Herb stops cyst formation in kidney

April 30, 2007  
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CM NEWS – Substance triptolide derived from Chinese medicinal herb lei gong teng (???, Tripterygium wilfordii Hook. f., Radix Tripterygium wilfordii, three-wing-nut) has the potential to stop cyst formation in polycystic kidney disease, as reported by the Daily India. This could mean a hope for the first treatment for the disease other than kidney transplant or frequent dialysis. Read more

Acupuncture is more effective, cheaper alternative to pain killers for migraines

April 27, 2007  
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American Chronicle – A recent study done in Italy and reported in the Journal of Traditional Chinese medicine compared the effect of acupuncture for migraine headaches versus conventional pain killer therapy.

One of the most interesting features of this study is that each patient was given a complete examination prior to the start of the test. This allowed the acupuncture therapy to be tailored to the individual causation of each patient’s condition.

There is no cookie cutter acupuncture treatment that is correct for everyone. When a study is done using the exact same points for the exact same duration, the results are going to be skewed and worthless.

What are the symptoms of migraines? Not all migraines are preceded by preliminarily symptoms, or auras, but if they are, they symptoms associated with an impending migraine usually involve some kind of vision disturbance such as:

* Bright or dark sport (sometimes resembling champagne bubbles)
* Tunnel vision
* Zigzag lines ( called fortification spectra)

The aura is followed by an intense crescendo of a headache, frequently behind one eye or on one side of the head. the pain may be pounding, throbbing, viselike, or stabbing; frequently it feels like the head is going to explode from pressure. Other symptoms that can accompany the headache of a migraine include.

* sensitivity to light
* nausea
* vomiting

The study showed that acupuncture for migraines was generally more effective than a series of pain killing drugs administered to the control group. What was more interesting is that the study looked at other factors beside the pain reduction. It also evaluated such things as the cost of the treatments and the time patients would have been unable to work under both treatments. It was in these areas that even more startling results were found.

The results indicated that acupuncture for migraine was not only a slightly more effective treatment for severe cases, but also resulted in considerable savings when viewed from a socio-economic point of view.

Many in the Western medical establishment give acupuncture a reluctant nod of acceptance as a treatment alternative for pain, but few have been made aware of how much more cost efficient and economically beneficial these treatments can be. There is certainly a need for more studies of this type that treat alternative medicine with a serious attitude and do not design the study to debunk what they already do not accept.

Migraines are one of the leading causes of lost time in the workplace in the United States. It is estimated that the cost of absenteeism from the estimated 157 million lost work days is over US$50b yearly when medical expenses are included. An additional US$4b is spent on pain killers for migraines and other types of headaches.

Dan shen’s effect for stroke patients lacks strong evidence

April 26, 2007  
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Health Behavior News Service, by Bruce Sylvester – The traditional Chinese medicine dan shen (??, Salviae miltiorrhizae), a standard treatment for ischemic stroke in China, lacks strong scientific evidence to support such use, according a new review of studies.Nevertheless, based on the available data, dan shen treatment showed a tendency to improve short-term neurological deficits in stroke patients, say researchers at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China.

However, the short-term result “should be interpreted cautiously because of the poor methodological quality of included trials and the small numbers of patients,” said review co-author and neurology professor Ming Liu.

The review appears in the current issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates research in all aspects of health care. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing trials on a topic.

Obstruction of a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain can result in ischemic stroke, which accounts for about 83% of all strokes.

In China, post-stroke use of herbal medicine is part of standard care in both Western-style hospitals and in traditional Chinese medicine hospitals. Dan shen, in various pill, tablet and injection formulations, is the herb most commonly given for ischemic stroke; its use in that context spans more than three decades.

However, few researchers have tested the herb’s effectiveness in rigorous clinical trials that approach current international standards.

The reviewers found six studies that met inclusion criteria for the review — randomized or quasi-randomized and controlled — involving 494 acute ischemic stroke patients.

