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July 31, 2006

Chinese Medicine May Help Type II Diabetes Fight

Topics: Medicine
Berberine is a plant alkaloid with a long history of medicinal use in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. It is present in Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal), Coptis chinensis (Coptis or goldenthread), Berberis aquifolium (Oregon grape), Berberis vulgaris (barberry), and Berberis aristata (tree turmeric). The berberine alkaloid can be found in the roots, rhizomes, and stem bark of the plants. Berberine extracts and decoctions have demonstrated significant antimicrobial activity against a variety of organisms including bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoans, helminths, and chlamydia. Currently, the predominant clinical uses of berberine include bacterial diarrhea, intestinal parasite infections, and ocular trachoma infections (Cardiovascular effects of berberine suggest it also has possible clinical usefulness in the treatment of arrhythmias and/or heart failure).

Now there is evidence that it may also have an application in Type II diabetes. In a study published in the journal Diabetes, researchers found that rats and mice given berberine over three weeks had a 50 per cent drop in blood sugar:

Type two diabetics have too much glucose in their blood and insulin, the hormone that normally regulates blood sugar, can't do its job properly.

The researchers discovered that berberine makes insulin work better so that it can now effectively reduce blood sugar levels.

In their study, published in the journal Diabetes, the researchers found that rats and mice given berberine over three weeks had a 50 per cent drop in blood sugar.

"So it's really quite a significant improvement," Prof James said.

We've taken an observation from the traditional medicine literature and married that with modern scientific investigation and we've got results, which is very exciting."

The scientists still need to work out exactly how it works on an individual molecular level.

"We know that berberine gets into the cells that normally respond to insulin and does good things but we want to know which molecules in these cells is it working on," Prof James said.

If successfully developed, the plant product could become a much-needed alternative to current diabetes. However, getting from rats to your local pharmacy is likely to take years.

Posted by Richard at July 31, 2006 11:20 PM

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