Of all the drug prescriptions written in the United States today, the third most widely prescribed category is antidepressants, which includes Lexapro, Paxil and Prozac. Americans are also using drugs to deal with everyday stresses such as sleeplessness, nervousness, anxiety and related issues.
In the days before store-bought remedies were readily available, people looked to plants to help fix their ailments—both physical and emotional. In fact, many modern drugs sold today are simply synthetic modifications or copies of natural plant substances. A main difference between plants and the drugs that are made from them is that while medicinal plants contain an array of chemical compounds, drugs are made from what scientists have identified as the “active principle” of the plant. They isolate it, synthesize it and make a pharmaceutical drug out of it. This process allows the drug company to then patent the molecule, rendering it their exclusive property. This exclusivity can literally be worth billions of dollars! While pharmaceutical medicines may be helpful in some instances, it is possible that other, more natural remedies could be effective in certain conditions.
When choosing a remedy or preventative medicine, most people are looking to find the safest, most effective—and most cost-effective—solution available. Take a look at a few of the herbal options available when it comes to brain health.
Ginko Biloba.Used to improve memory and concentration. May improve blood flow to the brain and delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias. People with epilepsy or a history of seizures should avoid ginkgo, as it may increase the frequency of seizures.
St. John’s Wort.Often used for the treatment of minor depression—much like a low dose anti-depressant. St. John’s wort interacts with many drugs. Stop using St. John’s wort at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Sage. High in antioxidants, sage enhances memory and cognitive function. Sage has shown positive results in treating Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases. It also has been found to effectively relieve mild to moderate anxiety.
Gotu Kola.Improves memory and mental performance and may be used to help treat nervous disorders such as epilepsy. It may also help to reduce stress.Gotu kola may reduce fertility, so women who are pregnant or are attempting to become pregnant should avoid it. Nursing mothers should not use Gotu kola.
Ginseng.Has been known to boost mood, improve memory and increase both physical and mental endurance.Regular use of ginseng may increase ability to endure greater amounts of physical and emotional stress. The most common side effects are headaches, sleep disturbances and gastrointestinal problems. Be aware that ginseng may occasionally cause allergic reactions
As with other medications, herbs can have drawbacks and limitations. Herbal remedies can also interact with prescription medications. Always consult with your healthcare provider before using any herbal remedies.
Aromatherapy can be very useful for lifting sagging spirits. Try these, used alone or in combination: