It seems that Chinese Medicine offers more than woo and tiger's penis. New Scientist reports on a Tibetan shrub that can trick cells into thinking they are starving causing them to blocks immune reactions that can cause disease via an active ingredient called halofuginone which 'mimics such a shortage by blocking an enzyme that feeds one amino acid to the protein-making machinery':
- [This] triggers a chemical cascade that responds to amino acid scarcity, called AAR. This inhibits the growth of malaria parasites, stops blood cells from making proteins that cause inflammation, and stops the development of specific white blood cells that trigger conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis.
This could make the drug effective against autoimmune disease. But as halofuginone mimics nutrient deprivation, there is another possible use. Animals that receive only just adequate nutrition are known to live longer, partly because diseases which involve inflammation are prevented. That, says Keller, means halofuginone might possibly work as an anti-aging drug.