A medicine that was used by the ancient Egyptians is finding a new use for heart inflammation. Colchicine is derived from crocuses, and the pharaohs were using it to treat sore, swollen joints. In modern times, it has been used to ease the pain of gout.

A new randomized controlled trial has found that its anti-inflammatory power is also effective against pericarditis. This inflammation surrounding the heart may be triggered by infection or a heart attack. In the study, 240 people who had recurrent pericarditis were randomly assigned to receive either colchicine or a look-alike placebo. The cardinal symptom of searing chest pain recurred in 22 percent of those on colchicine, compared to 42 percent of those taking a placebo. About 10 percent of those in the placebo group had to be hospitalized, compared to 1.7 percent of those getting colchicine.

The medication caused digestive distress in some patients, but no serious side effects appeared in this study. Previous research has shown that some drugs interact with colchicine to increase the possibility of dangerous reactions.

[American College of Cardiology, March 28, 2014 Washington, DC]

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  1. frenagd

    “Old-fashioned” is a very unfortunate adjective for a plant’s possible healing attributes. Presumably the plant has the same talents today as back when the Ancient Egyptians were using it. Not only do a great many plants have healing attributes, but very many of the plants have been and are still the basis of modern pills, potions and other drugs.
    Chinese Traditional Medicine — VERY old-fashioned, with its first text published 3000 years ago (and still available as “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine”) — was treating diabetes by 200 AD, using the pancreas of pigs.
    What a pity it took us “modern” people another 1700 years to catch up with that concept. They were also using the plant Ma Huang, the Chinese Ephedra, to treat asthma. Again, took us another 1600 years to catch up with that concept too. So could we have less of the “old-fashioned” and a bit more real attention paid to what has been discovered and used successfully in other traditional medicine systems. After all, everyone including your doctor is boosting the use of turmeric now, and that also comes from a very “old-fashioned” tradition.
    Tell you what, it’s very “old-fashioned” to not explore and acknowledge the treatment systems of other cultures. And anyway, as a pharmacist, you know perfectly well that etynobotasnists even as you read these words, are ravaging the medicinal plant cultures around the world, precisely so they can be processed into “modern” medications that can hurt, maim and kill.
    Those very things you keep posting about.
    People’s Pharmacy response: Forgive our inability to get across the idea that the compound has a centuries-long history in the headline.

  2. JWM

    About 30 years ago I had my first attack of gout. Doctor prescribed colchinine and benemid, which took care of the gout. Still on probenicid, BTW and when I miss a few doses my toe hurts.
    The point I want to make is this: I used a chain saw while on the original treatment and my elbows started to hurt something terrible. Finally got over that, but I wish the doctor had told me to avoid the chain saw bit for a while.
    At 83 I have no problems now.
    J Mason

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