Herbs for Addiction: Healing Addictions, Depression, Anxiety and Insomnia


Herbs can enhance mental as well as physical health. Certain herbs and foods have properties that help calm anxiety, promote clear-headedness, assist with depression, relieve tension and insomnia and improve sleep.

Global herbalism, the practice of using herbs from diverse ethnic backgrounds in integrated protocols, offers new hope for treating these rapidly increasing modern maladies. Herbs from the Ayurvedic tradition are highlighted.

Most everyone has the occasional attack of "the blues" or a "down in the dumps" funk — short periods when things don't seem to go well and life isn't looking too rosy. Clinical depression is different. It is a medical disorder characterized by persistent and sometimes severe feelings of worthlessness, guilt, sadness, helplessness and hopelessness.

Some 25 percent of the American population may suffer from a depression over the course of a lifetime. Depression strikes men and women of all ages, across all socioeconomic lines, but most studies indicate that women are more often afflicted. Women are also more likely to seek help, however, which may mean that depression in men is merely underreported.

Clinical experience shows that depression is on the rise. Many colleagues corroborate this alarming rise in the proportion of clients with diagnoses of depression, and the observation bears out national statistics, with more than 15 million Americans diagnosed with depression annually. The author has met more people with depression in the last two years than in the entire 20 years prior.

There are probably numerous reasons for this increase, from people reaching their limit in an increasingly complicated and stressful world, to the physical imbalances caused by daily lifestyle abuses, including poor diet and lack of exercise. Another reason is improved detection and diagnosis by skilled clinicians. A further reason is the push by pharmaceutical companies to market prescription antidepressants.

The specifics of depression can be as unique as the person experiencing it, but generally, it seems to be triggered by one of two types of catalysts: a tragic or traumatic event, or a neurochemical imbalance of neurotransmitters. Both catalysts may also be present in a patient. Depression resulting from circumstances such as death of a loved one is typically shorter and can often be helped by counseling or psychotherapy. Those with a biochemical basis for the condition, on the other hand, feel depressed regardless of circumstances. These sufferers commonly are prescribed drugs to balance the neurotransmitters in the brain.

Three different types of antidepressant drugs are commonly prescribed. The tricyclic and tetracyclic anti depressants are used for the most common form of serious depression. Monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors are used for so-called atypical depressions, as are Lithium and Depakote. Seroton in — selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are members of a newer class of antidepressants that are effective against both typical and atypical depressions, and have recently become extremely popular (and, some feel, carelessly overprescribed and aggressively marketed). The well-known SSRI Prozac (fluoxetine) alone has become the subject of numerous popular books both for and against the liberal use of this drug in America. Six million Americans and an additional 6 million people abroad now take Prozac (a $2 billion coup annually for Eli Lilly and Company, makers of Prozac).

The tricyclics and tetracyclics can take two to five weeks to become effective and can cause such side effects as oversedation and cardiac problems. MAO inhibitors interact with tryamine, found in cheeses, beer, wine and other foods and can cause severe hypertension in patients who eat these foods. They also interact with some common drugs, such as cold medicines. SSRI drugs can cause headaches, nausea, insomnia and nervousness, but are much less likely to cause side effects than tricyclics.

Thus, many people seek natural healing alternatives because they don't want to take this type of antidepressant medication forever, and would prefer away to feel healthy and stable with drug-free therapy. In many cases, such drugs are unnecessary for relatively mild depression, from which herbal metabolic therapies and other key lifestyle changes can indeed help provide relief.

Of course, it's important for anyone with serious symptoms of depression to be evaluated medically. Many people with long-term chronic depression have been able to reduce or eliminate antidepressant medication and begin to function well and feel goo d using natural remedies. Herbs and nutrients can also provide transitional support when it's time is to "wean off" medication.

People suffering from depression often have sleep disruption and a complicating lack of energy. With fatigue during the day and insomnia at night, it becomes impossible to ever feel comfortable and relaxed. Therefore, part of the long-term strategy also includes rebuilding the endocrine and nervous systems. Energizing tonics are taken earlier in the day, so that the adrenal glands can be nourished during waking hours, and to avoid further sleep disruption. Natural remedies to support sleep are taken late in the day, so that the natural hormonal rhythm can be reestablished.

Depression is a very complicated issue. With insight and careful application, many people have success with self-treatment. Most cases, however, are multifaceted, and do better with the assistance of an experienced practitioner. Herbs and nutrients are extremely important in a natural healing program for depression, but professional counseling, exercise, diet and stress management can be equally important.

Herbal Depression Treatment
The current star remedy for depression in the herb world is St. John's Wort (Hypericum Perforatum). Hypericin, an active component, has action against some retroviruses[ 1], including HIV.[2] Several recent studies have discovered other antiviral components in the herb, for a variety of animal and human viruses.[ 3] This herb is used as an antibacterial and possible anticancer agent, but it's been in the spotlight for its antidepressant properties.[ 4][ 5][ 6] Particularly for depression that is mild to moderate, St. John's Wort has proven extremely effective.

Herbal Depression Treatment

Hypericum is an ancient medicine, however, and has been used in Europe for hundreds of years. Clinically, European and North American herbalists use the herb internally, mainly for its sedative effect and as a general restorative remedy for nerve tissue. It is also thought to benefit mild painful conditions including arthritis, neuralgia, sciatica and muscle inflammation.

Twenty species of Hypericum, including Hypericum hookerianum, grow in India, and are used medicinally in Ayurveda. Though not as well researched scientifically, the effects are held to be similar to Saint Johnswort. A study from India, published in 2000, demonstrated that Hypericum hookerianum was effective at healing wounds, a notable property of Saint Johnswort. It is probable that more research will show that this plant is analogous to the European and North American species.[ 7]

As you would expect, Saint Johnswort helps you sleep better, as science has demonstrated.[ 8] The German Commission E confirms Saint Johnswort as a treatment for anxiety.

Traditionally, clinical and folk use of Saint Johnswort has been aimed at menopause. This makes sense, considering the reputed benefits. Now science is beginning to catch up with the traditional uses. A 1999 German study indicated that this herb was quite effective against a wide variety of menopausal symptoms.[ 9] Researchers looked at responses in 111 women from a general medical practice. The patients, all between 43 and 65 years old, had symptoms attributed to pre- and post menopause. Over the 12-week treatment time, climacteric complaints diminished or disappeared completely in nearly 80 percent of women. Significantly, sexual well being also improved after treatment.

Hypericum shows benefit in for fatigue in at least one study. English researchers, in 1998 treated patients coming to their doctors with fatigue complaints. After 2 weeks, their fatigue was significantly lower, and by 6 weeks was dramatically reduced , along with anxiety and the expected depression.[ 10]

The compound in St. John's Wort that has been isolated and is believed to be the main active ingredient is hypericin. However, hypericin is no longer believed to act alone. As is the case with most herbs, the complex interplay of many compounds is believed to be responsible for the beneficial effects.

