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Page Update 09.01.2017
Herbs for Autoimmune Diseases
By Dr.Ashraf Girgis N.D.
Published first on 02.15..2017
I have written an article previously about autoimmune diseases. Most of our ailments can start the same way. However, they manifest themselves and develop in various sicknesses and diseases. Until we have addressed the core issue responsible for the disease, we will continue going through remissions without truly uprooting the main cause.
Here, I would like to bring attention to a few excellent herbs that one can include in their daily diet. These herbs are simply for strengthening the body so it can heal itself without addressing the root cause; the root can be done by visiting an interactive medical doctor, naturopathic medicine practitioner, or a holistic doctor.
As always, I emphasize that one needs to talk to his or her doctor before starting any herbs. Herbs can have side effects or could potentially work against any medication you are on.
Here are herbs good for those with autoimmune diseases:
1. Green tea
Green tea is originally from China and has been used for about five thousand years. You can read about green tea in the article I have written here. Green tea has both anti-viral and anti-bacterial affects. It has many flavonoids, the notable ones being catechin, epicatechin gallate, epigallocatein gallate, and proanthocyanidins. These flavonoids, due to their strong antioxidant content, have shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory actions (inflammatory action is known to be the underlying cause of autoimmune diseases). Studies have shown green tea consumption decreases inflammation in patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Research also suggests that green tea can help arthritis by reducing inflammation.
A Meta–analysis from both Japan and the United States indicated consumption of green tea reduces the risk of breast cancer (Sun et al 2006). Similar results have been seen in various types of cancer. A prostate cancer study in Japan showed that consuming green tea lowered the risk of the advancement of prostate cancer. The study was done during a 10-year period among 49,920 men between the ages of 40-69 (Kurahashi et al 2008). In a study in patients with positive test results for the Hepatitis B virus, 1209 male participants who took 500 mg of green tea polyphenols twice a day reported to have only two cases of hepathocellular carcinoma as oppose to 18 cases in the placebo group (Yu et al 2006). Studies have shown men who drink about 10 cups of green tea per day are less likely to develop liver problems (http://umm.edu). The anti-inflammatory effects on liver cells are accredited to the Catechin in green tea. But of course, drinking such a large amount of tea per day can also cause issues due to caffeine.
There are a number of studies from all corners of the world-- including the U.S., Japan, and China-- showing many benefits of drinking green tea. Excessive drinking of green tea can interact with many medications, particularly blood-thinning medications. Please check with your doctor to make sure green tea is not interfering with your medications. For the full list of interactions and side effects, please visit www.umm.edu.
Photo By :Volosina
2. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger originated from South East Asia. In ancient Persia it was called gigevar, which is very close to its current name. It has also been used in ancient China for a few thousand years. It has been mentioned both the Quran and Bible. There are more than 70 types of ginger around the world. Ginger is best known for its anti-emetic (anti-nausea) effects in the United States. But 6-Gingerol (6G), a main active ingredient of ginger, is found to have anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and anti-cancer effects (Li Y et al 2017). In a study on rats, published in pharmaNutricion in July 2016 (Funk JL at al of university of Arizona), the scientists concluded,
“In total, these results suggest that ginger's anti-inflammatory properties are not limited to the frequently studied phenolics, but may be attributable to the combined effects of both secondary metabolites, the pungent-tasting gingerols and as well as its aromatic essential oils”.
Another study, published in J Nutr Gerontol Geriatr (2016 Jul-Sep) by Mozaffari-Khosravi et al, was conducted on 120 patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis. It showed a
decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokines. The researchers concluded,
“At 3 months, both cytokines decreased in the GG relative to the PG. The results of this study indicate that ginger supplementation may have a promising benefits for knee osteoarthritis and may, therefore, may warrant further study”. the study was conducted Yazd, University of Medical Sciences , in Iran.
There are many other studies that show promise in patients with various inflammation-related diseases. This is mainly due to a few constituents: gengeroles, shogaols and gingerenone. These constituents have shown to be the effective anti–inflammatory components (Schuhbaum and Franz 2000). Ginger extract has shown to repress several genes involved in inflammatory responses (Grzanna et al 2005).
Ginger also has many different medicinal effects, such as lowering cholesterol levels, (Thomson et al 2002), anti-fungal (Henry &Piggott 1987), and anti-microbial effects (Akoachere et al 2002002).
Photo By COLOA Studio
2. Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Turmeric originated in Asia. There is a strong possibility it originated in Persia and was brought to India, or vice versa. Turmeric has been used as a staple spice along with garlic and onion in almost all Iranian ancient and modern cuisine; in India, the yellow color of curry is due to turmeric. Turmeric was used by both Hindu and Chinese monks to color their robes because it is much cheaper than saffron.
