Chinese herbs, peanut allergy - and mice

‘In 2001 scientists reported that a food allergy formula (FAHF-1) comprising 11 herbs, prevented anaphylaxis in mice with peanut allergy. To simplify the therapy and identify the herbs that are most effective against peanut allergy anaphylaxis, scientists developed a second herbal formula (FAHF-2) with two fewer herbs. These were eliminated because they were unlikely to be key herbs for treating food allergy and potentially could become toxic if inappropriately processed.

To test FAHF-2, mice with peanut allergy were given the formula and then challenged with peanut. The symptoms these mice exhibited were compared to control mice who had not received treatment before challenge.

A third group of allergy-free mice were also given FAHF-2 which appeared to have no toxic effects, even when administered at well above a therapeutic dose.

The mice with the peanut allergy who were treated with the FAHF-2 were challenged with peanut immediately and then one, three or five weeks after receiving the FAHF-2. They did not suffer anaphylaxis and peanut-specific IgE levels in these mice were lower than those in the untreated mice, and remained lower for five weeks after the therapy.

It was therefore concluded that the FAHF-2 prevented anaphylaxis in peanut allergic mice for up to five weeks after treatment. This study indicates that FAHF-2 could potentially be a safe, effective and long term herbal therapy for peanut allergy. Future research will focus on measuring how long FAHF-2 is protective and analysing the effects of each of the herbs in FAHF-2 on peanut allergy.

This study shows promise for potential treatments in the future, however much more research is needed before this can be applied to humans who have peanut or other food allergies.’

Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Vol 115, No 1:171-178

First published in May 2005

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