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Friday, 11 May 2012

Solutions from Nature: 2. Learning from Traditional (Chinese origin) Wisdom

Traditional Chinese Medicine
Some plants that are extensively used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and could prove useful for the management of swine flu are as follows.
Sophora flavescens
Sophora flavescens is a species of plant in the genus Sophora. Its roots are regionally called ku shen or kushenin [94] which is the source of flavonoids and is used as traditional Chinese medicine [95]. Its roots also contain quinolizidine alkaloids, including matrine and its oxide [96], that interfere TNF-alpha and IL-6, suggesting that oxymatrine may inhibit the expression of the above proinflammatory cytokines [97]. Recent studies have shown that the plant also contains 8-Prenylkaempferol (8-PK), a prenylflavonoid in its roots. The principle bioactive constituents of S. flavescens are the major quinolizidine alkaloids matrine (MT) and oxymatrine (OMT), which were reported to exhibit sedative, depressant, antitumor, antipyretic, and cardiotonic activities.
Due to its antiviral action, the plant has been the focus of attention for innovative studies. The recent studies to appraise its efficacy against H1N1 infection have yielded positive outcomes. Cell inoculation with H1N1 evoked a significant induction in RANTES accumulation accompanied with time-related increase in nuclear translocation of nuclear factor-­ŁťůB (NF-­ŁťůB) and interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF-3), but showed no effect on c-Jun phosphorylation. 8-P­Łťů could significantly inhibit not only RANTES production, but also NF-kappaB and IRF-3 nuclear translocation [98].
Toddalia asiatica
Toddalia asiatica (Lopez root) belongs to family Rutaceae, a woody liana, found in mainly Philippines and southern China. It is a large, spiny, woody vine, which is pungent in all its parts and possesses sharp recurved prickles. The leaves are trifoliolate. The leaflets are stalkless, ovate-elliptic, 3 to 8 centimeters long, 5 to 15 millimeters wide, rounded at the base, and pointed at the apex. The flowers are small, greenish-white, 5 millimeters across, and borne on terminal cymes or from the upper leaf axils. The fruit is small, nearly spherical, less than 1 centimeter in diameter, borne in fairly large clusters, 3 to 5 grooved, and with as many cells, and orange red when ripe. The seed is solitary in each cell. T. asiatica is used traditionally in the treatment of malaria, sprains, cough, fever, neuralgia, epilepsy, dyspepsia, and other disease conditions. Extracts of the plant have been reported to have anticancer, antimicrobial, antiviral (anti-HIV), and antifeedant activities. A wide range of chemical constituents such as benzophenanthridine alkaloids, coumarins, cyclohexylamides, and terpenoids have been isolated especially from the root bark of the plant [99]. The essential oil from the plant is a highly potent antimicrobial agent [100, 101].
Schefflera heptaphylla, Chinese Herbal Tea
Schefflera heptaphylla belongs to the family Scarabaeoidea. Leaves are palmately compound, rarely unifoliolate (not in China); margins entire to serrate; stipules united within petiole. Inflorescence is a terminal or pseudolateral panicle or compound raceme; flowers arranged in umbels, heads, or racemes; bracts pubescent, deciduous, or persistent. Pedicels are not articulate below ovary. Calyx rim is entire or 5-toothed. Petals are arranged 5-1, d are valvate. It is a critically endangered species. It is polyphyletic [102104].
∗Frodin is the principal ingredient of a herbal tea formulation that is widely used for the treatment of common cold in Southern China. An extract of the long leafstalk of the compound leaf of S. heptaphylla exhibited the most potent antiviral activity against respiratory syncytial virus. Triterpenoids, namely, 3alpha-hydroxylup-20[29]-ene-23,28-dioic acid and 3-epi-betulinic acid 3-O-sulfate, together with an inactive saponin, 3alpha-hydroxylup-20(29)-ene-23,28-dioic acid 28-O-alpha-l-rhamnopyranosyl-(1-->4)-O-beta-d-glucopyranosyl-(1-->6)-beta-d-glucopyranoside are present in the plant [105]. Three caffeoylquinic acid derivatives, namely 3,4-di-O-caffeoylquinic acid, 3,5-di-O-caffeoylquinic acid, and 3-O-caffeoylquinic acid, were also isolated from this plant. These compounds were tested for their activity against Respiratory Syncytial virus. Studies revealed that they exerted their anti-RSV effects via the inhibition of virus-cell fusion in the early stage, and the inhibition of cell-cell fusion at the end of the RSV replication cycle [106].
Camellia sinensis or Green Tea
Green tea is a type of tea made solely from the leaves of Camellia sinensis that has undergone minimal oxidation during processing. Green tea originated in China and has now become associated with many cultures in Asia from Japan to the Middle East. Recently, it has become more widespread in the West, where black tea is traditionally consumed.
Green tea is particularly rich in polyphenolic compounds and catechins. Catechin derivatives have shown pronounced antiviral activity, observed for derivatives carrying moderate chain length (7–9 carbons). The derivatives exerted inhibitory effects for all six influenza subtypes tested including three major types of currently circulating human influenza viruses (A/H1N1, A/H3N2, and B type), H2N2 and H9N2 avian influenza virus. The compounds strongly inhibited adsorption of the viruses on red blood cell (RBC) [107].
The disease preventive properties of green tea are mainly due to the presence of polyphenols like epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), epicatechin, epicatechin-3-gallate, and epigallocatechin (EGC). These polyphenols comprise about one-third of the weight of the dried leaf of the plant. These catechins have been reported to possess diverse pharmacological properties, including antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, antimutagenic and antimicrobial effects. Green tea has the ability to enhance humoral and cell-mediated immunity and is, therefore, useful for preventing influenza by inhibiting flu replication, using potentially direct virucidal effect [108].
Panax quinquefolius
Panax quinquefolius, commonly known as American Ginseng, is an herbaceous perennial in the ivy family that is commonly used in medicine. It is native to Eastern North America, though it also cultivated beyond its range in places such as China [109]. American ginseng contains dammarane-type ginsenosides as the major biologically active constituents. Dammarane type ginsenosides include two classifications: the 20(S)-protopanaxadiol (ppd) and 20(S)-protopanaxatriol (ppt) classifications. American ginseng contains high levels of Rb1, Rd (ppd classification), and Re (ppt classification) ginsenosides that are helpful in prevention of common cold [110]. In Eastern Europe, ginseng is widely used to improve overall immunity to illness. It appears that regular use of ginseng may prevent colds. Studies have been done on Panax to reveal that they effectively provide immunity to individuals against influenza [111].
Echinacea is a genus of nine species of herbaceous plants in the family Asteraceae. It is purely native to North America. The principal effect of these species is to stimulate the body immune system. It appears to activate the body's infection-fighting capacity, which is primarily due to the presence of various chemical compounds such as polysaccharides, phenols, alkylamides, and Cichoric acid. Studies in Europe have concluded that Echinacea, when taken at first sign of cold, reduced cold symptoms or shortened their duration [112]. There is some evidence that, when taken at the onset of a cold or flu, Echinacea can help patients recover faster and reduce their symptoms while they are sick. For example, Echinacea significantly reduced symptoms such as headache, lethargy, cough, and aching limbs [113, 114] when administered to people with flu-like illnesses. The constituents found in Echinacea were found to increase antibody production, raise white blood cell counts, and stimulate the activity of key white blood cells [115118].
Some of the studies have also reported about the allergic effects of Echinacea. Echinacea should not be taken by persons with progressive systemic and autoimmune disorders, connective tissue disorders, or related diseases. It should not be used with immunosuppressants or hepatotoxic drugs, [119] and has the potential to interfere with anesthesia.


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