A few years ago I was speaking with a drug researcher at UC Irvine who was looking for natural products (herbs, in Western parlance) that showed promise as cancer therapies. As I know a lot about herbs, I suggested I assist him in identifying targets, and in exchange he could help me do some research on an herbal formula I had made that had proven wildly successful across a broad spectrum of health issues.
I wanted to start to understand what about the herbal formula was able to assist the body with a wide range of issues, from addiction to fatigue to blood pressure and beyond.
The researcher looked at me, confused. “What do you mean it works for multiple things? That’s not how drug discovery works. We target one problem.”
I tried to explain to him that herbs were complex, and that each contained multiple effective components, and when combined properly, these components became even more powerful. And in this case seemed to be able to affect more than one issue or bodily system.
He shook his head and told me “you can’t look for more than one effect. That’s not how research is done.” “I can’t help you”, he told me, “because I don’t understand.”
I was unable to explain to him the “how”, at that time.
But since then, I have come to understand more of how, and why many herbs work across a wide spectrum of disease.
There is a group of herbs in the medicine of China known loosely as “longevity herbs”. These herbs are used traditionally for that specific purpose – if you take these herbs every day you will live a long time, it is told. Although we could say, well, sure, but… the fact remains that the use of these herbs and the experiences of the doctors that prescribed them have been documented and preserved for thousands of years.
Included in these herbs are reishi mushroom, another is ginseng, and another from India is ashwagandha, but there are many more.
These herbs are presently prescribed for a very wide range of conditions, including simply in order to help us age gracefully. Reishi is used at many otherwise Western cancer clinics in the US, and the Mayo clinic suggests ginseng for fatigue in cancer patients.
WebMD lists reishi mushroom as potentially useful in infections, asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney disease, cancer, and liver disease.
I’d like to explain to the UCI drug researcher, and to you, how this is not only possible, but why these foods are the medicines of the future.
If we look at the chronic diseases that are quietly destroying our bodies in the US, as mentioned in the last post, we find metabolic diseases – insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. Sugar/glucose, and fat/cholesterol regulation are all at issue here, and on the surface appear to be very different problems.
Modern medicine, and modern drug research has focused on each individual disease, focusing on finding ways to treat the pancreas, or the heart, or the brain, or the cholesterol.
In my quest to understand why these herbs of immortality worked as they do, I started to think about immortality – or really what I figure the ancients meant, long healthy life. I have no doubt that our very mortal coils with the aid of technology will in fact find true immortality, but that is not in this very moment. In this very moment, we must understand how to keep ourselves healthy until that day.
Long life, then, for the moment, essentially implies avoidance of chronic disease. So there is a clue. Herbs of immortality must then work to aid us in escaping all of these break-downs in our systems, in regulating not only glucose but fat too, as well as immunity.
For just under ten years now, drug companies have been looking for drugs that target a specific receptor – the Liver X receptor (LXR). Not much has been written for the public about this receptor or it’s compatriots (RXR and PPARy), but as far as I can tell, most of the early trials were stopped, and functioning pharmaceuticals for these receptors do not yet exist
If you look at the functions of the LXR (usually in conjunction with the other receptors), you see such a wide range of impact in the body that trying to target one function would be impossible, and creating a synthetic drug to target “metabolic disease” is like the holy grail – the amount of understanding of the deeply intricate networks of the body would have to be so consummate that it seems an impossible task.
But I suspect that nature has provided us with ideal substances already.
The LXR is a metabolic master regulator. It is a regulator of fats and cholesterol. It is a regulator of glucose. And published just recently, it appears to also regulate the heart.
As the receptor was relatively recently discovered, I have not found any research in English examining whether or not these herbs of immortality target these receptors. But I’d say it’s a pretty good guess that they do.
I have found a smattering of research on natural products that target the LXR, and am excited to share this research as I find it. Magnolia, for example, widely used in Chinese medicine, appears to target all three of these vital receptors. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26136900
It has been found that substances which fit these receptors and trigger them (agonists) specifically assist in rapidly reversing Alzheimer’s cognitive deficits, in mice. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22323736
The targeting of these receptors is sure to be the medicine of the future.
Treating metabolic diseases individually, as is done now, will become a thing of the past. Targeting the LXR group with preventative substances such as magnolia and reishi will allow us to live out the claims of the ancients, avoiding chronic diseases into old and healthy age, if not longer.