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Natural Remedies for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: What Works


Chronic fatigue syndrome is a challenging condition for which no cause has been identified and no consistently effective treatments have been found. These obstacles have led many chronic fatigue patients to turn to natural remedies for help, and a new review reveals what works and what does not work for managing this syndrome.

Some natural remedies work for chronic fatigue

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex condition, made all the more confusing because there are no specific diagnostic tests to identify it, it can persist for years, and no prescription drugs have been developed to treat it. The syndrome is characterized by overwhelming fatigue that does not get better with bed rest and may worsen with physical or mental activity.

Other symptoms typically accompany the fatigue, including muscle pain, insomnia, weakness, impaired memory, frequent or recurring sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, headache, and poor mental concentration. It’s estimated that about 1 million people in the United States have chronic fatigue syndrome, but that many of them are undiagnosed.

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A new review evaluated the results of 26 randomized controlled trials that involved the use of the following complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) techniques: mind-body medicine (qigong, meditation, distance healing), massage, tuina (a type of Chinese manipulative therapy) and tai chi, homeopathy, ginseng, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH), and dietary supplements. A total of 3,273 individuals participated in the reviewed trials.

Overall, the reviewers found that qigong and meditation were helpful for fatigue, while massage helped fatigue, depression, pain, and insomnia. Tuina also provided positive effects for people with chronic fatigue syndrome. Most of the supplements tested did not show any benefit except for magnesium and NADH. Ginseng and homeopathy use did not lead to any significant improvements.

The reviewers concluded that their analysis provided “limited evidence for the effectiveness” of natural remedies for treating people who have chronic fatigue syndrome. However, given the lack of effective treatments from the conventional medicine realm and the relative safety of natural remedies, people who have chronic fatigue syndrome may find some relief from these options.

Alraek T et al. Complementary and alternative medicine for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome: a systematic review. BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine 2011; 11:87

Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons