Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Chinese Medicine and Parasites

Episode 28: Parasites 101
Description: Parasites and humans have developed a unique cat and mouse relationship. One of our human immune systems detecting the parasite and the parasite evading our immune system. Lee Likins, PhD, a professor of parasitology at University of Missouri Kansas City, joins the show today to gleam some insight on these zombie driving, antigen cloaking, brain hiding, worm wiggling, suicide inspiring, host sucking, creatures! And some TCM on how to treat them.

You still don’t know what you’re dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility…I admire its purity; unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.
-Ash to Riply in Alien (1979)

It’s only quite fitting that we begin this discussion with a quote from one of the most terrifying and fascinating films ever produced. It’s about a huge bug, a parasite, a bogyman of sorts that plants larvae inside a host to hatch out later to become an adult creature. The science behind the movie is exact. The subliminal message behind the movie is quite revealing as to the ultimate parasite. We believe that Lee Likins, Ultimate Professor of Parasite Evolutionary Biology, has this quote written probably on his bathroom mirror. But then, we digress…

Professor Lee Likins is a fascinating human being. He loves to tell stories. In fact, if he wrote children’s novels we could blame him for their nightmares. His background in Evolutionary Biology and Ecology, coupled with his nascent knowledge of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, affords him the ability to talk and teach about one of the most interesting and misunderstood organisms on the planet. His immense memory and intellect act as great party favors in which he can quickly alter the tone of any gathering to make you think about where it is you live on the planet and the various organisms that live within you as guests. They may be completely passive; they may be keeping you on the verge of bleeding out. But, they are there.

In the last thirty to forty years, death from infectious disease has almost vanished from advanced countries. It is hard to escape from the anthropocentric attitude that epidemics and prevalence of disease are purely human problems to be controlled and eliminated by human actions. That theme has been and remains the evolution of the host-parasite relationship and the understanding of current ecological situations in evolutionary terms. How has the parasite adapted to our ever-changing ecological destructive processes? How has the parasite become one of the most, if not the most, successful organisms to have ever lived on our planet? There are a few infectious diseases that pose a truly public health threat because of their incredible ability to kill in large numbers. But what of the little parasite just sitting inside its host, biding its time, and reproducing and changing the course of evolution? Which is more terrifying?

Lee Likins will tell you a story. No, in fact, he will tell you many stories about how the fictional part of the movie Alien may not be that fictional.

Carl Zimmer wrote:
Imagine a world where parasites control the minds of their hosts, sending them to their destruction.
Imagine a world where parasites are masters of chemical warfare and camouflage, able to cloak themselves with their hosts’ own molecules.
Imagine a world where parasites steer the course of evolution, where the majority of species are parasites.

Come inside and let Professor Lee Likins take you on a journey. A journey through time and space and really nasty critters. More importantly, an education about one of the most misunderstood organisms that live around us and in us.

Treating Parasitic Infections With Chinese Medicine
  Since this is a Chinese medicine blog, lets get into the meat of how to treat these infections.  Luckily, Chinese medical texts have been talking about the symptoms and how to treat these types of infections for thousands of years.  BUT the question arises how effective is treatment?  For acute situations herbs can be very advantageous for the patient to get a upper hand on symptoms.  Be that an immune response that is causing clotting, a blockage in the intestinal track caused by rapidly reproducing worms, diarrhea caused by hookworm, or the itch caused by schistosoma.  Getting rid of a parasite is something entirely different, if you really have one.  Keep in mind the MOST efficient system we have as humans against pathogens is our immune systems.  The techniques employed by parasites to evade the immune system is staggering.  Will 10 grams of Wu Mei Wan a day kill a parasite...?  In actuality, probably not.  Chinese herbs and acupuncture can help keep them in check though!!!  See the chart below of different single herbs and what type of parasites they have been shown to treat.

Chinese Herb Roundworm Pinworm Tapeworm Hookworm Blood Fluke Giant Intestinal Fluke Schistosoma
Shi Jun Zi X X
Fei Zi X X X X X
Lei Wan X X X
Bing Lang X X X X X
Nan Gua Zi X X X
Da Suan X X
Bian Xu X X X
Wu Mei X
Zao Jia X
Chuan Lian Zi X X

Wu Mei Wan
  1. Wu Mei - 24g
  2. Chuan Jiao - 1.5g
  3. Xi Xin - 1.5g
  4. Huang Lian - 9g
  5. Huang Bai - 6g
  6. Gan Jiang - 6g
  7. Fu Zi - 3g
  8. Gui Zhi - 3g
  9. Ren Shen - 6g
  10. Dang Gui - 3g
Guan Zhong San (Strong)
  1. Guan Zhong
  2. Shi Jun Zi
  3. Bing Lang
  4. Da Huang
Guan Zhong San (Mild)
  1. Guan Zhong - 60g
  2. Zao Jiao Ci - 30g
  3. Huo Ma Ren - 125g

Further Reading and Listening
Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer
The Devil's Tumor: Parasitic Cancer by Carl Zimmer
Red Queen Theory : Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature
The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 by Afred W. Crosby
Suicidal Crickets, Zombie Roaches and Other Parasite Tales (TedTalk) by Ed Yong

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