Epilepsy Talk

Epilepsy And Complementary Medicine… | October 18, 2018

Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) is just what it sounds like. Something to complement the AED regimen you’re already on. And perhaps take an extra step (with your doctor’s go-ahead) to alleviate seizures.

There are lots of alternatives, so I’ll touch on the most popular ones here. (Somehow, I don’t think you’re going to be turning to stones or amulets for relief!)

Interestingly, The Epilepsy Foundation of Arizona did a survey and it revealed that half of the people with epilepsy had tried CAM at some time for seizure control. Almost half used them for other reasons.

Overall, people found CAM to be generally beneficial to their health. The most helpful were stress reduction, yoga, and botanicals (herbs). Nonetheless, half of the patients taking botanicals had an increase in their seizures.

One third of the patients felt that CAM helped treat their epilepsy better than the AED. However, very few patients considered stopping the AED. Almost all of the patients stated they would feel comfortable informing their physician about CAM use.

“Modern medical therapy often fails, yet modern medical therapy exists because complementary and alternative medicine often fails. Both sides have to recognize each other.”  Dr. Orrin Devinsky

A variety of relaxation techniques exist which aim to relieve stress and tension, reduce blood pressure, and improve feelings of control over our lives. Workshops and classes in progressive muscular relaxation, meditation, yoga, tai chi, massage, and acupuncture can be found in increasing numbers. Many of these techniques have reported improved sleep, decreased aggravation and tension during the day, increased overall health, and reduced fear of seizures, indicating a greater sense of well-being.

In addition, the general observation that techniques like meditation are side effect-free (in contrast to drugs) is of great appeal.

Acupressure

Acupressure and Shiatsu work with the same healing points used in acupuncture. Instead of needles, practitioners use their elbows, feet, thumbs, and fingertips. The specific pressure points they target are located along the body’s energy channels or meridians. Acupressure treatment takes place on a mat or massage table. A typical session lasts from 30 minutes to one hour.

There are no indications that acupressure provides a beneficial effect in the treatment of epilepsy. However, the treatment appears effective as a relaxation technique, relieving some of the triggers of seizures (e.g. stress) or the effects of epilepsy (e.g. depression).

Acupuncture

Acupuncture involves inserting very fine pins or needles into specific points on a person’s body to stimulate energy pathways and natural healing processes. The needles may be left inserted for a few seconds, but are more commonly left in place for 30-40 minutes. Although there has been no evidence that acupuncture can directly improve a person’s epilepsy, it has been found to be effective in reducing stress and anxiety, which may then result in less seizures for some people with epilepsy. It can also improve well-being and underlying health, and help with headaches or fatigue associated with seizures.

Acupuncture is thought to work on the limbic centre of the brain, the area that is involved in moods and emotions and often implicated in epilepsy. While therapists do not suggest they can cure epilepsy they may in the long-term be able to reduce levels of stress and anxiety, which in itself will reduce the risk of seizures.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy can help people who experience auras and warn of an upcoming seizure. Use of essential oils may help to prevent or lessen the severity of a seizure if the person inhales before the seizure occurs. It is important to note that people with epilepsy should not sniff aromatherapy oils vigorously. Vigorous sniffing, whether or not an oil is present, can itself trigger a seizure in some people. Instead, the person should gently inhale the scent.

The following oils may prevent seizures: Jasmine (consistently found to have anticonvulsant properties), Camomile, Lavender, and Ylang-Ylang.

Biofeedback

Biofeedback or Neurofeedback is a technique that may help you if your seizures start with a “warning” or “aura”. The idea is that you can learn to control your brain activity, and level of relaxation, by watching a display on a computer screen. With practice and support from a trained therapist, some people may be able to limit the length of their focal seizures or prevent these spreading to become a generalized seizure. Neurofeedback training can be effective in some people, but it requires a lot of dedication, time and hard work from both the therapist and the person with epilepsy.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic, which means “done by hand”, is very similar to osteopathy. It is based on the theory that the state of the nervous system in a person affects their health. The key element of the body structure is the spine, it is the link that carries nerves to the whole body. The vertebrae encase the tail of the brain which has an effect on the main bodily functions such as digestion, blood flow, heartbeat, the immune system and breathing. When there is nerve interference caused by spinal subluxations (misaligned vertebrae), there is disease. Through manipulations the chiropractor can realign the vertebrae and thereby release the pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.

Chiropractic is not believed to cure epilepsy but it is thought that it can relieve some of the stresses on the brain that may contribute to seizures. Some people have reported that sessions have triggered seizures and it is thought that practitioners who favor a gentle approach are most beneficial.

Essential Oils

There are a number of essential oils that are known to have a calming and relaxing effect. If someone’s seizures are triggered by stress, then using these oils to relax may help to reduce their seizures. Such calming oils include: jasmine, ylang ylang, camomile, and lavender (not spike lavender which is not recommended).

