Monday, 29 October 2007

‘Mint’ Pain Killer Takes Leaf out of Ancient Medical Texts

A new treatment inspired by ancient Greek and Chinese remedies could offer pain relief to millions of patients with arthritis and nerve damage, a new study by The University of Edinburgh suggests.
The Greek scholar Hippocrates treated sprains, joint pains and inflammation by cooling the skin, and traditional Chinese remedies used mint oil to the same end.
Now University researchers have discovered that cooling chemicals which have the same properties as mint oil have a dramatic pain–killing effect when applied in small doses to the skin.
Unlike conventional pain killers, these compounds are likely to have minimal toxic side effects, especially because they are applied externally to the skin. This should mean they are ideal for chronic pain patients for whom conventional pain killers often do not work.
The study explains that the ‘mint oil’ and related chemical compounds act through a recently discovered receptor (a protein which is capable of binding with these chemicals) which is found in a small percentage of nerve cells in the human skin.
"Our discovery means that patients can be given low doses of a powerful pain killer, delivered through the skin, without side effects."Professor Susan Fleetwood-Walker.
When this receptor, called TRPM8, is activated by the cooling chemicals or cool temperatures, it inhibits the ‘pain messages’ being sent from the locality of the pain to the brain.
Thus, the new treatment makes good use of the body’s own mechanisms for killing pain.
Professor Susan Fleetwood-Walker, who jointly led the study with Dr Rory Mitchell, says:
“Our discovery means that patients can be given low doses of a powerful pain killer, delivered through the skin, without side effects. We hope clinical trials on the compounds will begin within the year.
“This discovery of the pain-relieving properties of mint oil and related compounds has great potential for alleviating the suffering of millions of chronic pain patients, including those with arthritis or those who have had nerve damage or spinal injury following major accidents. Conventional painkillers such as morphine are often ineffective in cases of chronic pain, and simply lowering the temperature of the skin is too inexact.”
The findings would doubtless have been of interest to Hippocrates, the founding father of modern medicine. Writing in the fifth century BC, in chapter 5 of his classic text, Aphorisms, he stated:
“Swellings and pains in the joints, ulceration, those of a gouty nature, and sprains, are generally improved by a copious affusion of cold water, which reduces the swelling, and removes the pain; for a moderate degree of numbness removes pain.”

The research has been funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council, and its findings appear in the journal, Current Biology.
Resource:University of Edinburgh

Ancient clay remedies-possible new area for podiatric research?

U.S. scientists are investigating the efficacy of a French clay that
was used for thousands of years to kill several kinds of
disease-causing bacteria. "There are very compelling reports of clay
treating infections, but that's anecdotal evidence, not science,"
said Arizona State University-Tempe Associate Research Professor
Lynda Williams. Williams and Assistant Professor Shelley Haydel are
coordinating three teams of U.S. researchers - from ASU, the U.S.
Geological Survey and the State University of New York-Buffalo -
under a two-year, $440,000 grant from the National Center for
Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Williams said people for thousands of years used clay to heal
wounds, soothe indigestion, and kill intestinal worms. Although the
practice has declined today, the recent increase in drug-resistant
bacteria has prompted scientists to look at the ancient remedies to
determine their efficacy. "We're beginning to generate the first
scientific evidence of why some minerals might kill bacterial
organisms and others might not," said Williams.

Source: News Daily, United Press International (October 2007)

Friday, 26 October 2007

Patients should ask surgeons about using honey to heal wounds

Surgeons are being advised to consider the supermarket as well as the drugs cupboard when it comes to effective wound healing, according to a research review published in the October issue of IJCP, the International Journal of Clinical Practice.
And patients who’ve undergone surgery should ask their doctors whether they should apply honey to their wounds to speed up healing and reduce infection.
“Honey is one of the oldest foods in existence and was an ancient remedy for wound healing” explains lead author Dr Fasal Rauf Khan from North West Wales NHS Trust in Bangor. “It was found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun and was still edible as it never spoils.”
Honey is enjoying a revival as more reports of its effectiveness are published, he adds.
“Researchers started to document the wound healing properties of honey in the early 20th century, but the introduction of antibiotics in 1940 temporarily halted its use.
“Now concerns about antibiotic resistance, and a renewed interest in natural remedies, has prompted a resurgence in the antimicrobial and wound healing properties of honey.
“Honey has a number of properties that make it effective against bacterial growth, including its high sugar content, low moisture content, gluconic acid – which creates an acidic environment – and hydrogen peroxide. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation and swelling.”
Researchers have also reported that applying honey can be used to reduce amputation rates among diabetes patients.
Stressing that patients should always check with their surgeon before applying any substance to post-operative wounds, Dr Khan adds that studies have found that honey offers a number of benefits.
“It can be used to sterilise infected wounds, speed up healing and impede tumours, particularly in keyhole surgery.”
Studies have suggested that honey should be applied at regular intervals, from hourly to twice daily and that wounds can become sterile in three to 10 days.
“The research suggests that honey seems to be especially indicated when wounds become infected or fail to close or heal” says Dr Khan. “It is probably even more useful for healing the wounds left by laparoscopic surgery to remove cancers.”
18 studies covering more than 60 years were included in the review. The authors also looked at other substances used for wound healing, including maggots, which were also commonly used before the introduction of antibiotics and are enjoying a revival.
The team also discovered an ancient manuscript that used wine dregs, juniper prunes and beer, but point out that that has not been tried and tested in recent years!
“Our research suggests that surgeons should seriously consider using honey for post-operative wounds and offer this to patients” concludes Dr Khan. “We would also encourage patients to ask about honey as an option, but stress that they should always follow their surgeon’s advice and not try any home remedies.”
Honey: nutritional and medicinal value. Khan et al. IJCP, the International Journal of Clinical Practice. 61.10, pp 1705-1707. (October 2007)
Resource:Eurekalert October 2007