A person with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) experiences extreme tiredness that can't be explained by any underlying medical condition. The consistent fatigue can't be relieved by rest and is severe enough to disrupt their daily activities. For CFS to be diagnosed, the unrelenting fatigue must last for at least six months.
This complex, chronic illness affects about one million Americans. CFS is most commonly seen among people in their 40s and 50s. Women are also two to four times more likely to be diagnosed with CFS than men.
Currently, there is no treatment that specifically targets CFS – only its symptoms – and scientists are looking to Mother Nature for potential cures.
This species of orchid exhibits therapeutic activity against CFS
Swarna jibanti (Coelogyne cristata) is an orchid used in Ayurvedic medicine to promote longevity. For their study, researchers obtained hydro-alcoholic extracts from the pseudobulbs of C. cristata (CCE) and assessed their effect on the behavioral and biochemical changes induced by CFS in aged Wistar rats. They compared the activity of CCE with that of Panax ginseng (PG), a prototype anti-stress agent.
To induce CFS, the researchers subjected the rats to forced swimming for 15 minutes each day for 21 consecutive days. The researchers assessed CFS based on locomotor activity and measured depression and anxiety using an automated photactometer. They also measured the immobility time and plus maze activity of the rats. In addition, they performed an acute toxicity study of CCE.
The researchers divided the rats into five groups: Naive control, control, CCE treated and standard PG treated. They gave the drugs to the rats orally for 21 consecutive days together with CFS.
At the end of the treatment period, the researchers assessed the rats' behavioral parameters. They also determined the antioxidant potential of CCE in vivo based on the presence of lipid peroxides, nitrite, catalase (CAT) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) in brain tissue.
CCE treatment significantly improved the spontaneous locomotor movement of aged rats with respect to the control rats.
CCE decreased the mobility period or depression score of rats.
CCE treatment enhanced the time spent by rats with CFS in open arms and reduced their time spent in closed arms compared to the CFS control, which indicated reduced anxiety.
CCE treatment reduced lipid peroxidation, nitrite and SOD levels and significantly enhanced catalase levels with respect to the CFS control. PG also showed similar actions.
These findings indicated that CCE has potential therapeutic actions against induced CFS in aged rats. This therapeutic action may be due to its central nervous system (CNS)-mediatory antioxidant properties.
Natural options for CFS
Natural options can be used to address CFS symptoms. Here are some of them.
Valerian – Valerian helps with getting a good night's sleep, which helps fight fatigue. For CFS patients, take 600-900 milligrams (mg) of valerian extract standardized to 0.4 percent valerinic acids an hour before bed for at least two months.
Leafy greens and green supplements – Powdered greens, such as wheat or barley grass, and green vegetables, such as spinach, all contain antioxidants that support the immune system and protect against oxidative damage. Oxidative damage often contributes to muscle pain in CFS patients. Take one to three tablets a day or mix 5 mg of powdered greens into juice or a shake and drink for at least three months.
Licorice – Licorice extract can boost energy levels and contains anti-inflammatory compounds that provide relief from body pain caused by CFS. Take 500 mg two to three times a day.
Ginkgo – One of the symptoms of CFS is reduced memory and concentration. Ginkgo may improve concentration and alertness by boosting blood flow to the brain. As an antioxidant, ginkgo may also help protect muscles from oxidative damage. Take 80-120 mg twice a day of a product standardized to 24 percent flavonoids and 6 to 7 percent terpene lactones.
Coenzyme Q10 – CoQ10 is an antioxidant that boosts immunity and energy and relieves muscle pain. Take 100 mg daily or 60 mg twice a day.
Essential fatty acids – Low levels of essential fatty acids contribute to inflammation, which causes body pain.
Melatonin – Studies have highlighted melatonin's efficacy in improving sleep-wake cycles and energy levels in shift workers and people with jet lag. Take 1 to 3 mg of melatonin an hour before bed in lieu of or in addition to valerian for a good night's sleep.