My son was recently diagnosed with Atypical Cystic Fibrosis. As a result of this genetic disorder his lungs create mucus which is thicker than normally, and the body has difficulty expelling it, leading to dangerous lung infections. Looking for recommendations for herbal treatments to thin/loosen mucus, reduce inflammation, etc. Thanks.
Cystic fibrosis is quite complicated. I was going to give you some things to consider, but after 30 minutes into writing it, I realized it is just too much data for this forum. I think I can better serve you by telling you some places you can go to for data that have good information. I am sure you are aware this is a genetic issue and that genes from both sides of the family are involve if a child has cystic fibrosis (CF). There are over 1500 different genetic variants.
For those wondering about it, here is a quick description of a complicated illness: Basically, the CFTR gene responsible for regulating the passage of salt in and out of exocrine glands has a genetic variant in cystic fibrosis (CF). These glands produce and secrete substances onto epithelial surfaces of the body: sweat glands, salivary glands, reproductive glands, pancreas glands, and glands of the digestive and respiratory systems. If this gene is has a variant, the protein influenced by it (there can be either absence of CFTR protein or decreased function of CFTR protein) will be transformed.
The organ most affected by CF is the lungs. The lack of appropriate salt and water transport across airway epithelia lining leads to the accumulation of thick sticky mucus in the airways, which traps bacteria, causing a persistent airway infection and associated inflammation. Repeated lung infections are common in CF. This leads to destruction of tissue and fibrosis (scaring) and eventually pulmonary hypertension.The person often has trouble breathing, coughs, wheezes and has recurrent lung infections. Treatment strategies are usually aimed at supporting respiratory health, thinning out the mucous and increasing immune function against respiratory infections. Decreasing inflammation in the lungs can be extremely helpful as it contributes to pro-oxidants which damage the tissues. Nutrition, supplements can help manage CF and the symptoms associated with it to increase quality of life.
Additionally the pancreatic gland may have decreased secretion of digestive enzymes due to obstruction by thick secretions. This leads to malabsorption of food and which means the body does not get the necessary nutrients needed. Fat digestion is often affected and this causes a greasy and nasty-smelling stool. The person may have chronic diarrhea. (They often have to support their diet with nutrients and take digestive enzymes.)
They often eat a lot, but do not gain weight or even loose weight due to malnutrition. The children have poor growth. They tend to having sinusitis, excessive and salty sweating and are dehydrated.
Next, I will mention that there are a variety of western and Asian herbs that are used or being researched for CF.
With the western herbs, it is mostly constituents that have been researched: Curcumin from Turmeric, Genistein from a variety of phytoestrogen herbs, and resveratrol from Japanese Knotweed (also in dark grapes, red wine and peanuts). If you don't mind reading a scientific review article, this one will give you some good data on these constituents: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4828912/ These three constituents from herbs have all been shown to partially correct issues caused by the CFTR variants. It appears to get decent results in humans the genistein and curcumin have had to be combined together. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4939248/) I would also add, that it is found over and over again that taking constituents out of an herb and using them by themselves is not the best way to go. You can enhance effect by adding a constituent into the whole herb, such as adding concentrated curcumin into the whole herb Curcuma longa (Turmeric), but in my opinion taking single constituents is not usually the best route to choose.
Some of the Chinese herbs to look at would be Panax ginseng, Emblica officinalis and there is a formula that is used that I list as follows:
This formula called Shenks, is composed of the following active ingredients: Panax quinquefolius, Ophiopogon japonicas, Salvia miltiorrhizaBge, Gynostemma pentaphyllum (Thunb.) Makino, Amygdalus Communis Vas, Scutellari + abarbata D. Don, Lysimachiahui Diels, and Perilla frutescens. This formula may be useful to prevent fibrosis that is seen with CF. Check out this research artcile. (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-02293-z)
The Chinese seem to have come to the conclusion that Cystic fibrosis is best helped with herbs that tend to be anti-inflammatory and antiallergenic. I think they are on the right path.
I would also mention that n-acetyl cysteine is very helpful clincally. It increases glutathione in the body and has been helpful clinically to decrease the excessive mucous seen in CF. Additionally, breathing exercises are very helpful. You can find examples of breathing exercises on line. Look for breathing exercises that decrease lung fibrosis.
Depending on the individual with CF, many things could be helpful. Not just for the lungs that usually have issues, but also gastrointestinal support with herbs, adrenal support, immune support and in my opinion the main concern is to keep inflammation under control at all times. Some of the herbs listed above will help with decreasing inflammation.
May You Walk in Beauty,
Sharol Tilgner ND
Sharol's books available at website
Thank you so much for taking the time to write such an extensive answer. My son was recently diagnosed, and we are still in the process of educating ourselves about this condition and the treatments. As you said, CF can be incredibly complicated and has a enormous number of variants. So far, my son's variant appears to primarily affect the lungs; the doctors don't think he has digestive, pancreatic, or reproductive problems. Thus, the treatment will largely focus on clearing mucus and reducing inflammation, in order to combat potential lung infections. Thanks again.