Frequently Asked Questions
- Taking Herbs
- Ginkgo biloba
- Milk Thistle
- St. John’s Wort
- Saw Palmetto
- Purchasing Herbs
St. John’s Wort FAQ’s
- St. John’s Wort and Sex
- Does St. John’s Wort Effect Birth Control Medication?
- Do I need a Doctor?
- St. John’s Wort in Relation to Antidepressants
- Length of Treatment
- St. John’s Wort for Anxiety
- St. John’s Wort and Bipolar Disorder
- Weight Gain
- With Alcohol
- Side Effects
Q: Do herbs really work?
A: Yes! About 80% of the world’s population uses herbal medicines, from the most basic folk remedies to the well-researched phytomedicines of Europe and Asia. Doctors who can choose whether to prescribe herbs or pharmaceuticals often make herbs their first choice. For example, in Germany, doctors prescribe St John’s wort 20 to 1 over the leading antidepressant drug since the herb is just as effective, costs less, and has none of the drug’s side effects.
Q: Why is research necessary to prove that herbs work?
A: Research studies are the backbone of conventional medicine. They have provided us with a wealth of valuable information in all fields, including human biology and the health sciences. The whole issue, however, is complicated by nonscientific factors that influence which therapies are given funds for research and which are not. Research is costly, running into the millions, and most natural products do not have any major funding behind them. In Europe – where many herbal medicines are classified alongside pharmaceutical products, prescribed by doctors, and covered by the national health plans – it’s a different story. Because herbal medicine is accepted in Europe as a legitimate form of therapy, the drug companies there have the financial incentive to do the necessary research.
Q: How can I work with my doctor when he seems to be so against herbal medicines?
A: In the best of all possible worlds, your doctor would be familiar with herbal remedies and would prescribe them as needed. I believe most doctors are motivated and curious to find the best, least harmful approaches to helping their patients. I therefore recommend that outake this book or something similar to your doctor to introduce him to the benefits of herbal medicine. He may be skeptical, but draw his attention to the scientific references at the back of the book and encourage him in a non-arguementative way to look them up and read them. Sharing this knowledge can help you, your doctor, and his or her other patients.
Remember, there are times when it’s important to seek professional medical help – for example, in cases of high blood pressure, liver ailment, enlarged prostrate, severe depression, or deteriorating mental function. All are potentially serious conditions and should be checked out before you embark on a self-treatment program.
Q: What is echinacea?
A: Echinacea purpurea, or purple coneflower, is a decorative plant that has been one of the most popular herbal medications in both the United States and Europe for over a century. Echinacea is the primary remedy for minor respiratory infections in Germany, where doctors write over 1.3 million prescriptions for it annually. Native Americans used the related species, Echinacea angustifolia, for a wide variety of problems, including respiratory infections, inflammation of the eyes, toothache, and snakebite. In the nineteenth century, before the advent of sulfa drugs, echinacea was the number-one cold and flu remedy in the United States.
Q: What does echinacea do?
A: Echinacea is useful for treating colds and flus, ear infections, bronchitis, bladder infections, and even yeast infections. Echinacea can be used both to increase your resistance to illness as well as to relieve the symptoms once a cold or flu begins. Unlike antibiotics, which do little if anything in these cases, studies show at least a 20% drop in occurrence of illness and reduction in symptoms. It works best for those who are prone to get colds, since it boosts their weak immune system.
Q: Can children take echinacea?
A. Yes. As we all know, once children start day care or school, they often pick up colds, flus and ear infections from exposure to other kids. An excellent preventive measure during the cold and flu season is a daily dose of echinacea. Children prefer a glycerin based tincture or a tea, which can be given two to three times a day. A two-day break is recommended every 8 weeks. One of my patients brought in her five-year-old son, who had been catching every bug that came to school, then passed it on to the rest of the family. I suggested the glycerin-based tincture for him, and the alcohol-based tincture for the mother. Both remained free of illness for the rest of the season!
Q: What is garlic?
