Depression and Chinese Herbal Medicine treatment alternatives

Written on: 12 May 13 and Filed under: herbs | 0 Comments

In the United States, it seems as though the number of diagnosed cases of
depression seem to be growing exponentially each year, and furthermore, it seems
as though anti-depressants are prescribed as a catch-all for many illnesses unrelated
to depression, such as fibromyalgia, obesity, PMS, or other off-label uses. Lexapro
(escitalopram) is the 5th most commonly prescribed drug in the U.S. This drug
belongs to a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s),
and as the name suggests, these drugs inhibit neuronal reuptake of serotonin, with
little or no effect on epinephrine or norepinephrine, to elevate mood. While SSRI’s
can alleviate symptoms of depression after several weeks of use, they also come
with a whole bundle of side effects, including insomnia, constricted pupils, dry
mouth, somnolence, dizziness, sweating, constipation, fatigue, sexual dysfunction,
and a black box warning of increased risk of suicide. For many, these side effects
are just too numerous, and too serious to deal with, so an herbal alternative for
depression is often the best choice to battle depression.

One of the most common herbs known amongst the mainstream population for
treating depression is St. John’s Wort. But what many people aren’t aware that St.
John’s Wort is actually a Chinese herb named Guan Ye Jin Si Tao (Herba Hyperici
Perforati). This herb is a bitter, warm, astringent herb that dispels wind-dampness,
and reduces swelling and toxins. Classically, this herb is used topically to treat
carbuncles, snake and insect bites, and internally to treat bi-syndrome. However,
modern studies show that this herb also has an effect on serotonin levels in the
body, much like an SSRI, but without the serious side effects. Hyperforin, the main
active compound in this herb, works primarily by increasing the level of serotonin,
and secondarily by inhibiting the enzyme monoamine oxidase (MAO), which is what
another class of anti-depressant drugs (MAO Inhibitors) are targeted to do. Not only
does Guan Ye Jin Si Tao act on the serotonin, but it also affects the reuptake of other
neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and dopamine.

Since St. John’s Wort acts like an SSRI, it can be used to help a patient decrease the
dosage of their meds, if they wish to come off the drug gradually. It must be done
with caution, and under the care of a licensed health care professional, because
concurrent use of both the drug and the herb could lead to “serotonin syndrome”
with symptoms such as sweating, tremor, flushing, confusion, and agitation.
Therefore, dosage of both the drug and the herb must be monitored carefully.
If someone is to stop an SSRI abruptly, they may experience electrical shock
sensations in their head (also known as brain shivers, or brain zaps), dizziness, and
bladder control issues. Using the herb St. John’s Wort can help someone to gradually
taper off their medication, and decrease the likelihood of withdrawal signs and
symptoms. When combined with an herbal formula to treat the root problem of the
patient’s depression, Guan Ye Jin Si Tao can be used to effectively elevate mood, as
well as help a patient taper off their medication with fewer side effects, making it
invaluable in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.

Diabetes Treatment with Chinese Medicine and Herbs

Written on: 10 May 13 and Filed under: herbs | 0 Comments

Diabetes is often referred to as Xiao Ke Disease(wasting and thirsting), by Chinese

Medicine practitioners. Xiao Ke suggests thirst, hunger, and frequent urination, as

well as muscle wasting. While there is some overlap between Xiao Ke and diabetes,

the two terms are not interchangeable with one another. Xiao Ke is most similar to

Type I diabetes, but Type II diabetes is more typically a disease of diet and lifestyle

overindulgence, and the patients do not usually experience the “wasting” and

muscle atrophy. Treatment for diabetes is similar to treatment for Xiao Ke, but there

are more factors that need to be taken into consideration when treating diabetics.

 

There are several classic formulas to treat Xiao Ke, depending on whether it

primarily affects the upper, middle or lower jiao. The classic formula to treat upper

jiao Xiao Ke is Bai Hu Tang; Yu Nu Jian or Qing Wei San are used to treat middle

jiao Xiao Ke; and Liu Wei Di Huang Wan is for the lower jiao. However, use of

these formulas alone will not be sufficient to treat diabetes, because as mentioned

before, diabetes is more than just Xiao Ke – it also involves complications of eyes,

blood vessels, infections, neuropathies, and nephropathies. Therefore, in order to

effectively treat diabetes with Chinese herbal medicine, it is essential to choose

the appropriate Kiao Ke formula, and then add herbs for blood sugar control and

address complications from the diabetes.

