At Mills and Bone Academy, research is at the forefront of our education and information. See headlines and links below to new and up to date information in the field of herbal medicine curated by Simon and Kerry.
- *New* - We are hearing a lot about the gut-brain connection, and we recently explored this topic in Mills and Bone Share Their Gut Feelings. But our knowledge of which specific gut microbes might be directly involved in impacting brain health, and thereby how they are affecting psychiatric disorders, is still in its infancy.
Now researchers from the United Kingdom and Germany have reviewed and investigated (via meta-analysis of 59 case-control studies) the gut microbiota of adults diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD), bipolar disorder, psychosis and schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders (anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa), autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
According to the research, recently published in JAMA Psychiatry, adults with psychiatric disorders have distinct microbiota patterns, offering the potential to develop target biomarkers and treatments to enhance mental wellbeing.
The authors wrote: “Regarding relative abundance, little evidence of disorder specificity was found. Instead, a transdiagnostic pattern of microbiota signatures was found. Depleted levels of Faecalibacterium and Coprococcus and enriched levels of Eggerthella were consistently shared between major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, psychosis and schizophrenia, and anxiety, suggesting these disorders are characterized by a reduction of anti-inflammatory butyrate-producing bacteria, while pro-inflammatory genera are enriched.”
In other words, the same basic type of dysbiosis existed across most of the psychiatric disorders, reflecting a pattern that most likely drives neuroinflammation. Click here to read
*New* - In a small, double blind, clinical trial, Astragalus extract restored the immunological balance in strenuously trained athletes (members of the Polish Rowing Team) through a stabilisation of natural killer and regulatory T cells. Click here to read more
*New* - Atrophic vaginitis is a common problem in postmenopausal women due principally to decreased levels of circulating oestrogen. Typical symptoms are itching, burning, dyspareunia, and postmenopausal bleeding. A randomised, controlled clinical trial in 60 postmenopausal women found that a total fenugreek extract (as a vaginal cream) could be helpful in treating signs of atrophic vaginitis, and was close to, but not as effective as, ultra-low-dose oestrogen. Click here to read more
- *New* - Can medicinal plants help to heal intervertebral discs? Spinal problems and intervertebral disc changes are frequently associated with spinal nerve root compression and associated symptoms such as pain and paraesthesia. A small pilot study investigated the potential of a formulation of Boswellia serrata and gotu kola (Centella asiatica) extracts (BCP) in combination with standard management (SM) to produce a faster re-expansion of the intervertebral discs in symptomatic subjects with "flattened" discs in the lower spine, due to wrong posture and compression after repeated trauma. A third treatment group was included, which was SM plus glucosamine. Total spine length improved in the BCP group (p < 0.05); in particular at 6 months the increase was doubled with BCP. SM was effective in producing elongation, but BCP plus SM rendered spinal elongation faster, more effective, with a better expansion of the intervertebral discs. Regarding ultrasound measurements, BCP was able to significantly ameliorate the posterior disc space (p < 0.05) and decreased disc density more than the other groups of the study. Signs/symptoms and mobility were improved with BCP (p < 0.05), while rescue medications decreased. The loss of working days was reduced with all managements (significantly more in BCP group than in the other two). Click here to read more
*New* - Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs, also known as ventricular extrasystoles) are extra heartbeats that begin in the ventricles. These extra beats disrupt the regular heart rhythm, sometimes causing a fluttering or a skipped beat. They are relatively common, and in most cases are benign, although they can cause distress and worry. In specific patients they could worsen the morbidity of cardiovascular events, particularly when concurrent with other risk factors. In a 12-week, randomised, controlled trial in 60 patients with a confirmed diagnosis of moderate to low-grade PVCs, lemon balm teabags (containing 2 g dried leaves/250 mL hot water) two times a day significantly reduced the frequency of PVCs (2142 per 24 hours, versus 3126 in the control group; p = 0.017). Click here to read more
*New* - Can the phytochemical berberine help to prevent colon cancer? We know that the risk of colon cancer is related to a person’s diet and resultant gut microbiome, and berberine might favourably influence this. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis located three randomised, controlled clinical trials with 1076 patients. It found that 1-year and 2-year supplementation with berberine was associated with lower recurrence rate of colorectal adenoma (relative risk (RR) of 0.69, p = 0.0001 for 1 year; RR 0.75, p = 0.0004 for 2 years). Click here to read more