St. John's wort is thought to weakly inhibit the enzyme monoamine oxidase, but recent research is casting doubt on the clinical significance of this action. It also modulates and balances the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine, much as tricyclic and tetracyclic drugs do. An Italian study from 2000 demonstrated that, in an animal model, Hypericum extract stimulated dopamine release.[ 11] It may also increase endorphin levels.

Although Saint Johnswort has been recognized as a treatment for conventional mild depression, now it looks like it also benefits season affective disorder (SAD).[ 12] A study from 1999 demonstrated that Saint Johnswort was about as effective as light therapy for seasonal depression. In the group that took the herb, "there was significant improvement in anxiety, loss of libido and insomnia."

It can take a month or more for the effects of Hypericum to manifest. However, at the recommended dosage, it doesn't cause the mouth dryness, anxiety, digestive problems , heart problems or other side effects of many common antidepressants. Many of the prescription medications often take two to four weeks before results can be felt.

There are some considerations and contraindications for the use of St. John's wort. First, in the U.S. many health practitioners are advising that you do not take this herb with Prozac or other antidepressants, theorizing that the herb will be "additive," that is, intensify the effects of the drug and/or the herb. However, this is purely supposition; there is no evidence that this is the case. In fact, in Germany St. John's wort is specifically used concurrently or transitionally with antidepressants to help patients taper off the drug. The St. John's wort is slowly increased until the level reaches activity similar to that of the drug; then the drug is slowly phased down until the patient is only taking St. John's wort. David Overton, PA-C, a physician's assistant and expert in brain biochemistry (on the clinical faculty of the University of Washington and Pacific Lutheran University) who practices in the area of mood disorders, suggests that the two can be used safely together in this manner if your practitioner has experience handling both prescriptions and herbal medicine.

Secondly, this herb may need to be taken with food to avoid stomach upset. Third, a small number of people experience extreme photosensitivity and must avoid prolonged sun exposure at very high doses of St. John's wort (which should, in any case, only be taken under the close supervision of a health practitioner). Actually, until recently this reaction had only been observed in cows who grazed on enormous amounts of the plant; there were no documented cases of photosensitivity in humans before practitioners began recommending it in high doses to AIDS patients. Research shows that sunlight exposure may expedite the effects of St. John's wort, so indirect, low-level exposure may be helpful; people using high doses of St. John's wort long-term are advised to avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, but to consistently maintain shorter exposures to indirect sunlight.

Could Saint Johnswort be an effective treatment for alcoholism? Animal studies point in that direction. A 1999 study using rats specially bred to crave alcohol showed that this herbal medicine reduced the rat's desire to consume alcohol. The researchers conclude that, "These promising findings suggest that SJW extract should be evaluated clinically as a potential therapeutic agent in the treatment of alcoholism."[ 13] Another study out of Germany from the same year compared Saint Johnswort with two well-known anti depressant drugs for alcoholism in rats. The herb was comparable to the drugs in reducing alcohol consumption.[ 14]

Research studies typically use standardized extracts containing .125- .3% hypericin. Capsules of this extract can be found in most health food stores. The recommended dose is 300 mg., 3 times a day. St. John's wort can also be taken as a tea (½ ounce of dried herb per day) or tincture. Capsules of the whole herb can also be taken, about 10-12 "00" capsules daily. It is widely available at herb stores in many forms.

Ginkgo Biloba

Another herbal remedy showing some promise with depression is Ginkgo Biloba. This circulatory medicine is used widely in Europe to prevent and treat disorders involving decreased blood supply to the brain (cerebrovascular inefficiency), and numerous double blind, controlled studies have shown it to be effective in this regard. Most studies have initially dealt specifically with effects on the elderly and potential improvements in common cerebrovascular conditions of the elderly, such as senility and Alzheimer's Disease. Ginkgo apparently can retard the progress of, or even reverse, these conditions.

However, ginkgo is also believed to increase the rate at which information is transmitted at the nerve cell level. This could affect depression, which is influenced by these neurotransmissions. In deed, research on depression and Ginkgo biloba extract has been a secondary offshoot of research on its effects on cerebrovascular efficiency. Subjects in double-blind studies noticed mood improvements along with improvements in areas being studied, such as memory and other markers of mental performance. Still, ginkgo may be most useful for older patients.

Ginkgo is an antidepressant, especially for those with reduced brain circulation.[ 15] In elderly people particularly, it improves general mood.[ 16] Studies have shown ginkgo to be comparable to antidepressant drugs. Interestingly, it also benefits anxiety.

In one of the more recent double-blind studies, 40 patients (age ranged Ginkgo Biloba from 51 to 78 years) with depression who had not benefited fully from standard antidepressant drugs were given either 80 mg. of Ginkgo biloba extract three times a day or a placebo. By the end of the fourth week of the study, the total score of the Hamilton Depression Scale was reduced from an average of 14 to 7. At the end of the eight-week study, the total score in the Ginkgo biloba extract group had dropped to 4.5. In comparison, the placebo group dropped from 14 to only 13.[ 17]

The effective daily dose in this study was 240 mg. daily — twice the 120 mg daily dose most usually recommend for GBE. This dose may cause headaches or dizziness initially in elderly people. Starting at the lower dose of 120 mg. daily and then increasing to 240 mg. over a period of six to eight weeks will usually handle this problem.

B-complex vitamins are also extremely important for normal formation and function of brain neurotransmitters, which are the chemical messengers of the nervous system. The B vitamins are sometimes thought of as brain nutrients. Again, we must distinguish between acute deficiencies (the kind that caused pellagra and beriberi in the 1920s). Almost no one is so acutely deficient any more as to be at risk for these diseases, but recent research has spawned newer thinking about the significance of more marginal deficiencies that create neurological changes. These subtle shifts in brain chemistry can cause behavioral and emotional changes that are definitely noticeable.

Some of the B vitamins are synergistic, and deficiencies in one can offset the others. That is why B vitamins are most often sold as "B-complex". However, sometime supplementation in one — B6 or B12, for example — is indicated for a particular condition.

B-complex has been a popular part of nutritional treatment for the emotional symptoms of premenstrual syndrome for many years. Vitamin B6 in particular has been effective for this purpose and is probably the most effective principle in B-complex for depression. Natural medicine author/researcher and professor of botanical medicine (at Bastyr College of Natural Health Sciences) Michael T. Murray, N.D. thinks that there may be millions of people on Prozac who merely have a B6 deficiency. Other research has shown deficiencies of B12 and folic acid consistently in depressed people.

An increase in serotonin, one of the key mood-regulating neurotransmitters, has been observed in subjects of various studies who are given B-complex.

The processing of food destroys B vitamins, so the typical highly processed diet may well be a factor in the ever-increasing spiral of depression. Another cultural/lifestyle factor may be the use of coffee, alcohol and cigarettes, all of which deplete the B vitamins and C as well. Some drugs decrease B vitamin absorption — antihistamines, tranquilizers and sleeping pills, not to mention many recreational drugs.

