A study has indicated that Chinese herbs such as hooked herb, root extract and a dash of bark could provide treatments for diseases such as Parkinson's and irritable bowel syndrome.
For the study, 115 people with Parkinson's were given a combination of traditional Chinese medical herbs, including gou teng (herb with hook-like branches) or a placebo for 13 weeks early this year.
The results showed that volunteers who had taken the herbs slept better and had more fluent speech than those taking the placebo.
Now, Li Min, a traditional Chinese doctor at Hong Kong Baptist University and her colleagues have figured out how it might work.
Parkinson's symptoms, such as muscle tremors, slowness of movement and rigidity, are caused by the progressive destruction of brain cells that produce dopamine.
According to Li, autophagy - a type of programmed cell death is the only known process that gets rid of abnormal proteins within cells.
"Enhancing this pathway may be key to treating Parkinson's," she said.
The results were presented in detail at the Keystone Symposia on Molecular and Cellular Biology in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada.