By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.
Fatigue, fever, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, rash? These might be mono symptoms. Mononucleosis, often referred to as “mono,” is an illness caused by the Epstein Barr virus, also known as “EBV.” Epstein Barr is a very common contagious virus. An EBV infection sometimes leads to mononucleosis symptoms. Acupuncture and TCM herbs can help relieve mono symptoms in adults, teens, and children.
Mononucleosis is an infectious disease caused by the Epstein Barr virus. EBV is one of the family of herpes viral infections. Most people (over 90%) are infected with EBV at some time in their lives, but many aren’t aware of it.
How is mono contagious? Epstein Barr spreads through body fluids, especially saliva. This is why mononucleosis is sometimes called the “kissing disease.” You can catch EBV by sharing a cup or bottle, for example. It can also be spread through sexual contact, sharing needles, blood transfusions, or organ transplants.
The Epstein Barr virus can be present for several weeks before a person starts showing any mononucleosis symptoms. Often people will have the virus, but not show any Epstein Barr symptoms at all. During that time, they may be contagious and able to pass the virus to others.
Mono symptoms can take a while to develop, and may not be recognized right away as anything other than a simple cold or flu. For some people, especially children, EPV will cause a short-term illness that seems like a common cold. However, some people, especially teenagers and young adults, will develop mononucleosis, which causes serious fatigue and other symptoms.
Mono may clear up in a few weeks, but for some people it can drag on for months. Sometimes mononucleosis turns into a long-standing illness, causing extreme fatigue that just doesn’t seem to want to go away.
As with other viruses, like herpes simplex or varicella/chicken pox, which can later lead to shingles, EBV can stay in the body in a dormant state for a long time. Some people with weakened immune systems may have EBV reactivate and cause illness again, or cause them to be contagious to others again.
It is now believed that reactivation of the Epstein Barr virus may be an underlying cause that contributes to some chronic autoimmune disorders, like ME/CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome), lupus, MS, celiac disease, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and hyperthyroidism.
There is really no specific medical mono treatment. Doctors and patients will usually treat it the same as they would a cold, recommending rest and over the counter medicines to reduce fever and pain while they wait it out.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs offer a more comprehensive way to deal with the fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and muscle aches associated with mononucleosis. TCM treatment can also boost the immune system so that an Epstein Barr viral infection doesn’t lead to more serious illness or autoimmune disorders later on.
Top 10 Mononucleosis Symptoms
Many people contract the Epstein Barr virus and are never aware of it, either because they experience no symptoms, or the symptoms are similar to those of a mild cold or flu. How do you know if you have mono? Mononucleosis symptoms develop differently in each individual, but the most common Epstein Barr symptoms include:
- Fatigue, extreme fatigue, tired all the time, exhausted, feeling weak
- Foggy head, difficulty concentrating
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes, swollen glands in the neck and armpits
- Fever, high fever
- Rash, skin rash, mono rash, viral rash
- Loss of appetite, no appetite
- Muscle pain, joint pain
- Abdominal pain, swollen spleen, enlarged spleen, enlarged liver
Mono affects the liver and spleen, sometimes causing swelling, jaundice, and even a kind of temporary mono hepatitis. In rare cases, EBV can cause serious liver problems, leading to acute liver failure, and the need for a liver transplant.
EBV can also cause further complications, like swollen tonsils, anemia, low blood platelet count, and inflammation of the heart. Epstein Barr sometimes leads to other nervous system disorders, like: viral meningitis, encephalitis, and Guillain-Barre syndrome.
The TCM approach to Epstein Barr virus can provide a natural remedy for mononucleosis symptoms, and work to strengthen the immune system, as well as the liver and spleen.
Can Acupuncture Help Mono?
We now know that mononucleosis is caused by a specific viral infection. Most people get this virus, but relatively few people have a full-blown case of mononucleosis. Most people who do get mono have it when they are teenagers, or in college. Why do some people get mono and others don’t? It has to do with the immune system. People who have a weakened immune system are more likely to get mono, and more likely to have mono for a long time. In some cases, the virus takes a deep hold in the body, and can be triggered again some time later, causing more illness.
Acupuncture and TCM healing modalities can work well for diseases that can be hard to treat with conventional medicine. Chinese herbs and acupuncture treatment can help address the specific cold and flu-like symptoms of mono, like sore throat, fever, headache, muscle ache, headaches, and skin rash. Acupuncture treatment can also help to restore normal function of the spleen and liver. Finally, acupuncture treatment can be used as an ongoing preventive care to build up the immune system.
This means also taking steps to address mental and emotional well-being. It is now understood that autoimmune disorders can be triggered by life stress, mental health disorders like anxiety or depression, or post-traumatic stress. This means, if a person has had EBV, has weakened immunity, and then goes through some difficult period, event, loss, or illness, they may have an increased chance of developing an autoimmune disorder, like chronic fatigue.
By taking a proactive attitude in addressing Epstein Barr and mononucleosis, and working holistically to address underlying problems with the immune system, TCM herbs and acupuncture treatment can help prevent EBV from showing up later in the form of an autoimmune disorder.
Not much scientific research has yet been done to show how acupuncture helps EBV or mono. However, more medical doctors are beginning to recognize that Eastern medicine can offer benefits for illnesses like mononucleosis, Epstein Barr, and other diseases.
One clinical study of children treated with conventional medicine versus TCM herbal formulations showed that the herbs helped children recover from EBV symptoms like swollen tonsils more quickly.
Acupuncture Near Me for Mononucleosis/Epstein Barr Virus – West Los Angeles
TCM has developed methods for treating illnesses of all kinds over many centuries; the paradigm for categorizing diseases and what causes them is different than that in Western medicine. Thus, we are able to look at each person’s symptoms and constitution on an individual basis, and provide treatment so that they feel better and their organ systems actually get stronger. The doctors at Art of Wellness have over 35 years of experience helping people overcome lengthy illnesses and chronic fatigue.
*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.