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Herbs and Nutrients in the Treatment of Depression, Anxiety, Insomnia, Migraine, and Obesity


Journal of Psychiatric Practice®: March 2001 - Volume 7 - Issue 2 - p 75-91

Although a multitude of pharmaceutical agents are available for the treatment of mood disorders, anxiety and insomnia, many patients have difficulty tolerating the side effects, do not respond adequately, or eventually lose their response. Many therapeutic herbs and nutrients have far fewer side effects and may provide an alternative treatment or can be used to enhance the effect of prescription medications. In the article, the authors review the quality of the evidence supporting the clinical effects of a number of commonly used types of complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) for mood disorders, anxiety, and insomnia. They review data on the use of St. John’s Wort, S-adenosyl-methionine (SAM-e), B vitamins, inositol, omega-3 fatty acids, and choline for mood disorders; data on the use of kava and other herbal agents and fish extract for anxiety and insomnia; and data on valerian and melatonin for insomnia. The authors also discuss the use of CAM to treat migraines, which may be comorbid with mood and anxiety disorders, and obesity, which can occur as a side effect of psychotropic medications. They consider the data on feverfew and butterbur for migraines and on chromium picolinate and the combination of ephedrine and caffeine for obesity. The authors also review issues related to comorbid medical illness, side effects, drug interactions, dosage, and brand selection.

BROWN: Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons; GERBARG: New York Medical College.

Please send correspondence and reprint requests to: Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD, 86 Sherry Lane, Kingston, NY 12401.

Portions of this article are adapted with permission from Brown RP, Gerbarg PL. Integrative psychopharmacology: A practical approach to herbs and nutrients in psychiatry. In: Muskin PR, ed. Complementary and alternative medicine and psychiatry. American Psychiatric Press Review of Psychiatry, Volume 19 (Oldham JM, Riba MB, series eds.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, 2000.

Copyright © 2001 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.