I’ve Moved.

Hey guys, I’ve moved to a new blog: Humanistic Perspectives. There are a few reasons for this, including the fact that this blog has been defunct for too long, it’s now a mess, I’ve decided to blog on a wider range of topics etc. But regardless, my new blog represents a new start, so, update your links, and follow my new blog :-)! Thanks!


Possible Antihypertensive Properties of Ginseng

Red ginseng in Jilin, China market.
Red ginseng roots being sold in a market in Jilin City, Jilin, China. Could this famous herb be a natural cure for hypertension? (Photo by Shizhao)

Ginseng (particularly Asian ginseng, Panax ginseng and American ginseng, Panax quinquefolius) is highly prized in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for general vitality and as a cure for a host of ailments. In fact, the Compendium of Materia Medica (本草纲目) lists Panax ginseng as being able to cure up to 31 ailments.

Modern scientific research identifies ginsenosides, an active compound unique to the Panax family as the source of ginseng’s claimed medicinal value, though understanding of their effects is still rudimentary at best.

Nevertheless, I looked into the few scientific reports that I could find regarding the effects of ginsenosides on hypertension, and it seems that certain ginsenosides act as a calcium channel blocker (CCB), not unlike some modern antihypertensive drugs (e.g. Amlodipine, Nifedipine, Nicardipine etc.). Now, I’m no med student (though I may take an undergrad course in Biomedical Sciences), but here’s how ginsenosides may work to relieve hypertension as I understand it. (Note: I found out when I almost completed the post that ginsenosides can possibly alleviate hypertension through increase of nitric oxide production. I’ll deal with that in a later post. Probably.)

But first, some mumbo-jumbo on what ion channels are (feel free to skip it).

What are Ion Channels?

Ion channels are membrane protein structures that facilitate the movement of ions across cellular membranes. Or as the Oxford Dictionary of Science (5th ed.) puts it:

A protein that spans a cell membrane to form a water-filled pore through which cells can pass in or out of the cell or cell compartments.1

Ion Channels
Schematic diagram of an ion channel. 1 – channel domains (typically four per channel), 2 – outer vestibule, 3 – selectivity filter, 4 – diameter of selectivity filter, 5 – phosphorylation site, 6 – cell membrane. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Ion channels alternate between open and closed states, a process known as gating when responding to different stimuli. Voltage-gated ion channels respond to changes in the membrane potential (the difference in voltage between the interior and exterior of a cell), ligand-gated ion channels respond to the binding of certain molecules called ligands, etc. Ion channels are also selective in the types of ions that they allow to pass through, although how specific is this varies (some allow just a type of ion, others may allow 2 or more).

Calcium Channels and Smooth Muscle Contraction2

One function of ion channels that is relevant to the current topic is intracellular messaging, specifically with regard to muscle contraction. Muscle contraction relies heavily on intracellular Ca2+ concentration. In this case, we will consider smooth muscle tissue (what our blood vessels are made of, in case you forgot) contraction, focusing only on the parts where Ca2+ is involved.

Regulation of Smooth Muscle Contraction
A diagram showing the regulation of smooth muscle contraction. (Source: American Physiological Society)

When smooth muscles are triggered by specific stimuli, calcium ion channels open to allow an influx of Ca2+ into the cell, which then binds with calmodulin (short for CALcium MODULated proteIN), forming a alpha-helix calcium-calmodulin complex. This complex activates an enzyme called myosin light-chain kinase (MLCK/MLVK), which phosphorylates (adding a phosphate group, PO4 to an organic molecule) the myosin light chain kinase at residue 19. And so a series of actions follow which ultimately causes smooth muscle tissues to contract.

Now that we have established how calcium ion channels trigger smooth muscle contraction, lets us take a look at the relation between ginsenosides and calcium channels.

Ginsenosides Inhibit Calcium Channels

Imagine what happens then, when the influx of Ca2+ into the smooth muscles cells decrease. Intracellular messaging is affected, and smooth muscle tissues are unable to receive the normal amount of stimuli, resulting in less and weaker contractions, thus causing the muscles to be more relaxed relatively.

This is what happens with certain ginsenosides – they inhibit the normal functioning of calcium channels, causing smooth muscles to relax, at least according to the in vitro and animal studies published so far. Here’s are some studies that I could find relating to this effect.

Studies of the effects of ginsenosides on Ca2+ channel inhibition.

This section may be really boring, but it’s good to understand it anyway (or skip to the part for mere mortals)

An in vitro study by Guan et. al (2006) on the effect of ginseng total saponins (GTS) – of which ginsenosides are a part of – reported that ginsenoside-Rd inhibited Ca2+ entry through receptor-operated (ROCC) and store-operated (SOCC) calcium channels, although voltage-dependent calcium channels (VDCC) were unaffected. Phenylephrine-induced contractile responses of cells were also inhibited.

