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Jan 14

US delegation heads to explore Ayurveda

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LOS ANGELES, CA - At the request of the Government of India Health Ministry Dr. Navin C. Shah on Jan 27, will lead a U.S. delegation of six directors of Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) and Integrative Medicine (IM) of six major medical schools to New Delhi.  The participants are medical educators and researchers: Dr. David Eisenberg – Harvard Medical School, Dr. Anastasia Rowland-Seymour – Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Benjamin Kligler – Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Dr. Aviad Haramati – Georgetown University, Dr. Victoria Maizes – University of Arizona and Dr. Anne Nedrow – Oregon Health & Science University. 

During five days of meetings the delegates will hear evidence-based presentations by experts on Ayurveda, Yoga, meditation and oil massage treatments.  The focus will be on treatment benefits of Ayurveda in five major diseases and also benefits of five herbs (simple or in combination) in treatment of various diseases.  A special lecture will deal with the role of diet in both health and diseases.

The delegation will visit Ayurveda Medical College and Hospital in Jaipur to understand Ayurveda education and patient care.  There are 150 Ayurveda colleges; fifty post-graduate Ayurveda institutions; seventy thousand students; ten thousand faculty members; and 3,000 Ayurveda hospitals in India.

The delegation will also visit one Ayurveda pharma factory to perceive the drug formulation, production, preservation, safety, and research areas.

The purpose of the U.S. delegation’s visit is to explore the possibilities of introduction of evidence-based Ayurveda, Yoga, meditation, and oil massage treatment in the United States medical education, research, and patient care areas, and also to study the possibilities of joint Indo-U.S. research under NIH funding.
Dec 26

Animal trials prove safety of ‘bhasmas’: Ayush

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The Indian  government has validated the safety of eight ‘bhasmas’ -- used in several Ayurvedic drugs -- through rigorous animal trials. These drugs have often been criticised in the Western countries for heavy metal content in the form of ‘bhasma.’

“Trials have found that these bhasmas are safe and the results will be published shortly,” reliable sources in the Department of Ayush (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) told The Hindu.

Concern

There was concern against the use of Ayurvedic medicines -- which is growing in popularity in the West -- when in 2008 a research published in the Journal of American Medical Association reported detection of ‘extremely high’ quantities of lead, mercury and arsenic in such drugs.

Then the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had said that “these metals are used after proper detoxification process and no significant adverse drug reactions have been reported regarding their use in India.”

Awareness project

Subsequently, the Department of Ayush had launched a project called Golden Triangle to scientifically validate Ayurvedic drugs.

The Indian Council of Medical Research and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research are the two other partners in the project which have now come out with the scientific validation of the eight bhasmas.

In fact, the government has started in the United States a Centre for Research in Indian Systems of Medicine for promoting Indian systems of medicines there.

Symposium

The Centre has already held a symposium on ‘Ayurvedic, Siddha and Unani Drugs: Development and Marketing’ here to emphasise the need for quality assurance and standardisation of these drugs.

Another major initiative taken up by the government is the setting up of industrial clusters for Ayurvedic drugs where common testing facilities will be set up to manufacture the products more scientifically. The government plans to set up 10 such clusters across the country.

Ensuring quality

Each cluster has been given an initial fund of Rs.10 crore and the clusters have made a buy-back arrangement with the cultivators of medicinal plants to ensure quality of the products.

The government has tied up with the Quality Council of India (QCI) to start a voluntary certification process. The QCI has identified 29 drug testing centres that can certify the manufacturing units.

Source: http://beta.thehindu.com/health/medicine-and-research/article70551.ece?homepage=true
Dec 13

Prince Charles: 'Herbal medicine must be regulated'

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Prince Charles is urging government to press on with regulating herbalists to safeguard the public.

His Foundation for Integrated Health charity says without regulation new EU laws will ban most of the trade, forcing patients to use bogus outlets.

