Herbs and Supplements for Fibromyalgia

Managing the symptoms of FM or related ailments is not easy. So, many patients turn to alternative therapies for relief of pain and sleep problems. They may use Chinese herbs or over-the-counter supplements such as 5-HTPmelatonin, and SAM-e.

200px-US-NIH-NCCAM-Logo.svgBecause so many people — not just those with FM — are using alternative therapies, Congress has formed the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). It is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and it helps appraise alternative treatments, including supplements, and define their effectiveness. This organization is now creating safe guidelines to help people choose appropriate alternative therapies that may help their symptoms without making them ill.

Are Herbs and Supplements for FM Safe and Effective?

Some preliminary studies indicate that some medicinal herbs and natural supplements may help treat symptoms of FM. Other studies of herbs and natural supplements, though, are less positive. If you want to take a natural approach to treating FM, it’s important to learn as much as you can about the therapies you consider. The herbs and natural supplements described here are just some of the alternative therapies that may have an impact on FM.

How Does 5-HTP Help FM Pain?

5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a building block of serotonin. Serotonin is a powerful brain chemical, and serotonin levels play a significant role in FM pain. Serotonin levels are also associated with depression and sleep.

For those with FM, 5-HTP may help to increase deep sleep and reduce pain. In one study published in the Alternative Medicine Review, researchers reported that supplementation with 5-HTP may improve symptoms of depression, anxietyinsomnia, and FM pains. However, there are some contradictory studies that show no benefit with 5-HTP.

5-HTP is usually well tolerated. But in the late 1980s, the supplement was associated with a serious condition called eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome. It’s thought that a contaminant in 5-HTP led to the condition, which causes flu-like symptoms, severe muscle pain, and burning rashes.

141. sleep deprivationCan Melatonin Help Relieve Sleep Problems Associated With FM?

Melatonin is a natural hormone that’s available as an over-the-counter supplement. It is sometimes used to induce drowsiness and improve sleep patterns. Some preliminary findings show that melatonin may be effective in treating FM pain. Most patients with FM have sleep problems and fatigue, and it’s thought that melatonin may help relieve these symptoms.

Melatonin is generally regarded as safe with few to no side effects. Due to the risk of daytime sleepiness, though, anyone taking melatonin should use caution when driving until they know how it affects them.

Is St. John’s Wort a Helpful FM Herb?

There’s no specific evidence that St. John’s wort is helpful in treating FM. However, this herb is often used in treating depression, and depression is commonly associated with FM.

There are several studies that show St. John’s wort is more effective than placebo and as effective as older antidepressants called tricyclics in the short-term treatment of mild or moderate depression. Other studies show St. John’s wort is as effective as selective SSRI antidepressants such as Prozac or Zoloft in treating depression.

St John’s wort is usually well tolerated. The most common side effects are stomach upset, skin reactions, and fatigue. St. John’s wort should not be mixed with antidepressants and can cause interactions with many types of drugs. If you’re on medication, check with your doctor before taking St. John’s wort or any supplement. In addition, be careful about taking St. John’s wort with other drugs, including antidepressants, as it could make you ill.

How Can SAM-e Help FM Pain and Depression?

289. pain in meIt’s not known exactly how SAM-e works in the body. Some feel this natural supplement increases levels of serotonin and dopamine, two brain neurotransmitters. Although some researchers believe that SAM-e may alter mood and increase restful sleep, current studies do not appear to show any benefit of SAM-e over placebo in reducing the number of tender points or in alleviating depression with FM. Additional study is needed to confirm these findings.

Can L-carnitine Help Improve FM Symptoms?

The studies are limited, but it’s thought that L-carnitine may give some pain relief and treat other symptoms in people with FM. In one study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of L-carnitine in 102 patients with FM. Results showed significantly greater symptom improvements in the group that took L-carnitine than in the group that took a placebo. The researchers concluded that while more studies are warranted, L-carnitine may provide pain relief and improvement in the general and mental health of patients with FM.

What About the Effect of Probiotics on Digestive Problems Associated With FM?

poo-2Probiotics are dietary supplements that contain potentially beneficial bacteria or yeasts. They may assist with the breakdown and proper absorption of food and help improve digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome — a common symptom of FM. Some of the ways probiotics are used include:

  • treating diarrhea
  • preventing and treating infections of the urinary tract or female genital tract
  • treating irritable bowel syndrome

Side effects of taking probiotics are usually mild and include gas or bloating.

There are other herbs and natural supplements that people say have helped manage FM symptoms. They include echinacea, black cohosh, cayenne, lavender, milk thistle, and B vitamins. Nevertheless, there are no definitive studies on the efficacy of these natural therapies.

Fuzzy shot of pharmacy supplements shelf.How Can I Know Which Herb or Natural Supplement Will Help my FM?

