In Mexico, local empirical knowledge about medicinal properties of plants is the basis for their use as home remedies. It is generally accepted by many people in Mexico and elsewhere in the world that beneficial medicinal effects can be obtained by ingesting plant products. In this review, we focus on the potential pharmacologic bases for herbal plant efficacy, but we also raise concerns about the safety of these agents, which have not been fully assessed. Although numerous randomized clinical trials of herbal medicines have been published and systematic reviews and meta-analyses of these studies are available, generalizations about the efficacy and safety of herbal medicines are clearly not possible. Recent publications have also highlighted the unintended consequences of herbal product use, including morbidity and mortality. It has been found that many phytochemicals have pharmacokinetic or pharmacodynamic interactions with drugs. The present review is limited to some herbal medicine that are native or cultivated in Mexico and that have significant use. We discuss the cultural uses, phytochemistry, pharmacological and toxicological properties of the following following plant species: Nopal (Opuntia ficus), Peppermint (Mentha piperita), Chaparral (Larrea divaricata), Dandlion (Taraxacum officinale), Mullein (Verbascum densiflorum), Chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Nettle or Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), Passionflower (Passiflora incarmata), Linden Flower (Tilia europea), and Aloa (Aloa vera). We conclude that our knowledge of the therapeutic benefits and risks of some herbal medicines used in Mexico is still limited and efforts to elucidate them should be intensified.
The chemical composition of herbal medicines is very complex, and their therapeutic effects are determined by multi-components with sophisticated synergistic and/or suppressive actions. Therefore, quality control of herbal medicines has been a formidable challenge. In this work, we describe a fast analytical method that can be used for quality assessment of herbal medicines. The method is based on ligand fishing using human-serum-albumin-functionalized magnetic nanoparticles (HSA-MNPs) and mass spectrometry. To demonstrate the applicability of the proposed method, eight samples of Dioscorea panthaica were analyzed. The sampled plants were of both wild and cultivated origins. They grew at different geographical locations and were harvested at different times. The ligands bound to HSA-MNPs were isolated from the plant extracts and detected by using direct infusion electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (DI–ESI–MS). Chemical identity has been confirmed for five of the ligands isolated. From more than 15 peaks in the ESI–MS spectrum, 11 common peaks were selected for calculating the correlation coefficient and cosine ratio. The values of correlation coefficient and cosine ratio were >0.9824 and >0.9988, respectively, for all the samples tested. The results indicated a high level of similarity among the eight D. panthaica samples. Compared with chromatographic fingerprint analysis, the proposed HSA-MNP-based DI–ESI–MS/MS approach was not only fast and easy to carry out but also biological-activity-oriented, promising a more effective data interpretation and thus reliable assessment conclusions.
Magnetic nanoparticles; Ligand fishing; ESI—MS/MS; Quality assessment of herbal medicines; Dioscorea panthaica
There is growing concern that serious interactions are occurring between prescribed/over the counter and herbal medicines and that there is a lack of disclosure of herbal use by patients to doctors. This study explores women's perspectives about the safety of herbal remedies, herb-drug interactions and communication with doctors about herbal medicines.
Qualitative, cross-sectional study, with purposive sampling which took place in Cheshire, UK. Eighteen in depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with female herbal medicine users aged 18 years and above.
The large majority did not inform their GPs of their use of herbal medicines. This was due to lack of physician enquiry, perception of importance and fear of a negative response. Several women were not aware that herbal remedies could interact with prescribed or over the counter medicines. Of the women who had experienced adverse effects none had reported them, believing them of low importance.