Rhim et. al (2001) reported that GTS suppressed Ca2+ channels in a dose-dependent manner, and can modulate L-type (long-lasting), N-type (neural), and P-type (Purkinjie) currents in rat dorsal root ganglion neurons. Inhibition was greatly reduced with overnight application of pertussis toxin. The researchers also identified ginsenoside-Rg3 as one of the active components inhibiting Ca2+ channels. The authors conclude that the modulation of Ca2+ channels by GTS may be the basis for ginseng-induced anti-nociception (or simply, pain suppression).

The results above are consistent with a study carried out by Nah et. al (1995), which showed ginsenoside-Rf to inhibit high-threshold Ca2+ channels in rat sensory neurons, though inhibition was virtually eliminated when the cells were pre-treated with pertussis toxin.

Crystal structure of pertussis toxin
The crystal structure of pertussis toxin. Pertussis toxin eliminates or greatly reduces the Ca2+ channel blocking effects of ginsenosides. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Choi et. al (2000) reported that ginsenosides suppressed Ca2+ channels selectively, which may be the cause of ginseng-induced anti-stress effects.

Kim et. al (2007) carried out a study showing that cultured rat cortical neurons exposed to high-levels of potassium chloride were treated with GTS, neuronal cell death was reduced, from which they conclude that L-type current inhibition by GTS may be cause.

A study carried out by Lee et. al (2010) showed that ginesenoside-Rg3 suppressed normal agonist-induced contractile responses in isolated rat aorta, which persisted even after rigorous washouts. In fact, vascular contractibility in endothelium-denuded aortic ring was remained impaired. Ginsenoside Rg3 was reported to abolish agonist-induced Ca2+ increase, and selectively blocked L-type currents. The results were further confirmed by in vivo studies carried out, in which a 4-week long Rg3 treatment induced eutrophic outward modelling in the thoracic aorta (an increase in area of luminal area without corresponding changes in wall area. The authors conclude that ginsenoside Rg3 can induce vascular smooth muscle dysfunction by impairing vascular contractibility and structural remodelling.

Cai et al. (2008) conducted an experiment involving stroke-prone hypertensive rats where the rats were treated with ginsenoside-Rd. The results showed that ginsenoside-Rd attenuated basilar hypertrophic inward remodelling in the rats while not affecting systemic blood pressure. Ginsenoside-Rd was also shown to inhibit endothelium-1 induced basilar arterial vascular smooth muscle cells (BAVSMCs) proliferation and Mn2+ quenching rate. The authors note that this may be associated with the inhibitory effects of ginsenoside-Rd on voltage independent Ca2+ channels and BAVSMCs proliferation.

Right Ventricular Hyperthrophy in Human Heart
Gineseng total saponins have been shown to reduce smooth muscle hyperthrophy in vitro and alleviate symptoms of right ventricular hyperthrophy in rats. Perhaps they work on humans too? (Image Created By: LadyofHats)

A study conducted by Qin et al. (2008) on the potential inhibitory effect of GTS on right ventricular hypertrophy induced by monocrotaline (a toxic plant constituent) showed that monocrotaline-intoxicated male Sprague-Dawley rats treated with GTS for 18 days showed a reduction in monocrotaline-induced elevation of right ventricular hypertrophy, right ventricular peak systolic pressure, and atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP, a hormone acting as a vasodilator) expression. How? By inhibiting calcineurin and ERK pathways through Ca2+ channel inhibition.

So what the hell does that all mean?

To make things much easier, here’s a summary of all the results in list form:

  • Certain ginseng total saponins (GTS)/ginsenosides are known to inhibit Ca2+ channels selectively.
  • The mechanism by which this occurs seems to be highly pertussis toxin sensitive, as adding pertussis toxin to cells removed or prevented any effects by ginsenosides.
  • Ca2+ inhibition by ginsenosides is shown to have these effects:
    • Reduction in smooth muscle cell contractile responses
    • Reduce hypertrophy in smooth muscles
    • Reduce cell death in rat neurons treated with high levels of potassium chloride
    • Reduce blood pressure

Conclusion

Based on these studies, it seems possible that ginseng may be used to relieve hypertension, since it shows similar effects as calcium channel blockers. But before TCM practitioners and supporters go on claiming that ginseng has been proven by science as being capable of treating high blood pressure, a few reminders:

  1. The studies so far are mostly conducted in vitro or on lab rats, so we cannot be sure that ginseng works for humans. We need randomized controlled trials on a large number of participants to be really sure.
  2. Studies on the effects of ginsenosides are relatively lacking, and understanding is still rudimentary.
  3. Do not think that because ginseng is a TCM herb, it will treat the causes of hypertension (there’s a Chinese folk saying that Western medicine only cures the symptoms while TCM cures the causes of ailments).
    Even if ginseng does prove to be an effective antihypertensive herb, it still doesn’t address the root cause of high blood pressure (hardening of arterial walls, insulin resistance, plaque build-up in arteries etc.). It only blunts your nervous system and muscle cells temporarily. Try changing to a healthier lifestyle instead.

