Lingzhi spores products’ breakage rate questioned

January 17, 2008  
Filed under TCM use & research

CM NEWS, Hong Kong Consumer Council release – Are products of lingzhi spores????as good as their manufacturers’ claim? One claim seemingly universal among the manufacturers is the assertion over the breakage rate of the spores – that each and every spore and its wall are fully broken or cracked open purportedly to maximize the efficacy of the product. Read more

Traditional medicine modernization – still a long, bumpy road ahead

July 4, 2007  
Filed under TCM use & research

Interfax – As drug discovery options run dry with fewer and fewer synthetic lead compounds and structure-based medicines being discovered, multinationals are increasingly turning to traditional Chinese medicines as a new source. Read more

FDA issues manufacturing standards for dietary supplements

June 23, 2007  
Filed under TCM use & research

PRWire – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today released its long-awaited final regulation on good manufacturing practices (GMPs) for dietary supplements.

The rule, according to the FDA, will ensure that “dietary supplements are produced in a quality manner, do not contain contaminants or impurities, and are accurately labeled.”

“We think the final regulation is strong, but more reasonable than the proposed version. It offers a more flexible framework in meeting standards, such as testing and facility design. This will help smaller companies control costs — costs that would have been be passed along to the consumer — while still maintaining quality standards,” said David Seckman, executive director and CEO of the Natural Products Association.

“At 800-plus pages we’ll need to take a longer, more careful look at this document to fully determine its impact on the industry and consumers, but it appears that FDA took some of our concerns into account.”

The regulations establish controls throughout the manufacturing process, including packaging, labeling, and storing, to ensure quality and purity standards are met. The final rule includes requirements for establishing quality control procedures, designing and constructing manufacturing plants, and testing ingredients and the finished product. It also includes requirements for recordkeeping and handling consumer product complaints.

“With heightened consumer concern over the safety of food ingredients, particularly those coming from overseas, this new regulation should help to increase consumer confidence in the dietary supplement products they buy,” said Seckman. “Consumers want to be assured that what’s on the label is in the bottle — nothing more, nothing less — and this regulation aims to make sure that is the case.”

The regulation released today will be officially published in the Federal Register next week. In addition to the final regulation on good manufacturing practices, the agency also issued an “interim final rule” for identity testing that will allow the public and others to comment.

Information about both the final GMP regulation and interim final rule can be found on the FDA Web site.

The Natural Products Association is the industry leader in self-regulation, having established its own GMP certification program for dietary supplements in 1999. This program is based upon third party inspections of manufacturing facilities to determine whether specified performance standards are being met. These standards include many of the same specifications seen in the final regulation.

The Natural Products Association is the nation’s largest and oldest non-profit organization dedicated to the natural products industry. The association represents nearly 10,000 retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of natural products, including foods, dietary supplements, and health/beauty aids.

Chinese medicine inconclusive in treating hyperthyroidism: review

June 6, 2007  
Filed under TCM use & research

Medical News Today – It might not be a bad idea for people with overactive thyroids to supplement their standard treatment with Chinese herbal medicine, a new review suggests. But while some of the studies supported the combination of two types of medicine, the reviewers say the quality of the research was questionable.

“Unfortunately, we cannot find a well-designed and conducted trial at this stage,” said Taixiang Wu, an associate professor at Sichuan University in China.

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, causing problems that can mimic the effects of a shot of adrenalin, said Jeffrey Sandler, M.D., an endocrinologist with Scripps Mercy Hospital and Whittier Institute in San Diego. “It stimulates the heart rate, can raise blood pressure, breaks down muscle and can cause weakness and weight loss.”

Increased thyroid hormone can lead to higher body temperatures and warm, moist skin as well. The cause of hyperthyroidism is typically Graves’ disease, where cells of the immune system work against the thyroid gland.

Hyperthyroidism is most common among women and the drugs used to treat it have been around for about 50 years, Sandler said. In extreme cases, doctors turn to surgery and radiation.

In this new Cochrane Library review, the researchers looked for studies that compared hyperthyroidism patients who took Chinese herbal medicine alone to those who took it in combination with Western treatments.

The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews like this one draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

The reviewers were only able to find 13 relevant studies whose authors were available to interview. The researchers excluded 52 other studies whose authors they could not reach.

According to the reviewers, the 13 studies with 1,770 people were all of “low quality.” Types of herbal treatment varied widely, with 103 different formulations included.

None of the studies analyzed death rates, health-related quality of life or participants’ willingness to follow the regimens. And none used a “double-blinding” approach, in which both researchers and subjects are initially prevented from knowing who’s getting which treatment.

The studies indicated that combinations of Chinese herbal medicines and Western antithyroid drugs might lower relapse rates, reduce side effects and relieve symptoms of hyperthyroidism, but the Chinese treatments didn’t seem to have much of an effect on the functioning of the thyroid itself.

While understanding of hyperthyroidism is a product of modern times, Chinese doctors have presumably been treating patients with the condition for some 2,000 years, said Subhuti Dharmananda, director of the Institute for Traditional Medicine in Portland, Ore. Chinese research focused on specific treatments, however, only goes back to the 1970s and 1980s, he said.

Should hyperthyroidism patients consider combining Chinese and Western medicine? “At this point, there is no wisdom available one way or the other,” Dharmananda said. “My recommendation to people is that if they are drawn to using Chinese medicine as part of their therapy, that they find a good practitioner in their area and undertake a program of treatment to see if it helps.”

He added, “It is possible that Chinese medicine can, for example, alleviate some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism or help maintain good health after modern treatment for the disease.”

As for the current Western treatment, “we do pretty well with what’s currently available and standard,” Sandler said.

Regarding alternative treatments, “the problem is that when you’re dealing with a disease where it’s important to have the right dosage of medication,” Sandler said. Indeed, the proper dose of one thyroid medication can range from 50 to 1,200 milligrams depending on the person, he said

“Things like herbal medicines and supplements are not reliably predictable, and the doses may vary from batch to batch or manufacturer to manufacturer,” Sandler said. “You’re dealing with a situation where there isn’t a great deal of control.”

The Cochrane Collaboration is an international nonprofit, independent organization that produces and disseminates systematic reviews of health care interventions and promotes the search for evidence in the form of clinical trials and other studies of interventions. Visit for more information.

Zen XX, et al. Chinese herbal medicines for hyperthyroidism. (Review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 2.

It’s official: Tea recognized as health product in Canada

May 29, 2007  
Filed under Dietary, TCM use & research

Tea Assn press release – Health Canada’s Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD) has deemed tea to be a natural health product and has officially recognized tea for its role in maintaining good health.

After a period of extensive review, the NHPD has approved three health claims for tea. All types of tea infusions (black, green and oolong) are recognized as a source of antioxidants for the maintenance of good health. tea is approved for increasing alertness. And tea is further accredited as helping to maintain and/or support cardiovascular health. Read more

Alternative medicine popular in Canada: survey

May 23, 2007  
Filed under TCM use & research

traditional chinese medicine, chinese doctor, alternative medicineFraser Institute – More than half of Canadians surveyed in 2006 reported using at least one form of complementary or alternative medicine or treatment during the previous year, according to a new report published today by independent research organization, The Fraser Institute.

The report, Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Canada: Trends in Use and Public Attitudes, 1997-2006, is based on a survey of 2,000 adult Canadians conducted in 2006. It follows up on a similar survey done in 1997.

The survey showed 54% of respondents used at least one form of alternative or complementary therapy in the year prior to the survey, an increase of four percentage points over the 1997 result of 50%.

“This increased use of alternative therapies is another indicator of Canadians� desire to have more choice and control over their health care options,” said Nadeem Esmail, The Fraser Institute�s Director of Health System Performance and author of the report.

The most commonly used complementary and alternative medicines and therapies reported were massage (19%), prayer (16%), chiropractic care (15%), relaxation techniques (14%), and herbal therapies (10%).

Most users of alternative therapies said they did so to prevent future illness from occurring or to maintain health and vitality. Of those who used alternative medicine in the 12 months prior to the 2006 survey, 53% of respondents (down slightly from 56% in 1997) had not discussed their use of alternative medicine with their doctor.

