Anxiety and depression: What exactly are they?

Anxiety disorders and depressive disorders are two of the most common psychological disorders of our time. These kinds of disorders affect the mood and feelings of the person and should be differentiated from usual mood fluctuations, feelings of sadness, fear or normal reactions to stress.

Symptoms of anxiety and depression are often similar and present excessive and pointless worries, sadness, hopelessness, fatigue and motor tension. Often, someone who is suffering from anxiety is also suffering from depression and vice versa. Sometimes, the intensity and duration of the sadness and hopelessness can reach alarming levels, leaving the people with seemingly no option but taking their own lives.

People who suffer from anxiety and depression usually hide their feelings very well and might even deny having trouble when they are offered help. Recognizing and treating these symptoms before anything unfortunate happens is of the utmost importance.

The World Health Organization estimates that one in fifteen people are affected by anxiety or depression. Unfortunately, the number of people with these disorders is dramatically on the rise—, especially among the youngest generation. Suicide rates among Generation Z are alarming.

Natural remedies for anxiety and depression

Nervines are plant remedies which essentially promote the health and well-being of the nervous system, and can be used to treat mild-to-moderate cases of anxiety and depression in the place of addictive psychoactive pharmaceuticals.

While prescription drugs usually treat only the signs and symptoms of a neurological or psychological disorder, herbs tends to will treat the body in a more holistic way. Nervines can be differentiated into three major categories: nervine tonics, nervine relaxants and nervine stimulants.

The nervine relaxants and tonics can be of great use in treating anxiety and depression. Some nervine tonics can also be adaptogens (plants that increase resistance against stressors). Typically, the effectiveness of nervines in treating anxiety and depression is seen after they’ve been used for a few days.

Essentially, after they’ve had time to build up in the body nervine herbs appear to be extremely safe and nonaddictive, especially when comparing them to benzodiazepines which can cause injury, produce horrific side effects and should be reserved for only the most difficult cases of anxiety.

Nervine relaxants

  • American skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
  • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
  • Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis)
  • California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
  • Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
  • Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
  • Hops (Humulus lupulus)
  • Kava-Kava (Piper methysticum)
  • Lavender (Lavendula Officinalis)
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
  • Magnolia bark (Magnolia L.)
  • Passiflora (Passiflora incarnata)
  • Phellodendron bark (Phellodendron amurense)
  • Red feathers (Echium amoenum)
  • Thryallis (Galphimia glauca)
  • Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis)

Nervine tonics

  • Blue vervain (Verbena officinalis)
  • Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)
  • Ginko Biloba
  • Gotu kola (Centrella Asiatica)
  • Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)
  • Oat seed (Avena sativa)
  • Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea)
  • St. John´s Worts (Hypericum perforatum)

The plant based medicines mentioned above can be procured at most health food or vitamin stores.

Psychotropic herbs for anxiety disorders

As time goes by it seems as though more and more people are turning to psychotropic plant-based treatments for severe treatment-resistant anxiety and depression. Many people with advanced-stage cancer or terminal illnesses appeal to psychotropic herbs in order to decrease cancer-related hopelessness and demoralization, improve spiritual well-being and to increase the quality of life.

An increasing amount of evidence suggests that Psychotria viridis and Banisteriopsis caarti (Ayahuasca) can treat psychiatric conditions such as anxiety, depression or substance use disorders. Psilocybin-containing mushrooms are also well within the accepted range of modern psychiatry. Studies on depressed people have been made where the people described feeling “reset“ after these treatments. Views are mixed on whether the Cannabis sativa plant can lead to depression or treat depression.

People who are susceptible to psychological disorders should probably refrain from consuming cannabis, as it might trigger a latent psychological issues. All in all, there is almost no evidence that infrequent cannabis use might lead to depression, leaving CBD and THC as an option for the treatment of anxiety and depression in otherewise mentally healthy people.

Other substances

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that promote intestinal health and have the shown great potential to reduce anxiety and depression. Gut bacteria have the ability to produce several molecules with neuroactive functions such as GABA, acetylcholine, serotonin, catecholamines – the same neurotransmitters that the brain also generates. It is well documented that both anxiety or depression could trigger abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms.

Conversely, GI-conditions such as chronic abdominal pain, gastritis or constipation can result in alteration of mood and cognition, including anxiety and depression. The intimate interaction between gut bacteria and mental health has given rise to a completely new category of medication – Psychobiotics.

Treatment of anxiety and depression with psychobiotics requires the ingestion of a sufficiently large quantity of living colony forming units (CFU), usually 10-100 billion in order to survive the acidic environment of the gut. Many doctors recommend taking numerous psychobiotics (a cocktail of psychobiotics) in order to benefit from their synergistic effect when consumed together.

Written by: John Preston

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