Neuropathy is a serious condition, with over 20 million people in the US suffering from peripheral neuropathy alone. While the most obvious problem with this condition is the chronic pain that it causes, severe neuropathy can result in amputations and other serious health difficulties.
With current medications offering very limited help when it comes to lessening pain and slowing disease progression, many people are turning to herbs, vitamins, and minerals for help. Read on to learn about the 34 supplements that people are using for neuropathy.
Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) is an amino acid (a building block of protein) with strong antioxidant properties. It is important for nerve growth and the modulation of brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Researchers have found ALC to help reduce peripheral neuropathic pain while supporting nerve regeneration. (1)
In a 2005 study published in Diabetes Care, 1,000 mg/day ALC for 52 weeks significantly improved diabetic neuropathy symptoms when compared to a placebo. (2)
ALA, which is sometimes called alpha-lipoic acid, is part of a class of vitamin-like chemicals known as antioxidants. An antioxidant is a type of chemical, either man-made or (as in the case of ALA) naturally-occurring, which helps to defend against certain types of cellular damage within the body. Alpha-lipoic acid is found in yeast, in dark green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, and in organ meats such as animal liver and kidney.
R-Alpha Lipoic Acid is approved in some European countries for the treatment of chronic nerve pain due to diabetic neuropathy, and is widely used as an unregulated supplement in America for the same reason. It is also beneficial to the health of blood vessels, internal organs, the eyes, and for the relief of chronic fatigue, exhaustion, concentration, and memory loss.
Elevated blood sugar and molecules called free radicals harm the health and function of nerve cells, resulting in worsening neuropathy symptoms like tingling, numbness, and pain. Alpha-lipoic acid is able to slow neuropathy disease progression thanks to its ability to prevent oxidative stress and reduce blood sugar levels. (3)
One word of caution: you should avoid this supplement if you drink a lot of alcohol or have a vitamin B-1 deficiency.
Everyone knows that the B-Complex vitamins are among the most vital nutrients that our bodies need and literally can’t live without. Vitamin B1, or “thiamine,” is a water-soluble vitamin which is used by the cells in our body to convert food into energy.
It is also used by our nervous system to help maintain healthy nervous tissue. Because it is water-soluble, however, it can be hard to get enough Vitamin B1 through the food that we eat, since much of it passes out in our urine; this is why B-Vitamin deficiencies are not uncommon. Benfotiamine is a fat-soluble analogue of thiamine (Vitamin B1). (4) This means that it might be more easily absorbed by the body than traditional vitamin B1.
Research suggests that benfotiamine may help to improve neuropathy symptoms, such as pain. This relationship was more pronounced the longer a high dose (600 mg/day) was taken. This relationship is believed to be thanks to benfotiamine’s effect on glucose metabolism.
Biotin is a B vitamin found in a wide variety of foods, such as salmon, peanuts, dairy, whole-grains, and more. (5) While deficiency is rare, early studies have found that some people with neuropathy benefit from biotin supplementation.
Biotin supports nerve health and may decrease insulin resistance. Thanks to these benefits, biotin supplements may help to lessen nerve pain in neuropathic patients.
Coenzyme Q10 is an endogenous antioxidant, meaning that our bodies create their own coenzyme Q10 to combat oxidative damage from free radicals and reactive oxygen species. (6) In doing so, coenzyme Q10 reduces inflammation and protects against nerve death. Studies suggest that a deficiency in this antioxidant may be involved in peripheral neuropathy.
While there have been no human studies examining coenzyme Q10 supplementation and neuropathy, a 2013 study on mice with peripheral neuropathy found impressive results. (7)
Following 6 months of coenzyme Q10 supplementation, neuropathy symptoms like pain and sciatic nerve conduction velocity nearly disappeared. Additionally, the loss of nerve cells was significantly reduced in comparison to control mice.
This study suggests that early, long-term coenzyme Q10 supplementation might help to slow type 2 diabetic neuropathy progression.
Copper is a trace mineral essential for life. (8) Copper deficiency can be the cause of peripheral neuropathy, although this is uncommon in the West thanks to a typically copper-rich diet.
