Passionflower is a relaxing herb that is native to Arkansas and other southeastern states. It is a close relative of passion fruit, but that species doesn’t have the calming action of passionflower. Even though the plant is named passionflower, we actually use the leaves of this vine before it flowers. One of the most common uses of passionflower is to ease mild cases of anxiety. Some even use it for depression associated with obsessive-compulsive tendencies or circular thinking. It is also used for insomnia, especially when the sleep issues are related to worry or overwork and exhaustion. Passionflower may also increase the quality of sleep.
The key to using passionflower is that it works best for symptoms where there is either restlessness or nerve irritation at the root of the problem. It mildly eases pain, especially nerve pain. Passionflower can also help relax muscle spasms. It has even been shown in studies to reduce the tendency for seizures. Other studies have shown the use of passionflower to ease mental symptoms associated with drug withdrawal, including nicotine and alcohol. Passionflower has also been used for heart palpitations that are related to nervousness.
Though the holidays are a time of joy for many, they can be trying for some. The combination of shorter days and holiday stress can contribute to winter blahs, more technically known as seasonal affective disorder. St. John’s wort is one of the most popular herbs for mild depression, and it can also be a good choice for seasonal affective disorder. St. John’s wort has multiple actions on the brain. It increases the activity of serotonin, one of the main neurotransmitters associated with contentment. St. John’s wort additionally improves the availability of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that helps us feel alert and energized. Finally, St. John’s wort may reduce the production of cortisol, the stress hormone that is linked to some types of depression. Because of these amazing actions, many studies have shown St. John’s wort to be nearly as affective as some of the most common anti-depressant medications for mild to moderate depression.
Among its lesser-known uses, St. John’s wort may help other mood issues like anxiety. St. John’s wort might help activated the brain receptors for GABA, a calming neurotransmitter. Because of this calming action, St. John’s wort has also been used for sleep disorders like insomnia. St. John’s wort not only affects the brain, but also can benefit nerves throughout the body. A common use is for nerve pain, especially when due to injury or from shingles. St. John’s wort has some anti-microbial benefits that particularly help it fight viruses in the herpes family to which shingles belong. But before you decide to try this helpful herb, there are a few warnings to pay attention to. St. John’s wort should be avoided by people with bipolar disorder or any other form of mania. Also, St. John’s wort may interact with some medications to make them less effective, including birth control pills. Finally, St. John’s wort shouldn’t be used with most of the anti-depressant medications because of potentially dangerous side effects.
An increasing number of studies are showing how our food choices correlate with our mood. They show that it is important to look at our overall pattern of choices as well as a few particular foods. One recent study showed that people who ate a healthy diet were up to 30% less likely to develop depression. By a healthy diet, they mean one high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish and unsaturated fats. Another study analyzing a similar diet showed a 30% reduction in the risk of anxiety disorder. This study also included in their healthy diet high-quality meats such as those from free ranging and grass fed animals. Previous studies have also found that diets rich in high-fat dairy, fried foods, and refined and sugary foods are correlated with a significantly increased risk of depression.
Our choice of fats can also have a major impact on our mood. In particular, the unsaturated oils have been shown to decrease the risk of depression over time. These include the polyunsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, and fish and the monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocados, and some nuts. Some of the best documented brain-supporting fats are the Omega-3 fatty acids from fish. These healthy oils not only decrease the risk of depression, but also support our memory and cognitive functioning. Deficiencies in Omega-3 oils may also be one of the risk factors for suicide. The worst fats for our brains and mood are the trans-fats, which are associated with increased depression and stroke risk. Trans-fats are the artificially created fats that are more similar to saturated fats and are found in many highly processed foods. As far as saturated fats are concerned, I draw a line between those from conventionally raised animals and free ranging animals. Beef from cattle that are grass fed and finished has a fat profile that is more similar to fish and can be a healthy part of the diet for many people.
Posted in Health
Tagged anxiety, depression, DHA, EPA, fish oil, monounsaturated fats, nutrition, omega-3 fatty acids, trans fats, unsaturated fats, vegetables
As I have said before about menopause, no every herbs works equally well for every woman. We have to look at the unique attributes of each herb and compare them to the experience of each menopausal woman. The herb I wanted to highlight today is motherwort. As the name implies this is a useful plant for mothers. Particularly, it is used for overworked mother who could use some mothering themselves. Among its other attributes, motherwort is calming and soothing to the nerves. It can help with insomnia due to anxiety, which I frequently see in mothers and other patients. Motherwort can also be useful as part of a protocol for hot flashes, but it is more likely to help those where anxiety and insomnia are also part of the picture.
As we begin to go through menopausal changes, our menstrual cycle among other things can go haywire. Premenstrual symptoms that we haven’t had since our teenage years can return or completely new symptoms can arise. Motherwort can be useful here too. Motherwort can help relieve premenstrual tension and discomfort. Most menstrual cramps are partially due to inadequate circulation in the pelvis. Motherwort may help calm menstrual pain by both reducing spasms in the uterus and improving blood flow to the pelvis. Motherwort might work best for cramps that are accompanied by a scant menstrual flow and again where anxiety or stress is part of the picture. Motherwort needs to be used for several months for the best benefit. But please don’t let the name motherwort mislead you into thinking this is an herb for pregnant women. It is not recommended during pregnancy since it can cause uterine contractions.