Vitiligo Support International Inc. (VSI) is a patient driven 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization offering a comprehensive resource of vitiligo education, research and awareness for those whose lives have been affected by vitiligo.

We are here to address your questions and concerns and help you connect with our community. You will find the hope, support and healing that can only be offered by those who understand best - those who have walked in your shoes.

Herbs & Autoimmune Disease

Normally the immune system's army of white blood cells helps protect the body from harmful substances, called antigens such as bacteria, viruses, toxins, cancer cells, and foreign blood or tissues from another person or species. The immune system produces antibodies that destroy these harmful substances.

In patients with an autoimmune disorder, the immune system can't tell the difference between healthy body tissue and antigens. The result is an immune response that destroys normal body tissues. The response is a hypersensitivity reaction similar to allergies, where the immune system reacts to a substance that it normally would ignore. With autoimmune disorders, the immune system reacts to normal body tissues. With vitiligo, the immune system is attacking your melanocytes which are the pigment making cells.

People with autoimmune diseases, including vitiligo, must be cautious in the use of herbs. Many herbs, like Goldenseal, Astragalus, Echinacea and Spirulina are immune boosters. If the immune system is attacking your melanocytes, boosting it further with these types of herbs could be problematic.

Immunostimulatory herbal supplements may exacerbate preexisting autoimmune disease or precipitate autoimmune disease in persons genetically predisposed to such disorders. Increased production of TNF-alpha may play a role, although more research is needed for clarification.

Some studies have shown that Echinacea may worsen the effects of autoimmune disorders. Studies looking at this issue are few in number and largely inconclusive. However, until sufficient evidence emerges, it is recommended that echinacea supplements should not be used by those suffering from autoimmune diseases. (Greenhills Ginsen Limited, 1998)

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