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 Herbal Medicine: St. John's Wort: One Powerful Herb  
 

Earlier that week, a friend had told Nancy about St. John's wort and depression. She was intrigued by this natural alternative to antidepressant drugs and wanted to know more. Asked about his opinion of this herb, her father's doctor said that he'd never heard of it, then laughed off her question with comments about quackery, gullibility, and snake oil. Still worried about her father and unwilling to blindly follow the doctor's prescription, she went home and dialed my number. From somewhere firmly in the middle of the medical mainstream, Nancy was reaching out for help.

I told her how perfect it was that she had called. I have incorporated the use of natural substances into my psychiatric practice, reading available literature and mutually sharing information with my colleagues to keep up with the growing field. Nancy seemed relieved that she had finally found somewhere to turn. Her questions tumbled out: "Does it really work? What do you think his doctor will say? Is it safe for him to take it with his other medications?"

She was asking all the right questions. I told her that St. John's wort would likely help her dad, but his medications were still an issue. Not a straightforward case, his use of St. John's wort would require close medical supervision by a knowledgeable doctor.

For many years I have practiced holistic psychiatry, an approach that treats the mind, body, and spirit as an indivisible whole. One aspect of this approach is referred to as orthomolecular psychiatry, which uses natural substances rather than pharmaceutically manufactured products whenever possible. The term orthomolecular, coined by Nobel Prize-winning scientist Linus Pauling, means "the right molecule in the right place," and orthomolecular psychiatry relies on the use of molecules that occur naturally in the human body. I am familiar with the array of medications available, and even prescribe them at times. However, I have found the natural approach far more effective because, rather than just treating symptoms, it addresses the root cause of illness. This approach is less invasive and has longer-lasting results. We are a part of nature, so it makes perfect sense that natural products are more compatible with our biochemistry and therefore less likely to cause harm. Nature's pharmacy has become a mainstay of my practice. Disease reflects an imbalance at some level, and I often turn to herbs to help restore inner balance. For more information on the nutritional approach to psychiatry.

Depression-A Very Common Problem
It has been estimated that 18 million Americans suffer from depression at one time or another in their lives. Clinical depression is not the brief fluctuation in mood that comes from a bad day at the office or a fight with one's spouse. Rather, it is an ongoing medical illness that can consume the lives of those who are afflicted with it. Abraham Lincoln, one of many prominent people who have suffered from depression, wrote, "If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on earth."

For most of us, depression is a transitory feeling that passes in time, part of the ups and downs that accompany all of our lives. Clinically depressed people, on the other hand, often feel fatigued, drained of energy, empty, and hopeless. They may lose interest in the things that normally provide pleasure, even sexual activity. They may isolate themselves socially and feel quite alone. However, with proper diagnosis and treatment, including the correct use of St. John's wort where indicated, depression can often be alleviated.

(Excerpted from St. John’s Wort: Nature’s Blues Buster ISBN: 0895298341)
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 About The Author
Hyla Cass MDDr. Cass is a board-certified psychiatrist, nationally recognized expert and frequent keynote speaker on holistic medicine, with a focus on enhancing mind, mood, energy, and weight loss. She appears regularly on TV......more
 
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