News on Health & Science

Breathless? Blame your genes

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Scientists have identified a gene variant responsible for the higher incidence of coronary artery blockages in Indians.

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Researchers in Bangalore have zeroed in on a gene that may explain why an unusually high number of Indians are prone to coronary artery disease (CAD), the biggest killer among various ailments that afflict the human heart. The risk of CAD is said to be several times higher in Indians than in the others.

CAD is a condition in which plaque builds up inside the coronary artery vessels that supply the heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood.

Led by Arindam Maitra, scientists at the Thrombosis Research Institute — attached to Narayana Hrudayalaya in Bangalore — found that people who harbour a particular variant of the gene rs10757278 are over one and half times more prone to CAD than those who do not have it.

The gene in question is located on the short arm of chromosome 9 (of the 23 pairs that a human cell contains, received from each of the parents). The gene variant was earlier found to put other populations at risk too, but to a much lesser degree.

Maitra, however, was quick to add that this is not the only gene associated with CAD. More genes are suspected to contribute to the inherited risk of CAD. Yet very little is known about them. “This is only the tip of an iceberg,” said Maitra whose team, early last year, unravelled the role played by another gene (IL-6) in the early onset of CAD in Indians.

CAD is multigenic and complex. Being multigenic, no single gene, acting in isolation, will lead to the disease. As a result, people may bear two copies of the risk gene variant but lack the other relevant genetic risk factors which, in combination, might lead to CAD.

And, being complex, CAD is caused by a combination of the presence of the genetic risk factors as well as exposure to risk-conferring environmental influences like diet or lifestyle, said Maitra.

The study, scheduled to appear soon in the Journal of Genetics, looked for the presence of the gene variant in 154 CAD patients undergoing treatment in Bangalore and Mumbai. Similar studies were conducted on an equal number of healthy people.

Patients with two copies of the risk-associated variant — rs10757278G — were found to be far more vulnerable than those with one copy or none at all. Nearly one-third of the patients with three or more diseased artery vessels had two copies of rs10757278G, whereas the frequency was one in eight in the patients who lacked them.

It was also found that CAD sets in two years earlier in those who bear the risk gene variants than those who don’t.

The risk of CAD in Indians is about 3-4 times higher than in the Caucasians, six times higher than in the Chinese and 20 times higher than in the Japanese.

Independent experts, however, dismiss the study because of the small sample size. “Genomic studies are generally conducted with thousands of volunteers, as there is always a chance of getting false positive results otherwise,” said Dorairaj Prabharakan, who heads the non-profit Centre for Chronic Disease Control in New Delhi .

While gene studies may help understand the mechanisms of the disease better, it is quite irrelevant from a clinician’s point of view. Only 10 per cent of CAD could be solely the result of genetic factors, Prabhakaran stressed. The risk factors associated with nearly two-third of CAD patients are smoking and elevated blood fat levels. Another 20 per cent of cases are due to diabetes and hypertension.

Like Prabhakaran, Prashant Joshi, a doctor at the Government Medical College, Nagpur, too feels that the sample size is too low. But, he added, it is very important to know which genes make Indians more vulnerable to CAD. “The threshold of the risk factors in Indians is very low compared with their counterparts in the West,” Joshi said. In other words, Indians with lower cholesterol, diabetes and BP levels, or who smoke less than their counterparts abroad, are more prone to CAD. “Genes are certainly playing a role here,” Joshi said.

Maitra justified the small sample size, saying it was only a pilot study. But, he added, a larger study is already planned.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

Diagnonistic Test


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An echocardiogram uses sound waves to produce images of your heart. This common test allows your doctor to see how your heart is beating and pumping blood. Your doctor can use the images from an echocardiogram to identify various abnormalities in the heart muscle and valves.


It determines the size of your heart, and assess how well it is functioning. The test can estimate how forcefully your heart is pumping blood, and can spot areas of the heart wall that have been injured by a previous heart attack or some other cause.

Depending on what information your doctor needs, you may have one of several types of echocardiograms. Each type of echocardiogram has very few risks involved.

