Once used only in Chinese Medicine, Now This Southern Weed May Help Alcoholics

kudzu A Chinese Herb eats a carKudzu, a vine also known as Ge Gen in Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine has been considered a weed and an invasive species in the "Deep South" for the past 50 years.

 

It has also been celebrated as one of the 50 most fundamental herbs in Chinese Medicine.

 

While first prized for its sweet smelling flowers, it’s encroaching and invasive nature soon made it unpopular to some and a flight of fancy for others. Here in the US, poetry, books and films have been written about this vine, and it has the making of a legend in its ability to grow one foot a day and up to sixty feet a year, covering any structure, small or large. Our picture shows it eating a car. 

 

Festivals have been planned in its honor, clubs have been formed and individuals have been known to create hundreds of baskets from its vines. In Japan and China, it is used daily in teas and consumed just as turnips would be.  Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine practitioners have used kudzu for over 2000 years to treat many diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

 

Scientists in Alabama and Iowa have reported the first evidence that root extracts from kudzu show promise as a dietary supplement for a high-risk condition that affects almost 50 million people in the United States alone, metabolic syndrome. Scientists have been seeking natural substances that can treat metabolic syndrome,  which creates an excessive amount of glucose in the blood and is linked to both diabetes and obesity. 

 

A new study evaluated kudzu root extracts, which contain healthful substances called isoflavones. Connect here for Metabolic Syndrome Study Recently, there have also been several laboratory studies conducted on mice that show Kudzu to be effective in reducing alcohol intake. A study has shown this commonly used Chinese herb seems to prevent the usual increase in binge drinking that occurs after five days of abstinence  and also prevents relapse. 

 

Extracts of various parts of the kudzu vine  are said to be "helpful in treating a variety of maladies, including alcoholism and intoxication," said Ting-Kai Li, a professor in the department of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center, and former director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Considering that nearly eighty percent of abstinent alcoholics or addicts relapse within a year, the value of Kudzu  in helping to treat alcoholism could make it a legend in the world of medicine.

 

It has been suggested that once Kudzu  has been further studied,  this Chinese herb has a high likelihood of replacing Antabuse, a well-known but slightly toxic medication that is currently used to treat chronic alcoholism. One researcher involved in the study Dr. Diamond said we  “hope this novel compound will become an effective therapeutic agent for alcoholism.” So what was once deemed a weed by the USDA, has the  potential to become a goldmine for the South. It has even been suggested that Kudzu could be used to produce the same amount of ethanol as an acre of corn, thus supplementing our current energy resources as well. Click here for a link to the studies referenced.

This article is designed to provide the reader with clinical research results and the potential benefits and or risks associated with CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicines). The author advocates neither for or against any particular therapy and recommends individuals speak with licensed medicial practitioners before using any Chinese herbal supplements or other health supplements.

Slowing Prostate Cancer with Chinese Herb Ling Zhi

I try to bring important medical research articles to this forum to keep readers educated, through scientific studies, on Chinese Herbs that exhibit extraordinary medical results.  This research was conducted in 2007 and although not as recent as some other studies I’ve mentioned,  it’s relevancy is certain worthy of reporting here. 

Researchers at the University of Haifa in Northern Israel, found molecules in the Ganoderma lucidum mushroom, (a popular Chinese herb) commonly known as the reishi or lingzhi in Chinese Medicine which help suppress some mechanisms involved in the progression of prostate cancer. Ling Zhi  seems to be able to slow the progress of disease.  The compounds identified in ling zhi were found help suppress some of the mechanisms involved in the progression of prostate cancer. They disrupt the activity of androgen receptors and impede the proliferation of cancerous cells.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers among men over fifty. The normal development and maintenance of the prostate is dependent on androgen acting through the androgen receptor (AR).  Mutation of AR  may contribute to  prosate cancer and remains important in the development and progression of prostate cancer. Current medications used to treat prostate cancer works to reduce the production of androgens or to interfere with their function via the androgen receptor.