***Before taking any herb or supplement for FM, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects or herb/drug interactions. Herbal therapies are not recommended for pregnant women, children, the elderly, or those with weakened immune systems. In addition, some herbs have sedative or blood-thinning qualities, which may dangerously interact with anti-inflammatory painkillers or other pain medications. Others may cause stomach upset if taken in large doses.

If you’d like to see iHerb’s selection of supplements, click here. Use Coupon Code LHJ194 to get $10 off any first time order over $40 or $5 off any first time order under $40.

Play It Again, SAM (-e)!

Do you know about ClinicalTrials.gov? ClinicalTrials.gov is a registry and results database of publicly and privately supported clinical studies of human participants conducted around the world. As of today, ClinicalTrials.gov currently lists 134,739 studies with locations in 180 countries. (You might want to keep an eye on this site!)

Aside 1: I love to learn new things and research

Aside 2: I started SAM-E (at 400mg) this week (not feeling any better – in fact, this week has been my worst week in as long as I can remember!)

I’ve had AUSTRALIA and FIBROMYALGIA bookmarked with ClinicalTrials.gov for quite a while but nothing much is happening here.

However, one thing I noticed was a Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial of the Impact of S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine (SAM-e) on the Mood and Other Symptoms in Fibromyalgia.1 The phase 2 trial was completed in March 2007 but there were no results published – zip, nada!

Well, that was not particularly helpful. BUT I am an alumnus of the university where the study was run. So, one email later, I had the draft report in my grubby little hands (or inbox).

Available from iHerb.com

Quick background: SAM-e is of fundamental importance in a number of biochemical reactions and has been trialled previously in the treatment of FM. This study aimed to examine the clinical impact of SAMe-B-ForteTM – a complex containing 400mg of SAM-e – in the treatment of fibromyalgia in the light of possible melatonin (MLT) mediated circadian enhancing properties (basically, sleep).

Statistics: FM is the third most common disorder in rheumatologic practice after rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis and its prevalence in the general population has been estimated to be between 1% and 4%.2,3,4 The prevalence of FM in primary care settings (at GP level) is much higher, where it is estimated to be between 5% and 20%.3,5 Studies examining the outcome in FM patients suggest that the probability of complete recovery in the short-term is low.6

As we know, no treatment (medical or psychological/behavioral) has been demonstrated to be clearly and reliably effective (or we all would have shared it by now!)

Patients were randomly allocated into two groups (placebo and active treatment). The SAMe-B-ForteTM group received capsules containing SAM-e 400mg, over an 8 week period.  The placebo group received capsules that were of identical appearance. All participants were instructed to take one of the capsules in the morning with food (the directions on my box of SAM-e state to take it without food?) Only 49 patients completed the trial.

It appears that the 4th week was the breakthrough week – SAM-e was effective in reducing global symptoms, sleep onset insomnia, and bowel dysregulation. While the results failed to support previous findings that SAM-e could aid depression, the dose given (400mg) and the short time period may not have allowed for optimal antidepressant action of SAM-e and future trials would be required, including a range of doses, in order to better examine dose-response data.

Conclusion: The SAMe-B-ForteTM complex tested shows promise in alleviating symptoms in FM. The promising results confirm there is a potential benefit of SAM-e administration in FM but also that this finding needs further exploration.

Well, I don’t want to wait (really sick of waiting – and it’s taken 5 years for researchers to produce a draft report!) so, as I said earlier, I am giving it a try. Hopefully, the next few weeks will be better than this one.


  1. Luke Xantidis, Gregory Tooley, Daniel Lewis and Laurence Lacey
  2. Doron Y, Peleg R, Peleg A, Neumann L, Buskila D: The clinical and economic burden of fibromyalgia compared with diabetes mellitus and hypertension among Bedouin women in the Negev. Fam Pract 2004, 21(4):415-419.
  3. Kirmayer LJ, Young A, Hayton BC: The cultural context of anxiety disorders. Psychiatr Clin North Am 1995, 18(3):503-521.
  4. Staud R, Domingo M: Evidence for abnormal pain processing in fibromyalgia syndrome. Pain Med 2001, 2(3):208-215.
  5. Al-Allaf AW, Dunbar KL, Hallum NS, Nosratzadeh B, Templeton KD, Pullar T: A case-control study examining the role of physical trauma in the onset of fibromyalgia syndrome. Rheumatology (Oxford) 2002, 41(4):450-453.
  6. Dobkin PL, De Civita M, Bernatsky S, Kang H, Baron M: Does psychological vulnerability determine health-care utilization in fibromyalgia? Rheumatology (Oxford) 2003, 42(11):1324-1331.




