Herbal medicine treats men­strual pain best

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health - Com­piled by Dr Chris­tine White

WOMEN­suf­fer­ing from painful men­strual cramps may be able to find re­lief with­out drugs. New re­search in the Cochrane Data­base of Sys­tem­atic Re­views has found that Chi­nese herbal medicine pro­vides bet­ter pain re­lief than phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal drugs, acupuncture and heat com­pres­sion. Non­s­teroidal anti-in­flam­ma­tory drugs such as as­pirin and ibupro­fen are of­ten rec­om­mended for women with cramps, or they are given the oral con­tra­cep­tive pill to re­duce the sever­ity of symp­toms. But many women can­not take th­ese drugs, or pre­fer not to use them. The new study, led by Dr Xiaoshu Zhu from the Cen­tre for Com­ple­men­tary Medicine Re­search at the Univer­sity of West­ern Syd­ney, com­bined the re­sults of 39 tri­als in­volv­ing 3475 women. Chi­nese herbal medicine — ei­ther sin­gle herbs or mix­tures of herbs — was the most ef­fec­tive at re­duc­ing pain and im­prov­ing over­all symp­toms, with no ev­i­dence of side ef­fects. Cochrane Data­base Syst Rev 2007; doi:10.1002/ 14651858.CD005288.pub2 (Zhu X, et al) TON­SILS could be get­ting in the way of a good night’s sleep, ac­cord­ing to new re­search in the ArchivesofO­to­laryn­gol­ogy—Head andNeck­Surgery . The study shows that chil­dren suf­fer­ing from night breath­ing prob­lems sleep bet­ter and have im­proved day­time be­hav­iour af­ter hav­ing their ton­sils re­moved. Block­age of the air­ways dur­ing sleep has been linked to at­ten­tion-deficit/ hy­per­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der (ADHD), aca­demic prob­lems, bed­wet­ting, learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties and headaches in chil­dren. Re­searchers stud­ied 71 chil­dren (av­er­age age 61/ 2) with sleep-dis­or­dered breath­ing who had their ton­sils re­moved. Par­ents com­pleted sur­veys about their chil­dren’s sleep and be­hav­iour be­fore and six months af­ter surgery. Scores for sleep and be­havioural prob­lems were sig­nif­i­cantly lower af­ter six months than be­fore surgery, sug­gest­ing the pro­ce­dure could be ef­fec­tive for all chil­dren with night breath­ing prob­lems. ArchO­to­laryn­golHead­Neck­Surg 2007;133:974-979 (Wei JL, et al) MUL­TI­PLE scle­ro­sis (MS) pa­tients could be given a five-minute eye test to check for any wors­en­ing of their dis­ease, re­duc­ing the need for time-con­sum­ing and costly brain scans, claims a study in Neu­rol­ogy this week. The study in­volved 40 pa­tients with MS and 15 healthy peo­ple as a com­par­i­son group. Re­searchers used a process called op­ti­cal co­her­ence to­mog­ra­phy (OCT) to scan the nerves at­tached to the retina at the back of the eye. The process, which uses a desk­top ma­chine sim­i­lar to that used for eye tests, is sim­ple and pain­less, and gives a di­rect mea­sure of the health of the op­tic nerve. The re­sult of each pa­tient’s eye test was com­pared to his or her MRI (mag­netic res­o­nance imag­ing) brain scan re­sults. There was a strong as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween the two re­sults, lead­ing the au­thors to claim that the eye test is an ac­cu­rate mea­sure of MS dis­ease pro­gres­sion. Neu­rol­ogy 2007;69:1603-1609 (Gor­don-Lip­kin E, et al) SOME moth­ers are more lov­ing than oth­ers, and now sci­en­tists have found that the ex­pla­na­tion may lie in their lev­els of a hor­mone called oxy­tocin. In Psy­cho­log­i­cal Science this week, a new study shows that women who have high lev­els of oxy­tocin at the be­gin­ning of preg­nancy have a stronger bond with their child af­ter birth. The find­ings could be used to im­prove mother-child bond­ing in women suf­fer­ing from post­par­tum de­pres­sion. Re­searchers mea­sured blood lev­els of oxy­tocin in 62 preg­nant women dur­ing their first trimester, third trimester, and the first month af­ter birth. They ob­served in­ter­ac­tions be­tween the mother and child, in­clud­ing gaze, touch and speech, and gave a score for the level of at­tach­ment. Higher scores were given when the mother fo­cused her gaze mostly on the child, ex­hib­ited a pos­i­tive en­ergy to­wards the child, main­tained con­stant af­fec­tion­ate and stim­u­lat­ing touch with the child, and used a spe­cial form of ‘‘ motherese’’ speech with the child. Th­ese be­hav­iours in the first month af­ter birth were all linked to high lev­els of oxy­tocin in the first trimester of preg­nancy. Psy­cholSci 2007;18 (Feld­man R, et al) IN­FER­TIL­ITY in some men could be caused by de­fects in a gene called JHDM2A, con­cludes new re­search pub­lished on­line in Na­ture this week. By study­ing mice lack­ing the gene, sci­en­tists dis­cov­ered that JHDM2A plays a key role in the de­vel­op­ment of sperm. Mice with no JHDM2A gene have smaller testes, a lower sperm count and are in­fer­tile. Of the few ma­ture sperm re­cov­ered from th­ese mice, all had ab­nor­mally shaped heads are most were un­able to swim. The JHDM2A gene is im­por­tant for pack­ag­ing DNA tightly inside the head of the sperm so that it can pen­e­trate the egg and fer­tilise it. The au­thors now aim to dis­cover whether the hu­man equiv­a­lent of the gene plays a role in fer­til­ity. Be­cause this gene has a very spe­cific ef­fect on sperm de­vel­op­ment, say the au­thors, it has great po­ten­tial as a tar­get for new in­fer­til­ity treat­ments that are un­likely to dis­rupt other func­tions within the body. Na­ture 2007;doi:10.1038/na­ture06236 (Okada Y, et al) DI­A­MONDS could be the an­swer to de­liv­er­ing drugs to cells with­out side ef­fects, ac­cord­ing to a study in NanoLet­ters this week. Sci­en­tists have dis­cov­ered that tiny di­a­monds— nan­odi­a­monds— are very ef­fec­tive at trans­port­ing chemo­ther­apy drugs di­rectly into cells, with­out the neg­a­tive side ef­fects of the cur­rent drug de­liv­ery agents. As well as de­liv­er­ing can­cer drugs, nan­odi­a­monds could be used for other ap­pli­ca­tions, such as fight­ing tu­ber­cu­lo­sis or vi­ral in­fec­tions, say the au­thors. They showed that clus­ters of nan­odi­a­monds could carry a chemo­ther­apy drug on their sur­face and pre­vent the drug from killing nor­mal cells. The drug was slowly re­leased only af­ter the nan­odi­a­monds en­tered a can­cer cell, and the bare di­a­monds could re­main inside the cell with­out caus­ing in­flam­ma­tion. NanoLett 2007;doi:10.1021/nl071521o (Huang H, et al) Want to know more? Items are ref­er­enced where pos­si­ble. A ref­er­ence such as ‘‘ 2007;35:18-25’’ means the source ar­ti­cle was pub­lished on pages 18-25 in vol­ume num­ber 35 of the pub­li­ca­tion, in 2007. A doi num­ber or web­site ad­dress is used for re­search pub­lished on a jour­nal’s web­site.

Herbs: Can be more ef­fec­tive than drugs

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