The goal of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is generally to help the body heal itself.
The West’s growing acceptance of TCM is tied to the work of practitioners such as Xiu-Min Li, M.D., researcher and professor of pediatrics, allergy and immunology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Dr. Li’s Herbs for Allergies
Dr. Li adapted a classic Chinese herbal formula for treating intestinal parasites, called Wu Mei Wan, to alleviate peanut allergy symptoms. The adaption is FAHF-2, or Food Allergy Herbal Formula-2. In studies, it reversed anaphylactic peanut allergy in mice, and human trials continue.
Unlike immunotherapy that is designed to create tolerance for an allergen, FAHF-2 seems to recalibrate the immune system so it does not mistake common food proteins for invading parasites. This suggests it might treat multiple food allergies at once.
The various bioactive compounds in FAHF-2 seem to work by reducing IgE levels, reducing inflammation, and blocking basophil and mast cell histamine release.
During the extensive clinical trials necessary to qualify FAHF-2 as an approved drug, there were no adverse side effects linked to its use. The FDA approved a formula variant, B-FAHF-2, for continued human trials.
East and West Together
The promise of B-FAHF-2 does not compete with the therapeutic potential of treatments such as immunotherapy, but complements them – and Dr. Li’s training and experience help her integrate Eastern and Western healing modalities.
For instance, Dr. Li, in cooperation with Stanford associate professor Kari Nadeau, M.D., Ph.D., is using B-FAHF-2 to pretreat human study participants getting oral immunotherapy for anaphylaxis. The researchers hope that pretreatment will minimize reactions to allergen dosing, speeding the desensitization process. This procedure was used successfully to treat peanut and tree nut allergic mice.
Dr. Li’s Private Practice
In private practice, Dr. Li takes a holistic, or “whole person,” approach to allergy treatment. For someone with a peanut and/or other food allergy she might prescribe herbal pills (licensed as dietary supplements), body creams, herbs for the bath and/or a digestive tea.
Her program for allergy patients can run two to four years and requires the patient, or the patient’s care givers, to provide responsible, regular application of the prescribed treatment. Patience and diligence may soon payoff with milder symptoms, fewer drug-pen uses and fewer ER visits or hospitalizations.
If you want to know more about Dr. Li’s work, read Food Allergies: Traditional Chinese Medicine, Western Science, and the Search for a Cure by Henry Ehrlich.