An integrative approach to healing ourselves and our world: honoring people, plants, planet

Posts tagged ‘depression’

Herbal Help for Mood Disorders: Radio program 12/11 on Highway to Health

Sorrowing old man ("At Eternity's Gate") by Vincent van Gogh

Sorrowing old man (“At Eternity’s Gate”) by Vincent van Gogh

I’m on West Virginia radio tomorrow for the Highway to Health show with Dave Hawkins, 9:15am. It’ll be available at immediately after the show.

Herbal Help for Mood Disorders
Therapeutic herbs are used worldwide to relieve anxiety, depression and a host of other mood disorders. Healthy Dave is joined by registered herbalist and psychotherapist Holli Richey to discuss a natural approach to therapy using herbs, psychotherapy and stress management practices designed to help the whole person – body, mind and spirit.

Please call in to (304) 422-3154 at 9:15 AM EST.

Perilla frutescens (shiso) is a novel vegetable

Perilla frutescens var. crispa, shiso, in Crawford, GA. Notice the ruffled edges.

Perilla frutescens, a relatively new green-leafy vegetable introduced to North America from Asia and naturalizing throughout the eastern US, is popular in Asian dishes and a source of expensive omega-3 essential fatty acid supplements.

Growing in the Athens area are two variants: one is called shiso (Perilla frutescens var. crispa), which is either green or purplish-burgundy with ruffled, deeply serrated edges, and the other is egoma (Perilla frutescens var. frutescens), which has flat, green leaves with serrated edges.

When identifying either variety of Perilla, a distinguishing characteristic is in the anise-basil smell of the foliage when it’s crushed. Since Perilla’s in the mint family (Lamiaceae), it will have a square stem. Flowers rise up on four-sided stalks, resembling basil, but are taller and more pronounced. I usually find Perilla in a moist, semi-shade habitat, such as the Fred Birchmore Nature Trail in Athens.

Listing the health-promoting properties of Perilla would appear to place it in a panacea, cure-all category of potential world crops. Evidenced-based research matches the claims, which might make this a top-ten plant in usefulness.

Perilla frutescens var. frutescens, egoma, on the Fred Birchmore Trail in Athens.

Perilla’s antimutagenic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities lend it to be a traditional herb for treating cancerous tumors in Asia. Research studies of Perilla leaf extract have found the herb efficacious in treating human leukemia and human hepatoma cells by increasing apoptosis-related genes and apoptosis (programmed cell death) in the cancer cells. In one study on liver cancer, scientists compared the Perilla leaf extract to rosmarinic acid, a potent antioxidant compound found in high quantities in Perilla, to determine whether the activity is attributed to the rosmarinic acid. The study found the whole-leaf extract of Perilla was significantly more effective than the isolated constituent—a possible argument for wholeness.

Scientific studies have also verified the efficacy of using Perilla as an antidepressant. The studies were based on a Japanese herbal remedy which uses Perilla for its effect on depression associated with chronic unpredictable stress. There’s a lot of that going around.

Oil extracted from the seeds is high in omega-3 essential fatty acids, and can be an alternative to fish oil. Perilla oil has a neuroprotective and cardiovascular-protective effect, and is a possible preventative for strokes, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

There’s no need to make an alcohol tincture or water extract of Perilla because it’s an excellent, flavorful, cooked veggie, which has up to five times the carotene found in carotene-rich vegetables. Nutrition studies compared Perilla to spinach and found Perilla to be significantly higher in lutein than spinach. In addition to the carotenes, Perilla has an abundant supply of antioxidants, such as rosmarinic acid, flavonoids, and anthocyanins.

The omega-3-rich seeds of the flat-leaf Perilla can be used as a topping for salads or a spice. In Japanese cooking, the leaves of the ruffled-leaf Perilla are dredged in tempura batter and fried. The purple leaf variety is added to vinegars, pickled foods and rice to give flavor, a pinkish hue, and antimicrobial properties.

There’s no telling who is responsible for introducing Perilla to the US, but since it’s here, I’ll learn how to put it to good use.

Artemisia vulgaris: Is depression related to digestive health?

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) growing in Oconee Forest Park, Athens, GA. The underside of the leaves are silver.

The gut has been called the second brain because of the number of chemical molecules which communicate to the brain, impacting mood, thought, and physiological actions. However, if for every one signal the brain sends to the gut, there are nine signals which travel to the brain, then we might actually say that the gut is the primary brain. With the brain being dictated to by the gut, it is no surprise that when the digestion becomes sluggish, so does the brain and the mood.

