Leishmaniasis is a little-known protozoan parasitic disease typical of the tropics that has reared its head on US shores. Travel to places like Central America, Mexico, Africa, Southern Europe, and parts of Asia – where you’ll find the particular strain of sand fly that causes the illness – is the typical route the infection takes to America. Starting out as an infection of the skin, leishmaniasis in its most virulent form can affect internal organs like your liver, spleen, and even your bone marrow. The high costs of treatment coupled with a growing chemoresistance of leishmaniasis to conventional modern medicine have turned the focus to natural remedies and alternative treatments.
What Kind Of Leishmaniasis Are You Dealing With?
Before you turn to treatment, you must know what stage or type of leishmaniasis you have. For many, leishmaniasis never shows any symptoms and exists as a silent condition. It is when cutaneous leishmaniasis shows up as skin sores that you’ll probably first notice it. Left alone, the sores will heal but this can be time-consuming. In the interim, you’ll have to cope with unsightly ulcers, skin lesions, and sores and be prepared to live with bad scarring and scabs. Alternatively, you could start supplementing your routine with some gentle natural remedies.
Mucosal leishmaniasis that affects the mucous membrane in the throat, mouth, and nose is easily missed but also appears in the form of sores. And the only way to ensure you don’t get this kind of leishmaniasis is to stop it in its tracks with timely treatment. For those concerned about taking strong medicine, Ayurveda and natural remedies offer a way out.
Visceral leishmaniasis is marked by weight loss, fever, a prominent spleen, anemia, leukopenia, high protein levels, low blood albumin, and thrombocytopenia. When it comes to visceral leishmaniasis – potentially the most dangerous of all kinds of leishmaniasis – medication and treatment must be taken without delay to prevent the attack from becoming fatal.1
Control Your Environment
In America, having pets like dogs indoors increases the chances of illness. You might need to rethink where your pets live or thoroughly disinfect the home. You’ll find insecticide sprays and nets useful. Also use natural insect-repellent creams on your body to protect against sandfly bites.2
A Healing Diet
According to the WHO, a case of leishmaniasis progresses to visceral leishmaniasis mainly because of malnutrition. A diet low in protein, vitamin A, zinc, and iron increases your risk.3 Eat foods rich in these nutrients along with foods like garlic that have known antibacterial or antimicrobial benefits to improve your body’s ability to stave off and fight the disease.
Traditional treatment for the condition was to use the medicinal Mexican plant Pentalinon andrieuxii. Now, a study using sterol pentalinonsterol in an intravenous treatment for visceral leishmaniasis has shown promise in reducing parasitic incidence in spleen and liver.4
Another ancient cure against multiple strains was to rub the ground-up dried leaves of the Urechites andrieuxii on the lesion directly. A study has now found that methanol extracts drawn from the roots and leaves of the plant show antileishmanial activity against the L. braziliensis, L. amazonensis, and L. donovani parasite species.5
Ayurvedic Indications For Leishmaniasis
According to the WHO, three South-Asian nations (India, Nepal, and Bangladesh) are on the verge of winning the battle against visceral leishmaniasis and eradicating it.6 The ancient medicines of Ayurveda may hold the key to the next stage of the battle as mainstream drugs have toxic effects or are proving too expensive.7
- Ashwagandha (Indian ginseng): Withania somnifera Dunal or ashwagandha was found to be effective against Leishmania donovani. Indian ginseng has antibacterial properties and causes the apoptosis-like death of leishmanial cells.8
- Garlic (Allium Sativum): Garlic’s abilities to heal Leishmaniasis was explored in one study where garlic therapy was administered along with vitamin A.9
- Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum): Ayurvedic herb tulsi is also renowned for its broad-spectrum antimicrobial powers. Studies have found it shows strong leishmanicidal activity when taken orally. Its immunomodulatory effects also help with recovery from the illness.10
- Calcium-containing Bhasma: Shankha bhasma, Muktashukti bhasma, and Pravala bhasma, common calcium-containing Ayurvedic remedies for ulcers and piles, may also be useful in treating sores.11
|↑1||Parasites – Leishmaniasis, CDC.|
|↑2, ↑3||Leishmaniasis Fact sheet, WHO. March 2016.|
|↑4||Gupta, Gaurav, Kevin J. Peine, Dalia Abdelhamid, Heidi Snider, Andrew B. Shelton, Latha Rao, Sainath R. Kotha et al. “A novel sterol isolated from a plant used by Mayan traditional healers is effective in treatment of visceral leishmaniasis caused by Leishmania donovani.” ACS Infectious Diseases 1, no. 10 (2015): 497-506.|
|↑5||Chan-Bacab, Manuel Jesús, Elfride Balanza, Eric Deharo, Victoria Muñoz, Rafael Durán Garcı́a, and Luis Manuel Peña-Rodrı́guez. “Variation of leishmanicidal activity in four populations of Urechites andrieuxii.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 86, no. 2 (2003): 243-247.|
|↑6||South-East Asia poised to defeat visceral leishmaniasis (kala-azar), WHO.|
|↑7||Mohapatra, Sarita. “Drug resistance in leishmaniasis: Newer developments.” Tropical parasitology 4, no. 1 (2014): 4.|
|↑8||Sharma, Umakant, Thirumurthy Velpandian, Pawan Sharma, and Sarman Singh. “Evaluation of anti-leishmanial activity of selected Indian plants known to have antimicrobial properties.” Parasitology research 105, no. 5 (2009): 1287-1293.|
|↑9||Ahmadi-Renani, K., A. Mahmoodzadeh, A. M. Cheraghali, and A. A. Esfahani. “Effect of garlic extract on cutaneous leishmaniasis and the role of nitric oxide.” Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences 27, no. 3 (2015): 97-100.|
|↑10||Suzuki, Akiko, Osamu Shirota, Kanami Mori, Setsuko Sekita, Hiroyuki Fuchino, Akihito Takano, and Masanori Kuroyanagi. “Leishmanicidal active constituents from Nepalese medicinal plant Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum L.).” Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 57, no. 3 (2009): 245-251.|
|↑11||Singh, A., S. D. Dubey, K. R. C. Reddy, S. Patne, and V. Kumar. “Anti-Ulcer Activity Of Calcium Based Ayurvedic Bhasmas And Pishti Prepared From Marine-Sourced Animals.” Electronic Journal of Pharmacology and Therapy 2 (2009): 71.|