Can I take herbal supplements if I have multiple sclerosis (MS)?

Some herbal supplements may stimulate the immune system—not a good idea in multiple sclerosis (MS). Echinacea, ginseng, CoQ10, gingko biloba, DHEA and garlic may decrease the effectiveness of your primary medication used to manage MS. Keep in mind there are no peer-reviewed clinical studies with regard to MS to support the use of these supplements.

St. John's Wort in particular should be avoided if you are taking any prescribed medications, until you consult your doctor for further advice. St. John's Wort can activate several enzymes which may ultimately lead to decreasing the serum availability of many different medications that may be prescribed by your doctor. Result: your medication doesn't work as well as it should. Finally, there are no studies supporting the use of St. John's Wort with MS.

Many supplements like vitamins E and C act as antioxidants, which among other important functions, boost the immune system. Antioxidants can be favorable for some people; however, MS is thought to be a disease of an over-active immune system. Consuming high doses of substances that boost the immune system even more is not recommended with MS. Large doses are not advised if one is taking other prescribed medications under the advice of a cardiologist for heart disease, because vitamins E and C can thin the blood.

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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.