Dear Pharmacist, I have nerve pain that is chronic and related to my diabetes. I take medication for that, and want to add some supplements that might help. I promise to ask my doctor if they’re alright for me. — P.T., Tulsa
Nerve pain is termed “neuropathy,” and sometimes you see it as “peripheral neuropathy.” It can be described as tingling, burning, radiating and sharp. Everyone’s experience is different.
Diabetes medications can sometimes exacerbate neuropathy by causing a drug nutrient depletion. Some of the most popular medications prescribed (e.g. metformin, glipizide) are “drug muggers” of vitamin B12. You need B12 to produce myelin, a protective fatty coating around your nerve fibers. Your nerves get touchy and neuropathy can begin if you run out of myelin. Supplementing with methylcobalamin might help, but do test to see if you are low in that. It’s a blood test. There is more about nerve-soothing remedies in my “Diabetes Without Drugs” book.
Herbs that are in the “nervine” category can be very nourishing and soothing to the nerve tissue. Among the best are Chinese skullcap, lemon balm, wood betony, St. John’s wort, chamomile, prickly ash and milky oats. These are found in a variety of ways including commercial tea, dried herb so you can make your own tea or compress, tinctures, capsules and so forth. They each have a book full of side effects and precautions. Do not take it upon yourself to just self-treat without seeing a knowledgable practitioner who studies and prescribes herbs for a living.
For milder effects you could always take a bath in herbs; mix together the following to make two cupfuls: oatstraw, skullcap, wood betony and St. John’s wort. Put it in a clean sock and drop into your bath. You can also add five to 10 drops of lavender essential oil. Soak for at least 20 minutes, keeping the water lukewarm. This must be discussed with your practitioner as there is transdermal absorption of these herbs. If you have a local (small) area, you can also try a commercial product called Neuragen sold at pharmacies nationwide.
For more, visit dearpharmacist.com.