From 2011 EU legislation will permit only statutorily registered professionals like doctors to prescribe manufactured herbal remedies.

The government says it will reach a decision in the new year.

Britons spend about £1.6?billion a year on alternative remedies.
    

There is currently no official system of regulation in the UK, meaning anyone can treat.

But there are codes under which practitioners use remedies manufactured to recognisable standards.

The EU Directive that will be implemented from April 2011 will restrict herbal medicines that can be supplied over-the-counter to licensed "traditional" medicines used to treat "mild and self-limiting" conditions - basically meaning nothing worse than a cold.


Black market

At the same time, it will become unlawful for anyone except "statutorily regulated" professionals to treat patients with any other herbal medicines, except those that a herbalist prepares personally on his/her own premises.

The Prince's Foundation says this will mean many herbalists will no longer be able to offer remedies to their clients and patients will instead turn to the black market.
    

There have been cases where people have died because the remedies they have bought from dubious sources have contained unsafe ingredients, such as arsenic or lead.

The Foundation believes regulation would resolve this, by bringing vetted herbalists within the EU law.

But this is at odds with eminent scientists who sceptical about herbalism and are against statutory regulation on the grounds it would make such treatments "respectable".

Professor George Lewith, a doctor and expert in complementary medicine, said: "Failing to introduce statutory regulation will amount to a Quack's Charter.

"It is the incompetent and the irresponsible we need to stop. Not the well-trained, dedicated herbalists who put their patients first.

"We cannot wash our hands of responsibility for herbal medicine and the patients who use it.

"No-one deserves to die for no better reason than preferring herbal remedies to conventional medicine."

Professor David Colquhoun, an expert in pharmacology at University College London, said the Prince's suggestions were wrong and would not safeguard patients.

"We do need regulation, but not the sort of ineffective regulation the Prince wants. Proper regulation should be on whether these products work.

"The rules should be the same as for all drugs."

A spokeswoman from the UK charity Sense About Science said: "The professional regulation proposed by the Government and supported by the Foundation for Integrated Health for herbal medicine practitioners, and which doesn't include any requirement for evidence of efficacy, imitates the regulation of science-based medical practice.

"It suggests to the public that these practices are part of, or equivalent to, science-based medical practice when they have none of the content of science-based medical practice."
source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8388985.stm
Dec 09

High Salt Intake Linked to Strokes, Heart Disease

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  Eating high amounts of salt is linked to a significantly higher risk of strokes and heart disease, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal.
     
 The study looked at the relationship between the level of habitual dietary salt intake and the occurrence of stroke and  heart  disease by reviewing 13 prospective studies from the UK, Japan, the United States, the Netherlands, Finland, and China, including more than 170,000 participants, followed up for 3.5 to 19 years, who experienced nearly 11,000 vascular events.

      The study provides unequivocal evidence of the direct link between high dietary salt intake and increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.

      A 5 g lower daily salt intake would reduce stroke by 23% and total cardiovascular disease by 17%, thus averting 1.25 million fatal and non-fatal strokes, and almost 3 million vascular events worldwide each year. The effect is greater, the larger the difference in salt intake and increases with time.

      "We have seen reductions in the salt content of several food items, due to the collaboration between governments, public health bodies, and sectors of the industry on a voluntary basis," said Francesco Cappuccio, World Health Organisation Collaboration Centre at Warwick Medical School.

      "However, the progress towards the recommended targets has been slow. For population salt intake to approach the WHO targets within a reasonable time, a regulatory approach is necessary, in addition to health promotion campaigns, to reduce the burden of avoidable death, disability and associated costs to individuals and society caused by unacceptable high levels of salt in our diet".
Dec 08

India is planning to patent Ayurveda medicines in 5 foreign languages

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Medicinal formulations in the classical texts of Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha are being transcribed and then would be patented in five international languages, including German and Japanese, to prevent their misappropriation, the Lok Sabha was informed Monday.

