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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 7 (2010), Issue 4, Pages 501-510

Using Complementary and Alternative Medicines to Target the Host Response during Severe Influenza

1Research School of Biology, Building 41 Linnaeus Way, The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia
2Chinese Treatment Centre, Suite 4 Professional Centre, Turner, Australia

Received 20 May 2009; Accepted 30 August 2009

Copyright © 2010 Lisa M. Alleva et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


It is now accepted that an overwhelming inflammatory response is the cause of human deaths from avian H5N1 influenza infection. With this in mind we sought to examine the literature for examples of complementary and alternative medicines that reduce inflammation, and to place the results of this search in the context of our own work in a mouse model of influenza disease, using a pharmaceutical agent with anti-inflammatory properties. Two Chinese herbs, Angelica sinensis (Dang Gui) and Salvia miltiorrhiza (Danshen), have been recently shown to protect mice during lethal experimental sepsis via inhibition of the novel inflammatory cytokine High Mobility Group Box 1 protein (HMGB1). Biochanin A, a ligand of the peroxisome proliferator activated receptors (PPAR) alpha and gamma and the active isoflavone in Trifolium pratense (red clover), has anti-inflammatory properties, and thus could be used as an influenza treatment. This is of great interest since we have recently shown that gemfibrozil, a drug used to treat hyperlipidemia in humans and a synthetic ligand of PPAR alpha, significantly reduces the mortality associated with influenza infections in mice. The inflammation-modulating abilities of these natural agents should be considered in light of what is now known about the mechanisms of fatal influenza, and tested as potential candidates for influenza treatments in their own right, or as adjunct treatments to antivirals.