The women had little knowledge about herb-drug interactions and rarely disclosed use of herbal medicines to their doctor. Doctors' communication and openness regarding herbal medicines needs to improve and there should be increased access to accurate information on herbal medicines in the public and health care domain.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), including herbal medicine, are popular in the general population worldwide. Parallel to the increasing interest in ‘modern’ CAM therapies and the historical importance of Arab medicine, there is also a similar trend in research activities dealing with the efficacy and safety of medicinal plants in our region. Historical and current studies and surveys indicate that the Eastern region of the Mediterranean has been distinguished throughout the generations with a rich inventory of natural medicinal herbs. It is well documented that indigenous Arab medicine has contributed greatly to the development of modern medicine in Europe and remains one of the closest forms of original European medicine. The rapid increase in consumption of herbal remedies worldwide has been stimulated by several factors, including the notion that all herbal products are safe and effective. This article presents a systematic review on traditional Arab medicine including historical background, medical innovations introduced by Arab physicians in the field of safety and efficacy of herbal medicine and a state-of-the-art description of traditional Arab herbal medicine in the Mediterranean region.
Arab herbal medicine; in vitro and in vivo complementary medicine; toxicity and efficacy
The increase of herbal medicine use led many scientists to contribute to the research in this field. Also a few pharmacologists, after an initial phase of correct criticisms, today recognize the possibility of investigating the scientific value of medicinal products composed essentially of vegetable extracts. However, it is logical to pose the questions: (i) is there a role for the pharmacologist in herbal medicine (or phytotherapy)? (ii) can we do without pharmacologists’? First, two worlds—drug researchers (pharmacologists) and herbal medicines—yesterday appearing in opposition, are today closer and it is not unusual to read scientific works describing herbal extracts in journals traditionally dedicated to the study of synthetic drugs. Second, clinical application of herbal medicines is evaluable through the methods of modern clinical pharmacology. Efficacy and safety of medicinal plants represent naturally the object of interest for the pharmacologist and it is surely this aspect which gives the most important information on herbal medicine use. Many plants have been studied and results published showing, one time good or another poor, efficacy. Safety aspects of some of the most frequently used plants are now well known. For example, today we learn to use hypericum and we do not give it to patients taking other drugs because the interactions of hypericum with them. Contraindications of other plants, often represented by interactions with drugs, are finally known (Ginkgo biloba and drugs acting on blood coagulation). In conclusion, antagonistic behavior of pharmacologists versus herbal medicines is not useful. On the contrary, modern phytotherapy needs the contribution of researchers usually trained to evaluate efficacy and safety of medicinals.
herbal medicines; herbal medicine; herbs; medicinal plants; phytotherapy
Herbal medicine is the use of medicinal plants for prevention and treatment of diseases: it ranges from traditional and popular medicines of every country to the use of standardized and tritated herbal extracts. Generally cultural rootedness enduring and widespread use in a Traditional Medical System may indicate safety, but not efficacy of treatments, especially in herbal medicine where tradition is almost completely based on remedies containing active principles at very low and ultra low concentrations, or relying on magical-energetic principles.
In the age of globalization and of the so-called ‘plate world’, assessing the ‘transferability’ of treatments between different cultures is not a relevant goal for clinical research, while are the assessment of efficacy and safety that should be based on the regular patterns of mainstream clinical medicine.
The other black box of herbal-based treatments is the lack of definite and complete information about the composition of extracts. Herbal derived remedies need a powerful and deep assessment of their pharmacological qualities and safety that actually can be realized by new biologic technologies like pharmacogenomic, metabolomic and microarray methology. Because of the large and growing use of natural derived substances in all over the world, it is not wise to rely also on the tradition or supposed millenarian beliefs; explanatory and pragmatic studies are useful and should be considered complementary in the acquisition of reliable data both for health caregiver and patients.
evidence based medicince; explanatory trials; herbal medicine; mainstream medicine; phytotherapy; pragmatic trials; traditional medical system; traditional medicine
Around 308 million people worldwide are estimated to have impaired glucose tolerance (IGT); 25% to 75% of these will develop diabetes within a decade of initial diagnosis. At diagnosis, half will have tissue-related damage and all have an increased risk for coronary heart disease.
The objective of this review was to assess the effects and safety of Chinese herbal medicines for the treatment of people with impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose (IFG).
We searched the following databases: The Cochrane Library, PubMed, EMBASE, AMED, a range of Chinese language databases, SIGLE and databases of ongoing trials.
Randomised clinical trials comparing Chinese herbal medicines with placebo, no treatment, pharmacological or non-pharmacological interventions in people with IGT or IFG were considered.
