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Posts Tagged ‘herbology’

Dear President Aquino

February 16th, 2011 3 comments

I would like to point out a slight error in your statements as quoted here: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/213171/chinese-embassy-court-sustains-death-sentence-on-3-pinoys

“(A Chinese ambassador told me that) they are very, very strict when it comes to drug laws because it’s a major concern of theirs. Iyung sa shabu, iyung ephedrine is a natural, comes from a plant that grows primarily in China. Mas malaki ang problema nila doon, they have a bigger populace, and they have syempre the history of opium from before,”

Why the heck is ephedrine mentioned in the same breath as methamphetamines and opium?  Again this is due to Ephedra’s bad rep as it is banned in the United States.  I shan’t repeat myself, but I would like to refer our President to my articles about Ephedra:

“News Bias Continues: Ephedra’s True Story” http://qi-spot.com/2010/02/01/news-bias-continues-ephedras-true-story/

.581px Ephedra andina 1 290x300 Dear President Aquino

A quote:

Herba Ephedrae or Ma Huang is usually the first herb one would see in a typical textbook of Chinese herbal medicine.  It is usually used to clear early symptoms of flu, and not ALL kinds of flu.  ANY look at the texts will give SPECIFIC indications for it’s use.  However, western herb enthusiasts had, according to the article, “converted from an herbal treatment for diseases to an energy stimulant and a weight-loss product.”

What are it’s classic textbook uses?

Actions: induces diaphoresis, resolves surface, ventilates the lungs to relieve asthma, regulates water metabolism.

Applications: febrile diseases due to exterior-excess, fever, chillphobia [aversion to cold], anhidrosis [lack of perspiration], ostealgia [bone pain], arthralgia, cough with dyspnea, edema, edema due to wind.

From this, it becomes obvious that Herba ephedrae is meant to be used in actual illness, not in a healthy person just trying to get a kick or lose weight.  The weight loss aspect is gleaned from it’s strong diaphoretic effect.  However, a basic look at any  Chinese herbal textbook will show that administration of ma huang should stop WHEN PERSPIRATION BEGINS, whether or not the flu has dispersed.

Again, if the patient has external symptoms (chills, slight fever, arthralgia, muscle pain) with no sweating, ma huang may be given AS PART OF A FORMULA to mediate effects (see ma huang tang, among others) and should be STOPPED when sweating begins.

Also, it should not be used as a tonic.  Many of the early ma huang/ephedra “supplements” were mixtures of ephedra and other tonics (including caffeine!)  Disaster waiting to happen.

How does that compare with western enthusiasts taking the herb individually for what we MDs would term as “off label use” contrary to all warnings?

OF COURSE they’ll get sick.  A professor of mine in China warned against yin collapse (shock due to blood or fluid loss) after using too much sweat-inducing herbs.

“The Art of Chinese Medicine” http://qi-spot.com/2010/11/15/the-art-of-chinese-medicine/

My point, Mr. President, is that Ma Huang or ephedra, the source of ephedrine, is a very valuable medicinal material in China and is banned in the US only because SOME IDIOTS misused it for off-label purposes.  It does not deserve to be compared to real dangerous drugs

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“Warning Issued On Chinese Medicine”

November 17th, 2010 1 comment

Yes, that’s the title of an article published today in the Philippine Star.  (http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=630865&publicationSubCategoryId=63)

The way the headline is written, one would think that the warning issued was against Chinese Medicine as in Chinese Medicine the tradition, such as the medicine I practice.  It does not say “Warning Issued On Chinese Medicines” or “Warning Issued on Fake Chinese Medicine”.  No, it uses the general term “Warning Issued on Chinese Medicine”.

I will quote the article in full here:

MANILA, Philippines – People are urged to exercise caution when taking Chinese medicine.

Speaking to reporters, Leonila Ocampo, Philippine Pharmaceutical Association (PPA) president, said many Chinese medicinal and herbal products are not registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Therefore they are considered counterfeit, although legitimate in the country where they were manufactured, she added.

Under Republic Act 8203, or the Special Law on Counterfeit Drugs, fake medicine pertains to unregistered imported drug products, Ocampo said.

Dr. Minerva Calimag, Philippine Medical Association (PMA) food, drugs and cosmetics committee chairman, said security in the country’s coasts is weak, enabling smugglers to bring in counterfeit medicine.

“If fake drugs are coming from outside (the country), our problem is how to secure the borders because there are many channels through which it could come into the market,” she said.

The government must be able to prevent the entry of counterfeit drugs into the country, Calimag said.

The PPA and PMA are members of Samahan Laban sa Pekeng Gamot.

It has been estimated that one of every 10 drugs in the country is fake, based on the cases reported to the FDA.

The country’s pharmaceutical market is steadily growing, making it a target of counterfeiters.

In its website, Samahan has identified Binondo, Manila as among the hotspots for counterfeit medicine.

The funny part is, I actually AGREE with most of what is said in the article.

Yes, there are tons of smuggled Chinese medicine products of questionable integrity.  I am the FIRST to admit that probably half of all over the counter drugs sold in Chinese drugstores are of poor quality or fake.

