Heal with herbs and spices

There are many herbs and spices which can help with mental health issues. It’s best to try one at a time, for at least 6 weeks, and ideally for 12 weeks to give it the time to take effect Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 40..

Herbs and spices can be powerful and it’s always best to work with a qualified herbalist.

Curcumin is the compound in turmeric which has the ability to block an enzyme that causes inflammation (COX-2), while protecting vital organs such as the brain and the heart from free radical damage Rao, C. V. (2007). Regulation of COX and LOX by curcumin. [online] Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 595, pp. 213-26. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17569213 [accessed 7 Sept. 2017]., Aggarwal, B. B. and Harikumar, K. B. (2009). Potential therapeutic effects of curcumin, the anti-inflammatory agent, against neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, autoimmune and neoplastic diseases. [online] International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, 41(1), pp. 40-59. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18662800 [accessed 7 Sept. 2017]..

Role in mental health

  • Early evidence shows that curcumin can have an antidepressant effect and mood lifting effect Sanmukhani, J., Satodia, V., Trivedi, J., Patel, T., Tiwari, D., Panchal, B., Goel, A. and Tripathi, C. B. (2014). Efficacy and safety of curcumin in major depressive disorder: a randomized controlled trial. [online] Phytotherapy Research, 28 (4), pp. 579-85. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23832433 [accessed 7 Sept. 2017]., Sahebkar, A. (2014). Are curcuminoids effective C-reactive protein-lowering agents in clinical practice? Evidence from a meta-analysis. [online] Phytotherapy Research, 28 (5), pp. 633-42. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23922235 [accessed 7 Sept. 2017].
  • Curcumin can improve cognition and memory (anti ageing conference reference)
  • Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, it can protect the brain against inflammation and inflammation-driven mental health issues
    • Curcumin lowers levels of CRP Sahebkar, A. (2014). Are curcuminoids effective C-reactive protein-lowering agents in clinical practice? Evidence from a meta-analysis. [online] Phytotherapy Research, 28 (5), pp. 633-42. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23922235 [accessed 7 Sept. 2017].
  • Curcumin aids in detoxification which can help rid the body of toxic load
  • Curcumin promotes the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which can improve brain function and memory Hucklenbroich, J., Klein, R., Neumaier, B., Graf, R., Fink, G. R., Schroeter, M. and Rueger, M. A. (2014). Aromatic-turmerone induces neural stem cell proliferation in vitro and in vivo. [online] Stem Cell Research & Therapy, 5 (4), p. 100. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4180255/ [accessed 7 Sept. 2017].
  • Curcumin can help prevent and dissolve beta-amyloid plaques involved in cognitive decline Baum, L., Lam, C. W., Cheung, S. K, Kwok, T., Lui, V., Tsoh, J., Lam, L., Leung, V., Hui, E., Ng, C., Woo, J., Chiu, H. F., Goggins, W. B., Zee, B. C., Cheng, K. F., Fong, C. Y., Wong, A., Mok, H., Chow, M. S., Ho, P. C., Ip, S. P., Ho, C. S., Yu, X. W., Lai, C. Y., Chan, M. H., Szeto, S., Chan, I. H. and Mok, V. (2008). Six-month randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, pilot clinical trial of curcumin in patients with Alzheimer disease. [online] Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 28 (1), pp. 110-3. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18204357 [accessed 7 Sept. 2017].
  • Curcumin can help in promoting healthy digestion Bundy, R., Walker, A. F., Middleton, R. W. and Booth, J. (2004). Turmeric extract may improve irritable bowel syndrome symptomology in otherwise healthy adults: a pilot study. [online] Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 10 (6), pp. 1015-8. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15673996 [accessed 7 Sept. 2017]. 

Supplementing

  • Standardized extract to 95% of curcuminoids
  • 1000mg daily
  • Best absorbed with bioperine (black pepper) ideally 20mg, which has been shown to increase absorption by 2000% Shoba, G., Joy, D., Joseph, T., Majeed, M., Rajendran, R. and Srinivas, P. S. (1998). Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. [online] Planta Medica, 64 (4), pp. 353-6. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9619120 [accessed 7 Sept. 2017].

