Is arnica a good option for post-surgical pain?
Arnica (Arnica montana) is a traditional topical ointment and homeopathic oral preparation that relieves bruises, swelling and pain. A group of hand surgeons decided to put it to the test and see if it affected recovery following carpal-tunnel surgery. In a controlled double-blind, randomized study, 37 patients who had carpal-tunnel surgery were given either a combination of 6x potency homeopathic arnica tablets and 5 percent-strength herbal arnica ointment or identical-looking placebo products. The researchers measured grip strength, wrist circumference and perceived pain one and two weeks after surgery. There was no difference in grip strength or wrist circumference between the two groups, but the arnica-treated group experienced a statistically significant reduction in pain.1 Even though this study only in-volved hand surgery, I think this safe intervention is reasonable to recommend following most surgeries.
Does andrographis help stave off colds?
Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata) traditionally has been used in Ayurvedic and Eastern medicine to treat various conditions ranging from bronchitis to diabetes. The leaf extract has recently been assessed in Western medicine specifically for its ability to treat colds and influenza. The active constituents appear to be the andrographolides family of compounds; most trials have used extracts standardized to these constituents. Recent studies suggest the herb effectively decreases the severity and length of cold symptoms.2 Another study concluded andrographis reduced the prevalence and intensity of cold symptoms as early as the second day of treatment.3 Although earlier work suggested that the effective dose was nearly 6 g,4 recent reports indicate 1 g, standardized to andrographolides and taken in divided doses, is sufficient. Andrographis does not appear to work as an antiviral or antibacterial directly,5 but like echinacea (Echinacea spp.) it seems to work via immunostimulation.6
Is Co-Q10 being used to treat Parkinson's disease?
Although there is some exciting research about this nutrient, it isn't exactly being lauded as a Parkinson's treatment yet. Co-Q10 is an essential factor in cellular energy production and provides important antioxidant protection. Researchers have demonstrated that individuals with Parkinson's disease have lower cellular Co-Q10 levels than those without the disease. Animal studies also illustrate that Co-Q10 protects the area of the brain slowly destroyed by Parkinson's.7 Researchers thought Co-Q10 might play a role in the cellular dysfunction that accompanies Parkinson's disease, and that the nutrient might act as a potential protective agent. A recent 16-month trial seems to support this hypothesis. Three doses of Co-Q10 were compared with placebo in patients with early stage Parkinson's disease. Subjects taking placebo developed greater disability than those taking Co-Q10; the benefit was greatest in subjects taking the highest dose (44 percent less decline at 1,200 mg daily).8 These results suggest Co-Q10 slows the progressive functional deterioration in patients with Parkinson's disease. However, this study included only a small number of patients, and the findings may not extend to people with later stages of the disease or to those at risk but not yet diagnosed with the disorder. This is important work and may lead to not only treatment options, but also preventive therapies for individuals at high risk. Currently, the high dose, high cost and uncertainty of who will benefit may make it prohibitive as a first-line therapy.
Dan Lukaczer, N.D., is director of clinical research at the Functional Medicine Research Center, a division of Metagenics Inc., in Gig Harbor, Wash.
1. Jeffrey SL, Belcher HJ. Use of arnica to relieve pain after carpal-tunnel release surgery. Altern Ther Health Med 2002;8(2):66-8.
2. Melchior J, et al. Double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot and phase III study of activity of standardized Andrographis paniculata herba nees extract fixed combination (Kan jang) in the treatment of uncomplicated upper-respiratory tract infection. Phytomedicine 2000;7(5):341-50.
3. Caceres DD, et al. Use of visual analogue scale measurements (VAS) to assess the effectiveness of standardized Andrographis paniculata extract SHA-10 in reducing the symptoms of common cold. A randomized double blind-placebo study. Phytomedicine 1999;6(4): 217-23.
4. Thamlikitkul V, et al. Efficacy of Andrographis paniculata nees for pharyngotonsillitis in adults. J Med Assoc Thai 74(10):437-42.
5. Leelarasamee A, et al. Undetectable anti-bacterial activity of Andrographis paniculata (Burma). J Med Assoc Thai 1990;73(6):299-304.
6. Puri A, et al. Immunostimulant agents from Andrographis paniculata. J Nat Prod 1993;56(7):995-9.
7. Shults CW, et al. A possible role of coenzyme Q10 in the etiology and treatment of Parkinson's disease. Biofactors 1999;9(2-4):267-72.
8. Shults CW, et al. Effects of coenzyme Q10 in early Parkinson disease: evidence of slowing of the functional decline. Arch Neurol 2002;59(10):1541-50.
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