Are Carotenoids Protective of Depression?

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Magnesium for Mood Disorders?

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Magnesium Monotherapy for Anxiety and Depression

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Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus): Anxiolytic, Antidepressant and Sedative Herb

weight lossLemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a perennial herb that is also sometimes called cymbopogon, barbed wire grass, silky heads, fever grass and citronella grass. Lemon grass belongs to the grass family of plants. Structurally, lemongrass has long leaves up to a meter tall that form tapering blades that radiate from a central culm (dense stems) that can be up to 200 cm in length. The herb grows in large parts of Africa, Australasia and Asia. Lemon grass has been used historically for its culinary properties and it is often added to curries, soups or teas. Like many other herbs lemongrass possesses medicinal properties and is used as a traditional medicine in regions where it grows. In particular, lemongrass may confer protection from a number of mood disorders due to its ability to affect the central nervous system of animals and humans. In particular, the essential oil and leaves of lemongrass appear to possess neuropharmacological activity possibly because of the presence of a number of phytochemicals.

lemongrass anxiety depression

Some studies have reported no benefits to lemongrass when it is tested for its central nervous system effects. However, this may relate to the type of grass used as a number of varieties exist and they may contain different phytochemical profiles. For example, East Indian lemongrass contains roughly equal amounts of the terpenes myrcene and citral, whereas West Indian lemongrass contains only small amounts of myrcene but high amount of citral.

The essential oil of lemongrass has been investigated for its neurochemical effects. For example, in one study, the anxiolytic and sedative effects of the essential oil of lemongrass was investigated. The essential oil was extracted from the leaves of lemongrass and administered to mice 30 minutes before they were subjected to a series of experimental tests. The results of the study showed that the essential oil of the herb was effective at increasing the sleeping time of the mice, suggesting that it has sedative effects. In addition, the lemongrass also decreased the anxious behaviour demonstrated by the mice suggesting that it possessed anxiolytic effects. Further, the lemongrass was also able to confer protection against seizures in the mice and increased the resistance the mice had to electric shocks. These effects suggest that the lemongrass possessed anticonvulsant activity. These results therefore support the use of lemongrass in the treatment of mood disorders that involve anxious behaviour.

lemongrass anxiety depression

Lemongrass shows medicinal effects in humans and animals. However it is able to perform this role without causing any toxicity to the consumer. In one study that ivestigated the toxicity of lemongrass, the researchers assessed the effects of the herb on the liver function of healthy humans. Administration of a herbal tea made from the leaves of lemongrass (the tea is called abafado in Brazil) produced no evidence of toxicity and the authors concluded that the data showed that the herb was atoxic. This supports the anecdotal evidence from traditional medicine and traditional cuisine, that consumption of lemongrass does not pose a risk of toxicity to humans.

In another study, the anxiolytic effects of essential oil from lemongrass was evaluated in mice exposed to experimental stress. The results of the study showed that administration of lemongrass essential oil was observed to cause reductions in anxious behaviour on the mice. This effect was able to be blocked by the drug flumazenil. Flumazenil is a compound that can bind to and block the benzodiazepine receptor in the brain. The ability of this drug to attenuate the behavioural effects of the lemongrass essential oil therefore strongly indicates that this effect occurs through the benzodiazepine receptor. At higher doses the lemongrass oil was also able to increase sleeping time in the mice, suggesting a mild sedative effect. When the lemongrass was coadministered with the benzodiazepine drug diazepam, there was a synergistic anxiolytic effect evident as reduced anxious behaviour in the mice, further suggesting a role for the benzodiazepine receptor in the effects of lemongrass essential oil.