Inositol, considered by some nutritionists to be part of the B-vitamin group, can be helpful in treating depression, especially when tricyclic antidepressants have been prescribed. Low levels of this nutrient have been found in patients with depression. One double-blind placebo-controlled study found therapeutic results from inositol similar to that provided by tricyclic antidepressants, but without side effects.[ 18] Vitamin C deficiencies can cause depression, according to Murray. Cigarette smoking causes vitamin C to be used more heavily and rapidly.

Amino acids are believed to play an important role in moderating the activity of nerve cells and the transmission of their impulses. L-phenylalanine (best if a tricyclic has been prescribed) and l-tyrosine (best if Prozac or other SSRI has been prescribed) are two amino acids that are recommended as supplements for depression and lethargy. Both appear to be used by the body in the synthesis of certain important neurotransmitters.

These amino acids may raise blood pressure, so the dose should be increased slowly in the presence of pre-existing hypertension. They also should not be used by pregnant or nursing women.

Calcium and Magnesium are muscle relaxants and play a role in proper nerve and muscle function. They modulate brain chemicals that stabilize nerve cell membranes and assist in proper neu ro transmission. They can be taken separately or in combination.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is an amino acid neurotransmitter. It is the most widely distributed neurotransmitter in the brain and plays a specific role in regulating anxiety. It inhibits excitation of brain cells receiving anxiety messages. If GABA stores are depleted (such as from long-term stress or anxiety), the flood of anxiety messages is no longer buffered.

Special Foods
Chiles can be effective clinically for depression. The "chile eater's high" may come when the ingestion of hot food boosts brain levels of endorphins, the mood-modulating chemical that also regulates sleep, appetite, cognition and some aspects of the immune system. The capsaicin in chiles is also known to de aden or deplete substance P, a neurotransmitter that communicates pain signals.


Celery, especially the juice, is relaxing — more useful for anxiety than depression, though it can help with sleep. High in vitamin A and vitamin B1, celery also contains potassium, sodium and magnesium.


Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) from evening primrose, borage or black currant oils (or flaxseed taken as oil by the tablespoon or in capsules, or as ground seeds), are important to the synthesis of noninflammatory prostaglandins. Low levels of essential fatty acids have been linked to depression (as well as child hyperactivity, alcohol abuse and premenstrual syndrome). Anti-stress hormones are made out of EFAs.

In addition, EFAs go into the manufacture of cell membranes, and cells need these (as well as the oemga-3 fatty acids, found in olive oil and fish oil) to maintain optimal function. If these "good fats" are deficient in the diet, the body has to make cell membranes out of "bad fats" (saturated, trans-fats, animal fatty acids and cholesterol) which can lead to "faulty," makeshift cell membranes. This can affect the brain because membrane fluidity is crucial to nerve cell function. Less-fluid membranes made out of poor-choice fats may interfere with neurotransmitter synthesis, transmission, uptake and binding, among other factors.

Interestingly, heart disease and depression share some of the same links to nutritional deficiencies as well as to lifestyle and dietary habits. Heart disease and depression seem to occur together frequently. Low levels of folic acid are linked to both conditions; low levels of EFAs in the diet, along with high intake of omega-6 and animal fats are associated with both conditions.

Natural Depression Therapy: Here is what a program using herbs and nutrients might look like for depression
Therapy Daytime Remedies Night Remedies
Herbs Kola Nut, Guarana Seed, Valerian Root, Hops,
Scullcap Leaf
Yohimbe, Ginseng, Licorice Root
Foti, Root
Gotu Kola, Licorice Root,
Ginkgo biloba
Vitamins B1 - 100 mg, B6-100mg B Calcium 1,000 mg
Minerals Complex - 50 mg. & Magnesium 500 mg
Amino Acids 1-phenylalanine 1,500 mg. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid)
or 1-tyrosine 1,500 mg
Foods, other Chiles (especially red, Celery (especially juice)
e.g., Cayenne), Flaxseed
Oil (cold or pressed)
Licorice Root

Diet, Exercise and Lifestyle for Depression
An unhealthy lifestyle is no less a factor in depression than it is in most other disorders from which people suffer. Lifestyle changes are really the long-term treatment for depression; supplements just provide a natural, nontoxic transition. If depression indeed arises as frequently as suspected from nutrient deficiencies, triggered by harmful substances we use and healthy things we neglect, then both prevention and treatment must eliminate unhealthy influences and incorporate those known to be health promoting.

In addition to the above program of supplementation, healthy diet and exercise habits should be cultivated, both because they are therapeutic by themselves and because they provide a foundation for the effectiveness of supplements. The above supplement program is excellent for short-term crisis management. For general health, energy and particularly adrenal rebuilding, foods and tonics for that purpose should be used on a long-term basis. These would include astragalus, shisandra, licorice root, ho shou wu (fo-ti), saw palmetto berry, eleuthero root, triphala and cubeb berry; as well as garlic, onion and ginger.

Metabolic processes in the brain depend on a steady supply of glucose and oxygen carried by the blood. Therefore, it makes sense that diet and exercises that help stabilize blood sugar and maintain or improve cardiovascular fitness could prevent or improve conditions of depression.

An Anti-Depression Diet, not surprisingly, doesn't look that much different from the diet presented as generally healthy and immune-supportive. Repeatedly the same dietary recommendations come up no matter what condition or disease we are discussing, and whether we are looking at mind or body, prevention or treatment. This should certainly tell us something.

In particular, alcohol (which is a nervous system depressant and can interfere with B vitamin absorption and the neurotransmitter GABA) should be avoided. So should simple sugars, which cause blood sugar irregularities that create mood problems of their own and can aggravate existing ones. There seems to be a definite relationship between sugar abuse/cravings, mood and a brain chemical called serotonin, which among many other tasks, regulates of insulin.

Deficiency of complex carbohydrates has been linked to low levels of serotonin. This calming "feel-good" neurohormone appears to be connected in numerous ways to how well we sleep, eat, relax and handle stress. Low serotonin levels are associated with depression. They are also associated with cravings for carbohydrate (which are quite normal and predictable if one is consistently deprived of carbohydrate through either dieting or "hapless eating"). Carbohydrate foods trigger the release of serotonin, so starving the body of carbohydrates could certain reduce levels of serotonin. This can contribute to depression directly, and additionally can set up a cycle of sugar craving that aggravates the condition and causes a vicious cycle.

For people who are depressed, this is just one more good reason to emphasize whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes.

Regular Aerobic Exercise has been recommended for many years as part of prevention and treatment for depression. Some researchers and health practitioners have observed that it is simply very difficult to find a dinically depressed person who is a regular exerciser. Exercise has also proven useful in treating mood disorders specifically associated with premenstrual syndrome, and it is interesting to note that many of the basic lifestyle factors that seem to improve premenstrual depression and irritability — a higher complex-carbohydrate diet, reduction in simple sugars anddietary fats, and regular aerobic exercise — are indicated for clinical depression as well.

