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Alan Tillotson On Glaucoma

Submitted by dave on Wed, 03/07/2007 - 12:52pm

I have recently started consulting with Alan Tillotson, R.H., Ph.D., at the CHRYSALIS NATURAL MEDICINE CLINIC. I'm impressed with his knowledge of Ayurvedic and Chinese herbs (as well as Western herbs). I had a one hour consultation with Alan yesterday and I will definitely be following up with him. (Later in this post, I will share something he has written on glaucoma.)


According to his website, Alan has been practicing herbal medicine for over twenty years as a professional member of theAmerican Herbalists Guild. He holds a Master's degree in Asian Medical Systems (Goddard College), and a Ph.D. in Integrative Health Sciences (IUPS). He earned a teaching degree in meditation from the Jin Shan School of Taoist Meditation under Sifu Wang Yen-Nien. Alan is a diplomat in Ayurvedic Health Sciences based on his work in Nepal under Vaidya Mana Bajra Bajracyarya.  For two years was guest faculty, teaching at the Thomas Jefferson Medical University's alternative medicine course. He works as a formulator for the natural foods industry. He also teaches T'ai Chi, Chi Kung and meditation classes, and maintains a research library in natural medicine clinical applications from around the world. He is the author of the Handbook of Ayurvedic Medicine (1985) and the 600 page textbook for laypersons and professionals entitled The One Earth Herbal Sourcebook.

If you want to schedule a consultation with him, his clinic phone number is (302) 994-0565. If you have glaucoma (and an interest in complimentary medicine), I highly recommend that you contact Alan. (And if you live in Canada, consider contacting Todd Caldecott, who originally referred me to Alan.)

Alan gave me permission to share his article on glaucoma on my blog. I think you'll enjoy it. Here it is:

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.  There are several types of this disease, all of which could cause damage to the optic nerve in the back of the eye.  Peripheral vision examinations can detect glaucoma, even in cases where eye pressure is not necessarily elevated.  Age and smoking are major causative factors in this disease, as is stress, because excess adrenaline (the fight-or-flight stress chemical) elevates eye pressure.  Poor circulation can also contribute to glaucoma.  High blood pressure medications can actually cause blood pressure to drop too low at night, with a negative effect.

Most people develop the open-angle variety of glaucoma, also called primary open-angle, or chronic simple glaucoma. Other types of glaucoma are congenital, narrow-angle, secondary, and low tension; Many people with higher pressures or enlarged optic cups are put into the category of glaucoma suspect. The disease is characterized either by damage to the optic nerve through a mechanism of elevated pressure in the eye, poor blood supply in the optic nerve, or both.
Conventional treatment options include eye drops, laser therapy (especially for the narrow angle variety) and surgery, and are required if the patient continues to lose peripheral vision (tested by visual field exams).

The fluid pressure between the iris and the cornea builds up because the trabecular meshwork (the filter on the eye's drainpipe) becomes unable do its job properly. This is a bit more complex than it sounds. Recent evidence shows that there is a functional relationship between the ciliary body, which pulls, and the trabecular meshwork, which then distends and blocks fluid outflow. Originally thought to be a passive participant, it now seems that the trabecular meshwork itself has the ability to contract and open itself for fluid drainage (Wiederholt et al., 2000).

The goal of internal herbal therapy is to preserve visual function and maintain the health of the optic nerve.  The ideal medicine for glaucoma should improve microcirculation to the back of the eye, nourish and moisturize the intra-eye membranes, reduce IOP (intra-ocular pressure), calm stress, and improve fluid drainage. Elevated eye pressures and regular eye examinations to check results should of course be handled by an ophthalmologist during herbal therapy.

It should be noted here that certain chemicals found in foods have been shown to relax the trabecular meshwork without tightening the ciliary muscle. Two of these chemicals are called tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) and protein kinase C inhibitors (PKCI) (Wiederholt et al., 2000). According to Dr. Duke's database, these substances are found in high amounts in beans, including yellow split pea, black turtle beans, baby lima beans, large lima beans, anasazi beans, red kidney beans, red lentils, soybeans, black eyed peas, pinto beans, mung beans, azuki beans, etc. Quercetin is also a TKI, so also eat lots of yellow skinned onions, drink some green tea, and eat garlic and broccoli. The levels of specific chemicals gained by eating these foods is not extremely high (Janssen et al., 1998), but given the multiple benefits with regards to cancer prevention, cardiovascular disease etc., it makes good sense to include them in the diet. 

With all of this in mind, we can begin to formulate. A good formula would choose herbs from the following groups, along with herbs for specific whole body problems, such as poor digestion, essential fatty acid deficiency etc.

