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Can CAM therapy help treat multiple sclerosis (MS)?

Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) explore complementary and alternative medical (CAM) treatment options for their symptoms. CAM therapies are defined as nonconventional forms of medical therapies that are not prescribed by a conventional medical provider. Examples of CAM therapies include the use of over-the-counter nutritional dietary supplements such as omega-­3 fatty acids, gingko biloba, ginseng, vitamins and antioxidants; diets; herbs such as cannabis; mind-­body techniques such as mindfulness­-based stress reduction, yoga and tai chi; and medical practices such as naturopathy and homeopathy, among others.

A review of CAM therapies was conducted by a panel of experts from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), the largest professional society in the world for neurologists and neuroscientists. The results of the review found that for most CAM therapies, there is little evidence of their effectiveness for treating MS. For some CAM therapies, no studies were available. For other CAM therapies, studies showed evidence for effectiveness or lack of effectiveness. For most CAM therapies, safety is unknown.

The review found that ginkgo biloba does not help treat memory and thinking problems; however, it might help treat fatigue. Other key findings from the guidelines were that magnetic therapy can help lessen fatigue but not depression, and reflexology might help lessen paresthesia (tingling, numbness and other unusual skin sensations). Therapies that did not help MS symptoms included a low-fat diet with fish oil, bee sting therapy and the Cari Loder regimen (regimen consisting of an antidepressant—Lofepramine—combined with L­phenylalanine and intramuscular vitamin B12).

The limitations associated with CAM therapies for most chronic medical conditions include the lack of necessary medical supervision needed for its use and the lack of objective information about the scientific evidence behind the efficacy of these therapies.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.