A: Besides keeping vampires away, garlic is useful as a plant medication. The human cultivation of garlic (Allium sativum) goes back at least 5000 years, and today this herbal medicine can be found almost everywhere in the world, from Polynesia to Siberia. In the first century A.D., Dioscorides, Hippocrates, and other ancient Greek physicians recommended garlic for many conditions including respiratory problems, parasites, and poor digestion. Garlic is principally used to prevent and treat heart disease, hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, and high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
Q: Can garlic reduce cholesterol levels?
A: High blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, which are lipids (fats), are related to a higher incidence of heart disease. Thus, physicians recommend keeping your cholesterol and triglyceride levels down. Especially important to control is your low density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol. The high density lipoprotein (HDL) form, or “good” cholesterol, is protective, while LDL form is destructive to the arteries.
At least twenty-eight controlled clinical studies have shown that garlic can lower total cholesterol levels by about 9 to 12 percent, as well as improve the ratio of good to bad cholesterol. In a 1990 German study, 261 patients were given either 800 mg of standardized garlic or a placebo daily. Over the course of sixteen weeks, patients in the garlic group had a 12-percent drop in total cholesterol and a 17-percent decrease in their triglyceride levels.
A European study comparing garlic to the drug bezafibrate found garlic to be just as effective at lowering cholesterol, and without the drug’s side effects. Like prescription drugs, garlic appears to interfere with the manufacture of cholesterol in the body. Some studies have been less successful. The differences may be due to manufactring differences in the particular garlic used.
Q: What is Ginkgo biloba?
A: Ginkgo biloba, or ginkgo, as it’s commonly known, is the most widely prescribed herb in Germany. More than 6 million prescriptions are written there for ginkgo in a typical year. Used mainly to treat failing mental faculties, including memory loss, in the elderly, it is also used for a variety of circulatory problems. Over 200 million years old, the ginkgo is the oldest surviving species of tree on the planet, and individual trees may live for 1000 years. The bi-lobed, that is double lobed leaf gives the plant the name “biloba.”. Since the 1950s, the focus of medical research has been on the extracts of ginkgo leaves.
Q: What is Alzheimer’s disease, and how does ginkgo help it?
A: A serious and increasing problem, Alzheimer’s disease, or “senile dementia,”, literally means “impaired mental function of the elderly”. It affects approximately 4 million Americans, which includes nearly 30 percent of the people over the age of 85.
It has been found that ginkgo improves memory and the ability to concentrate, elevates the mood, and relieves dizziness and anxiety. Moreover, taking ginkgo actually stops or significantly slows down the progression of Alzheimer’s. This can enhance quality of life and improve the ability to function adequately. It can take up to twelve weeks of treatment to take full effect, so don’t give up too quickly. However, be aware that while ginkgo can reduce the symptoms and progression of Alzheimer’s in many people, it will not cure the disease.
Q: What is ginseng?
A: Ginseng is one of the most venerable herbs. It has been in continuous use in China, to restore vital energy, for over 2000 years. There are actually three different herbs commonly called ginseng – Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). The last herb is actually not ginseng at all although it is believed to function in a similar way. Sometimes called adaptogens, the ginsengs increase resistance to stress, enhance mental alertness, and improve stamina and immunity.
Q: What is ginseng used for today?
A: Ginseng appears to protect us from stress, which is a significant health problem in modern day life. As a part of the adaptogenic effects, ginseng also stimulates the mind, increases physical performance, strengthens immunity, and helps the hormones to better regulate bodily functions. It helps to protect the liver, which might account for its ability to speed the processing of alcohol in the body. Ginseng also increases oxygenation in the cells and tissues of the body, thereby boosting endurance, alertness, and visual-motor coordination. Its effect on brain function makes it useful for the elderly, and it combines well with ginkgo for maximum effect.
Q: What is milk thistle?
