For some decades, we’ve known that systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the diffuse inflammatory connective tissue disease, can be caused by drugs like penicillin, procainamide (against heart arrhythmias), trimethadione (an anticonvulsant), isoniazid

Although few orthodox treatments are much beyond a shot in the dark, many other cultures have treated SLE successfully. In central, east and southern Africa, sangomas (better known in the West as “witchdoctors”) treat with the South African pennywort. At least three comprehensive historical accounts exist of the medicinal uses of this plant, including two written fairly recently (eg, Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa, 2nd ed, Edinburgh: E & S Livingstone Ltd, 1962: 1035-6). In one naturopathic textbook, there are 37 references for the clinical use of the SA pennywort for SLE (Text Nat Med, Bastyr University Publ, 1989, Seattle, Washington). It’s important that the African subspecies of the SA pennywort be employed, however, since varieties from other parts of the world have been shown not to contain the same chemical constituents.

Oriental medicine has frequently made successful use of Triptrerygium wilfordi when the symptom picture has resembled SLE, a common ailment in the Far East. In an experimental study of 103 patients with SLE given a daily dose of a tea brewed with the roots and stems of the plant, more than half had symptoms substantially improve or disappear; in some cases, lab tests had returned to normal and drug therapy could be stopped (Chin Med J, 1981; 94: 827-34).

In homeopathy, Cistus canadensis can be indicated for SLE when the skin is involved (Tyler, Homeopathic Drug Pictures, Health Science Press, Rustington, Sussex, 1970), although the usual remedy of choice is Thuja. In one retrospective study admittedly not the most rigorous where 14 homeopathic medical practitioners prescribed Nux vomica alone (in various potencies) or in combination with other remedies for 62 patients, the success rate (as judged by both practitioner and patient) was 80 per cent (J of Liga Medic Homoeo Inter, 1987, 2 (1): 27-31).

Nutritionally, a low-calorie, low-fat diet can help some SLE patients (The Lancet, Jan 26, 1985), as may supplementation with selenium (Acta Derm Venereal (Stockh), 1982; 62 (3): 211-4).

You should also get tested for gastric acid deficiency. One study showed that none of the SLE patients examined had normal stomach acid levels. Supplements of hydrochloric acid and vitamin B complex brought improvement (J Immuno, 1984; 133(1): 222-6).

In my own practice, I find that many SLE symptoms are produced when “immune complexes”, formed by food molecules, are deposited in the tiny capillary blood vessels. Excess food molecules find their way into your circulatory system if your intestinal gut wall is “leaky”. So the first port of call in investigating this disease should be a test for gut permeability, which can be easily remedied once identified.

!AHarald Gaier

Harald Gaier is a registered naturopath, osteopath and homeopath.

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