Epstein-Barr is a virus and the primary source for mononucleosis, or mono. Nearly 90 percent of adults in the U.S. have antibodies, giving them immunity to the disease, according to Princeton University. Epstein-Barr syndrome is highly contagious, affecting primarily teens and college students. Various herbs may be useful in the treatment of Epstein-Barr syndrome; however, herbs can also produce side effects or interfere with other medications. Consult with a health practitioner before treating mono with herbs.
Often called the "kissing disease," due to its contagiousness and prevalence among sexually active young adults, mono is spread through saliva. It has certain characteristics such as extreme weakness and fatigue, swollen glands, and malaise. Additionally you may have a sore throat, fever, lack of appetite, muscle pain and a swollen spleen. Epstein-Barr syndrome may last for several months, keeping you home in bed and unable to carry on with daily activities. It is not responsive to antibiotics, according to Princeton University.
Harvard School of Public Health noted in a press release on March 4, 2010, that the online journal "Annals of Neurology" reported that the Epstein-Barr virus is implicated in causing multiple sclerosis, or MS. The chronic degenerative nervous system disease is more common in women than in men and is often fatal, adds Harvard. Epstein-Barr is one of the herpes viruses, for which there is no effective conventional medical treatment. Results of the study found that the risk of MS is significant among individuals who have had mono, or Epstein-Barr virus.
Astragalus is used in Chinese medicine to enhance the immune system and fight infection. It is known to have anti-viral properties, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center; however, there are no studies to indicate whether it would be effective in the treatment of Epstein-Barr virus. Anecdotal evidence indicates its efficacy in protecting the body against diseases due to its high levels of antioxidants. Along with its anti-viral properties, astragalus is also known as an anti-inflammatory agent, which may be useful in reducing body pain with mono or MS. Astragalus has been shown to speed recovery and strengthen the immune systems in patients treated with chemotherapy and radiation, which gives rise to the possibility of its effectiveness for treating mono. Astragalus is often combined in herbal tonics with other potent anti-viral herbs and used to fight viral infections like Epstein-Barr. It can be taken on its own or in combination with other herbs. The recommended dose is 250 mg to 500 mg, three to four times daily, according to UMMC. There are no serious side effects recorded; however, it may interact with other medicines. Consult a health practitioner for treatment guidelines.
Echinacea is another herb used to enhance the immune system and to fight disease, according to UMMC. It has anti-viral, antibacterial and anti-microbial properties and has been used for centuries to treat diseases affecting the blood, such as cellulitis, scarlet fever, blood poisoning and syphilis. In addition to its anti-viral properties, echinacea also acts as an anti-inflammatory, helping to reduce pain and swelling. Echinacea comes in many forms, both liquid and powdered, but all brands are not equal in their potency. It's important to buy only recognized brands from reputable sellers. The recommended dose for treating Epstein-Barr virus is 900 mg daily, for five to seven days, according to UMMC. Echinacea may cause side effects or interact with other medicines. If you suffer from autoimmune diseases, liver disorders, diabetes, MS, tuberculosis or leukemia, do not use echinacea unless under the supervision of a health practitioner who is familiar with your case and with using echinacea.
- Princeton University: Mononucleosis
- “The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook: Your Everyday Reference to the Best Herbs for Healing“; James Duke; 2002
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Astragalus
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Echinacea
- Harvard School of Public Health; "Annals of Neurology"; Primary Infection With the Epstein-Barr Virus and Risk of Multiple Sclerosis; Lynn I. Levin, et al.; January 2010