Anxiety and depression are often interconnecte, and can manifest as both acute and chronic conditions. While severe or prolonged cases require immediate professional attentio, milder cases often respond well to herbal intervention. Particularly useful herbs are kava kav, valerian root, St. John’s wort, ginkgo biloba.
Kava kava is one of the most widely researched herbs, and in Europe kava extracts are approved as an anti anxiety medication, due to the clinically verified ability of kavalactone, the plant’s primary active compound, to promote feelings of calm and relaxation. Double blind studies of subjects receiving kava extracts have shown that the herb significantly reduces anxiety symptom, without the side effects of most popular anti anxiety medications, and also improves mood, mental alertness, and reaction time. Kava should not be taken continuously for periods longer than four months, however, and is also not recommended for pregnant or lactating women, people suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, and people taking benzodiazepines (a class of psychotropic drug, including Xanax and Valium).
Valerian root extract can also be useful for treating cases of anxiety, due to its mild sedative actions. It is completely safe for short-term use, and can be taken both during the day and at night to enhance sleep.
For cases of depression, St. John‘s wort has been shown by a number of clinical studies to be as effective as standard antidepressant medications, with far fewer side effects. Among the depression - related symptoms St. John’s wort has been shown to improve are apathy, insomnia, and other sleep disturbances, low self esteem, and feelings of worthlessness. St John’s wort should not be taken with SSRI medications, such as Prozac, Zoloft, or Paxil, however, and should be avoided until four to six weeks following the start of amino acid supplementation. It can also cause mild stomach irritation.
For older people suffering from depression, ginkgo biloba can also be effective and may enhance the effectiveness of standard antidepressant drugs. Ginkgo biloba extract along with antidepressant medication reduces depression symptoms by 50% after 4 weeks of daily use 3 times a day, and by 70% after two months. Ginkgo is also a potent antioxidant known to improve cerebral circulation and to protect the neutral pathways and receptors of the brain from free-radical damage.