‘Gold-plated’ catepillar fungus boosts immunity, lowers blood sugar

June 13, 2007  
Filed under Diabetes

catepillar fungusCM NEWSCordyceps sinensis, or commonly known as and dong chong xia cao (冬蟲夏草) in Chinese, is an expensive traditional Chinese medicine well-known for its anti-tumour, immunostimulant and antioxidant functions. The catepillar fungus has also been proven to be anti-diabetic. Read more

Catepillar fungus powerful to relieve liver fibrosis

June 12, 2007  
Filed under Uncategorised

CM NEWS – A traditional Chinese medicine as expensive as gold could be more precious than gold as it may now be able to turn back the clock for patients with liver fibrosis. Read more

Acupuncture helps mothers breast feed

June 11, 2007  
Filed under Acupuncture

CM NEWS – So now not only acupuncture can control pain, it can also help a mother to have a smooth breast feeding experience. Read more

Acupuncture on hypertension ‘a clear effect’: landmark study

June 7, 2007  
Filed under Acupuncture, Heart health

acupuncture, hypertension, high blood pressureHeartwire – A study billed as the first rigorous, randomized trial in the West to test against a sham (fake) needle technique to treat suggests that, performed properly, may produce blood-pressure changes on a par with monotherapy in mild to moderate hypertension. Read more

Chinese medicine inconclusive in treating hyperthyroidism: review

June 6, 2007  
Filed under TCM use & research

Medical News Today – It might not be a bad idea for people with overactive thyroids to supplement their standard treatment with Chinese herbal medicine, a new review suggests. But while some of the studies supported the combination of two types of medicine, the reviewers say the quality of the research was questionable.

“Unfortunately, we cannot find a well-designed and conducted trial at this stage,” said Taixiang Wu, an associate professor at Sichuan University in China.

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, causing problems that can mimic the effects of a shot of adrenalin, said Jeffrey Sandler, M.D., an endocrinologist with Scripps Mercy Hospital and Whittier Institute in San Diego. “It stimulates the heart rate, can raise blood pressure, breaks down muscle and can cause weakness and weight loss.”

Increased thyroid hormone can lead to higher body temperatures and warm, moist skin as well. The cause of hyperthyroidism is typically Graves’ disease, where cells of the immune system work against the thyroid gland.

Hyperthyroidism is most common among women and the drugs used to treat it have been around for about 50 years, Sandler said. In extreme cases, doctors turn to surgery and radiation.

In this new Cochrane Library review, the researchers looked for studies that compared hyperthyroidism patients who took Chinese herbal medicine alone to those who took it in combination with Western treatments.

The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews like this one draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

The reviewers were only able to find 13 relevant studies whose authors were available to interview. The researchers excluded 52 other studies whose authors they could not reach.

According to the reviewers, the 13 studies with 1,770 people were all of “low quality.” Types of herbal treatment varied widely, with 103 different formulations included.

None of the studies analyzed death rates, health-related quality of life or participants’ willingness to follow the regimens. And none used a “double-blinding” approach, in which both researchers and subjects are initially prevented from knowing who’s getting which treatment.

The studies indicated that combinations of Chinese herbal medicines and Western antithyroid drugs might lower relapse rates, reduce side effects and relieve symptoms of hyperthyroidism, but the Chinese treatments didn’t seem to have much of an effect on the functioning of the thyroid itself.

While understanding of hyperthyroidism is a product of modern times, Chinese doctors have presumably been treating patients with the condition for some 2,000 years, said Subhuti Dharmananda, director of the Institute for Traditional Medicine in Portland, Ore. Chinese research focused on specific treatments, however, only goes back to the 1970s and 1980s, he said.

Should hyperthyroidism patients consider combining Chinese and Western medicine? “At this point, there is no wisdom available one way or the other,” Dharmananda said. “My recommendation to people is that if they are drawn to using Chinese medicine as part of their therapy, that they find a good practitioner in their area and undertake a program of treatment to see if it helps.”

He added, “It is possible that Chinese medicine can, for example, alleviate some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism or help maintain good health after modern treatment for the disease.”

As for the current Western treatment, “we do pretty well with what’s currently available and standard,” Sandler said.

Regarding alternative treatments, “the problem is that when you’re dealing with a disease where it’s important to have the right dosage of medication,” Sandler said. Indeed, the proper dose of one thyroid medication can range from 50 to 1,200 milligrams depending on the person, he said

“Things like herbal medicines and supplements are not reliably predictable, and the doses may vary from batch to batch or manufacturer to manufacturer,” Sandler said. “You’re dealing with a situation where there isn’t a great deal of control.”

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 for more information.

Zen XX, et al. Chinese herbal medicines for hyperthyroidism. (Review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 2.

Ginseng, gingko biloba won’t interfere with drug absorption if taken within limit

June 6, 2007  
Filed under Dietary

CM NEWS – Daily use of ginseng or ginkgo biloba supplements at the recommended doses, or the combination of both supplements, are unlikely to alter the pharmacokinetics of most drugs, a study has found.

Recent findings that the widely-used herbal supplement Saint Johns wort could dramatically affect the absorption and metabolism of many prescription and non-prescription drugs raised concerns that other popular herbal supplements might cause similar changes, thus significantly altering drugs therapeutic or toxic effects.

What, for example, about ginseng and ginkgo biloba, two of the most widely used herbal supplements? Ginseng and gingkgo biloba are commonlyly used in traditional Chinese medicine.