Role in mental health

Saffron has been shown to be effective in helping with the following mental health symptoms:

  • Depression
    • According to 6 randomized trials, saffron has been shown to be effective for depression, and in two of those trials it was shown to be as effective as Prozac for depression and PMS
  • PMS
  • Anxiety
    • Used in Ayurveda to lower Vata (restless energy)

Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 138.

Supplementing

  • Take 15mg twice a day
  • Saffron supplements can be very expensive

Role in mental health

A herb which has been used for hundreds of years, St John’s wort can be helpful in treating depression and anxiety, due to its positive effect on serotonin and due to its effect on inflammation and oxidation which helps to normalise the nervous system (HPA axis) Alramadhan, E., Hanna, M. S., Hanna, Mena S., Goldstein, T. A., Avila, S. M. and Weeks, B. S. (2012). Dietary and botanical anxiolytics. [online] Medical Science Monitor, 18 (4), RA40-RA48. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3560823/ [accessed 7 Sept. 2017]..

It is thought that much of the antidepressive activity of St John’s wort is due to hypericin, which inhibits both serotonin reuptake and monoamine oxidase (MAO). MAO is a substance that breaks down various brain chemicals (including norepinephrine and serotonin) that are involved in controlling mood. Inhibiting MAO means these transmitters are active for longer periods of time, leading to improvements in mood” Holt, S. and MacDonald, I. (2011). Depression: Natural Remedies That Really Work. N.Z: Wairau Press, pp. 138-9..

  • Mild depression
    • Superior to placebo for depression based on a review of 23 randomized control trials of 1,757 patients Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 148.
    • “A number of well-controlled studies comparing the St. John’s wort extract to prescription antidepressants such as fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil) have found St. John’s wort to be comparable in effectiveness, but superior to prescription drugs with regard to tolerability” Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 237.
    • While St. John’s wort has been shown to be as effective as antidepressants in the treatment of mild depression, it is not effective in the treatment of severe depression Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 237., Lake, J. (2009). Integrative Mental Health Care. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., p. 103.
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disorders and exhaustion associated with depression Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 192., Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 236.
  • Has been shown to diminish hot flashes in premenopausal women

Supplementation

  • 300mg 3x per day Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 192.
  • 300mg hypericin extract each morning with breakfast Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. London: Penguin, p. 79.
  • 450-900mg per day Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 229.
  • St John’s wort can take about 4-6 weeks to take effect, and must be taken regularly for the serotonin to accumulate Holt, S. and MacDonald, I. (2011). Depression: Natural Remedies That Really Work. N.Z: Wairau Press, p. 142.Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 237., Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. London: Penguin, p. 79.

Precautions

  • Because St. John’s wort acts on serotonin, it should not be taken with SSRI antidepressants unless under the supervision of a doctor, due to the risk of serotonin syndrome, and also the possibility of triggering psychosis Holt, S. and MacDonald, I. (2011). Depression: Natural Remedies That Really Work. N.Z: Wairau Press, p. 143., Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 192.
  • Can increase anxiety Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. London: Penguin, p. 79.
  • Increases sensitivity to sunlight
  • Avoid during pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Can interact with other medications so always inform your doctor if you are taking St John’s wort

Role in mental health

Has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and TCM (traditional Chinese Medicine) to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 234.. Gotu Kola can help with:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Cognitive issues

Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 234.

Supplementation

  • 60-180mg Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 229.

Precautions

  • Can cause elevated blood sugar

Role in mental health

  • A mild central nervous system depressant
  • Has been shown to have anti-anxiety effects
    • A review of placebo-controlled double-blind studies showed that kava was superior to placebo for the short-term management of generalised anxiety, and compared favourably to conventional anti-anxiety medication Lake, J. (2009). Integrative Mental Health Care. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., p. 173.

Precautions

  • May cause liver damage Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 231.

Role in mental health

  • Calming the nervous system and can help with anxiety
  • Can help with depression
  • Can help with insomnia

Amsterdam, J. D., Li, Y., Soeller, I., Rockwell, K., Mao, J. J. and Shults, J. (2013). A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral matricaria recutita (chamomile) extract therapy of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. [online] Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 29 (4), pp. 378-82. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3600416/ [accessed 8 Sept. 2017]., Amsterdam, J. D., Shults, J., Soeller, I., Mao, J. J., Rockwell, K. and Newberg, A. B. (2013). Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) May Have Antidepressant Activity in Anxious Depressed Humans – An Exploratory Study. [online] Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 18 (5), pp. 44-9. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3600408/ [accessed 8 Sept. 2017].

