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Herbal Medicine for Anxiety and Depression: New Evidence

Dr. Eric Viegas, ND

March 2018

depression anxiety herbal medicine naturopath ottawa

 

Depression is estimated to affect 5.4% of Canadians aged 15+ (1).  1 in 8 adults will meet the criteria for a mood disorder in their lifetime (1). Women have higher rates of depression than men.

 

Anxiety can also be present with a diagnosis of depression, further impacting a person’s quality of life.

 

People living with depression experience a lack of pleasure in activities that once brought them joy, sleep issues, fatigue, guilt and feelings of worthlessness, memory and concentration issues, and thoughts of suicide.

 

Depression and anxiety also contribute to a high burden of stress in people with cancer.

 

In a survey of 3370 cancer survivors, 20% identified with moderate to severe levels of depression, and 40% were living with moderate to severe anxiety lasting 6 years after diagnosis (2).

 

Due to the large number of adverse effects, and interactions with chemotherapeutics, conventional antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications are not favourable for cancer people (3). It’s no surprise then that this population seems to favour herbal remedies for anxiety and depression.

 

A recent systematic review summarized the evidence from 100 single herb clinical trials for depression and anxiety from 1996-2016 (4).

 

Here are the top herbal remedies for anxiety and depression as identified by this study:

 

Lavender

A fragrant and relaxing plant to grow in your garden, lavender is also used in perfumes and aromatherapy products. Lavender extracts, taken orally, show a stronger anti-anxiety effect than placebo and are comparable in effect to prescription drugs (eg. paroxetine, lorazepam) in human trials. Lavender also has fewer adverse effects than these drugs.

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A tea made from lavender buds may improve the effect of citalopram; a commonly prescribed antidepressant medication.

 

Passionflower

Used by Native Americans as a remedy to improve sleep and anxiety, passionflower tea may improve sleep quality. When used with clonidine, passionflower extract was also shown to improve mental-emotional well-being for people undergoing opioid withdrawal.

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Compared to the anti-anxiety medications oxazepam and sertraline, passionflower extract was not more effective in reducing severity of symptoms, but it had much fewer adverse effects.

 

Saffron

A commonly used spice in South Asia and the Middle East.

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Saffron was found to be most beneficial for people that identified with mild to moderate anxiety. Some studies also showed that saffron was superior to standard antidepressant drugs (fluoxetine and imipramine).

 

Women who have a flare-up of anxiety and/or depression premenstrually also benefited from saffron extract.

Black Cohosh

Commonly found in most herbal preparations for menopausal symptoms, black cohosh may have a positive effect on hot flashes.

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One study using a patented extract called Remifemin® was shown to be as effective as low dose topical estrogen in reducing hot flashes, anxiety, and depression without the adverse effects of hormone therapy.

Chamomile

Popular in sleep teas, chamomile is an effective anti-anxiety herb for people dealing with mild to moderate anxiety.

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Chamomile was also shown to be effective in the long-term (the study looked at 38 weeks of treatment) but had no effect on relapse rates.

 

Chaste Tree

Another herbal remedy for hormonal issues, chaste tree/vitex is often taken for premenstrual and fertility issues.

chaste tree vitex anxiety depression fertility naturopath ottawa

Chaste tree, when compared to the antidepressant fluoxetine, was shown to be more effective in reducing physical symptoms associated with depression in postmenopausal women.

 

Always check with your doctor before starting any nutritional supplement, herb, or medication.

 

Follow the links for additional information on anxiety, insomnia, and fatigue.

 

References

 

  1. Pearson, Caryn, Teresa Janz and Jennifer Ali. 2013. “Mental and substance use disorders in Canada” Health at a Glance. September. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-624-X.
  2. Inhestern, L., Beierlein, V., Bultmann, J. C., Moller, B., Romer, G., Koch, U., & Bergelt, C. (2017). Anxiety and depression in working‐age cancer survivors: A register‐based study. BMC Cancer, 17(1), 347.
  3. Fajemiroye, J. O., da Silva, D. M., de Oliveira, D. R., & Costa, E. A. (2016). Treatment of anxiety and depression: Medicinal plants in retrospect. Fundamental & Clinical Pharmacology, 30(3), 198–215.
  4. Yeung, K., et al. Herbal medicine for depression and anxiety: a systematic review with assessment of potential psycho-oncologic relevance (2018). Phytotherapy Research, 1-27.

10 Common Childhood Rashes and What You Should Know About Them

Dr. Eric Viegas, ND

rash child ottawa naturopath

There are many different types of rashes that children and their parents will encounter throughout their lives.

The following is a list of common rashes, their causes and symptoms, a description of their appearance, and what you can do about them.

 

 

  • Contact Dermatitis

 

Many causes including certain foods, body products, latex, jewelry and poison ivy.

