The winter season brings with it a host of nasty infections – most notably colds, sore throats and flu. Many also find their arthritic joints become more painful in cold weather.
Lots of people will stock up on tissues, cold medications and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Yet there is a little-known plant molecule — a pigment extracted from the root of the medicinal herb, Chinese skullcap – that is remarkably effective in warding off viruses and diminishing inflammation.
This safeguarding and healing agent is called baicalin.
Protects Against Cancer
Chinese skullcap has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for 2000 years to treat a wide range of conditions such as colds, respiratory and liver infections, fevers, inflammation, insomnia, anxiety and cancer.
Modern laboratory studies have proven many of these age-old uses.
For instance, flavonoids in skullcap kill human cancer cells, yet do no harm to healthy cells. Dr. Min Li-Weber from the German Cancer Research Center wrote that skullcap “possesses potent anticancer activities.” Baicalin in particular was shown to inhibit the growth of lymphoma and myeloma cells.
Benefits the Brain
Other lab studies show that baicalin acts on GABA, a neurotransmitter that calms down nerve activity to decrease anxiety, lower stress and promote better sleep.
It also protects against the negative physical consequences of stress, as well as nerve injuries caused by an inadequate blood supply to the brain.
It’s even been shown to improve memory and cognitive dysfunction. The scientists carrying out the research concluded that baicalin “may be a potential candidate for the treatment of Alzheimer’s.”
Acts Against Viruses
Baicalin was shown to prolong the survival time of mice infected with the influenza virus and to eliminate the infection in the lung. The researchers from Liaoning University, China, concluded that the plant extract “can obviously counteract influenza virus.”
Another study showed that it possessed “potent inhibitory activity against viruses.” The study demonstrated that baicalin increased interferon gamma, an antiviral immune component, and protected mice from influenza.
A different research group also found that baicalin inhibited influenza in mice. It reduced death rate, prolonged survival and improved lung parameters.
Baicalin also acts against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, by blocking its entry into target cells.
This Combo Outperforms Prescription Pain-Killers
The downside to all this wonderful news is that there are no human trials. It’s disappointing that a healing agent described in the medical literature as having anti-cancer, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-convulsive, liver and brain protection properties, is supported only by lab culture and animal studies.
For this reason, we can’t absolutely confirm the benefits of baicalin.
However, trials have been conducted on baicalin together with another herb called black catechu in patients with osteoarthritis (OA) after a number of cell culture and rodent studies demonstrated this herbal combo lowered two inflammatory enzymes, COX and LOX.
In a one-month double-blind study of 103 patients with OA of the knees, the herbal combination was found to be as effective at reducing symptoms as the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) naproxen. The herbal remedy eased joint discomfort, reduced stiffness and improved mobility. It was also safer, with fewer side effects.
Works Surprisingly Fast
A later trial looked to see if the remedy could be effective in the very short term — just one week. The herbal mix was compared again with naproxen in 79 men and women aged between 40 and 90 with mild to moderate osteoarthritis of the knee.
Results were similar to the longer trial. Those taking the supplement enjoyed significant pain relief, less stiffness and improved range of motion. This is important because natural remedies usually have to be taken for a longer time before patients feel relief.
Baicalin and black catechu were also tested over 90 days against another NSAID, celecoxib, in patients with either knee or hip osteoarthritis.
The herbs outperformed the drug when patients were tested for degree of stiffness and functional impairment. The Canadian researchers concluded that the herbal combination is a “safe and efficacious alternative to established anti-inflammatory medications for alleviating OA symptoms…”
Baicalin comes as capsules or as a powder to stir into drinks, and is often combined with other ingredients in formulas. It’s even available in skin cream to protect against pollution and ultra violet rays.