Chang shan is a root extract of a specific type of Himalayan hydrangea plant, also known as hortensia, that has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat malaria and other maladies. And a new investigation conducted by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), the Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM), and elsewhere has revealed that this powerful natural medicine is also useful in treating autoimmune disorders.
In an effort to better understand the therapeutic benefits of chang shan, the team evaluated its active components and observed that one component in particular, halofuginone (HF), blocks the development of T helper 17 (Th17) cells. Th17 cells are highly inflammatory cells that appear to play a primary role in the development of autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, juvenile diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease.
Building upon previous research that identified how HF activates the body’s amino acid response (AAR) pathway, the team was able to identify that HF specifically targets and blocks an enzyme known as tRNA synthetase EPRS, which is responsible for incorporating proline, an amino acid, into cells. This blockage essentially tells the AAR not to activate the inflammatory immune responses associated with autoimmune disorders.
“HF prevents the autoimmune response without dampening immunity altogether,” said Malcolm Whitman, a professor of developmental biology at HSDM, and senior author of the study, which was published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology. “This compound could inspire novel therapeutic approaches to a variety of autoimmune disorders.”
Like most herbal remedies that have therapeutic properties, HF’s anti-inflammatory and immune-inhibiting properties only target autoimmune pathology rather than the entire immune system. So supplementing with HF can both fight autoimmune disorders and boost natural immunity, which makes the herb a safe and effective natural remedy that is unmatched by any competing pharmaceutical.
“This study is an exciting example of how solving the molecular mechanism of traditional herbal medicine can lead both to new insights into physiological regulation and to novel approaches to the treatment of disease,” said Tracy Keller, co-author of the study and an instructor in Whitman’s lab.
Chang shan, a powerful anti-cancer nutrient
But chang shan’s benefits do not stop there. In 2011, researchers from the University of Sao Paulo, the University of Brazil, and Tel Aviv University discovered that HF is capable of fighting leukemia. Not only does HF prevent leukemia cancer cells from spreading, but it also induces apoptosis, also known as cell death.
Similarly, a 2003 study published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research found that HF contains specific anti-tumor properties that are effective in treating a variety of other cancers besides leukemia. According to the findings, HF can inhibit the progression of both bladder carcinoma and prostate cancer tumors, and may even be a potential preventive treatment that blocks the initial development of these and other cancers.
Chang shan, which is also commonly identified as dichroa febrifuga or dichroa root, can be found at some health food stores and online retailers in both liquid and powder extract forms. Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine are also a great resource to consult when seeking to learn more about chang shan and how it might be able to help you.
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