If 2020 has taught us anything, it is about the negative effect of stress on our mental health!
In fact, there was a 34 percent increase in the prescription of antidepressant and anti anxiety medications last year.
With so many people utilising these medications, many are wondering- Is this the only thing that will help?
Can I use natural medicine alongside my mood support pharmaceuticals?
The answer is (a cautionary) YES!
Yes, natural medicines can be used alongside medications such as Zoloft, Prozac, Lexapro, Xanax and Valium. In fact, using complementary medicine can improve their effectiveness and decrease side effects.
However, natural medicines can interact with pharmaceuticals. So co-prescribing should only be done by a qualified naturopath, nutritionist or qualified health-care professional.
How are my current medications working?
Antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications work by increasing neurotransmitter activity in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that send messages around our brain. They play a role in our mood and motivation. One such neurotransmitter is serotonin.
Low serotonin is linked to:
-Obsessive compulsive disorder
-Post-traumatic stress disorder
Many antidepressant and anti anxiety medications work by increasing serotonin activity. This increase in serotonin is what gets us feeling better and happier.
So what else can we do to make us feel better while we’re taking these medications?
Meet your nutritional needs
For starters, we need to make sure that all our nutritional requirements are being met. The production of every chemical in our body comes from the food we eat.
You will have heard this one before but…
You are what you eat.
Consequently, if our diet is lacking in nutrients, the production of neurotransmitters declines.
This is particularly important when taking anti-depressants or anxiolytics. These pharmaceuticals up-regulate the production of neurotransmitters. If the “ingredients” for these neurotransmitters are unavailable, these medications won’t work.
Mental health is the most complex of health fields. There is still so much we don’t know about the human brain.
No mental health treatment is complete without implementing counselling or psychotherapy. Counselling or psychotherapy can help you to assess things in your environment. Things that contribute to your stress, your mood and your mental wellbeing.
But your environment isn’t the only thing that should go under the microscope!
There is a growing amount of research to support the use of functional testing in mental health. Functional testing is similar to the pathology testing your GP might order. As naturopaths, we order tests specific to your presentation or diagnosis.
Some of the investigations can include:
The purpose of these tests is to identify drivers for your mental health condition. Drivers such as nutrient deficiencies, hormone imbalances, parasites, genetic abnormalities and more.
All these things can contribute to your mental wellbeing.
Without knowing about these drivers, we can’t address them. And they remain a road-block in your path to feeling better.
Us naturopaths have quite the collection of herbs that can support mental health!
Herbs such as
St Johns Wort (Not to be taken with antidepressants!)
have well documented research to support their use in mental health treatment. They act through altering brain chemistry. And here is where my big warning comes in again.
Herbal medicine is effective. In order for it to be effective it has to have an EFFECT ON YOUR BODY.
Meaning, it has the potential to interact with pharmaceuticals you may be taking.
For better or worse.
To avoid any negative effects of self-prescribing, and to make the most of the benefits, seek the guidance of a naturopath or nutritionist.
Cooking with herbs and spices is a fantastic way to introduce yourself to the benefits herbal medicine.
Below I’ve included a delicious recipe for a mood-boosting golden latte.
Or as I like to call it, a little cup of sunshine!
250ml Milk of choice (try coconut or oat for a creamy twist)
1 teaspoon Ground Turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Ground Ginger
A pinch Black Pepper
4-5 Saffron threads
1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup (optional)
1. In a small saucepan or turkish coffee pot, combine the milk and ground turmeric over medium heat.
2. Stir in cinnamon, ginger, black pepper and saffron threads.
3. Heat until nearly boiling, then remove from heat.
4. Add honey or maple syrup if desired
5. Pour into your favourite cup. Curl up, sip and enjoy!