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TCM Anti-Malarial Inhibits Multiple Sclerosis, Autoimmunity, Cancer

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Chinese herb at Jekkas Herb Farm

Photo by Jekkas Herb Farm

Increasing research is showing that a Chinese herbal remedy used for thousands of years for malaria and inflammation is effective for a number of lethal conditions, including cancer, parasites, multiple sclerosis and autoimmune syndrome.

Earlier this year, Harvard researchers tested a derivative of the plant constituent febrifugine – from the Dichroa febrifuga plant – called halofuginone. Their testing 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.

The biochemical was found to be the primary active constituent giving the Chinese remedy called Chang Shan (also changsang or chang-sang) its ability to combat even the toughest cases of malaria throughout Asia.

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.

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.

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.

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. Some two-thirds of 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.

REFERENCES:

Keller TL, Zocco D, Sundrud MS, Hendrick M, Edenius M, Yum J, Kim YJ, Lee HK, Cortese JF, Wirth DF, Dignam JD, Rao A, Yeo CY, Mazitschek R, Whitman M. Halofuginone and other febrifugine derivatives inhibit prolyl-tRNA synthetase. Nat Chem Biol. 2012 Feb 12;8(3):311-7.

Zhu S, Chandrashekar G, Meng L, Robinson K, Chatterji D. Febrifugine analogue compounds: synthesis and antimalarial evaluation. Bioorg Med Chem. 2012 Jan 15;20(2):927-32.

Zhang DF, Sun BB, Yue YY, Zhou QJ, Du AF. Anticoccidial activity of traditional Chinese herbal Dichroa febrifuga Lour. extract against Eimeria tenella infection in chickens. Parasitol Res. 2012 Aug 17.

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Park SY, Park GY, Ko WS, Kim Y. Dichroa febrifuga Lour. inhibits the production of IL-1beta and IL-6 through blocking NF-kappaB, MAPK and Akt activation in macrophages. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Sep 7;125(2):246-51.

Zhao CX. [Effect of Dichroa febrifuga L. on chloroquinsensible and chloroquinresistant malaria parasites]. J Tongji Med Univ. 1986;6(2):112-5.

Takaya Y, Tasaka H, Chiba T, Uwai K, Tanitsu M, Kim HS, Wataya Y, Miura M, Takeshita M, Oshima Y. New type of febrifugine analogues, bearing a quinolizidine moiety, show potent antimalarial activity against Plasmodium malaria parasite. J Med Chem. 1999 Aug 12;42(16):3163-6.

Murata K, Takano F, Fushiya S, Oshima Y. Potentiation by febrifugine of host defense in mice against Plasmodium berghei NK65. Biochem Pharmacol. 1999 Nov 15;58(10):1593-601.

Pines M, Nagler A. Halofuginone: a novel antifibrotic therapy. Gen Pharmacol. 1998 Apr;30(4):445-50.

Elkin M, Ariel I, Miao HQ, Nagler A, Pines M, de-Groot N, Hochberg A, Vlodavsky I. Inhibition of bladder carcinoma angiogenesis, stromal support, and tumor growth by halofuginone. Cancer Res. 1999 Aug 15;59(16):4111-8.

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