Researchers at the Osaka University Medical School, Japan, conducted a research on mice to determine the effects of the body not being able to expel unwanted DNA. They found that when waste DNA accumulated in the genetically altered mice, the mice unexpectedly developed symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The researchers believed that the waste DNA was triggering the macrophages to release Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-a). In fact, when they introduced TNF-a blockers, the symptoms decreased in the mice. The researchers are hopeful that their findings will help in the formulation of a more effective treatment for arthritis.
Meanwhile, another research on rats has found that the joint inflammation associated with RA can be reduced with turmeric. Dr Janet Funk, from the University of Arizona, USA, and her colleagues compared the chemical composition of an experimental turmeric extract with that of turmeric supplements. She found that “turmeric dietary supplements share the same mechanism of action as anti-arthritic pharmaceuticals currently under development”. When tested on rats, turmeric blocked a protein that has previously been associated with the pain and inflammation of RA.
Across the globe, German researchers have proved that acupuncture can help osteoarthritis patients after studying its effects on 3,553 patients. The participants were divided into those having up to 15 sessions for the first three months and others who were not given the treatment then but were given acupuncture treatment in the last three months of the study. The researchers concluded that acupuncture helps to enhance the quality of life when it is in addition to routine care. The latter group of patients too saw improvements in six months.
A new study has found that yoga is beneficial for breast cancer patients as it improves their quality of life. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology at Atlanta.
Researchers from the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas concentrated on 61 women who had undergone surgery for breast cancer and were now receiving radiation treatment. 30 women attended yoga classes twice a week. After six weeks, all the women were requested to fill up questionnaires regarding their ability to carry out their daily activities. The results were evaluated on a scale of 0 to 100. It was found that the women who had taken yoga classes scored higher in almost every area, especially in the physical function. However, no difference was found between the groups in the rates of depression and anxiety. The immune system function and stress levels of the participants are also being tested and the results are awaited. Lorenza Cohen, who led the study, said that even a short yoga course could go a long way in decreasing the side effects of breast cancer treatment.
The researchers have also planned another study that will compare the effects of yoga to general stretching exercises. The study will be funded by the National Cancer Institute. According to Alan Kristal, an epidemiology professor at the University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine, such scientific assessments of alternative therapies are possible due to the increase in federal funding.
Yoga is a form of exercise that helps in creating a balance between mind and body. It increases flexibility and stamina and encourages mental relaxation.
Alternative medicines have an important place in pharma world. A few researchers, such as Wendy Weber, naturopathic doctor, Bastyr University in Seattle, are conducting clinical trials on kids and herbs. But doctors are slower to start using them than the parents. Parents in the US are attracted to supplements and herbs specifically for children. They say, they do trust Western medicine but want to know if there is some gentler option for children. Some parents use the products as a less-expensive alternative to medication. More and more doctors are being questioned about herbs and supplements. As a result more and more doctors are now quantifying the products' use and drawing up guidelines to help pediatricians talk to parents about herb use. Sunita Vohra, director of the complementary and alternative research program at the Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, sees herbs and supplements as pediatrics' newest sub-specialty.
Also, statistical data available in the US shows that 41 per cent of pharmaceutical development has its origin in herbal drugs, which is attracting doctors, researchers as well as concerned parents to the herbal option. As per world health organization (WHO) estimates, 80 per cent of about 4,000 million people in the world rely on plant products. Though there is enough evidence supporting the use of herbal medicines, not enough scientific studies are available. But, companies and research organizations are getting interested in the untapped potential source of drugs. Over the decades, there have been several instances of drugs sourced from herbal medicines like reseroine, vincristine and vinblatine. Neem and turmeric have been patented recently. In India, companies like Ajanta Pharmaceuticals, Dabur and The Himalaya Drug Company have launched several herbal remedies in the market.
While side effects of conventional medicine and efficiency of plant-derived drugs have increased scientific interest in medicinal plants, assurance of safety, quality and efficacy of medicinal plants and herbal products are key issues that need to be addressed, say researchers.
A recent study has revealed that Yoga may be beneficial for reducing weight, especially among teenagers. This study carried out at Hampton University in Yorktown has shown that students practicing yoga and breathing exercises on a regular basis reduced their Body Mass Index (BMI) by almost 6 per cent. Regular yoga reduced their weight by an average of 6 pounds and toned the body. Yoga is an ancient Indian spiritual practice that keeps the mind and body healthy.
Another study carried out has shown that chanting Mantras can help in controlling and reducing stress disorder and even have a smoothening effect on boredom and irritability. The study was carried out on around 30 veterans and 36 hospital workers, both groups being chosen due to the high levels of stress present within them. The results are most encouraging with 83 per cent of the study group showing positive reaction towards the therapy. The advantage of chanting mantras is that they are personal, convenient, and indistinguishable. They do not cost any money, they are 100 per cent natural and the best thing is that they can be performed anytime and anywhere. They are far more economical than spending money on stress management classes. Mantras are ancient religious couplets or poems that when chanted repeatedly, enhance an individuals concentration levels. However, modern studies have shown that any word or poem can have similar therapeutic effects, thus broadening the scope of mantras from religious to secular.
Both the therapies are ancient Indian practices and when used together they comprise the Mantra yoga. This is used to attain ultimate salvation with the supreme creator of the world. This study also implies the benefits of various ancient forms of medication that are natural and safe but have not been properly explored.
