Herbal Alternatives to Prednisone

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Prednisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication prescribed to treat a variety of illnesses in patients whose bodies are not producing the corticosteroids they need to successfully fight off those ailments. Such illnesses include asthma, lupus, multiple sclerosis, severe allergic reactions and other ills, as well. For some patients, the adverse side effects of prednisone rule it out as a viable treatment option. Luckily, some herbal remedies appear to have similar medicinal properties and few side effects. However, you should not take an herbal alternative without first consulting a medical professional.

Asthma

Recognizing that the side effects of prednisone and other corticosteroids make them unsuitable for use by many patients, particularly children, Xiu-Min Li, M.D., of the Department of Pediatrics at New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine, reviewed Chinese herbal remedies for possible alternatives. His findings, published in the July 2007 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, concluded that one traditional Chinese remedy works particularly well in the treatment of asthma.

He closely examined studies that compared the efficacy of a Chinese herbal compound designated ASHMI, or anti-asthma herbal medical intervention, with that of prednisone in treating asthma. ASHMI is made up of gang-cao, or radix glycyrrhizae; ku-shen, or radix sophorae flavescentis; and ling-zhi, or ganoderma. These studies concluded that the Chinese herbal compound “may offer benefits comparable to standard corticosteroid therapy without undesirable side effects.” The side effects can include weight gain and the suppression of adrenal function. Do not take ASHMI or any herbal remedy before consulting your doctor.

Food Allergies

Allergies to peanuts and other foodstuffs have become a serious problem among American children of school age, although adults can be affected as well. Such allergic reactions can produce a life-threatening inflammation of the airways that is frequently treated with prednisone. In an animal study conducted at New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine, medical researchers tested the effectiveness of a two-herb Chinese formula in blocking anaphylaxis. The compound, designated FAHF-2, or food allergy herbal formula, usually contains zhi fu zi, or radix lateralis aconiti carmichaeli praeparata, and xi xin, or herba asari. In the study, zhi fu zi and xi xin were eliminated from FAHF-2. The results of the study, published in the January 2005 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, showed that FAHF-2 completely blocked anaphylaxis in mice allergic to peanuts and continued the animals’ resistance to allergic reaction for a period of five weeks after therapy. Consult your doctor before taking FAHF-2 or any other herbal remedy.

Lupus

In “The Best Alternative Medicine,” author Kenneth R. Pelletier, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of Arizona, reports on attempts to improve the treatment of lupus by augmenting prednisone with a Chinese herbal formula. Pelletier points out that, by itself, steroid therapy in the treatment of lupus achieves “generally poor control.” However, when lupus patients were treated with both oral prednisone and an herbal decoction or extract of rehmannia, hoelen, moutan, astragalus, codonopsis, licorice, tang kuei and millettia, 92.6 percent of patients reported significant symptomatic relief. This compared with a 55.6 percent rate among those treated with prednisone alone. Again, remember to consult with a doctor before taking either a corticosteroid or an herbal alternative.

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