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Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder, is a mental condition characterized by severe mood swings, irritability and periods of depression as well as changes in sleep patterns and energy levels. Bipolar disorder should be diagnosed and treated by a licensed health care professional. Additionally, some herbal remedies may help alleviate symptoms. Always consult a doctor before trying herbal supplements. Natural therapies should be used in conjunction with, and never in place of, conventional medical care.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort is a flowering herb that has been used traditionally by herbalists to treat a variety of conditions, including depression, the flu, colds, anxiety, dysentery, premenstrual syndrome, menopausal symptoms, pain and inflammation. It is naturally antibacterial, sedative and anti-inflammatory. In modern times, it has been promoted as a natural antidepressant. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, several studies have shown that St. John’s wort may be effective in reducing symptoms of mild to moderate depression. It is believed that the herb acts like a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor , or SSRI, making more serotonin, which helps to regulate moods. It should not be used in cases of severe depression and should not be used in place of prescription medication. The University of Maryland also warns that St. John’s wort might reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills.
5 hydroxytryptophan, or 5 HTP, is a compound found in the African herb griffonia, and like tryptophan, is a precursor to serotonin. The body uses serotonin to regulate sleep cycles, moods and appetite. It is believed that lack of serotonin may contribute to depressive disorders such as bipolar. Elizabeth Baird of Vanderbilt University explains that 5 HTP helps improve moods of depressed patients, improves sleep patterns and may also help with anxiety. She cites one study that showed that 200 mg of 5 HTP helped decrease symptoms in both unipolar and bipolar patients. However, more studies are needed, and side effects are still unknown. Consult a medical doctor before trying 5 HTP.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Dr. Ray Sahelian, nutrition expert and author of “Mind Boosters,” explains that bipolar disorder may be due to a combination of high levels of omega-6 fatty acids and a lack of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. Omega-3s are used by the body to combat inflammation and are important for cognitive brain function and behavior. Experts from the University of Maryland Medical Center explain that a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to fatigue, poor memory, mood swings or depression, as well as poor circulation and heart problems. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in flaxseed oil and fish oil. Consult a physician before using these supplements to treat bipolar or other depression disorders.