Thursday, June 6, 2019

Reaching Optimal Eye Health with Chinese Medicine

Do you think 6-6 have a little resemblance to a pair of eyes? Yes, pictograh, pictogram, or hieroglyph is at the heart of 

how ancient Chinese as well as modern people who can read and write Chinese language think. The 24th China National Sight Day is observed on June 6, 2019. I have gathered in Chinese some resources for eye diagnosis before, and here's a crude introduction to the view of eye health from the point of view of Chinese Medicine (TCM).

According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the eyes relate to the internal organs. In Chinese medicine, each part of the eye is associated with a particular element and corresponding zang organ. The iris is represented by the liver zang. The heart zang relates to the corners of the eyes or the canthi, the upper and lower eyelids correspond to the spleen, the conjunctiva the lung, and the pupil the kidney.
Chinese medicine recognizes six environmental, or external, pathogens that can lead to vision loss. A person’s resistance to environmental pathogenic factors is based on how healthy their immune system is, which, in turn, is a function of qi (a person’s energy, similar to a life force). Basically, if a person has strong qi and good resistance, he or she can ward off potential hazards associated with these external factors. According to TCM, a person with poor qi flow or imbalances in qi in any of the zang organs relating to the parts of the eye will have decreased resistance to the six specific environmental pathogens that can influence vision.
Environmental Pathogenic Factors Affecting the Eyes:
      Heat – Leads to swelling, inflammation, and the redness commonly found in many eye diseases such as conjunctivitis
      Cold – Will yield pain and slow vision loss over time, as in chronic degenerative conditions such as macular degeneration and glaucoma
      Wind – Results in sudden and dramatic onset of vision loss
      Dampness – Causes secretion of mucus, and swelling
      Dryness – Results in dry itchy eyes and redness
      Summer Heat – Inflammation and mucus discharge
These pathogens can damage the eyes and possibly cause vision loss. Many of these influences are closely related to the seasons and commonly arise during seasonal changes. Wind and fire are associate with the eyes in acute cases. These are considered “Yang conditions of the eye.” Wind is the leading pathogenic factor, and can often lead to other environmental “evils” affecting the eyes. Wind is characterized by rapid change and sudden onset. Fire is characterized by inflammation, ulceration, and redness. Other pathogenic factors can easily be turned into fire toxin.
The other environment pathogens, cold and dampness, result in “Yin” conditions. According to TCM, the most common cause of poor vision is exposure to cold and dampness, which results in poor circulation to the eyes. The invasion of cold blocks the flow of qi, depriving the eyes of vital warmth and nourishment. Coldness also settles into the muscles, vessels, and skin around the eyes, resulting in further degeneration of visual acuity.
One of the foundations of Chinese medicine is the belief that no issue is an isolated problem, but rather, is rooted in a person’s overall wellbeing. This includes a person’s lifestyle, stress factors, diet, activity level, and genetic makeup. This is why a person’s qi—and any blockages in a person’s qi flow–profoundly affects the entire body. As Marc Grossman puts it in his article Healthy Eyes with Chinese Medicine, “The skin of the entire body is covered with tiny electric eyes known in Chinese medicine as acupuncture points. These points follow along the flow of energy streams called meridians. In Chinese medicine, when the meridians are flowing smoothly, there is neither pain nor illness. When blockages exist in the meridians, pain and illness result. Each acupuncture point is a window of heightened sensitivity close to the surface of the skin, providing the acupuncturist with easy access to the meridians to clear blockages.”
Acupuncture is a primary modality of traditional Chinese medicine, and can be used to treat some of the most well-known eye disorders such as retinitis pigmentosa (RP), glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Andy Rosenfarb, LAc, who has treated these eye conditions and many others, notes in his article Researching Retinitis Pigmentosa (Night Blindness) with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine that “Results have shown that acupuncture is clearly an effective means of managing most chronic and degenerative eye diseases. Results have shown measurable improvement in approximately 70-80% of all cases treated.”
However, TCM treatment for eye disorders and vision loss can also include the use of oral formulations of herbs in varying combination known to improve the eyes and related zang organs, and application of herbal heat using moxibustion (a technique that involves the heating of herbs).
Herbs used to Treat Eye Disorders:
      Ju hua (chrysanthemum flower): Clears the liver. Improves red, eyes, and decreases excessive tearing, clears floaters, and blurred vision.
      Qing Xiang Zi (Celosia Seeds): Used for painful, red, swollen eyes, and cataracts.
      San Qi (Pseudiginseng Root): Repairs broken blood vessels in the eye, clears “blood spots”,
      Chan Tui (Cicada Moulting): Clears blurred vision and reduces redness, also used to treat painful, swollen eyes.
      Mi Menghua (Buddleia Flower Bud): Improves sensitivity to light, and excessive tearing
      Qou Qi Zi (Chinese Wolfberry Fruit or Lycium Fruit): Acts on liver and kidney deficiencies of Qi , correcting blurred vision and vision loss
      Huai Hua Mi (Pagoda Tree Flower): Used to treat dizziness, blurred vision and red eyes due to liver heat.
Patients who have turned to TCM for the treatment of chronic eye conditions found that they have been able to significantly reduce their reliance on drugs and corticalsteroid eye drops. Many patients who sought TCM for their eye conditions also discovered that their eye condition was related to a different, seemingly unrelated, health concern such as eczema, asthma, and gastric distress. Patients discovered this when the other ‘unrelated’ issue improved in conjunction with the Chinese herbal remedy for the eye condition. 

