Clinical trial: Chinese herbs boost 'good' cholesterol

Mortar and pestle

A modern Chinese herbal medicine clinically-trialled at the University of Western Sydney has increased ‘good cholesterol’ levels and stabilised insulin in people with pre-diabetes.

Researchers in the world-leading UWS Centre for Complementary Medicine Research (CompleMED) trialled Jiangtang Xiaozhi a Chinese herbal medicine comprised of six active herbs, including turmeric.

Seventy-one participants diagnosed with early stages of diabetes, known as ‘prediabetes’, were recruited for the 16 week double-blinded placebo controlled trial.

Participants who received the herbal medicine increased their HDL levels by 6 per cent from the baseline measure taken at the beginning of the trial.

Abnormally low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) are often found in people with diabetes. Low HDL levels can contribute to serious health problems including heart disease.

“The increased HDL detected in participants taking Jiangtang Xiaozhi is clinically significant and the same participants also stabilised their insulin,” says Dr Suzanne Grant, who published the results in the peer-reviewed international journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

“This is a very encouraging result as it signals the potential for this herbal preparation to effectively treat two conditions simultaneously without adverse side effects.”

Suzanne Grant

Dr Suzanne Grant

Treating the medical complications and the complex management of insulin levels - once diabetes takes hold - costs the nation $3 billion every year. Many people must take multiple drugs to tackle myriad health problems associated with diabetes.

“None of the participants taking Jiangtang Xiaozhi experienced the side effects often associated with ‘polypharmacy’ or multiple drug treatment for diabetes and related illnesses,” says Dr Grant.

Previous trials showed Jiangtang Xiaozhi also had an effect on fasting blood glucose; however, the trial conducted by CompleMED did not show an effect.

Dr Grant says a larger and longer trial with a higher dose may decrease blood glucose levels and reduce or prevent the incidence of diabetes.

“Currently, when it comes to preventing diabetes, the best advice remains to eat well and exercise, but for many of us changing our lifestyle for the better can be difficult to achieve and maintain,” says Ms Grant

“It is essential low-risk, low cost alternatives to expensive multi-drug interventions for diabetes and other chronic illnesses are rigorously and scientifically explored,” says Dr Grant.

“Simplifying treatment regimens and reducing the risks of adverse side effects has the potential to improve quality of life while reducing the burden on the health budget.”

Chinese herbal medicine for impaired glucose tolerance: a randomised placebo controlled trial. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013, 13:104


18 July 2013

Contact: Paul Grocott, Senior Media Officer

By submitting a comment you acknowledge you agree with the Terms and Conditions.