Data collection and analysis
Two authors independently extracted data. Trials were assessed for risk of bias against key criteria: random sequence generation, allocation concealment, blinding of participants, outcome assessors and intervention providers, incomplete outcome data, selective outcome reporting and other sources of bias.
This review examined 16 trials lasting four weeks to two years involving 1391 participants receiving 15 different Chinese herbal medicines in eight different comparisons. No trial reported on mortality, morbidity or costs. No serious adverse events like severe hypoglycaemia were observed. Meta-analysis of eight trials showed that those receiving Chinese herbal medicines combined with lifestyle modification were more than twice as likely to have their fasting plasma glucose levels return to normal levels (i.e. fasting plasma glucose <7.8 mmol/L and 2hr blood glucose <11.1 mmol/L) compared to lifestyle modification alone (RR 2.07; 95% confidence intervall (CI) 1.52 to 2.82). Those receiving Chinese herbs were less likely to progress to diabetes over the duration of the trial (RR 0.33; 95% CI 0.19 to 0.58). However, all trials had a considerable risk of bias and none of the specific herbal medicines comparison data was available from more than one study. Moreover, results could have been confounded by rates of natural reversion to normal glucose levels.
The positive evidence in favour of Chinese herbal medicines for the treatment of IGT or IFG is constrained by the following factors: lack of trials that tested the same herbal medicine, lack of details on co-interventions, unclear methods of randomisation, poor reporting and other risks of bias.
Use of herbal medicine in the treatment of liver cancer has a long tradition. The compounds derived from the herb and herbal composites are of considerable interest among oncologists. In the past, certain herbal compounds and herbal composite formulas have been studied through in vitro and in vivo as an anti-hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) agent, enhancing our knowledge about their biologic functions and targets. However there is a significant distinction between the herbal medicine and the herbal production even though both are the plant-based remedies used in the practice. In this article, for the sake of clarity, the effective herbal compounds and herbal composite formulas against HCC are discussed, with emphasizing the basic conceptions of herbal medicine in order to have a better understanding of the prevention and treatment of HCC by herbal active compounds and herbal composite formulas.
Herbal remedies are widely used for the treatment and prevention of various diseases and often contain highly active pharmacological compounds. Many medicinal herbs and pharmaceutical drugs are therapeutic at one dose and toxic at another. Toxicity related to traditional medicines is becoming more widely recognized as these remedies become popular in the Mediterranean region as well as worldwide. Most reports concerning the toxic effects of herbal medicines are associated with hepatotoxicity although reports of other toxic effects including kidney, nervous system, blood, cardiovascular and dermatologic effects, mutagenicity and carcinogenicity have also been published in the medical literature. This article presents a systematic review on safety of traditional Arab medicine and the contribution of Arab scholars to toxicology. Use of modern cell biological, biochemical, in vitro and in vivo techniques for the evaluation of medicinal plants safety is also discussed.
Arab herbal medicine; complementary and alternative medicine (CAM); in vitro; in vivo; toxicity tests
Selection of chemical markers is crucial for the quality control of herbal medicines, including authentication of genuine species, harvesting the best quality raw materials, evaluation of post-harvesting handling, assessment of intermediates and finished products, and detection of harmful or toxic ingredients. Ideal chemical markers should be the therapeutic components of herbal medicines. However, for most herbal medicines, the therapeutic components have not been fully elucidated or easily monitored. Bioactive, characteristic, main, synergistic, correlative, toxic and general components may be selected. This article reviews the effective use of chemical markers in the quality control of herbal medicines including the selection criteria considering the roles and physicochemical factors which may affect the effective use of chemical markers.
To summarise and critically evaluate the evidence from randomised clinical trials for the effectiveness of individualised herbal medicine in any indication.
Search of electronic databases and approaches to experts in the field to identify randomised, controlled clinical trials of individualised herbal medicine in any indication. Independent data extraction and assessment of methodological quality by two authors and best evidence synthesis.
