Controlling Epstein-Barr Virus (the Mononucleosis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Virus) using Larrea Tridentata
Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is the virus responsible for causing infectious mononucleosis (“mono”), otherwise known as glandular fever. The virus is widespread globally, with 75% of U.K. adults infected. 50% of infections in adolescents and young adults may be due to EBV.
EBV has also been linked with other, more serious conditions such as Burkitt’s lymphoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma, as well as B-cell lymphomas in patients with supressed immune systems, T-cell lymphomas, acute leukemia and Hodgkin’s disease1. More recently, associations were also made between EBV and multiple sclerosis (MS)2 and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)3,4,5.
What is Epstein-Barr Virus and what symptoms can it cause?
Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) belongs to the herpes family of viruses. It is sometimes referred to as Human Herpes Virus-4 (HHV-4). Viruses are tiny parasites that enter our cells and reproduce, potentially damaging or killing our cells along the way.
EBV infection can be subclinical, which means that a person is carrying the virus but does not have overt symptoms, or it can be clinical and cause infectious mononucleosis.
The classical symptoms of mononucleosis are fatigue, fever, sore throat and swollen lymph nodes; however, people may have all or only some of these symptoms.
EBV has also been linked with chronic fatigue syndrome, an illness characterized by severe to debilitating fatigue that impairs daily function and is often made worse by exertion, exercise, headache, sore throat, and other stresses. It may be accompanied by enlarged, painful lymph nodes; sore throat; headache; painful joints; abdominal pain; muscle pain; low-grade fever; and cognitive difficulty, especially difficulty concentrating and sleeping.
EBV is associated with other, potentially life-threatening diseases, including lymphomas and autoimmune diseases. Hodgkins disease and non-Hodgkins lymphoma are malignant processes whereby cancer cells arising from the immune and lymphatic systems proliferate beyond normal levels.
SLE is a chronic, inflammatory connective tissue disorder that can involve joints, kidneys, mucous membranes and blood vessel walls, causing joint pain, rashes, kidney problems, and central nervous system symptoms, to name a few. It caused by an autoimmune process whereby the body’s immune cells react to its own tissues and cause inflammation and damage.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system. Nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord lose their protective sheath and undergo degenerative changes. Symptoms of MS include loss of sensation and movement in arms or legs, trunk, or face; weakness or clumsiness of a leg or hand; and visual disturbances. There may be a loss of bladder control, progressive spasticity of muscles, and involuntary tremors.
How is EBV spread and how prevalent is it?
Overall, millions of people worldwide are infected with EBV. About 50% of children have had primary EBV infection by the age of five6, and it is estimated that over 75% of the total population will test positive for EBV7. These rates are higher in lower socioeconomic groups and in crowded living conditions. In most, the primary infection is subclinical. In adolescents or adults, it may be subclinical or it may be recognized as infectious mononucleosis.
After the primary infection, EBV remains within the host for life and is intermittently shed from the oropharynx (mouth and throat). Therefore a person might be shedding the virus and passing it to someone else without realizing it or being symptomatic themselves. Because it is shed from the oropharynx, it may be passed via kissing or other contact with saliva. EBV can also be spread via the transfusion of blood products.
What treatments are available for EBV?
There are a number of treatment approaches for EBV. The main goals of treatment are to inhibit the growth of the virus and to boost the immune system to optimize the body’s own defenses against the virus.
One option is to take anti-viral drugs such as Zovirax® and Valtrex®. Their active ingredients are acyclovir and valcyclovir respectively. These drugs act to alter the viral DNA so that the virus cannot replicate. Unfortunately, acyclovir and valcyclovir act at a late stage of viral replication, when viral DNA is already being made, which means that a lot of what the EBV does during an infection has already been done. Anti-viral drugs such as these have limited usefulness in infectious mononucleosis, and are not commonly used. Other drug treatments for EBV include acetaminophen to reduce fever, and corticosteroids if the symptoms of pharyngitis are severe.
