OCD Herbal Remedies

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Research into effective OCD Herbal Remedies has only just begun. As of this writing, several OCD herbal remedies show promise, but few have been tested rigorously enough to become recognized as a treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder.

And although at least one herbal remedy is clearly effective, none are approved by the US FDA for this use. This is partially because most drug trials are funded by pharmaceutical companies, and they tend to research only their own products. Nonetheless, if any of these herbal treatments cured OCD, someone very likely would have stumbled across it by now, so be cautious if you hear any far-reaching claims about the ability of any treatment, herbal or otherwise, to affect a cure. With that being said though, some OCD herbal remedies have shown mild potential in the treatment of OCD, with St. John's Wort being the most promising among them. A few OCD herbal remedies have also been shown to relieve mild anxiety and aid in the treatment of depression, both major problems for OCD sufferers.

Being natural and relatively inexpensive, OCD herbal remedies are an attractive alternative medicine for some — especially if nothing else has worked. Remember though, just because a product can be purchased without a prescription does not mean it is safe. Many OCD herbal remedies work just like manufactured medications and have drug interactions as well, so anyone considering this route should talk to a pharmacist or doctor before taking OCD herbal remedies.

Marijuana and OCD

Marijuana (or "pot") is not a good treatment for OCD. It may provide some short term relief, but it ultimately causes symptoms to later worsen. For some people, OCD symptoms were actually trigged by using marijuana. Marijuana can also interfere with OCD medications, prevent new learning in therapy, and make comorbid depression more severe.

St. John's Wort (Hypercin / Hypericum)
St. John's Wort has proven to be effective in the treatment of depression and helpful for generalized anxiety disorder and somatoform disorders in research studies. For depression, St. John's Wort seemed to work better for mild depression as compared to those with severe symptoms, and poorer for those taking St. John's Wort alongside other antidepressants. Several small studies have been done regarding St. John's Wort and its effectiveness for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder, and some of them have shown success equal to SSRIs, with some studies going so far as to compare it to the clinically effective equivalent of fluoxetine (Prozac). Other studies though have shown no effect greater than a placebo effect. St. John's Wort is the only clinically demonstrated herbal aid for OCD, and is a good option for those unwilling or unable to try an SSRI. (More about St. John's Wort.)

Warning: There is one report in the research literature of a 27 year old female patient with generalized anxiety disorder who was treated with buspirone. During the treatment, the patient felt depressed, and decided to self-medicate with St. John's Wort. During the first three weeks of taking both treatments, she found her depression was improved. However, after two months of beginning the combination of St. John's Wort and buspirone, she began to experience the unwanted effects of serotonin syndrome — a condition caused by too much serotonin, resulting in confusion, agitation, autonomic dysfunction, and physical problems.

Source: Dannawi, Moemen. Possible serotonin syndrome after combination of busiprone and St. John's wort. Journal of Psychopharmacology, Vol 16(4), Dec 2002. pp. 401.

This insomnia drug is sometimes given to augment St. John's Wort but no studies have been done to show if is effective in treating OCD on its own.

OCD herbal remedies that contain kava are used for the psychiatric treatment of anxiety and insomnia. Several studies show that Kava is effective and has few side effects. However, there are a few serious reports of liver failure among users.

Ephedra Alkaloids
This one could actually make OCD worse. There is a published case study of a woman who had an OCD relapse due to taking this supplement for weight loss.

Ginkgo Biloba
This has been used to fight sexual side effects of SSRIs as an alternative to drugs like Viagra. Some spectacular individual responses have been documented, but no statistically significant improvement has been shown. Preliminary research has suggested that Ginkgo Biloba extract may be valuable for conditions commonly seen with brain injury patients.

Valerian Root (Valeriana officianlis)
This root is often used for anxiety. Studies show that it promotes natural sleep after several weeks of use with no risk of dependence or residual daytime sleepiness. However, the anti-anxiety effects are questionable.

Butea Frondosa
This has been indicated in the Indian system of herbal medicine as a plant that can improve memory and act as a rejuvenator. The effect of extracts of the leaves was assessed on stress, cognitive function, and anxiety in rats. The herb had mild anti-stress effects but did not reduce anxiety.

Gotu Kola
It has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese herbal medicine to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Preliminary findings suggest a possible anti-anxiety effect in humans as revealed by a study measuring the acoustic startle response.

American Ginseng
Preliminary studies suggest that it may reduce anxiety, as it did reduce anxiety-like behavior in experimental studies involving mice.

Clitoria Ternatea
Preliminary studies suggest that it may reduce depression, as it did reduce stress-induced ulcers in experimental studies involving rodents.

Bach-Flower Remedies
This is an effective placebo for test anxiety but does not seem to have any real medicinal effect.

Next page, more information about herbal supplements for mood and anxiety...

Learn about treatments for OCD...

Learn more about herbal supplements at Epigee.

Disclaimer: This information should not be considered medical advice and should not substitute the judgment of a competent psychiatrist.

Credits: Article written by M. Jahn & and M. Williams, Ph.D.

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