Lomatium rash case reports

by Paul Bergner

Medical Herbalism 10(4):16

Eleven case reports have been collected from physicians or professional herbalists that clients developed a rash after taking various forms of the herb Lomatium dissectum. The worst case occurred when a 36 year old female took 3 500-mg capsules of freeze-dried lomatium during the course of a day. In the evening she developed a full head-to-toe rash. She went to the hospital emergency room, and was given steroids in an unspecified form for the rash, which had no effect on the rash. She was kept for observation overnight and released the following day when the rash began to improve. A man developed a similar full body rash after taking about twice the dose above over a period of 8 hours. Several lozenges of the powdered herb have produced a less severe rash, and one practitioner reports five cases of patients developing less severe rashes after taking tinctures in which lomatium was an ingredient in combination with other herbs.

Lomatium, listed in older texts under its previous botanical name Leptonania, is sometimes prescribed by contemporary herbalists on the basis of its ethnobotanical use for colds, influenza, and coughs (Moerman). It attracted the attention of the medical professions, including naturopathic physicians, when it was successfully used to prevent mortality in both Native Americans and whites during the influenza epidemic in the Great Basin area in the 1920’s. Its use was taught to the contemporary generation of naturopathic physicians by Dr. John Bastyr, who taught students at both National College of Naturopathic Medicine, in Portland, Oregon, and later at Bastyr University in Seattle. Naturopaths use it primarily for respiratory infections, including viral pneumonia. It is also used in urinary tract infections (Mitchell). Bastyr noted that the appearance of the rash was used as a sign to lower the dose of the herb rather than to discontinue it, especially in severe influenza or pneumonia (Bastyr). The nature of the rash has not been determined, but, according to the first case above, is not inflammatory in nature.

 The following anecdote, with photo available online, comes from Henriette Kress or Finland.

“We had that ‘lung grunge’ going around, at the end of January 1998, at the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine, so Michael Moore mixed me a one-ounce bottle of diverse things, among them perhaps 5-10 ml of Lomatium tincture (this was either a 1:2 95 % fresh or a 1:5 70 % dried). I took perhaps five droppers of that a day for about three days, and then I woke up with the rash - at about the same time as the infection broke. Jonathan Treasure was at school that day, so I showed it to him - he was concerned that I perhaps had scarlet fever. When Michael showed up a few hours later he was crowing - “Folks, we have a Lomatium rash!” Michael uses Lomatium for viral infections, and he says that the rash is a sign of massive die-off; if you don’t have a systemic infection you won’t get the rash, and not everybody gets it even with an infection. Perhaps it could be avoided by adding some liver and some hot herbs to the mix, to speed cleanup?

“You can view a picture of my arm, at the time when I had a full-blown, itchy, full-body Lomatium rash,at http://metalab.unc.edu/herbmed/picures/misc/_lomatiu.jpg”

Bastyr, J. Personal communication. 1987

Mitchell, W. Naturopathic Applications of the Botanical Remedies. Seattle, WA: Wm Mitchell, 1983

Moerman, D. Native American Ethnobotany. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 1998  
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner 

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