Dr. Oz Recommends Ginseng for Swine Flu

Chinese herb ginsengEver since Dr. Oz’s interview in Esquire magazine (Dec. 09) I’ve been fielding a phethera of questions on ginseng.  Thanks Dr. Oz, I’m always happy to talk about the Chinese herbs I love.  It’s an added bonus that the best American Ginseng is actually grown in Wisconsin, my old stomping grounds. I also love to buy American whenever possible.

In response to a question “how to prevent swine flu”, Dr. Oz says: “Vitamin D and American ginseng are the two things I recommend the most. Vitamin D because it stimulates dramatically the ability of the immune system to respond, and American ginseng because it stimulates these things called Toll-like receptors in the gut. They’re ancient – our most primitive immune response – and they make it difficult for bugs to get in through the intestinal wall.”

 

This is an excellent post on ginseng from Acupuncture Chicago.
By Jennifer Dubowsky

Did you know there are different types of ginseng and they are all considered potent herbs for helping the body adapt to stress – both mental and physical. Ginseng is best known for its ability to stimulate your immune system and fight fatigue and stress. Several dozen studies have shown that ginseng enhances physical and mental performance, improves mood, and aids metabolic function. Other studies suggest ginseng maybe anti-inflammatory and can provide a wealth of benefits including: improved blood cholesterol; lowered liver toxicity; lowered blood sugar levels; improved blood oxygen flow; control of respiratory diseases; and enhanced stamina.

The 3 Most Well Known Types Of Ginseng

Chinese Ginseng (Panax ginseng)

Considered the “king of all herbs” in many countries, found in the forests of northeast China, Manchuria and Korea. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chinese ginseng is used to tonify the “Qi” (vital energy or life energy force) and is a powerful “yang” or warming tonic herb. It has been reported to: stimulate the immune system; fight fatigue, combat stress, slow aging, balance blood sugar levels, enhance mental performance and memory, lower cholesterol, and strengthen the heart muscle. It may even have anti-tumor and anticancer properties. Before rushing off to get some Chinese Ginseng be aware that it’s overuse can have some negative side effects including; irritability, insomnia and rapid heart beat.

*Panax ginseng has had a notorious reputation as a sexual rejuvenator, particularly for men, however much of this reputation seems to be over-hyped.

American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium)

Is indigenous to eastern woodlands from Georgia to Quebec, and was used by Native Americans. The picture in this post is of American Ginseng. While not as well known as Chinese Ginseng, American Ginseng has been around for hundreds of years. Jesuit Priests were reported to be trading American Ginseng to the Chinese as early as 1718. American Ginseng has a more “yin” or cooler nature than its Chinese counterpart. While still energizing the body, American Ginseng calms the central nervous system, quiets the brain and lowers blood pressure. Also, because of its more “yin” nature, it is generally better to use on a daily, long term basis than Chinese Ginseng. However if you tend to have a cold constitution, this might not be the herb for you.

Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)

Native to Siberia, Japan, Korea and China. Although not a “true ginseng”, this variety is most highly prized. Eleuthero was traditionally used to promote longevity and general health. Many herbalists prefer Eleuthero as the ginseng for helping with women’s health issues, particularly with depression associated with PMS and menopause. Research, mostly from Russia, confirms this herb’s ability to increase mental and physical performance, stimulate the immune system, increase movement of white blood cells, promote circulation and enhance the benefits of medical radiation treatments while lessening its negative side-effects.

Cautions About Ginseng

Ginseng should be avoided by patients who are pregnant or have high blood pressure. In addition, ginseng may increase the effects other stimulants, which may cause sweating, insomnia, or an irregular heartbeat. It should not be used in conjunction with antipsychotic medications, steroids or hormones. As with all Chinese herbs it is best to consult with a Chinese Herbalist and see what is best for you before taking ginseng products.

Buy ginseng here at PacHerbs

Another rising star in the Chinese herb medicine cabinet – This time for swine flu

Star Anise fresh and driedThe Star Anise, Illicium verum  or Ba Jiao Hui Xiang has been used as a spice and medicine since antiquity.  Star Anise is used dried and the seeds have a licorice-like flavor. It’s commonly  sold in supermarkets and often used in Chinese cuisine to flavor duck dishes. ( I used it once in my Thanksgiving turkey, it was a hit)   It’s also  contains the active chemical component in the drug Tamiflu, which is now being stockpiled as a defense against the Swine flu.

Star anise was originally in the spotlight  because it’s core ingredient  was discovered effective as a flu fighter for the Avian flu. Now it’s being touted for the swine flu.  In an  announcement in Feb 2006 from  the University of Tokyo’s Graduate school of Pharmaceutical sciences,  they “ found a way to make Tamiflu without using shikimic acid, which is produced from a spice called star anise”  The acid is extracted from the pods which wraps the seeds by using a petrochemical ingredient instead of the plant based ingredient.  The group, headed by Prof. Masakatsu Shibasaki said the new method would ensure the stable supply of the antiviral drug in the face of surging demand worldwide prompted by fears of a bird flu (AVAIN) outbreak.  Although many believe the best  way to produce shikimic acid is extracting it directly from the fruit.

“It (Tamiflu) doesn’t prevent the infection,  but may decrease its’ severity,” (although there is no scientific data it will prevent H1N1) according to the Tamiflu website.  Tamiflu has been on the market since Oct. 1999 and Roche probably never dreamed that this years orders would top 220 million.  In the first  three years Tamiflu was on the market only 5.5 million doses sold.

Other  information from the Tamiflu website said this:  “Influenza viruses change over time. Emergence of resistance mutations could decrease drug effectiveness.  Other factors (for example changes in viral virulence) might also diminish clinical benefit of antiviral drugs. Prescribers should consider available information on influenza drug susceptibility patterns and treatment effects when deciding whether to use Tamiflu.” (line 155),   It continues elsewhere on the site with this,  “Efficacy of  Tamiflu in patients who begin treatment after 40 hours of symptoms has not been established” and “ Safety & efficacy of Tamiflu in pediatric patients younger than 1 year has not been studied.”

Star anise sells for aprox. $5.00  or less for a few ounces.  The best source I found said a dose of Tamiflu contains the equivalent of approximately 13 grams of star anise. That’s a few cents per dose.  Studies on guinea pigs yielded evidence that star anise essential oil had a relaxant effect, antispasmodic  and bronchodilatory effect on muscarinic receptors. People have  traditionally used star anise to reduces gas, relieve minor digestive problems, for headaches  and even to promote vitality.

If your interested in drinking star anise as a tea, a typical dose is .5-1 gram of  coarsely ground seeds. Cooked at a slow boil (covered) in 2 ½ cups water for a aprox. 30 minutes  and then strained. Ground star anise has been traditionally taken in a dose of 3 grams daily. The essential oil of star anise in a dose of 300 milligrams daily has also been reported.  The Food and Drug Administration lists star anise as “generally safe for otherwise healthy adults who are not pregnant, nursing or have a preexisting allergy to the herb.”  I hope the swine flu fades quietly into oblivion like the Avain flu.  Who knows  what will happen once weather changes in the fall and winter when flu season is upon us.  In any case, if your considering a dose of Tamiflu your armed with some knowledge.  Most importantly keep your immune system as strong as possible to avoid any future viruses that abound and remember  grocery store shelves can be very beneficial when you know how to shop.

The Cat, The Birds and The Herbs

CatLast night I was rudely awakened at 3:00 am by a hungry cat.  He climbed up my wind chime which was hanging near a mother dove nesting with her two new babies.  Wind chimes don’t suddenly start chiming, normally they start out kind of slow and steady and usually build in volume as the wind picks up.  This was not the case last night.  The chimes were attacked as were the birds. 

  I heard a bird take flight and I jumped out of bed to see the culprit.  I was too late and it was too dark. Upset by the attack and the rude wake up call, all I could think of was  “will I be able to get back to sleep”.   Mind not quite awake… I  almost forget that I have the perfect Chinese herb formula for sleep.  I’m not usually up at 3 AM  and almost forgot,  a perfect opportunity to use my “I sleep”  herb formula in the middle of the night. When I’ve had a particularly stressful day I will use “iSleep” before going to bed.   I sleep so soundly I never had the need to use it in middle of my night.  Perfect opportunity.  So I took one packet at 3 AM.  

