Natural cures for depression validated

Depression is fast becoming as common as malaria in Nigeria. Unfortunately, most of the estimated 60 million people with the mental health disorder do not know they have the condition and some are living in denial- “I cannot be ‘mad’. God forbid.”

Depression is a common mental disorder, characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks.

In addition, people with depression normally have several of the following: a loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Depression is treatable, with talking therapies or antidepressant medication or a combination of these.

Unfortunately, some antidepressants come with unpleasant side effects including suicidal tendencies.

However, scientists have validated some natural therapies to effectively treat the mental disorder.

Top on the list is regular exercise. Others are lettuce, scent leaf/holy basil (Ocimum gratissimum/nchuanwu in Ibo, Effirin in Yoruba), green tea leaves (Camelia sinensis), bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina), coffee and Ganoderma mushroom.

Exercise does beat depression
Scientists have found some concrete evidence that exercising a little bit every day does reduce depression symptoms and boost overall mood.

For years, studies have found a connection between working out and lower depression risk – we all know exercise releases endorphins and endorphins make you happy.

But until now, there was no evidence to show a causal relationship when it came to depression – whether physical activity really did affect the condition, or simply that people with depression exercised less.

Now, a team of investigators has used a novel research method to strongly support physical activity as a preventive measure for depression. While many studies have found associations between greater levels of physical activity and lower rates of depression, a key question has remained — does physical activity actually reduce the risk of depression or does depression lead to reduced physical activity? Now a team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), United States (US), investigators has used a novel research method to strongly support physical activity as a preventive measure for depression.

Their report is being published online in JAMA Psychiatry.
“Using genetic data, we found evidence that higher levels of physical activity may causally reduce risk for depression,” says Karmel Choi, PhD, of the Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit in the MGH Center for Genomic Medicine, lead author of the report. “Knowing whether an associated factor actually causes an outcome is important, because we want to invest in preventive strategies that really work.”

The technique used in the study — Mendelian randomization — uses gene variants to study the effects of a non-genetic factor in a different approach from that of traditional research. The gene variants are studied as a type of natural experiment in which people show higher or lower average levels of a factor like physical activity that are related to gene variants they have inherited. Because genetic variants are inherited in a relatively random fashion, they can serve as less biased proxies to estimate the true relationship between physical activity and depression. This approach can also determine which of two traits is actually causative — if levels of trait A affects the levels of trait B but levels of trait B do not affect levels of trait A, that implies that trait A leads to trait B, but not vice versa.

For this study, the researchers identified gene variants from the results of large-scale genome-wide association studies (GWAS) that were conducted for physical activity in the U.K. Biobank and for depression by a global research consortium. GWAS results for physical activity were available for two different measures: one based on 377,000 participants’ self-reports of physical activity and the other based on readings of motion-detecting sensors called accelerometers, worn on the wrists of more than 91,000 participants. The GWAS for depression was based on data from more than 143,000 participants with and without this condition.

The results of the Mendelian randomization study indicated that accelerometer-based physical activity, but not self-reported activity, does appear to protect against the risk of depression. The differences between the two methods of measuring physical activity could result not only from inaccuracies in participants’ memories or desire to present themselves in a positive way but also from the fact that objective readings capture things other than planned exercise — walking to work, climbing the stairs, mowing the lawn — that participants may not recognize as physical activity. The analysis revealed no causal relationship in the other direction, between depression and physical activity.

“On average,” Choi says, “doing more physical activity appears to protect against developing depression. Any activity appears to be better than none; our rough calculations suggest that replacing sitting with 15 minutes of a heart-pumping activity like running, or with an hour of moderately vigorous activity, is enough to produce the average increase in accelerometer data that was linked to a lower depression risk.”
Lettuce ‘cure’ for depression, stroke, thromboembolism

Can eating meals rich in lettuce provide relief from anxiety, depression, chronic pain, sleeplessness, indigestion, lack of appetite, blood clots, heart attack, stroke and thromboembolism?

Botanically called Lactuca sativa, lettuce, a leafy vegetable, belongs to the Asteraceae family. Lettuce has been traditionally used for relieving pain, inflammation, insomnia, anxiety, neurosis, dry coughs, rheumatic pain, stomach problems including indigestion and lack of appetite. Moreover, the therapeutic significance of lettuce includes its anticonvulsant, sedative-hypnotic and antioxidant properties.


