Popular Chinese Herbal Formula Found To Aid Chronic Liver Disease

By Chad Dupuis
Tagged in Herbal Medicine and Research

Chinese Medicine is widely used for a broad range of physical organ/internal issues.  Many patients however are both not familiar with the options for more serious medical issues.  Additionally, it is at times confusing to patients when your practitioner describes your "liver" as being stagnant or your "spleen" is deficient only later to find out that they are in no way talking about the physical organs themselves but their respective systems from a Chinese Medicine perspective.

In the west this confusion is part of why patients may not always think of Chinese Medicine beyond a certain level of illness.  So pain is often considered treatable, sometimes psychological issues, sometimes allergies - but rarely chronic physical organ issues, cancers, etc.  In many parts of the world Chinese Medicine is used for serious and even extremely acute medical issues.  It is not, however, as often an either/or decision which it often feels like it is in the west (i.e. either Chinese Medicine or Western Medicine, but not both).

Chronic liver disease may arise from a number of causes including hepatitis, alcohol abuse, diabetes, obesity and less common issues such as autoimmune disorders, chemical exposure, parasites and more.  Patients may experience bleeding disorders, type 2 diabetes, possibly even liver cancer.  From a western medicine perspective the treatments are to simply slow or stop the progressive damage and from their perspective the damage cannot be reversed.

Within Chinese Medicine there are a host of treatment methods and Chinese herbal formulas for liver disease.  Which one is right for a particular person requires proper diagnosis and treatment by your practitioner.  While generations of practitioners have been using these methods and seeing positive clinical outcomes for liver conditions, we do not know as much in biochemical terms how exactly these formulas are helping.

The study I'm going to explore today comes from a team of researchers at Xiamen University's Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Xiamen China and the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Manitoba in Canada among others.  Using an animal liver disease model they explored the biochemical functions of the Chinese herbal formula Tao Hong Si Wu Wan.

Tao hong si wu wan has a number of functions but it is commonly used for certain menstrual issues with a strong fatigue component as well as liver issues as explored in this case.  While the precise ingredients may vary slightly from herbalist to herbalist, the formula generally contains the following herbs:

  • Foxglove (Shu Di Huang) - for menstrual issues, blood deficiency, kidney yin deficiency (nightsweats, etc.).
  • Chinese Angelica Root (Dang Gui) - strengthens the blood, moistens stools, reduces swellings.
  • White Peony Root (Bai Shao) - strengthens the blood, balances the liver and spleen systems.
  • Szechuan Lovage Root (Chuan Xiong) - improves menstrual circulation, expels wind alleviating headaches, dizziness.
  • Peach Seed (Tao Ren) - improves menstrual circulation and moistens the bowels.
  • Safflower Flower (Hong Hua) - improves blood circulation and reduces pain from stagnation.

Previous studies with Tao Hong Si Wu Wan have shown anti-inflammatory effects within the body, but clinical experiences have shown an effect with liver fibrosis that this team wanted to explore.

Using a liver diseased induced mice model, researchers divided 60 mice into six groups - an herbal medicine treatment group, a saline control and an untreated group among other variations.  They used a range of liver blood and function tests to ascertain the biochemical changes from treatment.  These markers included:

  • Hyaluronic acid - when raised it is a reliable marker of liver disease.
  • Laminin levels - another marker that is often raised in chronic liver disease.
  • VEGF - vascular endothelial growth factor raises in relation to the degree of liver dysfunction.
  • Flt-1 - the genetic component of vegf.
  • Kinase insert domain-containing receptor (KDR) - or FLK1  - a marker showed liver cell death.
  • Akt and phosphorylated Akt (pAkt)  - involved in the relationship between liver disease and type 2 diabetes among other issues.

The researchers found that Tao Hao Si Wu Wan significantly decreased inflammatory markers and fibrosis activity in the liver.  In more biochemical terms VEGF, Flt-1, KDR, Akt and pAkt mRNA and protein expression were reduced in the treated mice.

In the study they compared the herbal formula with a commonly used western medicine used for gout, Colchicine, and found that the herbal formula created similar and often more positive responses depending on the dose.



Popular Chinese Herbal Formula Found To Aid Chronic Liver Disease

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Authored by: Chad Dupuis on 3 February 2016

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