Diabetic? Protect your cognitive health with this TCM herbal decoction

Complementary and alternative medicine is a burgeoning industry these days — and for good reason: Between the adverse side effects of synthetic drugs and its astronomically high cost, it’s no wonder that a recent study in the Journal of Patient Experience reports that at least 35 percent of its participants regularly use at least one type of herbal medicine. One area that’s gaining mainstream interest is traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), growing from a relatively unknown practice in the West to one that’s practiced by physicians and practitioners alike.

While most people correlate TCM to acupuncture, it has more to offer by way of herbal medicine — such is the point raised by researchers from China in their study in the Chinese Journal of Medical Sciences. In their study, they have proven that the traditional use of Huang Lian Wen Dan in treating diabetes and its complications is scientifically valid, based on in vivo tests in animal models of diabetes.

Huang Lian Wen Dan comes from the rhizome of a goldthread species native to China. In TCM, it’s known to have a bitter and cold nature, and it enters through the heart, liver, large intestine, stomach, and spleen. It works on the body by clearing excessive heat and reducing fires from the heart, stomach, and liver. It also eliminates toxicity, adjusts the appetite, and treats heat-related bleeding. The decoction is also used to treat “Re,” a condition referring to metabolic disorders and diabetes.

In the study, the researchers sought to understand whether Huang Lian Wen Dan can protect the brain against diabetic encephalopathy, a serious complication of diabetes. In particular, diabetic encephalopathy refers to a condition where the brain is damaged, diseased, or malfunctioning because of diabetes. Patients with encephalopathy may experience symptoms that range from memory loss or subtle personality changes to life-threatening ones such as dementia, seizures, or even death. The condition is also known to alter a person’s mental state and is usually accompanied by motor impairment.

To determine its efficacy, the decoction was compared with metformin, the standard prescription for treating diabetes. Both were applied to rats that were treated with streptozocin and fed a high-glucose, high-fat diet to induce diabetic encephalopathy. The study ran for a month, during this time, researchers measured changes in body weight, as well as biomarkers that indicated changes in brain function. They found that Huang Lian Wen Dan protected the brain from damage by inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and repairing the pathway that signals insulin production. (Related: Traditional Chinese Medicine pill halts progression of diabetes in new study.)

Staying smart, even with diabetes

The effects of diabetes aren’t just limited to the bloodstream: Studies have shown that the condition can significantly reduce brain function in many people. It’s mainly caused by high glucose levels interfering with molecules that transport insulin across the blood-brain barrier, which can result in compromised learning and memory. It’s even linked to the onset of vascular dementia, according to a study in the journal Diabetes.

Fortunately, these symptoms can be reversed, and even prevented, given the right strategies:

  • Physical exercise. The National Institute on Aging reports that physical exercise is a key factor in reducing the risk of cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Mental exercise. Hanging out with friends, doing volunteer work, reading books and magazine, or even playing games keep the brain in tip-top shape and keep decline at bay.
  • Diet. People at risk of cognitive decline would do well to add fatty fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acid; cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and kale; leafy greens like collards or mustard green; and blueberries in their diet.

Learn more about diabetic encephalopathy, as well as natural ways of treating it, at DiabetesScienceNews.com.

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