*New* - Many people have a natural decline in memory and thinking as they get older, but people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) experience difficulties greater than expected for their age. However, this is not to the extent that it impairs their daily lives. MCI can be caused by a range of underlying conditions (such as depression, low vitamin levels and thyroid problems) and may not progress or might even reverse. But it might also be the early stages of dementia; an estimated 5 to 15% of people with diagnosed MCI progress to dementia each year. In patients with MCI, walking (gait) instability, particularly in dual-task situations, has been associated with impaired executive function and an increased risk of falls. Fifty patients aged 50 to 85 years with MCI and associated dual-task-related gait impairment participated in a randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled, exploratory trial. Standardised Ginkgo extract for 6 months at 240 mg/per day improved dual-task walking. Click here to read more
*New* - Many stroke survivors have long-lasting cognitive and functional deficits, and few effective treatments are available to prevent or reduce these debilitating effects. In a randomised clinical trial, pomegranate polyphenol pills or a placebo were given twice a day for one week to adult inpatients in a comprehensive rehabilitation setting, starting approximately 2 weeks after stroke. The pills contained 1 g of polyphenols derived from whole pomegranate, equivalent to levels in approximately 8 oz (240 mL) of juice. Of the 163 patients that were screened, 22 were eligible and 16 were randomised into the trial (8 per group). Pomegranate-treated patients demonstrated more neuropsychological and functional improvement and spent less time in the hospital than placebo controls. Click here to read more
*New* - Australian clinical research using a randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled, multi-dose design found that a saffron extract one hour before bed led to significantly greater improvements in sleep quality and mood after awakening. Compared to the placebo, saffron treatment was associated with increases in evening melatonin concentrations but did not affect evening cortisol. It was well-tolerated, with no reported significant adverse effects. Click here to read more
*New* - Children with marked attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms but who do not meet the full diagnostic criteria for this disorder are considered to have subthreshold ADHD. Harsh drugs are generally inappropriate for this group, leading researchers to investigate alternatives. In a recent clinical trial, 120 children aged from 6 to 12 years with subthreshold ADHD were enrolled in a 12-week, double blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study. Daily treatment consisted of 500 mg of omega-3 (294 mg eicosapentaenoic acid and 206 mg docosahexaenoic acid) and Korean red ginseng extract (combination of ginsenosides Rg1, Rb1 and Rg3, 3 mg). After 12 weeks, parents’ reports revealed a greater improvement in the ADHD rating scale total scores in the treatment group compared with the placebo group. Inattention scores showed greater improvement in the active group, but the hyperactivity/impulsivity scores did not show any significant change. Among the subscales of the Child Behavior Check List (CBCL), the attention problem, social problem, aggressive behaviour, rule-breaking and withdrawal/depression subscales showed greater improvement in the active group compared with the placebo group. Click here to read more
*New* - Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) is considered an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, many individuals with LDL-C within the normal range still develop CVD. One reason for this might be the role played by the presence of small dense LDL particles (sdLDL). In a double blind, randomised clinical trial, participants were assigned to Plantago psyllium or placebo (10 g/day for 7 weeks). Trial participants were 100 adolescents (50 in each group), 15 to 19 years old, with a body mass index of 29 to 34. Results demonstrated that small dense LDL and the inflammatory marker IL-6 reduced in these adolescents with obesity while consuming the psyllium husks. Click here to read more
*New* - Many websites extol the health virtues of consuming vinegar, especially apple cider vinegar. But this is proving to be valid in a number of ways, although it is best to consume vinegar using a straw to avoid any damage to dentine from the low pH. For starters, vinegar is a dietary source of the short chain fatty acid acetate, which now has an impressive portfolio of health benefits. One example is daily vinegar ingestion has been linked to improved glycaemic control. Recent data suggest a separate unexplored role for vinegar in mental health. Utilising a placebo-controlled, parallel arm study design, a 4-week trial examined the impact of daily vinegar ingestion on mood and urinary metabolites in healthy college students. Participants were randomised to the vinegar group (VIN: n = 14; 1.5 g acetic acid/day as liquid vinegar) or the control group (CON: n = 11; 0.015 g acetic acid/day as a pill) with no change to customary diet or physical activity. The change in both Profile of Mood States (POMS) depression scores and Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression (CES-D) scores differed significantly between groups, favouring the VIN group. Metabolomics analyses pre and post-intervention suggested metabolite alterations associated with vinegar ingestion that are consistent for improved mood, including less enzymatic dysfunction in the hexosamine pathway as well as significant increases in glycine, serine and threonine metabolism. Click here to read more
