Herbs have historically been used to effectively provide relief from chronic inflammation, however herbal treatments should not be your only line of defense if you are looking to manage your autoimmune condition comprehensively. While herbs offer immense benefits to those struggling to manage symptoms of autoimmune disease, they should not be used alone and should always be used under the supervision and approval of your health care provider. Read on to learn how herbal treatments and herbal supplements may support your larger health goals and provide substantial relief.
The Role of Plants in Health Care
It is true that plants contain powerful lifesaving compounds, so much so that pharmaceutical companies use them as starting points for research and development of new drugs. Well-known drugs that originated in the natural world include penicillin antibiotics, which are derived from fungi, and aspirin, which is based on the salicin found in white willow bark. (Source)
More and more people are becoming aware of just how effective herbs can be in addressing ailments. In this article we’ll look at the top researched herbs for autoimmune disease, and discuss why you should talk to your health care provider about whether they could have a place in your larger care plan.
What Is Autoimmune Disease?
A healthy, functioning immune system is programmed to protect your body from pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. When this function becomes dysregulated, the immune system may target and attack the body’s own cells and tissues, resulting in autoimmune disease. There is a complex relationship between autoimmune disease and genetics, hormones, and dietary and lifestyle choices. (Source, Source)
The symptoms of autoimmune disease vary according to which parts of the body are affected. Autoimmune disease can cause pain and swelling from chronic inflammation that may include symptoms such as joint stiffness and loss of function, muscle aches, weight gain, extreme fatigue, and skin disturbances such as rashes and blisters. Autoimmune diseases in general, but not specific types of the disease, run in families, and you may be more susceptible to developing one if you have affected family members. (Source, Source)
Autoimmunity is becoming more common, and as we discover more about autoimmune diseases we find there are many ways to manage them, both conventional and alternative, available to us. A comprehensive approach comprising several options with coordination among practitioners may be the best way to manage your autoimmune disease. In this article, we’ll look at how you may be able to use herbal treatments to manage your symptoms and increase your quality of life while living with autoimmune disease. (Source, Source)
The Origins of Herbal Treatments
Herbal remedies trace back thousands of years and are at the core of all traditional medicine systems. Traditional medicines are holistic methods of treating the whole person, mind, body, and soul, and focus on overall health rather than just the ailment. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a good example and likely the most recognized of ancient medicinal practices that have become popular in today’s health care setting. With herbal treatments at the forefront of TCM, individuals are supported holistically to restore balance and harmony from within. (Source)
Herbal treatments have been passed down through cultures for centuries to prevent and treat a wide array of ailments and diseases. In less developed parts of the world, traditional and herbal medicine is the only available health care, whereas in industrialized countries such as the United States individuals can rely on conventional care but have options for alternative and integrative care as well. Herbal treatments have been used over the years to promote overall health for those struggling with chronic illnesses versus life-threatening emergencies. (Source)
Why Herbal Treatments — Do they Work?
Due to the wide range of uncomfortable symptoms autoimmune diseases produce, it is common practice to use several methods to manage symptoms most effectively. Herbal treatments can be more cost effective, have fewer side effects, and be more personalized than conventional medicine alone, making them an option to consider. However, herbs should not be used alone to treat any condition and should only be used in conjunction with any preexisting care plan you and your doctor have previously discussed.
Conventional treatment methods may include analgesics, glucocorticoids, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), all of which commonly come with adverse side effects. Side effects of conventional methods can include skin disturbances, increased risk of infection, risky interactions with other medications, and autoimmune-like responses due to the effects of immunosuppressive drugs on immune function. (Source, Source).
When managing your autoimmune disorder, the overall effect you’re looking for is to lower systemic inflammation and suppress the immune system so it stops overreacting and causing you discomfort. Herbs contain polyphenols, powerful compounds found in plants, that contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, making them a good choice to treat autoimmune disease. In plants, polyphenols are important in protecting against destructive organisms, and they may have similar benefits for humans. (Source)
Polyphenols can be found in dietary sources such as leafy greens, fruits, tea, coffee, and legumes. You may have noticed that some of these foods mentioned are not AIP compliant and therefore would not be viable sources of polyphenols if adhering to the AIP diet. This is where herbal supplements can truly shine, because you can support your immune system without causing extra inflammation that may stem from intolerable food sources. Backed by centuries of efficacy in supporting a wide variety of illnesses and diseases, herbal treatments hold a lot of potential in managing autoimmune disease symptoms. Read on to find out the top herbs for autoimmune disease. (Source, Source)
The Top 8 Herbs for Autoimmune Disease
Herbs have been used to support chronic and acute illnesses over the years such as cardiovascular disease, prostate dysfunction, and depression, by reducing systemic inflammation and boosting the immune system. Herbal medicines are found in the form of teas, tinctures, capsules, essential oils, salves, syrups, rubs, and tablets. It’s true you don’t need a prescription for them, but there is no standardized protocol for herbs, so it is essential to work with a practitioner who can recommend the best herbs for you while considering your symptoms and diagnosis. Now let’s dig into some of the most common herbs to manage autoimmune diseases. (Source)