Ancient Chinese herbs may help heart

Aug. 20, 2009 at 12:14 AM

HOUSTON, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- Ancient Chinese herbal formulas for heart disease may produce large amounts of artery-widening nitric oxide, U.S. researchers said.

Researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston said nitric oxide is crucial to the cardiovascular system because it signals the inner walls of blood vessels to relax -- facilitating the flow of blood through the heart and circulatory system.

Senior author Nathan S. Bryan said the study reveals that ancient Chinese herbal formulas "have profound nitric oxide bioactivity primarily through the enhancement of nitric oxide in the inner walls of blood vessels, but also through their ability to convert nitrite and nitrate into nitric oxide."

Researchers performed laboratory tests on DanShen, GuaLou and other herbs purchased at a Houston store to assess their ability to produce nitric oxide. Ancient Chinese herbal formulas used primarily for cardiovascular indications are made up of three to 25 herbs -- used as tablets, elixirs, soups and teas.

Most Chinese herbal formulas sold in the United States are considered dietary supplements and are not regulated as strictly as drugs, Bryan said.

The study, published in the journal Free Radical Biology & Medicine, said further research should be considered in humans, particularly those with cardiac indications.

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