One of the chief reasons that exercise is beneficial for treating depression is its ability to regulate norep in eph rine and increase endorphin levels. Again, chiles and some herbs (such as St. John's Wort, kava kava root and nutmeg) also boost endorphins.

Exercise may also be useful for many other reasons: it improves overall health and well-being; often results in a body that feels and looks more culturally acceptable; may involve social activity or contact; and provides a feeling of doing something — taking action and taking control. These factors may also play a role in the anti-depression effects of exercise.

Those recovering from addictions and eating disorders can benefit from physical as well as psychological therapies. Addiction recovery treatment often overlooks the physical aftermath of addictions (and sometimes the initial physical causes as well). Herbal and nutritional therapies can help restore proper brain chemistry, eliminate allergies and shore up immune systems that have been depleted by health-robbing addictive behaviors and substances.

The right herbs and foods used properly can also greatly assist with efforts to eliminate drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, helping to ease withdrawal symptoms and providing safe, natural and positive ways to experience well-being and vitality.

It is probably not possible to separate this discussion completely from the discussion of depression. The imbalances that may cause depression are often indirectly responsible for addiction to mood-altering substances, which may be sought in an attempt to mask the depression.

In addition, many of the mood-regulating brain chemicals discussed have been shown through research to modulate a variety of behaviors. Biochemical behavior regulation in the brain is complex enough to involve many different behavioral conditions in various cause-and-effect situations. A "which came first" relationship is often difficult to establish. Abusing the body with addictive substances may cause imbalances, or imbalances may trigger addictive cravings in the first place. Drugs, alcohol and sugar may be craved due to deficiencies in sero tonin or norepinephrine, for example. However, those substances obviously don't solve the problem; in fact, they aggravate the deficiencies.

The bi-level work that is characteristic of herbal therapy — relieving the symptoms while working on balancing or healing the underlying issues — holds true in addiction recovery. Skilled clinicians recognize this bi-level approach and in fact call mood disorders and addictions a "dual diagnosis."

Diet and exercise should be used as described regarding depression to build and maintain a general base of health. In addition, herbs and nutrients can be used to restore specific body systems and organs that may be exhausted, as well as provide comfort as the body adjusts to its "new life".

As mentioned earlier, amino acids are believed to play key roles in maintaining proper brain chemistry, nerve cell activity and the transmission of nerve impulses. Amino acid supplementation can be an important part of addiction recovery because many abusive behaviors can result in low levels of amino acids that nourish the brain. Abuse of alcohol or drugs and anorexia and bulimia all deprive or deplete the body of these essential substances, and the resulting imbalances in brain chemistry disable the work of the "feel-good" neurotransmitters. Naturally, this makes it difficult to stay away from the addictive substances or behaviors, since those crutches were the original "solutions" of choice.

In a way, brain chemicals are the body's natural drugs — natural stimulants, sedatives and opiates — and perhaps if they were all present in adequate levels, people would not feel the need to seek their effects from outside sources.

Addiction Recovery '"Bridge" Program
Short-Term Energizing Kola Nut, Guarana Seed,Yohimbe,
1-phenylalanine 1,500 mg. 1-tyrosine 1,500 mg.
Calming/Relaxing Valerian Root, Hops, Scullcap Root, Chamomile,
Taurine, Glutamine, B6, Manganese, GABA
(gamma-aminobutyric acid), Glutamic Acid,
Calcium 1,000 mg., Magnesium 500 mg.
Long-term Rebuilding B1 - 100 mg, B6 - 100 mg, B Complex - 50 mg.,
Vitamin C - 2-4 grams daily or to bowel
tolerance, Ho Shou Wu Root, Licorice Root,
Ginseng, Astragalus
Special Foods Celery Juice - up to two quarts daily
(late in day for relaxing/sleep) Chiles
(for endorphin boost plus immune boost)
Onion, Garlic, Ginger (for general health
rebuilding, glandular balance, immune boost)
Root Vegetables (for liver cleansing) Essential
Fatty Acids (EFAs): Linoleic Acid (LA) and
Gamma-linoleic Acid (GLA) from Evening
Primrose, Flaxseed, Hemp, Borage
and Black Currant Oil.
Valerian Root



Herbal "Stop-Smoking" Program
Kola Nut Mild stimulant to elevate mood and feel energized
(2-10 capsules per day, not late)
Vervain Leaf Lung rejuvenative (5-10 capsules per day or tea)
or Cubeb Berry
Saw Palmetto Berry Stamina, Adrenal/Thyroid nourishment
(2-5 capsules per day)
Ginger Circulation and Detoxification
(2-5 capsules per day)
Prickly Ash Bark Adrenal (2-5 capsules per day)
Start the above program two to three weeks before stopping the cigarettes. Then reduce or stop the cigarettes and continue with the above program, lowering doses progressively until cravings are gone.

Post-Recovery Healing for Specific Addictions
Specific addictions can leave particular kinds of damage in their wake, and one can give the body an added edge in healing the affected areas by supplementing with herbs and foods that have an affinity for those areas. For example, the liver is a focus of concern for recovering alcoholics; former smokers may want to accelerate and enhance the healing of lung tissue.

If the goal is to come off barbiturates ("downers," such as Seconal, Amytal or Nembutal), calming and relaxing herbs and nutrients may be useful in transition. If one is weaning away from amphetamines ("uppers," such as diet pills, Ritalin or cocaine), more stimulating herbs may be helpful in maintaining energy and stamina in the transition.

After Stopping Smoking:
Oat (Avena sativa) can be used as a cigarette withdrawal aid (it is used for exactly that in by German physicians). One study has shown that benefits persisted two months after treatment was stopped. Extracts can be made from the fruits of Avena sativa; these contain the alkaloid gramine, which is similar to alkaloids in passionflower. Oat straw does not appear to contain gramine but is high in silicon, which increases absorption of calcium, an important neurotransmitter mineral. Even oat cereal can produce a sedative effect.

Passionflower is also useful for smoking withdrawal, but, like oat, this is not very strong medicine; both need to be used in consistent high doses over a longer period to see results.

Lung tonics for ex-smokers include elecampane root (Pushkaramula)(Inula helenium), an herb popular in both European and Ayurvedic herbalism, yerba santa leaf, nettle leaf or mullein leaf. Any of these would be brewed with one ounce by dry weight of herb and taken daily for one year. Cubeb berry is another lung tonic and could be taken in capsules (2-10per day) or tea.

After Stopping Drinking Alcohol:
Valerian (sedative), folic acid (nerve tissue healing), thiamine (nerve tissue healing), evening primrose and flaxseed (inflammation)

Milk thistle seed, borage, or turmeric and dandelion root (liver)

After Stopping Taking Amphetamines:
(under a physician's supervision)
Tyrosine or 1-phenylalanine (5003,000 mg) (fatigue); folic acid (nerve tissue healing), thiamine (nerve tissue healing).