Three randomised clinical trials of individualised herbal medicine were identified. Statistically non‐significant trends favouring active over placebo treatment in osteoarthritis of the knee probably result from large baseline differences and regression to the mean. Individualised treatment was superior to placebo in four of five outcome measures in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, but was inferior to standardised herbal treatment in all outcomes. Individualised herbal treatment was no better than placebo in the prevention of chemotherapy‐induced toxicity.
There is a sparsity of evidence regarding the effectiveness of individualised herbal medicine and no convincing evidence to support the use of individualised herbal medicine in any indication.
Herbal medicines are gaining more and more attention all over the world due to their long historical clinical practice and less side effects. The major limitation with herbal medicines is that the lack of standardization technique. Initially, the crude drugs were identified by comparison only with the standard description available.
Materials and Methods:
Standardization of drugs means confirmation of its identity and determination of its quality and purity. The quality control standards of various medicinal plants, used in indigenous system of medicine, are significant nowadays in view of commercialization of formulations based on medicinal plants. The quality of herbal drugs is the sum of all factors, which contribute directly or indirectly to the safety, effectiveness, and acceptability of the product. Lack of quality control can affect the efficacy and safety of drugs that may lead to health problems in the consumers. Standardization of drugs is needed to overcome the problems of adulteration and is most developing field of research now. Therefore, there is an urgent need of standardized drugs having consistent quality.
The drug showed the presence of phyto-chemical constituents. Powdered drug was treated with different reagents and examined under UV light. Different reagents showed different colors of the drug at 2 wavelengths. The percentage of physiological active compounds viz. total phenolics, tannins, volatile oil, fixed oil, and alkaloids were also observed.
Myrtus communis L. (Family: Myrtaceae) is one of the important drug being used in Unani system of medicine for various therapeutic purposes. In this study, an attempt has been made to study berries of M. communis from physico-chemical and phytochemical standardization point of view.
Physiocochemical; phytochemical; standardization
While the popularity of and expenditures for herbal therapies (aka “ethnomedicines”) have increased globally in recent years, their efficacy, safety, mechanisms of action, potential as novel therapeutic agents, cost-effectiveness, or lack thereof, remain poorly defined and controversial. Moreover, published clinical trials evaluating the efficacy of herbal therapies have rightfully been criticized, post hoc, for their lack of quality assurance and reproducibility of study materials, as well as a lack of demonstration of plausible mechanisms and dosing effects. In short, clinical botanical investigations have suffered from the lack of a cohesive research strategy which draws on the expertise of all relevant specialties.
With this as background, US and Chinese co-investigators with expertise in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), botany, chemistry and drug discovery, have jointly established a prototype library consisting of 202 authenticated medicinal plant and fungal species that collectively represent the therapeutic content of the majority of all commonly prescribed TCM herbal prescriptions. Currently housed at Harvard University, the library consists of duplicate or triplicate kilogram quantities of each authenticated and processed species, as well as “detanninized” extracts and sub-fractions of each mother extract. Each species has been collected at 2–3 sites, each separated geographically by hundreds of miles, with precise GPS documentation, and authenticated visually and chemically prior to testing for heavy metals and/or pesticides contamination. An explicit decision process has been developed whereby samples with the least contamination were selected to undergo ethanol extraction and HPLC sub-fractionation in preparation for high throughput screening across a broad array of biological targets including cancer biology targets. As envisioned, the subfractions in this artisan collection of authenticated medicinal plants will be tested for biological activity individually and in combinations (i.e., “complex mixtures”) consistent with traditional ethnomedical practice.
This manuscript summarizes the rationale, methods and preliminary “proof of principle” for the establishment of this prototype, authenticated medicinal plant library. It is hoped that these methods will foster scientific discoveries with therapeutic potential and enhance efforts to systematically evaluate commonly used herbal therapies worldwide.
Herbal medicine; Library; Traditional Chinese; Ethnomedicine
Herbal products have gained increasing popularity in the last decade, and are now used by approximately 20% of the population. Herbal products are complex mixtures of organic chemicals that may come from any raw or processed part of a plant, including leaves, stems, flowers, roots, and seeds. Under the current law, herbs are defined as dietary supplements, and manufacturers can therefore produce, sell, and market herbs without first demonstrating safety and efficacy, as is required for pharmaceutical drugs. Although herbs are often perceived as “natural” and therefore safe, many different side effects have been reported owing to active ingredients, contaminants, or interactions with drugs.
