TCM Principles - Research on Immunomodulatory Activities of Japanese Chinese Herbal Formulas


TCM Principles


Research on Immunomodulatory Activities of

Japanese Chinese Herbal Formulas


by Dagmar Riley


Traditional Japanese medicine (Kampo) is based on Chinese medicine (TCM) and its formulas. The Japanese simplified the Chinese methods of diagnosis and chose around 200 formulas that had proven themselves over the centuries out of some 17,000 formulas found in the voluminous classical Chinese herbalism texts. Kampo can be characterised as a simplified and pragmatic version of Chinese herbal medicine. Since 1976, the Japanese National Health Insurance Plan covers 147 Kampo formulas manufactured under strict guidelines guaranteeing authenticity of herbs and batch to batch consistency of active ingredients, Sun Ten Pharmaceuticals is one of the few non-Japanese producers of Kampo formulations that are approved as reimbursable drug products in Japan.


Mainly due to the fact that in modern Japan, Kampo is almost exclusively practised by physicians educated in Western medicine a 1996 survey found that 77.5% of responding physicians prescribed Kampo medicines to their patients, Japanese physicians have systematically harmonized the traditional diagnosis patterns with Western medicine disease definitions and conducted extensive research on the biomedical mechanisms of Kampo formulas and their active ingredients.


A much researched area is the use of Kampo/TCM formulas in modulation of the immune response in disorders where Western medicine treatment has proven quite unsuccessful. The following table provides an overview of the immunomodulatory activities of popular Kampo/TCM formulas.


Table: Immunomodulatory Activities of Kampo/TCM Formulas

Formula Name


Common Areas of Ese

Immunomodulatory Activity

Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (Ginseng & Astragalus Fromula)

Allergies, asthma, frequent colds, chronic fatigue, hypotension.

Allergy/Asthma: Dichotomously modulates allergic inflammation in a murine model for asthma, reduces eosinophilia and Th2-type cytokine production in the airway, significantly decreases immunoglobulin (Ig) E and IgG1. Suppresses Interleukin (IL)-4 production by spleen T cells in response to OVA, while increasing Interferon (IFN)-gamma production.

Anti-aging by restoration of impaired immune function: Remarkably effective in the restoration of impaired immune functions of old mice in terms of number of T cells and NK cells, and anti-SRBC antibody response. Appears to exert anti-aging effects in mice and elevation in certain monoamines in brain cortical tissues, improves memory, elevates dopamine and noradrenalin in mice.

Arthritis: Regulates immune responses, suppresses the development of collagen-induces arthritis (CIA), redistributes the population of lymphocytes in lymph node and blood and inhibits IL-6 and TNF-alpha secretion in CIA mice.

Xiao Chai Hu Tang (Minor Bupleurum Combination)

Liver diseases, bronchial asthma, chronic gastroenteritis, chronic tonsillitis, orthostatic hypotension.

Protects the liver: increases IFN production and NK activity; upregulates G-CSF, TNF-, IL-1, IL-10, downregulates Con A-stimulated IL-4 and IL-5 production by human PBMC; increases serum IFN and IL-6 activity of i.p. treated mice; increases serum TNF activity in orally treated mice.

Shi Quan Da Bu Tang (Ginseng & Dang Gui Ten Combination)

General immunostimulant for patients undergoing chemotherapy. Tonic for patients recovering from surgery. General fatigue, loss of appetite, chronic disease.

General immuno-stimulation

Activates complement activity and stimulates the proliferation of mouse spleen cells.

Much research has focused on the fomula’s ability to protect mice against the toxic effects of anticancer drugs. Shi Quan Da Bu Tang increases phagocytic activity of macrophages, and adoptive transfer of macrophages from Shi Quan Da Bu Tang treated mice inhibited the growth of pulmonary metastases significantly.

Activates both macrophages and T cells.

Dang Gui Shao Yao San (Dang Gui & Peony Formula)

General fatigue, menopausal syndrome, sterility, oedema.

In a model of human SLE in mice, Dang Gui Shao Yao San accelerates the clearance of circulating immune complexes.

Wen Qing Yin (Dang Gui & Gardenia Combination)

Allergic dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema, urticaria.

Decreases rheological activity of activated human leukocytes; inhibits inflammation-induces IL-8 production in rats; inhibits type IV allergic and graft versus host reactions in mice.


*Reproduced with kind permission from Health World Limited - Australia and New Zealand

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