So guys, what do you think? Post your thoughts.

References:

  1. Daintith, J and Martin, E (eds.) (2005), The Oxford Dictionary of Science, 5th Ed, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  2. Webb, RC (2003). Smooth muscle contraction and relaxation, Adv Physiol Educ 27 (1-4): 201–6. doi:10.1152/advan.00025.2003. PMID 14627618.
  3. Guan YY, Zhou JG, Zhang Z, Wang GL, Cai BX, Hong L, Qiu QY, He H (2006) Ginsenoside-Rd from panax notoginseng blocks Ca2+ influx through receptor- and store-operated Ca2+ channels in vascular smooth muscle cells, European Journal of Pharmacology, Volume 548, Issues 1-3.
  4. Hyewhon Rhim, Hyeno Kim, Dong Yoon Lee, Tae Hwan Oh and Seung-Yeol Nahc (2001)  Ginseng and ginsenoside Rg3, a newly identified active ingredient of ginseng, modulate Ca2+ channel currents in rat sensory neurons.
  5. Seung-Yeoh Nah, Hwa-Jin Park, and Edwin W. Mcclesky (1995) A trace component of ginseng that inhibits Ca2+ channels through a pertussis toxin-sensitive G protein, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA Vol. 92, pp. 8739-8743.
  6. Seok Choi, Se-Yeon Jung, Cheon-Ho Kim, Hack-Seang Kim, Hyewhon Rhim, Seok-Chang Kim and Seung-Yeol Nah (2000) Effect of ginsenosides on voltage-dependent Ca2+ channel subtypes in bovine chromaffin cells.
  7. Sunoh Kim, Seung-Yeol Nah and Hyewhon Rhim (2007) Neuroprotective effects of ginseng saponins against L-type Ca2+ channel-mediated cell death in rat cortical neurons.
  8. Jin-Young Lee, Kyung-Min Lim, Sun-Young Kim, Ok-Nam Bae, Ji-Yoon Noh, Seung-Min Chung, Keunyoung Kim, Yoo-Sun Shin, Moo-Yeol Lee and Jin-Ho Chung (2010) Vascular Smooth Muscle Dysfunction and Remodeling Induced by Ginsenoside Rg3, a Bioactive Component of Ginseng, Oxford Journals, Toxilogical Sciences, http://toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/content/117/2/505.abstract
  9. Bing-Xiang Cai, Xiao-Yan Li, Jing-Hui Chen, Yong-Bo Tang, Guan-Lei Wang, Jia-Guo Zhou, Qin-Ying Qui and Yong-Yuan Guan (2008) Ginsenoside-Rd, a new voltage-independent Ca2+ entry blocker, reverses basilar hypertrophic remodeling in stroke-prone renovascular hypertensive rats, European Journal of Pharmacology, Volume 606, Issues 1-3.
  10. Na Qin, Qi-hai Gong, Li-wei Wei, Qin Wu, and Xie-nan Huang (2008) Total Ginsenosides Inhibit the Right Ventricular Hypertrophy Induced by Monocrotaline in Rats, Biol. Pharm. Bull. 31(8) 1530—1535.

“Scientific Reports” from FusionExcel

FusionExcel posts multiple reports claiming to show the efficacy of Quantum Pendants in improving health (and car performance). I call them jokes.

Some examples:

Radiation Test Report

FusionExcel Radiation Test

Non Toxic Test Report

FusionExcel Non Toxic Test Report

Quantum Water Test Report

FusionExcel Quantum Water Test Report

Few points here (assuming that the "scientific" experiments even took place):

  • None of those reports were ever published in any reputable scientific journal.
  • All experiments were apparently carried out by FusionExcel or some other company.
  • We have no idea what scientific apparatuses were used (apart from the Quantum series of products).
  • The reports do not give any clue about the way the results are to be interpreted.
  • The methods used to carry out the experiment weren’t stated clearly (if they were mentioned at all).
  • 0 external references listed.
  • My IQ has just been lowered. Greatly.

