Antioxidants are a group of vitamins, minerals and enzymes that protect the body from the formations of free radicals by neutralizing them before they can travel freely through the body wreaking havoc.

Free radicals kill some cells and destroy the protective outer membranes of others. If a free radical gains access to the cell's interior, it can damage its genetic code (DNA) that controls cell reproduction. If the DNA is altered, the cell either cannot reproduce itself, or an abnormal cell is formed.

Many plants produce antioxidants as part of their natural protective mechanism. Therefore, a diet rich in plant food is likely to provide a variety of antioxidants.

Several essential vitamins and minerals have strong antioxidant properties. These include vitamins A, C and E, selenium, gamma linolenic acid (GLA), L-cysteine, L-glutathione and superoxide dismutase (SOD). These antioxidants are also known as free radical scavengers.

Vitamin A promotes germ killing enzymes and is necessary to healthy mucous cells. Beta-carotene and vitamin A destroy carcinogens.

Vitamin C is a potent stimulator of T-effector cell activity. It reduces lipid production in the brain and spinal cord, which often incur free radical damage. In the presence of hesperidin, a bioflavonoid, it acts as a more potent free radical scavenger.

Vitamin E protects the coating around each cell and prevents fat and cell membrane rancidity. Zinc is needed to maintain normal blood concentrations of vitamin E.

Selenium stimulates increased antibody response to germ infections. It also increases the effect of vitamin E.

GLA is a key regulator of T-lymphocyte function in the body. Evening primrose oil, black currant seed oil and borage oil are the sources of pre-formed GLA.

L-cysteine is used by the liver and the lymphocytes to detoxify chemicals and germ poisons.

L-gluthathione rids the body of free radicals. It protects the body from the harmful effects of metals, drugs, alcohol and cigarette smoke.

SOD is an enzyme that revitalizes the cells and reduces the rate of cell destruction. It also aids in the utilization of zinc, copper and manganese. SOD naturally occurs in barley grass, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, wheat grass and most green plants.

Since antioxidants help neutralize free radicals, it is believed that they may be instrumental in preventing many diseases. And there is speculation that antioxidants may fight off or delay much of the deterioration that occurs with normal aging. There have been studies that indicate that antioxidants may play an important role in both the prevention and treatment of diseases. (Including heart disease, cancer, lung disease...just to name a few.)

In general, foods are considered a better source of antioxidant vitamins and minerals than pills. Although the body metabolizes artificial vitamins and minerals in the same way as natural nutrients in foods, the natural nutrients contain numerous essential substances that are not found in pills.

To assure adequate intake of antioxidants, consume a varied diet that includes fresh or lightly processed vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and other plant products.

Herbs containing antioxidant actions include astragalus, balm, basil, chaparral, comfrey, gingko biloba, ginseng, gotu kola, kelp, licorice, purslane, sage and tea.

Author's Bio: 

Edith Lingenfelter - webmaster of Age-old Herbs shows how "self defense" is natures oldest law and how to prevent your health concerns with natural healing herbs with herbal nutrition supplements. For better health and well being visit