Alternative Approaches-Psychopharmacognosy:  Related Paper

Effective Treatments Index

Psychotropic Medications from Natural Products

An excellent book on the topic of herbal remedies.  It is thorough and well referenced:

Handbook of Psychotropic Herbs  A Scientific Analysis of Herbal Remedies for Psychiatric Conditions.  Ethan Russo, MD  2001  The Haworth Press, Inc.  Binghamton, NY.  ISBN  0-7890-0718-5



St. John's Wort:
Hypericum perforatum

The phytochemistry of Hypericum in depression has proven to be expremely complex and final answers as to the active ingredient(s) remain elusive.  When taken in a standardized extract, 300 mg, three times a day, successfully treats mild to moderate depression in 60 to 70 percent of patients with fewer side effects than synthetic antidepressants.  Preliminary evidence supports doses of 600 mg, three times a day, in treatment of severe depression.

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP):
Griffonia simplicifolia (Vahl ex DC.)

The intake of 5-HTP increases the levels of the cerebral neurotransmitter serotonin, or 5-hydroxytryptamine.  The natural pathway is quite simple:  dietary tryptophan to 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) to 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin). An aggregate of clinical studies dealing with depression revealed that 59 percent of 251 patients treated with 5-HTP had favorable responses over three to four weeks.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

Central fatty pathways:  Omega-6 Fatty Acids (Linoleic acid (LA) - plant derived) and becomes Arachidonic acid (AA) (C20:4n-6);  Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Linolenic (LNA) acid – deprived from fish and game meats) becomes Eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) (C20:5n-3). 

EPA (omega-3) promotes the formation of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins while inhibiting AA formation and subsequently inflammatory prostaglandin E-2 synthesis.  It has been hypothesized that excessive secretion of monokines by macrophages is a, or the, cause of human depression.  This might explain the association of depression with coronary disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other diseases.


Valeriana officinalis

Attention has focused on the importance of the essential oil fraction of valerian root.  Its active ingredient appears to be valerenal.  A second important ingredient is valerenic acid which is contained only in Valeriana officinalis.  Both valerenic acids and valerenal and their derivatives have demonstrated sedative activities.  Valerenic acid is believed to inhibit enzymatic degradation of GABA.

German Chamomile:
Matricaria recutita

The plant contains both herniarin and apigenin.  Herniarian, a counmarin, has anticonvulsant and spasmolytic properties.  Apigenin competitively inhibits flunitrazepam binding. 

California Poppy:
Eschscholzia californica

The aerial parts of the plant contained isoquinolone alkaloids.  One such alkaloid is protopine.  Research cited evidence that protopine alkaloids increase GABA binding to its receptor.

Humulus lupulus

Research has demonstrated a high affinity of the crude Humulus lupulus extract to GABAA and GABAB, AMPA, kainite, glycine, NMDA, CCKA and CCKB, and chloride ion channel receptors.

Lemon Balm:
Melissa officinalis

Researchers have studied the effects of a hydroalcoholic extract made from the cryogrinding of fresh leaves.  The essential oil of melissa appears to have no therapeutic effect.  The melissa extract significantly decreased time of sleep induction under low-dose while increasing sleep time after higher dosing.

Dementia and Cognitive Impairment

Ginkgo biloba

All of the identified constituents of ginko extracts are assumed to contribute in their totality to the therapeutic effect.  However, specific actions are known for ginkgo fractions.  While their functions have been identified and documented, overall, Ginkgo improves cerebral and peripheral blood flow. Reduces damage of exgygen-free radicals, protects cerebral membrane integrity, improves alertness and memory, reduces age-related decline iun muscarinic function and much more.

Gotu Kola:
Centella asiatica

Gotu kola contains a variety of organic acids, triterpenes, flavonoids.  It also contains an essential oil with an unidentified terpene acetate and other components.  Two studies have been done looking at Centella asiatica and mental function in mentally retarded children.  Both studies showed significant increases in mental function.


Piper methysticum

The phytochemicsty of Kava is certainly as complex as that of other botanical psychotherapeutic agents but is almost unique, in that the identity of the molecular components, if not their mechanisms, is well known.  Kava safely treats acute and chronic anxiety states, including social phobia, and, perhaps, panic states, without significant sedation in normal doses.


Chinese Ginseng:
Panax ginseng

Ginseng is unusual because, although its phytochemistry is decidedly complex and respresents a mixture of active ingredients, at least the identity of those agents is known.  Ginseng modestly aids recovery and cognition in chronic illness or stress.

American Ginseng:
Panax quinquefolius

Sililar to Chinese Ginseng.


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