East meets West with a traditional herbal cure for jaundice

12/29/03

Jaundice, the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes following accumulation of the bile pigment bilirubin, is extremely common in newborn infants. In Western nations jaundice is most commonly treated with exposure to light (phototherapy), however a drug therapy would also be desirable. In the January 2 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, David Moore and colleagues from Baylor College of Medicine, Texas, demonstrate that a Chinese herbal tea remedy for jaundice called Yin Zhi Huang (YZH) activates a liver receptor that enhances the clearance of bilirubin. YZH was "boiled down" to one component: 6,7-dimethylesculetin, which binds to and activates the hepatic nuclear receptor CAR and its target genes, leading to increased clearance of bilirubin.

The report could lead to improved pharmaceutical treatments for neonatal jaundice and also helps close the gap between Western-style medical care and Eastern herbal remedies. In an accompanying commentary, Mitchell Lazar from the University of Pennsylvania discusses some of the differences in Western and Eastern medical philosophies and practices. He states "This is a wonderful example of knowledge gained by applying the Western scientific method to an Eastern herbal remedy. It will be very exciting if a pure compound emerges from the tea leaves as a pharmacological therapy for neonatal jaundice that is complementary to the current Western practice of phototherapy."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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