INFO: Herbs emerging as key in medicine - Hepatitis related article 
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 INFO: Herbs emerging as key in medicine - Hepatitis related article

Health & Medicine

Herbs emerging as key in medicine

Staff Writer

Where Western medicine fails, alternative medicines and even
certain foods may be the solution.

A study published Oct. 1 demonstrated that taking Western medicine
with traditional Chinese herbal medicines is more effective in
treating hepatitis B than Western medicine alone.

And a study released a week later demonstrated that curried foods
a staple of Indian cuisine may reduce the severe skin
irritation associated with cancer radiation therapy.

Discoveries such as these are the building blocks for the future of
medicine and drug development, experts said.

"Throughout history, lots of great discoveries have occurred because
somebody was in the right place at the right time," said Melvin
Astrahan, associate professor of radiation oncology at USC/Norris
Comprehensive Cancer Center.

In the cancer radiation study, conducted at the University of
Rochester, the yellow spice curcumin was demonstrated to reduce skin
blistering and burning in mice that were exposed to radiation therapy.

"Somebody has observed something very interesting, but at this point,
it's an observation in mice," Astrahan said.

But he also pointed out that the study could lead to the
identification of a new radioprotective agent.

USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center uses a medicine called
amifostine to treat patients undergoing radiation therapy, but the
drug does not protect the lungs or brain.

In the hepatitis B study, conducted at the University of California,
Berkeley, a combination of Chinese herbal medicines and the drug
interferon alpha was shown to be up to two times more effective at
reducing the level of the hepatitis B virus to nearly undetectable

Interferon alpha is effective only in about 10 percent of hepatitis B
patients and is known to cause flu-like symptoms, said James Ou, an
expert on hepatitis B and a USC professor of microbiology.

When untreated, hepatitis B leads to liver scarring and liver cancer.
Although uncommon in the United States where an effective
vaccine is widely available hepatitis B has infected more than
350 million people worldwide.

Micheal McCulloch, lead author of the UC Berkeley study, suggested in
a news release that hepatitis B patients who do not respond to
interferon alpha should talk to their doctors about combining the drug
with Chinese herbal medicines.

But Ou cautioned that the results of the study are not conclusive. The
study only looked at the results of 27 previous studies to draw
conclusions, so it lacked adequate scientific controls, Ou said.

Even if herbal medicines prove to be effective at treating diseases
such as hepatitis B, natural remedies are not likely to be integrated
into Western medicine.

Herbal medicines are not tested or approved by the U.S.">food and Drug
Administration, nor do students studying traditional Western medicine
learn about herbal {*filter*}, Ou said.

"We teach them about medicines that have been scientifically tested,"
he said.

Practitioners of alternative medicine refute this notion. Thousands of
years of experience in China have demonstrated the safety and
effectiveness of Chinese herbal preparations, said Kathryn P. White,
president of the Los Angeles-based American University of
Complementary Medicine.

"A lot of studies done in the West ignore the way Chinese medicine is
practiced," White said.

For example, although hepatitis B manifests itself as different
symptoms, Western medicine does not distinguish between these
symptoms, White said. And unlike Western medicine, which uses limited
{*filter*} to treat hepatitis B, a variety of Chinese herbs can be used,
she added.

"If people are going to study herbal medicines, we need to use Western
diagnostic and Chinese diagnostic methods," White said.


Staff writer Scott Martindale writes the Health & Medicine column,
which is published every Wednesday. He may be reached at (213)

Tue, 03 May 2005 00:00:07 GMT
 [ 1 post ] 

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