There has been some talk in the press recently about a supposed breakthrough in the treatment of osteoporosis using a compound isolated from a Chinese herb, dan shen. Historically, there have been a number of active components isolated from herbs, including Chinese herbs, and then manufactured into a pharmaceutical prescription medicine. Examples of this include, ephedrine isolated from the traditional Chinese herb ma huang and aspirin isolated from willow bark. This seems to be a trend for researchers of late with research going into Parkinson’s Disease using the herb gou teng and qing hao for malaria.
Unfortunately the researchers have failed to learn that active isolated ingredients when prescribed as drugs, have side effects. This problem with side effects however is regarded as the norm by pharmaceutical companies and with the goal being that a patented drug that can be sold to provide dividends to shareholders, research like this will continue.
Osteoporosis is a condition where bones lose their natural strength and become fragile and therefore can fracture easily.
How does traditional Chinese medicine look at osteoporosis?
Ancient physicians said that the kidneys control the bones and as we age, the kidney energy declines. Interestingly, modern medicine has made the correlation between the kidneys and calcium metabolism. This is an example of the many traditional medical concepts that make sense when compared to modern day science. So in simple terms, to treat the bones, treat the kidneys.
Are their specific herbs to treat the bones and hence treat osteoporosis in Chinese herbal medicine?
There are many Chinese herbs that have the traditional use of addressing bone issues, such as weak bones, painful bones and deformed bones such as osteoarthritis. This is why I am always surprised at researchers just picking one Chinese herb at random and then focusing all their attention to that one herb. Chinese herbs are in addition also prescribed in combination and in tandem with other herbs to improve and balance the formula. Chinese herbs are rarely prescribed as an individual herb. Gu sui bu and xu duan are just two other herbs that may be selected as part of a formula to strengthen bones. Some hospitals in China use these two herbs in combination with blood circulation improving herbs like ji xue teng and chuan xiong to accelerate healing of fractures and broken bones.
Are there any traditional Chinese exercises that can help strengthen the kidneys to help the bones and hence prevent osteoporosis?
Tai Chi and Qi Gong have been used for centuries to improve health, promote longevity and have specific postures and movements to benefit the kidneys. Michael Goodhue in Tauranga New Zealand teaches Qi Gong and also conducts workshops throughout New Zealand and overseas. Contact Michael Goodhue here if you are interested.