Yet, there are some who are at a higher risk of copper deficiency. These include:
1. People who have undergone gastric bypass surgery2. Those who take zinc supplements3. Postmenopausal women
When we do not consume, or absorb, enough copper from our diets, it can lead to myelopathy, a form of neuropathy. This type of peripheral neuropathy tends to exhibit symptoms in feet and hands first, such as tingling, loss of sensation, or pain. For those with this type of neuropathy, copper supplementation can help.
Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega-6 fatty acid found in a variety of plant seed oils. (9) There is limited evidence that supplementing with GLA for 6-12 months can help prevent nerve damage and improve symptoms in those with diabetic neuropathy.
Because GLA plays a role in nerve membrane fatty acid synthesis, it may help to support nerve function and health. (10) GLA may be best for those who have good blood glucose control.
Also known as Myo-inositol, inositol is a molecule that’s structurally similar to glucose that plays a role in signaling between cells and peripheral nerve development. (11) Because poor insulin resistance and blood sugar control is implicated in diabetic neuropathy progression, inositol may help to slow the progression of this disease in diabetic patients.
In a study of diabetic men with neuropathy that experienced related erectile dysfunction, 4,000 mg/day myo-inositol was found to be more effective than placebo at improving erectile function.
L-arginine in an amino acid (a building block of protein) that is excessively broken down in the body of those with type 2 diabetes. (12) Because of this increased degradation, L-arginine is often used by those with type 2 diabetes to maintain healthy levels of L-arginine in the body.
In 2018, researchers published a preliminary study examining the effects of L-arginine supplementation in rats with diabetic neuropathy. (13) They hypothesized that a variation in arginine metabolism in diabetics may be involved in neuropathic pain and in the worsening of diabetes itself.
The researchers found positive results with oral L-arginine supplementation in managing neuropathic pain. More studies are needed to determine if the same relationship exists in humans.
Magnesium (Mg) is an essential mineral naturally present in the human body that many people are deficient in due to dietary factors. (14)
Magnesium deficiency is extremely common—occurring in up to 80% of adults—and is a major contributing factor to neuropathy: magnesium is required for the proper firing of neurotransmitters inside the human body.
This deficiency is particularly prevalent in those with type 2 diabetics, with a study finding that 88.6% of patients included weren’t consuming enough magnesium through diet and supplements.
Studies have found that Magnesium supplementation improves neuropathy in type 1 diabetics and can even reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in healthy people. In a study of those with type 1 diabetes, patients who took 300 mg/day magnesium for five years were 500% less likely to develop peripheral neuropathy when compared to those who did not supplement with Mg.
Taken in controlled amounts, it has beneficial properties with regard to certain digestive functions. In larger amounts, magnesium supplements have been known to cause diarrhea and other digestive upsets; the additional expense of slow release capsules usually negates this problem.
Manganese is an essential mineral that we obtain through our diet. It is found in high quantities in tea, grains, and vegetables. It is used within the human body to make Mn superoxide dismutase (MnSOD), an endogenous antioxidant. (15)
With studies in mice showing that increased expression of MnSOD exhibits protection against diabetes complications, including neuropathy, some people have started to supplement with manganese in the hopes of protecting against the disease. (17) Be cautious not to over supplement with this mineral, as excess mineral consumption can be toxic.
Methyl B12, or “methylcobalamin,” is one of two vitamins that is vital for processing food into energy and maintaining healthy red blood cells.
Vitamin B12 is also known to play an essential role in nervous system health by helping to insulate and protect neurotransmitters and brain cells. Insufficient intake of vitamin B12 can directly lead to peripheral neuropathy. (17) Older people and vegans are the most likely people to suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency.
In a double-blind clinical trial examining the use of methylcobalamin (also known as methyl B12), a naturally occurring form of vitamin B12, researchers gave 1500 μg/day methyl B12 or placebo to patients with diabetic neuropathy for three months. (18) Those in the treatment group experienced significant symptomatic improvement without any adverse effects, while those in the placebo group showed no significant changes.
Fish oil is one of the most popular supplements around thanks to its being naturally rich in two omega-3 fatty acids that aren’t common in other foods: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). In vitro studies have found that EPA and DHA not only protect neurons (nerve cells) but stimulate their growth. (19)
While there have yet to be human studies examining the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on neuropathy, animal studies have found promising benefits. In these preclinical studies, fish oil slowed, and even reversed, diabetic neuropathy.
Selenium is a trace mineral whose interaction with diabetes and neuropathy can be a bit confusing. Both too much and too little selenium can have a negative impact on diabetic neuropathy. (20,21) Exceeding 400 µg can cause toxicity and heighten neuropathy symptoms. Yet, sufficient selenium has been shown in animal studies to protect against nerve death and oxidative stress. The sweet spot? 55 µg/day, about the quantity that you get in one Brazil nut.
Sulbutiamine is a thiamine (vitamin B1) derivative. (22) Thanks to a modified structure, it is more effective at enhancing communication between nerves than thiamine itself. This unique ability led researchers to hypothesize that it could help those with diabetic polyneuropathy.
30 diabetic polyneuropathy patients were randomly treated with sulbutiamine or no treatment for six weeks. Those in the sulbutiamine group saw improvements in multiple parameters that measured disease and symptom severity compared to baseline.
Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, is a water-soluble vitamin found in dairy, meat, fish, and dark-green vegetables. (23) Animal research has found that riboflavin deficiency can lead to neuropathy. While similar studies have not been conducted in humans, there is reason to believe that a vitamin B2 deficiency could harm nerve function and health.
Vitamin B2 is necessary for our bodies to absorb and use other vitamins, including vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and folate. (24) These vitamins are known to play a role in the health of our nervous system, with deficiencies leading to neuropathy development or worsening of neuropathic symptoms. For this reason, it is helpful to take a B-complex vitamin that includes vitamin B2.
Vitamin B6 is another B vitamin whose deficiency can directly lead to peripheral neuropathy. (24) It plays a role in nerve repair, nerve function, and nerve regeneration. Additionally, animal studies have found vitamin B6 to exert analgesic (pain relieving) and anti-inflammatory effects.
Deficiency is rare, but it can happen. It’s most common in those who are heavy alcohol drinkers or those who are obese. Be careful not to exceed 200 mg/day as this can worsen neuropathic symptoms.
The benefits of vitamin D in bone growth and muscular development have long been maintained. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that our bodies primarily synthesize on their own when exposed to direct sunlight. (25)
Many people are deficient in vitamin D thanks to a lack of sunlight, particularly those who live in places with long winters or who spend most of their day indoors.
More recently, it has been studied for a hitherto little-known role in the regulation of nervous system growth. Research published this year in Diabetic Medicine examined the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
In this study, 17 people with painful diabetic neuropathy, 14 with painless diabetic neuropathy, and 14 controls with no diabetic peripheral neuropathy underwent testing for vitamin D levels.
After adjusting for other variables, the researchers concluded that vitamin D deficiency may be involved in the pathogenesis of painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
To get enough vitamin D, try to spend time in direct sunlight without sunscreen on. When this isn’t possible, work with your doctor to determine the best vitamin D supplement to take daily.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble essential vitamin found in a variety of foods. (26) Deficiency is uncommon, but when it occurs, it can cause central and peripheral neuropathy. Symptoms include:
● Muscle weakness● Tingling and numbness● Trouble with balance and walking● Vision difficulties
These neuropathy symptoms are caused by a breakdown of myelin, the protective coating around nerves. When you don’t consume or absorb enough vitamin E, this layer begins to break down, leading to nervous system dysfunction.
While most people with neuropathy do not need to supplement with vitamin E, those that are deficient in this vitamin can see vast improvements by doing so. This deficiency is typically caused by a disease that reduces fat absorption, such as celiac disease or cystic fibrosis.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin whose subtype vitamin K2-7 has been found in human studies to help with neuropathy caused by diabetes and a vitamin B12 deficiency. (27)
In a study of 30 patients with peripheral neuropathy, 100 μg vitamin K2-7 twice daily for eight weeks led to symptomatic relief without any noted side effects. Larger, placebo-controlled trials are needed to confirm these results.
You can find vitamin K2-7 either in supplemental form or in fermented foods, egg yolks, butter, and other animal products.
Zinc is another essential mineral that can be either good or bad for those suffering from neuropathy. In general, excess zinc can exacerbate neuropathy symptoms. (28) This is because zinc and copper compete, and too much zinc will lead to a copper deficiency, resulting in myeloneuropathy.
