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Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

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Riskier Alternative Treatments for MS

Bee stings, cobra venom, and hookworms are things you usually avoid -- unless you have multiple sclerosis. Then, you may be willing to try them to help ease your symptoms. But do they work? Are these alternative treatments safe?

Let's separate the science from the wishful thinking.

Some lifestyle treatments, such as exercise, have been proven to help with fatigue, depression, memory, and bladder control. Others, such as vitamin D supplements, show promise but are still being tested. Acupuncture, a centuries-old form of Chinese medicine, shows mixed results.

Your best bet is to stick to your treatment plan. Don't stop taking your medication. Talk to your doctor about any alternative treatment you want to try, especially since it may interfere with your medications. Together, you can decide if it makes sense and won't do more harm than good.

Bee Stings and Bee Pollen

Ancient Greek and Egyptian medical writing tells of bees used as medicine (apitherapy).

Melittin, found in bee venom, supposedly brings down inflammation related to MS. But one study shows that it doesn't. What's more, bee sting therapy could be dangerous if you have a life-threatening reaction to bee venom.

Skip bee pollen, too. Although it's rich with nutrients, it hasn't been shown to help MS symptoms. And it can also trigger a severe allergic reaction.

Bottom line? Bees don't stand up to 21st-century studies.

Cobra Venom

Can the cobratoxin in snake venom slow down the immune system and help with MS? That's the belief.

Unfortunately, the answer is no. While you can find stories of people who say that cobra venom helps ease MS symptoms, you won't find you won't find scientific evidence to support it.

Hookworms

Hookworms are tiny worms that can live in your small intestine and cause problems with your gut, including pain, diarrhea, and anemia. These intestinal parasites might also be able to stop the immune system from overreacting.

One small study of 12 people with MS found that those who were infected with hookworms had fewer lesions than those who weren't infected. In 2012, researchers in the UK began recruiting people with MS for a study to see if hookworms could alter the course of MS. Watch for results in the next several years. 

Hypnosis

A hypnotherapist can teach you to relax so deeply that you're open to suggestions for dealing with pain. This mind-body practice has helped ease MS pain in a few, very small studies.

You may find hypnotherapy calming, but what affect it has on MS symptoms isn't clear. Larger studies are needed to find out whether the relief is actually a placebo effect.

Reiki

Reiki is a form of energy healing that helps boost your body's ability to heal itself. Reiki therapy often includes light touching.

Some people find massage in general can soothe stress and be relaxing, but there are no studies that show Reiki eases MS symptoms. That being said, Reiki is generally safe. And some research shows that it helps ease pain and anxiety for people who have cancer.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on May 08, 2014

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