Prostate cancer progression is also associated with increased growth factors  and an altered response to growth factors by prostate cancer cells. It is thought this Chinese herb Ling Zhi helps modulate the signal pathways and may delay prostate cancer progression. This research started with 201 organic extracts from 68 types of fungi prepared with solvents such as ether, ethyl acetate and ethanol. They used these solvents to select molecules small enough to act from within the cells. From the 201 extracts, 11 successfully deter androgen receptor activity by more than 40%. Further testing showed that 169 extracts can inhibit growth of cancer cell. In this study, 14 extracts were found to be active in inhibiting prostate cancer cells.

From these active fungi extracts, the Chinese herb, Ganoderma Lucidum were tested as the most effective in inhibiting androgen receptor and controlling vital development of cancerous cells. "The results of this research are particularly interesting from a commercial aspect. Potential possibilities exist to establish research and development of bioactive components from Ganoderma Lucidum that could yield an anti-prostate cancer drug," remarked Dr. Zaidman.

This article is designed to provided the reader with clinical research results and the potential benefits and or risks associated with CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicines). The author advocates neither for or against any particular therapy and recommends individuals speak with licensed medicial practitioners before using any Chinese herbal supplements or other health supplements.

Good news for Pre-Diabetes, Chinese herbs help insulin levels

cupcakesAsian countries  have been using Chinese Herbs for centuries to treat pre-diabetes (impaired glucose tolerance or IGT), the precursor of diabetes but  now there is some scientific evidence to support  the Traditional Chinese Medicine claims.

The  prestigious Cochran Review  has just published a study they conducted on 1391 participants which says “evidence suggests Chinese herbal medicines are able to lower and normalize high blood glucose.”

Pre-diabetes is recognized by higher than normal blood sugar levels.  People with pre-diabetes are advised to change their diets to control their blood glucose levels and prevent progression  to diabetes.  Chinese herbs are believed to work in a number of different ways to help normalize blood sugar levels, including improving pancreatic function and increasing the availability of insulin.

Those given the Chinese herb formulations were less likely to develop full blown diabetes during the study period. Trials included in the review lasted from one month to two years. No adverse effects were reported in any of the trials.  “Our results suggest that some Chinese herbal medicines can help to prevent diabetes, but we really need more research before we can confidently say that these treatments work,” says Suzanne Grant,  lead researcher at the Cochrane Center for Complementary Medicine Research “The real value of the study is as guidance for further trials. We need to see more trials that make comparisons with placebos and other types of drugs, and better reporting on the outcomes of these trials.”

http://www.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab006690.html

Alternative Medicine at Farmer’s Markets, fungus for $100.00 an ounce?

Cordyceps_Sinensis

Shopping at a farmers market is always a favorite activity of mine, checking out the best produce and looking for the best prices.   I’d love to shop at a farmers market in Tibet where fresh cordyceps adorns the tables.  Cordyceps has a history of being the world best fungus. But the cost may shock you. A $100.00 or more for a fee ounces?  Prices vary depending on quality and can be even higher.

Cordyceps ability to treat chronic diseases including diabetes, COPD, liver and kidney diseases, tinnitus and amnesia, decreased libido and fatigue have  all been heavily researched. Highly prized by ancient Chinese Emperors, many athletes today use this fungus to increase energy, improve endurance, increasing oxygen capacity and boost lung function.  

In China cordyceps is used as both a dietary supplement and medicine for the above mentioned  conditions as well as hyperglycemia, high cholesterol, respiratory disease and heart arrhythmias.   The Western world is catching on to the incredible benefits of this strange worm that metamorphoses into a fungus.  Clinical studies support these long held traditions, so many in fact  I can’t possibly mention them all here. Even world renowned Sloane-Kettering’s posted the following on their website: ”Several studies showed significant improvements in all respiratory symptoms at a dose range of 3-4.5 grams of Cordyceps. Improvements were in shortness of breath, cough and expectoration, and sleep.”

