Category Archives: Health

The use of medicinal plants in Mustang district, Nepal

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Bhattarai S, Chaudhary RP, Quave CL, Taylor RS.
The use of medicinal plants in the trans-Himalayan arid zone of Mustang district, Nepal.
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Apr 6;6:14.
PubMed PMID: 20370901

Investigators at the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology conducted field research in the Mustang district of north-central Nepal from 2005 to 2007 to document the use of medicinal plants in traditional botanical medicine.

Interviewing residents of 27 communities, the investigators recorded traditional uses of 121 medicinal plant species, mostly herbs, but also including shrubs, trees, and climbers. Plant-based medicine is used extensively in the region, within a number of medical systems including Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, Unani (a tradition of Graeco-Arabic medicine), and Tibetan Amchi medicine.

Recent loss of biodiversity in Mustang – a fragile, mountainous ecosystem – prompted this ethnobotanical project to document the use of medicinal plants and indigenous ethnobotanical knowledge. The investigators interviewed Amchi healers, medicinal plant traders, farmers, hotel and shop owners and managers, traders, homemakers, and village elders.

The study found that medicinal plants play a pivotal role in primary healthcare in Mustang, that traditional Amchi medical practitioners maintain deep knowledge about their use, and that, “while over-harvesting of some important medicinal plants has increased, many Amchi are working towards both biological conservation of the medicinal plants through sustainable harvesting and protection of wild species and conservation of their cultural heritage.”

To maintain biodiversity and ethnobotanical knowledge, the authors recommend collaborative research projects between the local people and national and international partners with relevant expertise.

A study of Korean herbal remedies for tinnitus

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Kim NK, Lee DH, Lee JH, et al. Bojungikgitang and banhabaekchulchonmatang in adult patients with tinnitus, a randomized, double-blind, three-arm, placebo-controlled trial–study protocol. Trials. 2010
Mar 28;11:34. PubMed PMID: 20346181.

Investigators at Wonkwang University undertook a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to determine the efficacy and safety of the herbal medications bojungikgitang and banhabaekchulchonmatang in the treatment of tinnitus.

Neither the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have approved treatments for this disorder, defined as a perception of hearing a sound for which there is no external acoustic source and that is often associated with sudden, temporary hearing loss.

Bojungikgitang and banhabaekchulchonmatang are herbal preparations used in Traditional Korean Medicine. Both are approved by the Korea Food and Drug Administration as herbal medications for adults with tinnitus.

In this study, Bojungikgitang was prepared from extracts of Astragali radix, white ginseng, Atractylodes rhizome white, Glycyrrhizae resina, Angelicae gigantis radix, Fraxini cortex, Cimicifugae rhizoma, and Bupleuri radix. Banhabaekchulchonmatang was prepared from extracts of Pinelliae rhizoma, Hordei fructus germinatus, Fraxini cortex, Atractylodes rhizome white, Massa medicata fermentata, Atractylodis rhizoma, Zingiber officinale, Astragali radix, Ginseng radix alba, Ginseng radix alba, Gastrodiae rhizoma, Polyporus, Alismatis rhizoma, Zingiberis rhizoma siccus, and Phellodendri cortex.

Participants received bojungikgitang, banhabaekchulchonmatang, or a placebo for eight weeks, prepared as a tea with tepid water. Each participant was examined for signs and symptoms of tinnitus before and after taking their medication. Posttreatment follow-up was performed two weeks after the final administration.

The authors found evidence for the efficacy of bojungikgitang and banhabaekchulchonmatang, based on the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory, an acoustic examination and visual analogue scale. Safety was demonstrated by complete blood cell count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, blood chemistry, urine analysis, PA chest film, brain computed tomography, otologic examination, and vital signs.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

From Galen to Gleevec

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The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
Siddhartha Mukherjee
Scribner; 2010 (Amazon)

Siddhartha Mukherjee, assistant professor of Medicine at Columbia University and staff physician at the CU/NYU Presbyterian Hospital, has written an epic history of Western medicine and its ultimate nemesis, the disorder of fundamental life processes we call cancer. Combining the tools of journalism, history, true crime, and memoir with a novelist’s grasp of character and plot, a physician’s compassion, and a scientist’s perspective, Mukerjee delivers an absorbing, credible, and deeply meaningful narrative that also benchmarks for future readers the art and science of oncology today.