Happy to report I got  back to sleep within thirty minutes, even as I ruminated over the fate of the mommy dove and her babies we’ve been watching for the last two months.   Did the cat get all three.  Did the babies get away.  Could the babies fly yet. My mind  finding any reason to chatter on. (This was  the second set of eggs this year for our mommy dove or maybe it’s daughter of the first mom.  In any case, every year  a mommy dove has a nest somewhere in our yard and we are happy to be her hosts.)

iSleep Herb Pac passed the test  last night. I slept like a log till 7:00 when there was yet  another rude awakening, the alarm clock.  I found bird feathers on the ground this morning,  it’s a cruel world out there, but at  least I slept.

"Empty nest this morning"]

"Mommy dove in nest with 2 babies. (Taken just 2 days earlier)  
 
"Feathers on the ground"

Malaria and how Chinese Medicine is Advancing Science

microscope for malariaIn case you haven’t already heard, today is World Malaria Day,
April 25th, 2009.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate World Malaria Day than to write  on a Traditional Chinese Medicinal herb and it’s benefits for  malaria. Ok, I know most of us in the west don’t know much or maybe anything about this disease. Some may even be thinking… isn’t malaria one of those plagues from the middle age

Malaria is the number one killer in underdeveloped countries, especially prevalent in Africa where it’s an epidemic. As many as 5 million people each year contract malaria, many recover, many do not. Malaria kills nearly one million people worldwide each year. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given millions of dollars for malaria research with the goal of eliminating malaria in our lifetime and by the looks of recent developments, well… read on.

So what does this have to do with Chinese herbal medicine and why did I choose this topic? Malaria has been successfully treated with Chinese herbal medicine for centuries. This is not news, well not to Acupuncturists or Chinese Medical Doctors nor to the scientists and drug companies searching out a cure or a vaccine for malaria. What is news is what Reuters published in an article (yesterday) which I’ve cited below and am quoting here, “elimination (of malaria) in a number of countries is certainly in sight.” Fantastic, right?!

Here’s what really exciting! “New medical treatments such as a drug developed by a Swiss pharmaceuticals company  Novartis using artemisinin, a compound derived from a herb used in Chinese traditional medicine, are driving down deaths and infections, said “Chris Hentschel”  of the Medicines for Malaria Venture.” The FDA has also recently approved the drug Coartem, an artemisinin-based combination treatment (ACT) for malaria, which is said to have a 96% cure rate  Can you imagine: A pharmaceutical company using an herb-derived compound? Should we be shocked?

We in the Chinese Medical community are not shocked. We know the use of Chinese Medicinal herbs have been used for centuries with g areat success and we’ve all known that Artemisinin, Qing Hao, has been successfully used in the treatment of malaria. But doesn’t it feels great to be vindicated through “Big Pharma” ? When any big pharmaceutical company decides to study the compounds in “our” (Chinese) medicine cabinet we can all stand proud and say, look big pharma, our herbs have proven compounds that even your labs haven’t been able to invent and there’s more in the medicine cabinet than just Artemisinin.

The credibility of Chinese herbal medicine is coming full circle in the scientific age. We can only hope this is just the tip of the iceberg. The efficacy of Chinese herbal medicine has a 2000 plus year history. Reuter’s goes on to report, “The treatment, administered to 57 million people last year, saved half a million lives last year.” That’s big news! If there was a drug that saved 500,00 people in the US, last year alone, we would be hearing about it. Because it’s in underdeveloped nations, this news doesn’t make the nightly 5 o’clock. But I can think of no better way than to start my blog page with what should be the Biggest News in the world today, especially on World Malaria Day.

Post Script:

A prominent physician and alchemist named Ge Hong (284-364CE) wrote a formulary called Zhou Hou Bei Zhi Fang (Prescriptions within Arm”s Reach for Use in Emergencies) Many of the formulas in this book are still in use today. He was the first to mention qing hao, (Artemisia Annua) as a treatment for malaria.