The original cordyceps sinensis grows only in the mountains of Tibet & Nepal (and some other parts of China.) Cited in Tibetan medical texts even before Chinese texts which date to the 4st century, cordyceps popularity has grown and is now Tibet’s number one export. Getting to the  remote  growing regions is not so easy.  Did I mention you’ll need to climb to a least 10,000 feet above sea level and the harvesting season is very short, April until the end of June. Harvesting requires the gatherers to be on hands and knees with their faces close to the ground.  The tiny cordyceps often resemble surrounding vegetation. A small knife is utilized for extraction, with extreme caution so as not to damage the larva, resulting in a loss of value. Each gatherer is lucky to collects an average of just 20 cordyceps in a day.

Cordyceps is a parasitic fungus that feeds mainly on butterflies, moths, and caterpillars. The wind spreads the spores over the soil and onto the plants, which are then either consumed by the future hosts or simply penetrate through the mouth or respiratory pores, eventually killing the insect. However, it is traditionally believed by the people of Tibet that cordyceps lives as a worm during the winter, and then in the spring undergoes a metamorphosis that changes it into a type of grass. In some areas, it is closely connected to local religion and its harvesting has been banned.

The mountain-grown cordyceps has become rare as more locals depends upon the income from its harvesting.  The popularity and wealth of benefits from this fungus prompted Chinese scientists to find another way to grow mycelia strains using fermentation technology.  Many experts say the laboratory grown cordyceps is chemically identical to wild grown, the benefit of course is its less expensive and widely available in Asia and I have seen it in China towns in the U.S.   If you’re ever at a farmer’s market or anywhere cordyceps is for sale, don’t balk at the price of this fungus. Considering its health benefits, it’s by far the best buy in the market.     Laboratory grown Cordyceps

Top picture is the real deal… bottom right is laboratory grown.

The Chinese Herb Astragalus in the Ultimate Immune Boosting Soup

by: Jennifer Dubowsky

astragalus, one of the best chinese herbs for health

Astragalus is actually a genus of a plant with over 2000 species. Its Chinese name, Huang qi, means “yellow leader” because this long yellow  root is one of the most important herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine  (TCM)  and commonly used as  far back as the 1st century AD.

Astragalus  is a great herb for fall as it helps your immune system prevent colds, allergies and the flu.

Its familiarity in the US may be attributed to extensive scientific study that began in the 1970s. Research has confirmed the herb's ability to cause minimal disruption to the body while normalizing body functions, no matter the condition or disease.

Astragalus is deservedly popular because it helps the body in a variety of ways. It stimulates the immune system so it is often used for treating the common cold and upper respiratory infections. Astragalus strengthens the body during periods of immune deficiency and is effective with allergies and in avoidance of the white blood cell deficiencies (leukopenia) that occur during chemotherapy. It also fights bacteria, viruses, and inflammation; it protects the liver, acts as a diuretic, benefits digestive functions, and treats disorders of the skin from burns to carbuncles. It is used in the treatment of hepatitis, chronic colitis, senility, cardiovascular diseases and AIDS and viral conditions because it increases interferon production and enhances NK and T-cell function. Finally, Astragalus can be used to promote the functions of several other herbs, such as Dan Shen (Salvia) and Dang Gui (Angelica sinensis root).

Astragalus is also used by itself, usually as a liquid extract, or a tea, Dosage depends on the application and form. When I was in Graduate school some of my professors would always add Huang Qi/Astragalus into their chicken soup stock.

