Natural Healing With Cranberry
For Bladder Infections
Cranberry Juice (10 oz. a day) inhibited urinary tract infections by 58% vs. placebo (only 27% of the 153 woman still had bacteria in their urine) (JAMA 2 71:751- 754; 1994; Avom et. al.). Current thinking suggests that cranberries prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall. Cranberries are also used as a urinary deodorant. Use (unsweetened) cranberry juice capsules, or other cranberry products not sweetened with sugar (10gm cranberry tabs = potency of 10 oz./day cranberry juice cocktail = 2 1/2 oz. real juice). Ten ounces of the juice cocktail was [the amount] used in the study. (Herbalgram; #38; pp 51-54.)
Natural Healing With Lemon Balm (Melissa)
In FMS/CFIDS, Lemon Balm's main use is to improve sleep. When combined with Valerian (see next section), it has been demonstrated to improve deep sleep (Valerian 180mg, plus Lemon Balm 90mg, 1-2 tablets a night). Used topically (vs. placebo) Lemon Balm had an antiviral effect against cold sores if used early in the outbreak. (Lomahephan ® Cream, 2-4 times a day for 5-10 days). (Wolbling RH, et. al.; "Local Therapy of Herpes Simplex With Dried Extract From Melissa Officianalis; Phyto Medicine, 1:25-31; 1994.) This corroborated previous studies showing antiviral effects of Lemon Balm. Echinacea and Lysine also have some antiviral effects.
Natural Healing With Valerian
For Sleep and Anxiety
Valerian is another very useful herbal remedy in CFIDS/FMS, which has also been used for at least 1800 years. The Greeks named it Phu- which derives from the same word as the word "pew" that we use for something stinky. The name was well earned, as it has--to put it kindly-- quite a distinctive odor (it is very stinky)! Cats seem to love it though, and will go after it like catnip.
Valerian is a mild sleep aid that has the interesting effect of calming people when they are anxious while at the same time acting as a stimulant when people are fatigued. Although not strong enough by itself to normalize sleep in the early stages of treating CFIDS/FMS, it decreases the amount of sleep medication needed. When symptoms have been resolved for six months and sleep medications are weaned off, some patients like to continue using it to insure good sleep.
The main problems with Valerian's use for sleep are:
1. When one uses an inappropriate dose (i.e., taking less than 1 80mg is unlikely to be effective and taking over 450mg is unlikely to add much benefit).
2. As it can be a stimulant in fatigue, about 5-10% of CFIDS/FMS patients find they can't use it for sleep because it makes them "hyper" at night and keeps them up.
In another study using Valerian for anxiety, 100mg three times a day for three weeks was more effective than placebo. Because Valerian decreases fatigue, it's a helpful calming agent in CFIDS/FMS.
Valerian also eases bowel spasms and may decrease menstrual cramps, fluid retention and seizures. Although considered safe, even at high doses for short term use (and no significant toxicity has come to my attention with long term use), I would likely limit the dose to 450mg a day unless a higher dose shows clear benefit. Although used as a flavoring in food processing (e.g., drinks, baked goods, etc.), I would avoid using Valerian supplements during pregnancy. Valerian interacts well with other sleep medications and can also be taken with Melatonin 3/10mg at night.
Natural Healing With Ginseng
For Energy and Adrenal Support
Panax (Asian) Ginseng is the most famous of all Asian medicinal plants. Because the chemical nature varies widely depending on where the plant is grown (with high "RG1 activity" in Asian plants and high "RB1 activity" in American plants), it is important to know where it comes from. The Asian (Panax) Ginseng has the properties we want in CFIDS/FMS, while the American Ginseng may worsen symptoms. For example, Asian Ginseng enhances energy, raises blood pressure and improves adrenal function while American Ginseng lowers blood pressure and is a brain 'depressant.' Asian Ginseng has such a wide mix of health benefits that its name, Panax, comes from the Greek roots of "pan" (meaning all) and "akos" (meaning cure-i.e., cure-all). In CFIDS/FMS, we are interested in its properties of increasing energy and improving adrenal function. Siberian Ginseng (Eleuthra) has properties midway between American and Asian.
In one study of 232 patients with "functional fatigue," those taking Ginseng 80mg a day (using the Ginsana Brand ®) experienced less fatigue with Ginseng vs. placebo after six weeks. Concentration also improved (LeGal M, et al.; Phyto Ther Res,1996; 10:4953).
Ginseng has been shown to reduce fatigue and improve exercise capacity. For most purposes the usual dose of standardized Panax Ginseng extract (5-7% Ginsengosides) is about 100-200mg a day. Asian and Siberian Ginseng also support adrenal function (also see Echinacea this page).Other studies also suggest that Asian (Panax) Ginseng may protect nerve cells and decrease cancer risk.
Remember, the potency of different forms of Ginseng is quite variable. To treat symptoms of an underactive adrenal (e.g., hypoglycemia, low blood pressure, etc.) use:
A. Asian (Panax) Ginseng-100mg twice a day, OR
B. Siberian Ginseng (Eleuthra) -Use (daily): 2-3gms of dry powdered root -OR 300-400mg of standardized concentrated extract OR 10cc (2 tsps) of the alcohol-based extract.
When using either form of Ginseng, take it for six weeks and then skip taking it for one to two weeks before resuming it. Continue this on-off cycle for 1-2 years or until you feel your ability to handle stress and infections has improved. Adding 1/2-2gms of vitamin C a day will also support the adrenal glands. Ginseng is quite safe and well-tolerated. Unlike Licorice, it does not pose the risk of raising adrenal hormones too high. (Donald Brown N.D.-NFM's Nutrition Science News 11/96; pp33-34; A good overview article for Ginseng.)