Unfortunately, there is limited scientific evidence to establish the safety and efficacy of most herbal products. Of the top 10 herbs, 5 (ginkgo, garlic, St. John’s wort, soy, and kava) have scientific evidence suggesting efficacy, but concerns over safety and a consideration of other medical therapies may temper the decision to use these products.
Herbal products are not likely to become an important alternative to standard medical therapies unless there are changes to the regulation, standardization, and funding for research of these products.
herbal medicine; efficacy; safety; regulation
Over three-quarter of the world's population is using herbal medicines with an increasing trend globally. Herbal medicines may be beneficial but are not completely harmless.
This study aimed to assess the extent of use and the general knowledge of the benefits and safety of herbal medicines among urban residents in Lagos, Nigeria.
The study involved 388 participants recruited by cluster and random sampling techniques. Participants were interviewed with a structured open- and close-ended questionnaire.
The information obtained comprises the demography and types of herbal medicines used by the respondents; indications for their use; the sources, benefits and adverse effects of the herbal medicines they used.
A total of 12 herbal medicines (crude or refined) were used by the respondents, either alone or in combination with other herbal medicines. Herbal medicines were reportedly used by 259 (66.8%) respondents. 'Agbo jedi-jedi' (35%) was the most frequently used herbal medicine preparation, followed by 'agbo-iba' (27.5%) and Oroki herbal mixture® (9%). Family and friends had a marked influence on 78.4% of the respondents who used herbal medicine preparations. Herbal medicines were considered safe by half of the respondents despite 20.8% of those who experienced mild to moderate adverse effects.
Herbal medicine is popular among the respondents but they appear to be ignorant of its potential toxicities. It may be necessary to evaluate the safety, efficacy and quality of herbal medicines and their products through randomised clinical trial studies. Public enlightenment programme about safe use of herbal medicines may be necessary as a means of minimizing the potential adverse effects.
Herbal medicines are used in many countries for maintaining health and treating diseases. Their efficacy depends on the use of the correct materials, and life-threatening poisoning may occur if toxic adulterants or substitutes are administered instead. Identification of a medicinal material at the DNA level provides an objective and powerful tool for quality control. Extraction of high-quality DNA is the first crucial step in DNA authentication, followed by a battery of DNA techniques including whole genome fingerprinting, DNA sequencing and DNA microarray to establish the identity of the material. New or improved technologies have been developed and valuable data have been collected and compiled for DNA authentication. Some of these technologies and data are patentable. This article provides an overview of some recent patents that cover the extraction of DNA from medicinal materials, the amplification of DNA using improved reaction conditions, the generation of DNA sequences and fingerprints, and the development of high-throughput authentication methods. It also briefly explains why these patents have been granted.
A major safety concern with the use of herbal medicinal products (HMP) is their interactions with conventional medicines, which are often mediated via the cytochrome P450 (CYP) system. Echinacea is a widely used over-the-counter HMP, with proven immunomodulatory properties. Its increasing use makes research into its safety an urgent concern. Previously, we showed that Echinacea extracts and its alkylamides (thought to be important for Echinacea's immunomodulatory activity) mildly inhibit the enzymatic activity of the main drug metabolising CYP isoforms, but to this date, there is insufficient work on its ability to alter CYP expression levels. We now report for the first time the effect of a commercial Echinacea extract (Echinaforce) and four Echinacea alkylamides on the transcription of the major drug metabolizing enzyme CYP3A4. HepG2 cells were exposed for 96 h to clinically relevant concentrations of Echinaforce (22, 11.6 and 1.16 μg mL−1) or the alkylamides (1.62 and 44 nM). CYP3A4 mRNA levels were quantified using real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Neither Echinaforce nor the alkylamides produced any significant changes in the steady-state CYP3A4 mRNA levels, under these conditions. In contrast, treatment with 50 μM rifampicin resulted in a 3.8-fold up-regulation over the vehicle control. We conclude that Echinaforce is unlikely to affect CYP3A4 transcriptional levels, even at concentrations which can inhibit the enzymatic activity of CYP3A4. Overall, our data provides further evidence for the lack of interactions between Echinacea and conventional drugs.