However, a recent study has validated lettuce for the treatment of anxiety, depression, chronic pains, sleeplessness, indigestion, lack of appetite, blood clots, heart attack, stroke and thromboembolism.

Thromboembolism is the formation in a blood vessel of a clot (thrombus) that breaks loose and is carried by the blood stream to plug another vessel.

The study published in BMC Complement Alternative Medicine is titled “Evaluation of analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant and anti-coagulant properties of Lactuca sativa (CV. Grand Rapids) plant tissues and cell suspension in rats.”

The researchers concluded: “The present experimental findings of different extracts suggest that Lactuca sativa is a broad spectrum pharmaceutical crop conforming significant analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant and anti-coagulant properties that has potential to replace synthetic drugs.

“More interestingly, cell suspension exudate showed prominent results in all the assays which is the main point of interest because valuable secondary metabolites and economically important substances can be produced in bulk from plant cell suspensions in simple, cost-effective and reproducible way. However, advance study is needed to explore the precise mechanism of action the active components.”

Several studies have shown that the function of the anticoagulant drugs is to inhibit blood clotting, which is the major cause of heart attacks and strokes. Anticoagulant drugs can be used with a number of diseases when there is a high risk of blood clots. The researchers said that since anti-coagulants are used for the cardiac problems, instead of relying on blood thinners, physicians could shift to herbal medicine. It has been reported that antioxidants can counteract the haematological and blood coagulation disturbances, oxidative stress, and hepatorenal (liver and kidney) damages.

The researchers added: “Anticoagulants play an essential role as mediators for the treatment and prevention of thromboembolic disorders. Due to their pharmacological possessions, plants can serve as the sources for the investigation of new compounds with anticoagulant properties. There is convincing scientific indications representing that the use of phytochemicals with anticoagulant effects and dietary anticoagulants can eventually eliminate or reduce the risks of thromboembolic diseases.

“Here we report the L. sativa a herbal drug for its analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant and anti-coagulant activities of the seeds and leaf extracts along with the cell suspension exudate. We obtained very interesting and promising results which elucidate the importance of lettuce as a traditional medicine.”

The current findings showed that aqueous and methanol and chloroform; 1:1 (MC) extracts of seed have the least immobility time in the forced swimming test, which could act as an anti-depressant on the central nervous system. The leaf extracts and cell suspension exudate also expressed moderate anti-depressant activities. In anticoagulant assay, the coagulation time of aspirin (positive control) and MC extract of leaf was comparable, suggesting strong anti-coagulant effect. Additionally, no abnormal behaviour or lethality was observed in any animal tested.

“Conversely, if a condition such as an inflammation of the paw, serves to decrease the response latency, it is said to induce hyperalgesia. Inflammation is a condition involving confined increase in the amount of leukocytes and various complex mediator molecules.

The most common screening method of acute inflammation has been the prevention of edema in rats by induction of carrageenan. It is believed that the COX (cyclooxygenase) enzyme involved in inflammation can be inhibited by NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to reduce the edema. But NSAIDs have some side effects like renal and gastric toxicity. Medicinal plants are believed to be cost-effective and harmless source of novel biochemical constituents with strong therapeutic properties.”

Hyperalgesia is an increased sensitivity to pain, which may be caused by damage to nociceptors or peripheral nerves. Also, researchers have also successfully used lettuce to reduce anxiety (anxiolytic).

The study titled “Anxiolytic property of Lactuca sativa, effect on anxiety behaviour induced by novel food and height” was published in Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine.

The researchers from the Biochemistry and Applied Nutrition Discipline, Defense Food Research Laboratory Mysore-570011, India, concluded: “… that hydro-alcohol extract of L. sativa rich in polyphenols possess potent anxiolytic property.”

They further explained: “The hydro alcohol extract rich in polyphenols and other secondary metabolites is a potent anxiolytic agent. It has been established that there are lot of plant secondary metabolites like polyphenols and flavonoids being employed in the treatment of psychotic disorders especially for anxiety in traditional medicine practice, most of which directly or indirectly affect the central nervous system.

“Considering the varied important activities reported in traditional system of medicine about L. sativa, it was planned to study the effects of the extract of L. sativa leaves on anxiolytic properties in mice. Although anxiety is an important protective mechanism, it can become maladaptive and disruptive.

“Pathological anxiety, as manifested in anxiety disorders, is an anxious response that occurs out of proportion to the threat, becomes disruptive to daily life and causes suffering. Anxiety has been implicated in a number of psychiatric disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, depression, panic-attacks, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders and posttraumatic stress disorders.