But in NO WAY should that merit a headline that passes judgment on the Chinese medical tradition as a whole!

Now for the one part of the article I don’t agree with: the idea that if a Chinese materia medica does not pass through the FDA, it should not be used at all.

Hence, let’s ban drinking tea for health purposes.

Let’s ban the use of ginger tea or salabat to relieve sore throat.

Let’s ban the use of eating watermelon to keep cool.

Why? Because those are all examples of using materials in the Chinese tradition, as per my previous post.

Shall I go on?  Let’s not use tawas or alum to relieve body odor.  That’s a materia medica used in Chinese medicine, to relieve Heat which manifests as body odor.

Let’s not massage using ginger oils for body aches, let’s ban medicinal massage, let’s ban…

You get the idea.

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The Sour Dating Game

August 22nd, 2010 No comments

Last time, I talked about Suan Zao Ren Tang and mentioned some things about the main ingredient, Suan Zao Ren (Sour Date Seed).  I now present to the reader some excerpts from a 2002 study:

Chen, et al.  Prescriptions of Chinese Herbal Medicines for Insomnia in Taiwan in 2002. eCAM Advance Access published online on April 1, 2009.
eCAM, doi:10.1093/ecam/nep018 (
http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/nep018)

Let’s go specifically into the part on Suan Zao Ren.

The second most commonly used Chinese herb for subjects with insomnia in our study was Suan-zao-ren (Z. spinosa). It is the chief ingredient in the formula of Suan-zao-ren-tang. In an animal model, Peng et al. (29) reported that Suan-zao-ren had a sedative effect at higher doses and an anxiolytic effect at lower doses. In addition, Zhang et al. (30) indicated that Jujuboside A, one of the components of Suan-zao-ren, produced its sedative–hypnotic effects through effecting the actions of anti-calcium-binding proteins and it inhibited the glutamate-mediated excitatorysignaling pathway in the hippocampus. Jiang et al. (31) also reported that saponins, the main bioactive components of Suan-zao-ren, could prolong the sleeping time induced by barbiturates. In addition, Ma et al. (32) revealed that sanjoinine A, an alkaloid compound of Suan-zao-ren, might regulate GABAergic neurons and further increase the sleeping time and decrease the sleep latency induced by pentobarbital. Notably, there was a case report indicating that Suan-zao-ren could interact with the antidepressant, venlafaxine (Efexor), thereby leading to an acute serotonin reaction (33).

So nice to see that traditional Chinese Medicine is being STUDIED and PROVEN to work.  Here are the research papers cited by Chen et al:

  1. Peng WH, Hsieh MT, Lee YS, Lin YC, Liao J. Anxiolytic effect of seed of Ziziphus jujuba in mouse models of anxiety. J Ethnopharmacol ( 2000;) 72:: 435–41. 
  2. Zhang M, Ning G, Shou C, Lu Y, Hong D, Zheng X. Inhibitory effect of jujuboside A on glutamate-mediated excitatory signal pathway in hippocampus. Planta Med ( 2003;) 69:: 692–5. 
  3. Jiang JG, Huang XJ, Chen J. Separation and purification of saponins from Semen Ziziphus jujuba and their sedative and hypnotic effects. J Pharm Pharmacol ( 2007;) 59:: 1175–80. 
  4. Ma Y, Han H, Eun JS, Kim HC, Hong JT, Oh KW. Sanjoinine A isolated from Zizyphi Spinosi Semen augments pentobarbital-induced sleeping behaviors through the modification of GABA-ergic systems. Biol Pharm Bull ( 2007;) 30:: 1748–53. 
  5. Stewart DE. Venlafaxine and sour date nut. Am J Psychiatry ( 2004;) 161:: 1129–30.

The other herbs in the formula include Chuanxiong, Fuling, Zhimu and Gancao.  The effects of each material seems obvious at first.  From a Chinese pharmacologic point of view, Chuanxiong regulates liver blood and clears blood stasis, Zhu Mu clears deficiency heat and nourishes yin, Gan Cao harmonizes, but what about Fu Ling?  Fu Ling is known for draining dampness, but it should be noted that it enters the Heart meridian as well and thus, has an effect of tranquilizing the mind and calming the spirit.

I had read somewhere that the formula as a whole lowers epinephrine levels, but have yet to find the actual research stating such.

This formula was first noted in Zhang Zhongjing’s “Essentials from the Golden Cabinet”, around 208 AD.  Truly a brilliant man.

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Sour Grapes or Sour Dates?

August 19th, 2010 No comments

I am a big fan of sleep.  I believe that good sleep is the best medicine, not just laughter.  I would like to write about a patient of mine, a fifty-something male, with complaints of hypertension and insomnia.

I was not the first TCM physician who the patient saw.  He had been given herbs before but his hypertension was still unabated.  When I saw him for the first time, history revealed that he had severe insomnia.  Logic dictates that his hypertension could be due to the lack of sleep.

Acupuncture, however, did not work at all.  I tried the patent remedy Zao Ren An Shen Ye, which helped a bit, but not so much.  Also, his blood pressure was still in the 180/100 range.  Not acceptable to me.

