Human body temperature is regulated by hypothalamus, which is a part of brain. Hypothalamus decides the required temperature, or set point, for the body which is 37°C or 98.60 F. There are two types of body temperature; core temperature (inner body temperature) & skin temperature. There are certain enzymes (proteins which are essential for carrying out different reactions needed for life) i.e. COX in the body. They are responsible for formation of other protein molecules called Leukotrienes (LT) and Prostaglandins (PG). These enzymes and protein molecules together activate hypothalamus and increase the set point i.e. required temperature. The core temperature increases along with skin temperature and this leads to fever.
Sweating /Diaphoresis in fever
Suppression of the temperature set point (in hypothalamus) reduces fever. Sweating is a protective method to maintain the normal body temperature i.e. around 37°C. Sweat glands are small structures of skin which produce sweat, a salty fluid which helps in fever management. Sweating is mainly controlled by brain (hypothalamus) and partly controlled by skin temperature. When body is too warm and drug treatment is administered, the set point comes down and core/inner temperature decreases. Then hypothalamus sends signal to sweat glands. This results in increased sweating on the skin surface, due to which the skin temperature decreases and body becomes cool.
Diaphoresis is the medical term used for extreme sweating or perspiring either by effect of a drug or due to a disease. It does not happen in normal conditions. Diaphoretics are drugs or chemical substances which reduce the body temperature and produce extreme sweating.
Data from over 5000 years show that the herbs have played a vital/essential role in both traditional and non-traditional forms of medicine. Fever can be controlled with the use of special type of herbs known as diaphoretic herbs. Diaphoretic herbs improve the sweating process by affecting the blood vessels and sweat glands. The useful components or part of the herb inhibits enzymes, prostaglandin and leukotriene protein molecules and decrease the set point (i.e. required temperature) of brain (hypothalamus). This results in excessive sweating and reduction of skin temperature.
Types of diaphoretic herbs
There are mainly two types of diaphoretic herbs. The first class of diaphoretic herbs relaxes the blood vessels beneath the skin, opens up the pores of the skin and brings about sweating. Therefore, they are termed as Relaxing or Cooling diaphoretics.
Another class of diaphoretic herbs improve the blood circulation beneath the skin and brings about sweating. These are called Stimulating or Warming diaphoretics.
Relaxing or Cooling diaphoretics: These herbs reduce fever by producing excessive sweat in conditions of high temperature with dry hot skin and increased blood pressure. Examples of relaxing diaphoretics are Chamomile (Matricariarecutita), Elder flower (Sambucusnigra) and Meadow sweet (Filipendulaulmaria).
Chamomile is one of the oldest, most commonly used and proven medicinal plant in the world. This herb is found in number of herbal preparations. The flowers of chamomile contain 1–2% volatile oils (chamazulene) which block enzymes and proteins causing fever and pain. Additionally, chamomile herb provides comfort from pain and anxiety in patient with high fever. Study in humans has proven their mechanism of action.
Stimulating or Warming diaphoretics: These herbs reduce fever, increase (stimulating) blood flow in the skin and bring about an increase in sweat secretion. They are used when someone faints or is in shock i.e. when the skin becomes colourless and cold, there is congestion and slight fever with fast pulse. The aim in this condition is to control fever, provide warmth to the body, and stimulating diaphoretics help in doing so. Few examples of stimulating diaphoretics are: Ginger (Zingiberofficinale), Yarrow (Achilleamillefolium) and Horseradish (Armoraciarusticana).
Ginger herb is used as a natural treatment for fever. It contains volatile oil (Gingerol) which reduces the action of enzymes and proteins and thereby decreases body temperature. Scientific study has shown that it prevents formation of other substances (TNF-alpha and IL-1) which cause fever and pain.
Precaution in use of Diaphoretic herbs
Use of diaphoretics may lead to dehydration (loss of body fluid). It is therefore essential to check the body fluid level with care, when diaphoretic herbs are used. In case of dehydration, water and fruit juice should be given immediately to maintain the normal fluid level of the body.
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