Natural Mood Lifters: Nature's Blues Busters
In This Article:
How it works: Appears to inhibit reuptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine; enhances GABA activity.
Positive effects: Enhances mood; acts as an antidepressant; combats anxiety in most people; helps regulate sleep.
Cautions: May cause allergic reactions, rashes, gastrointestinal problems, or sun sensitivity in susceptible individuals. Can cause anxiety or insomnia if taken too close to bedtime. Can reduce the potency of protease inhibitors (taken as treatment for AIDS) or cyclosporin (an immunosuppressant taken by organ transplant patients), digoxin (heart medication), or even birth control pills. St. John's wort has not been researched sufficiently to recommend it for use during pregnancy or nursing. If combined with 5 HTP, there's the possibility of serotonin syndrome headache, an increase in body temperature, and heavy sweating. Seek medical help if this occurs.
Dosage: 300 mg daily of an extract of 0.3 percent hypericin, starting with one to two capsules or tablets in the morning with breakfast. If there is no change in mood after a week, add a third dose at lunch, for a total of 900 mg daily. You can also take it as two doses of 450 mg each, or take your entire daily dose in the morning, since the herb stays in the body for approximately 24 hours before being broken down.
L-Tryptophan: Lost And Found
We've already read about L-tryptophan. But what about taking it as a supplement? A once popular over-the-counter treatment for depression and insomnia, L-tryptophan was banned in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration in 1989, after a contaminated batch from Japan caused a serious illness called "eosinophilia myalgia syndrome" (EMS). Despite the fact that the exact cause of this outbreak was determined to be due to specific contamination, the FDA persisted in their declaration that L-tryptophan itself was unsafe. It is interesting to note that tryptophan continues to be available in infant formulas and in concentrated food formulas for those too ill to be fed normally.
One can at least speculate that the explanation for such an obvious inconsistency can be found in the enormous financial and political influence of pharmaceuticals companies, which would rather have you buy their prescription drugs for depression and insomnia. So perhaps the politics of prejudice against self-administered supplements played a role here.
L-tryptophan, which is currently available only by prescription, usually comes in 500-mg capsules. The recommended dose is 500-1,000 mg, or up to 2,000 mg daily. You can take 500 mg or so in the morning, and 500-1,500 mg one hour before bedtime if you need help in falling asleep. The enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase, which converts tryptophan into 5-HTP (see below), depends on folic acid and vitamin C. 5-HTP is turned into serotonin, with the aid of the cofactors biotin, vitamin B6, and zinc, and the enzyme 5 HTP carboxylase. Make sure you are getting enough of these cofactors by supplementing with a high-potency multivitamin. Also, a carbohydrate snack, such as fruit, acts as a vehicle to transport it into the brain. Since other amino acids or proteins will compete for the same space, don't take tryptophan with protein-rich foods.
How it works: Raw material or precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Positive effects: Elevates mood; promotes relaxation, emotional stabilit, healthy sleep-wake patterns, deep sleep, dreaming, and creative imagination.
Cautions: May cause nausea, headaches, constipation, and other gastrointestinal problems in certain people, especially in high doses. It should not be taken during pregnancy, with MAO inhibitors, or in cases of the autoimmune disease lupus. It is inadvisable to take both tryptophan and SSRI antidepressants except under medical guidance.
Dosage: 500-1,000 mg two to three times daily for the treatment of depression or insomnia. Best absorbed away from protein and with a carbohydrate snack. Take a B-complex vitamin that contains 50 mg of B6, and a minimum of 15 mg of zinc. If used for insomnia, take the dose one hour before bedtime.
From NATURAL HIGHS: Supplements, Nutrition, and Mind/Body Techniques to Help You Feel Good by Hyla Cass and Patrick Holford. Copyright © Hyla Cass, M.D., and Patrick Holford. Used by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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