Grossman, Marc, O.D., L.Ac. “Healthy Eyes with Chinese Medicine”
Rosenfarb, Andy, ND, L.Ac. “Researching Retinitis Pigmentosa (Night Blindness) with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine”  Oriental Medicine Newspaper. February, 2012
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine

Friday, May 24, 2019

Commonly Available Natural Sleep Aids & Supplements

I have posted some natural proven Chinese medicine remedies for improving sleep quality, some friends expressed inaccessibility to those methods and herbs. Hence copy the post -- assuming the things are more easily accessible to friends here. 

Alternatives to Medication

If you’re among the nearly half of Americans who sometimes have trouble with sleep, you may be interested in how to slide into slumber without drugs. Herbal teas, tinctures, and other supplements may help. But talk to your doctor first. Even natural sleep aids can cause side effects or interfere with how your medicines work. And the FDA doesn’t check supplements for safety or quality. So know exactly what you’re taking.


This hormone tells your body when to sleep and wake. Some research suggests that melatonin supplements can ease sleep issues like jet lag and trouble falling or staying asleep. For the most part, melatonin is safe for healthy adults if taken for only a few weeks or months. Side effects include headache, dizziness, and nausea. Try taking 1-3 milligrams 2 hours before bed.


Try sniffing this purple flower before your bedtime. Its scent slows your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure and skin temperature. This can set the stage for slumber. A study found that people who snoozed in a lavender-infused room had more restful deep sleep than those who didn’t. Want to try it? Run an essential oil diffuser in your bedroom, or add a few drops to your pillowcase.


It short for gamma-aminobutyric acid. It’s a chemical in the brain that boosts relaxation and sleep. Some sleeping pills work by helping GABA work better. But there’s no proof that taking GABA itself as a supplement works. Scientists aren’t sure that GABA can even pass from your bloodstream into your brain.
photo of valerian


This perennial plant has been used as a sleep aid for hundreds of years. Studies suggest that valerian helps you get more sound ZZZs. But the evidence is mixed. It may raise the levels of GABA, which boosts relaxation. Valerian is thought to be safe in the short term, but it sometimes may give you headaches and stomachaches. Take 300-600 milligrams up to 2 hours before bed. Or brew 2-3 grams of the dried root in a cup of water.
photo of CBD oil


Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a compound in marijuana and hemp plants. It doesn’t get you high, but it can help you nod off. CBD oil may work by taking the edge off. One study found that people who took it felt less anxious and slept better within a month. CBD may make some people tired or want to throw up. Experts are still looking at how much is needed, but research suggests a dose of 25-175 milligrams a day.
photo of kava


This South Pacific native plant is taken for anxiety. Research suggests kava is also useful for sleep. It may ease insomnia caused by stress. But kava supplements have been linked to a risk of serious liver damage. Talk to your doctor if you’re thinking about taking kava. It’s thought that supplements made from only the root, not the stem or leaves, may be safer.
photo of California poppy

California Poppy

It’s related to the opium poppy but is a different flower species. California poppy has been used in traditional medicine as a sedative. Scientists have found that it helps raise the levels of GABA, the relaxation-boosting chemical. But there’s little research on whether California poppy extracts work. You could try 600 milligrams before bedtime. It’s likely safe to use for short periods. Possible side effects include stomach problems.
photo of glycine


This tiny amino acid can have a big impact on your sleep. It may raise the amount of serotonin, a brain chemical that affects slumber. It also helps your blood flow and drops your body temperature, both of which encourage you to nod off. Glycine supplements are viewed as safe. Try taking 3 grams about an hour before bedtime.
photo of woman drinking tea


Many people enjoy it as a soothing herbal tea, and for good reason. This daisy-like plant has a calming effect thanks to an antioxidant called apigenin. It works on certain brain cell receptors that help you relax and fall asleep. Chamomile is safe, but it can interact with certain medicines. Sip a mug of tea before bed. Or take 200-270 milligrams of extract, twice a day.
photo of woman taking supplements


It’s short for 5-hydroxytryptophan, a compound that your body makes from foods. Your body uses 5-HTP to make melatonin, an important hormone for sleep. Some studies suggest, but don’t prove, that 5-HTP supplements made from plant seeds may help you log more sleep. Experts recommend 100-300 milligrams of 5-HTP before bedtime. Side effects include nausea and headaches.
photo of passionflower


It’s a type of climbing vine. Native Americans have long used passionflower for its calming properties. The plant contains GABA, the brain chemical that affects your mood and sleep. One study found that people reported getting a better night’s rest when they sipped a mug of passionflower tea beforehand. Experts say that passionflower seems safe to take in the short term.
photo of foods with magnesium


Low levels of this mineral may make it harder for you to fall or stay asleep. Studies show that magnesium supplements may improve slumber in older people and those with restless legs syndrome. Get enough with foods like nuts and leafy greens. Women need 310-320 milligrams per day, while men need 400-420 milligrams. Ask your doctor if you should take a supplement: Too much magnesium can lead to cramps and nausea.
photo of tart cherry juice

Tart Cherry Juice

Tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin, a key sleep hormone. Early research shows that drinking tart cherry juice raises the amount of melatonin in your body. It also helped people sleep more soundly and for longer. The more common Bing and other sweet cherries don’t have the same effect, so look for the tart variety. Sip a cup about an hour of two before bedtime.
photo of magnolia bark

Magnolia Bark

Chinese medicine uses this to treat anxiety and depression. Experts are studying whether magnolia bark might work on sleep, too. It has a compound called honokiol, which may improve your slumber. Magnolia bark also may keep your body from releasing the stress hormone adrenaline. It appears safe for short-term use, but it sometimes can give you heartburn. 


