250-year-old pill formula proven good at fighting cold

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April 8, 2007  
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liushenwan, cold, chinese medicineCM NEWS – A popular herbal flu pill used widely among Chinese and Japanese has effective anti-inflammatory and analgesic functions, a study finds.

Liu Shen Wan (???, “Six Spirits Pills“) is a famous traditional Chinese medicine for treatment of upper respiratory tract inflammation. The pills are made from a 250-year-old herbal formula and consist of 6 herbs (thus “Six Spirits Pills”). In a study done at the Department of Complex Prescription of TCM, China Pharmaceutical University in Nanjing, the anti-inflammatory and analgesic functions activities of Liu Shen Wan was evaluated.

It was observed that Liu Shen Wan exerted significant anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities in these models at doses of 30 and 90mg/kg crude drug in vivo.

At doses of 0.5-5mug/ml in vitro, Liu Shen Wan was able to prevent the immune system from over-reacting and hence becoming useless. This is done by targetting the “superantigens”, or super strong pathogens, that cause the infection.

The researchers say that Liu Shen Wan potently inhibited proliferation of human peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) stimulated by streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin at doses of 0.5-5mug/ml in vitro.

What is PBMC? A Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cell (PBMC) is a blood cell having a round nucleus, such as a lymphocyte or a monocyte. These blood cells are a critical component in the immune system to fight infection and adapt to intruders.

Streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxins are a superantigen which can cause a massive immune response by activating up to 20% of the body’s T-cells. Since one of the fundamental strengths of the adaptive immune system is its ability to target antigens with high specificity, superantigens produce an immune response that is effectively useless.

What are T cells? T cells belong to a group of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and play a central role in cell-mediated immunity. Antigen-specific T cells provides the immune system with “memory” against past infections.

What is streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin? Streptococcus pyogenes (group A streptococcus) is a virulent organism that causes scarlet fever, rheumatic fever and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS). Streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin A1 (SpeA1) is a superantigen commonly isolated from streptococcal strains infecting individuals with STSS.

Streptococcus pyogenes is one of the most frequent pathogens of humans. It is estimated that between 5-15% of normal individuals harbour the bacterium, usually in the respiratory tract, without signs of disease. Streptococcus pyogenes can casue infection when body defenses are compromised.

The researchers then separate Liu Shen Wan into fractions to test their individual functions. The pill was partitioned with chloroform, methanol, water and mineral fraction.

The results show that several fractions inhibited inflammation and pain in varying degrees. Among them, chloroform fraction exerted the most remarkable inhibitory effect on human PBMC proliferation.

Methanol and water fractions had more suppressive activities in vascular permeability, leukocyte migration.

These results suggest that Liu Shen Wan has significant anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities. The chloroform fraction is a key fraction of Liu Shen Wan to the overall anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, while methanol and water fractions also partly contribute to anti-inflammatory activities of Liu Shen Wan.

[J Ethnopharmacol. 2007 Feb 11]