El eut h ero (stamina), ho shou wu root (stamina), gotu kola (nervous system rejuvenation), ginseng (stamina, anti-fatigue).

Milk thistle seed, borage, or turmeric and dandelion root (liver).

After Stopping Taking Barbiturates:
(under a physician's supervision)
Taurine, glutamine, B6, manganese Nerve and general tissue healing).

Willow and cinchona bark combination (2-15capsules per day).

Calcium and magnesium (calming)

Milk thistle seed, borage, or turmeric and dandelion root (liver).

After Recovery From Anorexia or Bulimia:
(under a physician's supervision)
EFAs (inflammation, nerve tissue functioning)

Herbs: Khella seed (tincture), nettles, turmeric (digestion, appetite, nutrient density, inflammation)

Calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C (tissue specific nutrients)

Chromium (often taken as chromium picolinate) and vanadium (often taken as vanadyl sulfate) are two minerals that may assist in balanced blood sugar regulation and help control cravings. Chromium can be taken up to 800 meg daily, and vanadyl sulfate can be taken at 15-30 mg. daily (it usually comes in 7.5 mg. tablets).

Potassium is an electrolyte, and electrolyte imbalances can cause heartbeat irregularities that have led to death in cases of extreme dieting, anorexia and bulimia.

Zinc can be taken at 50 mg daily. Zinc deficiency is suspected to contribute to anorexia nervosa and reportedly, some cases respond dramatically to zinc supplementation.

Astragalus, shisandra, licorice root, ho shou wu, saw palmetto berry, eleuthero root, triphala, cubeb berry, garlic, onion and ginger for immune and glandular rebuilding.

Milk thistle seed, borage, boldo leaf or turmeric and dandelion root for liver repair and protection.

Anxiety and Insomnia
Many relaxant herbs work for simple anxiety as well as insomnia (both for falling asleep and staying asleep). In addition, anxiety and insomnia are often related. Therefore, we will look in this section at relaxant and sedative herbs that work for both types of conditions.

Relaxant herbs, for the most part, treat symptoms. They cannot and should not be used to mask or ignore a systemic problem, which may be either physical or emotional in nature. Herbal relaxants are effective as natural, nontoxic ways to relieve tension, anxiety and nervousness during times of stress — say, before exams or speaking engagements, during travel, or to ease the way after a traumatic event.

Valerian Root (Valeriana Officinalis and Jatamansi (Nardostachys Jatamansi)
Valerian is a relaxant herb that has a calming effect on the autonomie nervous system.[ 19] It is a good short-term sedative that works quickly, offering a healthy, nontoxic alternative to strong prescription drugs. Jatamansi (spikenard), a member of a closely related genus, is used almost exactly equivalently in Ayurveda.[ 20]

For insomnia, valerian is taken right at bedtime to help induce sleep quickly.[ 21][ 22] Valerian is best for insomniacs who have trouble falling asleep, because it decreases the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, but doesn't necessarily work on the quality of sleep. For sleep duration insomnia, there are longer-acting herbs that will work better. It is also useful as an interim remedy to withdraw from an addiction to sleeping pills.

Valerian's sedative properties are in the root. It can be used as a tea made by brewing dried and cut root, but most people find the intense, acrid smell of the dried root off-putting. The home can smell of this herb for weeks after brewing the tea. That's not to mention the issue of actually drinking it. Therefore, practically speaking, the best way to use valerian root is in a capsule, tablet or tincture; all are widely available.

Because this is a mild herb, it may require five to ten capsules to get the desired result; valerian cannot be thought of like a "sleeping pill" which is generally much stronger and just requires just one tablet. One or two valerian capsules or tablets may work simply for calming nerves, but more may be required as a sleep aid.

There's no connection between the tranquilizer Valium and valerian, despite the name similarity, though they both affect the same neurotransmitter (both modulate GABA).[ 23] GABA receptors are present in 40 percent of the brain's cells, and overactivation is thought to cause excitation or nervousness. These are the sites of action for the benzodiazepine drugs like Valium, but Valerian balances those same receptors without side effects or being habit forming.

Studies comparing valerian with Valium and Xanax, another tranquilizer, show it stacks up favorably in treating mild to moderate cases of anxiety. Not only is valerian at least as effective as these drugs, it does not interact with alcohol and other drugs the way the prescription tranquilizers do. While excess valerian may cause a little lethargy, taking too much Valium (or taking it with alcohol) can cause death. Valerian doesn't cause death even when someone wants it to, as in the recent case of a woman who attempted suicide by taking a bottle of valerian but succeeded only in causing some muscle tremors.[ 24]

Valerian is used widely in Europe and many of the studies showing its effectiveness have been conducted there. In the past 35 years, more than 200 scientific studies have been done on valerian. In much of Europe, physicians are more likely to recommend valerian instead of pharmaceuticals. Valerian is an active ingredient in about 150 over-the-counter medicines in Germany, including some preparations for children. (In fact, some studies have shown positive effects on hyperactive children.) Valerian is also one of England's best-selling herbal medicines.

Valerian is yet another good example of why herbs are more valuable as a whole rather than as isolated extracts of compounds. Three major groups of active components in valerian have been identified: essential oils, valepotriates and alkaloids. Valerenic acid and a volatile oil were believed by many researchers to be the components with sedative effects, but at least one study shows that these weren't as effective when used individually.

One reason for this is that valepotriates are not present in extracts of valerian-these compounds develop in the body' processing of valerian, supporting the traditional herbalist view that in most cases the whole herb is more balancing and therapeutic. Valepotriates bind with GABA neu roreceptors. Valepotriates are technically not "sedative," but rather relaxing to the whole autonomie nervous system. Valepotriates make valerian a tonic, as defined earlier; it both pushes and pulls, exerting a bi-directional effect. Several Valepotriates have been isolated, and one is suppressant while another is stimulating, this exerting a balancing effect on neuroreceptors.

Valerian is a versatile herb with many other uses. Various related species have been valued and used by major healing systems worldwide for thousands of years as a pain relieve r, fever reducer, antispasmodic and smooth muscle relaxant. It was used as an insomnia remedy and tranquilizer until the 1940s, when herbal medicine went into decline and pharmaceuticals were introduced for this purpose.

In the U.S., it is recommended that children, pregnant women or nursing women not use valerian, except on the advice of a health practitioner.

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)
Nutmeg is an excellent alternative to valerian for inducing sleep. It may even be more powerful. However it is longer acting than valerian, so it is not as convenient to use. Its action takes effect four to five hours after ingestion. Once it takes effect, it lasts eight hours; it is more effective than valerian to help sustain asleep.

Nutmeg used medicinally must be ground fresh because it loses potency quickly. A coffee grinder works well for grinding whole nutmeg. Enough can be ground to make capsules to last up to a week; then fresh capsules should be made. Unlike valerian, it is powerful enough that it is possible to become overly sedated. The dose should be titrated by starting with one capsule four to five hours before bedtime. The dose and time of administration should then be incrementally adjusted.