In another study the anxiolytic effects of lemongrass were again investigated in mice. A significant anxiolytic effect was seen for the lemongrass leaf extracts when the mice were exposed to experimental stress. The leaf extracts also produced significant sedative effects in the mice. The antidepressant effects of lemongrass have also been investigated. For example, in one study, the antidepressant effects of extracts of whole lemon grass were tested in comparison to the antidepressant drug imipramine in mice. The mice were administered lemongrass extract, imipramine or a combination of the two and then placed under stressful conditions in the Porsolt forced swimming test and tail suspension tests. The results of the study showed that the lemongrass was able to significantly reduce the mobility of the mice in the test, indicating that it has an antidepressant effect. At the dose of 10 mg/kg body weight, the antidepressant effects of the lemongrass were comparable to that of the imipramine.

lemongrass anxiety depression

The chemical composition of lemongrass has been investigated. In this regard a number of polyphenolic substances have been isolated from lemongrass extracts. These include the flavonoids isoorientin, isoscoparin, swertiajaponin, isoorientin 2′′-O-rhamnoside, luteolin, quercetin, kaempferol, apigenin and orientin; as well as the hydroxycinnamates chlorogenic acid, and caffeic acid. Analysis of the essential oil shows that it is rich in terpenes, and contains the phytochemicals citral α, citral β, nerol geraniol, citronellal, terpinolene, geranyl acetate, myrecene and terpinol methylheptenone. The leaves of lemongrass also contain alkaloids, saponins, tannins, anthraquinones and steroids.

Extracts of lemongrass have been shown to possess significant free radical scavenging effect against lipid peroxidation in red blood cells, In addition the extracts were able to inhibit the superoxide radical and hydroxyl radical. These results suggest that lemongrass extracts possess significant antioxidant potential and may therefore be effective at reducing oxidative stress. As oxidative stress, particularly lipid peroxidation in the brain is linked to mood disorders, one of the mechanisms by which lemongrass may prevent anxiety is through the prevention of free radicals and the generation of oxidative stress. The chemical constituents most likely to confer this antioxidant effect are the polyphenols. One study showed that the total antioxidant potential of lemongrass was greaters that coriander, ginger, tomato and garlic, but less than turmeric, cumin and curry powder. Like many herbs, lemongrass there appears to possess significant antioxidant potential that could make it a general mental health tonic.

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Blanco, M. M., Costa, C. A. R. A., Freire, A. O., Santos, J. G. and Costa, M. 2009. Neurobehavioral effect of essential oil of Cymbopogon citratus in mice. Phytomedicine. 16(2): 265-270
Leite, J., Maria De Lourdes, V. S., Maluf, E., Assolant, K., Suchecki, D., Tufik, S., Klepacz, S., Calil, H. M. and Carlini, E. A. 1986. Pharmacology of lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus Stapf). III. Assessment of eventual toxic, hypnotic and anxiolytic effects on humans. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 17(1): 75-83
Cheel, J., Theoduloz, C., Rodríguez, J. and Schmeda-Hirschmann, G. 2005. Free radical scavengers and antioxidants from Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) Stapf.). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 53(7): 2511-2517
de Almeida Costa, C. A. R., Kohn, D. O., de Lima, V. M., Gargano, A. C., Flório, J. C. and Costa, M. 2011. The GABAergic system contributes to the anxiolytic-like effect of essential oil from Cymbopogon citratus (lemongrass). Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 137(1): 828-836
Nambiar, V. S. and Matela, H. 2012. Potential Functions of Lemon Grass Cymbopogon citratus in Health and Disease. International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biological Archive. 3(5): 1035-1043
Ekpenyong, C. E., Akpan, E. E. and Daniel, N. E. 2014. Phytochemical Constituents, Therapeutic Applications and Toxicological Profile of Cymbopogon citratus Stapf (DC) Leaf Extract. Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry. 3(1): 133-141
Dudhgaonkar, S., Mahajan, M., Deshmukh, S., Admane, P. and Khan, H. 2017. Evaluation of anti-depressant effect of lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) in albino mice. International Journal of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology. 3(4): 656-660
Shah, G., Shiri, R., Dhabiliya, F., Nagpal, N. and Mann, A. S. 2010. Anti-anxiety activity of Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) stapf leaves extracts on the elevated plus-maze model of anxiety in mice. Pharmacognosy Journal. 2(15): 45-50
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Gotu Kola As A Mood Enhancer