I brought out the heavy artillery.  I decided to use Suan Zao Ren Tang (Sour Jujube decoction).

After three days of taking the formula, the patient followed up.  He is sleeping better and his blood pressure is down to 140/90.  Talk about treating the branch by treating the root!

So what’s so special about Sour Jujube?

wild chinese jujube 300x225 Sour Grapes or Sour Dates?

Wild Chinese Jujube, courtesy foodsnherbs.com

A lot of people know about Da Zao (jujube or red dates) but what about Suan Zao Ren or sour jujube seeds?

Suan Zao Ren is sweet and sour in flavor, meaning it tonifies and preserves yin and fluids.  It’s nature is neutral so it will neither promote nor modulate physiology and inflammation.  It enters the Heart and Liver meridians so it affects the Mind through the Heart and the Qi through the Liver.  Great Chief herb.

Anyway that’s enough for now.  In a few days we will present an analysis of Suan Zao Ren Tang – the formula itself!

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A More Balanced View

February 28th, 2010 1 comment

Remember how I wrote about biased headlines? (http://qi-spot.com/2010/02/09/another-biased-headline/)  In that previous article, I had mentioned that one can subtly affect comprehension by careful(?) selection of words to use in a headline.  The headline in question then read “Researcher Warns on Herbal Medicines”.  Only when you read the article itself will you see that it actually warns against misuse of herbal medicines or potential side effects from mixing with western meds.  The typical reaction, however, is to just glance over the headline – giving one the impression that herbal medicines PER SE are something generally unsafe and thus there is a need to warn the public about it.

Compare that with this headline: “Mixing medicine with herbal remedies can be risky.” (http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=158237)  This is much better and not misleading at all.

A few quotes from the article proves the spirit of the writer’s intent.  Allow me to refresh you:

Dr. Arshad Jahangir, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix/Scottsdale Arizona, who wrote the review, said the main reason patients look to herbal remedies is because they want to preserve their health.
“They think it’s natural and probably safe to use,” he said. “We’re not saying anywhere in the review that people should not take these products. But they should, at the very least, consult with their doctors who can look at their other medications and identify the potential for harm.”Herbal medications readily found over-the-counter can adversely affect the way prescription drugs are absorbed by the body by either enhancing or reducing their effectiveness.” (emphasis mine)

Yes! The article fits the headline!  And for the record, I perfectly agree. Next we see that integration between “eastern” and “western” medicine is promoted.  (albeit in a method I don’t agree with 100%, but I’ll take what is given.)

Christina Ferrari-Noonan, an acupuncturist and herbalist at Ancient Healing Chicago downtown, said patients who want to take herbal remedies should consult their doctors first.

“Patients should definitely go by the physician’s recommendation and see what they’re comfortable with,” she said. “There are definitely a lot of over-the-counter herbs that can be considered dangerous.”

Ferrari-Noonan, who has a background in Eastern and Western medicine, said herbalists should work in conjunction with doctors “We’re diagnosticians in traditional medicine not in western medicine,” she said. “Patients need to go their doctor first to get diagnosed. That diagnosis needs to be in place, and then as herbalists, we can go from there. Blood tests are especially valuable as a starting point.”

What I don’t agree with is the last sentence.  At times, people present with discomforts that cannot be classified in western medicine (how do you translate “Spleen Qi deficiency leading to weakness of the four limbs” into western medicine?  It isn’t CFS, it isn’t a movement disorder, etc etc) or do not appear in blood tests.

Jahangir agreed that herbalists and physicians should work together. “We’re not at war with herbalists and they are not against what we do,” he said. “Our goals are common, which is to serve our patients and to give them medicine or products that will do the job it’s supposed to do without causing harm.”

Tell that to the skeptics who insist that only commercial pharmaceuticals are worthwhile.

Mary Helen Lee, an herbalist at Chicago’s White Moon Healing Center, said herbal supplements could be beneficial as a compliment to chemical-based drugs, if taken correctly. “It’s definitely possible to take herbs to reverse the toxic side effects and lessen the harm the chemicals medications can have on your body,” she said. (I do this a lot with cancer patients on chemotherapy – Phil)

Lee said incorrect dosage amounts could also cause problems. “Either people are taking too much or too little, which can have a major effect,” she said. “Obviously, there are some dangerous herbs out there and people should be cautious. Patients should see a professional and get the correct herb and the correct dose for their problem.”

Experts agree that the biggest mistake people make is to self-diagnose on the Internet and treat themselves with over-the-counter herbal remedies without consulting doctors first. (emphasis mine)

“The Internet can be very helpful in educating yourself about herbs and possible effects, but it can also be very dangerous,” Ferrari-Noonan said.

So there you have it – a more balanced view that can be summarized thus:

a) herbs can work if used properly

b) always tell any healthcare professional about everything you’re doing for your health.  If they become biased against you because of that, then it’s time to find another provider.

c) never self medicate – there ARE herbal scammers out there who are only out to sell you stuff.

d) physicians of all traditions CAN and SHOULD work together.

pixel A More Balanced View
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