German studies suggest that nutmeg affects endorphin neurotransmitters.

Like valerian, nutmeg is a versatile herb with many other benefits. It has been used in Ayurveda throughout the history of that healing system, for a diverse range of conditions. It is a warming agent, a good cardiovascular tonic, helps lower blood pressure, increases circulation and enhances digestion. It is also a useful tonic for men, recommended as part of treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), infertility, impotence and premature ejaculation. It has been used as an aphrodisiac.

Kava Kava Root (Piper Methysticum)
For an anti-anxiety effect without drowsiness, the dried root of this Polynesian herb offers an option.[ 25] It can be used for insomnia, but in smaller doses may be more calming than sleep inducing. Kava kava is a central nervous system depressant and skeletal muscle relaxant. It may also modulate endorphins. Kava improves memory and reaction time.[ 26]

Six major active ingredients in this herb have been identified, called kavalactones, and as usual, while many attempts have been made to synthesize drugs out of one derivative, the activity depends on the combination. There are over 800 scientific references on this herb. As a pain reliever, kava is quite effective.[ 27] Although no one knows the mechanism, it is more potent than aspirin as an analgesic.

Some of the kavalactones may reduce the side effects of amphetamines.

In the South Pacific, chronic over-users of this herb (the equivalent of 20-30 capsules daily for over six months) developed a scaly skin condition that suggested niacin depletion, which disappeared when use was discontinued. A dose of an ounce of herb in tea or five to eight capsules should be perfectly safe as needed. The British Journal of Phytotherapy suggests long-term use not exceed 400 mg or more of kavalactones per day to avoid the skin rash. A study reported in that journal did not result in adverse effects after 8 weeks of continuous use. German Commission E contraindicates use of kava kava during pregnancy and lactation.


Chamomile Flower (Matricaria Chamomilla)
Chamomile is a much milder herb than valerian and is generally better for daytime relaxing, calming and soothing than as a sleep aid. Chamomile is frequently taken as a tea because it is such a pleasant-tasting beverage, but the herb is so mild that commercial teas are probably of little value therapeutically. A medicinal tea must be made from several ounces of medicinal quality material. Tinctures and capsules are also available, but chamomile is so mild that it's simply not practical to get a sleep-inducing dose with those forms.

Studies of chamomile to isolate its active compounds have revealed several components responsible for its beneficial effects. The essential oil azulene may be responsible for chamomile's anti-inflammatory properties and may also inhibit the release of histamine, making chamomile additionally useful for allergies. The coumarins and flavonoids are antispasmodic.

A variety of other herbs also have some mild sedative effects, although some are less well known and less studied than herbs like valerian and chamomile. Some are used in combination formulas or teas along with chamomile or valerian. Any of these following can be taken as tea with about 1/2 ounce to an ounce of the herb daily.

Hops leaf (Humulus lupulus)
contains volatile oils and acids that convert into isovaleric acid.

Catnip leaf (Nepeta cataria), with a minty flavor, is one of the best very mild relaxants.

Catnip Leaf

Scullcap Leaf (Scutellaria Lateriflora) is more of a nervine relaxant than a sleep aid, and it also an antispasmodic. Ifs a little more powerful than are others on this list.

Passionflower Leaf (Passiflora Incarnata) is a nervine relaxant, very mild.

California Poppy Leaf (Eschscholtzia Californica) is similar to the opium poppy but has much less potent constituents, so that its action is gently balancing rather than narcotic. The Native Americans used it as a sedative. In Germany, an herbal drug that is 80 percent California poppy and 20 percent corydalis root is used to treat nervousness, anxiety and insomnia, as well as depression.[ 28] (Corydalis was originally used in Europe as an antispasmodic.) Poppy is shown to inhibit adrenaline and monoamine oxidase, and corydalis enhances adrenaline destruction.

Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis) calms and sedates, and is mild enough for children to use.

Ashwaganda (Withania Somnifera) is the Ayurvedic tonic generally used by men, but it has a special ability to ease anxiety, especially when used on a long-term basis.

Ashwaganda is the main tonic, especially for men, in the Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia, holding a role similar to that of ginseng in Chinese medicine. In fact, it has sometimes been called "Indian ginseng." The name ashwaganda means, "like a horse," connoting that it is regarded as a premier sexual tonic.

In addition to its sexual action, Ayurvedic herbalism uses ashwaganda for general debility and exhaustion, emaciation, memory loss, nerve diseases, cough, anemia, and insomnia. Ayurveda considers it a "grounding" herb- one that nourishes and regulates metabolic processes.

As the scientific name indicates, ashwaganda aids sleep. Ayurvedic herbalists use the herb to reestablish long-term sleep rhythms. Rather than making one sleepy when the herb is administered, this remedy seems to regulate sleep cycles over time, facilitating sleep that is more refreshing.

Recent research shows that, at least in rats, ashwaganda lives up to its reputation as a cognitive enhancer, suggesting promise for using this herb in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.[ 29]

New scientific discoveries also show that ashwaganda has substantial anti-tumor effects, as well as enhancing the effect of radiation therapy in cancer, while protecting healthy cells.[ 30]

As well as being a slow-acting tonic herb, ashwaganda is, in the experience of clinical herbalists, a superb herb for treating chronic anxiety. It takes about a week to work up to the proper dose, and about another week for the herb to reach maximum effectiveness. Since ashwaganda is a slow-acting herb, you may take your daily dose at any time during the day. Used this way, ashwaganda prevents the onset of the anxiety episode.

Ashwaganda has anti-oxidant activity in the brain,[ 31] which may explain, at least in part, a host of its effects, including the reported anus tress, immunomodulatory, cognition-facilitating, anti-inflammatory and anti-aging benefits.

A typical tonic dose, starting at puberty, and taken daily for a lifetime, is one gram. For anxiety prevention, take 8 grams per day for one year.

It is not a remedy to be taken at the moment anxiety presents, but used day-to-day the effects will manifest within a week. Several female patients have reported they were able to discontinue use of Valium by taking 10 to 15 capsules daily of ashwaganda on an ongoing basis.

Teas made from lavender flower, linden flower, vervain leaf and

woodruff leaf are less common and the mildest of all — use of teas throughout the day will just take the edge off anxiety.

Other Supplements for Insomnia or Anxiety
Melatonin is not an herb, nor is it a nutrient. It is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, a natural product of the body that appears to be made in decreasing amounts as people age. Melatonin is now being sold and heralded as a sleep aid. Almost as many books have already been written about melatonin as have been written about Prozac, and magazines have been publishing long articles on the explosion of interest.

Clinicians often have mixed feelings about melatonin. On one hand, it is a crutch that doesn't solve whatever problem is causing the insomnia. Philosophically, some have reservations about use of a hormone that powerful in doses so much larger than those seen in the body for a druglike action (even though as a hormone, melatonin is not technically a drug).