weight lossGotu kola (Centella asiatica) is a water loving shrub that grows mostly in tropical and subtropical regions. It has been used historically in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine as a general tonic for health. The use of gotu kola as a general tonic stems from its wide range of pharmacological activities that it shows in humans and animals. These include antioxidant, antiinflammatory, wound healing, antinociceptive and antiepileptic properties. In addition, gotu kola shows some interesting central nervous system properties that include the ability to increase cognitive ability and mood enhancing effects. With regard the latter, gotu kola has been investigated for its ability to decrease the severity of the symptoms in the generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) in humans. The generalised anxiety disorder is a condition that is characterised by a constant low level of anxiety that can significantly impair the quality of the life of the sufferer. The mood enhancing effect of gotu kola may stem from its ability to alter neurotransmitter levels in the brain.

gotu kola

In India gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is known as Indian Pennywort, Jal Brahmi and Mandookaparni. The French pharmacopoeia of 1884 mentions gotu kola and the herb is also mentioned in texts spanning 2000 years in ancient Chinese medicine including the Chinese Shennong Herbal. The historical used of gotu kola as a medicine might date back even further in India, with Ayurvedic texts dating back 3000 years giving mention the use of the herb. About 400 to 500 mg twice per day should provide general tonic effects. High quality extracts are usually standardised for asiaticosides.

Researchers have investigated the anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects of gotu kola in humans. In one study a group of individuals were assessed for their levels of anxiety and depression using Hamilton’s Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale. The subjects were subsequently administered 500 mg of gotu kola herb twice per day. The subjects were then assessed for their levels of anxiety and depression using the same Hamilton scale at day 30 and day 60. The results of the study showed that the supplements of gotu kola significantly reduced the severity of the anxiety experienced by the subjects. In addition, the gotu kola also significantly reduced the stress experienced by the subjects, and the depression that accompanied this stress. Following the consumption of gotu kola the subjects also showed a higher willingness for adjustment to their condition, and the herb also improved cognition. This study supports the role of gotu kola as a general mental tonic, and supports the traditional use of the herb from Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.

gotu kola

The active constituents in gotu kola responsible for its physiological effects are thought to be a group of terpene chemicals. These are often referred to as asiaticosides of which terpenoid saponins are a major constituent. Chemicals within this broad group may include asiaticoside, madecassoside (asiaticoside A), asiaticoside B, madecassic acid, asiatic acid, terminolic acid, brahmic acid, brahmoside and brahminoside. Gotu kola shows the characteristics of an adaptogenic herb and in this regard is similar in its activity to Panax ginseng, withania (ashwagandha), brahmi, Siberian ginseng, mimosa, rose root (rhodiola) and sour date. These herbs are effective at preventing the stress response and thus can have significant mood elevating effects.

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Jana, U., Sur, T. K., Maity, L. N., Debnath, P. K. and Bhattacharyya, D. 2010. A clinical study on the management of generalized anxiety disorder with Centella asiatica. Nepal Medical College Journal. 12(1): 8-11
Roman, M. Determination of triterpenes in Centella asiatica (Gotu kola) by HPLC). Thermo Fisher Scientific.
Chong, Z. and Aziz, N. J. 2011. A systematic review on the chemical constituents of Centella asiatica. Research Journal of Pharmaceutical, Biological and Chemical Sciences. 2(3): 445-459
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Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)

weight lossGotu kola (Centella asiatica) is an important medicinal herb used in Chinese, Ayurvedic and other forms of ancient medicine. Its use is recorded in the Sushruta Samhita, which is an ancient Indian text of medicine. In India the plant is commonly called jal brahmi or mandukaparni (Indian pennywort). In China, the plant is called gotu kola. Scientists refer to the plant using its Latin name, Centella asiatica. The gotu kola plant is a herbaceous creeper and belongs to the Umbelliferae (Apiaceae) family of plants. Other members of this family include celery, parsley and carrots. Gotu kola grows throughout India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and some parts of Eastern Europe, mainly in tropical and subtropical regions. It is a water loving plant and is both tasteless and odourless to humans. Gotu Kola can grow at high altitudes and possess fan shaped green leaves with white or very light purple flowers. The whole plant is used for its medicinal properties including the leaves and the flowers.

