April 28, 2022
Although the history of medicine began with herbal medicine and in the recent past, natural raw materials were widely used by the great physicians of the 19th – 20th century – Botkin, Pirogov, Sechenov, official medicine is skeptical about this method. treatment, preferring drugs of chemical composition. Meanwhile, according to experts, in many cases we do not need to resort to strong substances. As long as you take advantage of what nature creates. But can this “green gift” be called science? This is our conversation with a phytotherapist and pharmacologist, doctor of medical sciences, Professor Elena LESIOVSKAGIA. He is the author of hundreds of scientific publications and numerous textbooks for medical and pharmaceutical universities,
– Elena Evgenievna, it is no secret that modern medicine refuses to recognize many traditional areas. A few years ago homeopathy was cursed, osteopathy was criticized for a long time and now they do not favor herbal medicine, considering it unproven. Can this science be based on evidence?
– Not only can, but it is! Abroad, without such drugs, the modern prevention and treatment of most diseases is not represented and phytotherapy as a separate branch is taught in leading European universities.
During the pandemic, when free access to many global research databases opened, I read everything that was published there. I was very surprised by how far scientists have come in this field. Especially the Chinese.
For example, they have demonstrated the clinical effect of herbal remedies in the treatment of Covid. They simply took all the plant compounds that had already been studied and using big data analysis, selected tens of thousands of substances with possible antiviral activity. Of these, about 400 were active against SARS CoV-2.
The next step was to study each of them. To do this, scientists in vitro (“in vitro”) tested the interaction of all plant compounds with the major enzymes of the virus – responsible for its binding to the cell (the spike protein already known to all), penetration through the membrane and for the interaction of virus RNA with human DNA.
As a result, out of four hundred samples, about a hundred remained, which were able to resist all stages of the “capture” of the cell by the virus. The researchers then took plant extracts from which these substances were isolated and tested them on animals infected with the three most dangerous coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2. As a result, about 20 plants remained, which were introduced into clinical protocols for the prevention and treatment of Covid.
Now such fees apply in all Chinese provinces and their protocols are open all over the world. And what is surprising is that in almost every collection there are herbs that grow in Russia that contain anticoagulants! These are the Baikal skull, the big burdock, the thyme, the mulberry leaves and the bark.
– And the Russians during the pandemic for some reason considered ginger a panacea.
And by the way, they are right about something. This plant has two wonderful properties. First, it blocks the spike protein (however, for this, the ginger must enter the body before the virus enters). Second, it activates the production of antiviral interferon. Therefore, taking ginger for both preventive and therapeutic purposes makes sense.
But we were literally shocked by the medicinal properties of burdock, the root of which is commonly used by our herbalists to maintain normal cholesterol. But it turned out that the flowers, leaves and seeds of burdock perfectly fight the coronavirus. The natural compounds of this plant – arctin and arctigenin – prevent the virus from penetrating a human cell, attaching to it and multiplying.
I will explain in more detail. Microbiologists believe that up to 90% of respiratory pathogens in our country are viruses. Of these, only two are known to contain DNA – these are herpes and adenovirus. That is, they are self-sufficient: they enter our body and leave, practically without mutating. At our expense, of course, they multiply, but they reproduce their loved ones one by one.
And 99.9% of all ARI pathogens are RNA-containing viruses. They can not be reproduced. If DNA viruses have two strands, then RNA has one strand and they must interact with our DNA, give it their genes and make the human cell “work to reproduce”. So this SARS-CoV-2 has 28,820 genes in its RNA chain that can be mutated. It turns out that one virus enters a human cell and another comes out. Against this colossal variability, synthetic drugs have not yet been invented. And there are plants that can resist this process.
– Antibiotic resistance is now rising to alarmingly high levels worldwide. Can plants come to the rescue here too?
“There are many discoveries in this area. Do you know why an antibiotic cannot enter a bacterial cell? It is very simple: pathogens form biofilms through which the drug can not pass.
