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Chinese Medicine for H1N1… Again

November 21st, 2009 No comments

I had written several articles about H1N1 and how Chinese Medicine may be used to help deal with it.  Today, however, I came upon a news article announcing using a chinese medicine formula to help H1N1 (again).  This one though, left a bitter taste in my mouth.  Want to know why? Let’s quote!

TCM may be another alternative in fight against H1N1
By Channel NewsAsia’s Hong Kong Correspondent Leslie Tang | Posted: 21 November 2009 0011 hrs

HONG KONG: Hong Kong Chinese medicine practitioners are collaborating with a Macau university to test what they believe is another alternative to combating the H1N1 virus.

Okay, so far so good.  They’re taking herbs… having it tested in university…

If they are successful, the formula will be the first Chinese herbal prescription cure for H1N1.

*double take*… FIRST Chinese herbal prescription cure?

First… since when?

Hmmm, maybe they mean over the counter?  Nah.

I hope the reader can see where I may have a problem with this statement.  But anyway let’s continue

Other than Tamiflu and flu jabs, Hong Kong R&D company Rorric Biotechnology believes it may be able to offer a less invasive cure to H1N1, using traditional Chinese medicine.

Dr Chow Ching-fung, chairman of Rorric Biotechnology, said: “This formula is effective in two ways. First, it combats and eliminates the virus. Second, it boosts the immune system, helping the patient to become stronger.”

The formula is made up of 21 common Chinese herbs, such as honeysuckle and Bai Shu.

Honeysuckle, along with chrysanthemum, are among the chief herbs used in the Warm Disease School, as opposed to Zhang Zhongjing’s Cold Disease train of thought.  The Warm Disease theories and practice came about 1500 years after Zhang, during the Qing Dynasty (which ended in the early 20th century).

Unlike Cold Disease theory, which emphasizes environmental excesses, Warm Disease theory recognizes that there are infectious agents out there that can brutally invade and cause febrile disease in patients with strong immune systems.  You see, in Cold Disease Theory, exemplified by the book Shang Han Lun, it’s more of a balance between environment and pathogen.  If you’re healthy, and the environment is temperate, no problem.  If your defenses are weak, then you’d be prone to problems from environments normal people would have no problem with.  If the environmental factor is really excessive, it can overwhelm normal defenses.

But with Warm diseases, they come in and whack away.

And they’re respiratory in nature, marked by high fevers.  The stages range from flu-like symptoms to sepsis.

And they’re contagious.

In other words, sounds like … epidemic flu?

But let’s go on the article.

“Traditional Chinese medicine has a long history of being proven to have fewer side effects as it uses herbal ingredients,” Dr Chow added. “Western medicine contains a mixture of chemicals from the manufacturing process, so the risks are higher.”

Dr Chow said he had prescribed the formula, which is currently in powder form, to 100 patients suspected of contracting H1N1 and they have fully recovered.

Moreover, tests at the Wu Han Institute of Virology have shown that the formula is not only effective against H1N1, but also other mutated forms of Influenza A.

While I agree that TCM can have less side effects when prescribed properly.  But to say that western medicine has more side effects because it is a mixture of chemicals from a manufacturing process… uh… by that logic we shouldn’t decoct herbs, and we shouldn’t process them in a factory and end up with a pill.  That would also be a manufacturing process, yes?

Anyway let me explain my ultimate point here:  I am not against the standardization of chinese medicine, but as I mentioned before, Warm Disease theory in particular classifies epidemic fevers into stages.  Will this medicine be appropriate for all stages?  What are the 21 ingredients?  Is it a modification of an older formula?

Speaking of older formulas, isn’t it interesting that they chose to come up with a “new” formula instead of just taking something from Wenrelun (Treatise on Warm Diseases)?  Older formulas can’t be trademarked and patented… and so can be made into pills by anyone.

Nice to see that Chinese medicine is indeed modernizing… by becoming more like Big Pharma… (sarcasm meter. duh)

Leslie Tang, “TCM may be another alternative in fight against H1N1″ <http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/eastasia/view/1019540/1/.html> posted and accessed 11.21.09

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Sour Grapes? No! It’s Victorious Vinegar!

October 13th, 2009 3 comments
vinegar 300x225 Sour Grapes? No! Its Victorious Vinegar!

Chinese Black Vinegar

Growing up, I was never fond of anything sour.  Cane vinegar, tamarinds, you name it, I hated it.  However, things changed in 1999.  That was when I went to Israel for the first time and discovered that I liked the lemon based seasonings used in some vegetable dishes there.  (Regretfully I forgot the name.)

The second major paradigm shift (not total – I’m still not a sour person) happened when I lived for almost a year in Nanjing in 2005.  It was there that I fell in love with Chinese Black Vinegar.  It was good with dumplings, it was good with soups, heck, it was good with everything.  Also, it got rid of the saltiness inherent in Nanjing food ha ha.