 

Most incidents of contact dermatitis are mild, start around 48 hours after skin exposure, and resolve when the specific substance is prevented from contacting the skin. A mild reaction will usually result in small red bumps, while a more serious reaction can result in swelling and blisters.

 

  • Measles

 

A red, but not itchy, viral rash that is located over most of the child’s body. Children will usually complain of common cold symptoms: fever, sneezing, irritated throat, coughing, swollen glands, red eyes, and loss of appetite. Although preventable with the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, those who choose to forego immunization are at a higher risk of infection. If you believe your child has been infected with measles, please seek medical care immediately.

 

 

  • Scarlet Fever

 

Most common in children ages 2-10 (but infection can occur at any age). A scarlet fever rash is coarse to the touch, and red. It typically presents on the torso first, then spreads to other areas of the body over the course of a couple of days.

 

Children will typically present with a high fever followed by the rash 24 hours later.

Other symptoms include sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and white or yellow spots at the back of the throat; all related to a strep throat infection. If you suspect that your child has scarlet fever, seek medical attention immediately.

 

 

  • Chickenpox

 

Caused by the varicella zoster virus, this is a contagious and very itchy rash that affects the whole body. It may appear as red spots and/or blisters (pox). Each chickenpox red spot has a life cycle of 1-2 days; blistering, bursting, drying out, and crusting. New spots will appear daily for up to one week. This infection will stay dormant in nerves, and may result in an outbreak of shingles later in life.

 

An easy way to combat the itchiness of chickenpox is an oatmeal bath:

  • Using a mesh bag or cheesecloth, add 1 cup of uncooked oats and tie off one end.
  • Secure the oatmeal bag under your tub’s faucet and run under warm water, periodically squeezing the bag as the tub fills.
  • Once the bath is full, you can remove the bag from the faucet, letting it float in the bathwater. Continue to periodically squeeze the bag into the water.
  • Submerge affected areas in the bath for 20 mins.
  • You can also add calendula and lavender flowers to help soothe irritated skin.

 

 

  • Roseola

 

Appears around 3 days after a high fever caused by the roseola virus. This infection is usually mild, starting with a sudden high fever for 2-3 days and developing into a pink rash appearing on the torso, neck and arms once the fever begins to drop. Some children may experience seizures due to the sudden intensity of the fever, and the rash will last 1-2 days. This rash typically affects children aged 6 months to 2 years. Seek medical care if you suspect your child has roseola.

 

 

  • Fifth Disease

 

A “slapped cheek” facial rash that also has a lacy appearance on the torso, arms, legs, and buttocks.

This rash will follow sudden flu-like symptoms (fever, fatigue, aches, etc.), and children are most contagious 7 days before the onset of the rash.

 

Once the rash has appeared, children are no longer contagious. Hot temperatures and sunlight exposure may cause the rash to wax and wane over several weeks.

 

While the infection is mild for children, developing fetuses are at an increased risk when exposed to fifth disease. If you are pregnant and develop some of the signs and symptoms of fifth disease, seek medical attention immediately.

 

 

  • Heat Rash

 

Can happen to any baby exposed to hot weather or dressed too warmly. The rash looks like red or pink dots on the child’s head, neck, and/or shoulders.

Make sure your child is dressed lightly on hot days, covering their head and limbs, and do your best to avoid prolonged sun exposure.

 

 

  • Cradle Cap

 

Oily, yellow, scaly and/or crusting rash on a baby’s scalp. This rash is common and treatable, and its presence certainly does not mean parents are not caring for their baby.

Home treatment for cradle cap:

  • An hour before shampooing, rub your baby’s scalp with baby oil, or vaseline to help lift and loosen the crusts/ scales.
  • Wet your baby’s scalp then gently scrub the scalp with a soft-bristle brush (eg. a soft toothbrush or a fine-toothed comb) for a few minutes to remove the scales.
  • Wash the scalp with baby shampoo, rinse well, and gently towel dry.

 

 

  • Lyme Disease

 

Can be caused by bacteria that are carried by ticks. A Bullseye red rash at the site of the bite will expand, followed by flu-like symptoms, joint pain, and neurological problems.

 

In the case of lyme disease, see a doctor immediately.

 

 

  • Diaper Rash

 

Can be caused by urine/stool bacteria, moisture, heat, friction, or chemicals in a baby’s diaper. The rash has a red (may also appear burned/scalded) appearance, and affects the thighs, buttocks, genitals, or abdomen.

Sometimes, a yeast infection may be responsible for the rash, so always check with your doctor before using any medicated ointments for your child.

 

As with any skin issue, it is best to see your doctor when a rash presents so that you can get an accurate diagnosis and timely treatment. Some rashes require immediate antibiotics, while others tend to resolve on their own. I hope this quick guide to rashes will help ease the stress around skin issues for you and your children.