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H
erbal Medicine
 

Herbal Therapy for Nervous System Disorders

© David L. Hoffmann BSc (Hons), MNIMH

  • It speeds post operative recovery.
  • It is being used in post operative treatment of oncological patients as it ameliorates the stress response that can aggravate metastasis.
  • There was an improved prognosis if Eleutherococcus was used with the orthodox techniques in the treatment of lip cancer and breast cancer. The ability of Siberian Ginseng to potentiate antitumor immunity has been discovered recently. An increase in the membranotoxic and cytostatic activity of a group of antineoplastic white blood cells, called natural killers, occurs due to the herbs' effect. The toxicity of cancerous cell does not increase either. It also induced the synthesis of y-interferon by leukocytes. Glycosides which seem to be largely responsible for 'natural killer' activation have been isolated from the herb. It is well known that stress decreases the activity of the immune system and particularly that of the 'natural killers'. An obvious association exists here on a bio-chemical level between stress, immune function and the herb.
Reduction in Toxicity facilitated by Eleutherococcus senticosus
In these times of pollution & exposure to dangerous chemicals, this fascinating plant may prove of vital help as it also reduces the toxic impact of a number of chemical compounds. In lab tests it was shown to decrease the sensitivity of mice & rats to the toxicity of a range of chemicals.

  • reduction in cytotoxicity of anti-neoplastic drugs. When the unfortunate animals were treated with cytotoxic drugs combined with Siberian Ginseng, they lost less weight and their white blood count was higher than in the animals treated with the drugs alone. The implications for its use as an adjunct in anti-cancer chemotherapy are clear & exciting. A fundamental problem with the use of cytotoxic drugs in cancer therapy is that not only do they destroy cancer cells, but healthy ones as well. In these tests, lethal doses of the drugs resulted in the animals' death, but when Siberian Ginseng and drugs were combined, the death rate dropped. In a group of mice given thiophosphamide in a dose of 16 mg\kg, 53% of the animals died. After administering combined Siberian Ginseng and thiophosphamide only 15% of the animals died. Similar results were obtained in a group of animals given ethymidin in a dose of 1.5 mg\kg. 30% so treated died, whilst all those receiving both herb and drug remained alive.
  • reduction in the narcotic effects of sedatives. It shortens the duration of sleep induced by sedatives. The suggestion is that it may prove useful for prophylactic and therapeutic applications in acute and chronic poisoning with some insecticides and industrial poisons. This ability of Siberian Ginseng involves the activation of the body's own system of metabolically inactivating foreign poisons. This system includes a complex of specialized enzymes called the mono-oxygenase system, closely linked with the immune system, playing a pivotal role in the neutralizing toxic compounds. Russian pharmacologists advise the use of the extract in different drug formulae to reduce their inherent toxicity.
  • possible effect upon poisoning by insecticides & other chemicals.
  • increased life span of irradiated laboratory rats.
Effects on the General Adaptation Syndrome
  • 15 min. after administration to fasting rats, blood sugar increases with a decrease in liver glycogen.
  • at the initial alarm reaction
    • activates glycolysis
    • promotes peripheral effects of adrenal & adreno-cortico-throphic hormone
  • at the height of alarm phase there is an opposite effect: an anti-alarm action
    • reduces blood sugar
    • prevents liver glycogen loss
    • less of an increase in corticosteroids
  • following severe stress there was an enhancement of catabolic & anabolic reactions
  • in exhaustion phase Eleutherococcus continued to maintain functioning of hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal system at near optimal levels.
Eleutherococcus senticosus prolongs the resistance phase of the G.A.S. whilst reducing the alarm reaction and exhaustion stage.

Metabolic Activity of Eleutherococcus senticosus
It broadly regulates the different body system's response to functional shifts.

  • an increase in duration of muscular activity
  • this occurs with less loss of glycogen, creatine phosphate & protein nitrogen
  • mobilization of lipids is accelerated
  • pretreatment doubles the recovery rate of messenger & ribosomal RNA synthesis in the rat liver following severe muscle load.

From all of this, Siberian Ginseng starts to look like a very special remedy indeed. It can increase individual resistance to the whole spectrum of factors that contribute to stress reactions and exhaustion. Apparently the herb will help whether the stress is from extremes of weather or psychological exhaustion. Its' universal properties make this herb one of the most efficacious and promising medicines for increasing the non-specific resistance of humanity.

An evolutionary role for adaptogens?
Adaptogenic plants offer such an array of benefits to humanity, it raises the question of their purpose in evolution. Such a question is as much about the evolutionary role of the unique glycosides in the herbs themselves. What is the role of the eleutherosides in Siberian Ginseng? What do panaxosides do in Ginseng? The Russian investigators have developed an intriguing theory.