Saturday, April 20, 2019

Eight-brocade Exercise (Qi Gong: Ba Duan Jin)

The Eight-brocade Exercise (Ba Duan Jin)

This 800-year old exercise, which the ancients likened to beautiful brocade, consists of eight sections, is very popular among the Chinese people. There are different postures such as sitting or standing; each section can be practiced on its own and each targets a specific organ or health need. The whole set of movements are fine and delicate with moderate intensity. The movements can vary greatly according to different schools of practice; the following is the most important and widely practiced protocol.
Prepare yourself by standing naturally with feet shoulder-width apart, and the hands hanging by both sides. Be calm, focused and let the body relax and the breathing natural.

Watch on Youtube here. The Chinese narration version can be watched here

1. Hold up the hands to regulate the triple burner
Raise both hands above the head with the palms facing upward, as if holding up the heavens. The eyes should follow the hands over the head. Stretch up on the toes and hold the posture for a few seconds before gently returning to the starting position. Inhale through the nose while bringing the arms up, and exhale through the mouth when bringing the arms down. Repeat the procedure six times.

This section is said to benefit the triple burner, which is the passage for water, nutrients and fluid throughout the body. This exercise activates the fluid flowing in it and ensures proper nourishment throughout the body.
2. Draw a bow like shooting a hawk
Separate the legs and bend the knees, with half-clenched fists in front of the chest. Draw the hands up and pull as if drawing a bow to the right; extend the limbs fully; then repeat on the left side. The eyes should follow the trajectory of the imaginary arrow at all times. Inhale through the nose while drawing the arms up, and exhale through the mouth when bringing the arms down. Repeat the whole procedure six times.
This section is said to benefit the lungs by expanding the chest and exercising the muscles of the upper body.
3. Raise one arm to regulate the spleen and stomach
Standing naturally with arms bent at the elbows, let the palms face upwards and the fingertips touch each other. Raise the hands and turn the palms downwards; then draw the right hand up with the palm facing upward; the left hand moves downward with the palm facing down. When the arms are extended, straighten the legs. Exhale through the nose when both hands are in front of the chest, and inhale through the mouth when the arms are apart. Repeat the whole procedure six times.
This section is said to regulate the spleen and stomach by the lifting and lowering actions. It contributes to the ascending of spleen-qi and the descending of stomach-qi, thus promoting the digestive functions.
4. Turn the head back to treat consumptive diseases and injuries
Inhaling while slowly turning the head to the right side as far as possible, look back as much as possible, then exhale and return to the original position. Repeat on the left side as one complete procedure and repeat six times.
This section is said to benefit those with consumptive disease and injuries by enriching the essence and blood, calming the mind and promoting organ functioning.
5. Sway the head and swing the buttocks to expel the heart-fire
Prepare by squatting down halfway with feet apart and the palms on the thighs. Look down and lean the upper trunk forward, exhaling while swinging the head to the left and swinging the buttocks to the right; inhale while returning. Switch directions and repeat the cycle six times.
It is said that swaying the head can send down heart-fire while swinging the buttocks causes the kidney-yin to ascend to meet the heart-fire; it lets both organs mutually complement each other. See "The kidneys' relationship with the heart".
6. Hold the feet by the hands to reinforce the loins and kidneys
Bend over slowly and touch your toes keeping the legs straight; keep the head up slightly. Then place the hands on the lower back and bend backward and stretch as far as you can. Inhale through the nose at the start of the bend and exhale through the mouth at the end. Repeat the whole procedure six times.
This section can reinforce the kidneys and strengthen the waist and the knees. The kidneys are the source of all energy in the body and are located near the waist; constant practice benefits the function of all the other organ systems as well.
7. Punch with anger
Take a horse-riding posture; the hands are tightly clenched with palms facing upwards at waist level. Punch with the palm side downward and draw back with alternative arms; imagine pent-up anger being released through the punch. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
This section is said to strengthen the muscles of the whole body.
8. Shake the spine to help prevent disease
Interlock the hands and put them behind the neck and extend the neck backward while the hands draw forward; stretch up on the toes and hold the posture for a few seconds before gently returning to the starting position. Exhale while lifting on both heels; inhale while returning. Repeat six times.
This section is said to enhance the protective qi and promote resistance. The Bladder Meridian, which governs the surface of the whole body, passes through the neck. The movements promote the smooth flow of protective qi and secure the striae on the body surface.
The Eight-brocade Exercise (Ba Duan Jin) is a simple sequence of movements, appropriate for almost anyone. Unlike more advanced Qigong practices, it can be learned from a book. The complete set of movements only takes five to ten minutes to do and helps to release blockages along all twelve meridians. The movements are recommended for chronic conditions like neurasthenia, coronary heart disease, bronchitis and soreness in the lumbar region. You can choose the specific sections according your health needs, e.g. respiratory diseases are suitable for the second and fifth sections; lumbar problems are suitable for the fifth, sixth and eighth sections.


