Pipe flowers - cancer risk from “medicinal plant”

Pipe flowers - cancer risk from “medicinal plant”

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Chinese medicine uses pipe flowers against rheumatism, bowel problems and regular problems; in Europe they served as obstetricians and for abortion. Scientists have now found that pipe flowers contain substances that can trigger liver cancer and require strict restrictions on the use of the plant.

Tumors in the urinary tract
Aristolochic acids in the pipe flower promote carcinomas in the bladder, kidney pelvis and ureter. This has been known for a long time, and the use of preparations containing these substances is prohibited in Germany and heavily controlled in China and Taiwan.

500 species
The pipe flowers are a genus of the Easter luke family, and there are around 500 different species worldwide. The common Easter luke, also known as beaver herb, wild boar tendril or wolf herb, grows in Europe.

The pipe flower is still widely used in Chinese folk medicine. In Russia it was used as a remedy for fever, boils and for wound healing, in Norway for blood purification, in Italy for rheumatism and in Hungary for menstrual disorders.

Known problem?
Chinese doctors have long known about the toxicity of pipe flowers. However, Chinese medicine believes that the toxins are under control through targeted use.

Traditional obstetrician
In Europe, the Easter luze served in medicine in the Middle Ages to facilitate childbirth. Aristolochia means "the woman who gives birth" (aristos means "the best" in Greek, "lockeius" belongs to childbirth). It was also a common way to initiate an abortion. Aristolochia, however, banished its toxicity to the list of prohibited drugs in Germany in 1981.

Toxic abortion
Aristolochia can actually cause an abortion because of the symptoms of poisoning. The acid leads to an acceleration of the pulse, a lowering of blood pressure, vomiting and cramps. These cramps also affect the lower abdomen and therefore the uterus.

Ancient medicinal plant
The ancient Romans and Greeks used Easter luke for snake bites, and American natives probably did the same with relatives there. In the Christian Middle Ages it was considered a magical plant and was demonized on the one hand, and on the other hand it was and is a component of Mary's bouquets. Aristolochia clematitis used to be found regularly in farm and monastery gardens.

Roots are the poison store
The Osterluzei contains up to 1% aristolochic acid in the roots, but in the leaves at most 0.03%.

The Balkan mystery
In the 1950s, a disease was described that plagued people with kidney failure and carcinoma from Croatia to Romania - the "Balkan necrophathy". Unlike some other kidney diseases, blood pressure did not rise. The cause: The people affected had processed the common Easter luke (Aristolochia clematitis) growing in the grain into bread.

Kidney failure in Belgium
In 1998, pipe flowers hit the headlines. 100 women suffered from kidney failure after accidentally consuming a herbal mix of Aristolochia fangchi. Eighteen of those affected had tumors in the upper intestinal tract, and many of them had their kidneys and ureters removed.

Liver cancer: results from three continents
Scientists at the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore recently found in an analysis of liver tumors in patients from three continents: aristolochic acids also cause liver cancer, reports Science Translational Medicine, 2017 (doi: 10.1126 / scitranslmed.aan6446)

Gen signature unique
Tumors that are affected by aristolochic acid have a typical gene signature. The team from Singapore has now determined this signature using special software in examined liver carcinomas.

Heaped in traditional Chinese medicine
Most often, the researchers found the specific gene signature in Taiwan, where TCM is often practiced. 76 of the 98 liver tumors from Taiwan showed the typical DNA - 78%.

Taiwan is the leader in upper urinary tract cancer
Taiwan had the highest rate of upper urinary tract cancer in the 2000s, the uterine carcinoma. Between 1997 and 2003, approximately 30% of the people there took drugs containing aristolochic acid, and the carcinomas were exactly where these substances collect: in the kidney, bladder and ureter.

Frequency decreases with the frequency of application of the pipe flower
In China, aristolochial acid was found in 47% of liver tumors, in Vietnam in 19%, in Europe and the USA in well under 5%.

Highest mutation rate
Aristolochic acids trigger the highest mutation rate among all known carcinogens, namely 150 mutations for one million base pairs. In the case of skin cancer caused by UV light, this rate is, for example, 111 mutations, in the case of lung cancer as a result of smoking, it is 8. This is explained by the scientists around Song Ling Poon from the National Cancer Center in Singapore.

Lung cancer too?
A research group led by Margaret Hoang from the John Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Maryland had long ago found the gene signature of aristolochic acids in a patient with lung cancer.

Can genetic analysis prevent cancer?
The analysis of the gene mutations not only shows whether aristolochic acids are involved in an existing cancer, but also gives hope to prevent the onset of cancer in the future by detecting damage before the cancer develops.

Avoid wrong prevention
False prevention could also be avoided by providing information. It would be tragic, for example, to have a person who cares about their health, therefore does not drink alcohol, does not smoke, but as a supposedly “gentle remedy” consumes pipe flower preparations and suffers from liver cancer or kidney failure.

Total ban demanded
Scientists are now calling for a total ban on the sale and use of medicines and mixtures with aristolochic acid in China and Taiwan.

Internet sales
In Europe and the USA, too, products containing aristolochic acid can often be obtained via the Internet without the ingredients being labeled. Pipe flower is particularly found in "healing" herbal mixtures. The scientists are therefore demanding that the public be informed about such means.

Alternative medicine?
Pipe flowers are still considered medicinal plants in so-called alternative medicine despite their proven dangerousness and are considered, for example, as a medicinal plant in homeopathy.For example, the giant pipe flower is available in dilution from Remedia Homeopathy as C12, C15 or C30 globules.

Homeopathic dosage unproblematic?
This would only be unproblematic if these dilutions no longer contained any of the carcinogenic substances - i.e. are generally ineffective because they actually consist only of water. However, supporters of “homeopathic remedies” who extract their pipe flowers themselves are at risk: Here it quickly happens that despite “potentiation” a clinically effective dose of the carcinogenic substances remains in the water.

In homeopathy, Aristolochia is not only considered a medicine for gynecological purposes, but also for the healing of external and internal wounds and for the treatment of ulcers. The site www. recommends Aristolochia clematitis Globuli for example for "eczema, skin inflammation or itchy skin", for "patients with pregnancy or menopause", and even for "various complaints of the kidneys and urinary tract", ie exactly where aristolochic acid Carcinomas affected. Homeopathy prefers to use Aristolochia mihomens and Aristolochia serpentaria.

Kidney poison for the kidneys?
Specifically, recommends Aristolochia in homeopathic doses for "purulent bladder infections, kidney pelvic infections and chronic bladder infections." Exactly in the bladder and the renal pelvis, however, Aristolochia promotes cancer.

Attractive ornamental plant
Osterluzewächse are ornaments of every garden with their heart-shaped leaves and their pipe-like blossoms (pipe flower), which turn sulfur yellow in the common Easter Luzei.
Since the wild common Easter luke in Germany is on the red list of endangered plants, maintenance in home gardens is even desirable - to look at.

Magic plants
Osterluzei played a significant role in birth and abortion practices; this is also why she enjoys the reputation of an “witch plant” among esoteric women, which the church and later demonize the pharmaceutical industry. Witches' myths and reality, however, are two different pairs of shoes. Even if our ancestors used Osterluzei, Tollkirsche or Stechapfel, this does not mean that their poisons are harmless.

No self-experimentation
There is nothing to be said against admiring the Osterluzei for its beauty in your own garden. However, you should make sure to keep children away from the flowers and never try them out as "medicine". The pipe flower does not belong to peppermint, sage and rosemary in the herb spiral, but to mandrake and hemlock in the poison bed. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

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