Asian Herb Fights Malaria, Multiple Sclerosis, Autoimmunity, Cancer

Dichroa febrifuga. Photo by Jekkas Herb Farm

An Asian herb used for thousands of years for malaria and inflammation has been the subject of recent scientific research. The research now illustrates the herb is effective for a number of other conditions. These include cancer, parasites, multiple sclerosis and autoimmune syndrome.

The traditional Asian remedy is called Chang Shan (also changsang or chang-sang) – from the Dichroa febrifuga plant. The herb is known for its ability to combat even the toughest cases of malaria throughout Asia.

Anti-malaria and anti-tumor effects

This comes as no surprise as nearly two decades of research has established that Dichroa febrifuga provides both anti-malaria and anti-tumor effects. In fact, German and Chinese research established that Dichroa febrifuga extract has the ability to treat forms of malaria that are not cured by quinine – or chloroquin – and other antimalarials, due to adaptive malaria parasites such as P. falciparum.

These effects are derived from the roots of the Blue Evergreen Hydrangea, Latin name Dichroa febrifuga. The Hydrangea plant medicine has been in use for more than 2,000 years in Traditional Chinese Medicine as Chang Shan.

Over the last few decades, doctors in China and Korea have employed extracts of Dichroa febrifuga root for not only malaria but also for lung conditions and conditions of high fever. It has shown anti-inflammatory effects in these treatments.

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Multiple sclerosis and other inflammatory conditions

Harvard researchers tested a compound from the Dichroa febrifuga plant called halofuginone. They found that halofuginone effectively inhibits the process of Th17 autoimmunity related to multiple sclerosis. This pathway is also the primary mechanism for a number of other so-called autoimmune disorders.

Confirming these effects, research from Korea’s Pusan National University found that a water extract of the Dichroa febrifuga herb inhibits a variety of other pro-inflammatory components, including IL-6, IL-1beta, NF-kappaB and others, which are known to be involved in cancer and other inflammatory conditions.

Parasites and cancer

New research has just found that Dichroa febrifuga extract successfully treats a lethal parasite that affects chickens called Eimeria tenella. Eimeria causes bloody diarrhea and lesions in the birds, but 20 grams of Dichroa febrifuga per day was effective in reversing a majority of the infections.

Israeli researchers also found that halofuginone inhibited fibrosis when injected into the skin. Shortly thereafter, halofuginone was found to halt tumor growth in bladder cancer. Its anti-tumor effects appear to result from halofuginone’s ability to inhibit the expression of the genetic factors collagen alpha1 and matrix metalloproteinase 2.

Side effects buffered in whole plant

One of the most interesting issues is that when the plant’s constituent febrifugine is extracted from the plant it produces some intense side effects, characterized by the researchers as “toxic.” Yet the Chinese Medicine whole plant remedy from Dichroa febrifuga, Chang Shan has been prescribed safely by traditional herbalists for over two thousand years. What gives?

Once again, we find that like many other natural medicinal herbs, Dichroa febrifuga contains a whole array of constituents that serve to balance and buffer each other in the body. When a particular constituent is isolated from those other constituents, the constituent can produce side effects, including toxicity.

We’ve seen this effect with so many other plant isolates. A majority of today’s drugs are based upon an isolated plant constituent, and about a third of the twenty top-selling drugs are derived from isolated plant constituents. So there is no question that plants render many medicinal effects. But their safety, however, lies in using whole plants or whole plant extracts as nature intended.

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Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.” Case connects with the elements by surfing, hiking and being a beach bum.

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