What are the effects of ginseng? In Chinese medicine, ginseng (Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer) has long been used as a general tonic or an adaptogen to promote longevity and enhance bodily functions. It has also been claimed to be effective in combating stress, fatigue, oxidants, cancer and diabetes mellitus. Most of the pharmacological actions of ginseng are attributed to one type of its constituents, namely the ginsenosides.

Panax qinsenq & Panax quinquefolium are two species of the ginseng plant. The herb grows to a height of about 60 centimeters (around two feet) and belongs to the Araliaceae family.

The plant grows very slowly and requires a cool shady climate. It grows best in China, Korea, and Japan. Ginseng also grows wild in some parts of North America. Indeed, it has been said that the best type is the wild type with roots which are several years old.

The Asian form is the Panax qinsenq, the American variety is the quinquefolium type. Both have many similar properties, but the Chinese version is more useful for a winter tonic because of its warming nature and the American variety is useful for a summer tonic because it has a more yin or cooling nature

There is an entirely different plant called Eleutherococcus senticosus which, although a botanical cousin of ginseng is often sold as “Siberian Ginseng”. It has some similar properties to ginseng.

Korean ginseng is considered by many folks to be the “best”. The most potent ginseng is considered by some to be that which is grown in South Korea, especially in the Kunsan and Kaesong provinces.

Speaking on May 1 at Experimental Biology 2007, University of Kansas Medical Center scientist Dr. Gregory Reed reports a study that found daily use of ginseng or ginkgo biloba supplements at the recommended doses, or the combination of both supplements, are unlikely to alter the pharmacokinetics – by which drugs are absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and eliminated by the body – of the majority of prescription or over-the counter drugs. Dr. Reeds presentation was part of the scientific program of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

The research team, led by Dr. Reed and the late Dr. Aryeh Hurwitz, recruited 72 healthy non-smoking adults (31 men and 41 women, ages 20 to 59) who were not taking any prescription drugs or dietary supplements. The participants were given a cocktail of five drugs, each drug in the cocktail chosen because it provides a measure of the activity of a key drug metabolism pathway. Taken together, the five drugs in the cocktail provide measurements of the pathways that determine the pharmacokinetics of over 90% of prescription drugs. The scientists then measured the presence of these drugs or their metabolites in each subjects blood and urine in order to establish a baseline for how each individual absorbed and metabolized the different prescription drugs in the absence of herbal supplements.

The 72 individuals next were randomly assigned to one of four groups. For four weeks, the first group received a ginseng supplement and a placebo for ginkgo biloba; the second received ginkgo biloba and a placebo for ginseng; the third received both ginseng and ginkgo biloba supplements; and the fourth received placebos for both supplements. The prescription drug cocktail was again administered and blood and urine samples taken in order to determine the absorption and metabolism of these drugs in the presence of either or both of the herbal supplements.

What is gingko biloba used for? According to gingko’s fact sheet provided by the National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine:

  • Ginkgo seeds have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, and cooked seeds are occasionally eaten. More recently, ginkgo leaf extract has been used to treat a variety of ailments and conditions, including asthma, bronchitis, fatigue, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
  • Today, people use ginkgo leaf extracts hoping to improve memory; to treat or help prevent Alzheimers disease and other types of dementia; to decrease intermittent claudication (leg pain caused by narrowing arteries); and to treat sexual dysfunction, multiple sclerosis, tinnitus, and other health conditions.

The science behind it: Numerous studies of ginkgo have been done for a variety of conditions. Some promising results have been seen for Alzheimers disease/dementia, intermittent claudication, and tinnitus among others, but larger, well-designed research studies are needed.

  • Some smaller studies for memory enhancement have had promising results, but a trial sponsored by the National Institute on Aging of more than 200 healthy adults over age 60 found that ginkgo taken for 6 weeks did not improve memory.
  • NCCAM is conducting a large clinical trial of ginkgo with more than 3,000 volunteers. The aim is to see if the herb prevents the onset of dementia and, specifically, Alzheimers disease; slows cognitive decline and functional disability (for example, inability to prepare meals); reduces the incidence of cardiovascular disease; and decreases the rate of premature death.
  • Ginkgo is also being studied by NCCAM for asthma, symptoms of multiple sclerosis, vascular function (intermittent claudication), cognitive decline, sexual dysfunction due to antidepressants, and insulin resistance. NCCAM is also looking at potential interactions between ginkgo and prescription drugs.

gingko bilobaIn this study, the scientists found no significant differences between those who received one, both, or none of the ginseng and ginkgo biloba supplements in how their bodies absorbed or metabolized any of the five prescription drugs.

This suggests, says Dr. Reed, that neither ginseng nor ginkgo biloba will affect the pharmacokinetics of the majority of prescription or over-the counter drugs.

He does note, however, that the team did not investigate any possible effects of the herbal supplements on pharmacodynamic interactions: the way drugs produce desired therapeutic effects or cause adverse side effects. The possibility of these pharmacodynamic, as opposed to pharmacokinetic, interactions remains to be investigated.

Studies in Dr. Reeds laboratory continue with an examination of the effects of Saint Johns wort on pharmacokinetics of prescription and non prescription drugs and the role of an individuals genetic makeup in determining the magnitude of the herbal supplements effects. This work was supported by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health.

Yoga can be possible treatment for depression

June 6, 2007  
Filed under Depression, mental health, Exercise

Boston University release Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and McLean Hospital have found that practicing yoga may elevate brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels, the brain’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter.

The findings, which appear in the May issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, suggest that the practice of yoga be explored as a possible treatment for depression and anxiety, disorders associated with low GABA levels. Read more

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