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Research news

Research On Herbs - It's Happening!
19 June 2000
by Wyn Snow, Managing Editor

SupplementQuality.com's current roundup of federally funded programs

While academic and clinical research relating to herbs in the US is limited when compared to pharmaceuticals, the last few years have seen a dramatic increase in number. Even the National Institutes of Health, through its National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), has begun to fund herb research, breaking with a long-held position. Now, more than two dozen federally-funded research projects are currently investigating the use of several herbs, vitamins and minerals for a variety of medical conditions.

NCCAM research

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) supports a wide range of research, training, network-building, and information services. NCCAM funds clinical trials that investigate the safety and efficacy (effectiveness) of various alternative therapies. NCCAM also funds specialized centers that focus on particular medical conditions.

Phase I clinical trials

These studies evaluate the safety of a particular substance for people with a specific medical condition. They are preliminary in their conclusions, withholding findings on effect and efficacy until long-term dosage levels and larger numbers of subjects can be reviewed in Phase II and III trials.

substance

medical condition

Principal investigator (and NCCAM research center or cofunding organization, if applicable)

ginkgo biloba, alpha-lipoic acid/essential fatty acids, and vitamin E/selenium

multiple sclerosis

Barry Oken, MD, Oregon Health Sciences University (Oregon Center for CAM in Neurological Disorders)

herbal treatment

hepatitis C in methadone maintained patients

Thomas Kiresuk, PhD, Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation (Center for Addiction and Alternative Medicine Research)

Phase II clinical trials

This type of research seeks to determine if a substance is clinically active. (Does it have an effect on people?)

substance

medical condition

Principal investigator (and NCCAM research center or cofunding organization, if applicable)

black cohosh

frequency and intensity of menopausal hot flashes

Fredi Kronenberg, PhD, Columbia University (Center for CAM Research in Aging)

black cohosh and red clover

women's health, especially menopause

Norman Farnsworth, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago (Botanical Dietary Supplements for Women's Health)

ginkgo biloba extract, standardized

prevent or delay cognitive decline in elderly patients

Barry Oken, MD, Oregon Health Sciences University (Oregon Center for CAM in Neurological Disorders)

glutamine, Connective Tissue Nutrient Formula, and adaptogenic herbs

alleviating clinical signs and symptoms of adult periodontitis

Alexander B. White, MD, Kaiser Foundation Research Institute (Craniofacial Complementary & Alternative Medicine Center)

hawthorn

heart failure

Steven Bolling, MD, University of Michigan (Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research Center for Cardiovascular Diseases)

herbal antioxidants

CVD in older blacks

Robert Schneider MD, Maharishi University of Management (Center for CAM, Minority Aging and Cardiovascular Disease)

naturopathic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine

tenderness and pain caused by TMD

Alexander B. White, MD, Kaiser Foundation Research Institute (Craniofacial Complementary & Alternative Medicine Center)

vitamin E, high dose

progression of carotid atherosclerosis (and pain) in patients with coronary artery disease

Ishwarlal Jialal, MD University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Phase III clinical trials

This type of research investigates clinical efficacy (effectiveness for treating a particular medical condition or achieving a specific health goal).

substance

medical condition

Principal investigator (and NCCAM research center or cofunding organization, if applicable)

ginkgo biloba

dementia generally and Alzheimer's specifically

Steven DeKosky, MD, University of Pittsburgh (cofunded with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute on Aging, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)

glucosamine and chondroitin

knee pain from osteoarthritis

Daniel Clegg, MD, University of Utah (cofunded with the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases)

the "Gonzalez Protocol"

inoperable pancreatic adenocarcinoma

Karen Antman, MD, Columbia University, supplement to Cancer Center Support Grant (cosponsored with the National Cancer Institute)

melatonin

sleep disorders in Parkinson's Disease

Glenna Dowling, RN, PhD, University of California, San Francisco (cofunded with the National Institute of Nursing Research)

omega-3 fatty acids

recurrence of bipolar disorder

Andrew Stoll, MD, McLean Hospital (cofunded with the National Institute of Mental Health)

