The potential for treatment as well as increasing use of herbal medicine and psychiatric disorders patients wanting to use alternative treatment options have lead to the need for psychiatrists to become familiar with the effects of herbal medicines. Mental health professionals not only need to know what the herbs are but their contraindications, side effects and risks. Four of the most popular herbs, St. John’s wort, kava, ginkgo biloba and valerian are commonly used for as alternative herbal treatment for psychiatric symptoms.
St. John’s wort
St. Johns wort is the second most commonly purchased herbal product in the United States with at least 17% of the American population using some type of product that has St. John’s wort in it. St. John’s wort is a very popular choice for an herbal medicine and psychiatric disorders treatment. Although St. John’s wort is commonly used to treat depression it has other useful properties as well such as being used as a topical treatment for nerve or muscle pain, skin inflammation, wounds and burns. The chemical make-up of the plant is the reason why St. John’s wort has been successful in supporting depression related medical conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome and pms symptoms. St. John’s wort has also been used as an alternative herbal treatment for patients with hysteria or nervous depression.
Kava is typically used to reduce anxiety, relieve stress or tension and treat insomnia. Kavapyrones, the active natural ingredient in kava, has been proven to relax muscles, is an anticonvulsant, protects against strychnine poisoning and reduces limbic system excitability. When it comes to herbal medicine and psychiatric disorders, kava certainly comes to the rescue. South Pacific Islanders have used a mildly psychoactive beverage made from the rhizome of the kava plant for centuries to help them relax or induce a sense of calmness. Kava should not be used by anyone taking CNS depressants or alcohol.
Ginkgo has been used for more than 2,000 years in China. The Chinese use ginkgo as a tea that is used to treat asthma. In the United States it is used to prevent or treat memory problems and is one of the top three best selling herbal products on the market. Gingko has also been found to be useful in treating patients for disorientation, especially the elderly, treating mild to moderate depression and the vertigo. It is believed that ginkgo works as a circulatory aid which helps to increase blood flow to the brain and is being studied as a possible treatment for cerebral insufficiency.
Valerian is typically used for patient’s who have sleep problems. This herbal medication has been found to decrease sleep latency, decrease the chance of the patient waking up at night and improve their overall sleep quality. When it comes to herbal medicine and psychiatric disorders, valerian should not be used as a long term remedy because it can lead to mental depression. As a temporary herbal alternative however, valerian is a strong nervine and very helpful for insomnia.
The use of alternative herbal medicine and psychiatric disorders that are being treated with alternative medicines are fields that are growing rapidly making it imperative that mental health professionals learn about these treatment options, their side effects and possible drug interactions to stay on top of the growing demand from their patients for alternative herbal medicines.