How Holistic Therapies Are Helping Me Alleviate MS Symptoms

Cathy Chester avatar

by Cathy Chester |

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When I was younger, I never thought about trying holistic therapies to aid healing. Looking back I wish the medical community had embraced these therapies as potential treatments for MS symptoms. My first few years of living with MS were an incredible struggle; there were no FDA-approved medications at that time, and no internet to search for useful information. I would have liked to have had the option of using holistic therapies to help me feel better or at least give me some hope.

You might need a clarification for the definition of holistic medicine. Holistic therapies focus on the whole person by looking at their overall physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being. These therapies can include herbal medicine, homeopathy, naturopathic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, ayurvedic medicine, nutritional therapies, chiropractic, stress reduction, psychotherapy, and massage.

I was 28 years old when I received my diagnosis, and my world was turned upside down. The “golden rules” of good health, the ones I had learned as a child — to eat right, get plenty of exercise, and sleep — were no longer enough to help me stay healthy. I needed more to help me battle this incurable disease. Enter complementary (or integrative) medicine.

Since then I’ve learned to have an open mind about trying holistic therapies to alleviate the difficult symptoms of MS. For instance, in the past, I’ve enjoyed using the essential oils of peppermint (for headaches) and lavender (to eliminate tension and relieve pain). A friend gave me a gift of an essential oil diffuser, and I now use essential oils with more regularity. Cedarwood, lemon, orange, frankincense, and eucalyptus smell good and help me in a variety of ways.

Join the MS forums: an online community especially for patients with MS.

The market for essential oils is a rapidly growing one. According to this October 2017 report from PR Newswire, the global essential oils market is expected to be worth $12.85 billion by 2023. 

I’m not a medical professional, so I can’t tell you that using essential oils for your MS symptoms will definitely work. What I can say is they help me feel calmer and a few drops of peppermint oil gently rubbed into my temples help with my chronic headaches. If you decide to try oiling make sure they are from a reputable company and are made from pure ingredients.

As far as trying other holistic therapies, I’m using stress reduction techniques to relieve the growing anxieties I’m experiencing due to MS, plus to deal with ongoing gastrointestinal issues and the loss of family members and friends. By practicing meditation, yoga poses, and breathwork I’m hoping to relieve stress so I can improve my quality of life. I also hope to discover other therapies that work for me.

I interviewed Dr. Allen Bowling, a leading authority on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in March, 2017. I highly recommend reading his book “Optimal Health with Multiple Sclerosis: A Guide to Integrating Lifestyle, Alternative and Conventional Medicine.”

I love that one of my heroes, Dr. Oliver Sacks, recommended Dr. Bowling’s book.

“This book is full of wise and balanced information. It provides a valuable service to patient and health care provider alike.” –Dr. Oliver Sacks, author of Awakenings.”

If you’ve tried complementary and alternative therapies, I’d love to hear about your experience. As always, I wish you well.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, Bionews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Kathleen avatar


Hi Cathy, struck by dealing with your anxiety and loss of family and friends... happening at an unprecedented amount to me... anxiety to about that almost more than coping with the changing ms ... meditation and prayer helping me and my little dog. This disease is tough but keeping hope and connecting with others seems the best antidote. Your words were valuable to me tonight! Thank you. Kathleen

Laurentiu Todie avatar

Laurentiu Todie

Swimming, Sun bathing in moderation and some ED medication improve the quality of my live with MS.
I'd like to try a Marijuana ointment for back pain, but don't want to get high.
I reduced milk somewhat from my breakfast.
I work as hard as I can, till I get tired, rest and work again, or play.

Noelle avatar


it is a shame that holistic therapies aren't suggested more. I meditate everyday as well as take many vitamins and minerals,plus I use lavender for aroma therapy. I've had MS for 19 years and I'm only on 1 med. I also can't say this is for everyone and it'll make life better for you. all I can say is, it doesn't hurt to look into doing some of the things.

Sherry Wood avatar

Sherry Wood

What 1 medication do you take? I also only take 1 mine is LDN 4.5 mg at night L is for Low D is for Dose N is for Neltrexone. For me it works.Medicine Shop has to make it as most Neltrexone come in 50mg doses.

Brad avatar


I have found the practice of Tai Chi to be very helpful. I think Tai Chi is one the best low-impact, moderate exercises you can do for all of the body's systems, including the immune system and helping with balance. I have found arts such as Tai Chi and Qigong provide a simple and quick way for me to maintain my heath and energy levels as well keeping me fit. I have found some good tips and techniques here

Erika Faber avatar

Erika Faber

Hello Cathy ~

I also wish more healthcare providers would recommend holistic health and that more insurance companies would cover such therapies. Acupuncture worked wonders for me. I would go weekly for 45 minutes and leave feeling refreshed and energized. It was wonderful, but, now that I can no longer work, I can no longer afford it. But, I do meditate daily and try to laugh daily. I find those to be equally important for peace of mind.

Your article resonated with many, I am sure. Many of my MS friends also meditate, use oils, and crystals. I don't use crystals, but am open to new things if it helps.

Wishing you the best in your journey and may you continue to find ways to survive with ease. Blessings for your day.

John Lanning avatar

John Lanning

Hi Cathy,

I read your article on Holistic Therapies with interest, but was surprised that there was no mention of using Guided Imagery as a Complimentary Medicine therapy for treating MS. It seems that medical science offers next to no recognition for this valuable MS therapy. There is considerable information available on this topic for those who know where to look.

My wife was diagnosed with MS in 2002 at the age of 54. She used Copaxone for many years until her doctor suggested the it was no longer effective in 2012 when new legions developed. At the time, all the new recommended drugs seemed too scary to try. A friend in Texas sent us a Guided Imagery CD for MS patients that his classmate in college had produced. My wife has used this CD daily since 2012 and has had no new lesions since; although she is tagged as having PPMS. Since 2012 no other medications were used, but she did attend Raike Therapy during that same time period. Raike was discontinued in late 2016. She took her first dose of Ocrevus in August 2017 and had her third dose of Ocrevus last Monday. We are seeing improvements and look hopefully to what happens during the next 6 months. The Guided Imagery MS CD will continue as a daily part of her life.

Cathy Chester avatar

Cathy Chester

You are right. Guided imagery is another useful method for not only people with MS but anyone living with illness. Thank you for bringing that to our attention.

Best in health~


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