One of the main effects of gotu kola is its ability to decrease wound healing time. Application of gotu kola extract to open wounds on animals results in increased cellular proliferation and increased collagen synthesis in the wound area. There is also an effect to thicken the skin in the area of the wound. Gotu kola may also decrease the inflammation associated with wounds and this effect may occur through the inhibition of free radicals by the antioxidants in gotu kola. Gotu kola may also stimulate the formation of new blood vessels into the damaged tissue. This last effect is interesting as gotu kola has also been shown to improve the strength of veins. The mechanism of this might be through the supply of collagen to the vascular tissue. By improving the strength of the vasculature, the gotu kola may improve the blood flow and the microcirculation in areas of venous insufficiency. Gotu kola may therefore have a balancing effect on connective tissue, allowing regeneration where it is needed without over stimulation.

gotu kola

The active constituents of gotu kola (centella asiatica) are believed to be asiaticosides which are a group of triterpene saponins. These may be similar in structure and function to the ginsenosides in panax ginseng. The asiaticosides may be responsible for the wound healing effects of the plant. Other active constituents include brahmoside and brahminoside which may be responsible for its central nervous system effects. Other components of the plant include plant sterols, flavonoids, tannins, phytosterols, mucilages, resins, amino acids, an alkaloid (hydrochotine), a bitter component (vallerine) and fatty acids. Image is gotu kola plant growing in watery area. Source of image is Gohil et al., 2010.

Central nervous system effects have been described for extracts of gotu kola. These include a mild sedative effect which suggests that gotu kola may act as a tranquilizer. However, at the same time, it has been reported that gotu kola is able to stimulate the central nervous system and may promote improvements in intelligence. Certainly, a mild anxiolytic effect has been described in animal models and it has been speculated that this results from the binding of components of gotu kola to the cholecystokinin receptor. These anxiolytic effects may also be evident in humans. Animal models also suggest that gotu kola has a mild antidepressant effect and this may result from reductions is stress hormone synthesis and increases in serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine production. Antiepileptic, antioxidant, antinociceptive and antiinflammatory effects have also been described for gotu kola. Therefore gotu kola appears to show properties as a general well being tonic that may improve overall health.

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Gohil, K. J., Patel, J. A. and Gajjar, A. K. 2010. Pharmacological review on Centella asiatica: a potential herbal cure-all. Indian journal of pharmaceutical sciences. 72(5): 546
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Vitamin D Supplements to Treat Depression

weight lossDepression is a serious lifestyle disease that often has no known cause. Treatment of depressive symptoms can be highly difficult as no clear mechanism of development has been explained. This suggests that depression is multifactorial and a large number of factors can influence its development. Increasingly, the Western diet is being associated with development of depression. This relates to the inability of the Western diet to supply adequate amounts of many nutrients, some of which may be required for mental health. One nutrient that may play a central role in the development of depression is vitamin D. Western populations have a high incidence of depressive symptoms and a high incidence of vitamin D deficiency. Based on this observations a number of studies have investigated the relationship between vitamin D and depressive symptoms in Western populations. Results from these studies have confirmed that there exists an association between low levels of vitamin D and the development of depressive symptoms.

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Receptors for vitamin D are present on neurones in many areas of the brain, suggesting that vitamin D is required for normal neuronal function. In particular vitamin D receptors are present in the cingulate cortex and the hippocampus, two areas of the brain that are thought to be involved in the development of depression. Vitamin D is known to play a central role in a number of important physiological processes that may explain its association with depression, including brain development, neuroimmunomodulation, neuroprotection, the regulation of neuronal growth and neuroplasticity. Vitamin D receptors are also known to be present in the promoter regions of serotonin genes, indicating vitamin D may be required for serotonin synthesis. A deficiency of vitamin D may therefore affect all of these functions, particularly in the cingulate cortex and the hippocampus, and this may be a contributory factor in the development of depressive symptoms. The association between poor vitamin D status and depressive symptoms may explain the mood deterioration often experienced during long periods where sunlight exposure is not possible.