St. John's wort

major depression

Jonathan Davidson, MD, Duke University (cofunded with the National Institute of Mental Health and the Office of Dietary Supplements)

saw palmetto

benign prostatic hyperplasia

Andrew Avins, MD, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco (cofunded with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

shark cartilage

breast or colorectal cancer

Charles Loprinzi, MD, North Central Cancer Treatment Group

shark cartilage

inoperable, non-small cell lung cancer

Roy Herbst, PhD., MD, University of Texas/M.D. Anderson Cooperative Research Base

Other basic research

Finding out if a substance is safe and effective is not the only kind of research that's important to do. Sometimes we want to discover how something works or find answers to other fundamental questions. (Organizations in parentheses are participating NCCAM specialty centers, when applicable.) Current studies in progress include . . .

Botanical dietary supplements: Investigate the levels of active compounds in several botanical supplements. David Heber, MD, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA Center for Dietary Supplements Research on Botanicals).

Botanical dietary supplements: Standardize certain supplements and elucidate the structure of active compounds using bioassay-guided fractionation. Norman Farnsworth, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago (Botanical Dietary Supplements for Women's Health).

Botanical preparations: Study metabolism, absorption and toxicity of active compounds and evaluate immunotoxicity. Norman Farnsworth, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago (Botanical Dietary Supplements for Women's Health).

Botanicals used for women's health: Isolate active compounds for structure elucidation by bioassay-guided fractionation, and carry out biochemical studies to determine the mechanism(s) of action. Norman Farnsworth, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago (Botanical Dietary Supplements for Women's Health).

Chinese herbal formula: Investigate bioactivity, mechanisms of action, and potential risks. Fredi Kronenberg, PhD, Columbia University (Center for CAM Research in Aging).

Green tea extract and soy: Do they help stop tumor growth? David Heber, MD, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA Center for Dietary Supplements Research on Botanicals).

Herbal combination with immuno-modulatory properties: Determine mechanism of action. Brian Berman, MD, University of Maryland (Center for Alternative Medicine Research of Arthritis).

Herbal remedies and liver disease: Determine the relative effectiveness of several herbal remedies and the mechanisms by which they may be inhibiting liver injury and fibrosis. Mark Zern, MD, Thomas Jefferson University.

Melatonin: Define the physiological role of melatonin receptors in cerebral blood flow. Mohan Viswanathan, PhD, Children's Research Institute.

Oriental medicines and neurology: Establish mechanism(s) of neuroprotection demonstrated by isolates of Panax ginseng, Cynanchum wilfordii, and Scrophularia buergeriana. The study also addresses issues involved in drug delivery across the blood brain barrier. Tae H. Oh, PhD, University of Maryland.

Oxidative cell injury and psychosis: Investigate if increased oxidative cell injury exists at the onset of psychosis and if continued injury contributes to deterioration in some patients. Sahebarao Mahadik, PhD, Medical College of Georgia.

St. John's wort: Develop a St. John's wort product that can be manufactured in a standardized and reproducible manner. Trevor P. Castor, PhD, Aphios Corp.

St. John's wort: What are its hypothalamic effects? David Heber, MD, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA Center for Dietary Supplements Research on Botanicals).

Yeast-fermented rice: What is its mechanism of reducing cholesterol levels? David Heber, MD, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA Center for Dietary Supplements Research on Botanicals).

Postdoctoral fellowships

NCCAM postdoctoral fellowships seek to develop a cadre of investigators who can conduct rigorous CAM research.

Ginseng's Effects on MRNA Profiles in a Diabetes-2 Model: Study effects of herbal medicine on diabetes and metabolism, effects of complementary intervention (including diet and exercise), and molecular biology techniques on the control of gene expression. Shujia Pan, PhD, University of Texas at Austin.end-of-story

 

   
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