A: The seeds, fruit, and leaves of milk thistle (Silybum marianum) have been used for medicinal purposes for more than 2,000 years. The Roman writer Pliny the Elder, who live from A.D. 23 to 79, reported that the juice of milk thistle mixed with honey “could carry off bile.” In Europe, the herb was widely used up through the early twentieth century for the treatment of liver ailments, as well as insufficient lactation.
Q: How does milk thistle work?
A: Silymarin is a powerful antioxidant. We are constantly exposed to toxins such as cigarette smoke, car exhaust, pesticides, and other chemicals in our air, food, and water. This is in addition to the toxins that our bodies produce as by-products of our own metabolism. All these toxins produce free radicals, which cause cell damage. They can, however, be neutralized by substances called antioxidants. Two major antioxidants produced by the body, glutathione and superoxide dismutase (SOD), are greatly enhanced by silymarin. Thus, milk thistle acts as an antioxidant in the liver, protecting it from free-radical damage. Animal studies suggest that milk thistle extract can also protect against many poisons, from toluene, a common solvent, to acetaminophen, the main ingredient in Tylenol.
In Europe, doctors often prescribe milk thistle as extra protection for patients taking medications that are known to case liver problems. I often recommend it to patients who are on medications such as antidepressants, which are metabolized (broken down) in the liver. Milk thistle can also protect against future toxic exposure.
St. John’s Wort
Q: What is St. John’s wort?
A: St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) is becoming the top natural treatment for mild to moderate depression, with all the benefits of prescription antidepressants, without the side effects, and at one-tenth the cost. St. John’s wort is a bushy perennial plant with yellow flowers that commonly grows wild. It is native to many parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, and the United States. It gets its unusual name from St. John the Baptist, since it was traditionally collected on St. John’s Day, June 24. “Wort” is the Old English word for “plant.”
Q: What about using St. John’s wort for stress and anxiety?
A: While St. John’s wort won’t take the stress away, it will help you deal with it better. The herb should be taken regularly, at the ususl doses, and not just before stressful events, since it needs to build up in the system to be the most effective. You can also add kava, 70 mg or so of standardized extract (30-percent kavalactones), three times daily at times of increased stress.
Q: I have seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or the “winter blues.” Can St. John’s wort help?
A: St. John’s wort has been quite successful in the treatment of SAD. The lack of sunlight that occurs in autumn and winter triggers biochemical changes in the brain and leads to such symptoms as depression, impaired concentration, anxiety, marked decrease in energy and libido, and carbohydrate cravings. It is especially common in countries at the extreme northern and southern latitudes, where there is less sunlight during the winter months. Yet, when affected individuals get their required dose of sunlight, they feel energetic and ready to get on with their lives. In a study comparing St. John’s wort to light therapy the researchers concluded that St. John’s wort is as effective as light therapy. This herb really does “bring light into dark places.”
Q: What is saw palmetto?
A: Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is an extract of the saw palmetto berry, the fruit of a short palm tree that grows in the southeastern United States, mainly in Florida and Georgia. It is used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia, or simply prostrate enlargement. A traditional Native American remedy for urinary tract problems, saw palmetto was researched in the 1960’s by French scientists, who developed the extract.
Q: What results can I expect from saw palmetto?
A: About 90 percent of men respond to saw palmetto to some extent, beginning after approximately four to six weeks of treatment. Furthermore, while the prostate tends to continue to grow when left untreated, saw palmetto causes a small but definite shrinkage. In other words, it does not simply relieve symptoms, but may actually stop prostate enlargement.
There have been many double-blind studies comparing the benefits of saw palmetto with a placebo, and the results have been excellent. The herb significantly improved the urinary-flow rate and other symptoms of prostate disease. Moreover, the response is rapid. For example, in one month-long study involving 110 patients taking 320 mg of saw palmetto daily, there was significant increase in urinary flow, and a decrease in nighttime urination.
Q: What forms do herbs come in, and which are best?
