I recently heard from someone with chronic fatigue syndrome, who, after figuring out that she probably had an autoimmune condition that was affecting her autonomic nervous system, turned not to drugs but to herbs and supplements….and benefittedgreatly.
This was particularly interesting to me because after years of doing mostly mind/body work I ‘d recently added herbs and supplements to the mix. I had tried them before, of course. For the first ten years or so I had ME/CFS they made no difference (nothing made any difference then) but about 10 years in they started to work, and they worked really well. Unfortunately periods of increased energy would leave me in fluey state and I stopped taking them. Now I was trying them again and finding, once again, how powerful herbs, in particular, could be.
‘Tandrsc’ (online name) had tried herbs and supplements before without success, but taking a focused approach using scientifically validated herbs worked. Here’s her story…
She’s had a’ mild’ case of chronic fatigue syndrome (high levels of fatigue but able to work) for about 30 years. Around 2010 she entered a period of decline, had to stop working and was becoming bedridden. A diagnosis of ME/CFS in 2011 in the UK did nothing to stop the decline or provide treatment options.
At about a 2-3/10 in health, she began researching alternative methods on the Phoenix Rising Forums and then trying supplements whose efficacy had been validated in the scientific literature. First, acetyl-carnitine and D-ribose gave her the energy to get dressed in the morning.
Discovering herpesvirus activation was a possibility she added lemon balm, tumeric and ginger. Lemon balm helped greatly with brain-fog and tumeric fixed a nagging sore throat.
Some Health Rising blogs (:)) put her focus on three major topics; immune system regulation, central nervous system and cardiovascular (circulation) enhancers.
The low NK cell finding added Mistletoe and Ashwagandha. Learning from a blog on Dr. DeMeirlier that anti-epilepsy drugs can help with sleep she added skullcap. Caraway came from a blog on dysbiosis. Refining as she went along, she removed acetyl-l-carnitine and D-ribose.
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) turned out to be something of a miracle supplement for her. She’s had hypersomnia – the need for a lot of sleep – her entire life. Ten hours of sleep made her somewhat functional when she was better, but she was up to 12-15 hours a night as she declined. Her ability, after a few days of taking skullcap ( what a wonderful name :)) to sleep a normal 8-9 hours left her, she said, in a state of shock. Even months later she said she could hardly believe this lifelong issue has been resolved with an herb…
As she started feeling better she began to work on the low anaerobic threshold, starting with 5 minutes of relaxation/exercise and then moving up to 12 minutes, then 15, 17, 20, etc. She’s now up to an hour with no crash days. Pacing was important and she makes a point of doing five minutes of relaxation exercises every hour to get those intrusive, energy-draining thoughts out of her head.
Her dizziness and the feeling like blood is pooling in her legs is gone. She estimates she’s now at a 8/10 in health and is looking for work again.
Tandrsc didn’t take anything really unusual; she simply identified major factors in ME/CFS and then gathered together a herbal protocol to address them. Happily for her it worked. We know one size doesn’t fit all in ME/CFS but her protocol looks like it provides a nice foundation for an herbal approach to ME/CFS; something that I, at least, have never tried.
Tweaks will certainly be necessary for people who try this approach. Cocoa powder, for instance, definitely increases my energy but I also get gut cramps after awhile. It’s possible, of course, that something in the protocol will take care of that.
This looks like a pretty inexpensive way to go as well.
Nutrient and Herb Poll
Before we check out her protocol, Tandrsc has the largest poll on nutrients and herbs I’ve ever seen on her website. Take it and check out what others are saying here.
First up are tips. Then the elements in her protocol and lastly, how she put them together…
- Never spend a lot of money
- If you don’t notice a difference in 2-3 weeks (1 month tops) then you probably never will.
- Add one supplement at a time with a week’s gap so that you can check for adverse reactions.
- If you get a slight reaction with a supplement (e.g. a bit spotty or mild headache) but still want to try it, try taking a smaller amount.
- Be informed and know exactly why you are taking a supplement (e.g. to help circulation, immune system, etc). Only try things you can find research evidence to support (I use Pubmed for this and even rodent studies will do).
- The cheapest and easiest way to take powders (e.g. ground ginger) is to mix a small amount into a teaspoon of honey or jam. I use mini measuring spoons that I found on Amazon (1/32, 1/16 and 1/8 teaspoon).
- The cheapest and easiest way to take herbs is to make a strong tea (1 or 2 level teaspoons in a mug of boiling water, leave to cool, strain and put in the fridge) and then take 25-30 ml in half a glass of warm water 3 to 5 times a day. I make up a multi-herb tea this way.
- Little and often tends to work better, e.g. smaller amounts 3 times a day rather than a larger amount once a day.
- When you take a supplement can make a difference, e.g. before a meal may be more effective than after a meal.
- You might want to get some good herbal reference books as well. The information in these is usually based on traditional use rather than research, but they’re a good starting point as they usually have an index by illness or symptom. This will suggest herbs you can then look up on Pubmed rather than stabbing in the dark.
Tandrsc’s Herbal Treatment Protocol
- Ashwagandha root powder
- Cocoa powder
- Ginger (ground)
- Lemon balm tea
- Mistletoe tea
- Turmeric (ground)
- Cayenne pepper
- Garlic powder
- Ginkgo tea
- Horse chestnut tincture (added to body oil and rubbed into legs)
- Grapeseed oil (for co-enzyme Q10)
- Chamomile tea
- Red bush tea
- Skullcap tea
- St John’s wort tea
- Valerian tea
- Vervain tea
–Gut flora support–
- Caraway seed (ground)
Putting It Together
The following are mixed together and taken as a tea. Each batch lasts about two days. She takes 25ml of the batch in half a glass of warm water 5 times a day (before meals, mid afternoon and before bed).
The measurements below are for 1 batch and makes 250ml of tea (enough for two days) . Bring the mixture to a boil, let it steep until it’s cool and then strain it. You have to experiment with the amount of water to add.
1 tsp Chamomile
2 tsp Ginkgo
1 tsp Lemon balm
1 tsp Mistletoe
2 tsp Nettle
1 tsp Rooibos
2 tsp Skullcap
1 tsp St John’s wort
1 tsp Valerian
1 tsp Vervain
The following are mixed together and I take 1/8 tsp 6 times a day (before meals, mid afternoon, after dinner and before bed). I mix each dose with 1 tsp of honey, 1.5 tsp of cocoa powder and 1 tsp of grapeseed oil.
3 parts Ashwagandha root powder
3 parts Caraway seed (ground)
1 part Cayenne pepper
3 parts Garlic powder
3 parts Ginger (ground)
3 parts Turmeric (ground)
All teaspoon measures are level teaspoons.
She recommends cocoa powder and/or lemon balm tea. You’ll probably have to experiment with dose.
Nutrient and Herb Poll
Check out the largest poll on nutrients and herbs I’ve ever seen Tandrsc’s website. Take it and check out what others are saying here.