Plants have traditionally been used as a source of medicine in India by indigenous people of different ethnic groups inhabiting various terrains for the control of various ailments afflicting human and their domestic animals. The indigenous community of snake charmers belongs to the 'Nath' community in India have played important role of healers in treating snake bite victims. Snake charmers also sell herbal remedies for common ailments. In the present paper an attempt has been made to document on ethno botanical survey and traditional medicines used by snake charmers of village Khetawas located in district Jhajjar of Haryana, India as the little work has been made in the past to document the knowledge from this community.
Ethno botanical data and traditional uses of plants information was obtained by semi structured oral interviews from experienced rural folk, traditional herbal medicine practitioners of the 'Nath' community. A total of 42 selected inhabitants were interviewed, 41 were male and only one woman. The age of the healers was between 25 years and 75 years. The plant specimens were identified according to different references concerning the medicinal plants of Haryana and adjoining areas and further confirmation from Forest Research Institute, Dehradun.
The present study revealed that the people of the snake charmer community used 57 medicinal plants species that belonged to 51 genera and 35 families for the treatment of various diseases. The study has brought to light that the main diseases treated by this community was snakebite in which 19 different types of medicinal plants belongs to 13 families were used. Significantly higher number of medicinal plants was claimed by men as compared to women. The highest numbers of medicinal plants for traditional uses utilized by this community were belonging to family Fabaceae.
This community carries a vast knowledge of medicinal plants but as snake charming is banned in India as part of efforts to protect India's steadily depleting wildlife, this knowledge is also rapidly disappearing in this community. Such type of ethno botanical studies will help in systematic documentation of ethno botanical knowledge and availing to the scientific world plant therapies used as antivenin by the Saperas community.
Currently, a majority of the adverse events related to the use of herbal products and herbal medicines that are reported are attributable either to poor product quality or to improper use. Inadequate regulatory measures, weak quality control systems, and largely uncontrolled distribution channels (including mail order and Internet sales) may have been contributing to the occurrence of such events. In order to expand the knowledge about genuine adverse reactions to herbal medicines, and to avoid wasting scarce resources for identifying and analyzing adverse events, events resulting from such situations will need to be reduced or eliminated. Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) are therefore encouraged to strengthen national regulation, registration and quality assurance and control of herbal medicines. In addition, the national health authorities should give greater attention to consumer education and to qualified practice in the provision of herbal medicines.
Guidelines; herbal medicines; pharmacovigilance; regulatory
Poor quality control of medicinal herbs has led to instances of toxicity, poisoning and even deaths. The fundamental step in quality control of herbal medicine is accurate identification of herbs. Array-based techniques have recently been adapted to authenticate or identify herbal plants. This article reviews the current array-based techniques, eg oligonucleotides microarrays, gene-based probe microarrays, Suppression Subtractive Hybridization (SSH)-based arrays, Diversity Array Technology (DArT) and Subtracted Diversity Array (SDA). We further compare these techniques according to important parameters such as markers, polymorphism rates, restriction enzymes and sample type. The applicability of the array-based methods for fingerprinting depends on the availability of genomics and genetics of the species to be fingerprinted. For the species with few genome sequence information but high polymorphism rates, SDA techniques are particularly recommended because they require less labour and lower material cost.
