Herbs and Homeopathy to Relieve Symptoms of Mononucleosis

Herbs and Homeopathy to Relieve Symptoms of Mononucleosis

Mononucleosis, or mono, is often referred to as "the kissing disease," because direct contact with virus-infected saliva, such as by kissing, can spread the virus that causes infectious mononucleosis. Children, especially adolescents and young adults, are at higher risk than adults of contracting viruses such as the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which is the primary cause of mono. In the United States, the occurrence of infectious mononucleosis peaks in later adolescence, between ages 15 to 19. Interestingly, mono tends to be more prevalent in areas with higher standards of hygiene. Although there is plenty of research on the positive effects of relaxation in boosting the immune system, there is little information on how effective relaxation techniques may be in treating mono. Nevertheless, it stands to reason that boosting immune function in general reduces risk of any infection. There is also evidence that nutrition and plant-based medicines may help reduce the symptoms of mono as well as and complications linked to it.

Mono is sometimes confused with chronic fatigue syndrome, a disorder with similar symptoms, but which is not caused by EBV. Typical mono symptoms may take between 4 and 7 weeks to develop after exposure to the virus, and can last only a few days or as long as several months. These symptoms may include fever, fatigue, sore throat (often severe), swollen tonsils, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, enlargement of the spleen or liver, rash, or headache.

If your healthcare provider suspects that you have mono, he or she will do a physical examination and may order a blood test to confirm the diagnosis of mono. Your provider may also prescribe acetaminophen and corticosteroids, such as prednisone, to treat obstructed airway passages from enlarged tonsils. (Children with mono should not take aspirin because of the risk of developing Reye's syndrome, a rare condition that can affect the liver, brain, and other organs.)

Household members or college roommates run only a slight risk of being infected unless they come into direct contact with your saliva, so it is generally not necessary to be quarantined, although complete rest is necessary when symptoms are severe. As your symptoms improve, you may gradually increase activity. You will probably be able to return to school or work in a few weeks, although there is a remote chance that the fatigue will linger for months afterwards. Because of the risk of rupturing the spleen, you should avoid contact sports and heavy lifting for 2 months.

Herbs and Supplements

Taking folate supplements may speed recovery. Folate (vitamin B9) shortage may relate to fatigue and a long recovery period following a viral infection, including EBV.

Echinacea (Echinacea sp.), wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria), and licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) may boost immunity and improve the flow of lymph. Retinoic acid and glycyrrhetinic acid are derivatives of licorice root and may be used for similar purposes. Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) and lomatium (Lomatium dissectum), which have deeper immune-enhancing properties, are used to treat established infections or chronic problems. To avoid the possibility of interactions with medications you are taking, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before taking herbs.


An experienced homeopathic practitioner will consider your individual case and may recommend treatments to address both your underlying condition and any current symptoms. Some homeopathic remedies that may be suggested include Belladonna, Ferrum phosphorica, and Kali muriaticum, all of which may be helpful for symptoms associated with mononucleosis. Belladonna is used in the first 12 to 24 hours to treat fever; red face and lips and dry, red throat. Ferrum phosphorica and Kali muriaticum are then alternated every hour to alleviate fever, painful cough, sore chest, occasional night sweats, and extremely swollen tonsils. Depending on your symptoms, a homeopath may also recommend other remedies including but not limited to Mercurius, Phytolacca, Lachesis, Conium, Hepar sulphuris calcareum, Cistus canadensis, Baryta carbonica, and Carcinosin. For homeopathic treatment, see a licensed, certified practitioner.

As with all infectious diseases, the key lies in prevention. Eliminating stress and maintaining your immune system at optimum levels will give you a fighting chance against mononucleosis.


Van Rood YR, Bogaards M, Goulmy E, van Houwelingen HC. The effects of stress and relaxation on the in vitro immune response in man: a meta-analytic study. J Behav Med. 1993; 16(2):163-181.

Auwaerter PG. Infectous mononucleosis in middle age. JAMA. 1999;281(5):454-459.

Jacobson W, Wreghitt TG, Saich T, Naginton J. Serum folate in viral and mycoplasmal infections. J Infect. 1987; 14 (2): 103-111.

Review Date: November 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.

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