• To directly reduce IOP (intra-ocular pressure) with internal medicines, use coleus (Coleus forscolii ), jaborandi (Pilocarpus jaborandi), gou teng twigs (Uncaria sinensis), abalone shell (shi jue ming or Haliotidis diversicolor), oyster shell (mu li or Ostrea gigas) and/or xie ku cao spike (Prunella vulgaris).  Caution: a trained herbal practitioner or holistic physician must administer these.  They can be especially useful if eye drops fail to control pressures.

• To improve blood flow to the eye and prevent destruction of the retinal neurons and ganglion cells, choose herbs from the moving blood group, such as ginkgo leaf, bala and dang gui root.

• To improve fluid drainage choose from punarnava root (Boerhavia difusa), water plantain rhizome (ze xie or Alisma plantago-aquatica), or cinnamon twigs.  (As diuretics, this method makes sense in TCM and TAM, but does not have a strong basis in Western understanding.)

• To nourish and moisturize the intra-eye membranes choose from flaxseed oil, evening primrose oil, cooked rehmannia root, and especially DHA.

•  To reduce nervous tension and calm the sympathetic nervous system, choose herbs from the nervine group, such asashwagandha root

• The phytochemical apigenin competes with chemicals which over-stimulate PKC activity, and so we find potential glaucoma benefit with apigenin-rich parsley, chamomile flowers, feverfew and chrysanthemum flowers
(Williams et al., 1999), the last of which has long been used by TCM doctors for eye inflammation.  In a similar fashion, curcumin from turmeric root is also able to reduce PKC activity (Lin JK et al., 1997). Both apigenin and curcumin  also have anti-cancer activity(Trochon et al., 2000).

• Pharmacological studies have shown that certain  ginseng root glycosides reduce activation of PKC (Byun et al., 1997). In patients with weak digestion this would be a perfect choice.

Complex Formulations

The Shanghai research hospital reported a high effectiveness rate using the following formula based upon the TCMtreatment principles ofmoving the blood to remove stagnation and warming the Yang to reduce
fluids: raw rehmannia root, 12 (parts), red peony root 9 , dang gui 12, achyranthes root (huan niu xi or A.  bidentata) 15,poria mushroom 12, grifola mushroom (zhu ling or G.  umbellata) 12, water plantain rhizome 12, cinnamon twig 6 (reported in Hu, 1991). The dose would translate into about 9-12 grams per day of concentrated 4:1 granuled Chinese herbs. This should be prescribed only by a qualified TCM doctor, as individual variations are needed for maximum effectiveness.

Develpments at the Chrysalis Natural Medicine Clinic, Delaware Opthalmology consultants and Westmont University

In 1996 Dr. Abel and I went to Nepal to investigate possible glaucoma treatments, and studied the Ayurvedic methods used by Dr. Mana.  After that, working at our clinic with complex formulations of herbs based upon our technical understanding of the glaucoma disease process, and partially based upon the original tonic formula used in Nepal,  we gradually made advances in understanding as we developed a basic formula called Trifolan.  Working with Dr. Abel's group, we have used this formula to preserve visual field in numerous patients since 1998, including patients resistant to steroid eye drops. Our formulation was tested with the help of researcher Dr. George Ayoub  (currently at UCSB) and found to have direct and immediate retinal protective action on animals, one of its important key benefits (unpublished research). That is, while most of the formula is designed to slowly work at resolving the underlying causes of glaucoma, the immediate protective effects seen in the animal studies, if true for humans (our clinical results so far imply this), gives a great advantage - the patients vision is protected as we work to improve it.

For more information on how to obtain the Trifolan herbal treatment, click on the ALAN AND NAIXINS CLINIC Tab (Chrysalis Natural medicine) in the grey navitation bar to the left.


Lifestyle and other adjunct treatment options that may aid in the management and/or prevention of glaucoma include:

• Good nutrition, especially reduced consumption of alcohol and
caffeine, and increased intake of foods high in vitamin C such as bell peppers, broccoli, citrus fruit, brussel sprouts, guava, kale, parsley and strawberries (Duke, 1997)

• Daily exercise for 30 to 40 minutes 

• Smoking cessation

• Deep breathing exercises to reduce stress.

• Increased intake of spring water, up to six glasses per day

• If the patient is constipated, bowel regulation can be helpful.  Both Eclectic and Ayurvedic physicians reported this.

• Dr. Foltz reports that massage of the eyeball appears to have a beneficial influence in some cases.

• Acupuncture can be used for eye pressure headaches.

• As with many diseases, individual patients are taking responsibility for their own learning and sharing with others on blogs.Here is a good one.


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