____________________________________________________________________________________________
by Cathy
Here's a soup recipe I call The Ultimate Immune Booster
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 bulb garlic (at least 10 cloves)minced
  • One 1 1⁄2 inch piece of fresh ginger root grated
  • 1 1⁄2 cups vegetable soup stock (I prefer homemade chicken broth, make ahead & keep frozen)
  • 5 pieces sliced dried Astragalus Root   (find at an Asian grocery store or look for an online source)
  • 2 cups fresh, sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 large reishi mushroom pinch of cayenne powder

Ginger to Maintain Your Health

ginger[1]

Ginger is a common recommendation in my clinic. Ginger is wonderful for digestive disorders and it is anti-inflammatory. "Drink Ginger tea" is one of the most common suggestions I make.

Don’t underestimate ginger just because it isn’t the fancy favorite of TV Chefs. Ginger root is a common herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (the Chinese name is Sheng Jiang). Ginger is also used as a spice for cooking, particularly in Asian food.

Here are some great ideas from an article by Jennifer Dubowsky, L.Ac. originally posted Dec. 2008 about the benefits of ginger.

Ginger’s rhizome (the underground stem) is highly spicy and widely touted to aid digestion. That is why ginger tea is very popular. In addition to a lovely flavor, it is anti inflammatory and eases digestion. Consider drinking ginger tea (try Traditional Medicinals) after meals. Another benefit from ginger is its ability to combat nausea from various causes including morning sickness, motion sickness, chemotherapy,and food contamination. Many people use ginger to treat coughs, influenza, and colds. I also recommend it to my patients to improve fertility and ease PMS symptoms.

It is interesting to note, too, that ginger has been employed in Chinese herbal medicine for thousands of years due to its numerous beneficial properties. Called Sheng-jiang in the Chinese pharmacopoeia, ginger used alone as a single herb is considered to alleviate nausea, dispel pathogens by inducing sweating, expel cold, as well as stop coughing and reduce excess phlegm in the lungs. In Chinese herbal medicine, Sheng-jiang, or fresh ginger, is considered to have very different properties than Gan-jiang, or dried ginger. Gan-jiang is useful for "cold" pain of the stomach and abdomen, diarrhea due to "cold" in the abdomen, cough, and rheumatism, among other uses. Dried ginger has also been shown to inhibit vomiting.

A Japanese study brought ginger into the experimental lab. The study, led by Dr. Hiroshi Ochiai at the Department of Human Science, Faculty of Medicine, Toyama Medical and Pharaceutical University, Japan, was published in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 2006:34(1):157-69, and reported in the Chinese Medical Times, concludes that they were able to inhibit the growth of influenza virus using ginger extract.
For more articles by  Jennifer Dubowsky, a licensed acupuncturist in downtown Chicago, check out:  http://acupuncturechicago.blogspot.com/

A High Price for Deer Antler and for Chinese Medicine

Chinese herbal medicine

A family trip to Alaska, a lot of time in a van and unexpected lessons on deer antler aka Lu Rong. 

On a family trip to Alaska, we quickly learned Alaska is too big for road trips. However, we did see the most incredible scenery and enjoyed some off the beaten path family activities.  An ingrained family tradition. As the planner of the trip, I decide the family must pay a visit to a reindeer farm just north of Anchorage. Our teens had their i-pods and they are accustom to my crazy ideas of fun, so off we went on the 5 hour round trip drive.  Admittedly, I had an ulterior motive, I wanted to learn about Lu Rong, deer antlers, from a true source, and this was a golden opportunity I couldn’t miss.

In Chinese Medicine, the deer antler also known as Lu Rong is a prized and highly sought after commodity.  Deer antler has been used for hundreds of years for health and  longevity and is considered a yang tonic in Chinese Herbal Medicine.  Reindeer antlers our one source of antlers  however much more commonly used is the smaller breed of Red Deer.  Today the most expensive deer antler is harvested in New Zealand  but Alaska is also a source and prices range anywhere from $100.00 for a 100 gram bottle of  granules to $500.00,  quality can vary widely. I admit, a small ulterior motive, I was investigating whether  importing deer antler might become part of my herb business.