If in the past it was believed that only bacteria exchange mechanisms of resistance with each other, now it has been shown that viruses, fungi and other protozoa do the same. They produce a kind of “pump” that pumps both the enzymes that destroy it and the antibiotics out of the pathogenic cell. You can imagine! But that is not all. Scientists have discovered that the pathogenic cell destroys the molecule in which the antibiotic can act. That is, she “cuts her hand” to herself so as not to be snatched from it.
But the most important thing is that the plants face all these tricks. They destroy biofilms and can cancel the resistance of pathogens to antibiotics! Therefore, a program of sharing antibiotics and plants is underway around the world.
– If the action of herbal medicine is clinically proven in other countries, why is it not officially used in our country?
– My colleagues and I are trying to restore the licensing of herbal medicine, which was canceled a few years ago. Typically, it is not prohibited, but we can not apply these methods of treatment. The Ministry of Health requires proof. That’s why we collect the results of so-called randomized placebo drugs around the world. This research method is the gold standard for obtaining scientific data for new medical interventions.
When I was working at the Chemical Pharmaceutical Institute in the late 1990s, we wanted to renew a pharmacopoeia monograph (there is such a technical regulatory legal document that sets out quality requirements for medicines) for a sweet clover medicine. This plant is analogous to synthetic aspirin. We were asked to conduct clinical trials. They would cost millions of dollars. It is clear that universities did not have such money then, but today.
Only thanks to Leonid Mikhailovich Roshal, in 2021, the Public Medical Chamber finally adopted the updated (based on documented studies) guidelines for herbal medicine. Let not “well” from the Ministry of Health, but already a legal document that gives doctors up-to-date information.
It was our first victory. We celebrated the second when we published clinical recommendations for the treatment of bronchitis, acute and chronic tonsillitis, menopause, which included herbal preparations.
But we are still a long way from Commission E, which is the main regulator of traditional medicine in the European Union.
In the early 2000s, this department issued a document stating: “Every patient over the age of 50 should receive a hawthorn preparation if they are at risk for cardiovascular disease.” And in our country they tried to equate this gift of nature almost with poison. Like, its tincture is only to poison people. Although even a housewife understands that drunkenness has nothing to do with this noble plant with more than a thousand years of history of medicinal use …
There is another good news. The Ministry of Health has decided to introduce an elective course in herbal medicine at medical universities. It’s funny to say that, but we have already grown more than a generation of doctors who have never heard that plants can also be used for healing. When I start giving the first lecture on herbal medicine and talk about the modern mechanisms of action of plants, many of my young colleagues are really surprised.
– But our people are willingly treated with rewards and herbs. How safe is it?
– Today, the horror of what is happening on the Internet! Even poisons are sold freely, which should be used only by pharmaceutical companies, where strict control of raw materials and doses is done.
The field of herbal medicine seems accessible to many – here are the plants, who does not know them? Very easy to assemble, insist and sell. And people who do not understand what they are doing are constantly involved in herbal medicine.
Previously, there was at least a lot of reliable literature on the use of herbs. Now there is also a sea of books on the subject, but only a few publications are actually scientifically substantiated, which, of course, discredits herbal medicine.
– Can non-state, private clinics use it?
– Not. Because they do not have such a position as “phytotherapist” in the staff list. This means that it is impossible to practice a method that does not exist in the clinic license, even in clinical recommendations and protocols.
In 2016, the Ministry of Labor issued a new classification of occupations, according to which I can not be called a phytotherapist, but only a therapist. Imagine, I am a professor, doctor of medical sciences, with almost 50 years of clinical experience, author of scientific publications – therapist, even “highly qualified”! We want, therefore, the method of phytotherapy to return to the list of licensed, to give the opportunity to doctors to study and practice it, to manufacturers to produce high quality herbal medicines registered in the domestic pharmacy, taking into account their centuries-old history of use and the results of the most modern clinical studies. Then the treatment of patients will become more effective and, most importantly, safer.
The material was published in the newspaper “Saint Petersburg Vedomosti” No. 77 (7160) dated 28 April 2022 with the title “Physical Chemistry”.