Researchers at the National Taiwan University have found that the ancient Chinese system of acupressure is more effective and provides better relief from back pain than modern medicine and physiotherapy. Back pain is a major job related disability that affects millions of people worldwide and curtails their productivity.
The study included 129 patients suffering from back pain, divided into two groups and given six doses of either acupressure or physical therapy over a month after which the results were compared. The results showed that acupressure resulted in 89 per cent reduction in disability compared to physiotherapy with the effects lasting for more than six months. The acupressure group also revealed less signs of pain and more functional ability than the other group.
Acupressure is a 5000-year old ancient healing practice that involves stimulating key points of the body by applying pressure with the thumb and fingers. It stimulates the immune system and natural painkillers within the body and promotes healing within, relieves stress and boosts blood circulation. Earlier studies have shown the benefits of acupressure in reducing various types of pain, but this study enhances its importance in curing back pain.
However, there are some things to watch out for when going for an acupressure. The researchers have reiterated the need to check the credentials of the person performing it, as effectiveness depends on the expertise of the person administering it. They have also cited the importance of mixing acupressure with traditional Chinese therapies that enable the muscles to regain their original form to increase the effectiveness of this therapy.
Hot flashes, backaches, bone pain and degenerative processes such as arteriosclerosis are just some that affect post-menopausal women the world over. These are caused due to excessive loss of hormones, especially estrogen, from the body. Since decades, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) has been considered a solution for these symptoms. However, HRT has been losing its popularity, as it has been known to cause breast and uterine cancer.
Researchers all over the world have shown that alterative and safe plant based hormones such as phytoestrogens are just as effective to curb the post menopausal symptoms as they dont increase risk of hormone sensitive cancer. But concrete studies and proof for such products are yet to be conducted.
Researchers at the Department of Gynecology and Dietetics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, have found that Soy could prove to be a very useful and natural alternative to HRT. The study was conducted on 180 women over the age of 45. Soy contains a high level of phytoestrogens and hence is very useful in reducing the post-menopausal symptoms in women. The study carried out at AIIMS has just added merit to the importance of phytoestrogens. Results from the study have shown that women who were given regular intake of Soy considerably reduced their post-menopausal symptoms. This new study brings glimmer of hope in form of natural and effective ways of reducing post-menopausal symptoms for millions of women worldwide.
The Information Technology age is well and truly upon us, and so are its many consequences. The adverse impact on health, especially in the case of techies, is one such outcome. Health risks, such as computer vision syndrome, carpel tunnel, cervical spondylosis, insomnia and lumbago are emerging as a significant area of concern, and employers as well as employees are looking to find innovative solutions for the same.
According to college principal RVK Varma, the treatment is a combination of Ayurveda drugs for internal and external use, yoga and music therapy. He claims that most of the remedies already existed in ancient Vedic texts and have only been fine-tuned to meet current challenges. Several Indian classical music (Hindustani) ragas, such as madhuvanti, yaman kalyan and vibhas, offer tremendous relaxation and have been widely utilised for therapeutic purposes.
With studies indicating that even four hours of continued working in front of computers could induce cervical spondylosis and lumbago if one happened to be sit on badly designed chairs or in wrong postures, looks like the wisdom of the ancient is all set to be a panacea for certain maladies afflicting the newest of industries.
The study involved 36 patients, of whom 19 were kept in medicated rooms and the rest admitted to a general ward. The walls of the medicated rooms were covered with coir mats dyed in medicinal herbs and the bedspreads and pillows were also soaked in the same herbal preparations. Both sets of patients were administered the same medicines and food, but those kept in medicated rooms got cured faster. Patients suffering from skin diseases were cured in two weeks when kept in the medicated rooms, while those in the general ward took an additional 26 days. Rheumatic patients in the medicated rooms started improving after a week, while those in the general ward took three weeks.
The success of the six-month pilot project has prompted the group to seek additional support from the Kerala state government so that the study can be carried out on larger scale and proven statistically.
Although mankind is still to find a cure for the common cold, yet help is at hand for those who seek to prevent a running nose. A study outlined in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests that those taking Ginseng daily have less frequent and milder colds that last fewer days than those who didnt.
Borrowing from the Oriental cultural tradition of taking a high dose of Ginseng whenever a cold appears to be coming on, scientists from Canada, supported by a Canadian Ginseng pill-maker, studied the effects of daily intake of Ginseng in preventing colds among a sample of adults, who in the previous year had suffered at least two instances of upper respiratory infections. The participants were randomly selected to take, for a four-month period, either two capsules a day of North American Ginseng or a placebo.
Though the two groups had no difference with respect to additional medications like anti-inflammatory or antibiotic treatments, there was a vast difference in the frequency, intensity and length of the colds between the two groups. One out of ten among those taking the Ginseng treatment reported two or more colds as compared to nearly one out of four taking the placebo. Also those taking the Ginseng capsules had colds that lasted only 11 days as against 16.5 days (over a fortnight) for those taking a placebo.
Even as most traditional streams of medicine remain a goldmine of knowledge on natural cures and preventive treatments, they do not find widespread acceptance due to inadequate understanding of the method by which they work. But traditional cures can work. The latest study is an advance towards fighting the tough common cold infection that continues to be a puzzle to modern medicine.