Diabetic retinopathy is a microvascular complication of type 2 diabetes and the leading cause of acquired blindness. In Taiwan, Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) is a popular adjunctive therapy. In this study, we investigated the CHM prescription patterns and their effects. We identified 23,701 subjects with type 2 diabetes in a database, and after matching for age and gender, 6,948 patients each were assigned to CHM and non-CHM groups. In the female subgroups, the cumulative retinopathy probability was lower for the CHM users than that for the CHM non-users (P < 0.001, log-rank test). Among the top 10 CHMs, Jia-Wei-Xiao-Yao-San (JWXYS; 52.9%), Shu- Jing-Huo-Xue-Tang (SJHXT; 45.1%), and Ge-Gen-Tang (GGT; 43.7%) were the most common herbal formulas. Yan-Hu-Suo (48.1%), Ge-Gen (42.1%), and Huang-Qin (HQin; 40.1%) were the most common single herbs. CHM network analysis showed that JWXYS was the core CHM of cluster 1. JWXYS, DS, XF, and SZRT exhibited both of the reductions of H2O2-induced phosphorylation of p38 MAPK and p44/42 MAPK (Erk1/2) in human ARPE-19 retina cells. In cluster 2, SJHXT was the core CHM. SJHXT and NX showed both of the phosphorylation reductions. In cluster 3, GGT was the core CHM, and it reduced the phosphorylation of both MAPKs. In cluster 4, HQin was the core CHM, and it also reduced the phosphorylation of both MAPKs. Our study suggests that adjunctive CHM therapy may reduce diabetic retinopathy via antioxidant activity of the herbs and provides information on core CHM treatments for further scientific investigations or therapeutic interventions.
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Tsai, F. J., Li, T. M., Ko, C. H., Cheng, C. F., Ho, T. J., Liu, X., Tsang, H., Lin, T. H., Liao, C. C., Li, J. P., Huang, S. M., Lin, J. C., Lin, C. C., Liang, W. M., & Lin, Y. J. (2017). Effects of Chinese herbal medicines on the occurrence of diabetic retinopathy in type 2 diabetes patients and protection of ARPE-19 retina cells by inhibiting oxidative stress. Oncotarget, 8(38), 63528-63550. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.18846