Watch this video with Chris Kilham, discussing the importance, efficacay and safety of herbal medicine over pharmaceutical drugs.
The 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.
I just heard from a friend that a cabin full of 12 year old campers were quarantined to their cabin as a result of the swine flu. Now that were getting more comfortable with the first pandemic in our life time, I want to explore the differences in responses from the two most powerful governments in the world, the Chinese and the American.
The U.S. official government response at time of publishing is this: a state of emergency has been declared and well known pharmaceuticals such as Sanofi-Aventis, Novartis, Baxter, GlaxoSmithKline and Solvay are all in the process of creating test batches of vaccines. Government websites are to report updates within 24 hours once new information is released, unfortunately this rarely happens. Not very reassuring considering our elected representatives are currently debating health care reform.
The United States Food & Drug Association, FDA, on one hand has given authorization for use of “unapproved or uncleared” medical products (Relenza & Tamiflu Anti-virals) following this declaration of emergency. On the other hand, FDA has sent out warning letters to websites to cease the selling of any product or making any claims about how to prevent and treat the Swine Flu. I would define this as an aggressive approach I’m in favor of cracking down on websites that scam the public but since neither Tamiflu or Relenza have proven effectiveness or have a scientific basis for this new viral strain, how is that any different from selling a homeopathic product, supplement, air purifier, surgical mask etc etc. that also has no scientific data behind it? This virus strain has never been seen before. How do we know what is the best cure. Will we really need any medicinal at all? For most people a few days of bed rest is the cure. The camp kids are just fine by the way. The official statement from U.S. Centers for Disease Control says “the majority of people infected with the virus make a full recovery without requiring medical attention or antiviral drugs.”
The Chinese Government has taken a different approach to the H1N1 virus. China is also in the midst of searching for a vaccine and is currently in the testing phase. China is expanding it’s capacity for vaccine manufacturing and government sources say “by the end of this year we may produce the amount necessary for 5 percent of the worlds population”. But the Chinese government has gone beyond the vaccine route. The government has also allocated nearly 1.5 million dollars (equivalent) to research Traditional Chinese Medicine in regards to H1N1. Four million will be spent on clinical test and the rest on laboratory research for a combination of Chinese herbs that will best prevent and treat H1N1. Presently, China is reporting 1537 confirmed cases of H1N1 and no fatalities. This is the same government that dealt with a SAR epidemic not to long ago, for which a Chinese herb formula was found successful in treating.
Interestingly, along with this theme, the European Union has just granted 1 million euros for ground breaking research for a project entitled “Good Practice in Traditional Chinese Medicine Research in the Post-Genomic Era.” “Researchers at Kings College in London will review the current status of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) research, identify problems and propose solutions by applying modern methods of investigation as well as providing a forum for the exchange of opinions, experience and expertise among scientists in the EU and China.”
The road map to prevention and cure for this emerging pandemic is being written as we speak. I would like to see the integration of Western and Chinese approaches to medicinal therapies for H1N1, how about you? Which direction should our government lead us or should the medical community take the lead rather than the pharmaceutical companies. I look forward to your comments.
Lately 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.
2. Yin, J. Modern Research and Clinical Application of Chinese Materia Medica (2) pp 218-219 Beijing: Chinese Medical Classic Press.
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.
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.