Have you ever felt so incredibly can’t-get-out-of-the-house tired, for months at a time, for no good reason?
If you’ve felt this way for 6+ months and no doctor can figure out what’s wrong with you, you may have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/CFS. Some research has suggested reactivated Epstein-Barr Virus/EBV (the virus that causes “mono”) plays a role in CFS,. Clinically, however, I find reactivated EBV is at least partially responsible for CFS in around 30% of the women I work with.
The Epstein-Barr virus can look like mono in it’s initial stages. Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, a low-grade fever, and in general just feeling like you’ve been run over by a truck are very common. After the “mono” stage is over… Epsein-Barr tends to stick around. Some evidence has suggested it can invade organs and contribute to 8 different autoimmune diseases including Hashimotos, and it tends to reactivate in times of stress.
In it’s reactivated form, it can cause extreme fatigue, depression, anxiety, joint pain, insomnia, a low grade fever, a slight sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
As long as I’ve worked with women with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/CFS, their conventional medicine doctors have overlooked the reactivated form of this common virus. It just isn’t on their radar (yet). This virus can live in someone for decades, sneaking in and out of activity because of stress or other imbalances in the body.
By the time you’re done reading this article, you’ll know if you most likely have reactivated Epstein-Barr, AND you’ll learn my favorite botanicals and supplements for recovering.
How To Test Yourself
First, talk with your doctor or practitioner about getting a lab that shows all four EBV antibodies. These antibodies include EBV VCA IgG, EBV VCA IgM, EBV EBNA IgG, and EBV EA IgG.
Interpretation of the EBV blood test in the way I’ll describe is pretty accurate, but not 100% accurate according to the medical literature. There are no definitive results when it comes to most lab tests, but these four antibodies give us a pretty good picture.
The most common picture of reactivation will be when the EBV EA IgG marker is raised beyond normal limits. This is the most important marker for understanding reactivation, and has been shown to be elevated in 10 out of 11 cases of reactivated EBV. The issue with this marker is that it’s also elevated in 20–30% of patients that are perfectly healthy now but did have a past Epstein-Barr infection like mononucleosis.
The EBV VCA IgG and EBV EBNA IgG markers will generally stay elevated for life. If only these two are elevated, you’re likely looking at a past infection. However, if either of these are in the triple digits, you may be “prone” to reactivation. Take note if you experience flu-like symptoms that come in waves, as this could be a sign of EBV rearing it’s head!
I find VCA IgM is rarely raised in reactivation and is usually raised in initial infection only (mononucleosis/glandular fever).
The typical picture of reactivation will be elevated EA IgG, VCA IgG, and EBNA IgG. If your antibody picture varies from this a bit but you’re still experiencing exhaustion, brain fog, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, hypothyroidism, and a sore or dry throat… EBV may still be reactivated. Talk with a practitioner that’s fluent in understanding EBV for more info.
Now that you know if you’re likely dealing with reactivation of EBV, let’s take a look at specific, scientifically studied botanicals and supplements to help get rid of it.
Note that the goal of recovering from reactivated EBV is to get the virus to go back into a “dormant” state.
Which Supplements & Botanicals Kill EBV?
Multiple different vitamins and minerals have scientific links showing their benefit to boosting up the immune system to attack viruses. These include vitamin A, D, methylated B12, C, and zinc.
The best direct anti-viral herbs and supplements for EBV include boswellia, turmeric, ginger, licorice (not DGL), selenium, alpha lipoic acid (caution if you have amalgam/mercury fillings), CBD oil, baicalin/Chinese Skullcap, passionflower, reishi, berberine, and lysine.
Some of the best herbs and supplements to support methylation and detoxification for EBV include Hawaiian spirulina, NAC, P5P, and methyl groups such as SAMe, methyl-, adenosyl-, and hydroxycobalamin.
I generally recommend incorporating standard daily values of vitamin A, D, and zinc, although more may be needed if a blood test shows deficiency. If alkaline phosphatase (part of a standard blood test) is lower than 70 u/l, that is generally a fairly good indication of magnesium and/or zinc deficiency. I recommend incorporating fairly large doses of vitamin C and B12 as they are water soluble and can be taken in higher concentrations than vitamins A and D without risk of toxicity.
For the direct anti-viral herbs and supplements, I recommend starting with a heavy dose of 3–5 of these products and rotating or adding in as you recover.
Supporting methylation and detoxification is usually necessary as genetics play a role in these processes as well. It’s especially important if you have the MTHFR gene. So as not to overdo it with supplements, I generally recommend just 1–2 of the methylation & detoxification products at a time.
Other Considerations In The Big Picture Of Reactivated Epstein-Barr
It’s incredibly important to note that “killing” the EBV virus is just the first step. The bigger picture is bringing your body back into a state of balance so the immune system isn’t compromised and the EBV doesn’t take over again. In the greater picture of so many conditions that tend to have “layers” like chronic Lyme, reactivated EBV, adrenal fatigue, hormone imbalance, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/CFS, it’s incredibly important to make sure not only are you killing the bad guys, but also supporting detox and methylation pathways, understanding if gut bugs are present, if environmental or mold illness is a factor, if food allergies are present, if autoimmunity against the thyroid or other organs is at play, and if there’s systemic inflammation that’s halting the healing process.
If the big picture of your health is complicated, I highly recommend seeking out a functional medicine practitioner who is well versed in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
Reactivated EBV can start to turn around in as little as 2 weeks, although many need a longer-term program that lasts multiple months to notice a huge difference. If you’re on the right track, you should see your antibodies decrease after 2 months.
After this time, go back to step one and retest yourself for EBV antibodies. If you are moving in the right direction, your antibodies (ANY of the four) should go down. Of course, the most important part is to get you feeling radically better, but seeing absolute proof that what you are doing is working can be a wonderful support!
As with any advice you read on the internet, this info is for educational purposes only. Before implementing any changes in your diet/lifestyle/supplement routine, be sure you talk with your own doctor to understand if these suggestions are appropriate for you.
All the best in your radical recovery from reactivated EBV,
1 Loebel (2014) Deficient EBV-specific B- and T-cell response in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24454857
2 Fagundes (2014) Attachment anxiety is related to Epstein-Barr virus latency. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24945717
3 Esterling (1993) Defensiveness, trait anxiety, and Epstein-Barr viral capsid antigen antibody titers in healthy college students. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8500440
4 Onozawa (2017) Inflammatory cytokine production in chronic active Epstein-Barr virus infection. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28381684
5 Janegova (2015) The role of Epstein-Barr virus infection in the development of autoimmune thyroid diseases. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25931043
6 Samson (2017) Local Doctor Gives Hope To Fibromyalgia Sufferers http://www.14news.com/story/2271049/local- doctor-gives-hope-to fibromyalgia-sufferers (article, not a clinical study)
7 Pavletic (2017) Early Disseminated Lyme Disease Causing False-Positive Serology for Primary Epstein-Barr Virus Infection: Report of 2 Cases. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28379435
8 Harley (2018) Transcription factors operate across disease loci, with EBNA2 implicated in autoimmunity https://www.nature.com/articles/s41588-018-0102-3
9 Henle (1981) Epstein-Barr virus-specific serology in immunologically compromised individuals. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6272966
10 Mora (2010) Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2906676/
11 Kubota (1999) Immunomodulation by vitamin B12: augmentation of CD8+ T lymphocytes and natural killer (NK) cell activity in vitamin B12-deficient patients by methyl-B12 treatment. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1905232/
12 Mikirova (2014) Effect of high dose vitamin C on Epstein-Barr viral infection. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4015650/ (intravenous study)
13 Aras (200) Zinc Coordination Is Required for and Regulates Transcription Activation by Epstein-Barr Nuclear Antigen 1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2690687/
14 Akihisa (2006) Cancer chemopreventive effects and cytotoxic activities of the triterpene acids from the resin of Boswellia carteri. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16946522
15 Kapadia (2002) Inhibitory effect of herbal remedies on 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate-promoted Epstein- Barr virus early antigen activation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11884218
16 Vimala (1999) Anti-tumour promoter activity in Malaysian ginger rhizobia used in traditional medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=ginger+vimala
17 Lin (2003) Mechanism of action of glycyrrhizic acid in inhibition of Epstein-Barr virus replication in vitro. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12834859
18 Beck (2007) Selenium and vitamin E status: impact on viral pathogenicity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17449602
19 Scrumpia (2014) Alpha-lipoic acid effects on brain glial functions accompanying double-stranded RNA antiviral and inflammatory signaling. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24269587
20 Mecha (2013) Cannabidiol provides long-lasting protection against the deleterious effects of inflammation in a viral model of multiple sclerosis: a role for A2A receptors. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23851307
21 Konoshima (1992) Studies on inhibitors of skin tumor promotion. XI. Inhibitory effects of flavonoids from Scutellariabaicalensis on Epstein-Barr virus activation and their anti-tumor-promoting activities. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1318792
22 Akihisa (2007) Anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor-promoting effects of triterpene acids and sterols from the fungus Ganoderma lucidum. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17311233
23 Park (2016) Berberine induces mitochondrial apoptosis of EBV-transformed B cells through p53-mediated regulation of XAF1 and GADD45α. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27121748
24 Imai (2014) Role of the histone H3 lysine 9 methyltransferase Suv39 h1 in maintaining Epstein-Barr virus latency in B95–8 cells. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24588869