If you're feeling blue, you have a lot of choices these days. And fortunately, some of the national euphoria regarding Prozac is giving way to widespread enthusiasm for St. John's Wort. The former comes with a list of about 50 known side effects, the latter virtually none. That's because one is a drug and the other is an herb. This is progress.
Prozac quickly became a fad, with many people using it simply to smooth out the inevitable challenges in life. "Listening to Prozac" by Peter Kramer even became a national best seller—and we became the "Prozac Nation."
Eventually there was somewhat of a backlash, as more and more side effects were discovered, with some people even accusing the drug of triggering violent rages. And in "Talking Back to Prozac," psychiatrist Peter Breggin was harshly critical of the tendency of the profession to become increasingly reliant on psychoactive drugs, referring to them as the modern-day equivalent of lobotomies and electroshock therapy.
St. John's Wort affects neurotransmitters
Enter St. John's Wort, another national obsession. And it's probably a good thing, because herbs generally are less toxic. But that doesn't mean that they are always devoid of side effects and can be used without caution. Sometimes, in combination with other substances they can even be dangerous, such as the well-publicized fatalities as a result of using Herbal Ecstasy.
St. John's Wort, or Hypericum Perforatum, is a flowering plant that has been used since ancient times as a medicinal herb in teas and tinctures. Scientists have yet to discover the active elements in it, but they are increasingly getting a picture of what is does to the brain. It seems to affect serotonin in the same way that Prozac does. So then where are the side effects?
Interestingly, St. John's Wort has a broader effect than Prozac. It also prolongs the action of dopamine and norepinephrine, two other brain chemicals that are thought to play an important role in how you feel. This broader action perhaps helps to mitigate the side effects of altering serotonin alone.
St. John's Wort is the most widely used antidepressant in Germany. A review by the British Medical Journal in 1996 suggested that it was more effective than a placebo, though the studies were small and of short duration. The National Institutes of Health is now conducting a large-scale study to determine its effects and safety.
One known side effect discovered so far is a slight increase in sensitivity to sunlight, and there have been at least two recorded instances of "serotonin syndrome" when St. John's Wort is used in combination with other serotonin inhibitors. Symptoms in moderate cases include mental confusion, muscle twitches, sweating and flushing. Full-blown serotonin syndrome can cause delirium, acute blood pressure changes and possibly death.
Maharishi Ayurveda formulas combine herbs
Like St. John's Wort, Maharishi Ayurveda herbals do not have the side effects associated with drugs. But Maharishi formulas are combinations of many herbs, not just a single herb such as St. John's Wort. The result is that they are safe and balanced, while delivering a wider range of health benefits.
Ayurvedic explanation of depression
What, then, is the Ayurvedic solution for depression? According to The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians, allopathic drugs and individual naturopathic herbs are off target, because they affect only one aspect of mental functioning.
St. John's Wort may effect neurotransmitters, or Prana Vata in the language of Ayurveda, but it does nothing for the heart or other factors that are causing emotional problems and distress. Ayurveda is based on a more holistic approach and targets both the brain and heart, as well as the crucial balance between them.
In particular, the Blissful Joy formula from Maharishi Ayurveda balances the heart and brain while enhancing all three of the main functions of the mind: learning, memory and recall. It will help you feel fresh, alert, light-hearted and happy.
Depression is caused by a flare-up in Sadhaka Pitta (the heart and emotions). This Pitta aggravation causes a second problem, an imbalance in Tarpaka Kapha (lubrication), which is responsible for coordinating the heart and the mind. When Tarpaka Kapha is off, it leads to a third imbalance — one in the mind or brain (Prana Vata).
In short, the excess heat from the Pitta frustration and the airy quality of an edgy Vata mind combine to dry up the lubricating, stabilizing quality of Kapha.
This helps explain why St. John's Wort can increase sensitivity to the hot sun—internally it is heating up or aggravating Pitta. By dealing with only the mind, St. John's Wort ignores the delicate balance between the heart and mind.
Blissful Joy promotes a happy emotional balance by nourishing both the heart (Sadhaka Pitta) and the mind (Prana Vata), while strengthening the link between the two (Tarpaka Kapha). You'll feel more balanced, content and happy.
We have come a long way, from lobotomies to psychoactive drugs to single herbs and now to highly orchestrated, refined and safe herbal formulas. And it is actually where we began, because these herbal formulas are based on ancient knowledge of complete heath in mind and body.
Herbal teamwork in the Maharishi Ayurveda formula - Blissful Joy
There are four different types of herbs in Maharishi Formulas:
- Primary herbs
- Bioavailability herbs
- Herbal co-factors
- Balancing herbs
Here's an example of how the herbs in the Blissful Joy formula help create more healthy, holistic results.
- Arjuna Myrobalans soothes the heart and emotions (Sadhaka Pitta).
- Ashwagandha and Nutmeg nourish the mind and brain (Prana Vata).
- Cardamom, Nutgrass (Cyperus) and Calcium strengthen the link between the heart and mind (Tarpaka Kapha).
- Dried Ginger and Long Pepper increase the assimilation of the main herbs and help them cross the blood-brain barrier without delay.
- Nutmeg also acts to burn ama, the impurities that clog the channels of the body.
- Indian Gooseberry (Amla) and Bengal Quince (Bael Tree) help keep the formula balanced and effective, without being aggressive.
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