Another option is to use natural treatments to both boost the immune system and suppress the virus. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables while avoiding simple sugars, alcohol and caffeine will help to support the immune system. Adequate rest and sleep are also important. Stress, whether physiological or emotional, takes its toll on immune function, so any measures that can reduce or help manage stress are important.
The most exciting development in the area of natural treatments for EBV has come from research on an herb named Larrea tridentata. Larrea products containing concentrated leaf resin have been shown to have significant anti-viral and antioxidant activity.
Natural ingredients from Larrea leaf resin inhibit viral replication by at least three documented mechanisms. At least two of the active ingredients in Larrea act to inhibit the activity of a certain gene promoter that is important for viral replication. When they inhibit this promoter, the appropriate gene cannot work and the viruses cannot function in the process of making more viruses. Larrea comes in an oral dietary supplement, and in lotion and spray forms.
Many people have reported benefit from taking one to two Larrea leaf resin capsules daily. Larrea naturally helps combat the virus, while also supporting the immune system. Taking oral Larrea leaf resin capsules during and after an episode of infectious mononucleosis can also help prevent the chronic fatigue that may otherwise linger for weeks or months even after the other symptoms of the infection have cleared.
There are no proven drug treatments for EBV or infectious mononucleosis. Natural treatments for EBV may be just as effective or more effective than prescription drugs, as they support the immune system while limiting the virus. Be sure to consult with a knowledgeable and qualified health professional who can guide you on a program that is designed specifically for you.
Safety and Contraindications:
Oral Larrea products (i.e. capsules) should not be used by pregnant or lactating (nursing) women. Oral Larrea products are not recommended for children under age 12. People taking any over-the-counter or prescription medication on a regular basis should consult their physician before taking oral Larrea products. Seek advice from a health care practitioner before use if you have had or may have had liver disease. Discontinue use if any unusual symptoms such as nausea, fever, fatigue, abdominal pain or jaundice (e.g. dark urine, yellow discoloration of the eyes or skin) should occur. Sensitivity reactions to these topical products are extremely rare, but it is still wise to do a patch test before use. Apply the Larrea product to a small area of skin and check for any reaction, such as redness or swelling. If no reaction has occurred after 24 hours, it is safe to use the product more extensively.
If any undesirable effects occur, discontinue using the products immediately. Any serious reactions or undesirable effects that do not resolve when use of the product has been discontinued, should be immediately referred to a qualified health practitioner. Any other questions relating to the specific uses of Larrea should be directed to a qualified health care professional. For more information about Larrea and its general health utility, visit the International Larrea Medical Society at: www.larreamed.org
1. Mitarnun, et. al. (2002) Epstein-barr virus-associated non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma of B-cell origin, Hodgkin’s disease, acute leukemia, and systemic lupus erythematosus: a serologic and molecular analysis. J Med Assoc Thai May;85(5):552-9.
2. Levin, et. al. (2003) Multiple sclerosis and Epstein-Barr virus.
Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Mar 26;289(12):1533-6.
3. McClain, Harley and James (2001) The role of Epstein-Barr virus in systemic lupus erythematosus. Front Biosci Oct 1;6:E137-47.
4. James, et. al. (1997) An increased prevalence of Epstein-Barr virus infection in young patients suggests a possible etiology for systemic lupus erythematosus. J Clin Invest Dec 15;100(12):3019-26.
5. Incaprera, Rindi and Garzelli (1998) Potential role of the Epstein-Barr virus in systemic lupus erythematosus autoimmunity. Clin Exp Rheumatol May-Jun;16(3):289-94.
6. Beers and Berkow, Eds (1999). The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, 17th Ed. Merck & Co., Inc. Whitehouse Station, NJ, USA.
7. Clark (2003) Treating herpes naturally with Larrea tridentata. International Larrea Medical Society. USA.
Beers and Berkow, Eds (1999). The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, 17th Ed. Merck & Co., Inc. Whitehouse Station, NJ, USA.
Clark (2003) Treating herpes naturally with Larrea tridentata. International Larrea Medical Society. USA.