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Herbs and Supplements for Fibromyalgia

Managing the symptoms of fibromyalgia or related ailments is not easy. So, many patients turn to alternative therapies for relief of pain and sleep problems. They may use Chinese herbs or over-the-counter supplements such as 5-HTP, melatonin, and SAM-e.

Because so many people -- not just those with fibromyalgia -- are using alternative therapies, Congress has formed the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). It is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and it helps appraise alternative treatments, including supplements, and define their effectiveness. This organization is now creating safe guidelines to help people choose appropriate alternative therapies that may help their symptoms without making them ill.

Coping with Fibromyalgia

Because of a multifaceted treatment approach that involves medications and lifestyle strategies, the prognosis for people with fibromyalgia is better than ever before. But first, a doctor needs to make an accurate diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Are you wondering how that's done?

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Are Herbs and Supplements for Fibromyalgia Safe and Effective?

Some preliminary studies indicate that some medicinal herbs and natural supplements may help treat symptoms of fibromyalgia. Other studies of herbs and natural supplements, though, are less positive. If you want to take a natural approach to treating fibromyalgia, it's important to learn as much as you can about the therapies you consider. The herbs and natural supplements described in this article are just some of the alternative therapies that may have an impact on fibromyalgia.

How Does 5-HTP Help Fibromyalgia Pain?

5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a building block of serotonin. Serotonin is a powerful brain chemical, and serotonin levels are thought to play a significant role in fibromyalgia pain. Serotonin levels are also associated with depression and sleep.

For those with fibromyalgia, 5-HTP may help to increase deep sleep and reduce pain. In one study published in the Alternative Medicine Review, researchers reported that supplementation with 5-HTP may improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and fibromyalgia pain. However, there are some contradictory studies that show no benefit with 5-HTP.

5-HTP is usually well tolerated. But in the late 1980s, L-tryptophan and possibly 5-HTP was associated with a serious condition called eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome. It's thought that a contaminant in these supplements led to the condition, which causes flu-like symptoms, severe muscle pain, and burning rashes.

Can Melatonin Help Relieve Sleep Problems Associated With Fibromyalgia?

Melatonin is a natural hormone that's available as an over-the-counter supplement. It is sometimes used to induce drowsiness and improve sleep patterns. Some preliminary findings show that melatonin may be effective in treating fibromyalgia pain. Most patients with fibromyalgia have sleep problems and fatigue, and it's thought that melatonin may help relieve these symptoms.

Melatonin is generally regarded as safe with few to no side effects. Due to the risk of daytime sleepiness, though, anyone taking melatonin should use caution when driving.

 

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