Management of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a relatively "new" diagnosis with wide variations in points of view as to causes and treatment therapy. Besides the symptom of fatigue, the condition is characterized by mild muscle aches, congestion of the nasal passages, and sometimes nerve related disorders such as sciatica and neuritis. Often accompanying the symptom of fatigue are nervousness, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, and irritability. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a condition related to immune deficiency, clinically associated with a lingering viral infection, systemic tissue "acidity", and low grade irritation, inflammation, and congestion. In this "disease" the body resistance is unable to restore a state of health and many uncomfortable symptoms persist for weeks or even months.

Herbal medicine has a long tradition of use in the treatment and prevention of immune-related disorders. Chronic viral conditions as well as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are therefore effectively treated with botanical preparations. Echinacea is one of the most commonly prescribed herbs for this condition.

Echinacea (E. angustifolia and E- purpurea) is considered a blood purifier", primarily due to its anti-inflammatory and immune stimulating properties. It possesses anti-viral activity increasing the number of white blood cells that engulf the microbial invaders.

For acute infections which often accompany Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Echinacea is most effective when taken every two hours until the fever and other symptoms diminish. The dose is then reduced to three times daily to insure recovery and optimal immune function. For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome without the acute symptoms, three to five times daily is probably sufficient. A dose is 40 drops of the extract, two tablets or capsules (usually around 500-1000 mg of the ground herb). or 4 to 8 ounces of a strong tea made from the ground root. In acute infections you will often feel relief within hours, although chronic cases take longer.

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is also effective for treating chronic viral symptoms. Although often taken individually, it is most effective when combined with Echinacea. Goldenseal soothes the mucous membranes of the nasal, respiratory, and gastrointestinal tracts. Its active components, berberine and other alkaloids, have a broad spectrum of antibiotic and immune stimulating activity. Combined with Echinacea, it has a potent immune enhancing action. Other synergistic botanicals with Echinacea are the blood cleansing and liver detoxifying herbs. These include Red Clover. Sage. Burdock, and Dandelion. An Echinacea combination with these ingredients benefits natural resistance and effectively supports immune function for those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

In addition, it is essential to also support and stimulate the "deep immune system". Tonic and adaptogenic herbs help restore vital energy and metabolism to normal levels. This may help reduce the occurrence of future acute viral infections as well as enhance overall energy and resistance. This category of herbs includes Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium), and Chinese Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous). They may be taken individually or in combination. Although most effective as a liquid extract, a capsule, tablet, or tea can be beneficial. I usually recommend these toning herbs be taken for at least two months for those suffering with chronic fatigue.

The "alkaline" diet usually offers considerable symptom relief for the chronic fatigue syndrome. Alcohol, coffee, and refined sugars tend to metabolize as "acid" in the body, which I believe is a more favorable environment for chronic viral infections. Foods like vegetables and grains tend more toward "alkaline" and are less conducive to infections. Clearly in my experience the alkaline diet is the preferred dietary program both for the prevention and treatment of those with chronic fatigue. That means a diet rich in vegetables, fruit (except citrus), grains, beans including tofu, lean poultry, and fish. Avoidance of the acid producing foods we just mentioned (alcohol, coffee, refined sugars) as well as citrus fruits, flour products, and foods that are high in oil and fats is an integral part of the program.

For those with "unbearable" fatigue, you may choose to make your body alkaline more quickly. You may use 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in 8 ounces of water, one to three times daily. This will reduce acidity quickly, and may decrease symptoms faster than the diet. You should not continue this protocol for more than five days. Or you could try umaboshi plums or kaolin clay, both of which effectively alkalize the body tissues.

Once you have successfully treated the acute condition, you may want an herbal program to maintain your health and resistance. I find alternating and rotating herbal medicines to be an effective way to treat the system as well as the symptoms. The following is a sample herbal program for those with a history of chronic fatigue syndrome (but not in the acute phase):

Week One: Echinacea, or an Echinacea combination (Echinacea, Goldenseal, Red Clover, Sage, Burdock, et al) one dose, three to five times daily L-Lysine, 500-1000 mg three times daily

Week Two: Siberian Ginseng, American Ginseng, and/or Chinese Astragalus, one dose, three tunes daily (preferably as a liquid extract)

Week Three: Echinacea and L-Lysine as for Week One.

Week Four: As for Week Two

For the Month: Maintain an alkaline diet

With some attention to this protocol, most chronic fatigue sufferers can find relief. But remember, treating the individual, not the disease, is the approach that natural medicine uses and is most effective. So you may need some professional help in defining what your particular metabolic and physiological needs may be. This will, no doubt, speed up your recovery.

Janet Zand, N.D., is a naturopathic physician, doctor of Oriental Medicine, and a certified Acupuncturist. She has developed a unique and effective method of combining herbal medicine with nutrition, homeopathy, and acupuncture.

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By Janet Zand

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