Today I received an email from some-one, titled Wondering, who had read my previous post:

Hi. I just starting following you but have been to your site many times. A good friend sent me your link about a year ago. Anyway, I just read your post about yoga part 1 and your humor made me smile, I thank you for that. But It (the story) made me a little sad and depressed because it left me wondering and thinking to myself (omg how can she even do this? Is she on some major drugs or something. Maybe she just doesn’t have fibro as bad as me.) Because I have to tell you, there is NO WAY I could even attempt to do any of that. I can’t even get things done in my house I need to do. And I can’t remember the last time I felt good enough to even go to the store for milk, forget about doing the weeks shopping. So please tell me, how do you do it? Also in one part you mentioned running on 5 hours of sleep after getting 10 hours the night before. That made me envious. I never get more then an hour here, a couple hours here. heck, I’m jumping for joy if I sleep more the 3 hours at a time. Once in a while (very rare) I get a whopping 4 hours. Please understand I am in no way doubting your illness. I am just wondering how you do it.
This is what I responded (in case any of you are wondering, too):
I have only been diagnosed with FM since November. I started my FB page and blog in February. Right now, I am dedicated only to finding ways to feel better – I have been unable to work because my fibro fog is terrible (most of the time) and I am supposed to be a lawyer (who would want to see a lawyer who has trouble remembering and slurs when tired?). I am living on my credit card, which, sooner or later, will max out and I have no idea what I’ll do then; unless I can get better!
I take Lyrica (which is incredibly expensive) but it seems to help me with the pain, more than any other drug. Until the other night (10 hour sleep night), I was taking Stilnox every night (since December) for sleep. If I missed a dose, I didn’t sleep. The other night, I started Circadin (prescribed by my doctor) and was totally amazed when I slept for so long! This isn’t a common occurrence! Most sleep that I have is the kind where you doze off then wake up, then doze off again. I’m hoping the Circadin will help.
My house is a mess – I can only do one chore at a time (and I used to be the Queen of multi-tasking) so by the time I finish them all; it’s time to start at the beginning. And, as I said before, I am pretty much JUST doing the stuff that is supposed to help me. So yes, yesterday I went to hydro then yoga (actually that pretty much amazed me, too) but today, my cousin picked me up (I can’t drive because I feel like my reflexes are so slow that I’d be a menace) to go to my mother’s place, where I promptly fell asleep for a three-hour nap. It seems (and I only have the last week or so to compare anything to as that’s only how long I have been doing these classes) that I crash after a couple of days of this activity – big time crash! I have to hide inside with my sunglasses on and my heating pad(s) all around my body!
 I live alone so I don’t have to take care of anyone else – when I close my door and hide in my cave, it’s just me. Most of the time, it’s just me, my couch and my lap-top.
 So, yes, I seem to be doing lots and lots of activities – but that’s it for the day. I may do an hour of hydro (and if you have never tried it, you must! The warm water lets your body do all the things it used to do!) but then I come home and do absolutely nothing until the next class, on the next day. I don’t even cook – I live within a major shopping area where it is so much easier and cheaper to get take-away than cook for one. I must say that I feel better having done physical activity – not necessarily physically, but in my head. I feel enthused and energised again – almost like I could do anything (even though I know that I can’t)!
I try not to dwell on all the bad stuff when I’m writing my blog because a) it gets me down when I think about it; b) there are plenty of other people out in cyberspace talking about that stuff, and c) would you really be interested in reading only bad stuff? I’m trying (in my small way) to inspire and let you in on my journey towards feeling better. Because I am determined to do so.
Please read my post ‘A New (and better?) Philosophy’ (http://fibromodem.com/2012/03/17/a-new-better-philosophy/) so you know where I am coming from. I have decided it is all worth it.
And (try) to grab the good moments!
And while I am here, I am so honoured that you bother to read my blog. And I am incredibly thankful for your wonderful comments. Feedback makes it all worth it!

Ten Hours Sleep…and more

I slept 10 hours last night!

Was it the melatonin? Was it the Pilates class (and in case you’re wondering, yes! OW again!)? Was it the afternoon meditation session? Was it babysitting Z for a couple of hours? Was it taking my Lyrica earlier? Was it a mixture of CoQ10, Alpha Lipoic Acid and Eleuthera Root? Was it all my sex and fibromyalgia research? Was it because I had such a bad night’s sleep the night before?

Was it a mixture of all of the above and more?

See? That’s the problem – as FM sufferers, if we hear about something that helps another sufferer, we try it. Nothing wrong with that.*

If we hear about a multitude of things that help, we try them all. Nothing wrong with that.*

The problem arises when we try to work out what actually helps us, and what just happens to be coincidental… You won’t find me having a month in which I take melatonin, then stop to take only the Pilates class for a month, then do a month of Pilates AND melatonin, etc. and recording each result in a methodical and scientific way. I did try this for a short time – but I don’t have the time to waste. I want to feel better NOW!

