ground flax from a bulk bin, for example, where the grounds may have been sitting around for long periods of time.

If ground flax is in a well-sealed container, it should be OK at room temperature, but would do even better in the refrigerator. As regards fish oil, capsules are designed to protect their contents. If unbroken, they should be performing that function.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

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