Herbs and supplements that should be avoided or used with caution in Sweet’s syndrome

Reposted and updated 29/06/16.

Alternative therapists are recommending or using certain herbs and supplements to treat or cure Sweet’s syndrome, despite the fact that there is no medical evidence that any of these treatments work, and some may not be safe to use.

A list of some herbs and supplements that have been recommended or used by alternative therapists to treat Sweet’s syndrome.

Alfalfa – flowering plant.

There is no evidence to show that alfalfa is helpful in the treatment of Sweet’s syndrome. May not always to be safe to use.

Best avoided or used with caution if:

  • You have an autoimmune condition, particularly systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), as it may increase the risk of a flare-up (see ‘Additional notes’). Also, be aware of the fact that alfalfa can sometimes cause symptoms that are similar to SLE.
  • You have an autoinflammatory condition such as Sweet’s syndrome, particularly if it has developed secondary to an autoimmune condition (see ‘Additional notes’).
  • You have diabetes as it may lower blood sugar levels.
  • You are taking medications that increase sensitivity to sunlight. For example, dapsone, and tetracycline antibiotics such as doxycycline and minocycline.

DO NOT use if:

  • You have a hormone sensitive condition, e.g. breast cancer or endometriosis, as alfalfa can make these conditions worse.
  • You have had a kidney transplant as it may lead to rejection.
  • You are taking any of these medications: immunosuppressants, e.g. prednisone (see ‘Additional notes), or warfarin, contraceptives, or oestrogens.

Astragalus – flowering plant.

There is no evidence to show that astragalus is helpful in the treatment of Sweet’s syndrome. May not always to be safe to use.

Best avoided or used with caution if:

  • You have an autoimmune condition.
  • You have an autoinflammatory condition, particularly if it has developed secondary to an autoimmune condition.

DO NOT use if:

  • You are taking these medications: immunosuppressants, or lithium.
  • You are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Chlorella – algae.

There is no evidence to show that chlorella is helpful in the treatment of Sweet’s syndrome. May not always to be safe to use. Read more here.


Echinacea – herbaceous flowering plant.

There is no evidence to show that echinacea is helpful in the treatment of Sweet’s syndrome. May not always to be safe to use.

Best avoided or used with caution if:

  • You have an autoimmune condition.
  • You have an autoinflammatory condition, particularly if it has developed secondary to an autoimmune condition.
  • You are taking the medication midazolam.
  • You drink caffeinated drinks. Echinacea decreases how quickly caffeine is broken down, and this leads to increased levels in the bloodstream.

DO NOT use if:

  • You are taking immunosuppressants .
  • You are taking any of these medications as echinacea can affect how they are broken down: clarithromycin, clozapine, cyclobenzaprine, cyclosporine, diltiazem, fluvoxamine, haloperidol, imipramine, indinavir, lovastatin, mexiletine, oestrogens, olanzapine, pentazocine, propranolol, tacrine, theophylline, triazolam, zileuton, zolmitriptan, and possibly others (check with your doctor).
  • You are prone to allergies, particularly if you have an allergy to ragweed pollen, chrysanthemums, marigolds, or daisies.
  • You are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Red root – herbaceous flowering plant.

There is no evidence to show that red root is helpful in the treatment of Sweet’s syndrome. May not always to be safe to use.

Dosage:

  • The appropriate dose of red root would depend on factors such as age, medication, and health conditions, but at this time, there is not enough medical evidence to determine an appropriate range of doses.

When taken by mouth, short-term side-effects include:

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Drowsiness, or grogginess.

Other short-term problems:

  • Skin contact with the fresh plant may cause a rash.
  • If it gets into your eyes it can cause irritation.

When taken by mouth and in high amounts (see ‘Dosage’), long-term side-effects include:

  • Increased risk of  developing white patches on the inside of the mouth if used as a toothpaste or a mouthwash.
  • Glaucoma.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Shock.
  • Coma.

Red root is a debriding agent, i.e. removes skin tissue. DO NOT apply to the skin if:

  • You have Sweet’s syndrome, or any other condition that is associated with pathergy. This may trigger the development of skin lesions or make existing lesions worse.

Red root is an irritant. DO NOT use if:

  • You have any condition affecting the gastrointestinal tract, including an infection, inflammatory bowel disease, or an inflamed bowel caused by Sweet’s syndrome.

Also, DO NOT use if:

  • You have glaucoma.
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • You are taking any medications. There is a lack of information relating to how red root may interact with medications, so it may not be safe to use. In fact, some of these interactions may be dangerous.

Zinc (oral) – a mineral.

There is no evidence to show that zinc is of any use in the treatment of Sweet’s syndrome. May not always to be safe to use.

Dosage:

  • Safest zinc dosage is 40mg daily or less.
  • Taking more than 100 mg of supplemental zinc daily or taking supplemental zinc for 10 or more years doubles the risk of developing prostate cancer.
  • Single doses of 10-30 grams (10,000-30,000 mg) of zinc can be fatal.

Best avoided or used with caution if:

  • You have diabetes as zinc may lower blood sugar levels.
  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding (high doses).

DO NOT use if:

  • You are taking tetracycline antibiotics. Zinc prevents them from being absorbed properly.
  • You are taking any of these medications: amiloride, cisplatin, penicillamine, quinolone antibiotics, e.g. ciprofloxacin.

Additional notes.

Why should some of the herbs and supplements listed above be avoided or used with caution in those with autoimmune or autoinflammatory conditions?

Autoimmune and autoinflammatory conditions are caused by an overactive and not an underactive immune system – an overactive adaptive immune system in autoimmune conditions and an overactive innate immune system in autoinflammatory conditions. Some herbs and supplements have been proven to ‘boost’ the immune system. This means that they can increase immune system activity or make it more active. In patients with autoimmune conditions, this has the potential to make their overactive immune systems even more overactive, making symptoms worse. Evidence is needed before we know if these same herbs and supplements can negatively affect autoinflammatory conditions such as Sweet’s syndrome, but as yet, no research has been conducted. However, it is important to remember that Sweet’s syndrome can develop secondary to autoimmune conditions, and if this is the case, when the autoimmune condition flares-up the Sweet’s syndrome often does too.

Why should some of the herbs and supplements listed above be avoided if you are taking immunosuppressants?

Immunosuppressants are medications that suppress or ‘dampen down’ the immune system to bring an overactive immune system under control and reduce levels of inflammation in the body. These medications include prednisone, azathioprine, cyclosporine, mycophenolate mofetil, and tacrolimus, but there are many others. Herbs and supplements that ‘boost’ the immune system prevent immunosuppressants from doing their job properly. This is because they increase immune system activity while the immunosuppressant is trying to suppress it.


Remember.

Just because something is ‘natural’ doesn’t mean that it’s safe or doesn’t have side-effects. There are plenty of herbs, plants and extracts that have side-effects, can cause allergic reaction, interact with medications, be poisonous, or even prove fatal.

Keep safe!


Further information.

A warning about Polly Heil-Mealey! Sweet’s syndrome cannot be cured with herbs or homeopathic remedies.

Baking soda is not a treatment for Sweet’s syndrome or myelodysplastic syndromes.

What is the treatment for Sweet’s syndrome?

© 2012-2017 Sweet’s Syndrome UK

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