On the other hand, the reality is that people are going to take something, and if they insist on taking an over-the-counter drug, there is a lot to recommend melatonin. It works rapidly with no side effects, it is inexpensive, the dose is reasonable and the form is convenient. There have been no reports of toxicity despite widespread use. Synthetic melatonin supplementation may be useful short-term, to treat jet lag or temporary sleep disturbances. Generally it is not advisable to pursue ongoing, indefinite "hormone replacement," using synthetic copies of body hormones, for any purpose.

Russell Reiter, Ph.D., a leading melatonin researcher and coauthor with Jo Robinson of Melatonin: Your Body's Natural Wonder Drug, notes that even a small dose of only 1 to 2 mg can cause the blood concentrations to be hundreds or even thousands of times greater than normal — and people often take more. Says Reiter, "You should have a specific, well-informed reason for taking melatonin, not just because you heard it's good stuff."

Besides, there are ways to get your body to increase its supply naturally; in fact, the consensus of leading melatonin experts is that lifestyle habits play the biggest role in supporting melatonin production and preserving the function of the pineal gland.

Any high-carbohydrate food will help your body to produce more melatonin, since the insulin that is produced when you eat them removes substances from the blood that compete with tryptophan, an amino acid the brain uses to make melatonin. The other amino acids that will be present in the blood after eating protein will compete with tryptophan for entry into the brain.

B vitamins, calcium and magnesium can all contribute to increased melatonin production.

A University of Massachusetts Medical Center study showed that women who meditated had significantly higher levels of melatonin than those who didn't. Prozac appears to suppress melatonin.

Md a tonin may be synthetic or extracted from the pineal glands of cows.

Calcium/Magnesium at the
doses suggested earlier can assist in sleep time relaxation. Calcium is a known, natural histamine antagonist; many OTC sleep aids are antihistamines. Of magnesium, anxiety disorder specialist Dr. Billie Jay Sahley, Ph.D., says, "I have never yet found a person with an anxiety disorder who was not magnesiumdeficient."

Diet and Exercise for Insomnia
Once again, the high complex carbohydrate, low-to-moderate-protein, lowfat diet emphasizing whole, fresh, organic foods provides the best basis for health. In addition, if insomnia is a problem, all stimulants should absolutely be avoided, including but not limited to caffeine and sugar.

Celery (best juiced) and banana are two good foods to include daily, especially later in the day.


Regular aerobic exercise can be helpful. Exercise should be strenuous for at least 30 minutes, five times a week or more.

Additional Individual Herb Descriptions
Kola Nut (Cola nitida)

This energizing herb from West Africa is a source of methylxanthines.

Guarana Seed (Paullinia cupana)

Another short term energized containing methylxanthines, this herb is from South America.

Yohimbe Bark
(Pausinystalia yohimbe)

Yohimbe is a traditional African herb. The medicine is the inner bark of a large evergreen tree in the madder (Rubiaceae) family, which is indigenous to the tropical forests of Cameroon, Gabon, and Zaire. Yohimbine, a yohimbe alkaloid, is used as a drug for male impotence and yohimbe has become a prominent herb for promoting sexual desire and performance.

Yohimbine affects the nervous system in a way that may complement the antidepressant Luvox. One report studied depressed people who had not responded to Luvox. When 5 mg of yohimbine was added three times each day, there was significant improvement.[ 32] Some people required higher doses of yohimbine before their depression improved.

West African peoples to have used yohimbe for centuries by making a bitter tea from bark shavings. Yohimbe gained a reputation for increasing libido as well as improving male sexual performance by enhancing the size and staying power of erections. Yohimbine (though not the whole herb) has been the subject of at least two-dozen scientific studies, most of which have confirmed its ability to increase blood flow to the penis and cause "erectile stimulation."[ 33][ 34]

Studies on yohimbe conducted since the 1930s have established that the herb has definite effects on aspects of sexual performance.

Yohimbe contains an intricate mixture of compounds, including alkaloids and some tannins. Most of the herb's effects are thought to be due to yohimbine, although reserpinoid alkaloids and other substances found in the whole herb may alter the effects of yohimbine. Yohimbine affects primarily a part "adrenergic" nervous system, which helps control various functions, induding motor activity and sexuality. Yohimbine is thought to have a relatively minor effect on adrenaline. However, it has a major impact on blood levels of noradrenaline, which affects blood pressure, sex drive, bodily metabolism, and alertness. Yohimbine stimulates the central nervous system, increases resting heart rate, slightly raises body temperature, dilates small arteries in the skin and increases blood flow to peripheral parts of the body.

Yohimbe may have a role to play in restoring sexual functioning in the depressed that have been treated with SSRIs.[ 35]

Ginseng Root (Panax Ginseng)

True ginseng is in the genus Panax, which comes from the Latin word panacea. The type of ginseng familiar to most people shares its common name with the scientific name of its species (ginseng). An Asian variety, this herb is taken daily by millions of people, and is widely venerated as a superior herbal medicine. Ginseng is used to treat a multitude of conditions, and, when it is taken daily, to sustain overall good health. Western scientists have viewed ginseng, which has such a wide variety of uses in Asia, with a healthy dose of cynicism.

Ginseng Root

Herbs, including ginseng, with such wide-ranging action, have come to be called adaptogens. The herbs in this category, previously referred to as tonics, are known by specific, defined characteristics. They are:

Capable of creating a nonspecific action. They increase resistance to a wide range of stresses.
Normalizing. They bring balance to the body, no matter what the problem.
To illustrate this comprehensive action, ginseng has been shown in human studies to:

Have a long-term anti-stress effect[ 36]
Improve physical and mental performance, memory, and reaction time[ 37]
Enhance mood[ 38]
Treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Relieve hangover symptoms and improve alcohol clearance
Improve congestive heart failure, blood circulation to the heart, and lower cholesterol[ 39]
Treat anxiety when due to stress
Stabilize diabetes[ 40]
Reduce inflammation[ 41]
Lessen symptoms of menopause, including vaginal atrophy

Many people take a dose of moderate quality ginseng powder in capsules at 4,000-6,000 mg per day

Licorice Root (Yashti Madhu) (Glycyrrhiza glabra- European and Ayurvedic) (Glycyrrhiza uralensis- Chinese)

This widely used herb is a general stabilizing adaptogen, particularly associated with benefiting the adrenal glands.

Licorice is antioxidant,[ 42] and protects against stress damage.[ 43][ 44]

Ho Shou Wu (fo ti) Root
(Polygonum multiflorum)

This general adaptogen from Chinese herbal medicine tends to favor the thyroid gland, prom o ting slow but steady improvement in stamina. It is used for its anti — inflammatory, anti-tumor and detoxification abilities. It's renowned in China for contributing to longevity and as a sexual tonic. A recent Chinese study showed a protective effective on heart muscle.[ 45]

Astragalus Root
(Astragalus membranaceus)

This is a Chinese tonic herb. It is particularly valued for immune support, but as a Chinese qi tonic it is also used to restore energy overall. It is one of the most valued of all herbs by the Chinese for its ability to nourish and boost almost every system of the body, and it's an excellent long-term energy builder that can also provide more immediate, though mild, energy increases. It can be taken as tea or capsules.

