natural immune system boosters and autoimmune disease don't mix?

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by Shannonsparkles, Nov 27, 2005.

  1. Shannonsparkles

    Shannonsparkles New Member

    A tricky problem I've been chewing over for a while. Many herbs are immune system boosters. My question is, do immune-boosting herbs have autoimmune protective properties? Do they help the immune system to attack invaders without encouraging it to attack YOU? For example, cat's claw is an immune-booster that's used in addressing lupus and rheumatiod arthritis, both autoimmune conditions. Yet, on general information websites, you will see the warning "as this product stimulates the immune system, do not use in cases of autoimmune disorders." Is this conclusion based on research, or is it an assupmtion arising from a limited understanding of the herb's function?

    Does anyone know more about this? It's problematic to believe that natural immune system boosters contribute to autoimmune diseases, because nearly every natural substance we consume, foods included, has a positive effect on the immune system.

    I welcome any information on this.
    [This Message was Edited on 11/27/2005]
  2. kbak

    kbak Member

    I think that what you want on a regular basis is something that supports the immune system but dosen't boost it, unless your on a specific protocal.

    To me, an overstimulated immune system is as bad as one that doesn't work. Take olive leaf for example, it's a very good natural antibiotic, but I wouldn't use it every day. On the other hand you can take vit C everyday, with positive effects (unless your into very Lg doses). So you really have to investigate what your taking and what you expect from it.

    There are enough people here on so many different things, that you can get some very good feedback on just about anything your interested in.

  3. ulala

    ulala New Member

    I have also wrestled with. I have an autoimmune disease and when people tell me to take something like vit.c, which is an immune booster I'm not sure that is the right thing to take. My doctors recommend that I take immune suppressors so what's a FM/CFSer to do?

    Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and you wrote that cat's claw is an immune-booster used to treat it.

    I don't know what the answer is but I would sure like to hear if anyone knows!

    Thanks for asking this question!!
  4. lbok

    lbok New Member

    According to a book I read - The Bible Cure for Autoimmune diseases by Don Colbert MD - certain herbs like echinacea, olive leaf extract and goldenseal were considered to avoid because they aggravated the autoimmune diseases. Not offering medical advice here - just something that I had read. I personally haven't tried any of the supplements. And I think if you have a condition like lupus you need to be really careful before using anything that might ramp up your immune system. I have also seen the caution on a TV news show about echinacea and autoimmune disorders. Which is funny because then they will do another show and claim it is not effective (lol).
  5. lbok

    lbok New Member

    because I thought I saw something about Cat's claw before but it wasn't in the book. Anyway on drcolbert (with a www. in front and a .com at the end) he specifically addresses using cat's claw under the Ask the Doctor section. I don't know how accurate he is - but you may be able to glean some info on cat's claw from there.
  6. ulala

    ulala New Member

    echinacea. I have also read that before and funny that they say its ineffective BUT don't take it if you have an autoimmune disease. Shows how little we really know!
  7. tansy

    tansy New Member

    and natural anti inflammatories, rather than immune system boosters may be the answer. I take a combo of these atm and am tolerating algeas which can stimulate the IS. In the past I had to be very careful with anything that stimulated the immune system.

    Shannon your wording is very relevant here "a positive effect upon the Immune system", that does not necessarily mean we have to rev the IS up for it to be more effecient.


  8. Musica

    Musica New Member

    ...especially if you have an autoimmune disease.

    When I feel a cold coming on, I do take extra Vitamin C and even a few Zinc tablets. However, the pharmacist told me to be careful since things like zinc, ecchinacea, etc. can boost the immune system too much and offset any immunosuppressives, such as methotrexate or the biologics, if you have RA. Things like cat's claw aren't controlled by the FDA, so any kinds of claims can be made about what herbs and supplements do, with no or little truth. Also, all kinds of substances can be mixed in.

    The confusing part is that there are different parts to the immune system. Methotrexate works on a good part of it, but even prednisone works on some part of the immune system. Not something I would normally have thought about prednisone, and it is probably a small part of the immune system it works on, but it does. Therefore, it is hard to make a blanket statement about the immune system and what drugs, supplements, herbs etc. work on what part. And if that part happens to involve the part of your immune system that is out of whack.

    I guess I like the way my pharmacist put it best - don't overdo. At least, not if you take drugs that are supposed to suppress your immune system. If a lot of what we consume naturally boosts the immune system, you don't want to boost it too much and waste the money you are paying for immune suppressing drugs! And if you have RA, you really don't want the drugs not to work, and to end up with damaged or deformed joints.

    Fortunately, despite immunosuppressives, I am still good at fighting off colds and such, so only take Vitamin C and zinc for a few days every few to several months. You also want to be careful about interactions with the drugs you take. Even natural supplements can have interactions. Hope that is something of what you were looking for.
  9. tigger5

    tigger5 New Member

    I've been interested in alternative meds since hi school. One immune modulator that I've run across is called Ambrotose from a company called Mannatech. ( for more info) Ambrotose is a combination of glyconutrients. This is a new area of study, but basically glyconutrients are essential for cell to cell communication. They've done a number of scientific studies and I've waded thru these reports (in doctor language) and have been very impressed. To me their price is worth it.