Why it’s done
Your doctor may suggest an echocardiogram if he or she suspects problems with the valves or chambers of your heart or your heart’s ability to pump. An echocardiogram can also be used to detect congenital heart defects in unborn babies.

Depending on what information your doctor needs, you may have one of the following kinds of echocardiograms:

*Transthoracic echocardiogram. This is a standard, noninvasive echocardiogram. A technician (sonographer) spreads gel on your chest and then presses a device known as a transducer firmly against your skin, aiming an ultrasound beam through your chest to your heart. The transducer records the sound wave echoes your heart produces. A computer converts the echoes into moving images on a monitor. If your lungs or ribs obscure the view, a small amount of intravenous dye may be used to improve the images.

*Transesophageal echocardiogram. If it’s difficult to get a clear picture of your heart with a standard echocardiogram, your doctor may recommend a transesophageal echocardiogram. In this procedure, a flexible tube containing a transducer is guided down your throat and into your esophagus, which connects your mouth to your stomach. From there, the transducer can obtain more detailed images of your heart.

*Doppler echocardiogram. When sound waves bounce off blood cells moving through your heart and blood vessels, they change pitch. These changes (Doppler signals) can help your doctor measure the speed and direction of the blood flow in your heart. Doppler techniques are used in most transthoracic and transesophageal echocardiograms.

*Stress echocardiogram. Some heart problems — particularly those involving the coronary arteries that feed your heart muscle — occur only during physical activity. For a stress echocardiogram, ultrasound images of your heart are taken before and immediately after walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike. If you’re unable to exercise, you may get an injection of a medication to make your heart work as hard as if you were exercising.

Risk Factors:
There are minimal risks associated with a standard transthoracic echocardiogram. You may feel some discomfort similar to pulling off an adhesive bandage when the technician removes the electrodes placed on your chest during the procedure.

If you have a transesophageal echocardiogram, your throat may be sore for a few hours afterward. Rarely, the tube may scrape the inside of your throat. Your oxygen level will be monitored during the exam to check for any breathing problems caused by the sedation medication.

During a stress echocardiogram, exercise or medication — not the echocardiogram itself — may temporarily cause an irregular heartbeat. Serious complications, such as a heart attack, are rare.

How do you prepare for the test?
No special preparations are necessary for a standard transthoracic echocardiogram. Your doctor will ask you not to eat for a few hours beforehand if you’re having a transesophageal or stress echocardiogram. If you’ll be walking on a treadmill during a stress echocardiogram, wear comfortable shoes. If you’re having a transesophageal echocardiogram, you won’t be able to drive afterward because of the sedating medication you’ll receive. Be sure to make arrangements to get home before you have your test.

What happens when the test is performed?

During the procedure
An echocardiogram can be done in the doctor’s office or a hospital. After undressing from the waist up, you’ll lie on an examining table or bed. The technician will attach sticky patches (electrodes) to your body to help detect and conduct the electrical currents of your heart.

If you’ll have a transesophageal echocardiogram, your throat will be numbed with a numbing spray or gel. You’ll likely be given a sedative to help you relax.

During the echocardiogram, the technician will dim the lights to better view the image on the monitor. You may hear a pulsing “whoosh” sound, which is the machine recording the blood flowing through your heart.

Most echocardiograms take less than an hour, but the timing may vary depending on your condition. During a transthoracic echocardiogram, you may be asked to breathe in a certain way or to roll onto your left side. Sometimes the transducer must be held very firmly against your chest. This can be uncomfortable – but it helps the technician produce the best images of your heart.

After the procedure
If your echocardiogram is normal, no further testing may be needed. If the results are concerning, you may be referred to a heart specialist (cardiologist) for further assessment. Treatment depends on what’s found during the exam and your specific signs and symptoms. You may need a repeat echocardiogram in several months or other diagnostic tests, such as a cardiac computerized tomography (CT) scan or coronary angiogram.

How long is it before the result of the test is known?
If a doctor does the test, you might get some results immediately. If a technician performs the test, he or she records the echocardiogram on a videotape for a cardiologist to review later on. In this case, you’ll probably receive results in several days.

