Monday, July 13, 2009

Dealing with Anxiety and Depression - Herbal Treatment

As noted elsewhere, my interest in alternative treatments for anxiety and depression is the result of my own life-long battle with these tricky troublemakers. As is quite often the case anxiety and depression are a tag-team in my experience, so I will not try separating my accounts of them - but it is important to note that there are many different kinds of depression, anxiety, and stress. As usual, I am writing from my own experience and this will likely be quite different from any other person's.

One area I have explored is herbal treatment for both anxiety and depression, including:

Holy Basil - at some point while using Holy Basil in combination with other supplements including 5-HTP and adrenal support I did feel I had achieved a good emotional balance. Life stresses got in the way, and I am currently "out of stock" but this may be a product I would like to continue with.

St John's Wort - although certainly well known as a natural remedy for depression, this is one I discontinued early due to abnormally intense menstrual cramping while taking it. I've no idea if this is a common side effect, but I decided not to take any further chances. It's important to remember that any herbal product can have unexpected side effects and that these will differ between people.

Omega 3 - this is becoming more mainstream as a mood-stabilizing supplement as well as for various other health benefits. It was strongly recommended by staff at a natural pharmacy when I inquired about herbal remedies for depression. I have taken Omega 3's intermittently for a few years and think there is probably enough evidence to include it as part of a balanced health regimen.

5-HTP - I have been taking 5-HTP this year because of its potential to reduce migraine headaches in addition to its role in anxiety and depression treatment. I am quite satisfied with it, and plan to continue its use.

Niacinamide - this is what was recommended to me for depression by the naturopathic doctor. I have not used it much yet, but my additional research shows that it is a water soluble member of the B vitamins, also known for its potential to work as an anti anxiety medication and anti-inflammatory properties which may also help alleviate skin conditions such as acne.

Herbal adrenal formulas (including ingredients such as Rhodiola, Suma, Siberian Ginseng, Schisandra, Ashwagandha) - I consider this an integral part of my strategy for coping with anxiety. Our adrenal functions suffer from prolonged periods of stress and may be an underlying cause of anxiety feelings as we are no longer able to effectively regulate cortisol and adrenaline in our systems. I was fascinated to discover this, and have been encouraged by numerous alternative health practitioners to include this type of natural anti anxiety formula in my treatment program.

Stress Formula vitamins (B vitamins with added herbal ingredients including Pomegranate, Ashwagandha and Lemon Balm) - similar to the above Vitamin B and adrenal formulas - I took this at other times when not on the other remedies (as with any medication it is necessary to be cautious with depression and anxiety herbs to avoid exceeding recommended doses or toxic combinations - remember to do your research and consult with the professionals).

Calcium and Magnesium - it has become typical in our modern lifestyles to be deficient in these essential minerals, necessary for stress management as well as most of our body's vital functions. Particularly where there are dietary challenges such as lactose intolerance, it is important to plan your natural anxiety and depression treatment with a focus on the whole system and your health in general. Wherever there are deficiencies, consequences can be serious. I am not as diligent in this area as I should be, but I will try harder. To find out how much is right for you speak to your doctor, alternative health practitioner or pharmacist.

Bach's Rescue Remedy - I consider these essences almost esoteric, but am delighted by them just the same. Their properties read almost like magic potions and specific formulas exist for most emotional ailments. I utilize them from time to time, and have bought them as gifts for friends. I don't know if they work but if you take them with the right intention and focus I don't see how they could hurt :)

As mentioned, herbal treatment is just one facet of learning to deal with anxiety and depression. Part of artsciencespirit is recognizing the need for balance between mind body and soul, and this is as true in anxiety and depression treatment as in any other area of health and wellness. Talk therapy, relaxation techniques, adequate nutrition, rest and exercise must all be incorporated
for a truly effective "cure." More to come on these in future posts - thanks for stopping by.

An HSP blog - highly sensitive personality and digestive system?