Yet, there are some who can experience a zinc deficiency that leads to neuropathy symptoms. (29) If you have undergone bariatric surgery or hemodialysis you are at an increased risk of a zinc deficiency.
American skullcap, or Scutellaria lateriflora, is an herbal remedy with a long history in folk and traditional medicine. Today, American skullcap is grown all over the world by modern herbalists and botanists, who advocate its use for increasing the supply of blood to the brain. This has a tranquilizing effect, which is beneficial to the treatment of anxiety and the promotion of positive moods and improved concentration and focus.
There is substantial clinical and anecdotal evidence for the viability of American skullcap as an herbal supplement; issues arise due to the lack of regulation of the herb, which can result in other plant-based ingredients being marketed and sold as American skullcap.
Very few human studies have been conducted on this plant, however, animal studies show promise when it comes to neuropathy. An active compound extracted from this plant, baicalin, was shown to help relieve neuropathic pain in rats. (30)
It is best to buy through a reputable distributor of herbal products when seeking to acquire American skullcap for medicinal purposes.
Bacopa monnieri is a popular nootropic herb (an herb that supports cognitive function) that has long been used in traditional medicines. (31) Preliminary studies have found it to act as a powerful pain reliever, even helping to ease neuropathic pain.
While no human studies have been published directly examining the effect of bacopa monnieri on human neuropathy, other human clinical trials have found it to be well tolerated and beneficial for many aspects of human health and wellbeing.
Berberine is a compound found in many medicinal plants that is extracted for its benefits for human health. In animal studies, berberine has been found to promote nerve regeneration, reduce neuropathic pain, and reverse diabetic neuropathy. (32,33) There have yet to be any human studies examining the effect of berberine on neuropathy, so more research is needed.
Cannabis sativa is a plant whose impact on human health have been celebrated for many thousands of years. Although cannabis was largely illegal in the US for the last century, its legal standing is growing thanks to its impressive benefits for human health.
Cannabis sativa includes both marijuana and hemp plants. Marijuana is often used in a clinical setting, and in such is termed medical marijuana. Marijuana and its extracts contain a variety of therapeutic compounds, but THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the two most abundant and well-studied.
Many human studies have found medical cannabis to be beneficial for neuropathic pain. However, many people still don’t have access to medical marijuana, and there are those who do that want to avoid the psychoactive effects altogether. These people are turning to CBD oil
CBD can be extracted from the hemp variety of cannabis plants and is thus legal in all 50 states. It is not a psychotropic compound, meaning that it won’t get you high. There is less research on CBD-only therapy for neuropathic pain, but preliminary studies suggest that it might be able to help relieve this type of pain. (35)
Curcumin is the compound in the turmeric root that is largely to thank for turmeric’s ability to reduce pain, combat inflammation, and quell oxidative damage.
One study in mice found that curcumin taken early on in animals with neuropathy helped to prevent chronic neuropathy development. (36) Another animal study found that curcumin helped to mitigate neuropathy caused by chemotherapy. (37)
You can go for either curcumin or turmeric supplements to find what works best from you. Some people will choose to add turmeric to their meals daily or make a yummy drink called golden milk that is a combination of milk, honey, turmeric, and other spices.
Evening primrose oil is oil extracted from the seeds of evening primrose plants. (38) It is a commonly used plant medicine for people suffering from a wide range of conditions, including things like rheumatoid arthritis, skin disorders, heart disease, menopause/PMS and cancer. There is some evidence that this oil may also benefit those with nerve damage.
There is one human study examining the effect of evening primrose oil on diabetic neuropathy symptoms. (39) In this study, researchers gave 80 patients with diabetic neuropathy 400 mg/day vitamin E plus 500-1,000 mg/day eve primrose oil for one year, with assessments occurring throughout this time. 88% of the patients reported neuropathic pain relief.
The researchers speculate that this improvement could be thanks to high levels of gamma-linolenic acid and linoleic acid, two omega-6 fatty acids that are components of the nerve cell membrane and myelin, the protective coating around nerve fibers.
In terms of its purported medical benefits, feverfew extract is one of the most well-documented herbal supplements on the market today to remain unregulated.
It is used predominantly throughout the world for the relief of pain and inflammation, and is held by some to be particularly effective against the type of chronic nerve pain which results from hypersensitivity (sometimes known as “skin sensitivity”).