Associations are interesting, but they do not confirm a cause and effect. Therefore clinical studies have been used to investigate the effects of vitamin D supplementation on depressive symptoms. In one such study, researcher administered 20,000 or 40,000 IU of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) per week (2857 or 5714 IU vitamin D per day, respectively) to subjects with depressive symptoms. The length of the study was 1 year. Subjects with 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels below 40 nmol/L scored higher for depressive traits compared to those subjects with 25-hydroxyvitamin D above 40 nmol/L. In the group given vitamin D supplements there was a significant improvement in the depressive symptoms experienced by the subjects, and this was most evident in those with the most severe depressive scores (and the lowest 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels). Therefore vitamin D supplements may provide relief from depressive symptoms and this effects might be most pronounced in those with the most severe depression.

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Anglin, R. E., Samaan, Z., Walter, S. D. and McDonald, S. D. 2013. Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 202(2): 100-107
Jorde, R., Sneve, M., Figenschau, Y., Svartberg, J. and Waterloo, K. 2008. Effects of vitamin D supplementation on symptoms of depression in overweight and obese subjects: randomized double blind trial. Journal of Internal Medicine. 264(6): 599-609
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L-Theanine and L-Cystine: Immune Defence

weight lossL-theanine is a non-essential amino acid, the only known dietary source of significance being tea. L-cystine is a non-essential amino acid found in all protein foods. Both L-theanine and L-cystine have antioxidant effects in humans and animals. For cystine, this may relate to its reduction to L-cysteine, and the incorporation of this reduced form into the cellular antioxidant glutathione (GSH; L-glutamyl-L-cysteinyl-glycine). L-theanine may act directly as an antioxidant. Antioxidants may provide benefits to the immune response, and this may be particularly the case in the ageing individual. Evidence suggests that as we age there is a cellular reduction in the levels of glutathione due to reductions in the synthesis rate. Supplementation with nutrients that improve glutathione production may therefore increase antioxidant defences and this may benefit immunity. There is evidence that consuming L-cystine and L-theanine together may have particularly beneficial effects on the immune response in animals.

l-theanine l-cystine

Co-administration of L-theanine and L-cystine has been shown to reduce the incidence of the common cold in human subjects. Not only did L-theanine and L-cystine reduce the number of days on which an infection was present, they also reduced the number of individuals infected on most days. This may relate to the antioxidant effects of the amino acids, which may support the immune response. Individual consumption of the compounds may not show the same effects, although this data is based primarily on animal studies. The immune enhancing effect of L-theanine and L-cystine has also been demonstrated in mice. Antibody production in mice has been shown to be significantly enhanced by co-administration of L-theanine and L-cystine (Picture from Takagi et al., 2010).

For example, co-administration of L-cystine and L-theanine for 14 days before immunisation with an influenza in elderly mice significantly increased the blood levels of two important immunoglobulins, IgM and IgG. This suggests that the L-theanine and L-cystine significantly improved one aspect of the immune response. In younger mice, co-administration of L-theanine and L-cystine significantly reduced the viral infection of lung tissue after infection with the influenza virus. Co-administration of L-cystine and L-theanine may also be effective against infection in humans. Male subject who received 175 mg of L-cystine and 70 mg L-theanine per day had a significant reduction in the risk of being infected with a common cold compared to a group of subjects taking a placebo tablet. Interestingly, it has been reported that the combination of L-theanine and L-cystine is required for the immune boosting effects, and that neither nutrient in isolation has the same biological effects.

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Takagi, Y., Kurihara, S., Higashi, N., Morikawa, S., Kase, T., Maeda, A., Ariska, H., Shibahara, S. and Akiyama, Y. 2010. Combined administration of L-cystine and L-theanine enhances immune functions and protects against influenza virus infection in aged mice. Journal of Veterinary Medical Science. 72(2): 157-165
Kurihara, S., Hiraoka, T., Akutsu, M., Sukegawa, E., Bannai, M. and Shibahara, S. 2010. Effects of L-cystine and L-theanine supplementation on the common cold: a randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Amino Acids, 2010. Article ID 307475

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Chromium Against Depression

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Selenium Deficiency a Cause of Depression?

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