The Best Natural Supplements to treat OCD

Updated on October 23rd, 2020
Supplements For OCD

Natural medicines such as herbal remedies have been growing in popularity, particularly as treatments for anxiety disorders such as OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). When you examine each treatment’s science, it’s essential to take the consistency of research results and research quality in mind.

It’s also smart to consider safety concerns and potential side effects.

Most herbal remedies are available at medical stores without a prescription. However, it’s essential to talk to your physician before taking any supplements. Apart from having side effects, most of these nutritional supplements can interfere (decrease or enhance) prescription medications’ actions. Here are a few natural supplements for OCD:

Natural Supplements For OCD

1. Milk Thistle

Milk thistle plant’s seeds and fruit have been used for more than 2,000 years to strengthen the liver. Silymarin is an active substance in milk thistle and is extracted from the plant’s fruits and seeds. Silymarin is a complex mixture of flavonolignans with antioxidant properties.

Studies demonstrate that silymarin regulates cellular membranes’ permeability to stimulate detoxification pathways and stabilizes them.

Using milk thistle, obsessive-compulsive disorder patients enable detoxification, which promotes better mental health. Milk Thistle is a potent liver detoxifier. As we know more about mental health, we know that weak detoxification can lead to issues.

When toxins build up in the body or brain, they can contribute or create significant psychiatric symptoms like obsessive-compulsive disorder. Notably, it supports phase 2 liver detoxification, which is required to eliminate toxins from the body.   

Milk Thistle spikes serotonin and those with OCD can have abnormalities in their serotonin (5-HT) system. Research studies suggest that Milk Thistle lowers compulsions and obsessions in as little as 4 weeks.

2. L-Theanine

L-Theanine is a form of amino acid present in green tea and is extensively used in Asia. It is reputed for its calming and relaxing properties and is used to treat both depression and anxiety.

L-Theanine supports neurocognitive functioning in multiple ways, supporting brainwave activity and neurotransmitter functioning, in the case of OCD, keeping the brain calm. L-theanine modulates aspects of brain function in us by increasing Alpha brainwave activity, which calms the brain.

DLL-theanine increases the brain neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) (a critical inhibitory neurotransmitter) [3].

L-theanine produces its anti-anxiety effects by increasing gamma-aminobutyric acid without producing sleepiness or impairing motor behavior typical of prescription anti-anxiety medications. L-Theanine minimizes anxiety by blocking the glutamate (an excitatory neurotransmitter).

By hindering the overstimulating glutamate, the brain learns to calm, and one feels more tranquilized, which helps to minimize symptoms associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Research demonstrates that L-theanine can significantly minimize the molecular impacts of acute stress and the subsequent excitotoxicity on brain cells for those with chronic stress, which can result in cognitive failure. It has been proven to support healthy neurotransmitter activity to reduce behaviors linked with OCD.

It can be directly taken in powder or capsule form. L-Theanine is considered safe, and no adverse effects have been found in research making green tea one of the primary herbs for obsessive-compulsive disorder patients.

3. Borage extract

The dried flower of the herbal borage (also called starflower or Echium amoenum) is widely used in traditional Persian medicine to treat depressed mood and anxiety. The bioactive constituents of borage extract are proven to affect serotonin activity in our brains.

In a small six-week double-blind study, 44 adults with gamma-aminobutyric acid were randomized to receive a placebo (Sayyah et al. 2009) or an aqueous extract of borage 500mg/day.

Individuals treated with the borage extract reported reductions in both generalized anxiety and OCD symptoms that were remarkably greater than the placebo group. Few individuals treated with borage extract reported headaches [4].

It is essential to note that some OTC (over-the-counter) preparations of borage contain bioactive agents that are believed to increase the threat of cancer (i.e., the pyrrolizidine alkaloids); hence caution should be exercised when selecting a brand that is both safe and reputable.  

4. St. John’s Wort

Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s Wort) is best remembered as an herbal antidepressant, although its effectiveness in treating depression and other mental illness forms is debatable. Hypericum perforatum has been extensively used (and in some instances, licensed) in Europe for decades to treat anxiety and mood disorders.

An analysis has noted that hypericum—the chemical that’s believed to be the critical ingredient in St. John’s Wort—appears to impact the serotonin system. Disruptions in the serotonin system are believed to be important in the development of symptoms of OCD.

[Also Read: Hidden Signs of Depression]

5. Piper Methysticum (Kava)

Kava is a herbal medication found in clinical trials to reduce nervous tension, anxiety, mild depression, and restlessness. It has been in use for hundreds of years in the Micronesia Islands, Polynesia, and Hawaii.

Kava’s crucial constituent is kavalactone, which stimulates GABA production (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and serotonin in the body, producing a calming effect on the body. It is ideal for taking Kava from a water-based extract at less than 250 mg per day. Kava is not suggested during pregnancy or lactation.

Side Effects

Although many consumers believe that herbals have fewer adverse effects and are safer than prescription medications, herbs like St. John’s Wort are not regulated precisely as traditional medications. They may cause unpleasant or even fatal side effects in some individuals.

Herbal treatments may also interfere with prescription medications that you may already be using. For instance, if you are currently taking a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) to treat OCD, you must talk to your treating doctor before using St. John’s Wort as it could impact your body’s ability to metabolize it.

This could lead to a syndrome known as serotonin syndrome.

Other Complementary Therapies

Do not forget that there are several other alternatives for treating the symptoms of OCD. Beyond supplements, lifestyle interventions such as acupuncture, mindfulness meditation, and yoga may be useful as well.

Bottom Line

Unfortunately, few clinical studies have looked at these interventions for OCD patients, and those that have been done are of relatively inferior quality. Yet, unlike prescription drugs and herbal medicines, lifestyle interventions rarely have remarkable side effects and may also help reduce stress.

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