Natural remedies for psychiatric conditions
by Ethan Russo, MD

Handbook of Psychotropic Herbs (2001)

The Haworth Press, Inc.
10 Alice Street
Binghampton, New York 13904 USA

Softcover, 2001, 352 pp.

In the late 1980s the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) burst upon the psychiatric landscape, and fueled by massive advertising campaigns, these new "miraculous" drugs for depression began to generate enormous profits from the ensuing parade of pharmaceuticals: fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), fluvoxamine (Luvox), and citalopram (Celexa). A major change in the treatment of psychiatric disorders came with the new drugs: family doctors began to prescribe them--to children as young as four--and today we are seeing the sequelae of suicidal ideation in young people taking these drugs, as well as aggression (most of the school shooters, such as Columbine, were taking one of the SSRIs)

Now that we know the deadly side effects of these drugs, it seems imperative to find alternatives to the SSRIs. Although many people use herbs occasionally, most are unaware of a number of well-researched herbs found to be effective in treating depression, insomnia, dementia and cognitive impairment, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Ethan Russo, MD, author of several books on psychotropic herbs, and a well-known neurologist with vast clinical experience, has remedied this lack with the Handbook of Psychotropic Herbs.

Dr. Russo's books are solidly rooted in scientific data. His analysis of herbal remedies for psychiatric conditions includes history of usage, botany, preparation of extracts, and the newest research, making his Handbook of Psychotropic Herbs a unique and reliable resource for practitioners.

While some books have focused on herbs for specific uses (e.g. men's health, women's health, tonic herbs, etc.), Dr. Russo's book is the first compilation of scientific and clinical data solely on herbs with central nervous system (CNS) effects.

A comprehensive review of each botanical agent is given, with sound advice on the use of safe and effective herbs which are commonly found on the shelves of health food stores, mail-order catalogs, Web sites, and from health practitioners. "Dr. Russo's treatment of St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum), is one of the most complete reviews of the clinical literature currently available ..." (from the Foreword).

Besides St. John's wort, Dr. Russo suggests 5-Hydroxytryptophan (Griffonia simplicifolia), Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), and Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) for depression.

For insomnia, the herbs recommended are Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata), German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Roman (English) Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Hops (Humulus lupulus), Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), Scullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), and Oats (Avena sativa).

The herbs for dementia and cognitive impairment are fewer: Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica), and Huperzine (Huperzia serrata).

For anxiety, one herb: Kava-Kava (Piper methysticum).

For OCD, one herb: Marijuana (Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica). "OCD is marked by an insurmountable preoccupation with fixed ideas, no matter how preposterous, that withstand the patient's best efforts to submerge them through the application of logic. Cannabis, as no other substance yet discovered, allows a person to forget, and to laugh, even at one's own obsessions and compulsions. For OCD, it sounds like just what the doctor ordered."

The last section of Handbook of Psychotropic Herbs consists of nine Clinical Case Studies, illustrating the efficacy of these herbs: Episodic Use of Kava; Case of Dementia Treated with Ginkgo biloba; Head Injury Treated with Ginkgo; (another) Head Injury Treated with Ginkgo; Treatment of Varied Symptoms with 5-HTP; Dementia Treated with Ginkgo; Treatment with a Variety of Herbal Agents; Managing Mania & Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; and Cases of Treatment with Ginkgo and Kava.

Ethan Russo, MD is a child and adult neurologist at Montana Neurobehavioral Specialists, and is Board-Certified in Neurology with Special Qualification in Child Neurology. He also holds a faculty position in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences as an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Montana, where "he regularly lectures to undergraduates and graduate students in pharmacy, psychology, sports medicine, interpersonal communications, and physical therapy." For a neurologist with these credentials to advocate herbal treatment of psychiatric disorders, is a notable event. The alternatives to the SSRIs are in place--the medical community only needs the integrity to use them. In the meantime, these safe remedies are available to those who want to avoid pharmaceutical drugs.


review by Irene Alleger

COPYRIGHT 2005 The Townsend Letter Group
COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

Distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

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