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Treatment of Thalassemia With Herbs

By Cindy Ell

Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder. If you have thalassemia, your body makes an abnormal type of hemoglobin, which is a protein carried inside red blood cells. According to PubMed Health, the damaged hemoglobin induces large numbers of red blood cells to die prematurely, thus causing anemia. Traditional Chinese medical practitioners may use herbs to treat this condition. Consult a qualified health care provider before adding herbs to your regimen.

Thalassemia

Thalassemia has two main types--alpha and beta--and many subtypes, PubMed Health explains. Two proteins, alpha-globin and beta-globin, form the protein called hemoglobin. When there are defective genes in alpha-globin, the result is alpha-thalassemia. Likewise, if the genes involved in beta-globin production are damaged, you develop beta-thalessemia. Both alpha and beta thalassemia manifest as thalassemia major and thalassemia minor. Thalassemia major is the most severe form of the disease and can result in failure to grow, fatigue, facial bone deformities and jaundice. This type is treated primarily through folate supplements, routine blood transfusions and sometimes bone marrow transplants.

Folate-Rich Herbs

Folate supplements are given to those with thalassemia major. This naturally occurring B vitamin is now available in a synthesized form as folic acid. Folate helps build red blood cells and is involved in the production of DNA. Green leafy herbs are a rich source of folate, including nettle leaf, red clover leaves and oatstraw, explains the Wise Woman Tradition website.

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Herbs High in Zinc

Zinc is a crucial mineral that is needed for cell metabolism and immune system function and to promote healthy growth in children, according to the U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements. Patients with thalassemia sometimes have low zinc status and taking zinc supplements appears to help with linear growth. One disease associated with thalassemia-major patients is osteoporosis. According to ClinicalTrials.gov, a current clinical trial is under way that involves children with thalassemia major who are given zinc supplements to prevent osteoporosis. Herbs high in zinc include rose hips, alfalfa, nettle, parsley, dandelion, burdock root and chickweed, according to the book “Natural Health Techniques.”

Honeopathy

Homeopathy is a healing modality codified two centuries ago by a German medical doctor named Samuel Hahnemann. Homeopaths give highly diluted medicines primarily made from plant tinctures that seek to stimulate the natural healing process, according to the book “Prescription for Nutritional Healing.” A clinical study evaluating homeopathic treatment for thalassemia patients showed promising results as reported in a 2010 article in the journal “Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.”

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