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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Treatment of syphilis with tufuling (Smilax glabra Roxb. rhizome)

Tufuling or Rhizoma Smilacis Glabrae has been used in China as a detoxicant to treat diseases like syphilis for centuries, with a recorded use history dating back to around the 5th century A.D.

Venereal diseases were seldom encountered in China during its 5-decade closed door communist rule. Then, along with the increased outside contact and trading, these diseases gradually reappeared in recent years. This is a report by a Chinese physician, Dr. Wang Qing-Quan, from the Nanping Second Municipal Hospital of Fujian Province, who treated 30 cases of syphilis with tufuling reportedly with great success.

The patients were all male, 22 to 56 years old. Duration of disease ranged from 6 weeks to 4 years; 18 were primary and 12 secondary. The treatment consisted of a daily dose of 250 g of tufuling decocted and drunk warm 30 minutes before breakfast, lunch and dinner. Each course of treatment lasted 20 days; and efficacy was evaluated after 3 courses of treatment. A blood test for syphilis was performed after each course of treatment and again every 3 and 6 months during the first and second year of follow up respectively. According to Dr. Wang, 27 of the 30 patients (90%) were cured after tufuling treatment, as evidenced by disappearance of symptoms and negative blood tests after a 2-year follow-up. The remaining 3 patients (2 primary and 1 secondary) switched to penicillin midway during the herb treatment due to the inconvenience in decocting and taking the herbal medication (which essentially increased the efficacy rate to 100% for those who received the herbal treatment).

The reason that this report attracted my attention is that I have been aware of tufuling and other Smilax spp. (e.g., sarsaparilla) traditionally being used in treating syphilis in China and in other countries. I am also aware of the fact that there has not been any modern clinical evidence to support this use. Another factor that prompted me to select this article is the herb was used here singly (uncommon in Chinese medicine) along with the employment of modern diagnostic techniques, which confirmed that it was syphilis that Dr. Wang was treating.

This is not the first report on using tufuling to successfully treat syphilis in modern times. Earlier reports appeared in the 1950's and early 1960's. I am sure one can find more cases treated and reported in the past few years if one scans the Chinese literature. Even though, as expected, this herbal treatment is much slower to take effect than modern antibiotic therapy, it can serve as an alternative, especially for those patients who are allergic to antibiotics or others who simply don't want to take any modern antibiotics.

These and more herbal remedies are available from the volumes of Dr. Leung’s newsletter, of the same name as this blog (Leung’s Chinese Herb News). This newsletter was published and sent to subscribers (most were industry-insiders) from 1996 to 2004. The collected works now serve as an excellent reference work, created with Dr. Leung’s frank, honest opinions and down-to-earth communication style.

For more information about Dr. Leung and his writings, visit http://www.earthpower.com/. To order the newsletter containing the remedies mentioned above, visit the bookstore, click “Buy Now” on the newsletter, and select Issue # 35 from the drop down list.

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