Indian Minister of State for Health and Family Affairs S. Gandhiselvan said: 'Medicinal formulations present in classical texts of Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Yoga in Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Persian and Tamil Languages are being transcribed in patent application in five international languages - English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese for sharing with International patent offices, including United States Patent Office and European Patent Office.'

About 6,000 to 7,000 plants are estimated to be in use in the Indian systems of medicines, the Lok Sabha was informed Monday.


The minister said the department of AYUSH - or the department of Ayurveda, Yoga and naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and homoeopathy under the ministry - has established the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library in collaboration with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in the ministry of science and technology to prevent the misappropriation of traditional knowledge by multinational companies.
Nov 15

Dashmool is good for DN, New Research Says

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Even as the region is witnessing increasing cases of diabetic retinopathy (DR) and diabetic neuropathy (DN), health experts of Banaras Hindu University are also coming up with new researches to control such diabetic disorders.

While the department of Davyaguna, faculty of Ayurveda, BHU, has come up with special dashmool preparations that act as wonder drugs for controlling DN, department of Ophthalmology is already working on gene therapy to control DR.

According to Prof KN Dwivedi, head, department of Dravyaguna, Banaras Hindu University, researches have shown that Dashmool preparations that witness hard concoction made from water soluble solid extracts of as many as 10 plant roots, possess useful qualities to control DN. "Similarly, modern medicinal drugs including Mecobalamine, Pregabalin and Alpha-lipoic acid are also useful in controlling DN," he adds.

As per Prof Shri Kant, head, department of Ophthalmology, research on implications of gene therapy for controlling DR will provide a new dimension for prevention, control and treatment of DR cases in the region.
Source: times of India
Nov 08

Obesity responsible for 100,000 cancer cases annually

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More than 100,000 cases of cancer each year are caused by excess body fat, according to a report released Thursday in Washington.

Researchers with the American Institute for Cancer Research looked at seven cancers with known links to obesity and calculated actual case counts that were likely to have been caused by obesity.

Specifically, the report says that 49 percent of endometrial cancers are caused by excess body fat. That number is followed by 35 percent of esophageal cancer cases; 28 percent of pancreatic cancer cases; 24 percent of kidney cancer cases; 21 percent of gallbladder cancer cases; 17 percent of breast cancer cases; and 9 percent of colorectal cancer cases.

"This is the first time that we've put real, quantifiable case numbers on obesity-related cancers," said Glen Weldon, the American Institute for Cancer Research educational director. In addition, he said, it's not just causing cancer that's an issue.
"Obesity not only raises the risk for getting cancer," Weldon said. "It also has a negative effect on survival and can make treatment more difficult."

Although there is no concrete science on why obesity increases a person's risk for cancer, scientists hypothesize that excess estrogen released by body fat could be the culprit in cancers such as estrogen-receptor positive breast cancers.

Studies have also shown that increased body fat can lead to increased levels of oxidative stress and inflammatory compounds in the blood, which are linked to DNA mutation and diseased cell growth, as is seen in many cancers.

The American Cancer Society applauded the new research, but said the report is only the first step.

"This helps to communicate the magnitude of the problem," said Dr. Michael Thun, vice president emeritus at the American Cancer Society.

"While the study addresses the magnitude of the problem, it does not propose potential solutions. The bottom line for people concerned about this issue is to try to balance the calories you take in with those your body expends every day."

In addition to cancer, obesity is a known cause of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and strokes.

source: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/11/05/obesity.cancer.link/index.html
Nov 04

How safe are herbal medicines?

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Herbal remedies made from plant leaves, bark, berries, flowers, and roots have been used to heal illnesses, diseases, and psychological disorders for centuries. Today, with the ease of the internet, you can self-diagnose, order next day delivery, and even learn how to make your own. Last year three million Britons took herbal remedies to treat everything from fever to joint pain.

