Herbal medicines applied to tobacco benefit health

Date Added: Oct 25, 2013

It is found that there are at least 43 active carcinogens in cigarette smoke, in which polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and nitrosamines draw most interest. Currently, there are more than 100 PAHs that have been identified in cigarette smoke, about 30 of which show carcinogenicity, in which 3,4-benzopyrene is regarded as the strongest carcinogenetic substance. In addition, tobacco-specific nitrosamines are a type of powerful carcinogens which widely spread in the cigarette smoke but almost absent in other foods. It is reported over and over again that smoking contributes to lung carcinoma, larynx carcinoma, lumen carcinoma and other diseases.

Pharmacologists discovered that the extracts of some herbs have significant anti-neoplastic activities. For instance, paclitaxel, vinblastine, vincristine, camptothecin, colchicine, curcumin and elemene are such typical herbal extracts. When they are added to the cigarettes, burnt and smoked, some active ingredients therein go into the mouth with the smoke before absorbed by the blood and acting on cancer cells, thus playing a curative or preventive part against neoplasm. It is found that adding extracts from Radix puerariae, Syzygium aromaticum, turmeric, and Fructus psoraleae into the tobacco shreds of cigarettes is able to degrade and decrease 20%-80% PAHs. Furthermore, adding Folium epimedii glycosides and paeoniflorin into cigarettes reduces 3,4-benzopyrene by 21.8%, and tobacco-specific nitrosamines by 26.3%.

Extracts from Flos daturae and Flos farfarae in the Kangxi Cigarette can reduce 55.36% 3,4-benzopyrene and 28.6% phenyl-nitrosamine. The water or alcoholic extracts of Lucid ganoderma, once contained in the cigarettes, can inhibit tumor cells or even kill tumor cell in vivo by improving immunity of human bodies. One or several extracts from Dendrobium nobile, Sichuan dendrobium, Dertdrobium huoshanense are capable of preventing human bodies from lesions produced by hazardous substances in cigarette smoke and inhibiting cancer cells to some extent. All the above-mentioned studies indicate that including herbal extracts in the cigarettes will function against cancer cells by reducing harmful substances in the smoke, including PAHs, volatile nitrosamines (VNAs), non-volatile nitrosamines (NVNAs) and tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs).

Cigarette smoke contains tremendous free radicals of high activity and the main categories are as follow: I. gas-phase free radicals or unstable free radicals, including alkanes (R•) and alcoxyl (RO•) free radicals; II. particle-phase free radicals or stable free radicals, including quinone/semiquinone (Q•, QH•) free radicals. These free radicals enter into body through cigarette smoke and induce some disease, such as, atherosclerosis, hypertension, myocardial infarction, cerebral thrombosis. To prevent the increase of free radicals in body, it is better to minimize free radicals entering body through cigarette smoke.

Free radicals can be removed by some antioxidant substances in the plant extracts, such as the tea polyphenols in green tea, procyanidins and catechins in grape pip, mangiferin in mango, elecampane glycosides in Acanthopanax senticosus and rosmarinic acid in rosemary. The alcoholic extracts of Schisandra chinensis, Agastache rugosus can significantly remove free radicals in cigarettes, and liquorices and lignum dalbergiae odoriferae also show free radicals removing effect on certain extent. Astragalus membranaceus and tangerine peel extracts can minimize the harm of smoking by removing free radicals in cigarette smoke after sprayed on tobacco shreds.

The main ingredient of liquorices extracts, glycyrrhizin, shows 97.1% quenching effect on O+2 in DMSO alkaline aerobic system and 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid in liquorices extract liquid can remove oxygen radicals. Schisanhenol extracted from Schisandra chinensis shows the anti-oxidation ester effect and can eliminate the activity of free radical with 34.4% and 26.1% clearance rate for •OH and O+2, respectively. These results suggest that herbal extracts can significantly reduce free radicals in cigarette smoke and decrease the risk for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases.