HERBS FOR HEALTH MANAGEMENT

Herbs are a foundational root in medicine and health treatments, dating back thousands of years throughout every culture around the world. Modern Western herbalism comes from ancient Egypt. The Greeks developed a comprehensive philosophy of herbal medicine by 100 BCE and the Romans built upon it to create a variety of medical practices, some of which are still used today.

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ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE IMPACTS PSYCHOLOGICAL HARDINESS

Psychological hardiness is an individual’s resistance to stress, anxiety and depression. It includes the ability to withstand grief and accept the loss of loved ones. Alternative medicine is a more popular term for health and wellness therapies that have typically not been part of conventional Western medical approaches but are often used along with conventional medicinal protocols.  Coping and dealing with stress in a positive manner play a major role in maintaining the balance needed for health and well-being.

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ALTERNATIVE REMEDIES FOR ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION

Interest in complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) is increasing as consumers and health care professionals search for additional ways to treat anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders. Some of these remedies include:

St. John’s Wort.  More than 30 studies show it to be effective for treatment of mild forms of depression,…

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interaction, largely because the brain is somewhat protected,” he said. His study added to the growing evidence that signals from beneficial bacteria nonetheless find a way through the barrier. The 2011 research could not pinpoint exactly how the barrier is traversed. It appears micro-organisms in the gut tickle a sensory nerve ending in the fingerlike protrusions lining the intestine and carry that electrical impulse up the vagus nerve and into the deep-brain structures thought to be responsible for elemental emotions such as anxiety. Cryan and co-author Ten Dinan published a theory paper in the journal Biological Psychiatry, calling these potentially mind-altering microbes “psychobiotics.”


It has long been known that much of the body’s supply of neurochemicals, an estimated 50 percent of its dopamine, for example, and a vast majority of its serotonin, originate in the intestines, where these chemical signals regulate appetite, feelings of fullness and digestion. But only in recent years has mainstream psychiatric research given serious consideration to the role microbes might play in creating those chemicals. Although the exact mechanism that breaks the barriers are not yet known, it seems safe to assert there is a proven link to gut bacteria and mental health.

In 2007, scientists announced plans for a Human Microbiome Project to catalog the micro-organisms living in the body. The profound influence of these organisms has grown rapidly with each passing year.


Bacteria in the gut produce vitamins and break down food. Their presence or absence has been linked to obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and the toxic side effect of prescription drugs. Biologists now believe much of what makes us human depends on microbial activity. The 2 million unique bacterial genes found in each human microbiome can make the 23,000 genes in the cells seem insignificant in comparison.


“It has enormous implications for the sense of self,” said Tom Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health. “We are, at least from the standpoint of DNA, more microbial than human. That’s a phenomenal insight and one we have to take seriously when we think about human development.”


Considering the extent to which bacteria influence human physiology, scientists are interested in learning how bacteria may affect the brain. Micro-organisms in the gut secrete a profound number of chemicals, some of which are the same substances used by neurons to communicate and regulate mood, such as dopamine, serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These, in turn, appear to play

GUT BACTERIA CAN AFFECT YOUR MOOD

ANGELA S. HOOVER

Angela is a staff writer for Health & Wellness magazine.

more articles by Angela s. hoover

a function in intestinal disorders, coinciding with high levels of major depression and anxiety. Norwegian researchers examined the feces from 55 people in 2014 and found certain bacteria were more likely to be associated with depressive patients. Overall, researchers have linked anxiety, depression and several pediatric disorders, such as autism and hyperactivity, to gastrointestinal abnormalities.


Research conducted by scientists at the University College Cork in Ireland and McMaster University in Ontario, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in 2011, has become one of the best-known experiments linking gut bacteria to the brain. Ten years before designing this study, neuroscientist John Cryan thought about microbiology in terms of pathology: The brain is anatomically isolated and guarded by a blood-brain barrier that allows nutrients in but keeps out pathogens and inflammation, the immune system’s typical response to germs. This led Cryan to believe there are certain fields that just don’t seem to interact well.


“Microbiology and neuroscience, as whole disciplines, don’t tend to have had much