Natural remedies for nerve pain


Q. I suffer from nerve pain (neuropathy) in my toes and feet. I am looking for a natural approach to dealing with this problem. Is there any research to suggest that turmeric could be helpful? If not, what do you recommend?

A. As far as we can tell, there are no clinical trials demonstrating that the active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, can ease the pain of neuropathy. That said, there are theoretical reasons that this natural product might be helpful (Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Nov. 24, 2013).

There are some other possibilities worth discussing with your physician. First, make sure you are not deficient in any nutrients that could contribute to neuropathy. Then ask about benfotiamine. This synthetic version of thiamine has been used to treat diabetic neuropathy (Therapeutic Advances in Chronic Disease, January 2015).

If medical marijuana is legal in your state, it might be worth considering. A meta-analysis of five randomized trials “suggests that inhaled cannabis may provide short-term relief for 1 in 5 to 6 patients with neuropathic pain” (Journal of Pain, December 2015). Another option is cannabidiol. It is a derivative of marijuana but does not make people high.

Q. I used it to make thyme cough syrup for my husband when he had bronchitis. We were both extremely pleased with the results.

A. Thyme is terrific. It has been appreciated since Roman times. In the 17th century, it was recognized as a helpful remedy for coughs. Science has now validated this folklore. One of its components, thymol, helps to ease cough (Forschenden Komplementarmedizin, December 2015).

This herb also may have antibacterial and anti-cancer activity. Thyme is an essential part of the Mediterranean diet and may help with digestion and cholesterol control.

Q. Not long ago, you referenced a 2016 study regarding melatonin use and risk of bone fracture. A quick Google search provided more carefully designed research articles that indicate melatonin can promote bone strength.

I hope what you wrote will not make people afraid of taking moderate doses of melatonin. I once used OTC sleep drugs, but they gave me dry mouth, fuzzy thinking and impaired balance. I’ve been able to get the best sleep ever with a moderate dose of melatonin and a change in before-bedtime habits. In addition, I’ve also been able to include vigorous exercise in my daily routine.

A. Vigorous exercise is definitely a good way to help keep bones strong. You are right that there is some evidence that melatonin may improve bone density. A review of research found benefit for bone (International Journal of Molecular Sciences, May 2013).

More recently, results of a pilot study showed that a nightly supplement containing melatonin, strontium citrate, vitamin D-3 and vitamin K-2 significantly increased the density of back and hip bones (Aging, January 2017). We will be on the lookout for further research.

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