Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease which affects the nervous system. In many cases the myelin sheaths that surround and protect the nerves become damaged, and as a result affects the brain and spinal cord. MS can be unpredictable and often disabling because it interrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and body.
Women are generally affected more than men and MS can develop at any age. It’s commonly diagnosed between ages 20 and 40 but can be seen at any age.
The symptoms range from mild and intermittent to severe and permanently debilitating. Each person is affected differently and will therefore have their own symptoms. It is common for symptoms to come and go and many experiences alternating periods of remission and relapses.
MS has many symptoms which becomes more severe as the disease progresses. Symptoms can affect sensory stimulus (sensations) and motor control (muscle movement and coordination).
The most common Multiple Sclerosis symptoms include:
- Cognitive changes and mental impairments such as trouble thinking clearly, poor judgment, inattention, and memory loss.
- Dizziness and vertigo.
- Slurred, slowed or hesitant speech.
- Mood changes such as depression, manic depression, mood swings, increased crying or inappropriate laughing, or inability to control emotions.
- Lack of coordination, loss of balance and clumsiness.
- Dementia and mania as the condition worsen.
- Vision changes such as double or blurred vision, partial blindness, inability to see straight ahead, dimmed vision and uncoordinated eye movements. This is as a result of increased inflammation of the optic nerves.
- Sense of shock running down the neck and spinal cord, especially when moving neck or head.
- Body numbness, reduced senses of touch and tingling.
- Burning, itching or pain on the skin.
- Cramping, stiffness, tremors, spasms, and difficulty walking.
- Partial paralysation and involuntary movements as the condition worsen.
- Weakness in the body especially arms or legs.
- Digestive symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, trouble controlling urination and loss of bowel movement control.
- Sexual dysfunction, such as trouble experiencing pleasure, sensation or orgasm, and impotence.
Herbal Treatment / Supplements for Multiple Sclerosis
There is no cure for MS. The cause for MS is unknown and as a result makes the treatment very difficult. Treatment aims to relieve or treat symptoms. The symptoms stem from the breakdown of communication between the brain and nerves. Treatments may help to slow down the disease progress, reduce the severity of the symptoms or prolong the periods of remission.
Before using any herbs, supplements or alternative and complementary therapies to treat MS, first discuss the benefits and risks with a physician. Herb users should be aware of proper dosing, potential side effects, and potential drug-herb and herb-herb interactions.
1. Ashwagandha and Multiple Sclerosis
This Ayurvedic herb is a wonderful adaptogenic herb. Chronic pain, fatigue, inflammation, stress, and anxiety can all be treated with the berries, roots and extracts. Research for clinical uses is promising, although it’s effectiveness for treating MS symptoms are not studied well enough to confirm efficiency.
2. Bilberry Leaf and Multiple Sclerosis
Extracts made from its berries and leaves are being used for both supplements and medical purposes. This herb has a history for treating anything from vision problems and scurvy to diarrhoea and circulatory problems. There is evidence to suggest that bilberry is rich in antioxidants and has the potential to improve vision, reduce inflammation and protect cognitive function, therefore being an option for treating MS symptoms.
3. Chamomile and Multiple Sclerosis
Due to its common use and availability in a variety of forms, chamomile has become a popular remedy for MS patients. Chamomile offers antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It has calming effects, and as a result may be helpful to reduce tension, spasms, cramps, digestive upsets, and pain.
4. Ginkgo Biloba and Multiple Sclerosis
Ginkgo may improve cognitive function and is known for improving memory as well as mental clarity. A small study has shown that ginkgo may improve fatigue in those suffering from MS. It may be beneficial in relieving leg pain and overactive nerve responses.
Ginkgo inhibits platelet activating factor (PAF) and by doing so cause a decrease in the activity of certain immune cells. Theoretically, these actions provide support for the use of treating MS. Additionally, it may be used for impacting eye and vision problems, dizziness and vertigo, all of which are symptoms relating to MS. It may interact with other medications and cause side effects.
5. Valerian and Multiple Sclerosis
People suffering from MS may have difficulty sleeping which consequently contributes to MS-related fatigue. Therefore sleep aid may be very useful to some MS patients. Valerian promotes sleep and acts as a sleep aid. Trials (not related to MS) has shown that valerian can decrease the time spent to fall asleep without residual feelings in the morning. It’s a well-tolerated herb, but it’s effects on the immune system have not yet been studied. Valerian may increase the sedative effects of prescription medication.
6. Medical Marijuana (cannabis) and Multiple Sclerosis
Marijuana contains chemicals known as cannabinoids which act on the central nervous system in ways that may reduce MS symptoms and furthermore even slow down the disease activity. Cannabis has been proven and is highly likely to help ease stiffness as well as muscle spasms related to MS. Reduce pain and inflammation in the body with marijuana. It may also act as a sleep aid and help with mental health conditions.
7. Black Currant Oil and Multiple Sclerosis
Black currant oil has high essential fatty acid levels. Fatty acids are required to build up the myelin nerve sheaths as well as build hormones required for many biochemical processes and cellular communication. Gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) is an essential fatty acid which helps to protect the immune system. Black currant oil is one of the best sources of GLA hence it being on the list. People suffering from degenerative diseases are usually low in essential fatty acids.
Disease Modifying Nutricals
Manage MS with Disease-modifying nutricals. These nutricals include:
- Green Tea: contains EGCG (a flavonoid) which has the ability to support metabolic health as well as fight oxidative damage.
- Turmeric: Curcumin, the active ingredient of turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and helps with many health issues.
Alternative Natural Treatments to Help Manage MS symptoms include:
1. Exercise regularly
2. Manage your stress (see how to here)
3. Support and protect your immune system (practice good hygiene)
4. Eat a nutrient-dense diet. Food is medicine.
5. Avoid toxic and synthetic chemicals
6. Avoid processed and sugary foods.
7. Use supplements to prevent fatigue, such as essential fatty acids, probiotics, vitamin A, B6, B12, C, D, and E.
8. Essential oils may be of benefit, such as frankincense and helichrysum.
The importance of Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 is needed for amino acid conversions. Amino acids are vital to all living things and are used for the building of proteins and synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters. B6 is found in a wide variety of foods including beans, banana, many vegetables, chicken and fish (salmon and tuna). A B complex vitamin supplement may also help with energy and fatigue.
The importance of vitamin D:
Vitamin D is a hormone (chemical messenger). It is important for absorbing calcium and bone growth. Vitamin D plays an important role in the cell, neuromuscular and immune function. Studies have associated high vitamin D intake and levels with a lower risk of developing MS.
Vitamin D sources include sunlight, fish and fortified foods such as dairy products and breakfast cereals.
The importance of Antioxidants
Free radicals (oxidants) are unstable molecules which react with and cause damage to nearby cells. Free radicals contribute to ageing and illness. Antioxidants scavenge and deactivate free radicals to prevent them from causing damage. Preliminary evidence suggests that free radical damage may be involved in the disease process of MS. Vitamin A, C and E are antioxidant vitamins and are available in fruits and vegetables. Vitamin B6 and B12 play an important role in antioxidant mechanisms and is found in more protein-rich foods.
The medical and/or nutritional information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.