Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack itself and destroy the myelin sheath of the Central Nervous System (CNS). This nerve damage can disrupt the flow of information within the brain and/or between the brain and the body.1 This results in physical disablement in the patient and unpredictable symptoms.
The symptoms can present itself on any part of the body. It can also vary from patient to patient. 2 The main symptoms of MS include fatigue, vision problems, difficulty in motor skills, muscle stiffness and spasms, cognitive issues, balance and coordination problems, etc.3
Alternative Medicine As Cure
While MS has been classified into various types based on how it affects the patient and how the disease progresses, a full cure for the disease is still unavailable in conventional medicine, and treatment focuses mainly on managing the symptoms.4 No wonder then that many MS patients opt for complementary and alternative medicines along with conventional treatment strategies.5
A survey on the use of alternative medicine among MS patients revealed that the desire to use holistic health care and discontent with conventional medicine is the most common reason why people turn to alternative medicine for treatment. The survey also revealed that consuming herbs was the most frequently used natural treatment, followed by chiropractic manipulation and massage.6
12 Herbs And Supplements To Treat Multiple Sclerosis
Many herbs and supplements have strong medicinal properties, though research into most of them is lacking. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular herbs and supplements in MS treatment.
1. Ginkgo Biloba
Studies on ginkgo biloba showed that it can significantly improve the functional performance in MS patients. Fatigue, symptom severity, as well as functionality showed much improvement in those taking 240 mg of a special extract of ginkgo biloba every day.7
Known as the “Queen of Ayurveda”, Ashwagandha is extensively used in Indian Ayurvedic medicines. The herb possesses vast benefits including anti-stress, anti-cancer, and neurodegenerative pathologies.8 Studies have shown that leaves of ashwagandha possess cognitive enhancers that improve executive functions, memory, motivation etc. Studies also show that the effects of Ashwagandha leaf extracts are multi dimensional that include reversal of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s pathologies, protection against environmental neurotoxins and enhancement of memory. 9 The root extracts of ashwagandha, meanwhile, have proved to be useful for the treatment of dyskinesia or impairment of voluntary movement.10
3. Bee Pollen
Another natural treatment for multiple sclerosis is using bee pollen or bee venom.11 While there is much controversy around this, studies have shown that it has antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, anticancer, immunostimulating, radical scavenging, and local analgesic properties and that it is quite effective as a treatment methodology in various diseases.12 Be wary of allergic reactions, though.13
4. Burdock Root
Burdock has long been used as a health food in Chinese cuisine. It has also been used therapeutically in European, North American, and Asian societies. Studies show that the roots, seeds, and leaves of the plant have therapeutic benefits. Active compounds in the root are seen to possess properties that aid in detoxifying blood as well as in promoting blood circulation to the skin surface, all of which helps an MS patient to feel better. Leaf extracts have properties that can prevent the growth of oral microorganisms. The seeds meanwhile, possess anti-inflammatory effects and also inhibitory effects on tumors.14 In certain cases, burdock root causes allergic reactions on the skin like dermatitis.
5. Dandelion Root And Leaf
Dandelion has been used in herbal medicines in Korea. Both the root and leaf of the plant are said to possess medicinal properties. Studies show that dandelion has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties, which can be helpful in patients with MS.15 It also possesses properties to reduce fatigue, which is one of the main symptoms of MS.16
For long, Echinacea has been used to treat upper respiratory illnesses, especially cold. The plant extract has many other properties like anti-inflammatory properties17 and aiding new tissue production18 which hold much promise of a better quality of life in MS patients.
Ginger has long been used the world over for various culinary and medicinal properties. Research shows that ginger also has anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective potential.19 It can prevent cell death, is a strong antioxidant and may either mitigate or prevent generation of free radicals. The potential role of ginger in preventing inflammatory problems makes ginger an excellent choice for MS patients.20
Turmeric contains curcuminoids, which have been shown to have neuroprotective,21 antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.22 High on preventive and putative therapeutic properties, turmeric is believed to play a crucial role in various diseases including multiple sclerosis.
9. Huo Ma Ren
Better known as Chinese hemp seed, huo ma ren belongs to the cannabis family and is used extensively in both conventional and alternative medicine.23 Though known mostly as a sedative, it has a soothing effect on the central nervous system as well. Hemp extracts also possess properties that help reduce spasticity,24 neurodegeneration and inflammation.25 Another interesting factor of hemp seed is that its oil is up to 80 percent rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). It is also an exceptionally rich source of the essential fatty acids (EFAs)—linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3).26 All these make hemp seed an effective natural treatment option for multiple sclerosis.
