HERBS FOR HEALTH MANAGEMENT

Herbs are a foundational root in medicine and health treatments, dating back thousands of years throughout every culture around the world. Modern Western herbalism comes from ancient Egypt. The Greeks developed a comprehensive philosophy of herbal medicine by 100 BCE and the Romans built upon it to create a variety of medical practices, some of which are still used today.

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ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE IMPACTS PSYCHOLOGICAL HARDINESS

Psychological hardiness is an individual’s resistance to stress, anxiety and depression. It includes the ability to withstand grief and accept the loss of loved ones. Alternative medicine is a more popular term for health and wellness therapies that have typically not been part of conventional Western medical approaches but are often used along with conventional medicinal protocols.  Coping and dealing with stress in a positive manner play a major role in maintaining the balance needed for health and well-being.

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ALTERNATIVE REMEDIES FOR ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION

Interest in complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) is increasing as consumers and health care professionals search for additional ways to treat anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders. Some of these remedies include:

St. John’s Wort.  More than 30 studies show it to be effective for treatment of mild forms of depression,…

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ion-channel modulators that may be therapeutically useful. Centipede venom has a long history as a painkiller. Toxins from the Chinese red-headed centipede have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries. Researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia, found a centipede peptide, Ssm6a, that selectively inhibits a particular voltage-gated sodium channel implicated in pain sensing in mammals, including humans. Last year, a Chinese team showed another centipede peptide has analgesic properties in mice.


Puffer Fish

Tetrodotoxin, the toxin from the deadly delicacy puffer fish, blocks certain sodium ion channels that help nerve cells convey pain messages to the brain. Researchers are also exploring using toxins from sea anemone, jellyfish, frogs, scorpions, snakes and the cactus-like plant African spurge. Challenges include ensuring the drugs are highly specific to their targets that often lie beyond the blood-brain barrier in the central nervous system. Each family of ion channels involved in humans’ pain- sensing abilities contains several conserved proteins. Nevertheless, several toxin-derived candidates are beginning to prove their worth in preclinical experiments and a handful of clinical trials.

TURNING THE TABLES: ADAPTING ANIMAL TOXINS FOR PAINKILLERS

ANGELA S. HOOVER

Angela is a staff writer for Health & Wellness magazine.

more articles by Angela s. hoover

Spiders

There are more than 40,000 species of arachnids, almost all of which produce venom that has nerve-attacking molecules that target mammalian pain receptors. Physiologists at the University of California, San Francisco found two toxins from the Togo starburst tarantula that selectively activated the voltage-gated sodium channel. The team also characterized one of the toxin’s binding sites, opening a route to developing selective inhibitors for analgesia. In 2017, a group of researchers in Australia reported a peptide from the giant blue bloom tarantula inhibits the pain associated with a particular sodium channel by binding to its voltage-sensing domain. The same group recently identified another sodium channel inhibitor, Cdla, from the African rear-horned baboon spider. They published their findings in the journal Plos One. Pfizer researchers recently synthesized mircoproteins inspired by peptides from the straight- horned baboon tarantula. Last year, Janssen scientists engineered a variant of protoxin II, originally isolated from the Peruvian green velvet tarantula venom, that made rats insensitive to pain by blocking Nav1.7 activation.


Centipedes

There are about 3,000 venomous centipedes in the world that are full of

For more than 50 years, scientists have studied toxins in the animal kingdom to create novel painkillers. The noxious chemicals several animals produce are potent and usually strike pain pathways. Animals produce two types of toxins: poisons and venoms. Poisons cause pain or illness when ingested. Venoms, which are injected via a bite or a sting, cause ill effects. Some of these toxins are analgesic, or pain relieving. Other toxins elicit pain. Researchers have experimented with these compounds to identify inhibitors of ion channels on the pain-sensing neurons they target.


Cone Snails

There are 800 species of cone snails. Researchers explore them all for analgesic possibilities. In the 1980s, researchers isolated a conotoxin peptide from the venom of the Conus magus and derived a synthetic version of the peptide ziconotide. Extensive functional studies revealed ziconotide blocked N-type, voltage-gated calcium channels, inhibiting the release of pain-transmitting chemical messengers in the central nervous system. Ziconotide, which is a thousand times more potent than morphine, was approved by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) under the name Prialt in 2004. Prialt is the only toxin- derived analgesic the FDA has approved to date. Used to treat neuropathic and cancer-related pain, it must be delivered directly into patients’ spinal cords through a surgically implanted pump.