Relaxation and Meditation Techniques. Patients may try relaxation, meditation, biofeedback, music therapy, yoga, tai chi, and massage therapy. They are generally harmless, and possibly helpful.
Acupuncture. Some patients report benefit from acupuncture.
Herbs and Supplements
Generally, manufacturers of herbal remedies and dietary supplements do not need FDA approval to sell their products. Just like a drug, herbs and supplements can affect the body's chemistry, and therefore have the potential to produce side effects that may be harmful. There have been a number of reported cases of serious and even lethal side effects from herbal products. Patients should check with their doctor before using any herbal remedies or dietary supplements
The following warnings are of particular importance for people with multiple sclerosis:
Antioxidants. Some patients use antioxidant vitamins or supplements, since the destruction in the MS disease process may be partly due to oxidation (chemical damage from particles called oxygen-free radicals). Theoretically, however, antioxidants can trigger T cells and macrophages (inflammatory components of the immune system) and, therefore, may pose some danger to patients. Small studies to date have not found any worsening of the disease from taking vitamin supplements, but patients should be cautious. No vitamins studied for MS, including carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E, B12 injections, or vitamin D, have been proven to be beneficial.
Gingko. Although the risks for gingko appear to be low, there is an increased risk for bleeding at high doses. Ginkgo can also interact with high doses of vitamin E, anti-clotting medications, aspirin, and NSAIDs. Large doses may cause convulsion. Randomized trials have failed to show any benefit.
Bee Venom. For years, anecdotal reports have claimed that bee stings relieve some MS symptoms. No studies have confirmed any benefits. Bee venom contains many chemicals, some of which can cause severe and sometimes deadly allergic reactions in some people.
Linoleic Acid. Linoleic acid, commonly known as evening primrose oil, is a polyunsaturated fatty acid believed by some people to be helpful because myelin is composed of fatty acids. No study has proven that it is beneficial, but supplements sold in health food stores do not appear to be harmful.
Review Date: 06/17/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.