I'm a self-identified "Highly Sensitive Person." Yes, I was delighted to discover Elaine Aron's book - so much so that when researching the whole "highly sensitive" concept further I came across her website and ordered every single back issue of the Comfort Zone newsletter. I can't say it has solved my problems or even made life that much easier in any significant way - but it is a nicer label to identify with than so many of the other terms used - shy, introverted, anti-social, etc. Like all personality traits, sensitivity manifests in different ways, so I am only speaking from my own experience. However it tends to be one that affects all areas of life. For me it is one puzzle piece in the attempt to figure out my chronic health issues (maybe I
should say chronic life issues!). I am sensitive to noise and commotion. I am sensitive to numerous common food ingredients. I am sensitive to temperatures (I freeze all day in an air-conditioned office but get heat-sick easily on a hot sunny day) and weather changes (almost without fail a change in seasons brings migraines). I suffer from chronic anxiety, depression and fibromyalgia-type muscle pain. On a more esoteric level, I wonder if all this actually means I am sensitive to energies? Whatever the deepest or highest truth of the situation may be - all I know is I feel bombarded most of the time. Just working at a full-time job (any kind of full-time job) is already more than I can comfortably manage. But I do it anyways - what choice is there?! I guess in some ways I'm still waiting for the silver lining to emerge.

Perhaps I could be useful to society as the "canary" that picks up on stressors or dangers before other people are aware? For instance - my recent naturopathic experience which helped identify my numerous food sensitivities brought some interesting points to light. It turns out I react to soy, corn, white flour (but not gluten), sugar (including cane sugar, brown sugar, fructose, corn syrup), and several artificial food colours. I cannot claim to understand how food allergies and intolerances develop - but it is interesting to note that the foods on my list are ones that we are all consuming much more than we probably realize. Packaged and instant foods are almost entirely eliminated when avoiding both corn and soy. Corn is used for everything from dusting the inside of food packages, to fruit juice, chips, crackers, condiments, medicines, common baking ingredients, and prepared meats. Soy is another hidden ingredient in flavoured teas, soups, spice blends, baked goods, margarine, salad dressings and much more. If we are all being bombarded by these ingredients all the time it makes you wonder a little, doesn't it?

All I can really do at this point is remain vigilant with my own diet (I'm inadvertantly dropping pounds as a result as well, although that was not the intent) and encourage any of you who are experiencing digestive disturbance to see a professional such as a naturopath to help you figure it out. I'm lucky in that my food intolerances are not the life-threatening kind, but left unchecked
over the long term any of these issues can lead to bigger problems. For more information about alternative health strategies please visit my website:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Canada Day Story

Happy Canada Day 2009... I have to admit, I care about my country, and I decided to join in the festivities today, wear red & white and do a little flag waving on this beautiful July 1. However as I prepared to go out it was not without moments of bitterness. I love my country, I am grateful for my freedoms, but I would be a little more proud to be Canadian if some of my country's policies were a little easier to understand and embrace, particularly around issues of immigration. Specifically, I would like to someday be allowed to invite my friends from Colombia to join me in Canada for a celebration - any celebration - and the day they are permitted to travel will be a day of celebration indeed. Does it honestly seem acceptable in any way that the Canadian government can work so hard to develop trade relations with a country, but deny the citizens of that country virtually any chance of entering Canada even to visit family? There must be a better way...

As you will have noticed, I have developed a deep fondness for the country and people of
Colombia. It may seem an unlikely love story - A Canadian woman, and a country
that has been scarred by years of internal conflict and a generally negative
impression in the eyes of the world.. How did it happen? It was not a politically motivated attraction, although I have a background in social sciences and a deep appreciation for cultural differences (and similarities) and an interest in travel. It was more the result one of life's funny/strange twists and turns. Like any story, it involves people, and the human element is what I think should be brought much further to the forefront of all the debates and "issues" involved in policy-making, even in this fair country. I saw a quote by Nelson Mandela just yesterday about the concept of "Ubuntu," and came across this explanation by Desmond Tutu when researching it further:

"One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality - Ubuntu - you are known for your generosity.

We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity." (Desmond Tutu, 2008).

This shared experience of being human and sharing this planet is one of the things I have learned in my travels and friendships. What would make this a happier Canada Day for me, and for many who are separated from loved ones, is if we could extend our generosity a little further and look beyond stereotypes and discrimination based on national interests and histories, to the actual humans involved.

Happy Canada Day