Your doctor will look for healthy heart valves and chambers, as well as normal heartbeats. Information from the echocardiogram can reveal many aspects of your heart health, including:

*Heart size. Weakened or damaged heart valves, high blood pressure or other diseases can cause the chambers of your heart to enlarge. Your doctor can use an echocardiogram to evaluate the need for treatment or monitor treatment effectiveness.

*Pumping strength. An echocardiogram can help your doctor determine your heart’s pumping strength. Specific measurements may include the percentage of blood that’s pumped out of a filled ventricle with each heartbeat (ejection fraction) or the volume of blood pumped by the heart in one minute (cardiac output). If your heart isn’t pumping enough blood to meet your body’s needs, heart failure may be a concern.

*Damage to the heart muscle. During an echocardiogram, your doctor can determine whether all parts of the heart wall are contributing equally to your heart’s pumping activity. Parts that move weakly may have been damaged during a heart attack or be receiving too little oxygen. This may indicate coronary artery disease or various other conditions.

*Valve problems. An echocardiogram shows how your heart valves move as your heart beats. Your doctor can determine if the valves open wide enough for adequate blood flow or close fully to prevent blood leakage. Abnormal blood flow patterns and conditions such as aortic valve stenosis — when the heart’s aortic valve is narrowed — can be detected as well.

*Heart defects. Many heart defects can be detected with an echocardiogram, including problems with the heart chambers, abnormal connections between the heart and major blood vessels, and complex heart defects that are present at birth. Echocardiograms can even be used to monitor a baby’s heart development before birth.


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Diagnonistic Test Health Problems & Solutions

Cardiac Catheterization

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Alternative Name: Catheterization – cardiac; Heart catheterization

Cardiac catheterization with coronary angiogram takes pictures of the blood vessels in your heart, to evaluate the health of your heart and detect any narrowing of the blood vessels or other problems. The catheterization is performed by a cardiologist (or sometimes a radiologist) who is a specialist in doing this type of test.
This process involves passing a catheter (a thin flexible tube) into the right or left side of the heart. In general, this procedure is performed to obtain diagnostic information about the heart or its blood vessels or to provide treatment in certain types of heart conditions.

Cardiac catheterization can be used to determine pressure and blood flow in the heart’s chambers, collect blood samples from the heart, and examine the arteries of the heart with an x-ray technique called fluoroscopy. Fluoroscopy provides immediate (“real-time”) visualization of the x-ray images on a screen and provides a permanent record of the procedure.
Why the Test is Performed ?
Cardiac catheterization is usually performed to evaluate heart valves, heart function and blood supply, or heart abnormalities in newborns. It may also be used to determine the need for heart surgery.

Therapeutic catheterization may be used to repair certain types of heart defects, open a stenotic heart valve, and open blocked arteries or grafts in the heart.
How the Test is Performed:
You lie on your back as a medical technician connects you to a heart monitor. An intravenous (IV) line is inserted into one of the blood vessels in your arm, neck, or groin after the site has been cleansed and numbed with a local anesthetic.. You may be given a sedative through the IV so that you are relaxed during the test.

First, the doctor injects a local anesthetic into the skin. This might sting momentarily. After the skin is numb, the cardiologist inserts a catheter (a thin, hollow plastic tube) into a large artery-usually in your groin but possibly in your arm or wrist.

Using live x-rays displayed on a video monitor as a guide, your doctor moves the catheter along the artery until it reaches your aorta (the large blood vessel that carries blood from your heart to the rest of your body). The tip of the catheter is pushed up the aorta until it reaches the heart and then gently pushed into the coronary arteries that supply blood directly to your heart muscle.When the tip of the catheter reaches one of the coronary arteries, the doctor injects contrast dye through the catheter. The dye illuminates the artery, allowing the doctor to see if it is blocked or narrowed. The procedure is repeated to visualize the other coronary arteries.

X-ray pictures are taken while the dye travels down the arteries. The arteries look like thick lines on the x-ray; a narrowing or blockage in an artery appears as a thinner line (see Figure 1). Your doctor might also inject some contrast medium into the left ventricle of your heart to show how forcefully your heart is pumping. The entire procedure usually takes from one to several hours.

How you Prepare for the Test:
Food and fluid are restricted 6 to 8 hours before the test. The procedure takes place in the hospital and you will be asked to wear a hospital gown. Sometimes, admission the night before the test is required. Otherwise, you will be admitted as an outpatient or an inpatient the morning of the procedure.

Your health care provider should explain the procedure and its risks. A witnessed, signed consent for the procedure is required.

Tell your doctor if you are allergic to seafood, if you have had a bad reaction to contrast material in the past, if you are taking Viagra, or if you might be pregnant.

During this procedure, local anesthetics (numbing agents) are used to minimize pain. Tell the cardiologist if you have ever had an allergic reaction to a local anesthetic or to contrast dyes. Also let your doctor know if you could be pregnant, since the x-rays used during this procedure can damage a fetus.

. Tell the cardiologist if you’re taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) or other medicines that affect blood clotting and could increase the chance of bleeding from the procedure. You should also tell your doctor if you take insulin shots or blood sugar-lowering pills so that you can take steps to avoid dangerously low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia.

How the Test Will Feel?
The study is carried out in a laboratory by a trained cardiologist or radiologist and technicians or nurses.

You will be awake and able to follow instructions during the catheterization. A mild sedative is usually given 30 minutes before the procedure to help you relax. The procedure may last from 1 to several hours.

You may feel some discomfort at the site where the IV is placed. Local anesthesia will be used to numb the site, so the only sensation should be one of pressure at the site. You may experience some discomfort from having to remain still for a long time.

After the test, the catheter is removed. You might feel a firm pressure at the insertion site, used to prevent bleeding. If the IV is placed in your groin, you will usually be asked to lie flat on your back for a few hours after the test to avoid bleeding. This may cause some mild back discomfort.

Risk Factors:
There are several potential risks. First, the catheter can irritate the heart, in rare cases causing a disturbance in the heart rhythm. Should this happen, the doctor can immediately use devices and medicines to restore a normal heart rhythm. The catheter occasionally can cause the coronary artery to go into spasm, temporarily reducing the blood flow and causing chest pain. For this reason, alert the doctors and nurses if you develop any chest discomfort, trouble breathing, or any other problem during the test.

In addition, the contrast medium can sometimes impair kidney function. This effect is almost always temporary, but some people have permanent damage. Another possible complication is bleeding at the place where the catheter was inserted. If blood collects under the skin, it can form a large painful bruise called a hematoma. This usually resolves on its own, without requiring additional treatment. Occasionally, people are allergic to the contrast dye and develop a rash, hives, or difficulty breathing after the dye is injected. If this should occur, the medical staff in the catheterization laboratory have medicines available to treat the allergic reaction.

The amount of radiation from this test is too small to be likely to cause harm.
Cardiac catheterization carries a slightly increased risk when compared with other heart tests. However, the test is very safe when performed by an experienced team.

Generally, the risk of serious complications ranges from 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 500. The risks include the following:
*Cardiac arrhythmias
*Cardiac tamponade
*Trauma to the artery caused by hematoma
*Low blood pressure
*Reaction to contrast medium
*Heart attack
Must you do anything special after the test is over?
You should lie flat for a few hours after this procedure. Often, a small plug or stitch is used to prevent bleeding from the artery that was entered to perform the catheterization. If you received a sedative, you might feel sleepy and shouldn’t drive or drink alcohol for one day after the catheterization.

What Abnormal Results Mean

The procedure can identify heart defects or disease, such as coronary artery disease, valve problems, ventricular aneurysms, or heart enlargement.

The procedure also may be performed for the following:
*Primary pulmonary hypertension
*Pulmonary valve stenosis
*Pulmonary embolism
*Tetralogy of Fallot
*Transposition of the great vessels
*Tricuspid regurgitation
*Ventricular septal defect

How long is it before the result of the test is known?
Your doctor will have your results as soon as the test is completed. In particular, the doctor can tell you if you have any blockages in the coronary arteries, how many and how severe they are, and the best way to treat them. In some cases, your doctor is even able to remove any blockages immediately by performing an intervention known as a coronary angioplasty, a procedure that uses a tiny inflatable balloon to reopen the artery.


