ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Health Tip: Anticipating Acupuncture
Awareness of Alternative Therapies May Be Lacking
Cranberries May Help Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
Soccer's a Winner for Building Bone Health in Girls
Autumn Sees More Women With Bunion Problems
Winter Is Tough on Feet
CANCER
U.S. Reported 25,000 Cases of HPV-Related Cancers Annually
Researchers ID Genetic Markers for Esophageal Cancer
More Cancer Tests Mean More False-Positive Results
CAREGIVING
Study of Everest Climbers Questions Oxygen Use
Omega-3 Fatty Acid May Help 'Preemie' Girls' Brains
New Guidelines for Treating Heart Failure
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
COSMETIC
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
DENTAL, ORAL
An Oral Approach to Heart Disease
Good Oral Hygiene May Protect Against Heart Infections
Gum Disease Treatment Doesn't Cut Preterm Birth Risk
DIABETES
Insulin Resistance Tied to Peripheral Artery Disease
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
Formula Puts Doctor, Patient Glucose Readings on Same Page
DIET, NUTRITION
Holiday Eating Without the Guilt -- or the Pounds
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Fish in U.S. Rivers Tainted With Common Medications
Greener Neighborhoods Mean Slimmer Children
Accumulated Lead May Affect Older Women's Brains
EYE CARE, VISION
Half of U.S. Adults Lack 20/20 Vision
Statin Drugs Cause Eye Disorders
Blood Sugar Control Helps Diabetics Preserve Sight
FITNESS
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
As Temperature Plummets, It's Still Safe to Exercise
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
GENERAL HEALTH
15-Point Test Gauges Alzheimer's Risk
Play Creatively as a Kid, Be a Healthier Adult
Spread of Swine Flu in Japan Could Raise WHO Alert to Highest Level
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Kids With Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Heart Trouble
Western Diet Linked To Heart Disease, Metabolic Syndrome
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Keep Safety in Mind While Your Kids Are Cooling Off in the Water
Pool Chemicals Raise Kids Allergy, Asthma Risk
3 Home Habits Help Youngsters Stay Slim
MEN'S HEALTH
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
Massage Fosters Healing in Bereaved Relatives
Positive Brain Changes Seen After Body-Mind Meditation
Environmental Chemicals May Affect Male Reproduction
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
SENIORS
More Whole Grains May Mean Less Fat
A Little Alcohol May Stave Off Alzheimer's
Seniors Who Volunteer May Live Longer
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Air Pollution Slows Women's Marathon Times
Smoking Ups Risk of Second Breast Cancer
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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