But renewed debate about the safety of these remedies was sparked last week following the news of an EU crackdown on herbalists and Chinese medicine practitioners who operate unregulated at present. Under the new law, from 2011 sales of all herbal remedies except for a small number of products for minor ailments will also be banned. Regulators warn that many of us believe that "herbal" is synonymous with "safe", whereas herbal remedies can be deadly"Research we conducted last year found a significant proportion of people believed 'herbal' means 'benign'," says Richard Woodfield, Head of Herbal Policy at the Medicines and Health care products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). "That means people are more liable to self-medicate, and to neglect to inform their doctors, even though there's a risk that the herbal remedy will react with any prescription drugs. They're also more vulnerable to fraudulent, even criminal operators who put products out which are heavily adulterated with dangerous pharmaceuticals."

The actress Sophie Winkleman is reported to have taken aconite, or monkshood, found in some 'herbal Valium' last month to calm her nerves prior to her wedding to Freddie Windsor.

The plant while relatively harmless in licensed homeopathic remedies in which it is rigorously diluted, can be extremely dangerous, in herbal remedies, even lethal.

"If you were to buy aconite root, which is banned from licensed herbal products in the UK, but can still be found in products bought over the internet, and make yourself a herbal tea with it, you'd be dead within five minutes," says Dr Linda Anderson, Pharmaceutical Assessor of the MHRA.

Last year, scientists at Boston University found that a fifth of Ayurvedic medicines – popular traditional Indian herbal remedies – bought over the internet contained dangerous levels of lead, mercury or arsenic, which could cause stomach pains, vomiting or liver problems.

Earlier this year, herbal arthritis remedies came under scrutiny when looked at as part of the Arthritis Research Campaign's (ARC) study of complementary therapies. "Not only did we find that in two-thirds of cases, there was no evidence they actually worked, but one Chinese remedy used to combat rheumatoid arthritis – Thunder god vine – was also reported to be extremely poisonous if not extracted properly," says ARC spokeswoman Jane Tadman.

Menopause remedies also came under fire after a study reported in the Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin, a journal that reviews medical treatment, found no evidence they actually worked. Gynaecologist Heather Curry of the British Menopause Society says: "Our feeling is that there isn't enough scientific evidence either on effectiveness or safety." A German study last year found the "herbal antidepressant" St Johns wort to be as effective as standard antidepressants such as Prozac.

However, side effects such as dry mouth, dizziness and stomach pains have been widely reported and it interacts strongly with some prescription drugs such as Warfarin and oral contraceptives. And in April, an MHRA investigation into Jia Ji Jian, sometimes marketed as 'herbal Viagra', revealed it contained up to four times the level of pharmaceuticals found in legally prescribed anti-obesity and anti-erectile dysfunction medicinal products, which can cause serious side effects including heart and blood pressure problems. As a herbal remedy it should not contain any pharmaceuticals at all.

"Drug interaction is a big area of concern," says Professor Edzard Ermst, professor of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University. "Herbal medicines may have been around for thousands of years, but the new synthetic drugs haven't and how they interact is still uncharted territory."

The MHRA believes regulating the herbal medicine industry is the best way to limit abuses and ensure consumers are aware of potential dangers. All herbal medicines sold over the counter in the UK should according to the law be licensed. The MHRA assesses them on safety, quality and patient information. By 2011 a new scheme, which is currently being rolled out, will be in place.

"Check for products which have the THR (Traditional Herbal Register) or Product Licence (PL) number on the label," advises Richard Woodfield.

Many herbal practitioners want even further regulation."We want to be registered," says Dee Atkinson, spokesperson for the National Institute of Medical Herbalists and herself a qualified medical herbalist. "Herbs are not harmless, they are drugs, just as pharmaceuticals are drugs and as such they should be prescribed by a qualified, registered practitioner.

"As a rule of thumb, I'd say that for any conditions or problems you'd normally go to a chemist for, you can visit a shop that sells over-the-counter herbal medicines, but anything beyond that you should be seeing a qualified, and we'd like to see registered, professional. Never order anything off the internet unless it's from a UK-based, recognised herbal company."