China's 24 solar terms: Guyu

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Calcium and Vitamin D for Bone Health (Tufts Research)

This is no news from the perspective of Chinese medicine: Things lacking the Qi (energy) from Heaven and Earth -- which is present in natural foods – cannot always be absorbed by our body as we expect them to. Here comes another modern medicine confirmation: A Western medicine expert panel recommends against most healthy older adults taking calcium and vitamin D supplements to prevent fractures.

The basis of healthy eating in regards to TCM is filling most of the diet with fresh foods that are NOT human made, free from chemicals, preservatives, and over-processing. These foods are seen as the most vital, that is full of Qi. 

A federal advisory panel, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), has released updated recommendations on calcium and vitamin D supplementation for bone health.
Adequate calcium and vitamin D from the diet are important for maintaining bone health. A decline in bone density (strength) raises the risk of fractures, which in turn can lead to disability and a diminished quality of life, partially in older adults. Questions have remained about the relevance of supplements.
The USPSTF’s updated review of studies concluded that, for generally healthy older adults, there is insufficient evidence for any benefit from taking a supplement containing more than 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D and 1,000 milligrams (mg) per day of calcium to lower the risk of primary fractures (about the current recommendations for individuals over the age of 50). The USPSTF evidence review also found no net benefit in preventing initial fractures by taking a supplement containing 400 IU of vitamin D and 1,000 mg per day of calcium or less than these amounts. These conclusions contradict what older adults may have heard for years—that calcium and vitamin D supplements are essential to prevent weakening of bones and fractures.
In addition, the USPSTF found vitamin D with calcium supplementation was associated with an increase in the incidence of kidney stones, although the magnitude of this harm was rated as small. They also found some studies evaluating supplementation with vitamin D alone that suggested no increase in incident cardiovascular disease.
The new recommendations apply only to generally healthy seniors living independently in the community. For older adults living in assisted living facilities—who tend to need help and are at elevated risk of fractures and falls—the Task Force concluded the evidence supported a benefit from supplementation. “Certain older women may still be candidates for calcium and vitamin D supplementation,” says Bess Dawson-Hughes, MD, director of Tufts’ HNRCA Bone Metabolism Laboratory. It is best to discuss this issue with your healthcare provider.
Bone Health Basics: The National Academy of Medicine recommends the following daily intakes of calcium and vitamin D for adults from all sources, both food and supplements:
-Calcium: 1,000 mg, increasing to 1,200 mg after age 50 in women, and after age 70 in men.
-Vitamin D: 600 IU, rising to 800 IU after age 70 in both women and men.
Adequate amounts of these nutrients can help to prevent significant decline in bone density (osteoporosis), which increases the risk of bone fractures.
Major hip and spine fractures can lead to hospitalization, diminished quality of life and increase the risk of death.
Fracture Prevention: The USPSTF addressed a key question: Does the current evidence from clinical trials show that all adults over 50 should take supplemental calcium and vitamin D at low to moderate doses to prevent fractures—even if they lack known risk factors?
The Task Force concluded: “Vitamin D supplementation alone or 400 IU of vitamin D and 1,000 mg of calcium daily was not associated with reduced fracture incidence among community-dwelling adults without known vitamin D deficiency, osteoporosis, or prior fracture.”
The updated review combined the findings of 11 randomized controlled clinical trials in adults 50 and older—mostly women—lasting 2 to 7 years.
More To Come: The latest USPSTF recommendations are unlikely to be the last word in the debate over calcium and vitamin D supplementation for preventing fractures in otherwise healthy seniors. The Task Force has concluded only that current evidence is “insufficient to determine the balance of benefits versus harms” of supplementation. Future research could change that. For now, eating healthy foods rich in calcium and vitamin D remains a sensible recommendation for better bone health.

Exercise Best for Preventing Falls

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Some studies have found that vitamin D supplementation may also prevent falls—possibly by supporting muscle function. But the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has now withdrawn an earlier recommendation favorable to vitamin D for fall prevention.
Instead, a Task Force review of 20 studies concluded that regular exercise for strength and balance offers powerful protection against falls for older adults.
Most people in the studies exercised 3 times a week, accumulating 150 minutes per week. The benefit remained the same whether people took part in individual routines, exercise classes or physical therapy.
The USPSTF also recommended that doctors offer additional treatments to prevent falls, depending on a person’s risks (like getting an eye exam if you have poor vision).


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Parkinson’s Disease and Chinese Medicine

World Parkinson’s Day 2019: World Parkinson’s Day is celebrated on April 11.

April 11 is observed as World Parkinson's Day. This day is meant to raise awareness about Parkinson's disease (PD). Lack of awareness about Parkinson's disease may result in the disease becoming a major healthcare challenge in the near future.

Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative and movement disorder among the aging population after Alzheimer disease (Those who read Chinese please check out my WeChat post). Progressive loss of controlled muscle activity, which leads to trembling of the limbs and head while at rest, stiffness, slowness, and impaired balance are some of the characteristics of the disease. Along with the largely aging population in the world, the incidence is increasing year by year, which imposes the negative impacts on patients, their families and the whole society. Hence, on World Parkinson's Day 2019, let's take a look at the traditional and safe medicine (although mostly from micro-level Western medicine views) for prevention or mitigation of Parkinson's disease.