A: Herbs can be purchased as teas, tinctures, tablets, and capsules. Teas and tinctures, being liquid, may be absorbed by the body more rapidly than the other forms. Many herbalists recommend the liquid forms because, in tasting the herb, we begin the process of allowing it to heal us. Tablets and capsules are made from measured amounts of herb, and are the most common and convenient forms. Gelatin or vegetable-based capsules filled with powdered dried herb come in a variety of sizes and strengths, so you need to read the labels to endure the proper dose. Tablets are powdered herb compressed into a solid pill, often with a variety of inert ingredients as fillers.
Q: Why doesn’t the label tell you what the herb should be used for and what side effects you may encounter?
A: Most herbal products are regulated as dietary supplements. In 1994, the FDA’s Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) set new guidelines regarding the quality, labeling, packaging, and marketing of supplements. DSHEA allows manufacturers to make “statements of nutritional support for conventional vitamins and minerals,” but since herbs aren’t nutritional in the conventional sense, DSHEA allows them to make only what they call “structure and function claims.”
Q: What can be said on the label?
A: The label can explain how the vitamin or herb affects the structure or function of the body. However, it can make no therapeutic or prevention claims, such as, “Treats headaches fast,” or “Cures the common cold.” A saw palmetto label can say, “Helps maintain urinary and prostate health in men fifty and over.” But it cannot say, “Helps treat the symptoms associated with benign prostatic hypertrophy”, which is the actual reason men use it. That would mention the condition and the treatment, and be considered a drug claim.
St. John’s Wort FAQ’s
St. John’s Wort and Sex
Q: Does St. John’s Wort interfere with sexual desire? Before taking St. John’s Wort I never had a problem with my sexual drive and would wake up most every morning with a strong libido. Now I am having problems just mustering up the urge and it is a major concern for me and my wife. I am a 36 year old male. Any comments?
A: Since St. John’s Wort raises serotonin levels, it can in fact interfere with libido in some people. In others, due to individual biochemical make-up, there may be an increase in libido. You could try switching to a different natural antidepressant, as described in St. John’s Wort: Nature’s Blues Buster, one that does not raise serotonin, but enhances the other feel good neurotransmitters. SAMe, tyrosine are good possibilities. See too my new book, Natural Highs, for various combinations to raise your mood.
Does St. John’s Wort Effect Birth Control Medication?
Q: I have been experiencing depression lately and wanted to try taking St. Johns Wort. One of my friends told me that it may decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills. Is there any truth to this?
A: There have been 2 reported cases of pregnancy while being on the pill and with concurrent use of St. John’s Wort. It is best, then not to take a chance. However, not only are other natural products available for depression, as discussed in my St. John’s Wort book, but you should be aware that being on the pill can cause depression. Both Vitamins C and B6 are depleted by the pill, so you should consider supplemention with 1000-2000 mg daily of Vitamin C and a 100 mg daily of Vitamin B6, with a Vitamin B complex as well (or a multivitamin that has B complex) to balance the B6.
Do I Need a Doctor?
Q: I am interested in taking St. John’s Wort. However, I would like to be under a doctor’s care while doing so. After reading your book, I feel that I am more familiar with the use of the herb than most doctors I know.
Could you please recommend a physician in my area who might be familiar with St. John’s Wort and the types of physiological reactions associated with it?
A: You could easily administer the herb yourself – it’s very safe. I have no particular referrals in your area, however you can find an experienced doctor using the physician referral listings in theResources section of this site. Best of luck on your search – and let me know if you find someone you like so I can pass along your recommendation.
St. John’s Wort in Relation to Antidepressants
Q: Thank you, Dr. Cass, for your informative, and to the point “protocol for switching from an anti-depressant to SJW”. I recently brought up my desire to switch with my psychiatrist, and was displeased to find that he was not willing to help me at all, commenting only that if “this stuff were so great, they wouldn’t have ‘had’ to make Prozac, and it’s cousins”. He gave me little help, which resulted in my first attempt to get off 30 mg./Paxil a day disastrous!! My husband found your book for me, and the 2nd attempt was a breeze. I had no withdrawal symptoms, whatsoever!! My main reason for change was simply the prohibitive cost of the Paxil, at $65/month. Thank you once again!!