On a provincial basis, Alberta saw the largest increase in the use of alternative therapies in the year previous to the 2006 survey (68% compared to 54% in 1997), followed by Ontario (55% compared to 50% in 1997), and British Columbia (64% from 60% in 1997). Quebec and Saskatchewan/ Manitoba both experienced a 1% increase, moving from 44 to 45 and from 58 to 59% respectively, while Atlantic Canada experienced a decrease in the use of alternative therapies, falling to 39% in 2006 from 45% in 1997.

Despite the increased use of alternative medicine, the majority of Canadians still consider medical doctors the main providers of health care with almost half of respondents in 2006 seeing a doctor before turning to a provider of alternative therapy. Additionally, a higher proportion of respondents saw a medical doctor for their condition regarding treatment for eight of the 10 most common medical conditions.

“These results show Canadians retain confidence in physicians. But since many of the most common problems Canadians suffer from are chronic � allergies, back or neck problems, arthritis and rheumatism � they require more than just symptomatic treatment. Consequently, Canadians are looking for alternatives,” Esmail said.

What is interesting, he added, is that most alternative and complementary treatments are not covered by government health insurance plans. Yet a large number of people choose those options.

“When it comes to health and well-being, a significant number of Canadians are willing to spend their own money.”

Esmail estimates that Canadians spent approximately $7.8 billion out of pocket on alternative medicine in the year before the 2006 survey — a significant increase from the nearly $5.4 billion (inflation-adjusted) spent in 1997. In 2006, more than $5.6 billion was spent on providers of alternative therapy, while another $2.2 billion was spent on herbs, vitamins, special diet programs, books, classes and equipment.

But the survey also shows the majority of Canadians (59%) believe that alternative therapies should be paid for privately, not by provincial health plans. The highest level of support for private payment came from the group that used alternative therapy the most: 58% of 18- to 34-year-olds used alternative therapies in the 12 months prior to the 2006 survey, and 62% of them preferred that individuals pay for it privately.

Regionally, support for private payment in 2006 was strongest in Quebec and Saskatchewan/Manitoba (66%) and weakest in Atlantic Canada (50%). This is a notable change from 1997 when support was strongest in Atlantic Canada (71%) and weakest in British Columbia (48%).

“In 2006, 74% of Canadians say they have used alternative therapies at some point in their lifetimes, and more than half of Canadians have used alternative therapies in the year prior to the survey,” Esmail said.

“However, there are some notable differences between the regions in Canada with respect to both use and attitudes towards alternative medicine. Albertans and British Columbians are more likely to see value in alternative therapies while skepticism reigns in Atlantic Canada. A national consensus on this issue is highly improbable.”

Complete report here.

Consumers warned about toxicity of traditional medicines

May 22, 2007  
Filed under TCM use & research

Reuters – About 200,000 people die in China each year from improper use of drugs, Chinese doctors and pharmacists say, and they are calling for greater efforts to educate consumers.

Mainland Chinese rely more on traditional Chinese medicines than on Western drugs and they tend to use them carelessly because of a widespread misconception that traditional medicines are not toxic or have no side effects.

“People should be told that they can’t consume drugs any way they want. There is no drug that has no side effects, they must not take drugs like they eat rice,” said Professor Jin Shiming, a committee member of the Guangdong Provincial Science and Technological Association.

Speaking at a conference on drug safety organized by the Guangdong Province Association of traditional Chinese medicine and a Chinese newspaper, Jin said nearly 200,000 people die each year from improper use of legitimate drugs. He did not explain how the panelists had calculated that number.

“All drugs have some level of toxicity. We can only cut back on the toxicity and reduce adverse reactions with accurate usage,” he said.

Jin and other experts at the seminar described patients who took excessive doses of traditional medicine in the belief that they would recover more quickly.

Traditional Chinese doctor Mei Quanxi from the Zhongshan Chinese Medicine Hospital cited a case where a man died after consuming a whole ginseng root that his wife bought him. Ginseng is used in the treatment of diabetes and sexual dysfunction.

“If you use a lot of it as a tonic, it is dangerous, which is why we have a saying that ginseng can kill,” Mei told Reuters after the conference.

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