Tracing the history of oncology from Hippocrates and Galen through the centuries to the beginning of small-molecule targeted therapy with the introduction of Gleevec for chronic myeloid leukemia, Mukherjee highlights legendary players including Andreas Vesalius; John Bennett; Gregor Mendel; Rudolf Virchow; Robert Koch; William Stewart Halsted; Pierre and Marie Curie; Oswald Avery; Lucy Wills; Sidney Farber; Mary Lasker; Emil Freireich and Emil Frei; Min Chiu Li; Thomas Hodgkin; Henry Kaplan; Donald Pinkel; Peyton Rous; Mary Cole; Gianni Bonadonna and Umberto Veronesi; Richard Doll and Bradford Hill; Bruce Ames; Baruch Blumberg; Marcus Conant and Paul Volberding; David Baltimore; Michael Bishop and Harold Varmus; Janet Rowley; Peter Nowell and David Hungerford; Robert Weinberg; Bert Vogelstein; Judah Folkman; Axel Ullrich, Dennis Slamon, Alex Matter, and Nick Lydon; Brian Druker, Charles Sawyers, Moshe Talpaz, and Hagop Kantarjian; and Francis Collins.

Mukherjee also delves into the work and motivations of more than twice this number of investigators, and quotes liberally from humanist writers, including Susan Sontag, William Carlos Williams, and Rose Kushner. Perhaps most important, much of the book details the experience of cancer patients, including those of the author.

Essential reading that is also most enjoyable.

Holism and Life Manifestations – Research from Prague

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Krecek J. Holism and life manifestations: molecular and space-time biology. Physiol Res. 2010;59(2):157-63. PubMed PMID: 20482219.

From the conclusion:

“Holism is an achievement of mind concerning limited importance of individual experience. Reasoning about holism, taking in mind the existence of molecular and space-time biology and separating the supply of energy from other life manifestations, could become a guide to the birth of the new step of synthetic approach in biology.”

Yoga in Diabetes

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Kutty BM, Raju TR. New vistas in treating diabetes–insight into a holistic approach. Indian J Med Res. 2010 May;131:606-7. PubMed PMID: 20516530.

Kutty and Raju, researchers in the Department of Neurophysiology at the National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences in Bangalore, note that in India, presently about 30 million people are diabetic which will rise to about 60 million by 2017.

They undertook a meta-analysis of studies of yoga and meditation in the treatment of diabetes, with the following conclusion:

Practice of yoga and meditation is known to induce hypometabolic state with parasympathetic predominance, suggesting that yogic practices per se would create a conducive internal atmosphere from the cellular to system level. This would help to manage the stress and anxiety effectively in addition to its positive regulatory role on other systems. Considering its health there is a need to integrate yoga in the conventional treatment regimen as an adjunct/add on therapy for an effective treatment of DM. This paper provides a convincing evidence for the effectiveness of combination therapy over conventional treatment in enhancing cognitive functions in diabetes. More studies need to be carried out along this line, in order to increase awareness among public.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

White Paper – Price Regulation and Incentives to Innovate in the Pharmaceutical Industry

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Friederiszick H, Tosini N, Véricourt F, Wakeman S. An Economic Assessment of the Relationship between Price Regulation and Incentives to Innovate in the Pharmaceutical Industry. ESMT White Paper. ESMT No. WP-109–03. 2009.

A comprehensive study exploring the possible consequences that pricing and reimbursement regulation may have on pharmaceutical innovation, and presenting a model in which the effect of pricing regulation on pharmaceutical innovation can be quantitatively evaluated.

Noting that worldwide the pharmaceuticals and biotechnology industry is ranked highest in R&D expenditures, the authors find that, “In designing optimal pharmaceutical pricing and reimbursement regulation, the benefits of more affordable or cost-effective drugs must be traded against the costs of less pharmaceutical innovation, with fewer projects being developed in general and in particular in low-margin therapeutic areas and with little potential of being considered highly innovative at the time of market launch.”