  • Most commonly used to help with poor sleep
  • Can also be used to help with anxiety
  • Can also be used to help with depression

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-870-valerian.aspx?activeingredientid=870

It can help with:

  • Sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability and nervousness
  • Attention and concentration

Franco, L., Sánchez, C., Bravo, R., Rodriguez, A., Barriga, C. and Juánez, J. C. (2012). The sedative effects of hops (Humulus lupulus), a component of beer, on the activity/rest rhythm. [online] Acta Physiologica Hungarica, 99 (2), pp. 133-9. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22849837 [accessed 8 Sept. 2017].http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-856-hops.aspx?activeingredientid=856&activeingredientname=hops

Role in mental health

It can help with:

Role in mental health

  • Can help improve memory Saenghong, N., Wattanathorn, J., Muchimapura, S., Tongun, T., Piyavhatkul, N., Banchonglikitkul, C. and Kajsongkram, T. (2012). Zingiber officinale Improves Cognitive Function of the Middle-Aged Healthy Women. [online] Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 383062. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3253463/ [accessed 8 Sept. 2017].
  • Can help improve cognition Saenghong, N., Wattanathorn, J., Muchimapura, S., Tongun, T., Piyavhatkul, N., Banchonglikitkul, C. and Kajsongkram, T. (2012). Zingiber officinale Improves Cognitive Function of the Middle-Aged Healthy Women. [online] Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 383062. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3253463/ [accessed 8 Sept. 2017].
  • Can help reduce symptoms of PMS Khayat, S., Kheirkhah, M., Moghadam, Z. B., Hamed Fanaei, H., Kasaeian, A. and Javadimehr, M. (2014). Effect of Treatment with Ginger on the Severity of Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms. [online] ISRN Obstetrics and Gynecology, 792708. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4040198/ [accessed 8 Sept. 2017].
  • Has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties Bode, A. and Dong, Z. (2011). Chapter 7: The Amazing and Mighty Ginger. [online] In: I. Benzie and S. Wachtel-Galor eds., Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, 2nd ed. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/ Taylor & Francis. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/ [accessed 8 Sept. 2017].Mashhadi, N. S., Ghiasvand, R., Askari, G., Hariri, M., Darvishi, L. and Mofid, M. R. (2013). Anti-Oxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Ginger in Health and Physical Activity: Review of Current Evidence. [online] International Journal of Preventative Medicine, 4 (Suppl 1), S36-S42. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665023/ [accessed 8 Sept. 2017].
  • Can help reduce anxiety Vishwakarma, S. L., Pal, S. C., Kasture, V. S. and Kasture, S. B. (2002). Anxiolytic and antiemetic activity of Zingiber officinale. [online] Phytotherapy Research, 16 (7), pp. 621-6. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12410541 [accessed 8 Sept. 2017].

Can be taken orally as an oil, or in aromatherapy preparation.

  • Can help with anxiety
  • Can help with focus, creativity and relaxation through its positive effects on alpha and theta brain waves
  • Can improve poor sleep

Koulivand, P. H., Ghadiri, M. K. and Gorji, A. (2013). Lavender and the Nervous System. [online] Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 681304. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612440/ [accessed 8 Sept. 2017].

Pycnogenol is a standardised extract of the bark of the French maritime pine tree Lake, J. (2009). Integrative Mental Health Care. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., p. 197..

Role in mental health

Pycnogenol is probably a safe and effective treatment of ADHD, but larger studies are needed to confirms its efficacy and determine optimal dosing strategies Lake, J. (2009). Integrative Mental Health Care. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., p. 197..

Brahmi is an important medicinal herbal in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India Lake, J. (2009). Integrative Mental Health Care. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., p. 197..

Role in mental health

  • The herbal is traditionally used to increase energy and enhance memory and mental performance
  • Only one study has been published on the use of this herbal for ADHD to date and it reported positive results Lake, J. (2009). Integrative Mental Health Care. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., p. 197.

Role in mental health

It can help with:

  • Memory
  • Attention and general cognitive functioning
  • Dementia
  • Schizophrenia
  • Insomnia and management of daytime sleepiness

Lake, J. (2009). Integrative Mental Health Care. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., p. 66, p. 240.

Thought to be a useful treatment for Alzheimer’s but research into Huperzine-A is in progress, and currently inconclusive.

Adaptogenic herbs

These herbs have been used for thousands of years, but there is little scientific research into their effectiveness Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 110..

Role in mental health

Adaptogenic herbs can help you adapt to stress, especially chronic and prolonged stress, by correcting imbalances in the neuroendocrine, metabolic and immune system Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 110., Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 219..

Role in mental health

  • Contain ginsenosides or eleutherosides
  • Ginsenosides are thought to interact within the Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to balance the body’s secretion of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) and cortisol Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 220.

Supplementation

  • Must be taken consistently for three to six weeks to produce benefits Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 221.

Panax Ginseng

Role in mental health
  • Reduces effects of high cortisol
  • Reduces fatigue
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Improves cognition
  • Improves memory
  • Improves mood

Supplementation

  • 200-400mg per day Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, pp. 110-1.
  • 100-200mg per day Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 220.

Korean red ginseng

Panax ginseng which has been steamed, which changes chemical composition.

Role in mental health
  • Can lower ratio of cortisol to DHEAS
  • Helps with menopausal symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, stress, anxiety and depression
Supplementation
  • 250-500mg a day for 3 months or less Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 111.

Siberian ginseng

Role in mental health
  • Potentially has a more stimulatory effect than an adaptogenic one Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 220.

Most commonly used herb in Ayurvedic medicine.

Role in mental health

  • Helps with sleep
  • Sexual tonic
  • Combats stress and anxiety
  • Fights fatigue

Supplementation

  • Few randomized controlled trials
  • 300mg twice a day Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 112.
  • 500-1000mg per day Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 222.

Traditionally used in Central and South America as a treatment for virtually every illness (hence its native Also named para toda, meaining ‘for everything’ or Brazilian ginseng

Role in mental health

Suma is now used as an adaptogen to

  • Adapt to stress
  • Boost immunity
  • Relieve chronic fatigue and anxiety

Supplementation

  • Few clinical trials have been conducted on suma
  • The typical dosage is 500-1000mg per day during periods of heightened stress, anxiety, or fatigue
  • Suma is rarely found as a stand-alone product, but often combined with other products (e.g. ginger)

Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 223.

Schisandra has a long history of use in TCM (Traditional Chinese medicine).

Role in mental health

  • Promotes energy
  • Promotes mental function
  • Adaptogen which supports in times of stress
  • Calming

Supplementation

  • 100-500mg per day Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 223.

Role in mental health

It reduces:

  • Evening cortisol
  • Stress related eating in overweight women
  • Anxiety in perimenopausal women

Supplementation

  • 250mg three times a day Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 112.

Used in Asian and eastern European traditional medicine.

Role in mental health

  • Enhances physical and mental performance
  • Stimulates the nervous system
  • Fights depression
  • Improves sleep
  • Seems to alter levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in the brain
  • Has an effect on stress-related fatigue, including improved mental performance and concentration and decreases cortisol levels
  • Taken with gingko, has been shown to lower cortisol levels and improved exercise endurance in men by increasing oxygen consumption and preventing fatigue

Supplementation

  • 200mg once or twice a day Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 113.

Role in mental health

  • Can be used as a treatment for low cortisol, as it raises cortisol levels Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 117.
  • Mimics the behaviour of estrogen, lowering the body’s own production of estrogen Mahalingam, S., Gao, L., Eisner, J., Helferich, W. and Flaws, J. A. (2016). Effects of isoliquiritigenin on ovarian antral follicle growth and steroidogenesis. [online] Reproductive Toxicology, 66, pp. 107-14. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0890623816303732 [accessed 11 Sept. 2017].

Supplementation

  • To prevent effect on blood pressure, it is best to use deglycerinated licorice found in health food stores, as a supplement, tea, or chewable version Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. London: Penguin, p. 75.