The effects of immunostimulatory herbal supplements on autoimmune skin diseases.

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The use of herbal supplements that promise to improve immune health has gained popularity among dermatology patients. However, there is little to no evidence that herbal supplements improve dermatological conditions. Several in vitro and in vivo studes have shown that Spirulina platensis, Aphanizomenon flos-aqua, Chlorella, Echinacea, and alfalfa activate immune cells, via certain cytokines and chemokines. Case reports suggest the association of ingesting immunostimulatory herbs and the clinical onset or flares of diseases characterized by an exaggerated immune response such as lupus erythematosus, dermatomyositis and autoimmune blistering disorders. Therefore, it is imperative to investigate the prevalence of herbal supplement use in this patient population. In addition, in vitro studies should examine the underlying mechanisms by which herbs stimulate immune pathways that are already overactive in autoimmune patients.

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