The Cochrane reviewers found that methods of randomly assigning study subjects to dan shen or placebo were unclear, and that this could have led to results exaggerating a positive treatment effect by 30% to 41%. “It is therefore plausible that dan shen is truly ineffective and the apparent benefits are simply due to bias arising from the methodological weaknesses of the studies,” they say.

Since treatment and follow-up in these studies ranged from 14 to 28 days, it was not possible to assess the long-term effects of dan shen.

“We found no evidence to support the routine use of dan shen agents for ischemic stroke,” Liu said. “However, if the apparently beneficial effects on neurological impairment were confirmed in methodologically rigorous trials, it would lead to a useful treatment for stroke being identified,” she added.

Ted Kaptchuck, O.M.D., associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said, “in Chinese society, at this time, basic science and laboratory evidence seems to be enough to gain widespread acceptance and adoption for the use herbal and other medications. In the West, we think it is a long shot to go from basic laboratory evidence to demonstrated clinical efficacy in randomized trials. We are not at the point where it is clear that a traditional Chinese herb has a major role in health care.”

Liu agreed: “The designs of these trials need to be improved in the future research, not only in the clinical trials on dan shen agents, but also in trials on other Chinese herbal medicine.”

[Dan Shen agents for acute ischaemic stroke (Review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 2.]

The Cochrane Collaboration is an international nonprofit, independent organization that produces and disseminates systematic reviews of health care interventions and promotes the search for evidence in the form of clinical trials and other studies of interventions. Visit http://www.cochrane.org for more information.

Chinese medicine herb extract keeps anxiety under control

April 25, 2007  
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gou teng, uncaria rhynchophylla, chinese medicine, anxiety, depressionCM NEWS – A study on rats shows that the extract of a plant commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine is an effective anti-anxiety agent.

Gou teng, ??, or Uncaria rhynchophylla, has been used to treat infantile convulsions, headaches, dizziness, hypertension and apoplexy. It has also been shown to be effective in lowering the excitement of the central nervous system. Read more

FDA plans stricter regulations for alternative medicines

April 24, 2007  
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Insight Journal – The FDA is proposing stricter regulations for herbs, vitamins, vegetable juices and even “devices” such as massage oils, massage rocks, and acupuncture needles under a new guidance document up for review.

Complementary and Alternative Medicines are defined by NCCAM (the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, a branch of the National Institutes of Health) as any medical practices that are distinctly different from those used in “conventional” or “allopathic” medicine generally practiced in the United States. It’s a very broad definition, encompassing such practices as acupuncture, massage therapy, herbal supplementation, and aromatherapy.

According to the document produced by the FDA, use of CAM therapies has risen substantially over the last few years, with one third of adults reporting using some form of CAM in the last year. Interestingly, the docket also reports that visits to CAM practitioners outnumber visits to primary care physicians each year.

The FDA claims that their regulations are simply a “guidance” as to what constitutes regulated CAM items. The CAM community disagrees. They see the defining of regulated items as an attempt to control the use of CAM within the United States—and possibly incorporate CAM devices and medicines into what some refer to as “Big Pharma,” the pharmaceutical industry.

The guidance document essentially defines any item used to treat, mitigate, cure or prevent a disease as regulated by the FDA. This means that if someone claims their vegetable juice helps cure cancer, the FDA then has the right to regulate that vegetable juice as a drug. It also means that if someone is using massage rocks as part of their therapy for a disease or disorder, those massage rocks are regulated as medical devices.

FDA Docket: 2006D-0480 – Draft Guidance

Full story here.

Combined Western-traditional medicine could boost cancer treatment: expert

April 22, 2007  
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AP – Western science and traditional Chinese medicine could be combined to enhance treatment of cancer and other diseases, an oncology professor told a medical forum Sunday.

But comprehensive clinical studies must be carried out and patients must be educated to accept the combination of methods, Tony Mok Shu Kam, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told participants at a two-day medical forum in Singapore sponsored by the Lancet medical journal.

