Richard G. Petty, MD

Multiple Sclerosis and Integrated Medicine

Although there are some fairly effective conventional therapies for multiple sclerosis (MS), many people with MS explore complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies for their symptoms. The most effective strategies are to combine conventional and unorthodox treatments that address the physical, psychological, social, subtle and spiritual aspects of the illness. This combined approach also avoids the problem of people taking herbs or supplements that may either interact with each other or with conventional treatments.

It is also essential for us to get over the idea that MS is just something to be conquered. That may seem like an odd comment, but the language and the mindset of fighting, battles and warfare can be problematic. Let me explain something that I discuss at length in Healing, Meaning and Purpose.

There have been two distinct approaches to health in the Western medical tradition. The first is that the role of a physician is to treat diseases. That is the way that all my colleagues and I were trained. The second approach is to consider that health is the natural order of things. So in the first case we constantly hear the use of military metaphors: People speak of  “a war on cancer,” “killer cells,” “magic bullets,” and the need to adopt a “fighting spirit.” Sadly this aggressive attitude by the medical profession may be at odds with the wishes and needs of an individual, the family and the other people in a person’s life. We have to try to strike a balance between the whole instinct to fight and expressions of healing and acceptance.

In the second case, the philosophy is grounded in the idea that we need to work in harmony with nature. The maintenance of health and well being comes from reestablishing balance and harmony not just in ourselves but also in our relationships with each other, with society and with the entire environment around us.

Some of the most commonly CAM therapies include dietary modification, nutritional and herbal supplementation, and mind-body therapies. There has been a revival of interest among MS researchers about the therapeutic potential of low-fat diet and essential fatty acid supplementation in MS. The research on CAM therapies in MS is still exploratory, but considering peoples’ interest and common use of these therapies, further research in this area is clearly warranted. Many sufferers show “spontaneous” recoveries, so reports of cures with unorthodox remedies are often treated with skepticism.

Diet, Vitamins and Supplements: There have been scattered reports of symptoms improving after the removal of dental amalgam, but there is scant evidence that this is really worthwhile. There is some evidence 1. 2. 3. 4. that polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) supplementation may help MS. There used to be a lot of support for something called the “Swank diet,” but over the years the evidence has not been very good. In a small number of people with MS certain foods can make them worse. This is to expected if there is an autoimmune component to the illness. It is always a good idea to see if there is something that makes a person feel worse. The other important qestion is whether food additives may be causing symptoms. Although this must be uncommon, I have written elsewhere about occasional cases of MS symptoms with all the classical neurological, biochemical, radiological and electrical signs that have improved or become completely better after removing aspartame from the diet.

Physical exercise: Exercise is highly recommended for people with MS, though it is best to avoid it during an attack. There is evidence that over-exertion can actually bring on an attack. There is some literature about the use of Feldenkrais bodywork in MS, but a study from the University of North Carolina failed to find any benefit. T’ai Chi Ch’uan, qigong, yoga and graduated exercise have all been helpful to some people with MS, but it is essential to discuss it with a healthcare provider to see how any one of these fits in to an package of care. There is no published data on the use of Pilates in MS. At least not in any of the languages that I can read. But since it has been shown to improve posture and flexibility, it is logical to think that Pilates might be helpful, and it would be very valuable to see some research on it.

Acupuncture: Although widely used, the research on acupuncture in MS is not yet convincing. Like most acupuncturists I’ve had some good results in treating pain, muscle stiffness and fatigue. I’ve also seen people achieve some remarkable recoveries, but there are two issues: MS is a relapsing and remitting illness. And second, many of the people who did well only did so because they shifted their thinking: acupuncture became the vehicle for their personal transformation rather than a device for removing nasty symptoms.

Homeopathic remedies: Even the most enthusiastic homeopaths have fairly limited expectations of what homeopathy can achieve in MS.

From the point of view of homeopathy there is little point in making the diagnosis on multiple sclerosis because the disease has such a variable course with highly variable symptoms. To a homeopath the diagnosis is not useful: it is the symptoms that are all important. The homeopathic treatment of MS is highly individualized: one of the key items is the timing of symptoms and associated features. Some of the most common remedies for people with MS are:

  • Agaricus
  • Alumina
  • Argentum Nitricum
  • Arsenicum
  • Aurum Metallicum
  • Causticum
  • Cocculus
  • Conium Maculatum
  • Ignatia
  • Lachesis
  • Nux Vomica
  • Natrum Muriaticum
  • Phosphorus
  • Plumbum


This is not the whole list of homeopathic remedies that we have sometimes found helpful, but it highlights some of the more commonly used ones in people with the symptoms of MS.

Herbal remedies: Many herbal remedies have been tried in MS, and many experts have told me that they have had some good results. There is an important issue in MS called “apitherapy,” a.k.a. bee venom therapy (BVT). Several reports suggest that bee venom may be an effective treatment for patients with MS. But formal trials suggest that although the treatment appears relatively safe apart from itching and swelling of the skin, it does not seem to be helpful

The best approach is to embrace the best of what conventional medicine has to offer, combine unorthodox approaches and to realize that management of a chronic illness is not about dominating it but learning from it and learning strategies for peacefully co-existing with it.

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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  1. Multiple Sclerosis and Integrated Medicine

    Although there are some fairly effective conventional therapies for multiple sclerosis (MS), many people with MS explore complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies for their symptoms. The most effective strategies are to combine conventional a

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