Clinically in the conventional Western medicine world, the PD patients are usually treated with levodopa, dopamine receptor agonist, monoamine oxidase B inhibitors and other types of drugs. The clinical symptoms of the disease are mitigated by supplementing dopamine or reducing the degradation of it. However, the pathogenesis of PD is still not very clear, so that the efficacy of these drugs is not ideal and the unpleasant side effects are apparent after long-term administration such as the motor complications (Stocchi and Marconi, 2010), nausea, constipation, headache, and sleep disorder, etc. (Borovac, 2016) which would negatively influence the quality of life of the patients (Kum et al., 2011; Qin and Wu, 2016).

Considering the long-term side effects of western medicines, many patients are searching for a more safe and effective alternative treatment for PD. TCM has been used for thousands of years to treat diseases such as the tremor of head and hands, which is different but similar to the modern PD. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has a positive prospect for the prevention and cure of PD due to its advantages of less side effects and multi-target effects. One of the many examples I found on YouTube and shared with our “health and medical information sharing” WeChat group is about the pleasant surprise of complete healing or dramatic improvement TCM intervention within half year. Sadly, most patients are either not aware of TCM treatment effectiveness or have not found quality providers until years later. At those stages after two years, any methods become less effective, yet some still see improvement that’s not achievable through conventional Western medicine standard treatment.

Central nervous system activity

The inhibition of oxidative stress

At present, the pathogenesis of PD is not yet fully discovered, but it has been generally acknowledged that the improvement of oxidative stress is one of the most important pathophysiological mechanisms (Avila et al., 2009; Chen et al., 2009; Sanyal et al., 2009). PD patients are in a state of oxidative stress. In the substantia nigra of PD patients, the elevated concentration of ferric ion, weaken mitochondrial function and anomaly protection system of antioxidant (Such as low molecular free radical scavenger glutathione (GSH) and free radical scavenging enzyme SOD, GSH-Px) have contributed to the acceleration of oxidative stress and excessive generation of oxygen free radicals. Thereby, large amount of lipid peroxide, such as Malondialdehyde (MDA), hydroxyl, carbonyl, etc., will cause cell death, which leads to neuronal apoptosis ultimately (Wu et al., 2009; Wang et al., 2012). A Taiwanese TCM doctor named Haixia NI, who helped many patients with PD cases improve quality of life spoke and wrote in Chinese many times that, he suspected that the side effects of synthetic drugs created by modern Western medicine contributed to the development of PD.

According to the theories of traditional Chinese medicine, Parkinson's disease is characterized by deficiency in the Ben (root) and excess in the Biao (branch). The Ben (root) is insufficiency of liver and kidney and deficiency of qi and blood; and the Biao (branch) is wind, fire, phlegm and stasis. Good therapeutic effects have been obtained by treatment based on syndrome differentiation, treatment with specific prescriptions and acupuncture. 

We will briefly quote the mechanisms of TCM underlying the prevention and treatment of PD with regards to the inhibition of oxidative stress, the regulation of mitochondrial dysfunction, the reduction of toxic excitatory amino acids (EAA), the inhibition of neuroinflammation, the inhibition of neuronal apoptosis, and the inhibition of abnormal protein aggregation.

Since oxidative stress plays a crucial role in the occurrence and deterioration of PD, we can achieve the purpose of prevention and treatment against it by resisting oxidative stress. Many TCM or its effective components may act as a potential antioxidant. Therefore, the idea of screening TCM to delay the progression of PD has attracted the attention from many researchers. An overview of the improvement of oxidative stress is described in detail below, and the additional information is shown in Table 1.

Effect of TCM on Oxidative Stress Responses in the Model of PD.

A Chinese herbal medicine could be effective in treating Parkinson's disease and the side effects of Western treatments used in fighting it, a university study has found. Parkinson's patients are usually treated with drugs such as levodopa to relieve symptoms such as stiffness and poor muscle control, but the drugs cause nausea and hallucinations. In the research, the patients continued treatment with levodopa but took gambir vine stem simultaneously. By taking the herb the patients were able to reduce the drug dosage and thus the side effects.
Back in 2011, a clinical study re-confirmed findings that suggest that a Chinese herbal medicine formula (Jia Wei Liu Jun Zi Tang: JWLJZT) 
 can relieve some non-motor complications of conventional therapy and improve the communication ability in patients with idiopathic Parkinson's disease. 

The regulation of mitochondrial dysfunction

Abnormal morphology and dysfunction of mitochondrial are one of the important pathological mechanisms of PD. Mitochondria, as the “power plant” and “energy conversion station” of cells, regulates the process of gene expression and apoptosis. Recent reports have suggested that mitochondrial dysfunction is closely related to a variety of neurodegenerative diseases including PD (Exner et al., 2012; Liu et al., 2012; Feng and Wu, 2014).

In a study, locomotor activity, pole and rotarod test were used to evaluate the effects of Qianzheng San extract to the dyskinesia induced by MPTP. Compared with the model group, the MPTP-treated mice laid out a significant reduction in locomotor activity and ultrastructure of substantia nigra neuron was obviously harmed. However, Qianzheng San extract treatment largely increased autonomic activities, prolonged incubation period and shortened the pole-climbing time (P < 0.05), and reduced the impairment of ultrastructure of substantia nigra neurons. On the other hand, electron microscopy showed that the ultrastructure of substantia nigra neurons was ameliorated effectively and the high degree of mitochondrial damage was alleviated remarkedly by treatment of Qianzheng San extract. All these experimental results reveal that Qianzheng San extract may play a neuroprotective role through improving mitochondrial functions (Li et al., 2015). Catalpol, which is relatively abundant in the TCM such as Radix Rehmanniae and Radix Scrophulariae, is a small molecule compound of iridoids. It also showed that it has protective effects on mice brain mitochondrial damage induced by rotenone, partly through enhancing the activities of complex I, increasing the content of GSH, lowering the loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and restraining the release of LDH (Shi et al., 2012).

