Holistic Treatments for Anxiety and Depression

In Alternative Medicine, Health by Jessica Peatross, MDLeave a Comment

Jessica Peatross, MD
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Anxiety & depression…sigh. What a somber subject but it affects so many of us daily! Moreover, a high percentage of those afflicted are refractory to current treatment. Plus have you looked at those mystery elements and fillers in your meds? Hmmm doesn’t make me feel so great about my job. Some say mental disorders are genetic, while others believe it’s environmental. I tend to believe it is more environmental and more prevalent in certain areas. We are not born with the spirit of fear so either way it’s not fun. The good news is there are plenty of interventions that don’t necessarily involve popping a pill.

In this post, I’ll talk about the new device, the Alpha Stim. What is it? It is microcurrent electrical therapy. The devices emit a current of electricity of less than one milliampere, and can be applied with small probes touching the body or through ear clips. When applied through ear clips, it is called Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES). It works by using the body’s biophysics to affect the body’s biochemistry. Alpha-Stim’s proprietary waveform works by moving electrons through the body and brain at a variety of frequencies, collectively known as harmonic resonance. This normalizes the electrical activity of the nervous system and brain as measured by an electroencephalogram (EEG).It’s similar to a TENS unit, but actually more closely mimics the human’s natural vibratory frequency whereas the TENS machines uses energy thats stronger and is a more foreign frequency to the body. Alpha stim successfully has treated chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, depression & PTSD! The alpha stim has been researched by independent groups internationally & has amazing successes. There was significant (>25%) improvement in 90.91% of patients with pain, 93.7% of patients with anxiety, 89.6% of patients with depression & 79.2% of patients with insomnia. The device only requires 20-40 minutes & clips to the ears. It is not painful. In fact you can’t even feel it! The results last long after the device is removed. It costs around $800 but is far more cost effective than long term antidepressants, not addictive nor does it have the side effects of those medications. Unfortunately it is only available by prescription from a healthcare provider in the US, but available OTC elsewhere. I believe the same effects can be achieved through other ancient means as well, but it takes more work. 

Speaking of ancient therapies our ancestors used…do they work? Why yes, as a matter of fact, some do. Western medicine has largely ignored this until lately. Stay open minded. Some studies may be shocking as they go against everything you have been taught! More studies are also warranted & I’m not encouraging everyone to go take these herbs either! It may, however, be right for some so please, do not judge. 

1) Ayurveda
A randomized clinical study using an ancient Ayurveda remedy for anxiety outperformed the benzodiazepine, Klonapin in relieving anxiety. 30 days of treatment with another Ayurvedic herb, Manasamitra Vataka, reduced anxiety, improved quality of life & clinical health. 

A 2012 study of 64 volunteers asked subjects to take either ashwaganda, (another Ayurveda herb), or placebo twice a day for 60 days.  The group given the ashwaganda displayed significant reduction in anxiety after 2 months relative to placebo, w/o side effects. Also, cortisol levels were greatly reduced in the herbal group (Chandrasekhar et al., 2012). Other case studies using ashwaganda show benefit in stressed women with enlarged adrenal glands, showing beneficial changes in cortisol & progesterone. 

2) Psilocybin
Johns Hopkins has conducted the longest-running study of the effects of psilocybin, & their findings are quite revealing. In 2006, they gave 36 healthy volunteers a dose of the drug, and 60% reported having a “full mystical experience.” 14 months later, most reported higher levels of well-being & ranked taking psilocybin as one of the five most personally significant experiences of their lives (in a controlled environment). Psilocybin also made mice less fearful in experiments. In 2011, UCLA researchers found small doses of psilocybin improved the moods & reduced #anxiety in terminal cancer patients. They were refractory to conventional meds & the effects lasted 6 months! (Archives of General Psychiatry) 

3) Ketamine
This drug is an FDA-approved anesthetic that is being studied as a fast-acting antidepressant. Ketamine binds to receptors in the brain & blocks  glutamate, which normally activates neurons, thus producing relaxation. 

Other promising but illegal herbs bring researched: 

4) DMT (produced naturally by pineal gland), 

5) LSD (http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/821971)

6) MDMA prior to therapy for PTSD patients! Hopefully this area of research continues to grow and be explored. (http://www.mdmaptsd.org/images/research/mithoefer_etal_2012_ltfu.pdf)

Now let’s touch on natural herbs & dietary supplements! Some of the best herbs to use in tinctures, oils, teas or in cooking can provide claiming effects for both disorders. Check out these serotonin enhancing high in omega 3 fatty acids like salmon, mackerel, oils like coconut oil as well as tryptophan containing foods like free range turkey (I know..keep reading fellow veg heads) DHA or fish oil, is well known to be neuroprotective & is necessary for brain development.  Green tea (but not coffee which can worsen anxiety) contains L-theanine which is known to be effective in reducing symptoms by influencing alpha wave relaxation waves in the brain.

Calming herbs include: 

  • passionflower (not in pregnancy) skullcap 
  • chamomile (many benefits) 
  • lemon balm 
  • lavender 
  • fennel

(try almost all in tea form) 

Helpful dietary supplements include Sam-E which is as effective as SSRIs. It also battles arthritic & fibromyalgia pain & works with folic acid to influence neurotransmitters. It has a wide variety of amazing benefits. Valerian root & kava kava root (no alcohol)  both produce calming, yet sometimes drowsy effects. 5-HTP (never use with an antidepressant & can have side effects like a paradoxical reaction which can worsen anxiety) & St Johns wort are also well documented to treat mental disorders. New studies are looking at the hunger hormone, ghrelin. This hormone was being manipulated for weight loss pills when it was noted to aid in anxiety, PTSD & depression. 

Ghrelin is released when you’re hungry. Hunger produces physical stress so it’s produced in stressful instances. It helps produce a calming, safe feeling throughout the duration of the physical stress on the body. It can lead to the neurogenesis in the hippo-campus, a region in the brain that moderates memory, mood, & eating behaviors. It is currently being aggressively studied. 

Consider why you are depressed. Are you truly loving your authentic self? Take off your mask. Are you being honest?  Make sure to exercise daily, turn off the mental record player of negative thoughts, get some sunlight and take vitamin D/E, meditate, talk it out. If all else fails have your hormones checked! Be your authentic self always. Much love to you today! 


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