If you try the relaxation therapies
yet still need help calming down, talk to your doctor about medications
that may help to boost your mood or ease your anxiety. If you are
opposed to taking medications to ease stress, then ask your doctor
about the following herbal therapies.
St John’s Wort
St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) is used by millions to ease mild to moderate depression. In Germany, more than 20 million individuals use St. John’s wort.
German researchers have found that St. John’s wort was as effective as
such SSRIs as Prozac (fluoxetine) but without any serious side effects.
In one study published in the journal International Clinical Psychopharmacology, volunteers who took either St. John’s wort or the antidepressant fluoxetine were
evaluated by psychiatrists for symptoms of depression. After 6 weeks of
treatment, researchers concluded that those individuals who took St.
John’s wort reported fewer and less serious side effects. For instance,
just a few participants in the St. John’s wort group reported mild
gastrointestinal complaints. Yet those volunteers who took fluoxetine
reported far more serious symptoms, such as dizziness, tiredness,
anxiety, and erectile dysfunction. The researchers concluded that St.
John’s wort clearly is superior as the medication of choice for mild to
moderate depression in both effectiveness and safety, when compared to
St. John’s wort is available as
capsules, tincture, extract, oil, and dried leaves and flowers. St.
John’s wort can cause sensitive skin in sunlight. (Caution: Since the
mechanism of action of St. John’s wort is uncertain, do not use it with
antidepressants such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors and SSRIs.
Pregnant women are also not advised to take St. John’s wort.)
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
depresses the central nervous system and may also aid in boosting
immune power. This healing herb is said to increase relaxation, promote
quality sleep, and can be used to relieve nervousness, upset stomach,
and menstrual cramps.
Chamomile is available
as dried herb, supplements, and herbal tea. This herb may cause
problems for those allergic to ragweed, although there are no reports
Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) provides a mild tranquilizer effect and helps to ease insomnia, stress, and anxiety.
herb is available as tincture, fruit, dried or fresh leaves, or
capsules. Avoid combining passionflower with prescription sedatives,
and do not take if pregnant or nursing.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
has a sedative effect and has been shown to help in treating insomnia.
It is also used to relieve high anxiety, stress, and nervousness.
is available in capsules, tincture, and dried flowers. Avoid taking
valerian if you already take prescription antidepressants; it may cause
Selecting Quality Supplements
can vary greatly in their potency, and there is no government
regulation for ingredients in herbal remedies. How do you know which
supplements are effective? When choosing herbs, look for the ones
labeled “standardized.” This means the manufacturer measured the amount
of key ingredients in the herbal batch, so the chances are greater that
you will get what you pay for in a “standardized brand.” Also, buy
herbs from a reputable manufacturer instead of an off-brand that may be
cheaper. Some of the known brands include General Nutrition, Natrol,
Sundown, and Nature’s Bounty, among others. You might ask your
pharmacist to recommend a reputable brand.
you decide to take herbal supplements, be sure to talk to your doctor,
pharmacist, or a certified nutritionist about side effects. Herbal
therapies are not recommended for pregnant women, children, the
elderly, or those with compromised immune systems. In addition, some
herbs have sedative or blood-thinning qualities, which may dangerously
interact with NSAIDs or other pain medications. Others may cause
gastrointestinal upset if taken in large doses. For example, ginkgo
biloba may cause nausea, diarrhea, stomach upset, and vomiting if taken
in larger doses, and may reduce clotting time. Anyone taking Coumadin
should not take this herb. If you are taking drugs with a narrow
therapeutic index such as cyclosporine, digoxin, hypoglycemic agents,
lithium, phenytoin, procainamide, theophylline, tricyclic
antidepressants, and warfarin, you should avoid herbal products
altogether. In addition, St. John’s wort, which is taken by many for
the treatment of depression, may cause serious herb-drug reactions,
particularly if taken with SSRI agents.