A: Congratulations on your persistence. I would still prefer that rather than discounting patients’ wishes, psychiatrists would work with people who are motivated to help themselves, and to do it naturally wherever possible. Keep me posted on the long-term results.
Q: Thanks for your outstanding book. I think SJW is great. However it hasn’t seemed to work for me . I’ve suffered from mild-moderate depression/anxiety off-and-on for over a year, and constant stress problems during that time which hinders my work I’ve completed an anti-candida program (even though I’m a man), eat a great diet, and get moderate daily excercise I have a great family. To combat the anxiety/depression I have taken SJW for about 6-7 weeks (3x/day, 300 mg., 0.3-0.5%) with no apparent effect; in fact, the last week has been a bad one. My M.D., an internist, wants to switch me to Paxil He advised just stopping the SJW and starting the Paxil, but is this safe? Please advise.
A: It’s OK to just switch–no problem with seronin syndrome or MAO inhibitor effect. However, have you considered other causes of depression, such as low thyroid, or food and chemical sensitivities, as discussed in book? While I am not averse to medication, it’s more useful to find the root cause.
Q: I am weaning off from Prozac, am taking 20 mg twice a week. I had started with 20 mg everyday about 3-4 years back. Can I start taking St. John’s wort along with Prozac now. Please advise. I would appreciate it.
A: It should not be a problem. I recommend you let your doctor know, and monitor your blood pressure. While there are no reported problems, it’s always better to err on the side of caution.
Q: My eight year old daughter has been on Zoloft for over 1 year due to a major trauma in her life, we now have taken her off of it and she has gone through a huge change, she says she is miserable, and has asked for the Zoloft back. I take St. John’s Wort and have noticed a major improvement History of depression in the family both side, and my sister is on Zoloft When can children be given SJW? We need to do something – my child is miserable, and these are to be the best years of her life.
A: I agree that a natural product would be preferable. My first choice would be to take her to an orthomolecular psychiatrist, and you can check my resource list for doctors in your area. Otherwise, since this does run in your family, and she responded to Zoloft, the SJW (which has similar effects to serotonin) is worth a good try.
Dose is based on weight, relative to adult’s weight, as mentioned on page 86. I also think that therapy of the kind I describe, brief, to the point, though deep, would be an excellent choice e.g. EMDR. (see my book, read Francine Shapiro’s on EDMR, and other Q & A’s on this site). Major trauma is best treated in this way, and not simply with drugs, or even herbs. I wish you well. Let me know what happens.
Q: How does your St. John Wort product compare to Zoloft? My brother has recently been prescribed Zoloft but would much prefer a more natural method to assist in the control of his depression. Thank you for your assistance.
A: While the research is not done yet, my own experience has been that many people do as well and many, even better on SJW, without the side effects. Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health is currently conducting a study comparing Zoloft and SJW in major depression. The results will be available in a year or so. In the meantime, I recommend trying SJW first before going to Zoloft.
Q: My son, 18 years of age, was just diagnosed with dysthymia. His doctor would like to start him on an antidepressant for this disorder. Is SJW something that would be a alternative to Zoloft or Prozac? If yes, would the standard dosage be adequate?
A: You are right on! Research has shown that St. John’s wort is a comparable treatment for mild to moderate depression, without the side effects (and expense!) of medication. The standard dosage and schedule should be adequate.
Q: I’m currently taking St. John’s Wort with the Paxil and it’s helped the habituation effect, but I’m considering switching to Serzone because of the sexual dysfunction I’ve experience with Paxil and Zoloft.
I’ve taken antidepressants for a little over 3 years (after the birth of my second child) I don’t want to remain on these drugs forever To sum it up, I don’t believe their safety has been proven for long term use.
A: See appendix in book to share with your doctor regarding combining St. John’s Wort with antidepressants, and a program for weaning yourself off the drugs if that works for you. If you do need the medication, please continue, under your doctor’s care.
