Reaction - Feeling worse before feeling better
What Is The Herxheimer Reaction?
The Herxheimer Reaction is an immune system reaction to the toxins (endotoxins)
that are released when large amounts of pathogens are being killed off, and
the body does not eliminate the toxins quickly enough. Simply stated, it is
a reaction that occurs when the body is detoxifying and the released toxins
either exacerbate the symptoms being treated or create their own symptoms.
The important thing to note is that worsening symptoms do not indicate
failure of the treatment in question; in fact, usually just the opposite.
Technically known as the Jarisch-Herxheimer Reaction, this
syndrome goes by many names, including JHR, the Herxheimer Effect,
the Herxheimer Response, a Herx Reaction, Herx or
Herks. The most common terminology used is the Herxheimer Reaction.
It is also often referred to as a healing crisis, a detox reaction, or
The Herxheimer Reaction is a short-term (from days to a few weeks)
detoxification reaction in the body. As the body detoxifies, it is not
uncommon to experience flu-like symptoms including headache, joint and
muscle pain, body aches, sore throat, general malaise, sweating, chills,
nausea or other symptoms.
This is a normal — and even healthy — reaction that indicates that
parasites, fungus, viruses, bacteria or other pathogens are being
effectively killed off. The biggest problem with the Herxheimer reaction is
that people stop taking the supplement or medication that is causing the
reaction, and thus discontinue the very treatment that is helping to make
them better. Although the experience may not make you feel
particularly good, the Herxheimer Reaction is actually a sign that healing
is taking place.
The phenomenon was first described by Adolf Jarisch (1860-1902) working
in Vienna, Austria, and a few years later by Karl Herxheimer (1861-1942),
working in Frankfort, Germany. Both doctors were dermatologists mainly
treating syphilitic lesions of the skin. They noticed that in response to
treatment, many patients developed not only fever, perspiration, night
sweats, nausea and vomiting, but their skin lesions became larger and more
inflamed before settling down and healing. Interestingly, they found that
those who had the most extreme reactions healed the best and fastest. The
patient might be ill for 2-3 days, but then their lesions resolved.
A Medical Example
The Herxheimer reaction is caused by the release of toxic chemicals (endotoxins)
released from the cell walls of dying bacteria due to effective treatment.
The Herxheimer Reaction is well recognized in medical circles and is
certainly not confined to the world of natural medicine or supplements.
For example, a recent study report (Feb ’04) on the treatment of
Sarcoidosis found that, “. . . without exception, the improving patients
are reporting periodic aggravation of their symptoms as an apparent direct
response to the antibiotics. In other words, these patients say that their
treatment makes them feel much worse before they experience symptom-relief.”
The abstract of the study goes on to say, “This phenomenon is known
as the Jarisch-Herxheimer Reaction (JHR) and is often referred to informally
as Herx. JHR is believed to be caused when injured or dead bacteria release
their endotoxins into blood and tissues faster than the body can comfortably
handle it. . . . This provokes a sudden and exaggerated inflammatory
response . . . . In Sarcoidosis patients, the Herxheimer reaction seems to
be a valuable indication that an antibiotic is reaching its target.” In
the conclusion, the author states: “In my work with Sarcoidosis
patients, it is my experience that recovering MP patients understand and
welcome the Herxheimer reactions even when they must endure temporary
increased suffering. They accept it as the price that they must pay in order
to get well and they even seem to find it gratifying to experience tangible
evidence of bacterial elimination. “
Foot Detoxing, Olive Leaf
Extract, Colloidial Silver & The Herxheimer Reaction
Herxheimer reactions can occur as the body adjusts to the die-off process
and responds to the increased load on the lymphatic system – particularly in
cases of systemic and chronic conditions and/or severe infections.
The most common Herxheimer reactions are:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Itch and rashes
Usually, the reaction lasts a few days. In more severe cases, reactions
can last a week or more.
In most cases, the reaction tends to be mild and barely noticeable, but
there are exceptions, particularly in cases of severe infection. Certain
conditions, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Lyme Disease and other spirochetical
illnesses can engender noticeable Herx Reactions as the disease-causing
pathogens are killed off. Users of the products for Hepatitis may also
experience die-off symptoms, such as headache. Those inhaling silver to
treat lung and sinus infection may also feel immediately worse for a few
hours or a day before starting to feel relief.
Herx reactions vary widely, depending on many factors, including the
general health of the individual, the condition being treated, the degree of
toxicity that exists in the body, and the support the body is provided in
eliminating the toxins as rapidly as possible. Method of use is also factor.
For example, applications that allow concentrated dosages of Colloidal
Silver to come in direct contact with the source of infection are more
likely to result in a die-off reaction than oral use.
The severity of the Herx reaction is often an indicator of just how much
toxicity there was in the body to begin with and is an indicator of the
effectiveness of the treatment. It is actually a sign that the body is
restoring itself to good health.
There is differing data on the timing of a Herxheimer reaction. Some data
indicates that it usually occurs between four and 24 hours from the onset of
treatment. Others note that between Day 3 and Day 5 of a treatment program
is often when the reaction is most noticeable. What appears to be most
accurate is that reaction times -- and indeed whether there will be any
reaction at all -- are strictly dependent on the individual being
treated. Duration of the reaction also varies widely, from an hour or a few
hours to days or even a week.
What To Do In The Event of a
If the reaction is mild enough that it can be borne without grave
discomfort, the best approach is to continue treatment and assist the body
in eliminating the toxins as quickly and as thoroughly as possible by the
If the reaction is too severe, cutting back on the dosage or frequency of
use can be very helpful in lessening symptoms but allowing the healing
process to continue. Sometimes stopping for a day or so and then beginning
again at a lesser dosage can allow for quick relief.
The best assistance for the body is
drinking plenty of distilled water
(a half gallon a day is recommended).
Other helpful suggestions include:
- Getting plenty of sunshine
- Minimizing exercise for the detox period
- Keeping the organs of elimination (the bowels, lungs, skin, kidneys,
lymph) functioning properly
- Keeping the diet relatively pure during the detox period so that the
body is not loaded with additional chemicals and toxins to eliminate while
it is already working hard.
Adding lemon to the water, taking cold press olive oil first thing in the
morning, taking sea salt baths and/ or steam baths and saunas, plus liver
and elimination system supports can also be helpful, though any herbal
supplements should be kept to a minimum and should be very mild and gentle
The most important advice in relation to the Herxheimer reaction is to
“bear with the process”. The reaction is usually over within a few days and
is well worth the cleansing and healing results.
serious symptoms such as cardiac irregularity; breathing
difficulties; chest, lung or throat constriction; significant swelling; or
other severe symptoms should be given immediate medical attention.
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