Scientists from the World Health Organization and Australia’s RMIT University have determined that numerous studies provide clear evidence that herbal medicine improves the qualify of life among patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
The research comes from the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center for Traditional Medicine and RMIT University’s School of Health Sciences’ Traditional and Complementary Medicine Program.
The researchers analyzed 27 studies that involving 1,966 patients. Of these, either the St. George Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) or Cai’s Quality of Life Questionnaire was used to review the results of the application of traditional Chinese Medicine herbs on the COPD patients.
Using the Quality of Life scores, the researchers’ meta-analysis found that those taking Chinese medicinal herbs had a significant improvement in their quality of life scores as compared to no treatment. Quality of life scores were also significantly higher when patients taking pharmaceutical treatment plus herbal therapy were compared to those taking pharmaceutical treatment alone.
The study was published in this month’s Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Charlie Changli Xue, PhD., lead author of the study, is a Professor of Chinese Medicine at Australia’s RMIT University and holds a medical degree in Chinese Medicine. He has authored numerous other studies on alternative health.
The research underscores centuries of development of Chinese herbal therapies for respiratory disorders. Traditional Chinese medicine lists formularies that provide exacting preparation methods and prescriptive recommendations.
Yet Chinese herbal therapies are still applied on a patient-by-patient basis, and provided often as raw or whole herb extracts. This makes it difficult to study these therapies side by side against pharmaceutical therapies. However, reviews such as this one indicate the potency of herbal medicine therapies.
Over twelve million people in the U.S. are thought to have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. COPD is an inflammatory lung disease whereby breathing becomes difficult due to a narrowing of the airways. The most common symptoms include a feeling of not being able to breathe – e.g., shortness of breath. Persistent coughing is also common among COPD patients.
At the same time, COPD is often misdiagnosed and confused with asthma and other lung disorders. For example, Spanish researchers studied of 9,752 respiratory patients, 43% who were diagnosed with asthma and 43% who were diagnosed with COPD. Yet only 14% of those patients diagnosed with COPD had all the criteria of COPD as defined by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease.
A variety of herbs have been used for COPD and related lung conditions in Chinese, Ayurvedic and Western herbal medicine for many centuries. The list of herbs is long, and the herbal combinations used are fairly complex.
Illustrating this, researchers from the Taiwan’s China Medical University investigated the effects of 83 Chinese herbs on eosinophil cationic protein – often seen built up in lung infections that can result in COPD.
Of the 83 Chinese herbs, numerous herbs were found to decrease ECP. Among these, eight herbs, (Tao Ren, Sie Cao, Wei Ling Sian, Gan Cao, Jhih Mu, Dang Guei, Sheng Di Huang, and Mu Tong) were found to specifically reduce the ability of ECP to bind to cells. In addition, many of the 83 herbs protected the airway cells from ECP damage in one respect or another.
Other research has been investigating a three-herb Chinese formulation called ASHMI for asthma and other lung inflammatory conditions. Research from New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine has established that this traditional Chinese formula significantly reduces inflammation and improves lung function in animal and human clinical studies.
An X, Zhang AL, May BH, Lin L, Xu Y, Xue CC. Oral Chinese Herbal Medicine for Improvement of Quality of Life in Patients with Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: A Systematic Review. J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Jul 17.
Chang HT, Tseng LJ, Hung TJ, Kao BT, Lin WY, Fan TC, Chang MD, Pai TW. Inhibition of the interactions between eosinophil cationic protein and airway epithelial cells by traditional Chinese herbs. BMC Syst Biol. 2010 Sep 13;4 Suppl 2:S8.
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