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Herbs That Suppress the Immune System

author image Robin Wood-Moen
Robin Wood-Moen began writing in 2000. She is an academic researcher in health psychology, psychoneuroimmunology, religion/spirituality, bereavement, death/dying, meaning-making processes and CAM therapies. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in forensic-social sciences from University of North Dakota, a Master of Science in psychology and is working on her Ph.D. in health psychology, both from Walden University.
Herbs That Suppress the Immune System
Several herbs are used with the sole intention of suppressing the immune system. Photo Credit herbal spices studio isolated over white image by dinostock from Fotolia.com

Several herbs are favored for their ability decrease immune system response. For instance, immunosuppressive herbs may work well for those taking medications for cancer, because the contrasting antioxidants could make cancer cells multiply faster. Many diuretics and laxative herb compounds are not only immunosuppressive but can also deplete stores of electrolytes like potassium, making the body more susceptible to heart attack or stroke. Consult with a medical doctor before attempting to self-medicate any condition.


Bupleurum, or Bupleurum falcatum, is an herb that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries as a treatment to bring the body back to a state of harmony. These practitioners believe that harmony resides in the liver, stomach and spleen. Bupleurum, according to Drugs.com, is being studied as an immunosuppressant herb in the role of certain cancers, gastrointestinal disorders and treatment of liver disease. Aside from its ability to suppress the immune system, bupleurum is also a known diuretic and laxative.

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Glucosamine, or glucosamine sulfate, is a chemical present in the fluid surrounding joints in the body. Supplemental forms of glucosamine can come from natural sources such as shellfish or may be created in a laboratory. It is highly regarded and used today as a treatment for arthritis. In addition to possible immunosuppressive qualities, the University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that individuals taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs with glucosamine exercise caution due to heightened risks of internal bleeding.

Red Yeast Rice

Red yeast rice is a fermented yeast product traditionally used as a food coloring in Asian cuisine. It has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine as an equivalent to today's statin medications. Researchers have shown that in clinical laboratories, red yeast rice performed well in reducing bad cholesterol and may increase good cholesterol. Medline Plus, a National Institutes of Health website, further states that in addition to this herb working as an immunosuppressant, this herb may also harm the liver and should never be taken with alcohol or in combination with other statin drugs.

Cascara Sagrada

Cascara sagrada, or yellow bark, is a natural stimulant laxative used to relieve constipation. Like other diuretic and laxative herbs, Brigham and Women's Hospital suggests that the immune system can become compromised when they are used for extended periods and could lead to cancer. This herb is generally considered safe for short-term use, yet it can increase opportunity for infection, dehydration, low electrolytes and heart problems and can cause muscle weakness if used for more than a few days. Individuals with pre-existing gastrointestinal disorders are strongly cautioned against using cascara sagrada.

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