You may laugh at will now, or get depressed about the fact that 90% of the public (my conservative estimate which is just as credible as FusionExcel’s reports) will actually believe in this, and waste hundreds, even thousands on dollars on these miraculous products.


Introducing the Quantum Pendant – The Miracle Cure for Everything!

Take a look at this site:

Fusion Excel Logo
FusionExcel

The company is selling Quantum Pendants (and related products), which they claim are able to cure everything from inflammation to diabetes, energize healthy cells while simultaneously killing cancer cells through "scalar energy". Now why does that remind me so much of chi healing and chakras?

What you’re looking at is a form of quackery that is really popular in Malaysia aka our equivalent of homeopathy. FusionExcel market their products through referrals, pyramid schemes, fake demonstrations etc., which is expected from companies selling deceptive products. As expected, they use lots of testimonials and fake scientific reports to increase credibility for their products.

Look, FusionExcel makes me sick. They’re selling a product with no benefits to unsuspecting customers at a high price, while getting awarded as the Asia Pacific Super Excellent Brand 2008 and the 4th Malaysia Power Brand Award 2010! In fact, I was one of their victims too. Ugh.

Let’s review their claims in more detail.

Quantum Pendants Cure Everything. No, really.

Quantum Pendant
Source: FusionExcel

Every Quantum Pendant has the following qualities:

  • Wellness Value
  • Intrinsic Value
  • Intrinsic Value

FusionExcel’s Quantum Pendant is made from natural minerals that are fused and structurally bonded together at a molecular level. It produces scalar energy that helps to enhance the body’s biofield. The Quantum Pendant promotes positive flow of energy and helps to maintain energy balance. It helps to restore energy that has become weak in the body. By restoring the energy balance in the body this pendant helps one to maintain health and well-being.

Hmm, so their Quantum Pendant has Wellness Value, and Intrinsic Value * 2! Just like Pokémon! They also say that it is made out of “natural minerals” bonded together molecularly. Yeah, and so is that burger you’re eating. And what is scalar energy? Why haven’t I heard of it from physicists anywhere except from your site? And is the biofield a biological electromagnetic field or some other mysterious force? Oh, and last time I heard, the energy in your body is refuelled through carbs, fats, and protein.

Now on to the alleged health benefits of the Quantum Pendant:

  1. Reduces inflammation
  2. Enhances blood circulation
  3. Enhances immune and endocrine systems
  4. Enhances cellular nutrition and detoxification
  5. Enhances cellular permeability
  6. Increases energy
  7. Has the ability to destroy viruses and bacteria
  8. Helps to protect DNA from damage
  9. Helps to retard the aging process & Helps to fight cancer cells
  10. Strengthens the body’s biofield
  11. Preventing electro-magnetic waves from affecting one’s health
  12. Increases focus and concentration

I guess doctors should lose their jobs now that a pendant is all one needs to achieve good health. And speaking of “preventing electromagnetic waves”, does it block visible light too?

Laugh at will at the sheer stupidity of those claims, but unfortunately this bullshido still managed to fool the average Joe (including me 2 years ago).

Regardless, in the following posts I will refute and expose each of their claims. For now, let’s hear your thoughts on this!

* If anyone is interested, here’s their Income Plan.


Answering My Christian Friend–Part 2

My Friend

I don’t want you to go to Hell for not believing in God.

My Response

All hail Zeus, Ra, and Thor!

I don’t care whether Jesus said this in the Bible:

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. – John 14:6 (KJV)

Any fool can say that.

You need external collaborating evidence (historical documents, artefacts, confirmed miraculous incidents clearly done by your God etc.) to show that your God is any truer than the ancient Egyptian, Roman, or Greek gods. Else I’m considering them the same.


Answering My Christian Friend–Part 1

My Friend

If human evolved from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?

My Response

  1. If Mexicans immigrate into the USA, why are there still Mexicans in Mexico?
  2. If Parameswara (the founder of the Melaka/Malacca Sultanate in what is now Malaysia) escaped from Indonesia and settled down in Melaka during early 15th century, why are there still Indonesians?

This question really cracks me up. Not all monkeys have human descendants, not all fish have tetrapod descendants, not all reptiles evolved into birds… It’s simple logic, yet many people I’ve encountered fail to understand it. I wonder why?

Previous: Intro


Answering My Christian Friend–Intro

There’s a Christian student in my school. He’s been preaching Christian and Young-Earth Creationist ideas to many of my friends for quite some time, and I’m not going to ignore it any longer. So I’m going to address everything he said or asked one by one in different posts. Starting today.


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