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Author Topic: Herxheimer reaction - misinterpreted science?  (Read 662 times)

cubicleclown

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Herxheimer reaction - misinterpreted science?
« on: October 02, 2015, 07:09:17 PM »

I've been wondering for a while now, what do people think of the herxheimer reaction?  Is there much good data on its authenticity as described?  The way I understand it is that sometimes people get sick from certain antibiotics/antivirals (synthetic and natural), and that the explanation given for this  sickness is that it is caused by dying infection releasing toxins into the body, and that it thus indicates infection, and continued treatment is considered a good step towards achieving recovery.

But I've been wondering, could people be misinterpreting the cause of the sickness, and that it might in fact be due to direct toxic effects of the substance being taken for treatment?

 This questioning has entered into my mind for two reason; first, the discoverers of the reaction, Jarisch and Herxheimer, based it on findings that people were getting sick soon after starting treatment for syphilis.  These people became sick while taking various antibiotics, a drug called Salvarsan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arsphenamine), and mercury.  Jarisch and Herxheimer attributed the sickness with the above explained reasons, but I wonder if their conclusions were not entirely correct as some antibiotics, mercury, and possibly salvarsan can be associated with a direct toxic effect on the body in some people.

The second thing that makes me question this is personal experience with cat's claw.  I've tried it a couple times, but it made me so sick both times that I was unable to continue treatment with it for long.  I have had lyme disease in the past (and have been told that the usual method of several weeks of antibiotics as I had done are not always sufficient), and this sounds very much like a herxheimer reaction one could get for lyme.  What worried me about it though was strong kidney pain.  I did some research, and came across a journal article showing a possible link between cat's claw and kidney failure http://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/190304.  This patient had a diseased kidney, and kidney disease runs in my family, so combined with my illness and back pain, I decided to discontinue cat's claw, I don't want to risk it.  But it made me wonder, many of the sickening symptoms myself and others have reported with use of cat's claw are similar to symptoms of kidney damage, and other results of toxicity.  Could this indicate that these herxheimer reaction symptoms are in fact results of a direct toxic effect?
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akosi

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Re: Herxheimer reaction - misinterpreted science?
« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2015, 10:55:16 PM »

Hey cubicle, this is a great question to ask and one I would be happy to share what I know of it.

The herxheimer reaction is definitely authentic and has been recorded in numerous studies and scientific papers.  See:

http://jem.rupress.org/content/175/5/1207.abstract

http://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/abstract/1990/03000/the_jarisch_herxheimer_reaction_complicating.15.aspx

However just because this can and does happen, it does not mean that it is always a good thing.  Take an auto-immune condition for example.  While I do not believe this would be considered a true herxheimer reaction, taking an immune system elevating herb such as cat's claw when the immune system is attacking the body will worsen health while causing similar symptoms.  It is easy for unscrupulous supplement vendors to try to pin this, or any other negative reaction on a herx, and the continued taking of the offending herb could cause serious harm to the body.  I never recommend cats claw for anyone with any type of auto-immune conditions in my practice because of this.

Now when it comes to a genuine herxheimer reaction such as in the case of bacterial and parasitical die-off, the road forks.  Yes, in most cases it would be the most beneficial to keep taking the herb, assuming you are not hurting yourself in the process.  Lower doses are better when the herb presents side effects that can be linked to parasitical die off as to avoid negative side effects interfering with your body and mind.  But for many, these side effects are too much, and it may be better to keep the parasites at bay with milder herbs or medicine, or with the help of a trained and licensed naturopathic doctor.

Regarding cat's claw specifically, have you tried multiple vendors and brands?  Do they all cause the same side effects?  Cat's claw is a very common and benign herb for most people, and I have personally assisted hundreds of unique individuals with the herb, however of these I have encountered a few people who experienced negative reactions upon taking the herb.  In all cases, these individuals had auto-immune conditions or lyme disease however.  I don't recall anyone ever mentioning kidney pain, but the people who did not like cat's claw really did not like it, and probably did not take it long enough to experience any serious issues.  Once they realized the herb disagreed with their body, they stopped taking it immediately for the most part.

My advice to you, is to listen to your body and stop taking the herb.  I do not feel cat's claw itself is harmful or toxic, and its history and widespread use is evidence of this, however there are definitely recorded cases of side effects in individuals who have parasitical infections and/or auto-immune diseases.
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cubicleclown

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Re: Herxheimer reaction - misinterpreted science?
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2015, 01:15:24 AM »

Thank you for the very informative response.  I think the only source of cat's claw I've tried was vitamin shoppe brand both times, but not certain.  I have no idea if I can trust that they are giving me good product or not, though usually the vitamin shoppe stuff seems much weaker than herbs I've bought from botanical websites, if that indicates anything.  I have heard that a surprisingly large amount of bottled store herbs don't have contents as advertised, but ignored that info out of the convenience of being able to get many different herbs on the same day I decide to try them.  It's about time for a drone package delivery service  :)

I have had lyme based on my doctors opinion of the bullseye rash, and my timely visit to a very tick infested park here in New Jersey years ago when it happened.   I'm not good with keeping time  :(, it might have been 5 or 6 years ago.  I have not been tested, though I've heard that the test isn't that accurate anyways.   Some time soon I will get around to looking into a lyme literate doctor, and come up with some sort of plan hopefully.  The symptoms that concern me are the psychological symptoms. I've been in treatment for schizoaffective disorder for 9 years, and it is rare for me to find any significant benefit from prescribed medications, that is what is making me ponder if I still have lyme disease, maybe treatment can help me in a better way, though I'm afraid to herx again.

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akosi

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Re: Herxheimer reaction - misinterpreted science?
« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2015, 12:11:04 PM »

Botanical supply companies and herbalists who buy from these companies tend to have much better product.  Often times the raw materials for an end product will be shipped en masse to factories in China where the compounds are extracted in high temperature vats, before being resold back to the USA.  Besides heat damaging actives, the quality of the herbs used is often poor, and at times even the wrong parts of the plant are used (see kava traditional root use vs the liver toxicity situation that occurred due to from improper harvesting of the aerial parts of the plant).

I would highly recommend picking up a small amount of cat's claw from one of our approved vendors (Vendor section link: http://phytoactive.net/vendors/) and seeing if the same reaction occurs.  This will help you figure out what exactly is causing the issues, be it product, herb, or a herx.  If the reaction does happen with cat's claw whole herb, I would recommend trying something milder like Echinacea or Pau d'Arco and see how they interact with your body. 
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