Herbs and Supplements for Fibromyalgia
Is St. John's Wort a Helpful Fibromyalgia Herb?
There's no specific evidence that St. John's wort is helpful in treating fibromyalgia. However, this herb is often used in treating depression, and depression is commonly associated with fibromyalgia.
There are several studies that show St. John's wort is more effective than placebo and as effective as older antidepressants called tricyclics in the short-term treatment of mild or moderate depression. Other studies show St. John's wort is as effective as selective SSRI antidepressants such as Prozac or Zoloft in treating depression.
St John's wort is usually well tolerated. The most common side effects are stomach upset, skin reactions, and fatigue. St. John's wort should not be mixed with antidepressants or any other supplement, as the combinations can cause illness.
How Can SAM-e Help Fibromyalgia Pain and Depression?
It's not known exactly how SAM-e works in the body. Some feel this natural supplement increases levels of serotonin and dopamine, two brain neurotransmitters. Although some researchers believe that SAM-e may alter mood and increase restful sleep, current studies do not appear to show any benefit of SAM-e over placebo in reducing the number of tender points or in alleviating depression with fibromyalgia. Additional study is needed to confirm these findings.
Can L-carnitine Help Improve Fibromyalgia Symptoms?
The studies are limited, but it's thought that L-carnitine may give some pain relief and treat other symptoms in people with fibromyalgia. In one study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of L-carnitine in 102 patients with fibromyalgia. Results showed significantly greater symptom improvements in the group that took L-carnitine than in the group that took a placebo. The researchers concluded that while more studies are warranted, L-carnitine may provide pain relief and improvement in the general and mental health of patients with fibromyalgia.
What About the Effect of Probiotics on Digestive Problems Associated With Fibromyalgia?
Probiotics are dietary supplements that contain potentially beneficial bacteria or yeasts. They may assist with the breakdown and proper absorption of food and help improve digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome -- a common symptom of fibromyalgia. Some of the ways probiotics are used include:
- treating diarrhea
- preventing and treating infections of the urinary tract or female genital tract
- treating irritable bowel syndrome
Side effects of taking probiotics are usually mild and include gas or bloating.
There are other herbs and natural supplements that people say have helped manage fibromyalgia symptoms. They include echinacea, black cohosh, cayenne, lavender, milk thistle, and B vitamins. Nevertheless, there are no definitive studies on the efficacy of these natural therapies.
How Can I Know Which Herb or Natural Supplement Will Help my Fibromyalgia?
Before taking any herb or supplement for fibromyalgia, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects or herb-drug interactions. Herbal therapies are not recommended for pregnant women, children, the elderly, or those with weakened immune systems. In addition, some herbs have sedative or blood-thinning qualities, which may dangerously interact with anti-inflammatory painkillers or other pain medications. Others may cause stomach upset if taken in large doses.