If something helps some-one, I’m going to try it ASAP – don’t you? If I spent a month trying each ‘remedy’ alone, then a month doing them in pairs, then a month…any-one good at equations?

And, ultimately, it wouldn’t actually help… Somewhere along the line, I would have a night where I slept 10 hours – but this couldn’t be applied to anyone else because, as we all know, everyone’s fibromyalgia experience is different. Lucky us!

My point: don’t give up looking for what might work for you – it might be alternative and wacky, but it might work!

And don’t envy my 10 hours sleep – I woke up still wanting more!

* As long as we consult the appropriate health professional first!

P.S. Can you tell I’m trying to avoid doing the clothes washing? How many posts is that today?

Started One Place…Finished Elsewhere

And back from Pilates

…having first asked them to display some Awareness:

But this post isn’t about the Awareness Campaign, it’s about my lousy night’s sleep last night…you know that sleep where you feel that you’re only ‘drowsing’ (is that a real word?) in and out, where anything can and does wake you, where you open your eyes and you’re still too tired to move or get up but you can’t fall back to sleep properly, where it feels like hours but it’s only been 4 minutes since you looked at the clock, where you never feel refreshed; and where you still have highly vivid dreams.

I am assuming that all of this is because I didn’t take my zolpidem last night and went with the melatonin – but I fell asleep well enough, I just couldn’t stay asleep……And I’m so tired but, at least, I know why.

I have been involved in some very carefully plotted murders, ending up by me running into a court and interrupting, holding a milk carton, and telling them to wait in a very dramatic turn of events.Think black and white movie a la 12 Angry Men, but with loads of action scenes a la NCIS and Criminal Minds; then add strobe.

It’s very difficult to watch and it hurts my head and my eyes, but I can’t really do anything about it as it’s playing on the huge screen in my head.

I always wake up before I know what happens next – no matter how much I fight to get back to that place in the movie. I don’t know if I actually wake up or if I was dreaming in my dream of me dreaming and waking up. All I know is that when I finally wake up (properly), I feel like I have done some big time running and thinking!

It is with that background that I attended Pilates today. On my walk to the gym, my stomach muscles began protesting – how did they know where I was going? It’s been a week since the previous class, so I had thought that any left-over delayed onset muscle soreness would have disappeared – WRONG! the minute I tried to do anything from the table top position (hee! hee! aren’t I the expert?), my transversus abdominus and internal oblique muscles began to scream. I would have thought that I would have been able to do more (as compared the previous class) this week – WRONG again! Not only did everything hurt more but I seemed to be much more uncoordinated. My entire balance was off, way off! And the room was spinning before my eyes after every new movement.

Think this will turn me off it? Not yet, I’m going back Thursday evening – the stretching still felt amazing (at the time, anyway)!

Circuitously Healthy

I have been working on being as pro-active as possible in my battle against FM: I’ve given up Pepsi-Max, I’m exercising my little heart out and I’m alternating therapy. I’ve been trying to change my diet and introduce more vegetables. When I went on that lunch with Thais, I had an absolutely amazing Harvest Pie – loaded with a massive amount of vegetables (you have no idea how hard that is for me to say!) Since then I have been trying to replicate that pie (and I DON’T cook) in both a pie and muffin version. In the process, I would not be under-estimating that I have thrown away about $80 of ingredients. So, that’s it – I am not trying again. I shall stick to the packet cake section of the supermarket (although one version of a pie was not bad)!

Anyway, back to the point, getting healthy. Yesterday I visited the doctor. As a side issue, I asked about melatonin. She was all for it and promptly gave me a script for Circadin. The active ingredient in Circadin is melatonin.

Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by the human body. However, the amount of melatonin an individual’s body produces decreases with age.

Melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland (a hormone-producing gland in the brain) according to a circadian rhythm – that is, a time pattern that is repeated each day. The pineal gland begins secreting melatonin each day in the evening. Secretion peaks in the early hours of the morning (2–4 am), then diminishes in the remainder of the night and remains low throughout the day, before melatonin secretion commences again the following evening.

Melatonin, both naturally produced and added to the body in medication, functions to control the body’s circadian rhythm (its rhythm over a 24 hour period, including patterns of sleep and wakefulness). It also controls the body’s response to the dark-light cycle. It induces a hypnotic effect and increases sleepiness.

It’s very expensive for a drug that isn’t really a drug ($38.40). In fact, it is more than double the Zolpidem (Stilnox). I have to take it between one – two hours before bed-time, which means a) I have to remember, and b) I have to plan it, rather than just taking it and falling asleep almost immediately. I’ll have to let you know how this one goes.

And, once again, I got side-tracked…getting healthy! Despite all the complaints and pain during the last week, I have not been discouraged and I am about to embark upon my second Pilates class – hmmm…really, really long way to tell you that, huh?