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News on Health & Science

Now, a Bandage for Bypass Surgery

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Scientists have designed what they claim is a bandage which could be used for wrapping around a transplanted blood vessel for the first few hours or days after surgery.

Heart bypass surgery involves transplanting arteries or veins from elsewhere in the body to route blood around the partially blocked areas of the coronary vessels which actually supply heart muscle.

However, a significant number of bypasses fail as the walls of the transplanted arteries get thickened, restricting blood flow, which surgeons believe happens due to the stress of being transplanted and suddenly having to handle altogether a different blood pressure and flow rate.

Now, a team at biopharmaceutical giant Geron has developed the biodegradable polymer bandage which they claim could take the strain for the first few days after surgery, according to a report in the ‘New Scientist‘.

And, the good news is that tests on pigs have revealed that the bandage works and can very well prevent the dangerous stress response after a bypass.

“The US scientists tested the bandage on animals. But we need to see whether it works on humans. And, if successful, it could be a boon for bypass surgery patients not only in the US but also in India and across the globe,” India-based doctor SK Dasgupta said.

The pharma company has filed a patent application for the polymer bandage.

Sources: The Times Of India

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Herbs & Plants

San Qi

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Botanical Name : Panax pseudo-ginseng
Family: Araliaceae
Genus: Panax
Subgenus: Panax
Section: Pseudoginseng
Species: P. pseudoginseng
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Apiales

Synonyms : Panax notoginseng

Other Possible Synonyms:Aralia quinquefolia var. notoginseng[G] P. notoginseng[G] P. pseudo-ginseng notoginseng[HORTIPLEX] P. pseudoginseng var. notoginseng[G] (From various places across the web, may not be 100% correct.)

Common Name :San Qi, Pseudoginseng, Nepal ginseng, and Himalayan ginseng.

 Habitat:Woodland, Dappled Shade, Shady Edge, Deep Shade. Forests and shrubberies, 2100 – 4300 metres in Central Nepal in the Himalayas, E. Asia – China to the Himalayas and Burma.Notoginseng grows naturally in China and Japan.


Perennial growing to 1.2m at a slow rate. . The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female   organs).

The herb is a perennial with dark green leaves branching from a stem with a red cluster of berries in the middle. It is both cultivated and gathered from wild forests, with wild plants being the most valuable. The Chinese refer to it as “three-seven root” because the plant has three branches with seven leaves each. It is also said that the root should be harvested between three and seven years after planting it…...CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES
Cultivation :

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). It requires moist soil.  Requires a moist humus rich soil in a shady position in a woodland.

Seed – sow in a shady position in a cold frame preferably as soon as it is ripe, otherwise as soon as the seed is obtained. It can be very slow and erratic to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a shady position in the greenhouse or frame for at least their first winter. Make sure the pots are deep enough to accommodate the roots. Plant out into their permanent positions in late summer.

Edible Uses
Drink; Tea.
The roots are chewed, used as a flavouring in liqueurs or made into a tea.

. This is the form used medicinally in China. The following notes are based on the general needs of the genus.

Medicinal Uses
Analgesic; Antiinflammatory; Antiphlogistic; Antiseptic; Astringent; Cardiotonic; Diuretic; Haemostatic; Hypoglycaemic.   San Qi is a fairly recent newcomer to Chinese herbalism, the first recorded usage dating from the sixteenth century. Nevertheless, it has attained an importance as a tonic medicine that supports the function of the adrenal glands, in particular the production of corticosteroids and male sex hormones. It also helps to improve blood flow through the coronary arteries, thus finding use as a treatment for arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure and angina.

The roots are said to be analgesic,antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, cardiotonic, diuretic, haemostatic,hypoglycaemic , antiphlogistic, astringent, discutient, hypoglycaemic, styptic, tonic and vulnerary. They are used in the treatment of contused wounds, soft tissue injuries and all kinds of bleeding, both internal and external, like haematuria, nose bleeds, haematemesis, uterine bleeding etc. They are also used in the treatment of coronary heart disease and angina pectoris. The roots can be applied externally as a poultice in order to help speed the healing of wounds and bruises.

