News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Akron Children's Hospital

The Holden Arboretum

Meaden & Moore


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Health and Medicine




Exploradio: The nutraceutical gap
Research shows that natural products can treat a range of diseases, but basic research isn't enough to make nutraceuticals mainstream
by WKSU's JEFF ST. CLAIR
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
 
The pomegranate was first grown in Persia in antiquity, and today is still a staple in the Middle East and Asia. The fruit has been shown in the lab to have potent anti-oxidant and anti-arthritis properties, but clinical trials have yet to prove the effects in humans.
Courtesy of Mari Smith, CC, Flickr
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

Americans spend around $4.3 billion each year on herbal medicine.  Nearly one out of five take botanicals of some kind each day, very few of them under doctor’s orders. 

But in this week’s Exploradio, WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair finds that researchers at the Northeast Ohio Medical University are proving plants can provide powerful medicine.

 

LISTEN: The Nutraceutical Gap

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (4:00)


The garden of traditions
Tucked in a corner of the NEOMED campus, you’ll find a lush garden filled with dozens of medicinal herbs. It’s sponsored by the Portage County Herb Society --  intended as a teaching tool for soon-to-be doctors and pharmacists. Professor Altaf Darvesh brings his students to the herb garden as part of his course on naturally derived pharmaceuticals.

“Every culture has its own ways of getting things done. Europe has had a very rich and ancient history of using herbs for therapy.”

But Darvesh says, in general, his students, along with the American medical establishment don’t see the value of nutraceuticals.

“In a room full of physicians I asked how many don’t like natural products and about 1/3 raised their hands, and another third almost raised their hands.”

He says, compared to countries who've embraced alternative therapies, "we've got a long way to go.”

Basic research lays the groundwork
But Darvesh and other researchers at NEOMED are adding weight to a body of evidence that certain compounds found in fruits, spices and herbs can treat, and even prevent, a range of diseases.

For example, Darvesh studies the benefits of resveratrol, a chemical found in grape skins, peanuts, and dark chocolate.

He says resveratrol is, "a very important molecule." Darvesh says numerous studies have shown resveratrol acts as an anti-aging agent, has cardio-vascular benefits, anti-cancer properties, and is a neuro-protective compound.  

Darvesh and his team showed it also prevents liver disease. But he acknowledges that huge challenges remain in elevating therapeutic agents like resveratrol from the lab bench to the bedside.

“You need more clinical trials and you need a lot of effort to bring these products into the mainstream.”

And that, he says, is hugely expensive, and there’s little incentive for pharmaceutical companies to fund clinical trials for products you can buy in the grocery store.

Unlocking the anti-arthritis power of pomegranates
But the National Institutes of Health is investing a tiny portion of its $30 Billion budget on basic alternative-medicine research like NEOMED’s Tariq Haqqi’s work with pomegranates.

Haqqi is testing the pomegranate extract’s ability to prevent osteoarthritis.  

Haqqi induces inflammation in the cartilage cells and then adds the pomegranate extract. He’s found that compounds in the extract stop the inflammation of arthritis by scavenging free radicals in the cells, and then prevent arthritis by acting on the genes that cause it.

“And we have found the components of the pomegranate extract are present in the synovial fluid, so they are reaching the joint. They can also inhibit the activity of transcription factors which regulate the expression of inflammatory genes.”

Food as medicine 
Haqqi’s current work with pomegranates and his previous, groundbreaking studies of the many benefits of green tea have him convinced of the potential therapeutic uses of natural products.

“Some of these fruits and vegetables and herbs, they do play a role through the bioavailability of their constituents which connect at multiple levels inside the cell.”

Haqqi echoes what Hippocrates wrote 25 centuries ago: “Let food be thy medicine.”

Haqqi says, “Your health is what you eat.”

Haqqi believes by studying how nutraceuticals work, and in what concentrations, we can perhaps improve on nature by isolating those beneficial compounds and use them to treat arthritis and other diseases. But again, he says, the clinical trials that may lead to the prescription of natural products as medicine are still a long way off.

 


Related Links & Resources
Information on medicinal herbs - University of Maryland


Related WKSU Stories

Exploradio: The lore and science of herbal medicine
Monday, June 10, 2013

Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook



Support for Exploradio
provided by:








Stories with Recent Comments

Ohio becomes first in the nation to dump PARCC testing
Best test to use for elementary schools is the old pre common core Iowa test of basic skills. This test measures apples to apples and tests the skills appropri...

Ohio is moving forward with new standardized tests
Mr Chow, Nice piece on testing. Should not Ohio go to an open bid process for the new assessment contract? Ohio has stayed with a "connected" DC non-profit fo...

The Surpreme Court gay-marriage decision plays out in Ohio Amish country
Keep in mind that the majority of the people residing in Holmes County are Amish, a church people who do not vote because they do not believe in governmental ru...

Akron council committee recommends Forney for its opening
Which committee member voted for Wilhite?

Nearly a dozen Cuyahoga gay couples get licenses to marry after the Supreme Court ruling
Presiding Judge Anthony J. Russo a graduate of Chanel High School and supposed member of St. Francis Parish in Gates Mills has just excommunicated himself. As ...

Canton Youth Symphony is named orchestra of the year
This is what makes CSO the hippest small town orchestra in America!

What can be expected if Ohio's tobacco taxes increase?
let's face it! The increase has little to do with smoking cessation

Rare Cleveland Indians photo from 1911 hits the auction block
Paddy Livingston, who cut his teeth on a Louisville Slugger in Kent, Ohio was one of the immortals that played in that game. He was the catcher. Ty Cobb actuall...

Nexus denies Green's request to relocate its planned gas pipeline
These people have so much power. Too much. They could care less about the people they leave when it is done. Spectra does not, and admits, they do not do the...

Copyright © 2015 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University