*New* - A 7-day, single blind clinical trial aimed to assess the efficacy of a liquid herbal preparation from the root of Pelargonium sidoides in improving the symptoms of uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) in 164 children. The median age of the study group was 4.8 years; 93 (56.7%) patients were male, and 71 (43.3%) were female. Daily dosing of the study herb (given as a 1:9 tincture) was 3 × 10 drops (patients 1 to 5 years old), 3 × 20 drops (patients 5 to 12 years old), or 3 × 30 drops (patients > 12 years old). Median total scores of all symptoms (TSS) showed a significant decreasing trend in the group treated with Pelargonium, compared to the placebo group from day 0 to day 7. "Cough frequency" showed a significant improvement from day 0 to day 3 (p = 0.023). A significant improvement in "sneezing" on day 3 was observed, and herbal extract administration given in the first 24 hours of the onset of symptoms led to a significant improvement for days 0 to 3. However, all these improvements were mild, suggesting that relying on a single herb during URTIs is not the optimal approach and that perhaps the trial dose should have been higher. Click here to read more
- In a small pilot trial, green tea extract plus exercise reduced postprandial glucose concentrations in physically inactive people (when compared to rest or exercise alone). Click here to read more
- A meta-analysis of randomised, placebo-controlled trials found that a proprietary lavender essential oil was superior to placebo in reducing the anxiety score in people with subthreshold anxiety during 10 weeks of treatment. Subthreshold psychiatric disorders are those that do not fully meet the diagnostic criteria of syndromal disorders, but may be associated with comparable disability. The lavender oil also had a beneficial effect on sleep (secondary to the anxiolytic effect) without causing sedation, and improved patients' health-related quality of life. Click here to read more
- A meta-analysis found that around 20 weeks of treatment with Ginkgo biloba standardised extract improved the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (except for psychotic-like features) and reduced the caregiver distress caused by such symptoms. click here to read more
- A systematic review with meta-analysis and trial sequential analysis of clinical trials found cranberry products significantly reduced the incidence of urinary tract infections by 32.5%. Subgroup analysis demonstrated that patients at higher risk for urinary tract infections were more likely to experience the beneficial effect of cranberry. Click here to read more
- In a 60-day, randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled study, the stress-relieving and pharmacological activities of an ashwagandha extract (Withania somnifera) were investigated in 60 stressed, healthy adults. Compared with the placebo, ashwagandha was associated with a statistically significant reduction in anxiety. Ashwagandha intake was also associated with greater reductions in morning cortisol and DHEA-S. Testosterone levels increased in men but not women over time, although this change was not statistically significant compared with the placebo. Click here to read more
- In an 8-week, randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled trial, the impact of saffron was investigated in 80 patients with mild and moderate allergic asthma. Anti-HSP70, hs-CRP and spirometry tests were determined in patients before (week 0) and after (week 8) the herbal intervention. The anti-heat shock protein (anti-HSP) 70 is a novel risk factor for asthma, whereas high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) is an inflammatory marker. Saffron (compared with placebo) significantly reduced hs-CRP (p < 0.001) and anti-HSP70 (p < 0.001) concentrations. In spirometry tests, forced expiratory volume in first second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), the FEV1/FVC ratio and forced expiratory flow 25-75% (FEF 25-75) all increased significantly in saffron in comparison to placebo group (p < 0.05). Click here to read more
- This interesting clinical trial has shown that pawpaw leaf tea boosts platelet count in dengue fever without any side effects and prevents the complication of thrombocytopaenia. Click here to read more
This timely review has noted that since the late 1990s, several epidemiological studies have suggested that the regular consumption of green tea decreases influenza infection rates and some cold symptoms, and that gargling with tea catechin may protect against the development of influenza infection. Click here to read more
- A preliminary clinical study on the Chinese herb Lycium barbarum L. (also known as Goji berry) shows potential for providing a neuroprotective effect for the retina and could help delay or minimise cone degeneration in the hereditary eye disease retinitis pigmentosa. Could it be due to the anthocyanins it contains? Click here to read moreOver 12 months, grape seed extract worked better than the drug calcium dobesilate in reducing retinal hard exudates (plaques that often cause significant visual loss) in patients with diabetic retinopathy. This study highlights the key role of this herb for microcirculatory and endothelial health. Click here to read moreTopical sage (Salvia officinalis) in the form of vaginal tablet, alone and when combined with the antifungal drug clotrimazole, effectively treated vulvovaginal candidiasis. Click here to read moreThe Chinese/Vietnamese herb Gynostemma pentaphyllum (with