10. Vitamin D
The sunshine vitamin has been widely acknowledged as beneficial and needed in promoting bone health. It has also garnered attention for other health benefits like reducing the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, autoimmune diseases, and cardiovascular disease.27 Studies have also shown that vitamin D supplementation can not only diminish the symptoms of multiple sclerosis but also be used to prevent the disease in patients genetically predisposed to multiple sclerosis.28
DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is an omega-3 fatty acid found in vegetable oils, fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, or omega-3 dietary supplements. Since research has shown that DHA deficiencies are associated with the neuronal function, cancer, and inflammation, DHA supplements may help protect the central nervous system. Its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to promote brain health may prove useful for people with MS.29
Magnesium is crucial for a variety of bodily functions. Research shows that magnesium deficiencies may also be associated with myelin damage, leading to multiple sclerosis and a number of other chronic and progressive conditions.30 Using magnesium supplements and opting for a diet that is rich in natural sources of magnesium like leafy greens, nuts, whole wheat, fish, etc. can be helpful in preventing a deficiency that can aggravate MS symptoms.
A combination of all or some of these natural treatments can definitely bring down the severity of multiple sclerosis symptoms and manage the condition effectively. Try them now.
|↑1||What Is MS?. National MS Society.|
|↑2||White, Lesley J., and Rudolph H. Dressendorfer. “Exercise and multiple sclerosis.” Sports medicine 34, no. 15 (2004): 1077-1100.|
|↑3||Multiple Sclerosis. NHS.|
|↑4||Types of MS. MS Society.|
|↑5||Complementary and alternative medicines and MS. MS Trust.|
|↑6||Nayak, Sangeetha, Robert J. Matheis, Nancy E. Schoenberger, and Samuel C. Shiflett. “Use of unconventional therapies by individuals with multiple sclerosis.” Clinical rehabilitation 17, no. 2 (2003): 181-191.|
|↑7||Johnson, Susan K., Bruce J. Diamond, Sara Rausch, Michael Kaufman, Samuel C. Shiflett, and Linda Graves. “The effect of Ginkgo biloba on functional measures in multiple sclerosis: a pilot randomized controlled trial.” Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing 2, no. 1 (2006): 19-24.|
|↑8||Archana, R., and A. Namasivayam. “Antistressor effect of Withania somnifera.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 64, no. 1 (1998): 91-93.|
|↑9||Wadhwa, Renu, Arpita Konar, and Sunil C. Kaul. “Nootropic potential of Ashwagandha leaves: Beyond traditional root extracts.” Neurochemistry international 95 (2016): 109-118.|
|↑10||Naidu, Pattipati S., Amanpreet Singh, and Shrinivas K. Kulkarni. “Effect of Withania somnifera root extract on reserpine‐induced orofacial dyskinesia and cognitive dysfunction.” Phytotherapy Research 20, no. 2 (2006): 140-146.|
|↑11||Hauser, Ross A., Marylou Daguio, David Wester, Marion Hauser, Anne Kirchman, and Catherine Skinkis. “Bee-venom therapy for treating multiple Sclerosis: a clinical trial.” Alternative & Complementary Therapies 7, no. 1 (2001): 37-45.|
|↑12||Komosinska-Vassev, Katarzyna, Pawel Olynyk, Justyna Kaźmierczak, Lukasz Mencner, and Krystyna Olczyk. “Bee pollen: chemical composition and therapeutic application.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2015 (2015).|
|↑13||Castro, Henry J., Julia I. Mendez-Inocencio, Berna Omidvar, Jemal Omidvar, John Santilli, H. S. Nielsen, Alfred P. Pavot, John R. Richert, and Joseph A. Bellanti. “A phase I study of the safety of honeybee venom extract as a possible treatment for patients with progressive forms of multiple sclerosis.” In Allergy and asthma proceedings, vol. 26, no. 6, pp. 470-476. OceanSide Publications, Inc, 2005.|
