The road to a healthier heart: Study suggests using TCM to repair mitochondrial dysfunction

Ischemic heart disease, which is also called coronary heart disease, is the most prevalent and the deadliest heart problem in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this disease causes more than 370,000 deaths yearly. Moreover, ischemic heart disease also increases the risk of heart attacks. These cause further damage to the heart, especially to the mitochondria in the cardiomyocytes. Researchers from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine found a way to prevent and treat the damage caused by these cardiovascular diseases in the traditional Chinese medicine Yiqihuoxue.

Yiqihuoxue is a decoction from five medicinal herbs, namely astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), female ginseng (Angelica sinensis), Panax ginseng, Szechuan lovage (Ligusticum wallichii), and Chinese ginseng (Panax notoginseng). Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners use this as a remedy for different cardiovascular diseases since they believe that it nourishes the “qi” and enriches the blood. But recently, it was observed that this decoction works by promoting blood vessel formation, reducing inflammation, and regulating ventricular function and energy metabolism. Moreover, previous studies have also shown that Yiqihuoxue has significant effects in rats after they had a heart attack.

Coronary heart disease is a condition characterized by an insufficient supply of blood to the heart. This occurs when there is too much cholesterol in the bloodstream that they start to build up and block the arteries. People who suffer from this disease may experience cardiomyocyte loss, ventricular remodeling, or even heart failure in extreme cases. The high mortality risk associated with ischemic heart disease is due to the increased risk of fatal heart attacks, which occurs when the blood supply is abruptly cut off. It’s not easy to survive a heart attack, and those who live through one will have significant damage in their heart tissues. Moreover, heart attacks also cause mitochondrial dysfunction in cardiomyocytes by interfering with different factors, including peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator (PGC-1-alpha), nuclear respiratory factor 1 (NRF-1), transcription factor A mitochondrial (Tfam), and adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK).


Cardioprotective effects of Yiqihuoxue

In this study, the researchers wanted to assess the cardioprotective effects of Yiqihuoxue and determine its mechanism of action against mitochondrial dysfunction. They did this through in vitro studies on cardiomyocyte cell cultures as well as in vivo studies in rats that were induced to have myocardial ischemia. From these experiments, they observed that Yiqihuoxue exhibits potent cardioprotective activities. They also observed that the decoction also protects against mitochondrial dysfunction by increasing the production of PGC-1-alpha, NRF-1, and Tfam through AMPK-mediated phosphorylation.

The authors also screened the compounds found in the extracts to determine those that are possibly involved in these activities. From this, they identified more than 87 constituents. Among these were astragalosides, calycosin, ferulic acid, and different ginsenosides that can reduce factors associated with cardiovascular diseases like inflammation, cell death, and oxidative stress.

From these experiments, the researchers concluded that Yiqihuoxue has cardioprotective properties that are effective against heart attacks and ischemic heart disease. Moreover, the decoction also prevented mitochondrial dysfunction. Overall, these results provided scientific evidence for the folkloric use of Yiqihuoxue and proved that it could be used as a natural remedy for cardiovascular problems. (Related: Reversing ischemic heart disease naturally.)

For more articles about different decoctions used in traditional Chinese medicine, visit

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