the wonderful common name immortality herb) has tonic and adaptogenic properties that should make it a regular clinical choice for helping patients with stress. In fact, it contains several ginsenosides as well as other related saponins (gypenosides). Its effects in cancer are also under active research (click here) In one recent clinical trial, Gynostemma reduced anxiety in healthy people under chronic psychological stress. Click here to read moreA small pilot trial found Rhodiola rosea enhanced anaerobic exercise performance and may possess ergogenic benefits. Click here to read more An extract of Boswellia over 8 months markedly reduced disease activity in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. This is in keeping with the known anti-inflammatory activity of the boswellic acids. Mechanistic studies showed a significant increase in regulatory T cells and a significant decrease in interleukin-17A-producing CD8+ T cells, indicating a distinct mechanism of action of the herb and a marked biological plausibility for the observed benefit. Click here to read morePomegranate extract has significant potential as a herbal prebiotic. A clinical trial found consumption of Pomegranate extract decreased endotoxaemia in overweight-obese individuals by reshaping the gut microbiota, mainly through the modulation of Faecalibacterium, Odoribacter and Parvimonas. The actice components are polyphenols, specifically hydrolysable tannins. Click here to read moreStandardised Ginkgo biloba extract significantly shortened the course of postoperative delirium in elderly patients undergoing general anaesthesia. Click here to read moreA liposterolic extract of saw palmetto extract of (Serenoa repens) on reduced prostatic inflammation in patients with this problem. Immunohistochemical staining after treatment showed a significant change in the expression of analysed antibodies for the saw palmetto patients, compared to their first biopsy. In the control group, no significant difference was found at the second biopsy. Click here to read moreA thorough meta-analysis that included ten randomised clinical trials involving a total of 918 patients concluded ginger was safe and well-tolerated and decreased the severity of postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV). It may also lower the incidence of PONV, which in turn may reduce antiemetic drug demand, suggesting that ginger may be a useful alternative to antiemetic medications to alleviate PONV. Click here to read moreA small pilot trial found that a standardised bilberry extract improved tear secretion in people suffering from dry eye syndrome. Click here to read moreContrary to popular myth, a systematic review and meta-analysis of 9 double blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trials found that neither Korean red ginseng (KRG) nor American ginseng increased blood pressure. In fact, the systematic review provided positive evidence for the efficacy of KRG on reducing blood pressure in patients with pre-hypertension and hypertension in both acute and long-term application. Click here to read moreWhile myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) has been long-recognised as a topical analgesic, it appears to also relieve pain when taken internally. A placebo-controlled trial in people experiencing a range of pain scenarios including headache, fever-dependent pain, joint pain, muscle aches, lower back pain and menstrual cramps found oral intake of myrrh was generally effective for pain relief. Click to read moreSix weeks of treatment with Ginkgo biloba extract in physically active young men provided some marginal improvements in their endurance performance expressed as VO₂max and blood antioxidant capacity, as evidenced by specific biomarkers, and elicited better neuroprotection through increased exercise-induced production of serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Click here to read moreThe formulation HT042 is a standardised multiherbal mixture comprising Astragalus membranaceus, Eleutherococcus senticosus and Phlomis umbrosa used in Korea to promote growth in children. The safety and efficacy of HT042 on height growth in children with mild short stature was evaluated in a 24-week multicentre, randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled parallel study in children aged 6 to 8 years with height ranked below the 25th percentile. The formulation helped to increase height growth in children without skeletal maturation and was more effective in much shorter children. Click here to read moreIn a study from Thailand, ginger was found to be a promising natural galactagogue to improve breast milk volume in the immediate postpartum period without any notable side effects. Click here to read moreGreen tea extract treatment for 12 weeks significantly reduced disease activity in systemic lupus erythematosus patients. In addition, it significantly increased vitality and general health (p < 0.01). Click here to read moreFrom Japan, a single dose acute clinical study investigated whether the consumption of Siberian ginseng powder improved oedema in a 2-way, randomised, crossover trial in 50 healthy female volunteers. Oedema of the lower limbs was significantly attenuated at 2 and 4 hours after ingestion, as compared to the control group. Based on their prior pharmacological studies, the authors suggested Siberian ginseng exerts its potent anti-oedema activity mainly by promoting lymphatic function. This may hold promise for the treatment of lymphoedema. Click here to read
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