    This Ambrotose works with under-active and over-active immune systems because it helps the body better communicate its needs to each whatever is needed gets done.

    In addition, I see an alternative doctor who is able to test the supplements I use with a machine and can tell if they are working with my body or against it. This doctor has said that Mannatech products "work with" more of his patients than any other product he's seen.

    I'm trying not to write a book but have just scratched the surface. Let me know if anyone wants for info. I'll check back.

    So why am I sick even tho I have all this info? I've been too stubborn to take handfuls of pills on a regular basis...but I'm going to start and I'll get better soon!

    [This Message was Edited on 11/27/2005]
  10. Shannonsparkles

    Shannonsparkles New Member

    The Herbs That May Help Hashimoto's, Graves' & More
    by Mary Shomon

    Anthropologist and herbal expert Viana Muller, PhD, has been involved in research, growing, harvesting, collecting, propagation and distribution of certified organic and wildcrafted South American medicinal herbs. Here, she shares some thoughts about South American herbs and autoimmune disease.

    Mary Shomon: Some practitioners theorize that autoimmune diseases can be triggered by:
    Food sensitivities and uncontrolled allergies, in particular, to milk and gluten products
    Viral exposures, such as Epstein Barr virus or HHV6 or Coxsackie
    Bacterial infections such as foodborne yersinia
    Mycoplasma infection
    While we have courses of action for allergies and sensitivites and bacterial infections, preventing or treating many of the viruses implicated in autoimmune disease is less clear-cut. Are there South American herbs that can help bolster immune defenses and perhaps prevent viral infections such as Epstein Barr virus or HHV6 or Coxsackie -- or help treat viruses once one has been exposed and perhaps has a chronic infection or viral syndrome?

    Dr. Viana Muller: A high quality camu-camu fruit powder grown wild in South American rainforests has produced spectacular results with all types of herpes viruses, including Epstein Barr and Herpes Zoster (shingles). I have seen it work much faster than Acyclovir, the standard anti-herpes medication and better than L-lysine--the most common holistic treatment.

    I've also seen camu-camu drastically reduce the rate of outbreaks of genital herpes outbreaks--from once every six weeks to once in eight months.

    Another herb which grows deep in the rainforest which has proved to be very effective for managing chronic hepatitis C is a climbing vine whose botanical name is Desmodium adscendens (sometimes called amor seco or Strong Back herb). People with liver pain from this condition have found relief in 24 hours and over a period of 60-90 days their elevated liver enzyme levels drop dramatically. But it doesn't actually kill the hepatitis virus--it works on liver repair.

    The herb which has shown in animal studies to kill the hepatitis virus is called "Chanca Piedra" or Break-Stone. It looks like a small fern and grows in swampy areas of the rainforest.

    Mary Shomon: Do you feel there are any South American herbal remedies that can help bolster the immune system or prevent autoimmune disease?

    Dr. Viana Muller: The four most effective South American botanicals that I know to bolster the immune system--and help prevent autoimmune disease or reverse it--are: the camu-camu fruit, maca root, cat's claw bark, and graviola. It is crucial for consumers to realize that just because the bottle has the name of one of these botanicals on the label, it doesn't mean that what is inside the bottle will be effective for them. For example, there are many companies that use a small amount of camu-camu fruit--with no guaranteed natural Vitamin C percentage, derived from the camu-camu fruit itself, in their product. This type of product is virtually worthless. You want a product that has a guaranteed 8% natural Vitamin C/bioflavonoid level.

    (Note from Mary: You can get a high-vitamin-C camu-camu from [link url=]Whole World Botanicals[/link] that is considered 20 times more potent than Ester C.)

    Mary Shomon: Is there any evidence for use of South American herbal remedies for treatment of autoimmune diseases? (lupus, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid diseases) and other conditions?

    Dr. Viana Muller: There is strong anecdotal evidence for the use of maca to strengthen the immune system and I've personally seen some remarkable turn arounds with various autoimmune illness. A 43 year old woman with severe asthma since the age of 18 is able to go off of her daily asthma medication (6 pills a day) after one two weeks of taking one teaspoon of organic maca extract powder per day.

    A 68 year old man with Parkinson's Disease who is no longer able to walk regains his strength and muscle control to the point that he can walk again and his muscle tremors are less severe.

    A 42 year old woman who has had severe eczema since she was a teenager--especially on her face--whose face cleared up in 2 or 3 weeks using 1 tsp of organic maca extract powder per day. After two months, she gets occasional small outbreaks--especially if she is under stress--but it goes away very quickly.

    Scores of women with hypothyroidism who take 3 to 6 caps a day of organic maca extract a day who are either able to reduce their dosage of Synthroid, Unithroid, or Armour, or whose symptoms are much improved in the following areas while maintaining the same dose of their thyroid medication: increased energy, more regular menstrual periods, less bleeding and less pain with the monthly cycle; increased hair and nail growth.

