(NaturalNews) Increasingly, Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) is being put to the test by Western scientists -- and the results are sometimes not only successful but downright astounding. A case in point: a new review of CHM research by British scientists just published in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews shows treating endometriosis with Chinese herbs may not only relieve symptoms of the disease, CHM appears to have comparable benefits to drugs and even laparoscopic surgery with fewer adverse effects.
This is important news because endometriosis is a huge problem in the US and Western medicine has yet to come up with any viable treatment that doesn't have serious side effects. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), at least 5.5 million women in North America alone have the disorder and 30 to 40 percent of them are infertile. A condition that causes tissue that normally lines the uterus to grow on the ovaries, bowels, and bladder, behind the uterus or elsewhere, endometriosis often produces debilitating pain that can keep a woman from going to work or school and put enormous strains on relationships. Endometriosis commonly causes severe cramps during menstrual periods, excessive bleeding during periods, chronic pelvic discomfort that can spread to the lower back and pain during or after sex.
The cause of endometriosis remains unknown so doctors tend to treat it with prescription pain medications, hormones that can have devastating masculizing effects and even surgery to remove the endometrial growths. In some cases, doctors remove a woman's reproductive organs to try to reduce pain. As the Cochrane review points out, however, surgery doesn't always lead to long-term improvement in symptoms and drug treatments can cause a host of new problems such as hot flushes, acne and weight gain.
The new study is the first English language systematic review of CHM for the treatment of endometriosis. The researchers analyzed, in particular, two trials of 158 women. In one clinical trial, therapy with Chinese herbs provided a reduction of symptoms that was comparable to the relief provided by the hormone medication gestrinone. However, the herbs, unlike the drug, caused few side effects. In the second trial, CHM was even more successful in treating endometriosis than the hormonal drug danazol. Once again, the Chinese herbs produced far fewer side effects than the Western medication.
"These findings suggest that Chinese herbs may be just as effective as certain conventional drug treatments for women suffering from endometriosis, but at present we don't have enough evidence to generalize the results," said lead researcher Andrew Flower of the Complementary Medicine Research Unit at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom in a statement to the media.
Reference: Flower A, Liu JP, Chen S, Lewith G, Little P. Chinese herbal medicine for endometriosis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD006568. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006568.pub2.