For thousands of years, Traditional Chinese Medicine has used herbs in order to better treat complex health complaints. When single herbs are combined, their unique properties work to cure a number of problems at once. These concoctions are herbal formulas.
The process of understanding which herbs are most effective at treating certain diseases continues today, and a group of Japanese researchers have now developed a new way to isolate and study the specific active components of individual plants.
In order to further investigate the way herbs affect the body, the team sought to develop a system in order to more accurately identify the active components in plant medicines. Led by Chihiro Tohda, senior author on the recent study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, the researchers discovered that one particular medicinal herb possesses anti-Alzheimer’s properties.
The team tested out the efficacy of the drynaria rhizome at treating Alzheimer’s symptoms by feeding crude extracts of the plant to mice. They mashed up the rhizome and fed it to rodents with a genetic mutation as a model for Alzheimer’s. What does that mean? Some of the mice with that particular mutation go on to contract characteristics of Alzheimer’s, including reduced memory and a build-up of proteins in the brain.
Five hours after orally administering the plant extract, the team found that memory impairment had improved in the mice along with a reduction in protein build-up. Further examination of the mice showed that three key components from the plant had made their way into the brain.
The Drynaria rhizome is commonly-used in Traditional Chinese Medicine where it goes by the name Gu Sui Bu. It originates from the tuber of a Japanese fern. In TCM, it is used in conjunction with other herbs in formulas, and typically is prescribed to treat traumas involving the bones and tissues, and to strengthen kidney deficiencies.
In Chinese medical theory this is a key interaction, as the health of the kidney plays a vital role in the health of the brain. By supporting the kidney function, you are also supporting proper brain function. In Chinese medicine, the brain is known as the Sea of Marrow. As bones are also comprised of marrow, Gu Sui Bu’s main function – strengthening the marrow – reinforces the ancient wisdom that this herb is beneficial to the brain.
Chinese herbal medicine combines single herbs together for their therapeutic function together. Rarely are single herbs administered for care. This is vastly different to Western pharmaceutical protocols which isolate the active ingredients in an herb to then be synthesized for therapeutic use. Research, like this Alzheimer’s study, can help the Western paradigm understand the value of these millennia old techniques in treating the body for ultimate vitality.
Leave a Reply