Cubeb Berry (Piper cubeba)

This peppercorn is a minor item in the pharmacopoeia of Southeast Asia, traditional Chinese medicine and some areas of India. It has naturalized to the Caribbean, from where North American supplies originate.

Cubeb berry is particularly known for its immune-building/antiviral capabilities. This warming, spicy and aromatic black pepper relative also has an affinity for the lung and general respiratory tissue. It is an excellent tonic for adrenal insufficiency. It is very effective used daily as a tea, one to two strong cups a day. Pipali (Piper longum) has related effects.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

This mild European herb is used for nervous agitation, sleeping problems and functional gastrointestinal complaints. It has antiviral properties and is being used topically and internally today in Europe for herpes diseases.[ 46][ 47][ 48]

Lemon Balm

Saw Palmetto Berry
(Serenoa repens)

This herb, from a little palm tree that grows in Florida, is currently best known for its use as a tonic for men over age 40-50 because of its impressive performance in prevention of and treatment for prostrate disease. However, it is also useful as a thyroid tonic and long-term builder. It also increases production of sex hormones. Two to five capsules a day is an average dose.

Vervain Leaf (Verbena hastata)

Vervain is a mild general lung herb.

Prickly Ash Bark and Berry
(Zanthoxylum americanum)

Prickly ash is a North American herb that enhances general circulation and promotes adrenal function.

Eleuthero Root
(Eleutherococcus senticosus)

Often called "Siberian ginseng", this is an excellent, slow acting, stamina enhancer from Russia. It is an exceptional overall long-term tonic for health, immunity and strength. In the con text of addressing energy problems it works specifically on the thyroid and is especially useful for those diagnosed with low thyroid activity.

Gotu Kola Leaf
(Brahmi) (Centella asiatica)

This popular Ayurvedic herb is probably the most well-known nerve treatment herb in the world.

Milk Thistle Seed
(Silybum marianum)

Milk Thistle

Certainly the most widely respected liver remedy in use in the United States and Europe today, milk thistle seed is a broad spectrum medicine for the this important organ. An ancient herbal medicine, milk thistle has been in use for at least two thousand years.

Particularly known for livers suffering from toxic chemical exposure, as confirmed in extensive European research, milk thistle is specifically suited to the case involving enlarged and painful spleen, with pain extending up to the left shoulder blade, irritated or damaged liver tissue, and increased liver enzymes (revealed by blood test).

The main claim to fame for this herb is the protection and repair of liver tissue after any stress, including hepatitis, or accidental poisoning. In fact, Dr. Andrew Weil suggests milk thistle for patients with Hepatitis C. Probably the most verified effect of milk thistle is in treating and protecting against mushroom poisoning, an especially dangerous situation with a usually grim prognosis.

Milk thistle promotes bile flow, so is indicated in gallbladder disease.

Milk thistle actually rebuilds liver tissue. Its action is more effective if given at night. It is a slow acting herb, and it is very nontoxic, so it is safe for longterm use. The safety of milk thistle is supported by its long history of consumption as a food. Previously, Europeans grew the plant as a vegetable. The leaves were used in salads, as a spinach substitute, while the stalks were eaten like asparagus. The roots can be eaten like salsify ("oyster plant"), while the flower, which resembles artichoke, another thistle, can be steamed and used similarly.

The seed can be used in its whole form, by soaking overnight to soften. More typically now a days, however, a semi-purified extract of the seed, called silymarin, is used clinically. Silymarin is present at about 5% in mature seeds, and is not a single, drug-like compound, but a mixture of flavanolignans. Silymarin has been shown to increase solubility of the bile.

Typical doses would be about two Tbs. per day of whole seed, ground to a powder and sprinkled on food (not bad tasting), or soaked overnight. This form is very economical, but requires a bit more preparation.

Silymarin is used at does of 200-600 mg per day. The European studies are done with this form, which is convenient, but considerably more costly.

Turmeric Root (Curcuma longa)

This herb has a long history in Ayurveda of use as an alterative and hepatoprotective.

Dandelion Root
(Taraxacum officinale)

The root of the dandelion is primarily used therapeutically as a cholagogue to enhance biliary function.

Dandelion Root

Willow Bark (Salix alba)
Willow bark treats pain, fever, and inflammation. It is particularly synergistic with cinchona.

Cinchona Bark
(Cinchona officinalis)

Cinchona is antipyretic and widely antimicrobial. It is synergistic with willow bark.

Khella Seed (Ammi visnaga)

This Umbelliferous herb is used as a bronchodilator in asthma and related complaints.

Triphala ("three fruits") is the revered Ayurvedic herbal preparation made from amla, bibitaki, and haritaki. It's legendary in India for its prodigiously broad range of action in promoting health and healing for virtually every body organ and system. One of its chief uses is as a glandular tonic, very long-term. Two capsules a day is a typical maintenance dose.

Amla Fruit (Emblica officinalis)

This famous Ayurvedic herb is one of the most useful medicines in the Indian pharmacopoeia, and is considered one of the strongest rejuvenatives. It is an exceptionally rich source of vitamin C.

Amla is the frontline anti-inflammatory herb, and is used for a wide variety of inflammatory conditions, including hemorrhoids, gastritis, and colitis. Scientists recently confirmed the potent anti-inflammatory action of amla in an animal study.[ 49]

It is considered the prime general herb for the eyes, and is said to treat premature gray hair. Amla is the basis for the famous Ayurvedic rejuvenative jam, "chyavanprash."

As a long term, slow acting remedy for chronic inflammation, use 1-2 grams per day in capsules.

Boldo Leaf (Peumus boldus)

This South American herb, from Chile and Peru, was very popular at the turn of the century in North America as a kidney tonic, useful for kidney infection. It still is a good kidney herb, but is also now known to be a superlative liver herb. Research shows that boldo leaf is liver-protective and antioxidant.[ 50][ 51] It can be taken as a tea or in capsule form, one to five a day.

Lavender Flower
(Lavandula officinalis)

This European herb is a mild relaxant.

Linden Flower (Tilia platyphyllos)

A mild herb from Eu rope, linden is traditionally used primarily to reduce blood pressure, and as a very mild relaxant

Woodruff Leaf (Galium odoratum)

Woodruff is a mild relaxant.

Bhumy Amalaki
(Phyllanthus amarus)

Bhumy amalaki is probably the most respected herb for the liver in Ayurveda.

As you can see, the herbal kingdom is a rich supply of ways to relieve and heal mood disorders. A diagnosis of such a disorder does not have to mean life on drugs.

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By Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, C.N., A.H.G.

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