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    You are here : Home » About MS » Multiple Sclerosis Treatments » Complementary Therapies » Herbal Remedies

    Herbal Remedies

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    Herbal RemediesWhat are they?

    Herbalists use extracts of plants to treat illnesses. This can be in the form of fluid extracts, tinctures, tablets, or teas which you brew up yourself from dried ingredients.

    Herbs can have a powerful effect. There may be contraindications (reasons you should not take them) because of your individual medical history, your current condition and situation, your symptoms and any medication you are already taking. You are best advised to seek the help of a qualified medical herbalist.

    In herbal medicine the use of an herb may vary according to what other herbs it is combined with. It is important to know which part of the herb is appropriate (flower, leaf, root, stem), the quantity to take, how it should be prepared, and when it should be taken.

    Herbalism and MS

    Herbalism can help in:

    • Supporting the immune system, strengthening the nervous system, and easing inflammation.
    • Helping the digestive system, including kidneys, liver, gall bladder etc. and problems such as candida and leaky gut.
    • Helping with symptoms such as muscle spasm, urinary problems, constipationfatigue and emotional problems.
    • Helping with other illnesses or complications

    Particular Herbs Used for MS

    For the liver and digestion.

    Amrit Kalash or Chyawanprash
    These Ayurvedic herbal food concentrates are high in antioxidants.

    Another Ayurvedic herb, recommended for nerve exhaustion, loss of muscular energy, tissue deficiency, fatigue, paralysis and MS. Similar status to Ginseng in Chinese Medicine.

    This is a very powerful anti-candida herb. Two of its main chemical constituents (Berberine and Hydrastine) are effective against bacteria, yeasts, viruses, fungi and protozoa including Salmonella typhi, Giaardia lamblia, Candida albicans, and Shigella. Barberry also supports the helpful bacteria in the gut and prevents the growth of candida after antibiotic use. It cleanses and regulates the liver, helps the stomach, and balances the action of the gall bladder and bowels, combining well with other herbs used for these.

    Do not use in pregnancy and hyperthyroid conditions. May cause diarrhoea if overdose is taken. (In Ayurvedic medicine, caution is advised in tissue deficiency and high Vata conditions, so perhaps do not take indefinitely.)

    Suggested dosage; 1-2 tsp. of root or stem, boiled in 1 cup water for 10 minutes, three times daily.

    Nerve relaxant - calms body and mind (can help sleep). Anti-fungal.

    Cramp Bark
    For muscular cramp.

    Helps the immune system.

    For elimination.

    For circulation and digestion.

    Ginseng (Siberian, Korean or American)
    Ginseng is a tonic which helps boost the immune system. It comes from the root of the Ginseng plant, and has been widely used in China for 5,000 years. Supports adrenal glands which in turn assist the nervous system.

    Gotu Kola
    Said to be one of the most important rejuvenative herbs in Ayurvedic Medicine. The main revitalising herb for nerves and brain cells.

    Hawthorn Berry
    Rich in Vitamin C and flavone glycosides. Good for stress.

    Huo Ma Ren
    A cannabis extract from China which qualified and registered herbalists can prescribe legally. Helps to relax the muscles - does not make you 'high'. It has the advantage that it will not cause stress by landing anyone in trouble. Make sure the source is reliably inspected and authorised, as herbal medicines currently coming from China are not always 100% pure. Inform your doctor or practitioner you are taking this - do not take with other medication without expert advice.

    Anti-inflammatory, providing natural steroids.

    Milk Thistle (Silymarin)
    Cleanses and purifies. Counterbalances the effects of eating rich, junk foods. A powerful liver detoxifier. Helps to protect and regenerate liver cells. Increases secretion of bile from the gall bladder.


    Oat Seed and Straw
    To feed nerves (if you are not intolerant to oats).

    Antispasmodic and digestive.

    Schizandra Berries
    Works like Siberian Ginseng.

    Nerve tonic to feed and strengthen the nervous system. Needs 4-6 months to take effect and to consolidate repair (results can be felt within a week). Anti-inflammatory. Sedative, helps with nervous tension, insomnia, seizures.

    Slippery Elm
    To nourish and heal the digestive tract.

    Stevia rebaudiana is an herb which grows in the rain forests of Brazil and has been used as a natural sweetener in South America for centuries. It is calorie free and does not feed candida. A leaf or a pinch of leaf powder can be added to drinks; powdered Stevia can be added to food or used in baking. A liquid extract is also available, which is said to be 300 times sweeter than sugar. It has health advantages including;

    It satisfies the natural desire for sweetness without aggravating conditions such as candidiasis, chronic fatigue syndrome and hyperactivity/attention deficit disorder in children. It does not have the health hazards of artificial sweeteners.

    To make Stevia-sweetened dishes, experimentation may be required as it is much sweeter than sugar, yet does not give the same moistness to flour products, brown like sugar when baked or provide food for yeast in bread making.

