Article published in The Hope, January 2020
The views expressed in this article are not The Hopes or its sponsor Kibow® Biotech, they are those of the author. This article is not intended to be viewed as medical advice. Please check with your health care provider before starting to take any herbal supplements.
After transplant surgery kidney patients are given new instructions of adjustments they need to make to their diet and lifestyle. This includes a list of foods to avoid like grapefruit and pomegranate, but also includes herbal supplements. One usually finds green tea makes the list of forbidden foods. The reason given is usually that it is too immune stimulating and would be a problem as transplant patients need to have their immune system suppressed to avoid rejection. But is this in fact the case? What does the evidence show about green tea after a kidney transplant?
Herbal medicine has been around for centuries, but we should not look to herbal traditions for information when it comes to transplants. Organ transplants have only been around for a few decades and herbal foklore does not offer adequate evidence for safety post-transplant. Very few practitioners of alternative medicine are knowledgeable when it comes to transplant medicine. In addition, transplant doctors typically do not have training with botanical medicine, and when they are unsure about the safety of a supplement post-transplant, they understandably would rather err on the side of caution.
This concern about herbal supplements post-transplant is warranted. If you were to pick an herbal supplement at random, chances are it doesn’t mix well with transplant medications. These prescription medications work to prevent rejection by suppressing the chemical messenger Il-2 (interleukin 2), which turns the immune system on. Many herbs on the market raise Il-2 and have the potential to undo what the transplant medications are trying to accomplish. It’s usually best to assume an herb unsafe until we see evidence to the contrary.
Herbs touted to help boost immunity like echinacea, andrographis and reishi mushrooms are certainly contraindicated (i.e., not to be used) post-transplant. In addition, some seemingly benign herbs not necessarily associated with immunity also raise Il-2 or otherwise stimulate immunity.