The use of alternative medicine, including consumption of herbal products and dietary supplements, has been increasing substantially both in the United States and in Western Europe. One area that is garnering increased attention is the use of Oriental Medicine including Kampo, or Japanese herbal medicine. Herein, we review representative examples of research available on the most common use of Kampo medicinals, namely to improve the immune response. We also provide an extensive background on the history of Kampo. There are more than 210 different Kampo formulae used in Japan and most uses of Kampo are to modulate the immune response, i.e. to improve immunity. We have extracted data on seven common Kampo medicinals, and the data are reviewed with respect to in vitro and in vivo activities for both humans and experimental animals; the ingredients as well as the problems with classification of these materials are presented. Research suggests that Kampo herbals are biologically active and may have therapeutic potential. While it is believed that Kampo medicines have few side effects, there is a paucity of data on their toxicity as well as a relative lack of knowledge of the bioactive constituents and potential drug interactions of these agents. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.
- Chinese medical philosophy
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