The root is harvested before flowering or after the seed has ripened. It is usually dried for later use.

*stop bleeding – transform blood stasis – int. & ext. bleeding

*-can stop bleeding without causing blood stasis

*-traumatic injuries – alleviate pain, reduce swelling

The roots are also used both internally and externally in the treatment of nosebleeds, haemorrhages from the lungs, digestive tract and uterus, and injuries. The roots are harvested in the autumn, preferably from plants 6 – 7 years old, and can be used fresh or dried.

The flowers are used to treat vertigo and dizziness.

The purple-red san-qi ginseng flower is valued for its ability to improve and maintain the circulation of Blood and Qi. According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, san-qi ginseng flower is Sweet and Cool and pacifies the Liver.

Orally, panax pseudoginseng is used as a hemostatic, for vomiting and coughing up blood, blood in the urine or stool, nosebleed, and hemorrhagic disease. It is also used to relieve pain, and to reduce swelling, blood cholesterol, and blood pressure. Panax pseudoginseng is also used for angina, dizziness, and acute sore throat.

Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners have called notoginseng “the miracle root for the preservation of life.”Research is showing that Notoginseng exerts a number of beneficial effects on several physiological functions, including the nervous, immune, and cardiovascular systems. It is widely used in Asia for angina, to help lower cholesterol and triglycerides, and to expand coronary arteries in order to promote blood circulation and prevent blood clots.

Internally it is used for coronary heart disease and angina(roots), dizziness, and vertigo (Flowers).  Internally and externally it is used for nosebleed, and hemorrhage from lungs, digestive tract, uterus, or injuries (roots).  It was used extensively by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War to increase recovery rates from gunshot wounds.  Used in the herbal combination PC-SPES’.a compound of 8 herbs used for prostate cancer.  It is one of the most valuable Chinese herbs for traumas and injuries because of its ginseng-like tonic properties and its strong hemostatic action in acute conditions. It will effectively dissolve blood clots when taken internally and works very well for most abnormal bleeding when combined with the ashes of human hair.  Its healing, astringent properties increase when combined with comfrey root.  Like the other ginsengs, it may be taken as a blood and energy tonic and is regarded by some as equally effective.  It is considered preferable for younger people because it moves the chi more than the common American or Oriental ginsengs.  It also strengthens the heart and improves athletic performance, making it a preferred tonic for the purposes of sports medicine

According to Ron Teeguarden, master herbalist and author of Radiant Health: The Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs (Warner Books, 1998), Notoginseng is also considered one of the most powerful blood tonics known to man. It is used in Chinese medicine to assist coagulation of the blood, stop bleeding, and to dilate the coronary artery and increase coronary blood flow, thus providing more blood to the heart muscle. The herb also reduces cardiac load, lowers arterial pressure, and improves micro-circulation in and around damaged heart tissue.

The herb is sweet and slightly bitter in flavour, slightly warm in nature, and acts on the heart, liver and spleen channels. Being sweet for mildness, warm for clearing, it acts heart and liver channels and blood division for resolving blood stasis and improving blood circulation. When the stasis is resolved and the blood returned back to the vessels, the bleeding without retaining blood stasis, it is an important herb to stop bleeding and alleviate pain. The herb is often used to treat various kinds of bleeding and pains due to blood stasis.

1. The herb powder can be orally taken, 2-3 times a day, 3g each time, to treat haematemesis, hemafecia, metrorrhagia and metrostaxis and other kinds of bleeding, with a better effect for bleeding with blood stasis. To treat haematemensis, hemafecia caused by ulcer of the digestive tract, the herb can be used in combination with hyacinth bletilla and cuttle bone.

2 . To treat traumatic ecchymosis and swelling pain, the herb can be orally taken or externally applied or used in combination with other herbs for removing blood stasis and alleviating pain. To treat obstruction of the heart channel by blood stasis and colic due to obstruction of Qi in the chest, the herb is often used in combination with ginseng for supplementing Qi, clearing the channels, removing blood stasis and alleviating pain.

Dosage and Administration: 1-3g. The herb powder is orally taken in form of infusion with hot boiled water.

Click to learn more about San Qi

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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