Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a common disease process rooted in a variety of causes. Adrenal dysregulation, chronic infections, thyroid dysfunction, nutrient imbalances, anti-parietal cell antibodies are some of the top causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. One common cause that we see frequently missed from evaluation of chronic fatigue syndrome is a chronic hidden viral infection.
In this article, we are going to talk about an herb with which we have had great success in working with people with chronic fatigue and with hidden viral infections. Oxymatrine is commonly used in Chinese medicine. It has tremendous anti-viral properties. We review this herb in detail and explain how it could be the missing link to treating viruses and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Read on for the details!
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What are Sophora Root & Oxymatrine?
Sophora root is an herb with a long history in traditional Chinese herbal medicine. Ku shen is its name in Chinese medicine. It is the dried root of sophora flavescens (Ho JW, 2009).
Oxymatrine is an alkaloid extracted from sophora root (or Ku Shen) (Lan X, 2020). It is an active constituent of Ku Shen (Ho JW, 2009). An alkaloid is a type of phytonutrient. Phytonutrients are compounds found in plant foods that have dramatic disease prevention and therapeutic effects. They also provide plants with their various colors and fragrances. The herb sophora root is used in different herbal formulations and has specific pharmacological properties for the treatment of liver disorders and other diseases (Ho JW, 2009).
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What are the Benefits of Oxymatrine, found in Sophora Root?
- Oxymatrine is anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and anti-viral (Ding Y, 2019).
- It also has organ- and tissue-protective and anti-cancer effects (Lan X, 2020). The mechanisms of these therapeutic effects of oxymatrine are mainly related to its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative stress, anti- or pro-apoptotic (cell death), anti-fibrotic and metabolism-regulation functions (Lan X, 2020). A variety of signal pathways, cells, and molecules are influenced by oxymatrine (Lan X, 2020).
- It is anti-fibrotic, and can help reduce the formation and build-up of scar tissue in fibrosis (Jiang X, 2018). Fibrosis can cause organ damage in the affected organ. An anti-fibrotic agent can slow or partially reverse organ damage caused by fibrosis.
- Oxymatrine is anti-hypertensive, heart strengthening, anti-allergy, anti‑arrhythmia, asthma relieving and inhibits cardiovascular issues (Cao X, 2019).
- Many experiments suggest that oxymatrine has anti-cancer benefits. It inhibits or prevents the growth and spread of tumors or malignant cells (Cao X, 2019). This occurs via different signaling pathways, including its action on apoptosis or programmed cell death (Cao X, 2019).
- Oxymatrine affects cell division of cancer cells and reduces toxicity to cells, likely due to its capacity to inhibit the activation of toxins (Ho JW, 2009).
- Sophora can enhance liver function and reduce toxicity to liver cells that results from oxidative stress and liver injury (Ho JW, 2009). The protection of cells from chemical toxicity is important in reducing liver damage. Less oxidative stress is beneficial and important in regulating liver function (Ho JW, 2009).
- Neuroinflammation and neuronal damage are typical characteristics of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) (Gan P, 2020). Oxymatrine can improve PD symptoms primarily by inhibiting neuroinflammation. Oxymatrine has been found to prevent cerebral injury and to produce neuroprotection against neurotoxicity in vitro i.e., in a lab (Gan P, 2020). It improved motor deficits and protected neurons from neurotoxicity in mice with Parkinson’s. Inflammatory responses were inhibited by oxymatrine in the brains of these mice (Gan P, 2020). Oxymatrine, at the right dose, also suppressed the production of pro-inflammatory immune cells in mice (Gan P, 2020).
Oxymatrine & Viruses
Hepatitis: Oxymatrine is commonly used as an anti-viral agent. It has been used for the treatment of chronic viral hepatitis for many years (Dai JP, 2018). It has a direct anti-HBV (Hepatitis B virus) effect in vitro (in a lab) (Jiang X, 2018). It also showed an antifibrosis effect (Jiang X, 2018). Oxymatrine combined with conventional therapy could improve the treatment of Hepatitis (Jiang X, 2018).
