Remissions of nephrotic syndrome due to membranous nephropathy (MN) induced byAstragalus membranaceus have drawn nephrologists attention to medicinal herbs as alternative treatments of glomerulonephritis. MN stands for a group of chronic glomerulonephritides that are routinely treated with corticosteroids and cytotoxic drugs, although treatment responses are unsatisfactory and the toxic burden significant. The investigational status of Astragalus and other medicinal herbs like Angelica sinensis, Tripterygium wilfordii, Rheum palmatum, Ligusticum wallichii, Perilla frutescens, Salvia miltiorrhiza, Arctium lappa with respect to their use as treatments of chronic renal disease and specifically of glomerulonephritis is reviewed. Most of these herbs are in current clinical use in China and appear to have promising constituents capable of modifying immune processes in glomerulonephritis. Nevertheless, their application in patients can still not be advocated as clinical studies meeting international quality standards have not been performed and toxic risks had not been excluded with adequate scrutiny.
Key words: Glomerulonephritis, medicinal herbs, triptolide, astragalus, perilla, rhubarb.
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