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There are very few mental health problems that are more stigmatized than psychosis. Although the term psychosis is broad one, it covers some of the most frightening and debilitating psychological symptoms. A person suffering from a psychotic break will often see and hear things that aren’t there, have delusions of grandeur or fear that they are being plotted against, and even attempt to harm themselves or others.
Fortunately there are many different treatment options for people suffering from psychosis, and one of the newest and most exciting are herbal remedies. Although herbs have been used for a long time to treat psychological disorders, they have fallen by the wayside as modern medicine has improved. It’s only recently that herbal remedies have come back into fashion for treating psychosis. Here’s everything that you need to know about herbal antipsychotics.
Gingko Biloba is often used to promote memory and cognition. It can also be helpful in cases of psychosis and schizophrenia. New studies are showing just how effective high doses of ginkgo can be in protecting and reinforcing the crucial mental pathways in our brains. It’s likely that the active ingredients found in gingko will be used to create some of the next generation of antipsychotic medications.
St. John’s Wort can be an effective treatment for the depression and anxiety that usually accompanies psychosis. St. John’s Wort helps to calm anxious thoughts and feelings, as well as reduce paranoia and increase positive thinking. It has a measurable effect on mood and empathy, and usually forms the base of an herbal treatment for psychosis.
Antioxidants aren’t an herb in and of themselves, but studies have shown they can be helpful for people experiencing psychosis. They guard the brain against oxidation by harmful free radicals, which reduces cognition and can lead to aggressive and unfocused behavior. Antioxidants can be found in high doses in many antipsychotic herbs, and as such they’re an important aspect of any herbal therapy regimen.
Ginseng is another common herbal remedy that has shown promising results in the treatment of psychosis. It promotes general brain health and enhanced cognition, and reduces the “fuzzy-headed” feeling that modern pharmaceuticals can give sufferers of psychosis. If you’re looking for a place to begin your herbal antipsychotic therapy, then ginseng is a solid place to start.
Brahmi is an Ayurvedic herb that has been used for centuries to treat psychosis and schizophrenia. It’s a woody herb that grows across Asia and Russia, particularly in India. Although it can be difficult to find in the West — like many other Ayurvedic herbs — it’s becoming easier and easier to get your hands on thanks to the internet.
Red Sage Root can be difficult to get in America, but it is a popular traditional Chinese herb for promoting calmness and treating psychosis herbally. Many calmative blends in Chinese medicine are based on red sage root, because it’s so effective in promoting a balanced, happy state of mind. If you can find red sage root, it’s a recommended addition to your herbal antipsychotic blend.
Schisandra is another traditional Chinese herb that’s used in the treatment of psychosis and schizophrenia. Schisandra isn’t popular in the Western world just yet, but it’s being used as we speak in China to aid sufferers of schizophrenia and psychosis. Although the mechanisms behind schisandra aren’t well-understood, it has a centuries-long track record of safe and effective use.
Cannabis is a popular recreational herb, but it also has shown promise in the treatment of psychological disorders, including psychosis. The reasons why cannabis is such a potent weapon in the fight against psychosis are unclear, but it may have something to do with the effect that cannabis has on the endocannabinoid system of the body. This pathway is only just beginning to be understood, but it seems to have an impact on a wide range of psychological illnesses.
One of the things that has been holding back research into herbal antipsychotics is the nature of psychosis itself. It’s difficult to treat individuals with herbal remedies when they have trouble taking their medication on a schedule, and it’s unlikely that stress wards and hospitals will offer herbal cures. However, if your psychosis is under control and you aren’t experiencing acute symptoms, then searching for an herbal remedy is perfectly safe.
It’s your right as a patient to explore treatment options, even when your doctors aren’t supportive. Herbal antipsychotics carry a certain degree of controversy with them, but that doesn’t mean they’re ineffective. If you decide to treat your psychosis with herbal remedies, it’s advised that you keep a detailed log of your symptoms and medications.
For what it’s worth, traditional treatments for psychosis aren’t without their own controversy. The side-effects of these medicines can be harsh and life-altering. Weight gain and sluggishness are both commonly experienced, along with loss of appetite and suicidal thoughts. When you look at all of the available research, it’s easy to see why some people experiencing psychosis or schizophrenia may want to turn to herbal remedies.
Herbal Remedies Can Help
In many cases, herbal remedies can help. They have a track record of treating mental illness going back thousands of years. Unfortunately, herbal remedies have fallen behind medication as a treatment for many mental disorders. There are many reasons why that’s the case, but if you’re suffering from psychosis it only makes sense to pursue all of your options.
Traditional Chinese medicine has had great success in treating psychosis and schizophrenia. In fact, some of the most potent treatments for psychosis have been developed using traditional Chinese medicine as a guide. For instance, the chemical structure of risperidone is functionally similar to some molecules that have been isolated from red sage root.
Another ancient tradition, Ayurvedic medicine from India and Pakistan, also has had some successes treating psychosis and schizophrenia. Although these herbs can be difficult for some Westerners to lay their hands on, the evidence suggests that they can be effective. Brahmi is an excellent example of a traditional Ayurvedic medicine that is widely used today across India and Pakistan.
Acute Psychosis Versus Psychotic Disorders
One important thing to keep in mind as you explore treatment options is the difference between acute psychotic episodes and long-term psychotic disorders. When you’re dealing with an acute psychotic episode, it can be extremely difficult to treat yourself in any way, let alone with herbal remedies.
If you’re actively hallucinating or feeling the urge to harm yourself or others, a hospital may be the best bet. It’s not so much that herbal remedies can’t work in those circumstances, but keeping yourself on an herbal regimen when you’re suffering from acute psychosis is very difficult.
That said, some patients have seen excellent results in treating psychosis with herbs. One area in particular that is receiving a lot of interest is herbal remedies for anxiety. Although treating anxiety in and of itself won’t solve your psychosis, anxious thoughts and feelings can trigger an acute episode. Treating yourself for anxiety with herbal remedies could be enough to reduce or eliminate acute psychosis altogether in some patients.
Some of the best results have been achieved with combination therapy. In fact, a study done in 2007 showed that patients respond better to a mix of risperidone and St. John’s wort than therapy with risperidone alone. One of the reasons that combination therapy works so well is that prescription drugs often have harsh side-effects, and herbal supplements taken in conjunction with medication can help to reduce those side-effects.
Herbal combination therapy is widely used to treat conditions like anxiety and depression, so there is some evidence that it may help with psychosis as well. Multiple sources have recommended combination therapy for psychosis in place of medicine alone. It’s important to keep in mind that combination therapy is as far as most doctors are willing to go when it comes to treatment of psychosis — very few of them will recommend herbal remedies on their own.
Aaron Phillips is a writer and journalist based in mid-Michigan. He has been writing for Smokable Herbs since January of 2014. Aaron has a long list of publications under his belt, and is currently working on a book series for Smokable Herbs. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook for updates.