Research was carried out at the University of Birmingham’s seizure clinic which involved using essential oils with individuals who had epilepsy. The studies used aromatherapy massage to allow individuals to associate the smell of an essential oil with a state of relaxation. Then, when the person was stressed or felt a seizure was about to start, they could smell the essential oil. This would remind their brain of the relaxing feelings, which aimed to help stop their seizure from happening. Results showed that, with practice, a person may be able to relax by simply smelling the particular oil which could then lead to fewer seizures. From this research, jasmine oil was the most effective, although this may not be the case for everyone with epilepsy.

Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine uses extracts from plants to restore the natural balance of the body and encourage healing. Herbs have been used for thousands of years across the world by many different cultures to treat different health problems, including epilepsy.

There is a lack of evidence for their benefit, but that does not mean that some herbal medicine may not benefit some people. Some plants have been known for centuries for their medicinal properties, but some are poisonous, and “natural” medicines may have adverse side effects in the same way as man-made medications do.

Medicines containing herbs such as schizandra, kava kava and comfrey may increase the number of seizures for some people. Some remedies may contain unlisted ingredients, which could affect someone’s epilepsy or their existing treatment. Also some herbal remedies may affect the way AEDs work, which can reduce the effectiveness of an AED or cause harmful side effects.

Homeopathy

The main argument for treating epilepsy — or any disease — with homeopathy is the concept that each patient is different. Though they may be diagnosed with the same disease or disorder, their symptoms are different, as are their responses to treatment and medication.

This is why people believe there are many benefits to treating epilepsy based on symptoms rather than the generalized disease. By being able to zero in on exact symptoms which patients are experiencing, it’s believed that homeopathy will have a better chance of treating those specific symptoms.

Alone, homeopathy may not help all cases of epilepsy. But together with conventional  treatment, it’s seen success as a supportive line of treatment. And in cases of drug-resistant epilepsy, people often do respond significantly to homeopathy.

Massage

Massage is often used to reduce tension and pain in muscles, help with poor sleep patterns, improve relaxation and reduce stress.

According to a survey conducted by the American Massage Therapy Association of people who had at least one massage in the last five years, 30 percent report that they did so for reasons of pain management, injury rehabilitation, migraine control, or overall wellness.

A number of studies conducted by the Touch Research Institute have also shown that massage therapy may enhance well-being by stimulating the release of serotonin, a natural pain-killing and mood-elevating endorphin, and reducing the level of cortisol, a stress hormone that produces pain.

Meditation

In general, meditation is a way of focusing the mind in the present moment. Some benefit by meditation tremendously. Some don’t. And for others, meditation incites seizures.

One small study of adults with epilepsy who practiced meditation for 20 minutes per day for a year, found that they had fewer, shorter seizures and a change in EEG patterns.

The patients in the control group didn’t show significant changes.

UCLA neurologist Jerome Engel clearly thinks there is some value in meditation.

Meditation can be a very good way of relaxing, releasing you from stress or anxiety and coping with fatigue and mental tiredness. Over time a meditation practice can help to clear the mind and to focus. It can also help with headaches and can promote wellbeing. The benefits of meditation may not be obvious at first, and a beginner can get disheartened. It can be best to start with a very simple meditation technique for just a few minutes a day, and gradually build up.

Naturopathy

Based on the principle of homeostasis — that the body can heal itself and will always strive towards good health — naturopathy can trace its guiding principles back to Hippocrates who formulated them over 2,000 years ago.

Naturopathic medicine treats the whole person, taking into account the interaction of physical, mental, and emotional factors as causes of a condition. It seeks to recognize the importance of the whole person instead of just single organ systems or particular symptoms.

If treatment is directed only at the symptom, the underlying problem could cause further deterioration and resurface at a later date. Practitioners look at the patient’s “Triad of Health”, (their emotional well-being, their musculoskeletal structure and their internal biochemistry), and then prescribe a range of therapies designed to improve circulation and digestion, increase the elimination of waste products and boost the immune system.

When it comes to epilepsy, naturopathy and a range of related treatment methods may have a good deal to offer, as long as it is coordinated with your neurological care.

Reflexology

Foot massage has been used for centuries as an aid to relaxation. Reflexologists, however, go a step further, believing that the sole of the foot is covered with reflex points which relate to the rest of the body.

The therapist uses pressure on these points to release tension and encourage the body’s natural healing processes.

Reflexology can be deeply relaxing for some people, so it could be of great use to those whose epilepsy is triggered by stress. However, care needs to be taken as over-stimulation may trigger an attack. If using reflexology it is a good idea to consult a practitioner who understands epilepsy.

Yoga

Yoga is a system of postures and breathing that originated in India and is thousands of years old. In its purest form yoga is a fully integrated system controlling all aspects of life, aiming towards spiritual enlightenment. In the West, however, it is more commonly used to increase suppleness and as a very effective relaxation technique. There are many different forms or schools of yoga. It is recommended that a qualified practitioner teach yoga and that the yoga student should aim to practice every day.

Yoga can help with epilepsy as breathing exercises can help to halt a seizure by focusing the mind on the breath. Yoga can also help to bring about a state of deep relaxation, which will help for stress-induced attacks.

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Resources:

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/introduction

http://exploreim.ucla.edu/self-care/acupressure-and-common-acupressure-points/

http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/biofeedback-therapy-uses-benefits#1

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/chiropractic/introduction.htm

https://www.youngliving.com/en_US/discover

https://draxe.com/herbal-medicine/

http://homeopathyusa.org/homeopathic-medicine.html

http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/tc/aromatherapy-essential-oils-therapy-topic-overview#1

http://liveanddare.com/benefits-of-meditation/

http://www.neurology.org/content/61/4/E7.full

http://www.healthline.com/health/natural-treatments-epilepsy

https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/other/benefits-of-reflexology.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10908505

http://journals.lww.com/neurologynow/Fulltext/2008/04030/Healing_Touch.18.aspx

https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/complementary-therapies#.WUgCw2jyvtU

http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/treating-seizures-and-epilepsy/complementary-health-approaches

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16822357

http://epilepsyontario.org/about-epilepsy/treatments/complementary-medicine/

 


17 Comments »

  1. Phyllis, you know I adore you but your list lost all credibility when you included homeopathy. I am a big fan and user of methodologies such as the use of cannabis Homeopathy is pure unadulterated hogwash, however. Believers are robbed of their money by these snake oil peddlers that give all other forms of CAM a bad name.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by paleobird — October 18, 2018 @ 4:18 PM

    • Oh dear Paleo, I thought we were soul sisters forever! 🙂

      But I can’t resist. I wrote about this stuff in the “working world”.

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 18, 2018 @ 5:12 PM

      • It’s vibrational medicine. The more it is diluted, the more “vibrations” in the tincture, the stronger it is. This is why you usually use a X dilution for children, and for adults, with MOST u go to the C level… be it 6, 12, or 30c. Sometimes you’ll use the other levels. It all depends what you are treating and other factors.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Travis — October 22, 2018 @ 2:00 PM

      • I don’t think I understand.

        What’s “vibrational medicine”?

        Like

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 22, 2018 @ 2:13 PM

      • Thanks for the information and the education, Travis!

        Like

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 22, 2018 @ 5:11 PM

  2. You actually believe that nonsense? Diluting a “medicine” by a factor of 1000 makes it 1000 times stronger? Seriously?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by paleobird — October 18, 2018 @ 10:51 PM

  3. Thank you Phylis for all of the information you provide. I hate having epilepsy and I am willing to try anything to help it including everything you mentioned. It all helps with stress. Stress causes seizures. Off subject, but my general practioner wants me to get a flu shot and I don’t want one and he goes on and on. I looked up seizures and flu shot and many people commented that their child got seizures after getting the flu shot. What are your thoughts? Mary Jane mjlevell&yahoo.com

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Mary Jane Levell — October 19, 2018 @ 4:40 PM

    • Mary Jane, it’s all very controversial.

      But here’s an article I wrote that may help, even though it’s about children:

      Epilepsy Without Vaccinations — The Risks

      https://epilepsytalk.com/2014/07/13/epilepsy-without-vaccinations-the-risks/

      P.S. I’m still on the fence also.

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 19, 2018 @ 4:54 PM

    • Thanks Mary,
      I’m glad you pointed out that the possibilities of having seizures after/because of flushots.
      I never knew the connection between flushots & seizures but I’m glad I refused to have flushots, just because I don’t need more medications to keep draining my natural immune system & put up with more known & unknown side effects of all the combined medications I got to take to reduce/stop my seizures.
      As it is, the side effects of my seizure medications are messing up my memory & vision, without having to add the side effects of flushots.
      Gerrie

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by BahreNegash Eritrea — October 20, 2018 @ 11:38 PM

  4. I’ve been using homeopathy for about 20 years now. I would never use it for major issues. Minor such as pains, muscle stress, sleep, stress, and other issues I have no problem with it. Also it works great in preventing hangovers (Don’t need it for that anymore). An issue is when the patient uses homeopathy without knowing the details. I almost never use M. I have never used a MM dilution. You need to know the proper dilution levels for the symptoms you are trying to alleviate, and at what frequency to take it.

    I had worked concerts before using it, and boy was I aching at times. After learning about it, I’d carry the Ledum, Ruta, Rhus, and Arnica (and some others) on me to every gig…and boy did it help!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Travis — October 22, 2018 @ 1:56 PM

  5. Phylis Feiner Johnson, I get that many medical professionals whose speciality is Western medicine would probably be skeptical of natural remedies for Epilepsy. What I don’t get is why this is the case.

    Like

    Comment by Jeffrey Liakos — October 29, 2018 @ 11:14 AM

    • One of their claims is there is not a standard of testing and verification.

      Another reason is that they can’t patent it and make the big bucks.

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 29, 2018 @ 2:50 PM

  6. Hi, Phyllis,
    I don’t see anything in your search engine for St. John’s Wort. Any thoughts on that?
    Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Martha — November 1, 2018 @ 5:09 PM


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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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