Chinese medicine antlers

Wow, I had no idea the antlers were so sensitive.  In fact, males who commonly fight each other will not touch one another while their antlers are in velvet, a growth stage named for the velvet like fur on the antlers. There is a tremendous amount of blood flow to the antlers which supports this growth and there is a correlation between the head being the most Yang part of the body, the antlers growing from the top of the head  and deer antlers categorized  as a yang tonic. Eskimos have used deer antler soup for it’s internal warming (yang) properties for as long as anyone can document.

 

We arrived at the reindeer farm which was operated by a family (and some hired help), mainly for the purposes of selling reindeer meat. The tourist business is a summer sideline. We paid a small entrance fee and along with two other families with young children were given instructions before we were allowed to enter the main pen and hand feed the reindeer some supplied food. I knew that deer are very skittish, nervous animals by nature and easily startled, but what else I learned was surprising. The number one rule was no touching the antlers of any animal that is “in velvet”.  The reason was simple. The antlers are extremely sensitive when they are growing and just touching the velvety soft exterior, especially at the tips, could freak out the animal and be dangerous for us. We could pet the deer anywhere else exception being, the antlers.

What else I learned; deer antlers, whether reindeer or red deer are not so easy to harvest.  It would seem harmless to saw them off once they are essentially dead and have no more blood flow.  The antlers die naturally every year and either fall off or are broken when the deer fight.  But, deer antlers are harvested when there is still blood flow to them, best when the tips are still rounded which means they are still growing.  Our guides explained they would never harvest antlers while in velvet because it would be like cutting off one of your fingers.  The antler is truly an limb extension of the animal. If  just touching an antler can make the deer skittish what do you thinking cutting off an antler would do to the deer?  Extremely painful to say the least.

This was the moment I decided no matter how much can be earned from deer antlers I could never be part of that industry. If the antlers were used once they are naturally shed by the animals, that would be different.  But by the time the antlers are naturally falling off they are dead, no blood flow no nerve endings. No medicinal value.

To be fair,  I am told  that many people who raise deer exclusively for their antlers as a Chinese medicinal, use a veterinarian to perform the sawing off operation.  Some say they tranquilize the animals and/or provide Novocain. Once the antlers are cut the deer’s head is wrapped in bandages and something is given to reduce the bleeding at the site. Antlers are always harvested when they are at the height of the growth stage. If you have ever seen slices of deer antler the highest grade are red in the middle, from the blood flow. Regardless, once I spent just a few minutes with these beautiful docile creatures, I knew I didn’t want any part of an industry initiating animal cruelty. Yang tonics are great strong medicine.  Chinese Herbal Medicine has plenty of  plant based yang tonics, no animal products would ever be part of Pacific Herbs.

Stop Painful Menstrual Cramps with Chinese Herbs

herbs for pmsLately this is my favorite topic and formula to make in my herb granule pharmacy .. because  the calls I receive go something like this.  “I took it once & I’m off the couch and back to normal”,  “I can’t believe those herbs work”,  “Why didn’t you tell me before”, “I didn’t take a single motrin this month”,  I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  So here’s some information about the herbs in the Pacific Herbs PMS Relief Herb Pack & some interesting information on well conducted research on menstrual pain. 

Don’t mask the pain with NSAID’s  try an approach that’s worked for centuries, Chinese Herbal Medicine.  An international nonprofit organization, known as the Cochrane Collaboration, studied the effectiveness of Chinese herbal medicine in relieving menstrual pain compared to western drugs.  Their conclusion:  “Chinese herbal medicine for primary dysmenorrhea roughly doubled pain relief and improvement in overall symptoms compared with conventional Western pharmaceuticals.”