 

There are many “anti-diabetic” herbs in the Chinese material medica, or herbal remedies for Diabetes, so choosing

the right herbs for the patient just comes down to whichever are the most

appropriate for the presenting pattern. Zhi Mu (Rhizoma Anemarrhenae) and

Huang Qi (Radix Astragali) are among the most commonly prescribed herbs to treat

diabetes. Huang Qi has a marked effect to lower plasma glucose levels and alleviate

insulin resistance. The antihyperglycemic action of Huang Qi appears to be due to

increased production and release of insulin. Zhi Mu, which also has an antidiabetic

effect, has the benefits of increasing insulin secretion, decreased insulin resistance,

and prevention of pancreatic atrophy. These herbs are great to include in an herbal

formula for a Type II diabetic patient, but if a patient has Type I diabetes, which

is more similar to Xiao Ke, the pancreas is no longer functioning, and so herbal

medicine treatment can really only be targeted to manage complications and signs

and symptoms.

 

In order to treat complications and manifestations in the diabetic patient, it is

important to remember that most problems that are occurring are due to the

fact that increased viscosity of the blood due to hyperglycemia leads to poor

circulation. Therefore, it is a good idea to add some blood moving herbs to the

formula to make sure that the medicinal compounds are able to make it through

the circulatory system and get to the diseased areas. Dan Shen (Radix et Rhizoma

Salviae Miltorrhizae) is the perfect herb to accomplish this; is will open up the blood

vessels, bringing blood to the periphery, and acting as an envoy to treat diabetic

neuropathy. Using a small amount of herbs that invigorate the blood, should be

 

essential in the herbal treatment of any patient suffering from diabetes, and will

increase the efficacy of the herbal formula used to treat their presenting pattern.

Is Fermented Cold Liver Oil (FCLO) a healthier alternative to fish oil supplements?

Written on: 01 Apr 13 and Filed under: Articles | 0 Comments

cod liver oil

Everyone and their mother has heard about the benefits of fish oil supplements; omega-3 fatty acids are important to decrease inflammation among other things, and DHA/EPA are essential during pregnancy for brain development in the fetus. But, new studies are showing that isolated polyunsaturated fatty acid/omega-3 rich fish oil, may not be the best form to take this supplement.

 

Fermented cod-liver oil (FCLO) is whole-food alternative to fish oil supplements. It is a cold-processed oil that is made from the livers of cod fish. Through the process of fermentation, the fat-soluble vitamins (A,D, and K2) and polyunsaturated fatty acid (omega3/EPA/DHA) content of the oil is removed without being damaged.

 

You might wonder why the oil needs to be fermented – since we usually hear that heat is damaging to delicate nutrients, it would seem that just being cold-processed would give enough protection. However, synthetic chemical breakdown of nutrients is equally as damaging. Fermentation (enzymatic breakdown) and digestion are the safest and most efficient way to reduce large molecular structures found in foods to break them down to their end-usable constituents. When molecules are broken down by digestion or fermentation, they are broken down in a right-handed manner, which is a form that our body is most able to utilize. However, when molecules arebroken down by other methods like heat, half of the molecules break in a left-handed manner, which is not easily utilized in the body, and may actually be toxic.

 

While it is true that cod liver oil does not contain as much DHA/EPA as fish oil, it should be though of as more of a concentrated superfood, rather than an isolated nutrient like fish oil. The superfood is a whole-food that contains healthy ratios of fat soluble vitamins,, omega-3’s. coenzyme Q-10 and various quinones that are naturally occurring in nature. This wonderful supplement boosts immune function, lowers inflammation, and protects the heart and eyes, and improves glucose tolerance. However, if these aren’t enough reasons to convince you to trade in FCLO for your daily fish oil due to the lower DHA/EPA content, you can take a fermented skate liver oil supplement, which has larger concentrations of DHA/EPA.