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Health Agencies Update
February 27, 2013

Herbal Medicine Examined

JAMA. 2013;309(8):759. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.854

Febrifugine, a traditional Chinese medicine used to treat fever associated with malaria, likely inhibits the synthesis of proteins in humans and the Plasmodium falciparum parasite. This property may explain the compound's mechanism of action, according to a study funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences that investigated the compound's structure and interactions.

Febrifugine is the active ingredient in Chang Shan, an herbal remedy believed to have been used for about 2000 years, according to the study's authors (Zhou H et al. Nature. 2013;494[7435]:121-124). Previous evidence suggests that halofuginone, which is derived from febrifugine, suppresses the immune system; this derivative has been tested in clinical trials as a treatment for cancer and scleroderma. The new study probed the precise chemical structure of halofuginone and how it interacts with other compounds.

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