Chinese Herb Reduces Atherosclerosis in Rabbits

| July 11, 2011 | 0 Comments | 160 views

The antioxidant-rich, water-soluble fraction of the Chinese medicinal herb Salvia miltiorrhiza substantially reduces atherosclerosis in rabbits fed a high-fat diet.

Atherosclerosis is thought to result from the oxidation of LDL and endothelial dysfunction, Dr. Ming-Shi Shiao of Veterans General Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan, told attendees at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society.


an LDL is also equipped with anti-oxidants, where each LDL particle contains 6 to 12 molecules of alpha-tocopherol. One hypothesis is that circulating LDL may become more atherogenic if the amount of antioxidants is reduced, he said. When macrophages take up the oxidized LDL in the subendothelial space, they become foam cells, eventually leading to the formation of the fatty streak.

"We found from mass screening that Chinese medicinal plants [that work on atherosclerosis] actually contain a lot of antioxidants, particularly those bred with high contents of flavonoids, isoflavonoids, and a lot of phenolic compounds," he said. "They may be effective just because they are able to prevent LDL from oxidation." He thinks the plants may also work by preventing macrophages from taking up the oxidized LDL.

The plant used most often in Chinese herbal medicine for the treatment of atherosclerosis, Salvia miltiorrhiza, contains many antioxidants, he said. This includes salvianolic acid B, which prevents LDL oxidation in vitro.

To investigate how the herb reduces atherosclerosis, Dr. Shiao and colleagues fed rabbits a high-fat diet in the presence or absence of the water-soluble fraction of the herb. After 12 weeks, they found that in rabbits fed a high-fat diet plus 5% herb, atherosclerosis was significantly reduced by 45% in the abdominal aorta and cholesterol deposition in the thoracic aorta was 50% lower compared with rabbits fed a high-fat diet alone.

The herb was also "particularly active" in reducing the amount of endothelial damage, according to Dr. Shiao. While a high-fat diet decreased the amount of alpha-tocopherol in the LDL particle, S. miltiorrhiza was effective in maintaining the antioxidant at normal levels.

Since the water-soluble fraction of the herb cannot get into the LDL particle, it is still unclear exactly how it works, he said.

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