Some Science Findings on TCM and Pain Management
In recent years, scientists have begun to study the pharmacology of Chinese herbs with increasing rigor, focusing on the compounds which they deliver and studying their pathways in the human body. These studies aim to provide statistical evidence to support our understanding of the benefits that Chinese herbs and formulas offer. Many observations of the advantages of TCM have been confirmed by these studies and a detailed knowledge of their effects on the body have been outlined in greater detail. However, much more research must be conducted to validate these early conclusions and account for the thousands of herbs and formulas which are currently available and actively being prescribed. What follows is a brief summary of the areas of research and initial findings which have been reported.
Recent Findings on TCM and Pain Management
Today’s opioid epidemic illustrates not only the effectiveness but also the dangers of using opioids as a primary tool in chronic pain management. A viable alternative is urgently needed to help patients cope with severe and pervasive pain and avoid addiction. Further, treatments are required which improve the underlying condition, not merely alleviate associated pain. TCM provides both these advantages.
For example, Yan Hu Suo, mentioned above, contains more than 30 alkaloids which have been shown responsible for analgesic effects in recent studies, effective in alleviating pain in different forms, such as headaches and labor pain. Bai Zhi, another herbaceous, root contains compounds called coumarins (naturally and commonly occurring in plants) which also relieve pain and enhance the effects of Yan Hu Suo. One of many advantages of TCM is the synergistic effects found between herbs, made available to patients through formulas.
Varieties of Panax notoginseng, also referred to as San Qi, have long been used for the relief of a variety of ailments, as well, including pain. (Panax means “cure-all” in Latin.) Studies have verified its ability to improve blood flow and reduce inflammation and pain through the inhibition of several natural chemical compounds found in the body. San Qi’s active ingredient has been shown to reduce agents such as TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, iNO and MMP-13, thereby reducing pain as a result.
TCM’s Relationship to Heart Health
Cardiovascular health is another widespread and prevalent health concern, leading to one in four deaths in 2009, according to the CDC. Fuzi (Latin: Aconitum carmichaelii Debeaux) has been extensively used throughout Asia for the treatment of problems related to the heart, including low blood pressure, myocardial infarction, heart disease and even heart failure. Studies have concluded that Fuzi contains up 122 chemical compounds which have far-reaching effects on the body. The most prevalent active compounds include C19-diterpenoid and C20-diterpenoid alkaloids, which studies have shown to have analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects. These alkaloid compounds also have immune-system boosting and anti-aging properties. Further, scientists have ascertained that the greatest benefits of Fuzi come when the root is decocted. While more research is needed to study the herb’s value in the context of Western pharmacology, especially in human subjects, the prescription and use of Fuzi in a traditional manner has confirmed benefits.
TCM Advantages in Stroke Treatment
Two widely used herbs in TCM, Angelica sinesis and Lingusticum chuanxiong, have long histories in the treatment of stroke and ischemic attack and studies in rats have demonstrated the clinical effects of these herbs. Both herbs contain high concentrations of Ferulic acid, which suppresses superoxide radicals (dangerous free radicals) and relieves vasoconstriction (closure of blood vessels) that both harm body tissues. Studies confirmed that Ferulic acid, found in both herbs, “significantly reduced” cerebral infarct — the death of tissue due to blood vessel construction — in rats. However, more research is needed to understand the pathway through which Ferulic acid delivers its benefits more fully. These studies’ early conclusions point to the urgent need for this research and the value of treatment through TCM.
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The primary conclusion to be drawn from the various studies cited here (and the conclusions they themselves draw) is that more research must be conducted before firm, irrefutable conclusions can be affirmed about TCM and its impact on our health. However, today’s research suggests that many benefits do indeed exist, can be enjoyed now and further extended as our knowledge of herbal pathways in the body grows. health wisdom Herbs is committed to sharing these insights with our customers as they become available.
Founded five generations ago, health wisdom Herbs’ mission has always been to help individuals heal naturally, using long-known and well-understood herbs and formulas. Education about the long history of herbs and formulas used in helping the body heal naturally is also critical to us. It is only when you understand the benefits of TCM, seek out sound medical advice from your practitioner and can buy herbs and formulas in confidence that you will reap all that TCM has to offer.
With more evidence than ever confirming the positive health benefits of TCM, we hope you’ll consider incorporating TCM into your wellness routines and continue exploring its advantages. All of us here at health wisdom Herbs wish you good health!