Weighlevel, a mixture of extract of four plants used in traditional Arabic and Islamic medicine as well as in European herbal medicine, was prepared and assessed for its safety and efficacy in weight loss. Leaves of Alchemilla vulgaris, Olea europaea and Mentha longifolia L., as well as seeds of Cuminum cyminum, were used. Cultured human fibroblasts treated with Weighlevel did not exhibit any sign of toxicity as evidenced by lactate dehydrogenase release. These results were confirmed in experimental studies on rats where an LD50 of 15.3 g kg−1 was observed. Significant antioxidant properties were seen at very low concentrations of Weighlevel (10 μg ml−1) as measured by the lipid peroxidation method. Progressive and significant weight loss was observed in chickens given this mixture weekly for 4 weeks compared with controls. Furthermore, a 3-fold increase in the thermogenesis was seen in rat interscapular brown adipose tissue following exposure to different concentrations of Weighlevel extract as determined by measurement of increased oxygen consumption. In addition, a clinical study was carried out among 80 human volunteers with a body mass index (BMI) of 30.67 ± 2.14 kg m−2. All 80 subjects were asked to continue their usual diet but to eat only three main meals daily and to take one Weighlevel tablet 30 min before each meal. Fourteen subjects were excluded for not following the protocol, and 66 subjects were all evaluated for efficacy and tolerability of Weighlevel monthly for 3 months. Weighlevel was well tolerated by all subjects, and no side effects were reported. A progressive and significant weight loss was seen in these subjects during the whole study period. Higher levels of weight loss were seen in people with BMI of 25–30 kg m−2 (overweight) compared to people with BMI >30 kg m−2 (obese). The BMI was reduced after 3 months from 28.5 ± 1.2 and 32.1 ± 1.8 kg m−2 to 24.5 ± 1.4 and 27.5 ± 2.2 kg m−2 in overweight and obese group, respectively. Results indicate safety, tolerability and efficacy of Weighlevel.
Outcomes from the Women's Health Initiative have demonstrated adverse effects associated with hormone therapy (HT), and have prioritized the need to develop new alternative treatments for the management of menopause and osteoporosis. To this end, we have been investigating natural herbal medicines used by Costa Rican women to manage menopausal symptoms.
Seventeen plant species were collected and extracted in Costa Rica. To establish possible mechanisms of action, and determine their potential future use for menopause or osteoporosis, the estrogenic activities of the herbal extracts were investigated in an estrogen reporter gene ERβ-CALUX® assay in U2-OS cells, and in reporter and endogenous gene assays in MCF-7 cells.
Six of the plant extracts bound to the estrogen receptors. Four of the six extracts stimulated reporter gene expression in the ERβ-CALUX® assay. All six extracts modulated expression of endogenous genes in MCF-7 cells, with four extracts acting as estrogen agonists and two extracts, Pimenta dioica and Smilax domingensis, acting as partial agonist/antagonists by enhancing E2-stimulated pS2 mRNA expression, but reducing E2-stimulated PR and PTGES mRNA expression. Both P. dioica and S. domingensis induced a 2ERE-luciferase reporter gene in transient transfected MCF-7 cells, which was inhibited by the ER antagonist ICI 182780.
This work presents a plausible mechanism of action for many of the herbal medicines used by Costa Rican women to treat menopausal symptoms. However, it further suggests that studies of safety and efficacy are needed before these herbs should be used as alternative therapies to HT.
Costa Rica; herbal medicine; menopause; ER-CALUX; pS2; PTGES; PR; reporter gene; safety
This review focuses on the efficacy and safety of effective herbal medicines in the management of obesity in humans and animals. PubMed, Scopus, Google Scholar, Web of Science, and IranMedex databases were searched up to December 30, 2008. The search terms were “obesity” and (“herbal medicine” or “plant”, “plant medicinal” or “medicine traditional”) without narrowing or limiting search elements. All of the human and animal studies on the effects of herbs with the key outcome of change in anthropometric measures such as body weight and waist-hip circumference, body fat, amount of food intake, and appetite were included. In vitro studies, reviews, and letters to editors were excluded. Of the publications identified in the initial database, 915 results were identified and reviewed, and a total of 77 studies were included (19 human and 58 animal studies). Studies with Cissus quadrangularis (CQ), Sambucus nigra, Asparagus officinalis, Garcinia atroviridis, ephedra and caffeine, Slimax (extract of several plants including Zingiber officinale and Bofutsushosan) showed a significant decrease in body weight. In 41 animal studies, significant weight loss or inhibition of weight gain was found. No significant adverse effects or mortality were observed except in studies with supplements containing ephedra, caffeine and Bofutsushosan. In conclusion, compounds containing ephedra, CQ, ginseng, bitter melon, and zingiber were found to be effective in the management of obesity. Attention to these natural compounds would open a new approach for novel therapeutic and more effective agents.
