Q and A: Lupus and Hypothyroidism

Expert Answers to Your Health Questions

| May/June 2004

Lessen Lupus Symptoms

My 69-year-old friend has been diagnosed with lupus. Is there any diet she should be following to combat the effects of lupus? What herbal supplements should she be taking? What kind of doctor should she be seeing for this disease?

                        Crofton, Maryland

Keville responds: Although I can’t offer a cure for lupus, there are plenty of things your friend can do to be more comfortable. Painful joints and connective tissue partially can be relieved with evening primrose (Oenothera biennis), borage (Borago officinalis) or flax (Linum usitatissimum) oils, which help reduce inflammation.

Your friend can massage an oil of St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) into her skin over painful areas. For a super-effective product, use St. John’s wort oil with essential oils, such as lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) or chamomile (Matricaria recutita), to help reduce inflammation. To make your own oil, add 6 drops of each essential oil to 1 ounce of St. John’s wort oil. St. John’s wort also can be taken internally in pills or tincture, if she has depression in connection with the lupus.

Good anti-inflammatory herbs to take internally are turmeric (Curcuma longa), nettle (Urtica dioica) and chamomile. A less-familiar herb, thunder god vine (Tripterygium wilfordii), has been used extensively in China to treat lupus. Various studies from China show the herb inhibits the inflammatory process involved in lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis) is another Chinese herb that will help reduce inflammation and pain. An effective anti-inflammatory nutritional supplement to take along with these herbs is glucosamine with chondroitin. Taking magnesium with malic acid supplements also is recommended.

While the symptoms are being relieved, there are other herbs that will go to work directly on the problem. In lupus, the immune system is confused, sending the body’s own antibodies to attack joints and connective tissue. The Chinese herbs astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), codonopsis (Codonopsis pilosula) and ligustrum (Ligustrum lucidum) are recommended to improve immune-system activity and to specifically treat lupus. Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) and reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) are other herbs with immune-regulating actions that can work against lupus. These same immune herbs reduce the risk of developing infectious diseases, which can be an added burden to those suffering from lupus. They won’t overstimulate white blood cells and the particular T-cells that are already overstimulated by lupus. On the other hand, herbs known to stimulate these immune-system factors, such as echinacea (Echinacea spp.), are not recommended.

One of the best things you can do for your friend is to offer emotional support, since lupus is associated with increased levels of stress.

elderberry, echinacea, bee hive


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