Chinese Herbal Medicine: How Effective Is It? 3

In fact, experts estimate that one in four prescription medications used in the UK was originally developed from plants. Dr. Paul Francis, a neuroscientist at King’s College London and one of the Alzheimer’s researchers who will join Dr. Minger in China, points out that even some of the conventional Alzheimer’s medications prescribed in the UK started off as shrubs. “If you look at the three drugs currently available, one of them came from daffodils and snowdrops,” he says, Further, many current conventional treatments are based on Chinese herbal remedies, including a possible treatment for dementia.
In recent years the Chinese Government has invested huge sums into investigating whether its vast library of traditional remedies can be converted into orthodox treatments. “The Chinese are very committed to this,” says Dr. Minger. “They have state-run labs that are doing nothing except investigate TCM.” But developing conventional drugs from these ancient cures is not an easy process as a single remedy can contain many different plant ingredients. How do you know which one is responsible for the curative effect, and is this effect due to one ingredient or a combination?
The process starts with scientists identifying a remedy that they think may have therapeutic potential. Using modern technology-and working by a process of elimination-they test each fraction of the remedy for biological activity, discarding the pieces that have no effect. They continue until they have sieved the remedy down to a point where only a few chemical constituents remain, which they deduce must be the ones that elicit the therapeutic effect. Artificial copies of the active chemical are then made and tested on patients in clinical trials. But why can’t they just give patients the traditional remedies in their native form? Because, Dr. Francis says, they are not guaranteed to have any medicinal effect, and more importantly, they may be dangerous.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
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