MONDAY, Aug. 15 (HealthDay News) -- A traditional Chinese herbal treatment may reduce fever from H1N1 ("swine flu") influenza just as well as the prescription medication Tamiflu, a new study suggests.
"For thousands of years, Chinese herbs have been used to treat influenza," study co-authors Dr. Chen Wang and Dr. Bin Cao, of Beijing Chao-Yang Hospital, Capital Medical University, in China, said in an email. "The pandemic influenza 2009 gave us the opportunity to evaluate a standard Chinese herb formula" designed to target the flu, they added.
Cao and Wang, who specialize in infectious diseases and clinical microbiology, said the herbal recipe -- known as maxingshigan-yinqiaosan (M-Y) -- is easily accessible throughout China and much less expensive than Tamiflu (oseltamivir).
However, finding the medicine in the United States is difficult, if not impossible, given that it contains the stimulant ephedra. The United States has banned or restricted the sale of ephedra products because of concerns about possible complications, such as heart attack, stroke and even death, related to its use as a weight-loss supplement.
The authors discuss their findings in the Aug. 16 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The 2009 H1N1 ("swine flu") pandemic sparked influenza cases around the globe, resulting in nearly 18,000 deaths, the authors said.
Per World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, in most instances, Tamiflu was the treatment of choice, where it was available. However, it is often out of reach in less developed parts of the world, such as rural China, where traditional herbal medicines are a likely default treatment.
The M-Y flu preparation is composed of 12 herbs: ephedrae, zhimu, qinghao, shigao, yinhua, huangqin, chaoxingren, lianqiao, bohe, zhebeimu, niubangzi and gancao.
To compare the relative effectiveness of M-Y and Tamiflu in tre
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