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Alternative Treatments for Neuropathy

Alternative Treatments for Neuropathy Alternative Treatments for Neuropathy

Neuropathy is a disease of the peripheral nerves—the nerves that lie outside of the central nervous system, or brain and spinal cord. There are more than 100 kinds of peripheral neuropathies, according to Medline Plus. They can be caused by viral infections, nerve compression or injury, and neuropathy is also one of the major complications of diabetes. Conventional treatment may include antidepressants, anti-seizure medications and pain relievers, but these can have unpleasant side effects. Herbs may offer an alternative treatment for neuropathy. It is important to consult a health care professional before beginning herbal treatment.

Holy Basil

Holy basil, or Ocimum sanctum, is an aromatic culinary and medicinal herb cultivated throughout the world. In Indian Ayurvedic medicine, it is used to treat a range of diseases, including arthritis, malaria, bronchitis and eye disorders. The leaves contain flavanoids, triterpenoids and essential oils, and have immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory and antidiabetic actions. The plant is also a potent analgesic and nerve tonic, and is used to treat muscle, joint and nerve pain. A study published in the October 2008 issue of the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology” tested an extract containing polyphenols, glycosides and saponins on test animals with peripheral neuropathy. The study found that the extract alleviated the neuropathy and inhibited sciatic nerve fiber degeneration, possibly due to the antioxidant activity of the polyphenols. Further studies are needed to discover which active ingredients in holy basil are responsible for alleviating neuropathy. 2)


Stelechocarpus, or Stelechocarpus cauliflorus, is a rare tropical rainforest tree native to Malaysia, Sumatra and Thailand. The Thai name is ngam ngo, and Thai folk healers use the root to treat stomach disorders. The leaves contain alkaloids; beta-sitosterol, which has immunostimulating action; and flavonoids like quercetin, astilbin and engeletin. A study published in the 2007 issue of “Phytomedicine” tested a flavonoid extract of the leaves for its inhibitory action against aldose reductase (AR) an enzyme involved in hyperglycemia and diabetic complications like peripheral neuropathy; and advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), which contribute to cell damage and chronic neuropathy. The study found that engeletin was more effective than astilbin and quercetin against AR, but astilbin and quercetin were more effective against AGEs. Further research is necessary to test the efficacy of Stelechocarpus in humans.


Evodia, or Evodia rutaecarpa, is a tall deciduous tree that produces a reddish fruit that has medicinal uses in China and Korea. Known as wu zhu yu in traditional Chinese medicine, the fruit is used to treat pain, diarrhea, digestive problems, inflammatory disorders and infectious diseases. A study reported in the March 2009 issue of “Phytomedicine” tested a dry fruit extract containing several alkaloids, including rhetsinine. The in vitro study found that rhetsinine inhibited AR activity by 90 percent, whereas the other alkaloids had only 50 percent success. Rhetsinine also inhibited the accumulation of sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that, in excess, can damage nerve cells and lead to peripheral neuropathy. This research demonstrates the potential for evodia fruit in treating neuropathy, but more studies are needed to test these results on humans.

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