Here are a few common Chinese herbs used for painful menstrual cramps, ( All our in our formula plus more)

1. Dong Gui (Chinese Angelica  or Angelica Sinensis) Also known as the “female ginseng,” it is commonly used to regulate the menstrual cycle and relieve menstrual cramps.  It also helps to relieve menopausal symptoms, reduce PMS and anemia and to re-establish a menstrual cycle after cessation of birth control pills.  It is commonly sold as a single herb tea, bagged or loose.  It is considered a king herb or premier herb in Chinese gynecological disease because of its ability to harmonize the blood in Chinese medicine.  Dong Gui is also considered antispasmodic.  The coumarin chemicals present in this herb may help dilate blood vessels and relax the smooth muscles of the uterus, thus relieving menstrual cramping.

2. Chuan Xiong (Chuanxiong  Rhizoma) This herb is also a key medicinal herb for treating pain.  It improves blood circulation and promotes the flow of “qi” or vital energy.  Chinese women, dating back to the Song Dynasty, used to take this Chinese herb in the form of soup.  The soup is called a Four Substance Decoction and includes three other herbs:  angelica, red peony and Chinese foxglove.  The soup and tea are still used today as a blood tonic to relieve PMS, stop menstrual pain and improve overall health, especially after giving birth.

3. Bai Shao (White Peony Root) White Peony Root nourishes the blood and improves circulation.  It is also used for a wide variety of gynecological problems.  The peony root is considered a   liver tonic in Chinese medicine.  By strengthening the liver, it helps to increase the efficiency of protein and fat metabolism, thus inhibiting the excessive synthesis of prostaglandins that may cause an over-active uterus and endometrial pain.

4. Yi Mu Cao (Chinese Motherwort) Leaves from this herb are used to treat menstrual problems.  They have been shown to improve blood circulation and clear blood clots that occur in menstrual disorders and after childbirth.  The leaves also promote diuresis and relieve edema.  Studies on the alkaloid leonurine showed that this substance stimulates the uterus of rabbits, cats, dogs and guinea pigs.2

5. Yan Hu Suo (Corydalis Rhizome) There are two main functions of this Chinese herb:  to strengthen blood circulation and to relieve pain.  In conjunction with chuan xiong it is known to help both body aches and headaches.  Corydalis is related to the opium poppy.  Although only 1% in strength compared to opium, it is a very effective pain reliever.  The active chemical constituent di- tetrahydropalmatine (THP) is a neuroactive alkaloid with analgesic action that relieves cramping pain. Formulas or groups of Chinese herbs are more beneficial than single herb remedies because the herbs work synergistically for conditions such as menstrual cramps.  The Cochran study also stated that:  “The herbal remedies were also significantly better at relieving painful cramps and other symptoms than acupuncture or a hot water bottle, with overall promising finding.  Chinese herbs overall, whether standardized or tailored, yielded better pain relief than conventional pharmaceutical therapies.” Chinese herbal medicine can be a bit intimidating when you don’t know anything about these herbs, and the five herbs above are only a few of the herbs beneficial for menstrual cramps in the Chinese herbal encyclopedias.  Asian pharmacies sell prescriptions of herbal teas and pills daily, and Asian cultures have used herbs successfully for hundreds of years. 

By replacing NSAIDs with Chinese herbs, women receive an additional benefit of avoiding the nasty NSAID3 side effects such as upset stomach, heartburn, ulcers and rashes, and liver damage, to name a few.  Women don’t need to suffer month after month.  You can use Chinese herb supplements to be pain free and PMS symptom free all month long.

Check the research for yourself: Primary source: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews Source; Zhu X, et al “Chinese herbal medicine for primary dysmenorrhoea” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007;3: CD005288.

  1. Chinese Medicine Program at the University of Western Sydney.1 (fourth issue for 2007 of The Cochrane Library)

2.  Yin, J. Modern Research and Clinical Application of Chinese  Materia Medica (2) pp 218-219 Beijing: Chinese  Medical Classic Press.

NSAID are Non-Sterodial Anti-Inflammatory Drugs.  Generics and name brands include:  ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin, naproxen sodium, Aleve, aspirin, Bayer, Bufferin, acetaminophen, and Tylenol.