Meds Rooted in Ancient China May Help Heart
But U.S. experts greet report with caution, urge further research
By Alan Mozes
MONDAY, June 12, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Traditional Chinese herbal medications might have a role to play in treating or preventing heart disease in the West, a research review suggests.
Heart disease and stroke remain major killers worldwide, accounting for 17.3 million deaths a year, according to the World Heart Federation. This unrelenting death toll has prompted scientists to look to the ancient East for inspiration.
Investigators in China reviewed 56 rigorously conducted studies that examined use of medications rooted in traditional Chinese medicine for conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and narrowing or hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
Chinese herbal medications might help prevent or treat these conditions, the researchers noted. For patients who can't tolerate or afford high blood pressure medications, the research suggested some herbal alternatives: tiankuijiangya, zhongfujiangya, jiangyabao and jiangya.
At the least, the scientists believe their work suggests a need for additional studies to explore Chinese medicine's use as either an alternative to Western medicine or in combination with it.
Some U.S. experts greeted the findings with skepticism, however.
Among them is Dr. Sidney Smith, Jr., a professor of medicine with the heart and vascular center at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
"This is an interesting, scholarly, well-written article," said Smith, a past-president of the American Heart Association and the World Heart Federation.
Nevertheless, getting a handle on the true benefits of traditional Chinese medicine can be tricky, given that "more than 70 percent of Chinese are taking both traditional Chinese medicines and Western meds" at the same time, he said.
Also, "just because a therapy lowers blood pressure or cholesterol does not necessarily mean it will improve outcomes, [such as] heart attack, stroke, cardiovascular death," Smith said.
To date, he added, no investigation has unearthed clear evidence that ancient Chinese medications ultimately reduce heart disease risk.
"Until that information is available, they would generally not be eligible for American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association guideline recommendations," said Smith, who wasn't involved in the study.