It is known that the Araliacaea, the botanical family the ginsengs belong to, is more than 150 million years old. This makes them amongst the oldest flowering plants found today. They thrived long before the appearance of man, even during the time of the giant dinosaurs. Fossilized Aralia plants are found in the Cretaceous deposits throughout the Far East. During this long existence the Earth has experienced repeated glaciation. During these ice invasions there were dramatic changes in climate affecting the regions of the Earth where the Far East, Korea, the northern part of China and Canada are found now. Some representatives of the Aralia family lived in the ice age affected zone.

Exposure to such severe climatic conditions and evolutionary selection distinguishes those Aralia plants which have a definite complex of substances that increase the plants resistance. These are the unique substances found today in Ginseng, Siberian Ginseng and other representatives of the Aralia family. They formed under the action of definite climatic conditions. That is why the representatives of the Aralia family that were not effected by the ice age, living far southwards did not acquire such a set of properties and are not medicinal plants of the same value as the Ginsengs. After the glaciation had ended and the climate became far milder, the increased resistance gave Ginseng definite advantages over other plants.

Where did these substances come from? Did they exist before the climatic trials that were undergone by the Aralia family or was it a consequence of the genetic changes that occurred at that period leading to the appearance of a new ecological trait? Difficult questions to answer. It is known that glycosides are widely spread among plants. In particular, they are found as the medicinally important saponins, cardiac glycosides, steroidal alkaloids etc. Eleutheroside B has been discovered in the bark of Lilac, whereas eleutheroside C was isolated from the seeds of Lupin. These examples illustrate the prevalence of such substances in the plant kingdom. Selection simply increased their number favoring an increase in plant resistance.

Russian researchers regard these pharmacologically active substances as a class of plant hormones. One group of plant hormone, the Gibberellins, belong to the same class of chemicals as panaxoside and eleutheroside A. Whilst plant hormones are primarily growth regulators, the Aralia glycosides may be considered hormones of adaptation. This is a concept new to physiology, but is an idea inherent within both traditional Chinese medicine and western Herbalism. The action lies in increasing the resistance and adaptation abilities of the plants.

Being in the form of glycosides facilitates rapid and easy transport of such `adaptation' hormones among all parts of the plant. Such a system may be very roughly compared to the system of hormones involved in the stress reactions in humanity. By analogy the plants may have a hormonal system of their own that provides protection under stress. This system was produced as a result of long term exposure to environmental but factors also plays an anti-stress role in comparatively short term exposures Thus, according to the suggested hypothesis, the assemblage of Siberian Ginseng glycosides is a complex of chemical compounds which ensure the increased resistance of the body to external factors of the environment.

During the evolution process, this primary defence mechanism was apparently replaced in man by a complex system of homeostatic regulation. This includes the whole plethora physiological systems that control, amongst other things, blood and temperature stabilization, the immune system and the system of stressor reactions.

Siberian Ginseng might be regarded in the light of this hypothesis as humanities appeal to nature for help, the return to the source of biological life. This is an appeal to the most ancient form of protection in the face of the aggressiveness and violence of modern civilization towards the human body. Natural chemicals with a specialized function responsible for the resistance of the body to environmental factors exist in all living organisms. Substances that increase bodily resistance have been named resistins by scientists in Russia. This implies that adaptogenic substances should be found in all herbal remedies. The fact that they are not known simply shows that they have not been looked for yet. The herbalist who uses `tonics', `alteratives' and all the other healing remedies may well be utilizing resistins.

Humanity appears to have created a world of stress, pollution, lack of meaning and lack of purpose. In the face of such a cultural alienation from nature, the plethora of diseases assailing the `civilized' world should come as no surprise. To heal the ills, the causes must be addressed and such causes are not only within the individual but within our culture as a whole. Where a health problem is related to lowered resistance due to the increased impact of a hostile environment, the healer should `heal' the hostile environment. In other words, whilst we seem to have found a remedy that offers an increased resistance to toxic drugs, it is always preferable to remove the toxic chemical. This makes economic sense, is the right stance in Hippocratic terms and it is right action in spiritual terms.

Adaptogens are yet another example of Gaia supplying the needs of all beings. It is a humbling and yet enlivening thought that even in the wastes of Siberia planetary integration is generating miracles.


Daily Mild Stress

If a period of stress is predictably about to occur, it can be prepared for ahead of time, as herbs, diet and life-style changes will minimize the impact. Nervine relaxants can be used regularly as gentle soothing remedies. Those listed below are examples, from which it should be clear that most of the nervine relaxants can be used in this way. However, bitter tonics may also be important in some people due to their metabolic toning effects.

Please review these nervines to clarify their secondary actions and specific properties. They can be drunk as teas, cold drinks, infused in massage oil, used in relaxing foot baths or full baths.

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About The Author
Whilst working in conservation and lecturing in ecology and the eco-crisis for the University of Wales, David Hoffman became convinced that to heal the world, to embrace planetary wholeness and responsibility for it with hope, he as an individual had to be whole within himself....more
 
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