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Table of Contents > Articles > Complementary Care for Chronic Fatigue ...
Complementary Care for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) comes on suddenly but lasts for months—or even years. It is characterized by a low-grade fever, sore throat, swollen glands, headaches, and muscle and joint aches. These ailments are generally sufficient to reduce normal activities by 50 percent. The cause of CFS is still unknown, although a virus is one suspected culprit. You are at greater risk for developing CFS if you are female and your immune system has been compromised by extreme stress or anxiety, chronic health problems, or poor eating habits.

If you think you may have CFS, visit your healthcare provider for a full diagnosis. Your doctor can prescribe conventional medications to reduce flu-like symptoms, lift depression, and lessen pain and inflammation in joints and muscles. Complementary care includes adhering to the following nutritional guidelines and using herbal remedies. Counseling, support groups, meditation, yoga, and stress-management techniques may also be very effective complementary therapies.


Avoid refined foods, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, saturated fats, dairy products, and gluten-containing grains (gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, oats, and barley). Eat more fresh vegetables, beans, whole grains (non-gluten), protein, and essential fatty acids (found in nuts, seeds, and cold-water fish).

The following dietary supplements may reduce some of the symptoms of CFS:

  • Beta carotene (50,000 IU per day)
  • Vitamin C (1,000 mg three to six times per day)
  • B complex (50 to 100 mg per day) with additional B6 (100 mg per day) and B5 (100 to 250 mg per day)
  • Pantothenic acid (4 to 7 mg per day)
  • Magnesium aspartate (400 to 1,000 mg per day)
  • L-carnitine (330 mg one to three times per day)

Herbal Remedies

Herbs are generally available as dried extracts (pills, capsules, or tablets), teas, or tinctures. Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with 1 teaspoon herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. Tinctures are preparations made from alcohol (or water and alcohol), containing an herb strength of 1 part herb to 5 parts solvent or 1 part herb to 10 parts solvent.

Herbs that support overall vitality and relieve exhaustion include licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra), lomatium root (Lomatium dissectum), skullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia), passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), lavender (Lavendula officinalis), and rosemary leaf (Rosemarinus officinalis). Take 20 to 30 drops in tincture form two to three times per day. Do not take licorice if you have high blood pressure.

Another remedy that may help is a tincture of Siberian ginseng (Eleuthrococcus senticosus), schizandra berry (Schizandra chinensis), ashwaganda root (Withania somnifera), gotu kola (Centella asiatica), and astragalus root (Astragalus membranaceus). Take 20 to 30 drops two to three times per day. These are safe to take long-term and may need to be taken for four to six months for maximum benefit.

Essential oils of jasmine, peppermint, and rosemary are calming and restorative and may be used in aromatherapy. Place several drops in a warm bath or atomizer.

Be sure to talk with your physician or pharmacist to best determine which herbal or nutritional supplements are for you. Some supplements should not be taken if you have certain medical conditions or are taking particular prescription medications.


Integrative Medicine Access: Professional Reference to Conditions, Herbs & Supplements. Newton, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

Review Date: July 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Gotu Kola
Siberian Ginseng
Carnitine (L-Carnitine)
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
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Herbal Medicine

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