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The Root For All Ills?

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We have all heard of Echinacea by now and its supposed power to fortify the immune system, but a new wonder herb may rival its supremacy.

The alleged cure is hydrangea root, an herbal remedy used for centuries in Chinese medicine. The herb could mean new hope for people suffering from autoimmune disorders. A recent study from Children’s Hospital Boston found that when given to mice with a disease similar to multiple sclerosis, the root significantly stunted the development of the illness.

The root’s magic lies in a small-molecule compound called halofuginone. This compound is highly selective, inhibiting only Th17 cells - immune cells identified as key instigators of autoimmune disorders - while leaving T cells involved in normal immune function untouched. Genetically different than its other T cell counterparts, Th17 is involved in a variety of autoimmune disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, type one diabetes, eczema, and psoriasis.

For people suffering from these illnesses, a drug derived from hydrangea root could be groundbreaking news. There is currently no good treatment for autoimmune disorders. The challenge is to suppress the immune system’s inflammatory attacks without weakening its function. Antibodies are the most common treatment available, which neutralize the chemicals that trigger inflammation. However, antibodies are expensive and must be given intravenously. This makes them a cost and time-intensive treatment option that addresses the symptoms, but not the problem itself. Immune-suppressing drugs are the only other alternative, but they compromise the body’s defenses, leaving patients at risk of infection.

Hydrangea is one of the 50 fundamental herbs of Chinese medicine. Unlike current treatments, this study shows that a hydrangea-based drug could fix the problem, rather than the symptoms, of many autoimmune diseases. On top of that, the drug could be taken orally. Despite its benefits, drug companies have shown little interest in developing hydrangea therapeutically, but it could be the first treatment option that actually gets to the root of it.

Add a Comment4 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

It's refreshing to see a push towards more holistic solutions in the medical community. Hopefully the day will come when advances in the west meet age old remedies of the east.

June 18, 2009 - 9:49am

It might be worth seeing if there is a Chinese medicine store in your area. They may be able to advise on a tonic or formula that uses the root. If you did not have any luck there, Nature's Way offers the root in supplement form. You can buy Nature's Way at Whole Foods and other natural food grocers. It's also available online here: http://www.vitacost.com/Natures-Way-Hydrangea-Root?csrc=GPF-033674141564.

Hope this helps - I would love to know about your experience with the root.

June 17, 2009 - 5:43pm
EmpowHER Guest

Very informative. I am interested in trying the remedy. Anyone have any idea where I might find this root?

June 17, 2009 - 4:36pm
EmpowHER Guest

Yay Crystal!

June 17, 2009 - 4:32pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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