Saturday, December 13, 2008

Nutrition and Mental Health Part 2: Treating Anxiety

While treating anxiety can probably best approached with cognitive behavioral therapy and gaining an understanding of the environmental cause-effect relationships and behavior chains via SRT (see previous 3 part blog), herbal remedies are gaining popularity since their acceptance (note: short of an endorsement) by the FDA in 1994. As with herbal remedies for depression, many of these cures affect brain transmission and neurotransmitters directly, so an immediate benefit can be appreciated. Many of these cures have active ingredients that were isolated by pharmaceutical researchers and used in the production of anticonvulsants, anti anxiety, antidepressants and other branded medications that slow down brain activity. The herbal source, however, is often kinder to the kidney and liver as they are buffered and diluted in their natural state.

Let's consider a few anti anxiety remedies:

Kava Root: Perhaps the most popular and also the most maligned because of its potential to reach toxic levels in the body. Recent research has confirmed that this plant is effective in lower doses administered several times a day, reducing the likelihood that a toxic threshold will be reached. It is particularly found effective in the treatment of agoraphobic and social anxiety disorders.

Valerian: A recent up and comer in the treatment of anxiety, this plant originates in Europe and has been long known for treating insomnia. Valerian extracts interact with the GABA and benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. It is often used to help people wean off of Librium and similar pharmaceuticals that are cause for physical dependence. It is very successful in the treatment of anxiety disorders that coincide with gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel and acid reflux.

Passion Flower: This exists in many forms and varieties. It contains betacarboline harmala alkaloid, which was isolated to formulate Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), a once popular antidepressant. As is the case with its purified form, the use of passion flower has many undesirable drug and food interactions, so it must be used with caution. Their particular value is in treating anxiety secondary to mood disorders. particularly bipolar type 2.

Because anxiety and depression are so closely related, many of the recommended cures overlap and are effective in treating both. I have tried to isolate the 3 mood and affect herbal remedies that pertain the most to anxiety disorders. In the next section, we will target the treatment of depression through natural dietary supplements.

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