Evaluation by an orthomolecular/alternative/complementary physician would be useful. See back of book for directory of resources to find someone in your area. One source is ACAM (American College for the Advancement of Medicine) 800-532-3688 or www.acam.org.
Length of Treatment
Q: How long should I continue to take SJW after I start to feel better? Is there a maximum time recommended?
A: 6 months is the general recommended time, then taper off and see how you are feeling. You can always go back on it, or continue on a lower maintenance dose. In Europe, people have been on it for years with no problem.
Q: May St John’s Wort be taken as other supplements for it’s overall benefits by someone who is not necessarily suffering from depression?
A: There are better herbs for “tonic’ effects. Often people do feel better on it–they may have had a low-grade depression and not realized it. others, who don’t need it, find it makes them more irritable. So, your choice!
St. John’s Wort for Anxiety
Q: I have been using the SJW and feeling better from the anxiety attacks that have been plaguing me for over a month and read/heard conflicting news that concerns me. Maybe you can clarify – you say that clearly SJW does not act as an MAOI and then I hear other doctors say they have read reports by pharmocologists who say it does and that if one takes it one should not be eating cheese , and a bunch of other foods – can you separate the wheat from the chaff here?
A: Those reports are based on old information, which attributed its actions to being an MAO-B inhibitor. While it has very mild MAOI activity, these are not nearly strong enough to warrant food restrictions.
Q: I have been diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder and am currently taking Xanax to temporarily temper my anxiety. My doctor is suggesting that I start a program using Prozac and slowly decrease and cease the use of the Xanax. I read your book on St. John’s Wort, read about depression, but did not find information on the herb used for my type of anxiety disorder I would appreciate your feedback on the herb as it relates to alleviating anxiety. I want to make an educated decision as to how to approach this and would appreciate your expertise.
A: You are one the right track. SJW can be used successfully for GAD. I’d recommend gradually going off Xanax, under your doctor’s supervision, and starting SJW. Also, Kava is useful for GAD, 200mg of 30%, 2-3 times daily. See my kava book for more details. Magnesium i also useful for anxiety, 400-800 mg/day. Also, EMDR can help with underlying psychological aspects.These are all mentioned in the SJW book.
Q: I’ve been told GABA might help.
A: GABA, “nature’s valium,” is an amino acid that has an anti-anxiety effect. It will work if you indeed have a gaba deficiency.
Q: I am about to embark on cognitive therapy, and have just started massage and acupuncture. Do you feel that the cognitive therapy along with the SJW is known to bring good results? I want to get to the root of my fear-based patterns so I was hoping the cognitive therapy would help and don’t want to have to always relay on an herb or what not to make me feel back in balance. Thanks!
A: Great idea. SJW is an excellent adjunct to whatever else you are doing. in fact, it can help stabilize your brain to enhance learning during the therapy process.
St John’s Wort and Bipolar Disorder
Q: Our daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder several years ago and despite several different combination of medicines, she continues to have frequent depressions. She recently started on Effexor. Are there any more studies on using St. John’s Wort or any other natural substances for bipolar disorder?
A: I would recommend consultation with an orthomolecular psychiatrist, to evaluate her for levels of various amino acids, and other relevant nutrients. Even if SJW helps to some degree, bipolar disorder does need more complete medical supervision. Please check the guide in the back of my book for resources in your area.
Q: After taking SJW for 5 months I have experienced a 7 lb. weight gain. Before this, my weight had been stable for years Does SJW cause an increase in appetite or a change in metabolism?
A: This is the first I have heard of a weight gain. I would love to hear from anyone reading this who may be able to shed light on this.
Q: My wife is interested in the use of SJW to combat her week of PMS each month.
A: She can take it as needed, beginning mid-cycle. Most women find though, that by taking it all month long they feel better in general.
Q: Can drinking red wine nullify or in any way hinder the positive effects of SJW?
A: No. I do mention in the book that unlike with other antidepressants, it’s okay to drink in moderation when taking SJW, with no harmful effects.