Traditional medicine was previously the standard medicine, and a large portion of cancer patients still use it,” Mok said referring to China. “We cannot discredit traditional medicines, because they are so old and they are still here, so there must be some virtue. But we must do something in a scientific fashion to prove it better.”

While a number of Chinese studies have been published on the efficacy of some common herbal medicines, Mok said their trials were too small or the methods too inconsistent to be approved in the West.

“We have to move forward and invest in high-quality studies,” Mok said.

Some traditional Eastern medicines have been proven effective through research and clinical trials. For example, Artemisin, used for more than 2,000 years in Chinese herbal medicine, is emerging as a drug of choice for treating drug-resistant malaria, an advance supported by the World Health Organization.

Mok referred to ongoing studies in the United States and Russia that are examining the use of kanglaite, commonly used as a supplement in Chinese diets and one of the top-selling anti-cancer traditional herbs. Another Western-led study is looking at the herb astragalus, used in China to boost the immune system during chemotherapy.

Another researcher worried that too many people in developing countries are being taken advantage of by untrained traditional healers.

“There are many people who are not trained. These people are out to make money,” Monika Bardhan of Malaysia’s NCI Cancer Hospital told The Associated Press.

She said too many people first go to traditional healers and pay exorbitant prices for concoctions with unproven ingredients. By the time they come to the hospital, it is often too late to treat them.

Bardhan said she is not against traditional medicine as long as patients are educated about what they are receiving and the doctors or healers are legitimate.

Mok said some hospitals in China were using both traditional and Western medicines — herbs and chemotherapy, or acupuncture and modern diagnostic imaging, for example — but more needed to be done to integrate the methods.

A key factor in the integration would be convincing users of traditional medicine that modern science is as good as or better than their centuries-old methods.

A 2004 study in China showed that 49% of women who were being treated for breast cancer with traditional Chinese medicine believed it to be an effective treatment for their disease.

Mok also referred to a Chinese trial he was involved in this year in which some prospective patients declined to be part of a placebo control study to test the effectiveness of a traditional medicine when they learned their chances of getting the medicine were only 50-50. They preferred to go to a traditional doctor who would definitely prescribe the treatment they sought.

Traditional Chinese medicine eases chemotherapy side effects

April 21, 2007  
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Earth TimesTraditional Chinese medicine could help ease the side effects of chemotheraphy for cancer patients, according to a study carried out by researchers in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China, media reports said Saturday.

“A chemotherapy regimen can last a few months and many patients experience nausea, vomiting and fatigue,” The Business Times quoted Dr Tony Mok Shu Kam, professor of clinical oncology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, as saying. “For some people, it can get quite bad.”

Chemotherapy involves chemical agents to stop cancer cells from growing and is widely used in treatments.

Mok, who will speak on Sunday at British medical journal Lancet’s forum in Singapore, said the latest study involved breast and colon cancer patients.

“All the selected patients were seen not only by an oncologist but by a traditional herbalist, who then prescribed an individualized herbal recipe,” Mok told the newspaper.

Depending on a code known only to the pharmacist, the patient received either the recipe or a placebo, Mok said. The study successfully demonstrated that herbal remedies can help ease the side effects.

Mok’s study is the latest in a wave of herbal medical research triggered in China in the mid-1990s with the appearance of Kanglaite, a drug containing a herbal extract which is China’s top-selling cancer treatment, the report said. It’s use has not been approved outside the country.

Mok cautioned that traditional Chinese medicine alone cannot effectively treat cancer and should not be used as a primary mode of treatment. Herbal remedies play an auxiliary role by helping to relieve symptoms associated with treatments.

“While it is true many herbs may have anti-cancer properties, that’s not the same as saying these herbs can cure or treat cancer,” Mok told the newspaper.

What is needed are high-quality clinical trials on traditional medicine, Mok stressed.

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