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Supplements to Ease Nerve Pain

Polyneuropathy can be an excruciating complication of diabetes that may be difficult to treat. This nerve pain may respond to two uncommon supplements.

Nerve pain (polyneuropathy) is hard to treat. Even heavy-duty narcotics may not ease the pain adequately.

This is bad news, especially for people with diabetes. Up to 16 percent of them may suffer with diabetic neuropathy and often get little help alleviating the pain. Certain supplements can be helpful, though.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid for Nerve Pain:

Q. My husband has suffered with polyneuropathy for three years. After his doctors said there was no cure, we located a cure at our vitamin store and want to share it with others.

He takes 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) daily. We are elated with the results. We have a neighbor who also began taking it and he too is much improved.

A. A randomized, placebo-controlled study in Russia and Israel showed that 600 mg of ALA daily can greatly ease the symptoms of neuropathy such as stabbing or burning pain, numbness and “pins and needles” (Diabetes Care, Nov. 2006).

A recent article points out that ALA is one of the few treatments that has shown promise for diabetic polyneuropathy and calls for more research (Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews, online Feb. 5, 2013).

A meta-analysis from the Netherlands found that alpha-lipoic acid (600 mg/day) offered significant benefit for polyneuropathy (Diabetic Medicine, online Jan. 29, 2016). So did opioids, botulinum toxin A (Botox) and Thai foot massage-a surprising list.

Consider Benfotiamine:

Another non-prescription approach to this problem is benfotiamine, a synthetic form of the B vitamin thiamine. We learned about it from Charles Beauchamp, MD, PhD, several years ago. He recommends a starting dose of 300 mg twice a day to start with, and 150 mg twice daily as maintenance. After he made this recommendation, we heard from a reader:

“I appreciate the suggestion of benfotiamine for my foot pain. Within a month it has totally cleared up, and I am ready to move to a maintenance regimen.”

Much of the recent research on benfotiamine for polyneuropathy has been done in Eastern Europe and has not been published in English. German scientists who did a randomized controlled trial of benfotiamine found that it was well tolerated and helped ease pain (Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology & Diabetes, Nov., 2008). An earlier German study had also found that benfotiamine can alleviate polyneuropathy (International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Feb., 2005).

You’ll find more stories about benfotiamine at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Share your experience with remedies for nerve pain in the comments below.

Revised 7/7/2016

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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