Issued 16th May 2016
Members of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists will be participating in Mental Health Awareness Week starting Monday 16th May 2016.
Mental health issues can affect all genders, age groups and whilst statistical studies show the influence of socio-economic factors, no one is exempt. From learning difficulties at an early age to dementia in the later stages of life, and anxiety, depression and mental illness such as schizophrenia at any point in between; the risks are always present.
Whilst some conditions may require pharmaceutical therapy, herbal medicine has many safe and effective remedies to offer¹. When putting together an individual formula for their patient, a medical herbalist might include one of the following herbs commonly used to treat the following conditions:
Rosemary’s (Rosmarinus officinalis) ability to boost memory has enjoyed extensive press coverage this month. A recent study by Northumbria University corroborated findings in previous research demonstrating inhalation of the plant aroma improved cognitive skills compared to placebo.²In addition, the trial attributed the many active constituents including 1,8-cineole, which cross the blood-brain barrier, to improved performance which was found to be directly related to the blood concentration of these compounds in participants. The active principle is thought to work like dementia medication by preventing a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine from being broken down. Although the Romans already knew the plant’s effects on the brain; it is noted in historical texts that they wore Rosemary wreaths for exams. The study used healthy over 65s and focused on prospective memory, producing promising results for cognitive decline particularly associated with aging.
St John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) has many uses for a herbalist but is most commonly known by all for its antidepressant activity. Hyperforin, is one of the main constituents thought to contribute to the plant’s ability to treat depression over placebo and also outperform some standard antidepressants in randomised controlled trials.³
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) has a long history of use for alleviating stress, anxiety, insomnia and elevating mood which can be confirmed by modern placebo controlled studies. This western herb was found to be effective in improving ‘Total Mood Disturbance’ (measured by the Profile of Mood States) without having a negative effect on cognition or energy levels.⁴ Recent research also shows its antioxidant properties protect the brain against the damaging effects of inflammation which can be caused by chronic stress.⁵
When taking herbs in many circumstances but particularly for issues relating to mental health, the NIMH always recommends seeking the advice of a qualified medical herbalist. Your nearest NIMH herbalist can be found here.
¹Sarris J, McIntyre E, Camfield DA. Plant-based medicines for anxiety disorders, part 2: a review of clinical studies with supporting preclinical evidence. CNS Drugs. 2013 Apr;27(4):301-19.
²Moss M and Oliver L. Plasma 1,8-cineole correlates with cognitive performance following exposure to rosemary essential oil aroma. Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology. 2012; 2(3): 103–113.
³Barnes J, Anderson LA & Phillipson JD. St John's wort (Hypericum perforatum L.): a review of its chemistry, pharmacology and clinical properties. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2001 May;53(5):583-600.
⁴Brock C, Whitehouse J, Tewfik I, Towell T. American Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora): a randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study of its effects on mood in healthy volunteers. Phytother Res. 2014 May;28(5):692-8.
⁵Lohani M, Ahuja M, Buabeid MA, Dean S, Dennis S, Suppiramaniam V, Kemppainen B, Dhanasekaran M. Anti-oxidative and DNA protecting effects of flavonoids-rich Scutellaria lateriflora. Nat Prod Commun. 2013 Oct;8(10):1415-8.
More about Mental Health Awareness Week
The week is organised by UK charity Mental Health Foundation, who provide support andeducation, fund research and play an active role in influencing UK legislation.
For information about mental health in the UK:
On a more international scale, May is also Mental Health Month which is observed by Mental Health America and its affiliates across the USA.
More about the NIMH
The National Institute of Medical Herbalists is the UK's leading professional body representing herbal medicine practitioners.
First established as the National Association of Medical Herbalists in 1864, today the National Institute of Medical Herbalists has more than 700 members across the UK and beyond.
The Institute promotes the benefits of herbal medicine and oversees the provision of the best patient care through the work of its members.
NIMH members undergo a lengthy training programme before they can register as qualified medical herbalists. Practitioners train for at least three years and adhere to a strict code of conduct before they can gain MNIMH or FNIMH after their name. Recently qualified practitioners will have taken a BSc in Phytotherapy (herbal medicine). All NIMH-registered herbalists are fully insured, and follow a strict code of conduct.
NIMH-registered medical herbalists are trained in the same diagnostic skills as mainstream doctors but take a more holistic approach to treating illness. Herbalists treat a wide range of acute and chronic conditions and frequently work in collaboration with GPs and consultants to achieve the best combination of treatments for individual patients.
NIMH can be contacted at:
Clover House, James Court, South Street, Exeter EX1 1EE
Tel: +44 (0) 1392 426022
Fax: +44 (0) 1392 498963
Issued 16th May 2016