Lingzhi, ancient TCM powder numb arthitis pain

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October 3, 2007  
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CM NEWS – A famous TCM arthritis drug and expensive mushroom lingzhi have analgesic effects for rheumatoid arthritis, but the long-claimed anti-inflammatory and immunity boosting functions are yet to be substantiated, a new study says.

Lingzhi has been proven in lab to have medicinal value. has been shown to have an effect on and . It also seems to be able to slow the progress of disease.

The study was done at the Prince of Wales Hospital of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. It was a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot trial.

The popular traditional Chinese medicine combo used in this study were Ganoderma lucidum (lingzhi, ?? in Chinese, or reishi in Japanese ) and San Miao San (???, The Three Wonders Powder).

lingzhi What is lingzhi? Lingzhi is the name for one form of the mushroom Ganoderma lucidum, and its close relative Ganoderma tsugae, which grows in the northern Eastern Hemlock forests. These two species of bracket fungus have a worldwide distribution in both tropical and temperate geographical regions, including North and South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia, growing as a parasite or saprotroph on a wide variety of trees.

Ganoderma lucidum enjoys special veneration in Asia, where it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine as a herbal medicine for more than 4,000 years, making it one of the oldest mushrooms known to have been used in medicine.

According to The Chinese Herbal Materia Medica (????), lingzhi may be classified into six categories according to their shapes and colors, each of which is believed to nourish a different part of the body.

1. Red – heart
2. Purple – joints
3. Green – liver
4. White – lungs and skin
5. Yellow – spleen
6. Black – kidneys and brain

Lingzhi may possess some anti-tumour, immunomodulatory and immunotherapeutic activities, supported by some studies on polysaccharides, terpenes, and other bioactive compounds isolated from fruiting bodies and mycelia of this fungus. Lingzhi has been found to be anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anti-parasitic, anti-fungal, antidiabetic, anti-hypotensive, and protective of the liver. It has also been found to inhibit platelet aggregation, and to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

Because of these properties, lingzhi has been regarded as blood pressure stabilizer, antioxidant, analgesic, a kidney and nerve tonic. It has been used in bronchitis prevention and in cardiovascular treatment, and in the treatment of high triglycerides, high blood pressure, hepatitis, allergies, chemotherapy support, HIV support, and even for fatigue and altitude sickness.

cang zhuWhat is San Miao San? San Miao San mean “Three Wonders Powder”. The formula can be dated as far back in history as around 1500s during the Ming Dynasty. The three ingredients of San Miao San are:

(1) Cang zhu (??, atractylodes lancea Thunb., A chinensis Koidz.).
The main content of cang zhu includes hinesol, ?-eudesmol,atractylodin and atractylon.

The functions of cang zhu are: for treatment of yeast infection and dries dampness and flatulence; strengthens digestion; expels wind-dampness; for diarrhea with vomiting; edema with fullness of the abdomen; induces sweating in patients unable to sweat; headaches, body aches, solar plexus pain, and pain in extremities due to wind-cold-dampness, and edema in lower limbs etc. Modern research also shows that it can lower blood sugar and expel sodium.

(2) Huang bo (??, Phellodendro chinense Schneid.)
The main content of huang bo include: berberine (1.4%-5.8%), phellodendrine, magnoflorine, palmatine, obacunone, limonin etc.

Its traditional functions are to treat vaginal bacterial infection or yeast infection, bacterial infection of the bowel, and infectious jaundice, wet and smelly groin area; spermatorrhea; night sweating and boils and sores. Modern applications include acting as an antibiotic which inhibits Staphylococcus aureaus, pnumococcus, and Shigella dysenteriae; lowers blood pressure and blood sugar, as well as being anti-Trichomoniasis.

(3) Niu xi (??, Radix Achyranthis Bidentatae)
The main componets of niu xi are: isocyasterone, 5-epicyasterone, sengosterone, cyasterone, amarasterone A and B, capiterone, poststerone, ecdysterone and precyasterone etc.

Niu xi has been used to deal with weakness and pain in loin and knees, tight and spastic limbs, irregular menses, postpartum pain in abdomen due to blood stasis, blood in urine, physical injuries and difficulty in bending knees.

In the Hong Kong study, 32 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis were randomly assigned to the TCM group and 33 to placebo in addition to their current medications for 24 weeks. The TCM group received lingzhi (4g) and San Miao San (2.4g) daily.

The primary outcome was the number of patients achieving American College of Rheumatology (ACR) 20% response and secondary outcomes included changes in the ACR components, plasma levels, and ex vivo-induced cytokines and chemokines and oxidative stress markers.

What is ACR 20 response? An ACR 20 response requires a patient to have a 20% reduction in the number of swollen and tender joints, and a reduction of 20% in three of the following five parameters: physician global assessment of disease, patient global assessment of disease, patient assessment of pain, C-reactive protein or erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and degree of disability in Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) score.

At the end, 89% of patients completed the 24-week study. The results show that 15%in the TCM group achieved ACR20, while only 9.1% in the placebo group got the same.

Pain score and patient’s global score improved significantly only in the TCM group. The percentage, absolute counts, and CD4+/CD8+/natural killer/B lymphocytes ratio were unchanged between groups. CD3, CD4, and CD8 lymphocyte counts and markers of inflammation including plasma interleukin-18 (IL-18), interferon-gamma (IFNgamma)-inducible protein 10, monocyte chemoattractant protein 1, monokine induced by IFNgamma, and RANTES were unchanged.

However, in an ex vivo experiment, the percentage change of IL-18 was significantly lower in the TCM group. 13 patients reported 22 episodes (14 in placebo group and 8 in TCM group) of mild adverse effects.

In conclusion, the study says lingzhi and San Miao San may have analgesic effects for patients with active rheumatoid arthritis, and were generally safe and well tolerated. However, no significant antioxidant, antiinflammatory, or immunomodulating effects could be demonstrated.

[Arthritis Rheum. 2007 Sep 28;57(7):1143-1150]

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