Animal; Herbal medicine; Human; Obesity
The use of herbal medicines among pregnant women in Nigeria has not been widely studied.
Opinion of 595 pregnant women in three geopolitical zones in Nigeria on the use of herbal medicines, safety on usage, knowledge of potential effects of herbal remedies on the fetus and potential benefits or harms that may be derived from combining herbal remedies with conventional therapies were obtained using a structured questionnaire between September 2007 and March 2008. Descriptive statistics and Fisher's exact tests were used at 95% confidence level to evaluate the data obtained. Level of significance was set at p < 0.05.
More than two-third of respondents [67.5%] had used herbal medicines in crude forms or as pharmaceutical prepackaged dosage forms, with 74.3% preferring self-prepared formulations. Almost 30% who were using herbal medicine at the time of the study believed that the use of herbal medicines during pregnancy is safe. Respondents' reasons for taking herbal medications were varied and included reasons such as herbs having better efficacy than conventional medicines [22.4%], herbs being natural, are safer to use during pregnancy than conventional medicines [21.1%], low efficacy of conventional medicines [19.7%], easier access to herbal medicines [11.2%], traditional and cultural belief in herbal medicines to cure many illnesses [12.5%], and comparatively low cost of herbal medicines [5.9%].
Over half the respondents, 56.6% did not support combining herbal medicines with conventional drugs to forestall drug-herb interaction. About 33.4% respondents believed herbal medicines possess no adverse effects while 181 [30.4%] were of the opinion that adverse/side effects of some herbal medicines could be dangerous. Marital status, geopolitical zones, and educational qualification of respondents had statistically significant effects on respondents views on side effects of herbal medicines [p < 0.05)] while only geopolitical zones and educational qualifications seemed to have influence on respondents' opinion on the harmful effects of herbal medicines to the fetus [p < 0.05].
The study emphasized the wide spread use of herbal medicines by pregnant women in Nigeria highlighting an urgent need for health care practitioners and other health care givers to be aware of this practice and make efforts in obtaining information about herb use during ante-natal care. This will help forestall possible interaction between herbal and conventional medicines.
The purpose of this systematic review was to assess the effects of spinal manipulative therapy (SMT), acupuncture and herbal medicine for chronic non-specific LBP. A comprehensive search was conducted by an experienced librarian from the Cochrane Back Review Group (CBRG) in multiple databases up to December 22, 2008. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of adults with chronic non-specific LBP, which evaluated at least one clinically relevant, patient-centred outcome measure were included. Two authors working independently from one another assessed the risk of bias using the criteria recommended by the CBRG and extracted the data. The data were pooled when clinically homogeneous and statistically possible or were otherwise qualitatively described. GRADE was used to determine the quality of the evidence. In total, 35 RCTs (8 SMT, 20 acupuncture, 7 herbal medicine), which examined 8,298 patients, fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Approximately half of these (2 SMT, 8 acupuncture, 7 herbal medicine) were thought to have a low risk of bias. In general, the pooled effects for the studied interventions demonstrated short-term relief or improvement only. The lack of studies with a low-risk of bias, especially in regard to SMT precludes any strong conclusions; however, the principal findings, which are based upon low- to very-low-quality evidence, suggest that SMT does not provide a more clinically beneficial effect compared with sham, passive modalities or any other intervention for treatment of chronic low-back pain. There is evidence, however, that acupuncture provides a short-term clinically relevant effect when compared with a waiting list control or when acupuncture is added to another intervention. Although there are some good results for individual herbal medicines in short-term individual trials, the lack of homogeneity across studies did not allow for a pooled estimate of the effect. In general, these results are in agreement with other recent systematic reviews on SMT, but in contrast with others. These results are also in agreement with recent reviews on acupuncture and herbal medicine. Randomized trials with a low risk of bias and adequate sample sizes are direly needed.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00586-010-1356-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Systematic review; Spinal manipulative therapy; Acupuncture; Herbal medicine; Low-back pain