Life Extension Magazine March 2014
Safely Manage Autoimmune Diseases
By Kathy White
Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can impact your entire body including joints, skin, heart, lungs, blood vessels, nervous system, liver, and kidneys as well as increase your risk of cancer and infections.30 Attacking women 9 times as often as men, the disease occurs in cycles of flares (exacerbations) followed by periods of lower activity (remissions).31 Doctors usually treat the symptoms of lupus with a mix of powerful drugs that includes antimalarial drugs, corticosteroids, immune suppressants, and NSAIDs.30 However, despite these medical interventions, the underlying causative factors remain, and the disease can return at any time.
Studies show that peony glucosides, when used for 5 years or more, can dramatically reduce the rate of people experiencing lupus flares to just 3%, compared with 19% in those using the supplement for less than 5 years or only intermittently, and 35% in those not using it at all.32
When peony glucosides are used in combination with mainstream medicines, the results include reductions in disease activity, less need for prednisone and other immunosuppressive therapies, and a reduced rate of infections.33 Lab indicators of disease severity dropped along with lower levels of certain inflammatory markers and lower levels of the characteristic lupus autoantibody, indicating a lower level of lupus disease activity in the body.
In patients receiving only mainstream drug therapy, rates of remission were 6.4%, while rates of partial remission were29.0%, and those for whom it was ineffective was 64.5%. However, in those patients who received peony glucosides plus standard medical treatment, the results were 20.7% for remission, 51.7% for partial remission, and only 27.6% ineffective after 3 months of supplementation.34
Other studies of peony glucosides combined with Western-style medications reveal similar positive results—faster onset of action, decreased number of side effects, lowered markers of inflammation, and reduced need for immune-suppressive medications.26-28,34-36
Lab studies show that peony glucosides produce these significant improvements in lupus patients through a rebalancing of immune system cells, possibly by increasing the number of cells that suppress inflammation.37,38 And in mouse studies, animals with lupus and its associated kidney disease (nephritis) had a significant reduction in urinary protein content, indicating improved kidney function, following supplementation.39 Supplemented animals’ kidneys also showed less visible lupus-related damage, and serum levels of lupus-related autoantibodies dropped significantly.39
Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition that produces an itchy and unsightly scaling rash. It is responsible for untold misery and social isolation, and is a disease crying out for a safe and effective response.40
To date, only one human clinical trial of peony glucosides in psoriasis has been conducted, but the results are promising. Thirty-five psoriasis patients who were in remission were monitored during supplementation.41 At baseline, even though they were in remission, all the patients had elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines, indicating a smoldering disease process. But after supplementation, there was a significant decrease in these cytokine levels, indicating that the fires of inflammation had been successfully tamed.
Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis that sometimes affects psoriasis sufferers; its features are similar to those of rheumatoid arthritis. In a 2013 study, 19 patients underwent 12-weeks of supplementation with peony glucosides only.5 Six (32%) had at least a 25% improvement in their disease activity, and of that group all demonstrated a continuous decrease in the number of pro-inflammatory cells and simultaneous drop in inflammatory cytokines. This is one of the first-ever studies demonstrating such dramatic effects in patients treated solely with peony glucosides.
Sjogren's syndrome is the second most-common autoimmune rheumatic disease, afflicting somewhere between 2 and 4 million Americans—the vast majority of whom are post-menopausal women.42-44 In this disease, inflammatory cytokines released from immune cells and autoantibodies destroy secretory glands, especially salivary and tear glands.43,44
People with Sjogren's syndrome suffer from dry eyes, mouth, nose, throat, and vagina, and have a massive (20- to 40-fold) increase in the risk of malignant lymphoma.42 The disease can be diagnosed and its progress tracked by specific autoantibodies, which can be sharply reduced with peony glucosides supplementation.45-47
Mouse studies reveal similar effectiveness between peony glucosides and the immune-suppressive drug hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug used to treat Sjogren’s syndrome, with prominent reductions in auto-antibodies, and increases in salivary and tear flow rates—but the peony root extract is vastly safer and works by increasing the numbers of inflammation-suppressing regulatory cells, rebalancing the immune response toward normal functioning. 47
Human research from China supports these observations, demonstrating that peony glucosides have similar effectiveness, and was safer than mainstream medications. In a study of patients taking peony glucosides or hydroxychloroquine, both treatments effectively improved saliva and tear production and decreased abnormally high levels of serum antibodies, but adverse effects in the supplement group were 5 cases of diarrhea, while in the drug group, one patient dropped out because of decreased vision, and another for potential liver damage.48
Open trials demonstrate that peony glucosides, 600 mg three times daily, was effective at improving saliva and tear flow rates and reducing markers of inflammation in 21.4% of patients at 12 weeks, and in 57.1% by 36 weeks.49,50