Herbal medicine has a class of herbs to address digestion, and thereby mood–in fact, some say it is what herbal medicine does best. One of the herbs for a particular type of indigestion and depression is mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris). Though it isn’t a Middle Earth-Lord of the Rings remedy as its name sounds, it is an old remedy of Europe, Asia and Africa used for thousands of years, which has naturalized as a weed in North America. A species native to the western U.S. (Artemisia douglasiana), can be used interchangeably.

Mugwort is a warming, aromatic bitter, containing caffeoylquinic acids (some of the same constituents found in artichoke (Cynara scolymus) which protect from lipid peroxidation), essential oils, and sesquiterpene lactones, which reduce inflammation and improve the cellular structure of smooth muscle of blood vessels, helping with atherosclerosis.

The pattern of disharmony that calls mugwort to mind is termed the “Classic Liver Pattern”. The person has difficulty digesting fats, though craves fatty junk food, and tends to feel hung-over from the lack of digestive power. The person wakes in the morning feeling worse, and has low energy. This is a good indication for mugwort, particularly if associated with depression.

According to Galenic medicine, the liver is the source of blood, vitality, and emotions. When the liver is cold, damp, stuck, then the emotional body also feels depressed, sad, slow…blah. Herbalists see this type of atonic depression as a whole-body experience, where the person is stuck, they slow down, and they also really feel the depression in the digestion.

For women, mugwort is used in cases of congestive dysmenorrhea, when a woman feels a dull, heavy, downward dragging energy in the pelvic area prior to menstruation. This is due to the dilation of veins in the uterus.

Mugwort is either used in teas or tinctures. When it is brewed or tinctured, it creates a beautiful, dark color which is spicy and bitter at the same time. In acupuncture it is burned in rolled cones or sticks for moxabustion, where it is applied to areas experiencing stagnation. Mugwort is a short-term remedy, and is best used in combination with other herbs. Avoid it during pregnancy.

A long tradition exists of using mugwort to enhance dreams. People place the herb in dream pillows or simply in the pillow case to induce more vivid dreams. There is little science to verify this folkloric use, but there is no harm in trying it.

I would advise you against planting various Artemisias in your garden unless you have a very large space for it. Most Artemisias will spread considerably. Though they have attractive foliage, they won’t be so attractive when it takes over other plants considered dear to the gardener.

Mimosa (the tree, not the drink) brings happiness

Mimosa tree, Albizia julibrissin, growing at North Oconee River Greenway, Athens, GA

Although mimosas are called an invasive “trash tree” by many, Dr. Seuss couldn’t have created a more delightful-looking flower than the mimosa bloom. Mimosa’s whimsical June blossoms bring happiness just to gaze upon them, and their bark, foliage and flowers can do the same when taken internally as a tea.

Mimosa trees, Albizia julibrissin, dot the roadsides with their pink blossoms in early summer giving a tropical appearance. The fern-like foliage is made of fine compound leaflets. Mimosa flowers look like silky pink tuffs, giving the tree its other name, silk-tree. After the flowers fade, the seedpods form, resembling peapods, indicating it’s in the Fabaceae family, or pea family.

Originally native to an area ranging from Iran to China, historical accounts suspect mimosas were introduced to America as early as 1745. The famous French botanist, Andre Michaux, introduced the mimosa tree to Charleston in 1786. They produce prolific seeds, which allowed it to quickly spread throughout the South.

Mimosas grow where the soil has taken a beating. In fact, because they tolerate such poor soil and are capable of fixing nitrogen in the soil, they’re one of the species suitable for waste landfill remediation, synergistically enhancing the landscape. That’s an alternative meaning to “trash tree”.

Mimosa blossoms, Albizia julibrissin, "Collective Happiness Flowers"

It might be pure coincidence, but I find it interesting that a tree which heals disturbed land can also heal a disturbed heart. In China the peeled, dried bark of mimosa, called “collective happiness bark” in Chinese, is used as an uplifting remedy for an irritable-type of depression accompanied by insomnia, poor memory, grief and anger. In Chinese medicine this type of depression is diagnosed as a shen disturbance, a shock or trauma to the spiritual aspect of someone’s heart.

Current research has validated the traditional Chinese remedy of mimosa bark, showing that it relieves anxiety and has an antidepressant-like effect. Other studies have found that mimosa foliage and flowers contain antioxidants which inhibit the oxidation of the bad LDL cholesterol, decreasing the danger associated with high LDL cholesterol, which would make a lot of people happy.

The bark is boiled and steeped in water. For a milder effect, one can also use the flowers and leaves. The tea should not be drunk during pregnancy or if one is taking prescribed antidepressants. Also, because mimosas grow in disturbed soil, do be careful not to use any part of a tree growing near railroad tracks which could have absorbed a considerable amount of toxins.

This article was originally published in my Urban Forager Column on Sundays for the Athens Banner Herald–Living, June 20, 2010.                                       

Tag Cloud