LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News vol 1 no 1 Feb 1993   ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.

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Treating lead poisoning - 
an alternative therapist's view

by Janine Flynn, herbalist

Since the pioneer article on the effects of lead poisoning appeared in Lancet in 1972, much has been written about ways of treating the problem. Alternative medicine has much to offer in the treatment of lead poisoning, both prophylactically and to reduce accumulations already in the body.

The Bulgarian scientist Vesselin Petkov published a paper in 1960, entitled 'Prophylaxis and therapy with garlic of lead poisoning in the industry.' He found that garlic can bring about detoxification in cases of chronic lead poisoning, and even has a significant effect in this regard if used prophylactically. His experiments showed that basic basophilic stippling in red blood vessels was significantly less when garlic was given, and that workers in lead works who took garlic regularly showed neither stippled cells in the blood nor uroporphyrin.

The great amount of active sulfuric compounds in garlic inspired Petkov to examine it as a remedy in the prophylaxis and therapy of chronic lead poisoning. His first experiments with guinea pigs and rats showed garlic had significant results in reducing the toxic effects resulting from repeated application of lead acetate. Armed with this preliminary experimental data, Petkov began to examine the effect of a garlic preparation on a large group of workers endangered by chronic lead poisoning or with evidence of presaturnism.

Clinical-pharmacological tests, lasting from one to three months, showed that under the effect of a garlic preparation, the number of workers presaturnism (punctured erythrocytes and porphyrin in the urine) decreased by 83 %.

Furthermore, the amount of porphyrin still remaining in the urine of some of the workers treated with the garlic preparation was much decreased. In workers with evidence for presaturnism, the garlic preparation caused a statistically significant increase in the number of erythrocytes and in the amount of haemoglobin.

garlicThe favourable effect of garlic on chronic lead poisoning might be explained by the fact that a part of the lead powder in the gastrointestinal tract reacts with the active sulfur components in garlic, and is then excreted by the faeces in the form of insoluble sulfides without being resorbed. The evacuation of a part of garlic polysulfides with respiratory air may also restrict the resorption of fine lead powder in the respiratory tract, transforming it partially into insoluble and so unresorbable lead sulfides. The chemical interaction between the resorbed sulfide compounds in garlic and the resorbed lead is likely to play a certain role in the antitoxic effect of garlic.

(Children who will not eat garlic in cooking or salads can take low dosage garlic pills or garlic pearls on a daily basis. Garlic is quite safe but can be too strong for some stomachs. The one rule is never to take the odourless garlic, as the valuable constituents are in the oils.)

As well as garlic, calcium has also been found effective in preventing the accumulation of lead in body tissues. This mechanism has been investigated by several university research teams. K.M. Six and R.A. Goyer found that reducing dietary calcium in rats greatly enhanced the body burden of lead, evidenced by increased levels in blood, bone and soft tissues.

C. Snowdon found that in calcium-deficient rats given water containing lead, lead replaced the lacking calcium in bones and teeth. Studies on rats (by L.G. Lederer and F.C. Bing) and on pigs (by F.Hsu and colleagues at Cornell University) indicate that adequate dietary calcium prevents re-accumulation of lead in body tissues by reducing absorption of ingested lead from the intestinal tract. Such evidence supports the view that calcium protects both water and body tissues from lead contamination.

The philosophy of homoeopathy states that 'like cures like'. Accordingly, the homoeopathic treatment for lead poisoning is Plumbum metallicum which is a homoeopathic form of lead. In any therapy dealing with heavy metal poisoning, alternative medicine concentrates on treating the liver, since it is the main organ of detoxification in the body. So herbs such as St Mary's Thistle and Dandelion play a significant role in managing lead poisoning.

Finally, the herb Red Clover, a traditional blood-cleansing herb, is reported to enable the body to eliminate heavy metals.

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