Chinese Medicine Antioxidants

Traditional Chinese Medicine has a long history of promoting longevity and anti-aging therapies. Recently, research shows that Chinese medicine therapies such as herbs, acupuncture, and tai ji all have antioxidant capabilities.

Oxidative stress can be understood as an imbalance between the creation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the body’s ability to detoxify through antioxidants and other mechanisms.[1] Health in TCM is based upon the idea of balance which can be understood as a homeostatic state.[2]

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Herbal Antioxidants

Traditional Chinese medicine has long focused on longevity and improving health for those with age related diseases such as arthritis, joint pain, senility, and maturing skin. Recently, scientists have theorized that herbs which enhance and boost yin and yang properties would be high in antioxidants as they are used in treating these age related diseases.[3] Both Yang tonic herbs, such as Gao Ben (Ligusticum sinensis) and Yin tonic herbs, such as Qing Hao (Artemisia annua) both showed DNA protective effects.[4]

Another approach for examining the antioxidant properties of herbs is through their taste. Throughout TCM history scholars and physicians have classified herbs according to characteristics such as taste, temperature, and functions to describe their actions. One study of antioxidant levels within herbs showed that herbs with bitter and sour flavors had the highest levels of antioxidants.[5]

Another study that looked at the antioxidant levels of TCM herbs in relation to Yin Yang properties concluded the Yin herbs had higher levels of antioxidants than the Yang herbs.[2] It is interesting to note that all the Yin herbs used in this study had bitter flavors.

Green Tea Antioxidant

Green tea is the most common beverage drank throughout Asia. It is loaded with antioxidants called catechins. Green tea has many health benefits including potential anti-cancer effects, weight loss, and cardiovascular benefits. [6-9] Green tea has benefits for the skin including photo protection from UV light, protective against skin cancer, and may help reduce formation of keloids. [10]

Green tea can also be used topically. Traditionally, brewed tea was used as a face wash. You can also combine green tea in your homemade face masks with clay and honey. Many contemporary beauty products and supplements use green tea.[9]

Acupuncture as Antioxidant

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years for treatment of age related diseases. Scientists now assert that acupuncture’s effect on Parkinson’s, dementia, and hypertension is at least partially related to it’s antioxidant capability. [11]

Tai Chi Chuan as Antioxidant

Tai Chi Chuan (Tai Chi or Tai Ji) is a slow moving exercise and martial art which is based on balance and relaxation. There are many different styles of tai chi which all perform slow moving exercise forms consisting of a series of positions relax the mind and body.

Throughout Asia the health benefits of slow moving exercises have been known for centuries. Recent research supports that tai chi helps cardiovascular and neurologic health, chronic pain, and balance. [12-14] Tai Chi has also been shown to reduce oxidative stress and DNA damage.[15]

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1. Sies H. Oxidative stress: a concept in redox biology and medicine. Redox Biol.2015;4:180-183; PMID: 25588755.

2. Ou B, Huang D, Hampsch-Woodill M, et al. When east meets west: the relationship between yin-yang and antioxidation-oxidation. FASEB J.2003;17(2):127-129; PMID: 12554690.

3. Ko KM, Leung HY. Enhancement of ATP generation capacity, antioxidant activity and immunomodulatory activities by Chinese Yang and Yin tonifying herbs. Chin Med.2007;2:3; PMID: 17386115.

4. Szeto YT, Benzie IF. Is the yin-yang nature of Chinese herbal medicine equivalent to antioxidation-oxidation? J Ethnopharmacol.2006;108(3):361-366; PMID: 16870371.

5. Liao H, Banbury LK, Leach DN. Antioxidant activity of 45 Chinese herbs and the relationship with their TCM characteristics. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.2008;5(4):429-434; PMID: 18955214.

6. Huang J, Wang Y, Xie Z, et al. The anti-obesity effects of green tea in human intervention and basic molecular studies. Eur J Clin Nutr.2014;68(10):1075-1087; PMID: 25074392.

7. Rahmani AH, Al Shabrmi FM, Allemailem KS, et al. Implications of Green Tea and Its Constituents in the Prevention of Cancer via the Modulation of Cell Signalling Pathway. Biomed Res Int.2015;2015:925640; PMID: 25977926.

8. Islam MA. Cardiovascular effects of green tea catechins: progress and promise. Recent Pat Cardiovasc Drug Discov.2012;7(2):88-99; PMID: 22670802.

9. Burlando B. Herbal principles in cosmetics : properties and mechanisms of action. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2010.

10. Barbosa NS, Kalaaji AN. CAM use in dermatology. Is there a potential role for honey, green tea, and vitamin C? Complement Ther Clin Pract.2014;20(1):11-15; PMID: 24439638.

11. Zeng XH, Li QQ, Xu Q, et al. Acupuncture mechanism and redox equilibrium. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.2014;2014:483294; PMID: 25097658.

12. Zheng G, Li S, Huang M, et al. The effect of Tai Chi training on cardiorespiratory fitness in healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One.2015;10(2):e0117360; PMID: 25680184.

13. Lan C, Chen SY, Lai JS, et al. Tai chi chuan in medicine and health promotion. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.2013;2013:502131; PMID: 24159346.

14. Mortimer JA, Ding D, Borenstein AR, et al. Changes in brain volume and cognition in a randomized trial of exercise and social interaction in a community-based sample of non-demented Chinese elders. J Alzheimers Dis.2012;30(4):757-766; PMID: 22451320.

15. Huang XY, Eungpinichpong W, Silsirivanit A, et al. Tai chi improves oxidative stress response and DNA damage/repair in young sedentary females. J Phys Ther Sci.2014;26(6):825-829; PMID: 25013276.

Joseph Alban

Joseph Alban, L.Ac.

Joseph Alban is a Doctor of Acupuncture, New York Licensed Acupuncturist, and NCCAOM Board Certified Herbalist providing the highest quality Acupuncture and Chinese medicine care tailored to your needs.

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