Flu Virus: Oxymatrine has anti-flu and anti-inflammatory activities. It is promising for treating Influenza A Viral infection (i.e., the flu) and flu-related pneumonia (Dai JP, 2018). It has excellent anti-viral activity on eight flu strains (Dai JP, 2018). Oxymatrine reduces the loss of body weight, significantly increases the survival rate of flu-infected mice, and decreases pulmonary inflammation (Dai JP, 2018). It can inhibit the replications of flu (Dai JP, 2018). It inhibits the activation of certain immune cell pathways and reduces the release of inflammatory immune cells. Oxymatrine can protect the brain from damage through down-regulating certain inflammatory pathways (Dai JP, 2018).
SARS: During the pandemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2001, it was found that a sophora root injection, mainly containing oxymatrine, had powerful effects in treating SARS. Oxymatrine was used to treat the systemic inflammatory response (Dai JP, 2018).
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): RSV is a common, contagious virus that causes infections of the respiratory tract. Oxymatrine has potent anti-viral activity against this RSV virus (Krishna PM, 2012).
Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV): HSV, whether oral or genital, is a common virus. About 75% of the world’s population suffers from HSV. Oxymatrine has some significant activity against herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 (Krishna PM, 2012). There is not much research on Herpes and oxymatrine. However, in China, a patent was granted for the use of oxymatrine in the treatment of STDs, including genital HSV (Google Patents, 2003).
Covid-19 Corona Virus: Matrine is a compound from sophora root that is similar to oxymatrine. It also has numerous health benefits; anti-cancer, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative (Choudhry N, 2020). A recent study found that, in human coronavirus, matrine significantly decreased damage to the lung tissue (Choudhry N, 2020). The production of inflammatory immune cells, and the viral load in the lung, were significantly inhibited compared to those in controls (Choudhry N, 2020). Matrine showed a therapeutic effect on human coronavirus -infected mice via regulation of immune function (Choudhry N, 2020).
One study looked at 40 corona virus cases in the period Jan – Mar 2020 in a Chinese hospital. After a matrine Injection, the clinical symptoms of 40 cases were markedly improved (Yang MW, 2020). The symptoms of cough and fatigue were significantly better, and appetite improved (Yang MW, 2020). Blood markers (especially absolute value and ratio of lymphocytes and hs-CRP) were significantly improved (Yang MW, 2020).
Other Viruses: Various studies show that oxymatrine exhibits anti-viral activities against coxsackievirus B3 (a virus linked to heart problems) and influenza/ flu virus (Choudhry N, 2020).
Oxymatrine & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a disease that causes central nervous system and immune system disturbances, cell energy metabolism dysfunction, cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal dysfunction, cognitive impairment, myalgia (muscle pain) and inflammation. The main clinical sign is persistent chronic fatigue, not relieved by rest and lasting more than 6 months (Rasa S, 2018). Some patients are wheelchair-dependent and many remain housebound, even bedbound. The disease affects adults, between the age of 20 and 45 years old (Cortes Rivera M, 2019). Women are 3 times more likely than men to suffer from CFS (Cortes Rivera M, 2019).
The causes of CFS are manifold. They include a genetic predisposition, stress, trauma, exposure to toxins, physical activity and rest ratio, as well as a recent history of infectious disease (Rasa S, 2018). Other contributing factors include adrenal dysregulation, thyroid dysfunction and nutrient imbalances.
Viruses are a possible trigger of CFS. It is often accompanied by a viral infection and studies have associated CFS with Epstein–Barr virus (EBV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), human herpes virus (HSV), human parvovirus B19, enteroviruses, lentivirus and bacteria such as mycoplasma, Lyme disease causing borrelia, and other pathogens (Rasa S, 2018).
