Health Sciences Institute e-Alert

January 7, 2002

Please note:
Information in the HSI e-Alerts should not be substituted for personal medical advice from a physician

Dear Member,

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 17 million Americans have asthma. But if you suffer with asthma, you really don't care if you're one in ten or one in a million - you just want to be able to breathe.

Now new research suggests that an ancient formula from Traditional Chinese Medicine can help you do just that.

Blend of eight herbal medicines used to treat asthma for centuries in Asia

It's called xiao-qing-long-tang, or XQLT for short. (It's also known as sho-seiryu-to or in English, minor blue dragon.) But whatever the name, this blend of eight Chinese herbal medicines has shown promising results against asthma. In Asian countries, the formula has been used to effectively treat bronchial asthma for centuries – but scientific data was limited. Now a new clinical study from China explains some of the mysteries behind XQLT's efficacy – and suggests that the herbal blend may provide a more comprehensive approach to asthma treatment than the currently available prescription drugs.

In this study, researchers sensitized guinea pigs to ovalbumin, a protein in egg whites. (This process ensured that, in the future, the introduction of ovalbumin would trigger an allergic asthmatic response in the animals.) Then the guinea pigs were divided into six groups: three groups received a 10 g/kg solution of XQLT in distilled water at various time intervals before and/or after an allergen challenge; one group received a 5 g/kg XQLT solution every day leading up to the challenge; one group was treated with a placebo saline solution; and one group received no sensitization, challenge, or treatment.

The researchers assessed the animals' asthmatic response by measuring their respiratory resistance and flow rate. They also performed a "lung lavage" to count the number and types of cells present in the lungs after the ovalbumin challenge. After these tests were completed, they also dissected some of the animals and removed segments of the trachea and bronchi to gauge contraction rates.

XQLT proven more effective than prescription drugs

In general, asthmatic responses are classified as immediate (IAR), late (LAR), or later (LLAR). Immediate responses peak 15-30 minutes after exposure to the trigger, and can last as long as two hours. According to the study, about 60 percent of allergic asthmatics also experience a late response, which begins four to 12 hours after exposure and can last several hours. Some may even have a later, less intense response, as long as two to three days after the challenge.

In the study, all of the animals exhibited both an immediate and a late asthmatic response to the challenge. But when XQLT was administered 30 minutes before the challenge, or when it was administered daily at a lower dosage, the animals experienced significant inhibition of both responses. Additionally, the lung lavage fluid of animals treated with XQLT contained fewer eosinophils, the type of white blood cells associated with an exaggerated immune response.

But here's the most exciting finding: the test results suggest that XQLT has an even more powerful bronchodilator effect than prescription drugs. While common beta-agonist asthma medications like albuterol and salbutamol inhibit the immediate response, they show no benefit against late responses or against esoinophil infiltration. Cromolyn, an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat asthma, can address both immediate and late responses, but doesn't reduce the number of esoinophils, either. But XQLT demonstrated an effect on all three aspects of the asthmatic response – a promising finding for asthmatics.

One controversial ingredient vs. centuries of safe and effective use

As I said earlier, XQLT is a blend of eight different Chinese herbal medicines. One of those medicines is ephedra, the herb that has gotten a lot of negative press in recent years for its potentially dangerous effects. Ephedra contains ephedrine alkaloids that can have an amphetamine-like stimulant effect on the nervous system and heart. Historically, it has been used as one ingredient in multiple herb formulas – most designed to treat respiratory ailments. Problems occurred when the ephedrine content of the herb was isolated and concentrated. As it began to be included in more weight loss products, as a stimulant and appetite suppressant, people began using more than the recommended dosages. As a result, there were several hundred reports of illness and even death, and many companies pulled products containing ephedra from their shelves.

At HSI, we've taken similar steps to avoid recommending remedies that contain ephedra – so we thought twice about writing about XQLT. But the results seemed too impressive to ignore, when so many of our members are suffering with asthma. And many of our panelists believe that, despite its problems, ephedra is still safe when used properly. Most of the serious side effects occurred when people abused the herb, taking more than the recommended dosage in an attempt to speed up weight loss. Ephedra makes up less than 15 percent of the XQLT formula, and the herb is not unnaturally treated to enhance the concentration of ephedrine. (The other ingredients in XQLT are paeonia alba, cinnamon, pinellia, ginger, schisandar, asarum, and glycyrrhiza.)

This traditional Chinese formula can be hard to find – but we've located a source through HSI panelist Stephen Morrissey, OMD.
For more information about the Minor Blue Dragon formula visit their website Botanica BioScience, or give them a call at 805-646-6062.
You can order the product on-line, or by calling their order center toll-free at 888-726-7797.

Please pass this information on to anyone you know who suffers with asthma. XQLT may not be for everyone – but if it can help people breathe easier, it's worth considering.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute

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