The Health Benefits Juan Bi Tang

This traditional Chinese remedy is believed to treat arthritis

A Chinese male doctor weighs traditional Chinese medicine

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Juan Bi Tang (also known as Chuan Pi Tang) is a multi-ingredient remedy used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for health purposes. Available as a dietary supplement, Juan Bi Tan is used in TCM is to nourish the blood and treat symptoms of "wind-cold" (such as fever and chills), "wind-damp" (such as arthritis), and Qi stagnation (imbalances of the liver or spleen).

As opposed to Western medicine which aims to prevent or treat disease, TCM focuses on correcting imbalances that leave the body vulnerable to illness.

Juan Bi Tang is commonly prescribed to treat pain-causing conditions, including arthritis. It is traditionally made with a set number of ingredients, although the proportions can vary and certain ingredients may be altered by the individual practitioner.

Herbs Found in Juan Bi Tang

Health Benefits

According to practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, climate and weather can impact health by causing "imbalances" in the organs and affecting the body's flow of vital energy, known as Qi.

Since damp, windy weather is thought to contribute to health problems, Juan Bi Tang may protect against symptoms of wind-cold and wind-damp by stimulating circulation and alleviating stiffness in the joints and muscles.

In TCM, Juan Bi Tang is often prescribed for the following conditions:

Despite centuries of use, there is little evidence that Juan Bi Tang can effectively treat any of these conditions. Even if benefits are noted in clinical research, it is often difficult to ascertain which ingredient may have contributed to the effect of what the exact mechanism of action is.

With that being said, there is some evidence that Juan Bi Tang may help fight inflammation and alleviate symptoms of arthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Among the available research, a 2018 study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology reported that rats with chemically-induced arthritis experienced less joint damage and bone loss when provided Juan Bi Tang compared to those that weren't.

Juan Bi Tang apparently does so by stimulating regulatory T-cells (Tregs) whose role it is to temper the immune response and, with it, the generalized inflammation that causes joint swelling, pain, and progressive bone damage.

While it is unclear how Juan Bi Tang works, some scientists believe that thunder god vine (Tripterygium wilfordii) contributes significantly. Within the plant are compounds known as triterpenoids that appear to block the production of inflammatory proteins (called cytokines) while bolstering the production of Tregs.

If this is so, Juan Bi Tang may prove useful in treating symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, a form of arthritis characterized by an overactive immune response. Further research is needed.

Possible Side Effects

Despite its long history of use in Chinese culture, little is known about the safety of Juan Bi Tang. Even more concerning is the fact that manufacturers of the product rarely post side effects. Based on the list of ingredients, these may include, among others:

  • Headache
  • Stomach ache
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Runny nose
  • Mouth or throat irritation
  • Irregular periods
  • Fluid retention
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Increased risk of bleeding
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Rash

Practitioners of TCM recommend that pregnant women avoid using Juan Bi Tang due to its influence on the menstrual cycle (particularly angelica sinesis which has estrogen-like effects). Taking it in early pregnancy may cause miscarriage.

It is unknown whether this same effect might promote hormone-sensitive conditions like breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids

Interactions

It is also unknown what drug interactions might occur. This is because many of the ingredients have been understudied. Moreover, it is unknown whether the combinations of herbs might intensify interactions or not. Among some of the known drug-drug interactions:

  • Angelica sinesis, turmeric, and white peony can increase the effects of blood thinners like warfarin, causing easy bleeding and bruising.
  • Astralagus and ginger may decrease the bioavailability and effectiveness of Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), lithium, and immunosuppressant drugs used to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases.
  • Licorice can reduce the bioavailability of warfarin and reduce the drug's effectiveness.
  • White peony may decrease the bioavailability of Dilantin (phenytoin), increasing the risk of seizures.

To avoid interactions, let your doctor about any other drugs you are taking, especially those used to treat hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, HIV, or heart disease. In this way, your blood can be monitored for any irregularities while taking Juan Bi Tang.

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

Juan Bi Tang is most commonly sold in a capsule, liquid, or granulated form in the United States. These can be readily sources online or found in specialty shops specializing in TCM medications. There are also Chinese herbalists who practice throughout the United States who can specially prepare Juan Bi Tang

There are no guidelines for the appropriate use of Juan Bi Tang. Because the ingredients (and proportion of ingredients) can vary, there are no set dosages. Instead, you need to follow the instructions of the manufacturer or herbalist. However, doing so doesn't mean that the product is "safe" or that you won't get side effects.

Because dietary supplements are not strictly regulated in the United States, you need to approach any TCM remedy with a certain amount of caution. Compared to other western countries, the United States has the loosest regulation of herbal medicines overall, with only nine officially banned products. This places the burden of responsibility on the consumer to make the right choice. And, it's not always easy.

According to the National Centers for Complementary and Integrative Health, some Chinese herbal products have been found to be tainted with undeclared drugs, heavy metals, pesticides, or incorrect herbs (some of which have caused organ damage). 

To this end, if you decide to use Juan Bi Tang or any other TCM remedy, it is important to do so under the care of a qualified physician. Try not to be swayed by claims of "cures" or health benefits. Not only is it illegal to do, but there is little evidence of any such benefit.

Juan Bi Tang can be safely stored at room temperature, ideally in an airtight container to prevent mold or mildew.

Common Questions

Will my health insurance cover Juan Bi Tang?

Generally speaking, health insurance providers in the United States will not cover herbal remedies. With that being said, some insurers have begun to negotiate discounts with suppliers for natural or homeopathic products that they do not cover.

One such example is Aetna which offers a 15 percent discount on more than 2,400 health and wellness products (including homeopathic remedies and yoga equipment) through the San Diego-based American Specialty Health Administrators.

Other insurers may cover alternative medical practices, such as acupuncture or massage therapy if they are deemed medically necessary. There are even groups that offer "Insurance coverage" for specific alternative modalities, such as aromatherapy, although the cost of such plans generally exceeds the benefits.

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Article Sources

  1. Wang Q, Wang YR, Jia QY, et al. The efficacy of the traditional Chinese medicine Juanbi pill combined with methotrexate in active rheumatoid arthritis: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials. 2018;19:188. doi:10.1186/s13063-018-2555-1.

  2. Fleischer T, Su YC, Lin SJS. How do government regulations influence the ability to practice Chinese herbal medicine in western countries? J Ethnopharm. 2017;196:104-9. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2016.11.047S

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