Baicalein, a well-known flavonoid compound isolated from dried roots of Scutellaria baicalensis, has been applied extensively as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent (Ge et al., 2017). In recent years, with continuous studies on its mechanisms, it has been found that baicalein has some effect on the improvement of clinical symptoms and neuroprotection in neurodegenerative diseases such as PD. The protective effect of baicalein on mitochondria may be one of the pharmacological targets of neuroprotection against PD. The study confirmed that exposure of PC12 cells to 0.15 mM H2O2 for 20 min resulted in mitochondrial damage and cell apoptosis. And pre-treatment of PC12 cells with different concentrations of baicalein greatly cut down the cell viability loss. The protective effect of baicalein on mitochondrial function was related to inhibition of ROS production and the regulation of Bcl-2 family members first, and these regulations might adjust the mitochondrial membrane permeability, attenuate cytochrome c release to cytosol (Zhang et al., 2010).

The reduction of toxic EAA

In pathological conditions, glutamate (Glu) can produce the effects of excitotoxicity on nerve cells. The relationship between neurotoxicity of Glu and pathogenesis of PD has received elevating attention. At present, the treatment of PD with Glu release inhibitor has become one of the hottest spots in the research.

In recent years, a growing number of evidences suggests that in addition to dopamine (DA) and acetylcholine (Ach), there are also many other neurotransmitters such as Glu, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and enkephalin etc., and they can interact with each other in the substantia nigra and striatum (Papa and Chase, 1996). Under normal conditions, Glu creates excitatory effect on nerve cells, but it demonstrates toxic effects when DA neurons are fully or partially degenerated (Vital et al., 2003). The concentration of Glu in normal brain cells is close to 10 μmol/L, while the extracellular concentration is about 0.6 μmol/L. When the extracellular Glu concentration reaches 25 μmol/L, it can damage the cerebral cortex and hippocampus (Caragine et al., 1998; Zhou et al., 2003). The toxicity of EAA (Glu, aspartate) is mainly reflected in the activation of the corresponding receptor (NMDA-R, AMPA-R, KA-R) which mediate acute osmotic swelling or delayed injury of nerve cells. It was found that local and systemic application of EAA receptor antagonists could lower or prevent motor symptoms of the PD model rats induced by 6-OHDA, and postpone its the process of neurodegenerative (Hallett and Standaert, 2004). It was separately reported that low dose of NMDA receptor antagonist MK-801 combined with levodopa could enhance the efficacy and prolong its duration of action. Clinically, motor fluctuations and dyskinesia, caused by long term use of levodopa, can be effectively treated by MK-801. Anticholinergics are one of NMDA receptor non-competitive antagonists. Amantadine, a drug that has been used for years to moderately intervene symptoms of PD, has also been shown to be an NMDA receptor antagonist (Strugstad and Sager, 1998; Blesa and Przedborski, 2014).

Tetrandrine (Tet), a class of bisbenzylisoquinoline extracted from the roots of Radix stephania tetrandrae, (Wong et al., 2017) is a new type of reversible inhibitor of P-glycoprotein. The level of L-dopa in the brain can be increased by reversible P-glycoprotein inhibitors, which is conductive to clinical efficacy of neurodegenerative diseases, including PD (Schinkel, 1999). The researchers used Tet combined with GSH and L-dopa to explore the therapeutic mechanism of PD rats induced by 6-OHDA. By detecting the aspartate (Asp) and Glu in the affected side of striatum, it was evident that compared with the model group, the concentration of Asp was dramatically downgraded in the GSH treatment group; The level of Glu in the GSH + Tet treatment group was much lower than that in the GSH treatment group; The concentration of Glu and Asp in the L-dopa treatment group was notably higher than that in the model group; The concentration of Glu and Asp in the GSH + L-dopa + Tet treatment group was considerably lower than the model group. The above results show that Tet, by the means of increasing the concentration of anti-PD drugs in the brain, can protect the brain neuron from the toxic effect of EAA (Jin and Bao, 2010). In a separate study, Glu treatment largely increased LDH release and produced a great deal of NO in primary cultured rat brain neurons. While Baicalein, at 3.5 μmol·L−1, could exert neuroprotective effects against Glu stimulation by reducing the generation of LDH and NO (Yu et al., 2012). Puerarin, a kind of flavonoid compound, was extracted from Puerariae Radix. It stated neuroprotective effects on a variety of brain damage by sharply reducing the content of EAA. The results demonstrated that puerarin can promote the expression of Glu decarboxylase mRNA in rats with cerebral ischemia and increase the contents of cerebral GABA to antagonize the toxic effect of EAA (Huang and Wang, 2015).

The inhibition of neuroinflammation

Neuroinflammation is a common and important pathological mechanism in nervous system diseases and different neurological diseases are involved in neuroinflammation at some stage. At present, it is believed that neuroinflammation was involved in an important cascade reaction in neuronal degeneration of PD (Niranjan, 2014).