Turmeric is an extensively researched herb. It is well known for its established anti-inflammatory benefits, which are due to the curcumin content found in its roots.
Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, turmeric has been used in the treatment of chronic disorders such as allergies, colitis, diabetes, hepatic injury, pancreatic diseases, various cancers, and inflammatory bowel diseases (Aggarwal et al 2007) (Bengmark 2006). Turmeric has shown to significantly reduce the C-reactive protein. Due to its anti-platelet effects, high doses can lead to an increased risk of bleeding. Turmeric has much more prominent anti-oxidant activities than ascorbic acid or even resveratrol (Song et al 2001).
Turmeric has shown to protect against Myocardial ischemic injury in animal studies (Mohanty et al 20014) ( Fiorillo et al 2008). A study on patients with irritable bowel syndrome showed a significant 53% reduction of symptoms (Bundy et al 2004). Their abdominal pain was also reduced by 25%.
Again, turmeric can interact differently with certain other drugs. It is always very important to consult your doctor before taking any herbs, and turmeric supplements are no exception.
Photo By Marian Weyo
3. Garlic (Alium Sativum)
Garlic belongs to the Lilaceae family, and is one of the most used herbs in everyday cooking. Garlic has been part of Persian food and medicine for thousands of years. India and Egypt also have used garlic since ancient times. You can read about garlic on my previous article here.
Once garlic is chewed, chopped, or sliced, the phytochemical allicin in garlic is converted to the active ingredient allicin. Many of garlic’s health benefits are attributed to allicin. Garlic contains vitamin C, selenium, manganese, potassium, iron, copper, and calcium. Garlic has also shown to be anti-bacterial and anti-fungal; it has been referred to as the “Russian Penicillin” due to its many antibacterial effects. Garlic strengthens and stimulates the immune system's response to disease. Therefore, it helps prevent malignant cells and tumors from developing and spreading. Plus, garlic’s sulfur compounds have a powerful effect on the liver’s detoxification enzymes. The liver uses these enzymes to break down and eliminate toxins. Garlic helps the liver remove toxic substances and harmful chemicals from the body; this action can actually keep cells from becoming cancerous. Fresh garlic extract and garlic oil extract have also shown anti-inflammatory actions (Youn et al 2008). Lee et al did a study to investigate the anti-inflammatory effects of garlic in patients with osteoarthrosis who underwent joint replacement, and saw very good results (Lee et al 2009). A review of 11 studies on animals showed a significant reduction in all types of cancer with the use of garlic (Ngo et al 2007). Epidemiological studies show a correlation between garlic consumption and the reverse of cardiovascular disease (Rahman &Lowe 2006). Garlic has many other health benefits such as reducing blood pressure and the reduction of hyperlipidemia. It is also anti-viral and anti-bacterial.
4. Willow Bark (Salix alba)
Willow Bark belongs to the Salicaceae family. Willow bark has been used for thousands of years and originated in China. In ancient China, patients were instructed to suck on the bark of a willow tree to reduce fever and pain. In 1897, a Bayer chemist named Hoffman used it under the name acetylesalicytic acid to reduce his father’s rheumatoid arthritis. Hoffman then started marketing it under the name Aspirin. Its main anti-inflammatory and analgesic affects are attributed to the salicin it contains, but willow bark also contains taninnins. Its flavonoids and salicin esters also are important. Willow Bark has many benefits, and its anti-inflammatory actions play an important role in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. In clinical studies, uses of less than 240mg/day were not significant in platelet aggregations. However, the use of more than 240 mg/day of salicin should be done with caution. Some stomach irritation has also been noticed with large doses of salcin. Another study showed a reduction of osteoarthritis symptoms in comparison to the placebo group (Biegert et al2004). In another study of 78 patients given salicin for period of two weeks, significant improvement was noticed (Schmidt et al 2000). Another study of 82 patients with chronic arteritis pain showed significant statistical improvement of the symptoms (Mills et al 1996). In 26 patients with Rheumatoid arteritis, no significant reduction in pain was noted (Biegert etal 2004).
Other anti-inflammatory, immune modulating herbs include nettle, cinnamon, rosemary, sage, cloves, Borage and Devil’s claw among others.
Thanks for visiting www.curenaturally.org. If you are interested in learning more about herbs and overall approaches to dealing with auto-immune diseases, please join us for Dr. Girgis’s talk (Interactive Therapy in Patients with Immune Diseases) scheduled for October. Details will be posted as soon as they are available.
For other issues and lifestyle changes, feel free to schedule an appointment at (616)-777-0608.