Tanacetum parthenium L., or feverfew, is often used to help with pain, such as that caused by rheumatoid arthritis and migraine, without profound side effects. (4) There is not a lot of research examining the potential of feverfew for neuropathy, but preliminary results are promising.
In a study conducted on feverfew flower and leaf extracts and a rat model of diabetic neuropathy, feverfew flower extract reduced pain to a similar extent as many antihyperalgesic drugs. Feverfew leaf extract did not have any significant effects.
Ginkgo biloba is a nootropic herb touted for its neuroprotective properties. (41) In an animal model of neuropathic pain, G. biloba extract EGb 761 (a standardized extract) was found to help reduce pain. Researchers believe that this beneficial effect is thanks to its ability to fight inflammation and oxidative damage as well as protecting against nerve damage.
Oat straw extract comes from green oats (Avena sativa), and has been used to support mental health and clarity for centuries. Modern herbalists recommend it for relaxation, but also to soothe and relax skin irritations such as redness, pins and needles, and raw, itchy skin. It is even said that oat straw enhances sexual performance; the substance is arguably the origin of the phrase “sow your wild oats.”
There is some anecdotal evidence toward its working in this capacity with regard to the side effects of peripheral neuropathy. If you search the internet for herbs that help with neuropathy, you will find many reports of people using oat straw extract.
There have been no studies directly examining the effect of oat straw extract on neuropathy, however, studies have been done that find benefits for oat beta-glucan (OBG), a compound found in oat straw extract, in helping to control blood sugar in patients with type-2 diabetes. (42)
These studies have found that short-term intake of OBG helped with glycemic control, however, this effect grew weaker with long-term intake. Because oat straw extract contains oat beta-glucan, it may help to slow diabetic neuropathy progression thanks to controlling blood sugar levels. But as for now, the scientific evidence is quite weak.
Passiflora incarnata, or passion flower, is an extract with sedative and anxiolytic (stress-fighting) properties.
Passion flower extract is not considered to be a dangerous substance; it is widely used in regulated food and beverage products throughout the United States as a flavoring.
It is particularly popular among modern adherents for its ability to relieve sleep-related and gastrointestinal issues which are bound to stress or anxiety, and it seems to be particularly effective in that specific regard.
Passion flower extract is believed to function by lowering the activity level of hyperactive brain cells, through a reduction in the chemical signals being used to trigger them.
In one animal study conducted on passion flower extract and neuropathic pain in rats, the researchers concluded that passion flower extract “might be useful for treating neuropathic pain” via GABAergic and opioidergic mechanisms. (43)
St. John’s Wort (SJW) is a medicinal plant most commonly used for its antidepressant effects. Yet, many people have started to use it in the hopes of finding relief from neuropathy.
This use is supported by animal studies, including one study which found that mice given SJW seed extract experienced pain relief similar to that of currently used clinical drugs for neuropathic pain. (40)
Citrullus colocynthis, better known as bitter apple, has been used for many years as a folk medicine in Tunisia. (41) It has demonstrated impressive anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties.
In a human clinical trial, three months of topical C. colocynthis use was found to diminish pain in patients with painful diabetic neuropathy when compared to the placebo group.
This study is promising given that it is one of the few human clinical trials examining the effect of an herbal remedy on diabetic neuropathic pain.
Another herb often used to help reduce symptoms of neuropathy is motherwort. The plant is a native of southeastern Europe and Central Asia, but has spread all over the world. It is pretty enough that many people enjoy planting in their gardens just for its looks.
Traditionally, motherwort was used in folk medicine in both Asia and Europe to control fertility or menstruation. People would take the herb to stimulate menstruation or to provide relief for symptoms of menopause.
Like passionflower, motherwort can also be used to help calm the body and to reduce anxiety. It was traditionally used in Europe as a sedative.
Along with easing the pain caused by menstrual cramps, Motherwort can also help ease the pain caused by neuropathy. It is occasionally used to help soothe the pain caused by shingles for example.
With medications offering little relief for many suffering from painful diabetic neuropathy, both doctors and patients alike are turning to vitamins, minerals, and herbs in the hopes of slowing disease progression and providing pain relief. Work with your doctor to see which of the above plant medicines might work to help you.
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