Herbs and Mental Health: What Does the Research Say?
By CNP Contributor Jill Trodderman, NC
As is evident by research currently being generated (see the CNP Research Category “Herbs and Mental Health”), interest in using herbs to support mental health is increasing. Scientists worldwide are beginning to substantiate the efficacy and healing capacities of hundreds of plants, trees, and their constituents — many of which have already been used in diverse healing traditions for thousands of years.
For instance, Ayurvedic herbs like Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) are currently being studied to treat neurocognitive disorders because of their proven ability to reduce inflammation, a prominent cause of degenerative disease.
In a 2018 study, Gupta and Kaur state that “Natural products are emerging better therapeutic agents due to their affordability and inherent pleiotropic [producing more than one effect] biological activities”.
Another herb more well-known for its powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties is Turmeric and the active phytochemical it contains called Curcumin. This rhizome (a subterranean plant stem that sends out roots and shoots from its nodes), commonly used in Indian cooking, is one of the world’s most popularly relied upon nutraceuticals.
Scientists can now show Curcumin’s positive effects on disorders including Parkinson’s disease and the crippling neuropsychiatric disorder MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). This finding is demonstrated in a study titled, Relevance of the Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Curcumin in Neurodegenerative Diseases and Depression. It shows that “Curcumin, or better yet, an analog with better and longer bioavailability could be of important therapeutic potential in PD and major depression.” (Tizabi, Hurley, Qualls, & Akinfiresoye, 2014).
It is exciting to see both familiar and unfamiliar herbs like Ashwagandha and Turmeric being demystified as reliable sources supporting the mitigation of cognitive decline. Soon other herbal plant medicines, including Brahmi, Ginkgo, Gotu kola, and even Lemon and Mint, may join their ranks as potential treatments with proven positive outcomes.
Fortunate for healthcare practitioners, parents, and those curious, we are at a renewed beginning in how we use plants to prevent, treat, and heal ourselves from the range of psychological imbalances occurring in humans, from anxiety and ADHD to stress and Parkinson’s Disease. Please see the CNP free-public access research library for links to these and other studies.
Gupta, M., & Kaur, G. (2018). Withania somnifera as a Potential Anxiolytic and Anti-inflammatory Candidate Against Systemic Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Neuroinflammation. Neuromolecular medicine, 20(3), 343–362. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12017-018-8497-7
Tizabi, Y., Hurley, L. L., Qualls, Z., & Akinfiresoye, L. (2014). Relevance of the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin in neurodegenerative diseases and depression. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 19(12), 20864–20879. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules191220864