In recent years, some progress has been made in the research of anti-inflammatory TCM in the treatment of PD. The protective effect of triptolide on dopaminergic neurons in MPP+-induced hemiparkinsonian rats may be concerned to the inhibition of microglial cell activation (Hirsch et al., 2005; Gao et al., 2008). Curcumin can effectively antagonize the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the parkinsonian mouse model caused by MPTP. Its mechanism is associated with the decrease of the active oxygen content of dopaminergic neuron and inhibition of inflammation (Pan et al., 2007). Through the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, celastrol also can efficiently prevent or delay the progression of PD (Faust et al., 2009; Zhang et al., 2012). In the study of Polygona-Polysaccharose on PD, it was found that the expression of Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPAR-γ) was up-regulated in treatment group as compared with model group. PPAR-γ is a class of ligand-activated type 2 nuclear transcription factor belonging to the nuclear receptor superfamily. It has neuroprotective effects and attenuate the neuronal damages from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, PD, cerebral ischemia and multiple sclerosis. Meanwhile, the study results about Polygona-Polysaccharose also revealed that the mechanism might be related to the up-regulation of PPAR-γ expression, thereby inhibiting the inflammatory reaction and promoting the regeneration of dopaminergic neurons (Chen et al., 2010). Polyphenols from toona sinensis seeds (PTSS) can exert the protective effect to DA neurons of substantia nigra of PD rats by reducing the number of microglia and astrocytes in the substantia nigra and down-regulating expression levels of protein and mRNA of inflammatory factors COX-2 and TNF-α (Li X. J. et al., 2016). Parthenolide, as an active ingredient obtained from Chinese herbs tansy, possesses extensive biological functions, such as anti-inflammation, antioxidation et al., and it also has apparent protective effects against the damage of DA neurons induced by MPTP in substantia nigra. The research showed that compared with the mice in control group, the model mice represented the typical symptoms of PD. The numbers of COX-2, PGE2 and iNOS positive cells were reduced noticeably (P < 0.01), the number of TH-positive neurons in substantia nigra was decreased from 58 to 27% after the intervention with parthenolide. Taken together, the protective effect of parthenolide for dopaminergic neurons may be related to its activity as an anti-inflammatory in the expression of COX-2, PGE2, and iNOS in substantia nigra of PD mice model (Zhang H. et al., 2015).

The inhibition of neuronal apoptosis

With the in-depth study, the researchers find that another way of loss of dopaminergic neurons is abnormal apoptosis (Golpich et al., 2015). Apoptosis may be one of the most important factors in the death of dopamine neurons, and accelerate the occurrence and progression of PD (Valdeolivas et al., 2013). Energy consumption of normal activities of brain cells are derived directly from aerobic energy, and there is little energy storage. Once the brain damage occurs, it will cause nerve cell apoptosis or death (Kermer et al., 1999; Li R. et al., 2013). Apoptosis, which is an active programmed cell death, is the terminal phenomenon of gene-induced biological cascade reaction under the stimulation of both in vitroand in vivo. The Bcl-2 family is a kind of important apoptosis-regulatory genes. It is divided into two categories: anti-apoptosis gene (such as Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, Bcl-w, Bcl-1, etc.) and pro-apoptosis gene (such as Bax, Bak, Bad, Bid, etc.). Bcl-2, located in the outer mitochondrial membrane primarily, can counter pro-apoptotic factor. The early phase of the apoptotic cascade depends mainly on the balance between the pro- and anti-apoptotic proteins of the Bcl-2 family, while the Bcl-2/Bax ratio is regarded as a better predictor of apoptosis than the expression of either Bcl-2 or Bax alone (Sa et al., 2015; Wu et al., 2015). Studies have shown that the overexpression of bcl-2 can break off the apoptosis of various nerve cell, can also restrain the toxic effects of MPTP and 6-OHDA on dopaminergic neurons, thus reducing the apoptosis of dopaminergic neurons in substantia nigra (Burke, 2011; Chen et al., 2015b).
Studies indicated that Guiling pa'an Wan (Chinese patent medicine) could improve pathology and behavior of the PD model rats induced by 6-OHDA. Based on this background, the mechanism of action was further studied. After treatment with Guiling pa'an Wan, the expression of Bcl-2 and Bcl-2/Bax ratio was increased while Bax and Caspase-3 expression were dropped in substantia nigra neurons, which showed that Guiling pa'an could provide protection for dopaminergic neurons by reducing the apoptosis of nerve cells in PD rats (Meng et al., 2014b; Zhang H. Z. et al., 2016). Some flavonoids have good effect on the prevention and treatment of PD. … Geniposide, an iridoid glycoside compound extracted from the TCM Gardenia jasminoides Ellis fruit, exerts neuroprotective effects by alleviating inflammation responses and oxidative damages (Zhao et al., 2016). The behavioral experiment including rotarod and swimming trials indicated that the Geniposide could substantially improve the abnormal behavior caused by MPTP. Meanwhile, the number of TH positive neuron sharply increased (P < 0.001) and the apoptotic neurons fell (P < 0.001) after treatment with Geniposide. Thereby suggesting that Geniposide has protective effect on dopaminergic neurons in substantia nigra of PD mice model induced by MPTP, and its mechanism may be related to the inhibition of neuronal apoptosis (Chen et al., 2015a).