|↑14||Chan, Yuk-Shing, Long-Ni Cheng, Jian-Hong Wu, Enoch Chan, Yiu-Wa Kwan, Simon Ming-Yuen Lee, George Pak-Heng Leung, Peter Hoi-Fu Yu, and Shun-Wan Chan. “A review of the pharmacological effects of Arctium lappa (burdock).” Inflammopharmacology 19, no. 5 (2011): 245-254.|
|↑15||Choi, Ung-Kyu, Ok-Hwan Lee, Joo Hyuk Yim, Chang-Won Cho, Young Kyung Rhee, Seong-Il Lim, and Young-Chan Kim. “Hypolipidemic and antioxidant effects of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) root and leaf on cholesterol-fed rabbits.” International journal of molecular sciences 11, no. 1 (2010): 67-78.|
|↑16||YANG, Xiao-jie, Xue-peng FU, and Ze-dong LIU. “Study on the Anti-fatigue Function of Dandelion Polysaccharide [J].” Lishizhen Medicine and Materia Medica Research 11 (2008): 051.|
|↑17||Sharma, S. M., M. Anderson, S. R. Schoop, and J. B. Hudson. “Bactericidal and anti-inflammatory properties of a standardized Echinacea extract (Echinaforce®): dual actions against respiratory bacteria.” Phytomedicine 17, no. 8 (2010): 563-568.|
|↑18||Briskin, Donald P. “Medicinal plants and phytomedicines. Linking plant biochemistry and physiology to human health.” Plant physiology 124, no. 2 (2000): 507-514.|
|↑19||Thomson, M., K. K. Al-Qattan, S. M. Al-Sawan, M. A. Alnaqeeb, I. Khan, and M. Ali. “The use of ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) as a potential anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic agent.” Prostaglandins, leukotrienes and essential fatty acids 67, no. 6 (2002): 475-478.|
|↑20||Ali, Badreldin H., Gerald Blunden, Musbah O. Tanira, and Abderrahim Nemmar. “Some phytochemical, pharmacological and toxicological properties of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe): a review of recent research.” Food and chemical Toxicology 46, no. 2 (2008): 409-420.|
|↑21||Xie, Lin, Xiao-Kang Li, and Shiro Takahara. “Curcumin has bright prospects for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.” International immunopharmacology 11, no. 3 (2011): 323-330.|
|↑22||Menon, Venugopal P., and Adluri Ram Sudheer. “Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin.” In The molecular targets and therapeutic uses of curcumin in health and disease, pp. 105-125. Springer US, 2007.|
|↑23||Whiting, Penny F., Robert F. Wolff, Sohan Deshpande, Marcello Di Nisio, Steven Duffy, Adrian V. Hernandez, J. Christiaan Keurentjes et al. “Cannabinoids for medical use: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Jama 313, no. 24 (2015): 2456-2473.|
|↑24||Wade, Derick T., Petra Makela, Philip Robson, Heather House, and Cynthia Bateman. “Do cannabis-based medicinal extracts have general or specific effects on symptoms in multiple sclerosis? A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study on 160 patients.” Multiple Sclerosis Journal 10, no. 4 (2004): 434-441.|
|↑25||LI, Su-yan, Ling-di YAN, and Ze-hui GONG. “Expression of Cannabinoid receptor 2 in the CNS and pharmacology of its agonists [J].” Chinese Pharmacological Bulletin 1 (2009): 002.|
|↑26||Callaway, J. C. “Hempseed as a nutritional resource: an overview.” Euphytica 140, no. 1 (2004): 65-72.|
|↑27||Holick, Michael F. “Vitamin D status: measurement, interpretation, and clinical application.” Annals of epidemiology 19, no. 2 (2009): 73-78.|
|↑28||DeLuca, Hector F., Colleen E. Hayes, and Margherita T. Cantorna. “Multiple sclerosis treatment.” U.S. Patent 5,716,946, issued February 10, 1998.|
|↑29||Hong, Song, Karsten Gronert, Pallavi R. Devchand, Rose-Laure Moussignac, and Charles N. Serhan. “Novel docosatrienes and 17S-resolvins generated from docosahexaenoic acid in murine brain, human blood, and glial cells autacoids in anti-inflammation.” Journal of Biological Chemistry 278, no. 17 (2003): 14677-14687.|
|↑30||Johnson, S. “The possible role of gradual accumulation of copper, cadmium, lead and iron and gradual depletion of zinc, magnesium, selenium, vitamins B2, B6, D, and E and essential fatty acids in multiple sclerosis.” Medical hypotheses 55, no. 3 (2000): 239-241.|