Autoimmunity: Can Herbs Help or Hurt

Autoimmune diseases are complicated and need an expert’s eye to find safe natural alternatives.  The body loses it self regulation or self tolerance in autoimmune disease and as a result, inflammatory molecules rush to the affected target tissues.  The immune system allows production of large amounts of inflammatory cytokines or communication molecules that create tissue damage.  Cells in the CD4+ helper cell family, particularly TH1 and TH17 drive the pathways.  Autoimmune diseases such as listed below are examples of the disruption of the immune system from the regulatory cells and the ‘attack of self’.


Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (usually Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis)

Lupus (or systemic lupus erthmatosus)

Multiple sclerosis

Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Sjogren’s syndrome

Ulcerative Colitis

The desire to use herbs or botanicals when you have autoimmune disease is not uncommon.  Pharmaceuticals or medications are limited in their effects so holding off and managing symptoms with other tools can be a great option for patients who are in the early stages of autoimmunity even if they have a lot of pain.  I have seen patients well progressed in their disease do well off medications and on botanicals, however it dose take alot of dedication and work.  There is growing interest among patients and the research community to use plants to help manage autoimmune symptoms.

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