“Anxiety alleviates the levels of intracellular reactive oxygen species. Anxiety induces stress and activates the sympathetic nervous system, stimulating the release of catecholamines from the adrenal medulla as a response to stressors fight or flight. Benzodiazepine, the most commonly prescribed treatment for anxiety disorders, has side effects such as sedation, myorelaxation, ataxia, amnesia and pharmacological dependence. Hence various plants are used in complementary and alternative medicines for management of anxiety.”

How herbal teas burst anxiety, depression, fatigue, others
Researchers have identified immune boosting herbs and mushrooms that could be effectively used to address executive stress and metabolic syndrome.

Top on the list are: Scent leaf/Holy basil (Ocimum gratissimum/nchuanwu in Ibo, Effirin in Yoruba), green tea leaves (Camelia sinensis), bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina), coffee and Ganoderma mushroom.

Indeed, executive stress is on the rise due to crushing economic pressure on businesses, unrelenting competition, crazy work hours, downsizing, slashed budgets, and uncertainty.

Executives and middle managers alike are exhausted by their brutal schedules and the intense demands on them. Business leaders may be relieved to be working at all, but they are stressed out, anxious and sleep deprived. The result? Health problems, deteriorating relationships and weakened job performance.

Several studies have also shown that metabolic syndrome is on the rise.

According to a study published in Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders, the most prevalent metabolic disorders are diabetes mellitus, obesity, dyslipidemia, osteoporosis and metabolic syndrome, which are developed when normal metabolic processes are disturbed.

The study is titled “Targeting metabolic disorders by natural products.”

Several studies have shown that there is a challenge in the prevention and treatment of metabolic disorders due to severe adverse effects of some synthetic drugs, their high cost, lack of safety and poverty in some conditions, and insufficient accessibility for the general population in the world.

The study concluded: “Since metabolic disorders are multifactorial, it seems that poly-herbal medications, or drug-herbal combination are needed for their treatment.”

Meanwhile, scent leaf is a relatively well-studied herb, with research that has demonstrated that it can radically and speedily improve anxiety and depression, and reduce stress – both physical and emotional.

In addition, scent leaf has the capacity to increase physical and emotional endurance thus increasing the resilience to all stressors. As already mentioned, it lowers blood sugar levels, which in turn reduces cravings and stabilises moods, and thus facilitates weight loss.

Scent leaf has been traditionally used to support people through times of stress, working as adaptogen (that is substance that balances and protects the body by improving resistance to any type of physiological or mental stress) and anxiolytic (decreasing anxiety). One of the most strongly supported actions of this herb is that of an adaptogen, with current research supporting its traditional use in managing acute and chronic stress and fatigue.

Chronic stress has been shown to increase the levels of oxidative stress and free radicals. Scent leaf enhances the levels and activities of endogenous antioxidants and antioxidant enzymes including glutathione and superoxide dismutase.

In a recent randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled trial researchers evaluated the efficacy of an extract of scent leaf in the symptomatic control of general stress. They concluded that the effect of holy basil supplementation over placebo on comparison was considerable for all stress parameters measured.

The treatment showed 39 per cent improvement in general stress symptoms over and above the placebo. The significant finding in this study was the reduced intensity of forgetfulness, reduced symptom scores of sexual problems (stress-related), and the effective relief from frequent feelings of fatigue and sleep problems.

According to the Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders study, among 19 natural based drugs that have been approved for worldwide marketing between the years 2005–2010, seven were classified as natural products, 10 as semi-synthetic natural products, and two as natural product-derived drugs.

Some example of natural products for the management of executive stress and metabolic syndrome include: InterCEDD Health Products Limited (IHP) Ganoderma Green Tea and Coffee; Erovit-IHP “Age Redefinition”; IHP Vernonia Ocimum Tea “The Scented Bitters” made from Vernonia amaygdalina and Ocimum gratissimum; Immunovit “Immune Booster”; Virgin Coconut Oil “Drug Store in a Bottle”; Garcinia-IHP “The Cold Cap”; Moringa Oleifera “Tree of Life Series; and Bissap Tea “The Heart Insurance Tea.

IHP is a health and wellness-company specialized in high quality herbal and dietary supplements produced in the laboratories of International Centre for Ethnomedicine and Drug Development, InterCEDD. The company focuses on development, sales, and awareness of health and wellness products. IHP is also a member of a 20-year old group called Bioresources Development Group (BDG).


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