Healing Herbs for Autoimmune Disorders

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As you probably know by now, autoimmune disorders are disorders where the body’s own immune system attacks it. There are quite a few different types of autoimmune disorders, with Celiac, Hashimoto’s, and Crohn’s being the most recognizable. Though there are over a dozen diseases you could have.

Most autoimmune diseases attack specific systems in the body. For example, Hashimoto’s disease attacks the thyroid, while type 1 diabetes attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that create insulin.

There are not cures for autoimmune diseases, but you can manage your symptoms and try to keep the flare-ups to a minimum. This is done with lifestyle changes like diet and exercise, proper pain management, and even natural remedies like herbs.

Here are some of the healing herbs that people have reported positive results with after using them along with other treatments for autoimmune diseases.

Chang Shan

This is a root herb collected from a type of hydrangea tree. It has been used in China for hundreds of years mostly to combat malaria and other febrile conditions. Scientists have only recently found out how the herb works. It targets an anti-immune cell called Th17, which controls autoimmune responses.

These types of responses play a role in autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and eczema. The drug that has been derived from chang shan is interesting to researchers because it does not suppress the entire immune system the way other autoimmune drugs do. It can also be taken orally and does not need to be injected like other drugs.

Since it is not a widely-known herb, you might have to see an herbalist to get this one, or purchase it online. However, it has had really positive results.


Now for a much more common herb, we have turmeric. You have probably seen this used not just by autoimmune disease sufferers, but everyone, as it has an exorbitant amount of health benefits.

This bright, orange-yellow spice is used in cooking and in making curries. Native to southern Asia, the rhizome of the plant is used. Rich in an anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin, turmeric helps with auto-immune diseases by inhibiting the action of interleukins, which are chemicals made by the white blood cells that control the body’s immune response.

Turmeric also inhibits NFkB, or nuclear factor kappa beta. NFkB is a group of proteins that control cytokines, which are chemicals released by the cells in the immune system. Interleukin is a type of cytokine.

How to Use Turmeric

The great thing about turmeric is that it is really easy to use. You can make a tea called “golden milk” with your turmeric and some cream, or you can add it to anything from food or hot beverages. There are a lot of options available.


One of the oldest and most popular of the spices, the rhizome of this plant is also used. It’s a circulatory stimulant that contain enzymes that inhibit inflammation and pain caused by chemical such as prostaglandins.

Like turmeric, you probably already know all the ways to use ginger in your diet to help with your autoimmune diseases. This can be added to a tea or other beverage, cooked with, or you can even get ginger capsules if you want to go that route.

Green Tea

Now for something that is much easier to use – green tea. With green tea, you can just buy the tea leaves or packets, brew a cup, and enjoy the benefits.

Why Green Tea?

This tea is made of the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant. Unlike black teas, the leaves of green tea are not allowed to ferment but are lightly steamed before they’re allowed to dry. Green tea is famous for its healing properties and inhibits interleukin-1. It also has anti-allergy properties and helps alleviate eczema symptoms.

White Tea

If you aren’t a fan of green tea, you can also get similar benefits with a cup of white tea.

White tea is made from the buds and leaves of the camellia sinensis plant. They are simply allowed to wither in the sunlight then lightly processed to prevent oxidation. Some nutritionists claim that drinking a cup of white tea every day reduces the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.


Famous for giving flavor to beer, hops comes from a twining, perennial vine that can grow up to 30 feet long. Hops contain a chemical called bitter lupulin, or hop meal which comes as a yellow powder. Hops has been shown to inhibit Cox-1 and Cox-2 which are prostaglandins.

They do this as well as ibuprofen, a popular NSAID that can have side effects if taken over a long period of time. When hops are taken with rosmarinic acid, the combination has been shown to ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.


Artemisia has been used for centuries to treat systemic lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. It eases other inflammatory conditions and gets one of its names, wormwood, for its ability to expel parasites. It is called qinghao in China.

This is another herb that might be easier to find from a local herbalist or natural health food store, as opposed to the more traditional herbs like ginger and turmeric, which are everywhere.

Reishi Mushroom

The reishi mushroom is one of several mushrooms used to treat auto-immune disorders. It is a woody mushroom that is found growing in bracts on dying trees. The interesting thing about reishi mushrooms is that they can both stimulate and inhibit aspects of the patient’s immune system.

This is shown in their ability to stimulate the creation of white blood cells and to suppress antibodies that can cause autoimmune diseases. They also regulate inflammatory cytokine if taken over a period of months. This has been shown to ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Stinging Nettle

Though it is true that handling the raw plant should be done with gloves on, the stings go away when the plant is cooked. However, people who complained of arthritis used to rub the raw plant over their painful joints and experience pain relief.

Nettle can also be taken as a tea, tincture or capsules. It seems to modulate NFkB and the inflammatory substances released by certain white blood cells, which are part of the immune system. This action by stinging nettle has been seen to ease the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.

Chinese Thunder God

The botanical name of this herb is Tripterygium wilfordii, and it has been used in China for two millennia to ease the pain of such autoimmune disease as rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. It is also used to ease the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

It has immunosuppressant chemicals such as glycosides and blocks the action of COX-2, cytokines and NFkB. However, the herb does bring side effects such as reproductive problems, rashes, loss of appetite and dry mouth, so it needs to be prescribed with care.


The root and the root bark of this plant are used in healing. The root is used as capsules, extra, tea and root beer. Both bark and root bark can be applied on the skin as essential oils. Sarsaparilla root is a natural steroid and precursor of progesterone and both have anti-inflammatory properties that ease the symptom of arthritis.

They also contain chemicals called saponins, which take up toxins in the gut, and remove them from the body. These toxins have been seen to be related to such autoimmune diseases as the psoriasis of rheumatoid arthritis.


This is another plant whose root is used in healing. It is a Chinese herb whose traditional name is Shu Di Huang or Shen. Like reishi mushroom, it both stimulates and suppresses aspects of the immune system. However, unlike drugs used to treat autoimmune diseases, rehmannia doesn’t suppress the immune system to the point where the patient is at risk for other diseases.

It is always best used in a formula that rebalances levels of Th1 and Th2. These are types of white blood cells called T cells that produce interleukin and other chemicals associated with the immune system. Autoimmune conditions often have an imbalance of these substances.

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