Viruses, after an acute infection, remain in the body as dormant infections and can be reactivated under certain conditions. Immune dysregulation in CFS, may be the result of viral infection or may reactivate a dormant virus (or viruses). Once reactivated, the viruses may contribute to CFS via inflammation and immune dysregulation. This is especially true with the herpes virus and EBV, which affect immune cells (Rasa S, 2018). Enteroviruses can also be a factor in CFS (Rasa S, 2018). Viral infections can trigger an autoimmune response. Often, with CFS, there is no conclusive evidence for chronic viral infection. But it is most likely that viruses are involved; the virus(es) trigger the disease, cause immune abnormalities and leave a dysfunctional immune system and/or autoimmunity (Rasa S, 2018).
Data on the role of chronic viral infection in CFS is still controversial, but it is clear that a viral infection is involved for at least a subgroup of CFS patients (Rasa S, 2018).
At the moment, there are no specific pharmacological therapies to treat CFS (Cortes Rivera M, 2019).
Oxymatrine as a Treatment for CFS?
- Oxymatrine may be useful treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- It may inhibit the viruses that are present in some CFS patients (Phoenix Rising, 2008).
- No published studies have examined oxymatrine’s effectiveness in CFS (Phoenix Rising, 2008).
Dr. John Chia, an infectious disease specialist focuses on treating CFS. He published a paper indicating that 80% of his CFS patients had a previously undiagnosed enteroviral infection (Phoenix Rising, 2008). Oxymatrine has been an important part of Dr. Chia’s protocol for several years and has helped his son, who suffered from CFS, return to health (Phoenix Rising, 2008).
Dr. Chia has been using oxymatrine in the treatment of CFS since 2005 (Phoenix Rising, 2008). He has tracked his patients and his clinical results show that the overall improvement in his patients is approx. 52% (Phoenix Rising, 2008). Some patients have had a dramatic improvement in symptoms, whilst others have had a partial improvement. Dr Nancy Klimas is another doctor who has used oxymatrine with 300 CFS patients with similar success rates (ME Pedia, 2020).
It becomes clear if oxymatrine works for a particular person in 1 – 3 months (Phoenix Rising, 2008). Longer courses of oxymatrine are usually necessary if the patient tolerates the herb well. Oxymatrine should be taken for at least one year, if it works. Patients have to be carefully titrated off oxymatrine in order to avoid a relapse. Some patients will need to take it for life (Phoenix Rising, 2008).
Side Effects of Oxymatrine (Phoenix Rising, 2008)
- According to Dr. Chia, side effects can occur and are usually temporary. They can be resolved by slowly increasing the dose of oxymatrine.
- Side effects are typically an increase in symptoms, such as headache, myalgia, stomach issues, bladder discomfort. These happen to over 50% of patients and last from a few days to a few weeks. They are relatively mild if the dose is increased slowly.
- People with autoimmune conditions or tendencies, should not take oxymatrine. There is a risk oxymatrine can trigger rheumatoid arthritis. Autoimmune tendencies are defined as a family history of autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, autoimmune thyroiditis especially Grave’s disease, multiple sclerosis), if the patient has joint pain with positive rheumatoid factor and persistently positive ANA test results.
- People with known seizure disorders should not take oxymatrine. Oxymatrine is best avoided in young children and during pregnancy.
It is advisable to be supervised by a functional medicine practitioner to track progress and symptoms, and adjust the dosage of oxymatrine.
Although more research needs to be done, there is ample information that oxymatrine from sophora root could be a game changer for people suffering from chronic viral infections and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This missing link could be the key to treating these difficult conditions.
** Please stay tuned for our next blog on Peptide Therapy **
As always, please get in touch with us. If you or someone you know is struggling with a viral infection, CFS or general health issues, contact our clinic today. We can work on boosting your immunity, or any other issue to improve your health. If you are interested in functional medicine training, please schedule a free practice evaluation call with us to see if our online functional medicine training and mentorship program meets your needs.
Dr. Miles Nichols and Dr. Diane Mueller have spoken for the following organizations: