Systemic lupus erythematosus is the most widely seen form of lupus, an autoimmune disease affecting the body’s tissues and organs. Lupus attacks the joints especially, as well as other parts of the body, producing inflammation and pain. Conventional medicine states there is no way to get rid of lupus, but will attempt to manage the symptoms with anti-inflammatory medicines and steroids. Traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM, offers a different perspective, suggesting there may be a way to eliminate lupus using herbs and acupuncture. Herbs can cause side effects, so consult your health practitioner or a doctor of Oriental medicine before treating lupus with herbs.
Lupus can produce many signs and symptoms, some which mislead doctors into making inaccurate diagnoses. General signs and symptoms are extreme fatigue, muscle and joint pain with stiffness, fever, skin rashes after being exposed to the sun, kidney dysfunction, hair loss, headaches — including migraines and seizures, depression, anemia, ulcers in the nose and mouth, abdominal pain and discomfort, and photosensitivity.
Lupus often has a genetic component, running in families and affecting more women than men. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC, women of Asian, Native American and African American descent are more prone to developing lupus than are Caucasian women.
Astragalus is a widely used Chinese herb known for its immune-building properties. In cases of Lupus, where the immune system is out of control, the herb is used to suppress overactive cells that fight and destroy healthy tissue, according to the UMMC. Astragalus is considered safe when used according to directions and has no recorded side effects; however, you should not take astragalus if you are also taking immuno-suppressents without first talking with your TCM health practitioner.
Tripterygium Wilforgii Hook F (TwHf)
TwHf, also known as the Thunder God vine in China, has been used traditionally to treat rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other auto-immune joint diseases, according to Amy Brown, PhD of the University of Hawaii. Brown states that TWH acts as an immunosuppressant, relieving inflammation and producing substances that enable it to act as a COX-2 inhibitor. Natalie Cereseto of Vanderbilt University notes the goal of using TwHf to treat lupus is three- fold; to relieve the clinical symptoms of the disease, lessen the patient’s need for drug therapy — in particular the use of corticosteroids — and to normalize blood pathology.
Although it may appear that Astragalus and TwHf are the next wonder drugs for the treatment of lupus, more research is needed to determine exactly how they work to suppress the immune system and control lupus. TwHf in particular may cause significant side effects such as stomach and abdominal upset, sterility and over-suppression of the immune system. It is not recommended for those women who are pregnant or nursing. It’s best to work with a natural health or TCM practitioner if you have lupus and wish to try either of these herbs for treatment.
University of Hawaii; “LUPUS ERYTHEMATOSUS AND NUTRITION — A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE”; Amy c. Brown, PhD, RD; 2004
University of Maryland Medical Center: Lupus
Vanderbilt University; “Lei Gong Teng and Lupus”, Natalie Cereseto, September, 2007
“Helio Acupuncture Book, Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica”; Dan Bensky and Andrew Gamble; 2003
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