The inhibition of abnormal protein aggregation

Currently, impaired degradation of misfolded and aggregated proteins has been proposed to play a key role in the pathogenesis of PD (Le and Chen, 2009). The abnormal deposition of protein in brain tissue is characteristic of several age-related neurodegenerative diseases, such as PD. Although, the composition and position (i.e., intra- or extracellular) of protein aggregates are different from disease to disease, this common characteristic shows that protein deposition per se, or some related event, is toxic to neurons (Dauer and Przedborski, 2003).

The pathological changes of PD are characterized by degeneration of DA neurons in the substantia nigra and formation of Lewy body (LB) in neurons (Scherfler et al., 2007). Many proteins, including α-synuclein (α-syn), ubiquitin and its related enzymes, aregathered in LB. The study showed that the death of nerve cells in the brain was caused by the α-synprotein conformational change, the formation of amyloid filaments and abnormal accumulation (Dekundy et al., 2015). α-syn is the main component of LB, which is the firstly identified as a protein with gene mutation associated with PD. The abnormal aggregation of the protein is closely related to the pathogenesis of PD (Lubbe and Morris, 2014; Zhang X. et al., 2016). The ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS), a new protein degradation pathway, is regarded as the major pathway of non-lysosomal protein degradation in eukaryotic cells. The study confirmed that the activity of the proteasome dropped substantially in substantia nigra of patients with PD, which weakened the effect of the substantia nigra on the degradation of α-syn and other proteins (Masliah et al., 2005). The overexpression and mutation of α-syn can accelerate mitochondrial disorder, enhance the sensitivity to oxidative stress and promote cell death due to its cytotoxicity mediated by DAT (Alberio et al., 2012).

In a study, rotenone was used to stimulate PC12 cells to develop a cell model of PD with over expression of α-syn. After treatment with bilobalide, the oligomer of α-syn were effectively restrained, cell activity was intensified, and apoptosis was decreased accordingly. Before that, some scholars found that the bilobalide could regulate the metabolism of the amyloid precursor protein (APP), increase the proportion of soluble APP alpha, reduce the formation of β-amyloid protein (Shi et al., 2011). The similar experimental results were presented that bilobalide could inhibit the formation of abnormal aggregation of different protein by some common mechanism and alleviate the toxic effects of abnormal proteins on cells. Therefore, it acts as a neuroprotective role in this kind of “protein folding diseases” (Zeng et al., 2013).

In another open study, to produce the symptoms of PD, researchers injected the trace amounts of the proteasome inhibitor lactacystin into the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNC) and ventral tegmental area (VTA) in the brain of SD rats. Compared with the model control, the aggregation of α-syn and the apoptosis of substantia nigra were obviously inhibited in rats with PD after treatment with the Anchanling (Chinese patent medicine), which presented that the mechanism of Anchanling might be related to the improvement of UPS function. When the damaged UPS function was improved, the UPS raised up the degradation of α-syn, thereby reducing the accumulation of intracellular proteins and the formation of inclusion bodies. So, the improving the function of UPS may be of great significance for the prevention and treatment of PD (Gao, 2007; Wu et al., 2009). Some studies have proved that baicalein can protect nerve cells by inhibiting fibrosis procedure of α-syn protein. 12.5 mol·L−1 baicalein can significantly inhibit the oligomerization of α-syn and its cytotoxic effect on SH-SY5Y cells (Lu et al., 2011). Clinically, Bushen Huoxue Granule was proved to be effective in treating PD for many years, a Chinese herbal compound granule (Li et al., 2012). The therapeutic mechanisms of Bushen Huoxue Granule against PD might be related with up-regulation of the TrkB expression that could strengthen the effect of repairing nerve injury factors and down-regulation of the Tau expression that could contribute to reduce the condensed expression of proteins in the cells (Yu et al., 2016).


In summary, PD is regarded as a complex disease caused by interaction among multiple factors (environmental factors, genetic factors) and various mechanisms. Considering curative effect and symptom control, in short term, western medicine seems superior to TCM -- not considering the bias of most folks seek western medicine cure during the time window that it is best managed. However, the long-term effect of treatment is debilitated, and a series of side effects will be produced. In contrast, TCM has become a research hotspot in recent years due to its great advantages of multiple components and holistic regulation. In particular, some progress has been made in the study of inhibition of oxidative stress, improvement of mitochondrial energy metabolism, resistance to EAA toxicity and suppression of cell apoptosis. A range of TCM is summarized in Table Table2,2, which exhibits neuroprotective effects on dopamine neurons in substantia nigra or shows beneficial improvements on PD symptoms through one or more biological interventions. Although TCM has the glorious history in the treatment of PD, the experimental studies have only been carried out in recent years, especially for the adoption of the PD model. 

PD is a result of the interaction of many neuroendocrine factors in the aging state. The use of TCM alone can effectively control the early signs of PD, avoid toxic side effects of western medicine and enhance the compliance of patients with medication greatly. Although TCM have showed the magic effect for the disease, conventional Western trained researchers usually find it difficult for them to understand the composition and the mechanism of TCM action, let alone understanding invisible synergy, energy, holography, and so on -- a completely different system where TCM practices are based on and a field in which most conventional Western practitioners and even some low-quality acupuncturists are not trained. 

TCM  Traditional Chinese medicine
PD    Parkinson's disease


倪海厦谈帕金森病起因 --中国自古以来根本不存在的病


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