Cytokines, Allergic Rhinitis & Chinese Herbal Medicine
by Bob Flaws
As an extension of my previous blog, I’d like to say something about the next article in the same journal. This is a report on another piece of animal research, again in rats. This study appeared on pages 621-622 of issue 10, 2008 of Shi Yong Zhong Yi Yao Za Zhi (Journal of Practical Chinese Medicine & Pharmacology) and was authored by Wang Ren-zhong et al from the Shandong TCM University Affiliated Hospital. It explores how a particular Chinese herbal formula, Yi Fei Tiao Xue Tang (Boost the Lungs & Regulate the Blood Decoction), affects the relationship between T-helper cells type-1 (Th1) and T-helper cells type-2 (Th2) in allergic rhinitis. These two types of T-helper cells are believed to be antagonistic to one another. Allergic rhinitis is characterized by an IgE-mediated, allergic inflammation of the nasal mucosa. Th2 cells play an important role in the development of IgE-mediated diseases such as AR due to local overproduction of Th2 cytokines (IL-4, IL-5 and IL-13) at the site of allergic inflammation. Th1 cytokines (IL-12 and IFN-gamma) are known to suppress this Th2 immune response, thus aiding the treatment of these diseases. This study showed that, compared to untreated rats with exerimentally induced AR, those administered Yi Fei Tiao Xue Tang in granular extract form had significantly improved ratios of TH1 to Th2 cells. In other words, in AR rats treated with this formula, the number of Th2 cells decreased at the same time as the number of Th1 cells increased.
While this may not be the only explanation of how this formula works in the treatment of AR, it does demonstrate at least one Western biological modus operandi. I believe this kind of animal research goes a long way to quell claims that the effects of Chinese herbal medicine are merely due to placebo effect.
The article describes the Chinese medicine used in this study as consisting of the following Chinese medicinals:
Huang Qi (Radix Astragali)
Bai Zhu (Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae)
mix-fried Ma Huang (Herba Ephedrae)
Fang Feng (Radix Saposhnikoviae)
Gui Zhi (Ramulus Cinnamomi)
Wu Wei Zi (Fructus Schisandrae)
Chan Yi (Periostracum Cicadae)
Chuan Xiong (Rhizoma Chuanxiong)
Di Long (Pheretima)