Natural Healing With Peppermint Oil
For Bowel Spasm
Peppermint, native to Europe, has been a popular American remedy for treating colon spasm for at least 200 years. Patients with CFIDS/FMS often have symptoms of spastic colon, which include abdominal pain, alternating diarrhea and constipation, gas and bloating. Although treating the yeast and/or parasite infections can often resolve these symptoms, Peppermint Oil (with Ginger if nausea is present) can also be helpful. This was demonstrated in a successful placebo-controlled study using Peppermint Oil in spastic colon (Rees W, et al.; "Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome With Peppermint Oil;" British Medical Journal 11; 835-6; 1979).
Peppermint Oil may also suppress intestinal Candida and may dissolve gallstones. It is important to be aware that, even though it eases spasm when it is in the colon, Peppermint Oil can cause indigestion in the stomach. Because of this, I only use enteric coated Peppermint Oil (i.e., capsules that are specially made not to dissolve until after they are past the stomach). They should be taken between meals (i.e., not with food). Use 1-2 capsules (with 2/10cc per capsule), three times a day as needed.
Menthol, one of Peppermint Oil's principle constituents, can also be used topically for pain relief. It acts as a counter irritant, stimulating the nerves that perceive cold, while suppressing those for pain. Use it in a cream or ointment with 1 1/4-16% Menthol up to 3-4 times a day in the affected area (warning: it can cause a rash, especially if a heating pad is used over it).
Natural Healing With Echinacea
A Great Immune Stimulant For Most Infections
Echinacea (purple coneflower), is a member of the sunflower family and is indigenous to the rich prairie soils of midwest North America. It was the most commonly used herb in Native American healing traditions and has been the subject of over 350 studies (Reviewed By Hobbs C; 1989 in "The Echinacea Handbook" Portland, Oregon; Eclectic Medical Publications).
Echinacea is very useful as a general immune activator, stimulating the body's white blood cells (e.g., natural killer cells and macrophages) which destroy viruses, bacteria, parasites and yeast. Studies suggest that it can help the body to fight off many different infections including the flu, herpes, common cold viruses, Staph and other bacterial infections (including sinusitis, bronchitis, pediatric ear infections and prostatitis) and Candida yeast infections. In one study of women with recurrent vaginal Candida, 60% of those treated with topical creams had recurrence six months later, as opposed to only 15% who also took Echinacea!
Echinacea also has other uses. Very importantly, it can stimulate the adrenal glands (Koen FE; 'The Influence of Echinacea Purpurea On The Hypophyseal-Adrenal System; Arzneim-Forsch; 3:133-137; 1953). Because the adrenals need a lot of vitamin C, consider taking 500-2000mg of vitamin C a day with the Echinacea (adrenal vitamin C levels will otherwise drop while taking the Echinacea as the adrenals "wake up").
Echinacea also strongly protects cancer patients against the drop in white blood cell counts that occur during radiation therapy. These studies suggest that it is a good idea for any cancer patient on radiation or chemotherapy to consider adding Echinacea to their regimen (Med Klin; 4:1546-7; 1969).
Uncontrolled trials have shown that topical Echinacea speeds wound healing, including abscesses, eczema, burns, herpes and varicose ulcers.
Although using different species and parts of the Echinacea plants each has its pros and cons, it is important to use a good brand. The importance of this is reflected in the estimate that over 50% of the Echinacea sold in the United States in this century was not Echinacea at all, but was (the unrelated) Missouri Snake Root! Check the label to document that the brand you use is actually Echinacea. One way to do this is to use a standardized "fresh pressed juice" that is noted on the bottle to have at least 2.4% beta-1,2-Fructofuranosides. Proper dosing is important as there tends to be an "all or nothing" effect (i.e., too low a dose has no effect).
Overall, Echinacea is best used to treat, rather than to prevent infections. If one has an impaired immune system, though, as in CFIDS/ FMS patients with recurrent or persistent yeast or other (e.g., respiratory) infections, long term use may be helpful. It is important to stop the Echinacea for 7-10 days every 6-8 weeks or it will stop being effective. A set of dosing recommendations made by Michael Murray, N.D., an excellent and very knowledgeable expert on herbal remedies, is as follows:
For acute infections use one of the following: -
1. Juice of the aerial (above ground) portion of Echinacea Purpurea stabilized in 22% Ethanol with a minimum of 2.4% beta 1,2-Fructofuranosides (it should say this on the bottle), 2-3 cc (1/2-3/4 tsp) three times a day (first choice) OR
2. Dried root (or as tea) 1000-2000mg (1-2gm) three times a day OR
3. Freeze-dried plant at 325-650mg three times a day (capsules) OR
4. Tincture (1:5) 3-4 cc (3/4-1 tsp) three times a day.
Echinacea is quite safe and nontoxic and some experts will even use it during pregnancy. For theoretical reasons, it is reasonable to not use it in autoimmune diseases (like Lupus or MS) or in AIDS or HIV positive patients.
Natural Healing With Tyrosine
For Occasional Energy Boosts
Twenty male marines took Tyrosine, 35mg per lb. of body weight, twice a day during a night of sleep deprivation vs. placebo. Tyrosine acted as a stimulant (the effect lasting three hours) without significant side effects. Tyrosine is an amino acid (protein) used to make norepinephrine. This brain chemical is thought to be low in CFIDS/FMS. Tyrosine can be considered for occasional use to enhance performance at a dose of 4000mg. (Neri DF; 'The Effects of Tyrosine on Cognitive Performance During Extended Wakefulness;" Aviat Space Environ Med,- 1995; 66:313-319.)