Safety concerns about any side effects of many antidepressant medications have led to increased herbal psychopharmacology research. Additionally, a general trend toward natural solutions increases herbal remedy popularity. As such, more people seek effective alternatives or supplements to prescribed medications traditionally used as mental health therapies. With that in mind, five herbs for mental health have research to support their efficacy with a variety of mental illness symptoms when used in cooking, teas, baths, tinctures, salve, or in capsule form.
Saffron has been used in folk and Ayurvedic medicine as a sedative, expectorant, anti-asthma treatment, emmenagogue, adaptogenic agent, pain relief solution. Research shows that saffron is on of the effective herbs for depression that reduces the symptoms. Research has also shown to be as effective as the antidepressants, imipramine, and fluoxetine. Besides being an antidepressant, it calms the central nervous system (CNS) and has anti-anxiety effects. Other studies show there is a benefit to anxiety as well. Saffron relaxes the muscles of the digestive tract to reduce spasms which helps digest food and enhances appetite.
Bacopa has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic traditional medicine and has many pharmacological and therapeutic benefits. It is an adaptogen, antidepressant, and used for focus and energy. Adaptogens help people lower stress by restoring the biological capacity to adapt and respond to environmental stressors. Bacopa is also considered a nootropic, or a compound that enhances brain function, especially memory and cognitive processing. Bacopa may increase the effects of key neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, and acetylcholine, which calm the CNS and support mood balancing. Research indicates that Barcopa is one of the natural anxiety supplements that works for people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For those with memory, focus, or learning issues, which can be impacted by mental health issues, research has found the Bocapa improves these conditions.
Rhodiola has been a part of traditional medicine systems in parts of Europe, Asia, and Russia for centuries to improve performance and to reduce fatigue and depression. It has both adaptogenic properties and ergogenic capacity. Rhodiola supports Tyrosine in the body, which assists with focus. It is a mild stimulant and can help with low energy in the afternoon. Research has been shown to support its efficacy with stress, anxiety, athletic performance and endurance, mental performance, and fatigue.
Kava is an herb that is a member of the pepper family and native to the islands of the South Pacific. It is known for its anxiolytic, antiepileptic, antidepressant, antipsychotic, and sedative properties. Its calming qualities make it one of the effective herbs for anxiety that also improves sleep. Short-term use of kava has been noted as effective for patients with mild to moderate anxiety disorders who are not using alcohol or taking other medicines metabolized by the liver, but who wish to use natural remedies. Research supports that Kava compares favorably to benzodiazepines, which are used to treat anxiety and can be addictive. It is also been known to improve cognitive abilities, which can be impacted by depression and anxiety.
Licorice, a common herb used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, contains beneficial metabolites. Licorice root has many benefits and can be used as an anti-inflammatory, expectorant, demulcent, adaptogen, anti-viral, anti-tumor, and antidepressant. The minerals found in licorice are very stimulating and support adrenal functions, which can be particularly impacted by stress. It also can soothe the stomach and speed the repair of the stomach lining and restore balance, which research has shown the importance of the brain-gut connection in mental health.
Many causes of mental illness arising out of the central nervous system or chemical imbalances. All patients should visit a certified psychiatrist or psychologist who can diagnose mental illness with the appropriate mental illness tests. However, for those whose mental illness treatment history shows little change, complementary and alternative medicine offers natural remedies for depression and anxiety that can be used to support other therapies.
*Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new supplement regime and on specific dosages or possible drug interactions.
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Dr. Roseann is a Psychologist and Therapist and our center provides expert-level care for children, adults, and families from all over the US, supporting them with research-based and holistic therapies that are bridged with neuroscience. She is a Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS) and Epidemic Answers, Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach. She is also a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), Connecticut Counseling Association (CCA), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).
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