Richard Woodfield of the MHRA agrees. "Avoid unlicensed herbal remedies, particularly those sold on the internet and steer clear of anything claiming to be "100% safe" or "safe because it's natural". Like any other drugs, herbs can have side effects. Look for the THR or PL standard on the label and consult with your doctor if taking any prescription medicine."

Source:
By Tammy Cohen
Published: 7:00AM GMT 02 Nov 2009
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/alternativemedicine/6466718/Just-how-safe-are-herbal-medicines.html
Nov 01

Processed food may cause the Depression

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Eating a diet high in processed food increases the risk of depression, research suggests.
What is more, people who ate plenty of vegetables, fruit and fish actually had a lower risk of depression, the University College London team found.

Data on diet among 3,500 middle-aged civil servants was compared with depression five years later, the British Journal of Psychiatry reported.

The team said the study was the first to look at the UK diet and depression.
 
The UK population is consuming less nutritious, fresh produce and more saturated fats and sugars
Dr Andrew McCulloch, Mental Health Foundation

They split the participants into two types of diet - those who ate a diet largely based on whole foods, which includes lots of fruit, vegetables and fish, and those who ate a mainly processed food diet, such as sweetened desserts, fried food, processed meat, refined grains and high-fat dairy products.

After accounting for factors such as gender, age, education, physical activity, smoking habits and chronic diseases, they found a significant difference in future depression risk with the different diets.

Those who ate the most whole foods had a 26% lower risk of future depression than those who at the least whole foods.

By contrast people with a diet high in processed food had a 58% higher risk of depression than those who ate very few processed foods.

source: bbc.com

Nov 01

Nepal losing patent right on herbal medicine

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KATHMANDU: Nepal is losing patent rights of ayurvedic plants thanks largely to the government's continuous apathy and neglect toward preserving traditional herbal medicines.
 "The government is not serious about conserving ayurvedic plants as well as securing their patent right," said Dr Rishi Ram Koirala, chairperson, Ayurveda Doctors Association-Nepal.
"Ayurvedic plants and products are our intellectual property and the use of technology and innovation related to these plants should belong to us," he said.
Koirala said that Nepal lacks a policy for protection, preservation, development and commercialisation of indigenous knowledge on herbal resources.
He urged the government to pay serious heed towards protecting the patent rights of such resources.
He also alleged that Nepal's herbal resources and indigenous knowledge are being threatened by piracy.
"The government is not equipped to protect and prevent piracy of indegenous knowledge and resources," Koirala bemoaned.
He claimed that an estimated 140 indigenous medicinal herbs have already been captured by foreign medical companies. He said that Nepal ranks 25th in the world in terms of biodiversity.
According to Koirala, there are about 264 species of indegenous herbal plants and 3,500 other kinds of herbal plants of medicinal values available in Nepal.
Of those captured by foreign companies are Silajit, turmeric, Neem, Amala and Kalogeera, according to Koirala.
Meanwhile, Dr Thakur Raj Adhikari, Director at the Department of Ayurveda (DoA), Ministry of Health and Population, acknowledged that there is a dearth of specific policies and regulation concerning preservation and protection of indigenous medicines.
He admitted that the absence of a specific policy has indeed heightened the threats of illegal trade in indegenous medicines.
However, he clarified that the protection of these plants were not under the sole responsibility of DoA. "There is a lack of cooperation cooperation and coordination among the concern ministries, for the protection of promotion of these species," he added.
Meantime, Annapurna Das, spokesperson for the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation said the responsibility lies with the DoA and Singha Durbar Baidhya Khana Development Committee for the protection and preservation of those resources.
The work of patenting has now fallen through for want of an 'genetic resource bill' which is awaiting the Cabinet's endorsement.
When passed, the bill is expected to make it easier for importing and exporting the herbal medicines.

Source: thehimalayantimes.com

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