Herbal medicine treats menstrual pain best
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