    To nourish the nervous system

    It is best not to mix herbs without professional advice.

    Other Herbs which are sometimes useful in MS are:

    • Lemongrass
    • Yucca
    • Burdock Root
    • Red Clover
    • Dandelion Root and Leaf
    • Gingko Biloba
    • Peppermint
    • Bee Pollen
    • Bilberry Leaf
    • Astralagus

    Herbal Foods

    Certain plants used in herbal medicine are foods. eg sesame seeds, flax seeds (linseeds) and oil, oats (as porridge), pumpkin seeds, onion, garlic, almonds, sea kelp, hemp oil, watercress, lettuce, asparagus and lemon.

    Herb Teas

    Healthy and delicious alternatives to ordinary tea are rooibosh, pau d'arco, green tea, chamomile, fennel, mint, sage, borage, lime tree flowers.

    Herbs in Cooking

    These include ginger, coriander, saffron, turmeric, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, anise, oregano, rosemary, basil, parsley, sage and thyme.

    This information is from The A to Z Guide to Complementary Therapies edited by Judy Graham.

    New EU regulations on herbal medicines come into force

    Herbal RemediesNew European Union rules have come into force banning hundreds of traditional herbal remedies.

    The EU law aims to protect consumers from possible damaging side-effects of over-the-counter herbal medicines.

    For the first time, new regulations will allow only long-established and quality-controlled medicines to be sold.

    But both herbal remedy practitioners and manufacturers fear they could be forced out of business.

    To date, the industry has been covered by the 1968 Medicines Act, drawn up when only a handful of herbal remedies were available and the number of herbal practitioners was very small.

    But surveys show that about a quarter of all adults in the UK have used a herbal medicine in the past two years, mostly bought over the counter in health food shops and pharmacies.

    The regulations will cover widely used products such as echinacea, St John's Wort and valerian, as well as traditional Chinese and Indian medicines.
    But safety concerns have focused on the powerful effects of some herbal remedies, as well as the way they interact with conventional drugs.

    For example, St John's Wort can interfere with the contraceptive pill, while ginkgo and ginseng are known to have a similar effect to the blood-thinning drug warfarin.

    From now on only products that have been assessed by the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will be allowed to go on sale.

    Manufacturers will have to prove that their products have been made to strict standards and contain a consistent and clearly marked dose.

    And to count as a traditional medicine, products must have been in use for the past 30 years, including 15 years within the EU.

    They will also only be approved for minor ailments like coughs and colds, muscular aches and pains, or sleep problems.

    Remedies already on sale will be allowed to stay on the shelves until they reach their expiry date.

    Free from contamination
    Richard Woodfield, head of herbal medicine policy at the MHRA, says so far there have been 211 applications, of which 105 have been granted registration.

    "Crucially, this EU directive and the registration scheme puts consumers in the driving seat so they can identify that a product meets assured standards on safety, quality and information about safe use.

    "Safety speaks for itself, but quality means, are they using the right part of the plant? Is it free from contamination? Is the claimed shelf life suitable?

    "Product information will include possible side effects and interactions with other drugs, but above all it must make very clear that it is based on traditional use."

    And that is a key point for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, which believes the new regime is a step forward in improving safety and quality.

    But Prof Jayne Lawrence, chief science adviser to the society, says there are still some concerns about herbal products.

    "They certainly haven't been tested on the same basis as a conventional medicine and some of these compounds are very potent.

    "Patients might not realise that in some cases they should not take other medicines with them, or if they're going for surgery they should tell their doctors they are taking these particular medicines because there may be complications.

    "So we're very concerned that patients appreciate they must be very careful when they take these medicines and, ideally, should talk to their doctor or pharmacist."

    The manufacturers of herbal remedies have had seven years to prepare for the new rules after the European Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products was introduced in 2004.

    Too onerous?
    These regulations apply to over-the-counter sales, which form the bulk of herbal remedies sold in the UK.

    But some manufacturers and herbal practitioners have expressed concern, arguing the new rules are too onerous for many small producers.

    Michael McIntyre, chairman of the European Herbal and Traditional Medicines Practitioners Association, says there will be a significant impact on herbal medicine practitioners and their suppliers, but admits the rules do need bringing up to date.

    "Products that go on the market now will definitely do what it says on the bottle, while we didn't know how good they were in the past.

    "But registration is expensive so perhaps there may be fewer products on the market and a smaller range.

    "It's difficult to argue that the market should stay as it is, without any regulation, but how many businesses will pack up and walk away? I can't say."

    A Department of Health spokesperson said: "We have swiftly introduced a system to register herbal practitioners using unlicensed herbal medicines, so consumers will be able to continue to use unlicensed herbal medicines if they wish."

    Source: BBC News © British Broadcasting Corporation 2011 (01/05/11)

    © Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre

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