They also note that a country’s willingness to pay for different types of products may also vary because of cultural factors:

“For instance, countries such as France seem to put high value on—and therefore have a high willingness to pay for—products that treat serious, life-threatening conditions, even if those conditions are rare and the treatments have low probability of success (e.g., experimental treatments for rare forms of cancer). By contrast, countries such as the U.K. appear to place greater value on products that have greater chances of being effective in improving the life of a large number of people, even though those improvements may be only minor.”

Recommended. Read the full report here.

Update on Vaccine Strategies to Improve Cancer Treatment

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Palena C, Schlom J. Vaccines against human carcinomas: strategies to improve antitumor immune responses. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2010;2010:380697. Epub 2010 Mar 16. Review. PubMed PMID: 20300434; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2840411.

NCI researchers review the evidence for vaccine strategies against cancers. Topics include choice of
vaccine-delivery systems; tumor antigens; targeting of molecules that control metastasis; enhancing activation of tumor-specific T-cells; cytokines as vaccine adjuvants; vaccines in combination with cytotoxic drugs, radiation therapy, and small molecule targeted therapy.

From the conclusion:

“The combination of cancer vaccines with other therapeutical modalities, in particular established therapies such as radiation and chemotherapy, as well as small molecule targeted therapies, provides an opportunity to further improve the outcome of vaccine interventions against cancer. Moreover, several studies also indicated that patients who receive a cancer vaccine have an enhanced outcome to subsequent therapies, thus providing another possible approach for the use of cancer vaccines prior to other cancer interventions. A prospective randomized trial is being initiated to substantiate these findings. Unlike other modalities, cancer vaccines have so far demonstrated no associated toxicities and therefore their use could not only result in improved patient survival but also in improvements in quality of life.”

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Green Tea and Prostate Cancer

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Pandey M, Gupta S. Green tea and prostate cancer: from bench to clinic. Front Biosci (Elite Ed). 2009 Jun 1;1:13-25. PubMed PMID: 19482620; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2728057.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University review the evidence for green tea in the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer. Their setup is irresistible:

“Green tea, the most popular beverage next to water, is a rich source of tea catechins and has potential to be developed as a chemopreventive agent for prostate cancer. For centuries it has been used in traditional medicine in Far-East countries. Male populations in these countries where large quantities of green tea are consumed on regular basis have the lowest incidence of prostate cancer.”

Panday and Gupta provide a comprehensive introduction to the disease and green tea as a preventive and therapeutic agent in prostate cancer and make a clear case for the need to study biomarkers of the various pathways that are influenced by green tea polyphenols in this indication.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Translating EEG into Music

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Wu D, Li C, Yin Y, Zhou C, Yao D. Music composition from the brain signal: representing the mental state by music. Comput Intell Neurosci. 2010:267671. Epub 2010 Mar 11. PubMed PMID: 20300580; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2837898.

Fascinating. Investigators at University of Electronic Science and Technology of China and Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences propose a method to translate human EEG into music, “so as to represent mental state by music.”

From the Discussion and Conclusion:

“There is growing interest in the relation between the brain and music. The approach to translate the EEG data into music is an attempt to represent the mind world with music… The above results show that the approach is advisable and effective and that the music pieces of different sleep stages are of distinct music features corresponding to the different levels of arousal…. Though individual EEG data is different from one subject to another, the basic features of sleep EEG with different mental states are quite steady, such as the characteristic waves of different sleep stages. That means, for the same sleep stage, that the music of different subjects would be different in details, but the main patterns would be similar…. This method might be used potentially in an assistant sleep monitor in clinical applications because the music of different sleep stages can be identified easily and more comfortably…. Furthermore, this method can be utilized as a unique automatic music generation system, which enables those people who have no composition skills to make music through using their brainwaves. Therefore, it can be utilized as a bio-feedback tool in disease therapy and fatigue recovery.”

Download the full text.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Complementary Therapies in the Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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Pirotta M. Irritable bowel syndrome – The role of complementary medicines in treatment. Aust Fam Physician. 2009 Dec;38(12):966-8. PubMed PMID: 20369148.

A brief but comprehensive survey of complementary therapies for this difficult condition. Reviews evidence
for use of probiotics, peppermint oil, and dietary changes such as increasing fibre intake and various eastern medicines and psychological treatments.

Download the full text.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.