December 3, 2014

Natural medicines for mental health: what’s the proof?

Stress severely impacts upon the health of 1 in 5 Australians according to the Australian Psychological Society. And the lead up to Christmas is a time when many people are more affected.

There are some natural medicines that have been proven to help in the treatment of mental health conditions. However it’s worth looking at the evidence to make sure you are taking the treatments that are most effective and safe.

Kava – a review of clinical trials comparing a herbal extract of kava found it to be effective and well tolerated in the short term treatment of anxiety.

Fish oils are often used for depression, but the evidence is much stronger for one component than another. Using the combined form is not as effective, so it is important to check with a health professional to make sure you are getting the right form.

Clinical trials have compared St John’s Wort with prescription anti-depressants and found the herb to be as effective in many patients. The form that you use is important though as some of the extracts contain compounds that interact with other drugs and can cause serious side effects.

Vitamin B12 – One of the very common diabetes medicines causes a drop in Vitamin B12 levels in as many as 30% of patients. This is associated with a higher risk of depression in these patients.

Diet – The standard Australian Diet is associated with a 60% increase in the risk of depression when compared to a simple diet of real foods. Studies show a Mediterranean style diet is linked to lower rates of depression.

Other lifestyle changes – 30 minutes per day of exercise, deep breathing techniques, and simple mindfulness meditation all help to improve mood and the ability to cope with stress.

Depression and anxiety are both serious health conditions that are becoming more common. This is a complicated health issue so it is very important not to self medicate. Please talk to us in the pharmacy.