Neuropathy literally means sick nerves. There are quite a few different reasons why people develop neuropathy. Neuropathy quite frequently is associated with diabetes, vitamin shortages, inflammation of the nerves and toxins that poison the nerves. We’ve discussed a number of the conditions that cause nerves to become ill in patients.
Patients experiencing the symptoms and signs of neuropathy experience pain, burning, numbness and other strange sensations called paresthesias most often starting in the feet and progressing throughout the remainder of the body. The pain and other symptoms may be painful and incapacitate no matter the reason behind the neuropathy.
The nervous system in higher animals like humans is an extremely intricate collection of specialized cells called neurons. Neurons have a lot of unique features, including a wire-like procedure called an axon. The axon functions very much like an electrical wire and it includes encoded electric signals called nerve impulses throughout the body. Exactly like a copper wire, the nerve axon has insulation around it called myelin. Unlike a copper wire, a nerve cell and its wire-like axon are living tissue.
The neuron contains all of the necessary cellular machinery to produce energy, keep itself and create energy to support its purpose of transmitting and receiving electrical signals. Every neuron is an electrochemical marvel and is in essence a battery. This awesome communication system happens at the microscopic level and absorbs incredible amounts of energy to work properly.
The myelin insulation surrounding the nerve axon is also a living tissue as well as the neural cell and its myelin cell partners are arranged to keep and encourage one another.
The nervous system typically does a remarkable job of receiving and sending formation from several areas of the body and functions both as a sensor system to track what’s happening in the body and as an effector system that drive necessary changes in the body depending on the input from the sensors.
Due to its complexity the nervous system and its supporting myelin cells is exposed to the smallest disturbance in metabolism. The axons are just like a microscopic spider’s web yet they travel great distances in the body. They may get dys-regulated very easily by injury or compression.
Think of the nervous system for a dwelling, delicate, vulnerable communications system that absorbs extraordinary amounts of energy for proper functioning and maintenance. It’s no surprise that the nervous system is vulnerable to injury, illness, metabolic abnormalities, immune issues and a number of other afflictions that may make it malfunction and sick.
Malfunctioning of the peripheral nervous system occurs frequently and when this happens people develop the cardinal signs of poly-neuropathy.
In spite of the fact that poly-neuropathy is among the most frequent diseases of the peripheral nervous system, there are several FDA approved drugs available to treat it. Many patients who try western prescription drugs for relief of the neuropathy symptoms are disappointed with the results.
Too often newer drugs in the research pipeline seem promising but fail because of unwanted side effects. The research and information obtained from unsuccessful drug development experiments can sometimes be applied to herbal medicine where natural compounds may work in a similar fashion as artificial compounds, but with less unpleasant side effects. The scientific study of natural substances that may mimic synthetic drugs is called Pharmacognosy.
If this knowledge is applied to the nervous system, we call it Neuropharmacognosy. You may interpret this as the analysis of the pharmacology of natural substances that may influence the function of the nervous system. There are a variety of natural substances that may mimic the pharmacology of drugs used in the treatment of neuropathy.
According to experimental data on neural function and disorder several broad classes of substances may have theoretical program in the relief of symptoms of neuropathy.
It seems when nerves become ill that raising a chemical called GABA may calm down irritable and inflamed nerves and supply relief for individuals struggling with the symptoms of neuropathy. You may think of GABA as a brake pedal which slows down the signs of neuropathy. There’s research that indicates the herbs Valerian root and lemon balm may increase GABA thus applying the body’s brake on runaway nerve pain.
Valerian root may block an enzyme called GABA-T that breaks down and neutralizes GABA in the nervous system. By blocking the breakdown of GABA, Valerian root may prolong the braking effect of GABA on the nerve and slow down neuropathy symptoms.
Lemon Balm appears to boost the effect of GABA in a slightly different manner. As opposed to blocking the breakdown of GABA, Lemon Balm may stimulate an enzyme called GAD that’s responsible for constructing GABA. Hence the braking action of GABA on the ailing nerve is encouraged by the increased production of the neurotransmitter
If GABA acts like the body’s brake on a runaway nervous system, Glutamate is the neural ‘s gas pedal. Studies indicate that injured nerves become hyper-sensitive since Glutamate is released following the nervous system is bloated. This has the effect of sensitizing the nerve and contributing to the signs and symptoms of neuropathy.
