Exhausted? Stressed? Forgetful? Natural antidotes are one option you shouldn’t overlook.
At some point, everyone experiences “burnout.” Physical burnout, mental burnout, emotional burnout…we may not even notice until the floodgates have already opened.
Taking on too much at work, caring for the kids, eating too much junk food or drinking one too many glasses of wine from time to time can certainly take their toll. Our body slowly becomes depleted of the resources we need to function at an optimal level (or function at all).
Herbal supplements can be a great way to replenish and restore your mind and body back to a healthy place. From antioxidants and energy boosters to anti-stress and anti-anxiety remedies, nature’s ingredients don’t just put a band-aid on the symptoms—they often fix the underlying cause of your issue.
In fact, studies have found that certain natural supplements can help fight cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, addiction and many other serious physical or mental illnesses. From popular supplements like fish oil and vitamin D to natural remedies you may not have heard of, such as devil’s claw, rhodiola rosea and olive leaf extract, research continues to show surprising results.
Listed below are natural antidotes and their uses, backed by the latest research. Find out which ones can potentially work for you—the list may come in handy the next time you’re having trouble balancing your workload, dealing with life’s daily (and unexpected) stressors or looking for alternative methods in fighting a serious illness.
Memory and Cognition
Creatine isn’t just for improving athletic performance, so throw out those bodybuilding stereotypes. A naturally occurring organic compound found in relatively high concentrations in red meat, creatine has been shown to enhance cognition, delay mental fatigue and even improve I.Q. scores. Tyrosine may also help increase mental alertness and improve memory, especially in times of stress.
Certain studies have found caffeine to aid with memory as well. In fact, keeping yourself fueled with a daily cup of coffee may have many added benefits—animal experiments have shown that caffeine may reshape the biochemical environment inside our brains in ways that could stave off dementia. Studies have also shown that caffeine may help prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. According to The New York Times,
Researchers tested the blood levels of caffeine in older adults with mild cognitive impairment, or the first glimmer of serious forgetfulness, a common precursor of Alzheimer’s disease, and then re-evaluated them two to four years later. Participants with little or no caffeine circulating in their bloodstreams were far more likely to have progressed to full-blown Alzheimer’s than those whose blood indicated they’d had about three cups’ worth of caffeine.
Looks like those pricey Starbucks lattes are giving us more than we bargained for.
Can’t shake the blues? Whether you’ve been feeling a little under the weather or experiencing clinical depression, these remedies may be worth checking out.
SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine) is a naturally occurring compound that is found in almost every tissue and fluid in the body. Sam-e tablets have only been on the U.S. market since 1999, but it has been studied for decades internationally. In fact, it’s approved as a prescription drug to combat depression in Spain, Italy, Russia and Germany. Studies have shown promising results in patients with mild to moderate depression. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center,
Some research suggests that SAM-e is more effective than placebo in treating mild-to-moderate depression and is just as effective as antidepressant medications without the side effects (headaches, sleeplessness, and sexual dysfunction). In addition, antidepressants tend to take 6 – 8 weeks to begin working, while SAM-e seems to begin more quickly. Researchers aren’t sure exactly how SAMe works to relieve depression, but they speculate it might increase the amount of serotonin in the brain (just as some antidepressants do).
Many may be familiar with St John’s wort and its medicinal use as a natural antidepressant. Although there have been claims that St John’s wort may interfere with other medications, it can still be an effective antidote when used safely with your doctor’s approval.
The psychiatric history of this plant goes all the way back to ancient Greece, where it was used to treat “nervous conditions.” It is believed that the plant elevates dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain (much the same as traditional antidepressants). St John’s Wort has also shown promise in treating PMS, menopause, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), eczema, OCD and social phobia.
This Renaissance plant may sound too good to be true, but it’s worth talking to your doctor if you’re serious about trying something new.
Having trouble getting some shut-eye? Get the snooze you need with the help of melatonin and valerian root.
You may have already heard about the benefits of melatonin, a hormone made by the pineal gland that helps control your sleep and wake cycles. Normally, melatonin levels rise in the evening, remain high for most of the night, and drop in the early morning hours. However, changes in light can affect how much melatonin your body produces. Melatonin levels also drop with age, so the supplement may be particularly beneficial to the elderly.
The lesser-known valerian root is a perennial flowering plant used for its sedative and anti-anxiety effects. For thousands of years, the Chinese, Greeks, Romans and Indians have used valerian as a mild sedative. In the 16th century, its extract was used to make perfume. Now, it’s primarily used for its medicinal purposes.
Current research has been directed at the interaction of valerian root with the GABA neurotransmitter receptor system, a class of receptors on which benzodiazepines (e.g., Ativan, Xanax) are known to act. More research is needed to make definite conclusions about its effectiveness, but many studies have shown valerian to be a useful sedative.
If you have the opposite problem (chronic fatigue), a unique herbal remedy called rhodiola rosea may give you the boost you need. Certain studies have shown that rhodiola can dramatically reduce mental and physical fatigue under stressful conditions. According to Phytomedicine Journal,
In one study, a low dose (170 mg/day) of rhodiola rosea extract was given to 56 young physicians on night call, when there is notable decrease in physical and mental performance. Using measures of cognitive and memory function, such as associative thinking, short-term memory, calculation and speed of audiovisual perception, the researchers found a statistically significant reduction of stress-induced fatigue after just two weeks of supplementation with rhodiola.
A spoonful of rhodiola makes the mental stress go down—looks like Ms. Poppins was on the right track.
Other Top Contenders
Have a canker sore that just won’t go away? Vitamin B12 may help. Nausea and vomiting? Try ginger. Other stomach issues messing up your day? Probiotics it is!
Garlic, dark chocolate, coQ10, olive leaf extract and magnesium have all shown effectiveness in reducing blood pressure. Olive leaf extract may also help lower cholesterol levels.
In a Nutshell
There’s likely an herbal remedy for whatever your ailment may be. Sometimes, a natural alternative to prescription medication may be just what the doctor ordered.
View the chart below for more information about natural supplements and their effectiveness based on the latest research.
Note: Many supplements contain active ingredients that have strong effects in the body and can pose unexpected risks. In addition, they can interfere with certain medications. For this reason, it’s important to talk with your doctor before using herbal supplements.