My relatives and friends noticed the difference when I came home.  Suddenly I’d put Chinese Black Vinegar on almost everything.  I also found it pleasantly surprising that it had health benefits as well.  Will it be as popular in the United States as apple cider vinegar?  Who knows?

Thus, when I stumbled upon this article talking about… duh… Chinese Medicinal uses of  Vinegar, I read it, digested it, and decided to quote some excerpts.

Vinegar (cu) promotes warm energy (yang) and is noted as a disinfectant (it’s anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral), a detoxifier, digestive aid and treatment (internal and external) for inflammation.

Thinking about it, I really really doubt if anything can survive the acidity of vinegar.  I thought as a child that my tongue couldn’t =)

About 22 vinegar-making methods are collected in “Qi Min Yao Shu” (“Main Techniques for the Welfare of the People”), a book on agriculture by Jia Sixie in the Northern Wei Dynasty (AD 386-534).

The top four vinegars in China are xiangcu (fragrant vinegar) in Zhenjiang City of Zhejiang Province, lao chencu (mature vinegar) in Shanxi Province, hongqu micu (red yeast vinegar) in Fujian Province and baoning cu (bran vinegar) in Sichuan Province.

vinegar soy souce Sour Grapes? No! Its Victorious Vinegar!

Chinese Vinegar and Soy Sauce Dispensers

That gives me more varieties to try!  But now let’s go to the health benefits:

Chinese people traditionally make vinegar from grains. Sticky rice and rice are widely used in the south while sorghum and millet are more often used in the north.
Bai cu (white vinegar) made from barley is widely used for external application (as on a wound) and in household cleaning.
During hot weather, Chinese would add vinegar to food to improve the appetite and fumigate rooms with vinegar to prevent infectious diseases.
Its uses include relieving diarrhea and jaundice when taken internally, relieving inflammation and stopping bleeding when used in external application.
It is recommended in cases of indigestion from too much greasy food, in cases of internal bleeding and sore throat.
Its many uses were recorded in the “Ben Cao Gang Mu” (“Compendium of Materia Medica”) by famed pharmacist Li Shizhen in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Modern research confirms the many benefits of vinegar, which is rich in amino acids, vitamins and acetic acid, especially rice vinegars.
It has been found to improve digestion and appetite, and to have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, especially rice and apple cider vinegars.
It is said to be helpful in protecting the liver, expanding blood vessels, working as a diuretic and promoting metabolism of proteins and sugar. Apple cider vinegar is part of many weight-loss programs.
Vinegar can also serve as solvent for certain herbs. By soaking in vinegar, the undesirable side-effect of some herbs like yuan hua (daphne genkwa) and gan sui (euphorbia kansui) can be reduced. Vinegar can also strengthen the effect of herbs like wu wei zi (shizandra berry).

Am not sure about the apple cider vinegar references though – am not very familiar with it, although it DOES work for me as a salad dressing.

Vinegar can expand the functions of other herbs, like danggui (angelica) and baishao (root of herbaceous peony) when they are soaked in vinegar – then they also can help stop bleeding. Vinegar “guides” other herbs toward the liver.
We all know vinegar is sour and bitter, so don’t overdo it, lest it cause stomach upset. Drinking it on an empty stomach produces too much gastric acid.
Adding vinegar to soup made by boiling bones can help release the calcium in the bones.
Applying vinegar to a burn can help lower the temperature and reduce skin damage. Adding a little vinegar to bath water can improve the skin.

If we can market vinegar as a sexual tonic, we’ll be RICH!  Now for the “legend of the sour wine” (my own title)

Du Kang, an emperor of the Xia Dynasty (21-16st century BC) is said to have invented wine making and taught the methods to his son Hei Ta who later moved to Zhenjiang (in today’s Zhejiang Province) with his own followers.
They didn’t want to throw away their wine and kept it in a sealed jar.
When he opened the jar 21 days later, he smelled a delicious fragrance and found the liquid was both sour and sweet.
It was kept as seasoning and named cu (vinegar), which combines the characters for “21 days” and for “wine.”

“21 days” and “wine” eh, I’m sure that will come in handy in trivial pursuit!  Anyway, the author concludes the article with some uses for vinegar.  Bleh, all I know is that the black stuff TASTES good!  Personally, I tell my patients to eat their salads with vinaigrette dressing as the acidity of the dressing counters the raw and coldness of the salad, thus preventing cold diseases in the Spleen and Stomach.  And that’s if they HAVE to eat their veggies raw.  In Chinese Medicine, we prefer everything cooked.  I know, I know what about nutrient preservation, etc – let’s save that for another blog entry.

Sources:

Zhang Qian.  “Full of Vim and Vinegar”  Shanghai Daily 13 October 2009.  13 October 2009 <http://www.shanghaidaily.com/sp/article/2009/200910/20091013/article_416082.htm>

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