Q: I have been taking St. John’s Wort for 8 weeks. It works beautifully, however I get dizzy and have headaches. The severity of the dizziness and headaches seems to be increasing. I take the standard dosage 3 times a day. Is there anything I can do to reduce the dizziness?
A: You may be extra sensitive to St. John’s Wort which the side effects may indicate. I would suggest you check your blood pressure, looking for hypertension (high blood pressure). If it is high, stop the herb. Otherwise, try reducing your dose to 2 or even 1 daily and observing. If these effects persist, it would be best for you to stop taking it.
Q: Can you please tell me if it is safe to take St. John’s Wort during pregnancy?
A: We generally don’t recommend taking almost anything during pregnancy because we don’t want the responsibility in case a problem occurs, and the herb is usually the first to be blamed! That being said, the animal data shows St. John’s Wort is safe, i.e. no effects on reproduction, fetal development, etc. You could also consider taking SAMe (see article on this website) since it is a metabolite that is found in our own bodies naturally. Also important to take, especially during pregnancy and for some time afterward, is fish oil. It elevates mood, and is great for baby’s brain and other development. It helps with fertility, too, in women wanting to become pregnant. Dose is 3-6 gms/day. Use health food store brands, or the ethylEPA from Vitamin Research Products.
Q: I’m currently taking Paxil for my depression and it’s a great relief to know there are alternatives However, I’ve been working with my physician to withdraw from it and she believes that I need to remain on it for a few more months because of the rebound depression that I experienced at a reduced dose. I believe the reason I suffer from episodes of depression, severe enough to require medication, is related to my childhood experiences. Although I was raised in an upper-middle class home, my Mother and Father neglected me and I was molested by my brother for a number of years.
A: It’s good for you to be able to express all this, and the process is healing in its own way. There is help available for you! Early psychological trauma such as yours is often treated very well with EMDR, mentioned in my book (pp 40-41). You can contact a therapist in your area throughwww.emdria.org or through EMDR.org.
Q: I believe that my depression could be related to a chemical imbalance. I had blood tests last year because my doctor also suspected thyroid disease, but the tests were normal In your book you refer to an individual who suffered from thyroid dysfunction and was treated with thyroid hormone from natural sources.
I suspect that I may indeed have a underactive thyroid because of the symptoms I suffer from: depression, thinning hair, numbness in the hands and feet, I’m always cold, and I experience heavier than normal periods My weight isn’t a problem because I’m a long distance runner My diet is good (I follow the “Zone” diet-which I thought would help with the depression-it hasn’t).
My question is, where would I get natural thyroid medication?
A: You sound like you’re on the right track. However, dessicated thyroid from natural sources is available by prescription only. You would need to see a physician who is open to treating thyroid conditions by clinical evidence, not just lab tests. As I mention, body temperature is a good measure or thyroid function See references to Broda Barnes in my book, and use the list of resources for alternative and complementary physicians. He or she would look for any other imbalance, as well, and treat accordingly.
Q: Yesterday the woman who told me about SJW said she got good results from increasing her dose to 5 or 6 300 mg. 0.3-0.5% capsules per day. Her story: After being very depressed while going through a divorce she could barely work. She took SJW 3x/day with no effect after 3 weeks a health store owner advised her to go up. She says that day she began to feel MUCH better and has for over a month. She’s sure it’s not a placebo effect. I know your book says this shouldn’t happen, but is it worth a try?
A: Yes. There are some people who require more, and go up to 1800 mg/day. In fact, research using this dose for severely depressed patients showed good results.
Q: In reading your book “St. John’s Wort” you mention the Ginkgo Biloba has an antidepressant action. My question is: to overcome anxiety and depression, would I be overdosing if both herbs are taken at the same time?
A: I would suggest starting with the SJW for a week or 2, then add the Ginkgo if necessary. They act in different ways, and are not ‘overkill.’ It’s just a good idea to begin one new product at a time to gauge the result. Also, you might then add Kava, 200 mg of 30% standardized, 2-3 times daily for anxiety, if needed. Let me know what happens.