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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 January, 2004, 00:33 GMT
Chinese tea 'may cure jaundice'
Many premature babies develop jaundice
A herbal tea used widely in China to treat jaundice could soon be used by doctors in the West.

Scientists in the United States have found that Yin Zhi Huang (YZH) can stop the build-up of a type of bile that causes the condition.

Writing in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, they said the tea could form the basis of new treatments.

Jaundice is common in newborn babies. If untreated it can lead to serious complications such as brain damage.

Waste product

Dr David Moore and colleagues at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, found that the tea activates a key receptor in the liver.

This enables the liver to clear bilirubin - a waste product that is created from the break down of haemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body.

This is a wonderful example of knowledge gained by applying the Western scientific method to an Eastern herbal remedy
Mitchell Lazar,
University of Pennsylvania
Bilirubin is normally cleared by the liver. However, disease or other problems can stop this from happening.

A build-up of bilirubin causes the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes associated with jaundice.

Premature babies are often unable to clear bilirubin because their livers are too small.

They are treated by exposing their skin to light, a process called phototherapy.

The scientists administered YZH to mice with jaundice.

They found mice which received the tea cleared bilirubin much more quickly than other mice.

The scientists said the findings could lead to a new drug to treat jaundice in humans.

Other experts said the study indicated that Western medicine may have a lot to learn from Chinese medicine, which dates back thousands of years.

In an accompanying editorial in the journal, Mitchell Lazar from the University of Pennsylvania hailed the findings.

"This is a wonderful example of knowledge gained by applying the Western scientific method to an Eastern herbal remedy," he said.

He added further research was needed to see if scientists could identify a compound in the tea that could form the basis of a new drug.

"It will be very exciting if a pure compound emerges from the tea leaves as a pharmacological therapy for neonatal jaundice that is complementary to the current Western practice of phototherapy."

Premature babies
10 Nov 03  |  Medical notes

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