There are two potentially important herbs that may block the effects of Glutamate on the nervous system .
The first is Theanine, a protein derived from green tea. Theanine is thought to function as a Glutamate analog. It follows that Theanine is processed by the body such as Glutamate but doesn’t have the nerve stimulating effects of Glutamate. Consider Theanine as a blank bullet which has the net effect of reducing the activities of Glutamate.
The other herb which may decrease the excitatory effects of Glutamate, is Magnolia Bark. Magnolia Bark is thought to bind to a certain Glutamate receptor and block it. This implies that Magnolia Bark is a particular antagonist to Glutamate and may be a more specific approach to take-the-foot-off-the-gas-pedal in nerves damaged by neuropathy.
In keeping with our car analogy, if GABA is the brake on the nerve in neuropathy and Glutamate acts like the gas pedal, a third compound called Glycine may be thought of as the transmission. Glycine slows down the nervous system down. Think of shifting the nerve into low gear.
Glycine down changes the nerve in neuropathy directly thus slowing down and preventing painful transmission of nerve signals, but in addition it may also indirectly compete with Glutamate. The mechanism by which Glycine might offer relief to patients suffering from neuropathy is a little less direct. If a patient would have a massive dose of Glycine, the nerves will slow down. This effect wouldn’t last long however, because in the nervous system Glycine is carried away in the nerve by what’s called a Glycine Transporter.
Prickly Ash Bark
The herb Prickly Ash Bark seems to be a purposeful Glycine Transporter Inhibitor. Prickly Ash has a long history of use for relief of pain. Likewise, the naturally occurring compound Sarcosine is a known Glycine Transporter inhibitor. Both of these naturally occurring substances seem to be candidates for the relief of the symptoms and signs of neuropathy.
Another pathway which might be exploited for neuropathy relief is the endogenous cannabinoid receptor system. This system is triggered by marijuana and is thought to suppress pain in the high levels of the nervous system.
The receptors of the endogenous cannabinoid system can be activated for pain relief without creating a “high” and the side effects associated with marijuana medicine use by specific breakdown products of fatty acids in the nervous system.
This implies that these herbs through their capacity to modulate the action of this enzyme FAAH may be capable of activating the endogenous cannabinoid system and providing relief from neuropathic pain.
Finally with particular reference to neuropathy associated with diabetes, the Protein Kinase C or PKC enzyme and its connection with T-Type Calcium Channels could be therapeutic targets. It seems that elevated blood sugar modulates PKC in diabetic nerves. PKC seems to induce specific calcium channels in diabetic nerves called T-Type Calcium Channels. These changes are thought to induce hyper-sensitivity and excitability at least in nerves affected by diabetic neuropathy.
Chelidonium Majus is an herbal remedy that may modulate PKC. The alkaloid chelerythrine found in this herb is a potent antagonist of Protein Kinase C. This suggests a potential benefit of this herb in polyneuropathy. While generally safe some reports of liver toxicity correlate with Chelidonium Majus appear in the medical literature.
Picrorhiza Kurroa is an herb which has the phytochemical Apocynin. At least one study indicates that apocynin prevented or markedly reduces the up-regulation of Cav3.1 and Cav3.2 T-Type Calcium Channels. This implies that Picrorhiza Kurroa might be able to regulate the over-expression of T-Type Cav3.2 Calcium channels thought to contribute to the hyper-excitability of nerves found in diabetic neuropathy.
A last warning and note about using internet information to attempt and deal with a medical condition. Don’t do it! The use of this guide is provided solely for individuals to go over the included information with their licensed health care provider.
Herbal remedies while generally safe can have undesirable or unpredictable side effects. Only a licensed practitioner that’s familiar with your particular healthcare condition may safely diagnose and advise you about treatment for your individual condition. Always consult with and notify your doctor before making additions or changes to your treatment plan.