    Minimizing Side Effects
    Mary Shomon: Some autoimmune disease treatment involve use of fairly strong drugs, such as methotrexate, or Remicade, or strong non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. What are your thoughts about how South American herbs might help complement their conventional treatments and minimize the negative side effects of strong drug treatments?

    Dr. Viana Muller: Cat's Claw (Uncaria tomentosa) has strong anti-inflammatory properties and has been used as adjuvant therapy for helping to offset the side effects such as nausea felt by many undergoing chemotherapy. It is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women, but otherwise is quite safe.

    Mary Shomon: Food sensitivities have been implicated as triggers in a number of autoimmune diseases. From a practical standpoint, are there any role for South American herbs in helping someone with an autoimmune disease deal with food allergies and sensitivities?

    Dr. Viana Muller: Leaky gut syndrome has been helped by Cat's Claw Extract (boiled bark or alcohol based extract). Camu-Camu has also proven helpful for getting rid of headaches brought on by food allergies, including sugar!

    Viana Muller, PhD, is co-founder and President of Whole World Botanicals, a company that is involved in research, growing, harvesting, collecting, propagation and distribution of certified organic and wildcrafted South American medicinal herbs. As an anthropologist, Dr. Muller has been making rainforest herb collecting/study trips to the Amazon River Basin since 1989.
  11. Bambi

    Bambi New Member

    of opinions by all the "experts" on the "natural" products is why I worry about all the self medicating with them. I wonder if we aren't maybe doing more long term harm than good by taking these things armed with only conflicting opinions and next to no double blind studies and very little regulation of these products. We can't even be "sure" from bottle to bottle exactly what dose we are getting..other than just taking the sellers word for it.
  12. EgyptStarr

    EgyptStarr New Member

    if someone else has already addressed this, but...

    I have Fibro and CFS, like many others here.

    If Fibro is an autoimmune illness, which means basically that our immune systems never shut off and are attacking US.....

    and if CFS is an immune dysfunction illness (meaning that our immune systems are weaker than normals'?????)

    Does all this mean that we have weakened immune systems that never stop working??? Forgive me if I sound dumb, but this has always intrigued me......


    p.s. Thank you Shannon, for starting this thread! It reminded me to ask my question, which I've always wondered about!
  13. tigger5

    tigger5 New Member

  14. tansy

    tansy New Member

    of what is effecting many of us. Our IS goes into overdrive or becomes overreactive but is not efficient at killing off pathogens or keeping dormant viruses from reactivating.

    love, Tansy
  15. EgyptStarr

    EgyptStarr New Member

    that's what I "figgered". lol

    Thanks Tansy!

  16. tigger5

    tigger5 New Member

  17. Musica

    Musica New Member

    Or is that just one theory? No one seems to know the causes for sure, or it would be easier to start finding a cure.

    At any rate, the immune system does not attack the body like RA does, where the immune cells attack the synovial membrane and eventually joints. There is no physical decay with FM. So, how is it that the immune system is now thought to be in overdrive? I'm sure there is a detailed explanation somewhere, but can someone explain it a little simpler? How has FM been related to the immune system?
  18. bioman85

    bioman85 New Member

    hey stormy,

    What was that article that you bumped up about auto-immunity? I'm curious because I had a blood test of my NK Cell activity which was found to be extremely low, indicative of low immune system function. Do you know how this relates to the concept of this being an autoimmune disease?

    thanks, chris
  19. darude

    darude New Member

    I've been wondering about this for a while. When I first got sick I did everything to boost my immune system. Took lots of stuff and a year later I had developed a positive ANA which has been climbing. It's not Lupus or anything else that they can find so they don't know why. I wonder if I overdid the supplements.
  20. Jeanne-in-Canada

    Jeanne-in-Canada New Member

    I think it is. I can't be positive it is w/ every case of FM, but it seems to be w/ me. For starters, I know my I.S. is in constant overdrive because of MCS, and that's just for starters. I used to eat more than most men and be underweight and struggling to keep it on, that was scary, not to mention tons of work to keep fed, esp. when you have lots of food allergies and have to make everything fresh. It used to only take less than 10 mins for pain meds to kick in. I kind of miss that now, it can run 20-40 mins and varies, but I knew something was very wrong w/ that.

    I hope those stay my major autoimmune problems. I have a benefit from it, I don't get colds or flus.

    I beg to differ that FM is not degenerative though. I've seen far to many people here taht have spinal stenosis, costochondritis and worst of all degenerative disc disease. These are said by the medicos to be seperate co-morbid conditions, but I don't believe it. I think it's a common part of the syndrome,part of the degenerative end of it, like co-morbid RA and osteo.

    I can't use most of the big name immune boosting herbs, like echinacea, maca or any other ginsengs, and I use olive leaf for short periods, but that may explain why I can only take tiny doses and it causes sucha painful herx.

    I am fine w/ most other herbs though, and high dose zinc and vitamin C are heavy hitters in my supplement arsenal.


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