ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
Molecule in Skin May Link Eczema and Asthma
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Needling Away Your Headaches With Acupuncture
Indigo Ointment Benefits Psoriasis Patients
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Vitamin C Protects Some Elderly Men From Bone Loss
Hip Replacement Boosts Mobility at Any Age
Studies Struggle to Gauge Glucosamine's Worth
CANCER
Seaweed May Help Treat Lymphoma
Researchers ID Genetic Markers for Esophageal Cancer
Spice Compounds May Stem Tumor Growth
CAREGIVING
Few Hospitals Embracing Electronic Health Record Systems
Distance No Bar to Kidney Transplants in Remote Areas
What Moms Learned May Be Passed to Offspring
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
High Blood Fat Levels Common in Americans
Migraines in Pregnancy Boost Vascular Risks
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
COSMETIC
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
DENTAL, ORAL
Obesity Boosts Gum Disease Risk
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Hormones May Be to Blame for Women's Cavity Rates
DIABETES
Spices, Herbs Boost Health for Diabetics
Insulin Resistance Tied to Peripheral Artery Disease
'Standard' Glucose Test May Be Wrong One for Obese Children
DIET, NUTRITION
Licorice May Block Absorption of Organ Transplant Drug
Successful Weight Loss Shows Unique Brain Patterns
Is Coffee Good or Bad for Your Health?
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
1976 Italian Dioxin Release Damaged Babies' Thyroids
Sunken, Unexploded Bombs Pose Cancer Risk
Environmental Chemicals May Affect Male Reproduction
EYE CARE, VISION
Ordinary Chores Cause Half of All Eye Injuries
Eye Test Could Spot Diabetes Vision Trouble Early
Brain Pressure More Likely to Cause Vision Loss in Men
FITNESS
Exercise 30 Minutes a Day? Who Knew!
The Juice From Beetroots May Boost Stamina
When It Comes to Lifting, the Pros Have Your Back
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
GENERAL HEALTH
Vitamin D Best Taken With Largest Meal of Day, Study Finds
Hand-Washing Habits Still Need Improvement: Survey Says
A Honey of a Sinusitis Treatment
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
A Little Alcohol May Help the Heart: Studies
Soy Protein Doesn't Lower Cholesterol
B-Vitamins Help Protect Against Stroke, Heart Disease
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Don't Leave Your Kids In The Car !
School Phys. Ed. Injuries Up 150 Percent
Frequent Feedings May Be Making Babies Fat
MEN'S HEALTH
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
Countdown to Hair Loss
MENTAL HEALTH
Optimism May Boost Immune System
Environmental Chemicals May Affect Male Reproduction
Estrogen May Help Men's Hearts
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Before Conceiving, Take Folic Acid for One Full Year
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
SENIORS
High-Impact Activity May Be Good for Old Bones
Any Old Cane Won't Do
Friends, Not Grandkids, Key to Happy Retirement
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Iodine in Prenatal Vitamins Varies Widely
Health Tip: Be More Comfortable During Childbirth
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
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Herb Shows Potential for Rheumatoid Arthriti

(HealthDay News) -- An ancient Chinese herbal remedy called "thunder god vine" helps reduce inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis, a new study shows.

The remedy is an extract of the medicinal plant Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (TwHF) -- known in China as "lei gong teng" -- and has been used for centuries to treat a variety of inflammatory diseases.

The study compared reduction in joint swelling among people with rheumatoid arthritis who took either the herb or an anti-inflammatory drug.

Rheumatoid arthritis causes chronic and painful inflammation of the joints that, over time, can lead to joint damage and loss of function.

The 121 participants in the study all had at least six swollen joints. One group took 60 milligrams of TwHF root extract three times a day, and the others 1 gram of sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), a prescription anti-inflammatory drug, twice a day.

After 24 weeks, about 65 percent of those taking the herbal extract showed at least a 20 percent improvement in their joints, based on American College of Rheumatology criteria, a standard measure of the effectiveness of arthritis treatments. About 33 percent of those taking sulfasalazine improved to that degree.

A report on the findings is published Aug. 18 in Annals of Internal Medicine.

"This study is a reminder of the potential importance of supplements and herbs in the management of arthritis," said Dr. John H. Klippel, president and chief executive of the Arthritis Foundation.

Even so, the study involved a relatively small number of people, Klippel noted. Clinical trials for pharmaceuticals typically involve many more participants studied over several years, he said.

"The findings are encouraging, but [TwHF] is not likely to be recommended by rheumatologists based on the findings of this one study alone," Klippel said.

And, though sulfasalazine used to be very popular as an arthritis treatment, the drug is not used that often today in the United States, according to Dr. Stephen Lindsey, head of rheumatology at Ochsner Health Systems in Baton Rouge, La.

Methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall) is the drug most often used today, he said.

"I would be optimistic that an herbal medicine would play some role in improving rheumatoid arthritis," Lindsey said. But he added that he "would be a little bit wary since the medicine they compared it to is a fairly mild, anti-rheumatoid agent and not the standard drug used in the U.S."

Other alternative remedies, he said, have proven helpful for arthritis, including fish oil, though some of them have not held up to more rigorous studies.

Participants in the new study were allowed to continue taking oral prednisone or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, but anyone who was taking disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (such as methotrexate), which slow the progression of the disease, had to stop taking them about a month before the study began.

Researchers did not see a statistically significant difference in joint damage on X-rays, Klippel said. But he said that probably was because six months wasn't long enough for noticeable changes.

The study also had a high dropout rate, with 62 percent of those taking TwHF and 41 percent of the others continuing to the end. According to the study, 17 people taking sulfasalzine and 8 taking TwHF dropped out because of adverse effects -- most often gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea and diarrhea.

Lindsey noted that people should always remember to tell their doctor if they are taking an herbal supplement.

"Just because something is herbal doesn't mean it's going to be cheap or safe," he said.

SOURCES: John H. Klippel, M.D., president and chief executive, Arthritis Foundation, Atlanta; Stephen Lindsey, M.D., head, rheumatology, Ochsner Health Systems, Baton Rouge, La.; Aug. 18, 2009, Annals of Internal Medicine Published on: August 19, 2009