Posted by: Thixia | January 12, 2009

Acupuncture and Acupressure 3 of 3

Acupuncture and Acupressure 3 of 3


Studies in MS


Information about Asian herbal medicine in the context of MS is very limited.   Several studies have been reported, but they are difficult to interpret since most have been published in Chinese and full English translations are not available.   One Chinese study that was reported in 1990 concluded that herbal treatment in 35 people with MS was beneficial.   Another study, reported in 1995, found that a specific Chinese herbal preparation, Ping Fu Tang, decreased the rate of MS attacks.   Several other studies of Chinese and Japanese herbal medicine use in MS have been reported.   Overall, one cannot make any definite conclusions about these studies since the full research reports are not available in English.     


Several Chinese herbs inhibit the activity of the immune system and therefore could be beneficial for MS, a condition characterized generally by excessive immune system activity.   These herbs include Tripterygium wilfordii, Re Du Qing, and Berberis.   Tripterygium wilfordii, which is also known as threewingnut, Thunder God Vine, and lei-gong-teng, has undergone limited study in MS.   Scientific studies indicate that this herb decreases the activity of some components of the immune system and decreases the severity of disease in an animal model of MS.   In one Chinese study of ten people with MS, Tripterygium wilfordii produced “significant” improvement in eight people and mild improvement in two people.   At this time, this herb cannot be recommended for MS because these results are preliminary and, importantly, Tripterygium wilfordii has been associated with serious side effects, including death and infertility.   Further research is necessary to determine the safety and effectiveness of Tripterygium wilfordii. 




If Chinese or Japanese herbal medicine is considered, people with MS should be aware of individual herbs or mixtures of herbs that may activate the immune system.   Since MS is characterized generally by excessive immune system activity, these herbs pose theoretical risks.   That these herbs may be immune-stimulating does not necessarily imply that they are “bad” for people with MS.   Instead, it means that there is a theoretical risk to be considered before using these herbs that are poorly studied in MS.   


These immune-stimulating herbs include:


-Chinese herbs:  Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), Acanthopanax obovatus, Angelica sinensis (dong quai), Artemis myriantha, Artemisis annua, astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), coix, Epimedium sagittatum, ge-gen-tang, green tea, licorice, Ligustrum lucidum, maitake mushroom, reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum), Salvia miltiorrhiza, shiitake mushroom (Lentinus edodes), Sophora flavescens, and xiao-chai-hu-tang. 


-Japanese herbs:  kakkan-to (same as ge-gen-tang), kanzo-bushi-to, and shosaiko-to (same as xiao-chai-hu-tang). 


Asian ginseng and licorice, which are components of many different Chinese herbal preparations, have varied actions on the immune system, including stimulating activities.   “Fu-zheng” therapy, which is believed to improve the ability of the body to defend itself, contains two herbs, astragalus and Ligustrum lucidum, that may stimulate immune cells.   Green tea contains antioxidant compounds, some of which may be immune-stimulating.     


Toxic effects, including serious liver and kidney toxicity, have been associated with the use of some types of Asian herbal medicine.   These herbs should be avoided or used with caution.   These herbs include:  Aristolochia fangchi, baijiaolian, bushi, caowu, chuanwa, datura preparations, fuzi, guangfangji, guiji, jin bu yuan, licorice, ma huang (ephedra), naoyanghua, and yangjinhua. 


Potentially fatal toxicity has been associated with some of these herbs.   Ma huang, also known as ephedra, is used in Chinese herbal medicine as well as some Western herbal preparations for weight loss and fatigue; ma huang has been associated with multiple dangerous side effects and, rarely, death.   Less significant toxic effects have occurred with regular use of licorice, which may produce high blood pressure and low blood levels of potassium.




Asian herbal medicine should be used with caution by people with MS.   There have been reports of beneficial effects of this therapy in people with MS, but, due to the lack of published information in English, these studies cannot be fully evaluated.   In addition, some immune-stimulating herbs pose theoretical risks for people with MS, other herbs may be toxic through other mechanisms, and the safety of long-term use of this therapy, especially in people with MS, has not been established. 




Asian Proprietary Medicine (or Asian Patent Medicine)


Asian proprietary medicine, also known as Asian patent medicine, is one form of Asian herbal medicine.   These remedies usually consist of herbs along with minerals and animal parts.   Several studies indicate that Asian proprietary medicine may contain toxic ingredients.   One study found that approximately one-third of these preparations contain prescription drugs (including diazepam (Valium®), steroids, and prescription asthma medications) and dangerous metals (including arsenic, mercury, lead, and cadmium).   Asian proprietary medicine should be avoided or used with extreme caution due to the possible presence of these toxic compounds. 


Compliments of: Rocky Mountain MS Center




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