~Anxiety and Stress, Part 2 - Natural Treatments

Natural Treatments for Anxiety and Stress

  • Adapton
  • Reducing Cortisol Levels Naturally
  • The Calming Effect of Theanine
  • Adaptogens
  • Asian Ginseng and American Ginseng
  • Eleuthero or Siberian Ginseng
  • Reishi
  • Ashwaganda


The active ingredient in Adapton is Garum amoricum extract, a class of unique polypeptides which act as precursors to endorphins and other neurotransmitters that exert a regulatory effect on the nervous system. This action improves the body's ability to adapt to mentally and physically stressful conditions. Adapton is widely used in Europe and Japan for the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression. Some physicians in the United States are now prescribing its use in lieu of antidepressants. An extract of a deep sea fish, the garum, Adapton is a naturally occurring substance. It functions at the cellular level to increase energy efficiency, resulting in improved concentration, mood, and sleep while promoting a general sense of well-being. A number of European clinical trials document the beneficial effects of Adapton:

Twenty patients with chronic, stress-related fatigue participated in a study in which they were given a placebo for 2 weeks, followed by a 2-week trial usage of Adapton. Patients reported a 14% reduction in fatigue and a 4% reduction in the symptoms of anxiety and insomnia following the placebo trial period. After using Adapton for 2 weeks, patients reported a 51% decrease in fatigue, and the symptoms of anxiety improved by 65%. The results of the study indicated that Adapton was effective in the treatment of patients with chronic stress and fatigue.

In a study of 40 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, Adapton was prescribed for a 2-week period. Using the Fatigue Study Group's criteria for the 10 functions that most accurately measure fatigue and depression, the results of the study showed that 50% of the participants reported beneficial effects from Adapton.

A study of 60 patients using garum extract reported three cases of mild side effects, including nervous irritation, heartburn, and diarrhea. No emotional stress or fatigue was reported, leading researchers to conclude that garum was a safe and effective treatment of anxiety and stress. Other beneficial effects included improved learning and enhanced electroencephalograph (EEG) readings.

Overall, Adapton benefits 90% of patients suffering from chronic stress and fatigue as compared with a 30% improvement rate in patients using placebos.

In Europe, hyperactive children with attention deficit disorder are being treated with Adapton rather than Ritalin, with positive results.

Overall, researchers in these European clinical trials reported that Adapton was well-tolerated, produced no major side effects, and had no apparent contraindications.

Adapton consists of a standardized dosage of polypeptides, which act as precursors to neurotransmitters and exert a regulatory effect on the nervous system, thereby improving the body's ability to adapt to mental and physical stress. Adapton contains an omega-3 essential fatty acid that enhances certain prostaglandins and prostacyclin, the chemical mediators that regulate major biological functions. These polypeptides are believed to contribute to the stress-relieving effects of Adapton. Adapton is a safe, effective, low-cost alternative to traditional antidepressant medications and may provide substantial beneficial effects to people suffering from chronic, stress-induced anxiety, fatigue, or depression. The recommended dosage of Adapton is 4 capsules taken in the morning on an empty stomach for 15 days. Thereafter, the dose is reduced to 2 capsules each morning. If complete relief of the symptoms occurs, Adapton may be discontinued and restarted if the symptoms return. There is no toxicity involved in the daily use of Adapton. Some patients use 2-3 capsules of Adapton every other day and still report relief of their symptoms.

For people who suffer from panic attacks, the addition of a 10-mg dose of the cardiovascular medication propranolol can produce immediate results. Propranolol is a beta-adrenergic blocker that inhibits the overproduction of adrenaline during a panic attack. The low dose of propranolol required to produce this effect is well-tolerated by the majority of patients.

Reducing Cortisol Levels Naturally

In addition to Adapton, there are a number of other stress-reducing treatments currently available. One of these treatments is KH3, a European medication. KH3 mitigates the effects of the overproduction of cortisol, the adrenal hormone that can occur with anxiety and stress. The overproduction of cortisol has been shown to damage the immune system, arteries, and brain cells, and it may cause premature aging.

Suggested dosage: 1-2 tablets taken on an empty stomach in the morning and afternoon. KH3 should not be taken by people allergic to procaine (the active ingredient in the medication), is contraindicated for patients taking sulfa drugs, and should not be used by children or pregnant or lactating women. In addition to KH3, the hormones melatonin and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) may also reduce and protect against the effects of cortisol. The recommended dose range of melatonin is from 500 mcg to 3 mg taken approximately one half hour before bedtime. DHEA should be taken in a dose of 25-50 mg a day.

Prior to taking DHEA, refer to the DHEA Replacement Therapy protocol.

The Calming Effect of Theanine

Theanine is an amino acid found in tea that produces a calming effect on the brain (Yokogoshi et al. 1998b). It easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and exerts subtle changes in biochemistry that cause a tranquilizing effect. The production of GABA, the brain chemical known for its calming effect, is increased after taking theanine. Increased GABA can also put you in a better mood and create a sense of well-being. Dopamine, another brain chemical with mood-enhancing properties is also increased by theanine.

Japanese researchers have discovered that theanine is a caffeine antagonist, meaning that it offsets the "hyper" effect of caffeine (Kakuda et al. 2000). That is why many people will have a "soothing" cup of tea and not a soothing cup of coffee. Theanine does not cause drowsiness like kava kava, nor does it interfere with the ability to think clearly like prescription tranquilizers.

There is evidence that tea exerts far more than just a psychological effect. According to one study, drinking one or more cups of tea can almost halve the risk of heart attack (Sesso et al. 1999). Green tea contains a much higher concentration of theanine than other teas. Theanine has been proven to lower blood pressure (Abe et al. 1995; Yokogoshi et al. 1995; Yokogoshi et al. 1998a). It works through its GABA enhancing effects. Along with its calming effect on the brain, GABA also lowers blood pressure. Genetically hypertensive rats taking 2000 mg of theanine per kg of body weight each day showed significant reductions in blood pressure. Green tea extract contains a phytochemical known as GMA that also lowers blood pressure. Combining them may have significant effects. Theanine is now available in the United States as a dietary supplement.

Suggested dosage: The suggested dose of theanine to induce a state of relaxation is 100 mg. For those seeking a continuous mood elevating effect, 1 theanine capsule can be taken 4 times throughout the day.

Adaptogens: Herbs for Maintaining Energy and Coping with Stress

An adaptogen is a substance that helps the body deal with and recover from stress. By balancing various organ systems, herbal adaptogens also help us feel more vital and energetic. The following list highlights a few of the premiere adaptogenic herbs.

Asian Ginseng (Panax Ginseng) and American Ginseng (P. quinquefolius)

Asian and American Ginseng enhance immune function, lower blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of certain cancers, and improve adrenal function, physical performance, and mental alertness. "Ginseng is generally prescribed for conditions characterized by great weakness or conditions that are the result of great stress or strain," says Korngold (1991). Because ginseng can be stimulating, he finds it most appropriate for people over 40, whose "core energies have begun to decline."

One study found that when 12 menopausal women took 6 grams of Asian ginseng root a day for 30 days, they experienced significant reductions in anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, and depression. By the end of treatment, measurements for these symptoms were on par with an age-matched group of eight women who were not experiencing these menopausal symptoms. The treatment group also had reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol, thus favorably altering the ratio of cortisol to DHEA (Tode et al. 1999).

Suggested dosage: For nonstandardized products, the usual dosage is up to four 500- 600-mg capsules a day. For a product standardized to 5-7% ginsenosides, take 100 mg, 1-2 times a day. Brown (1996) recommends taking ginseng for 2-3 weeks, followed by a 1-2 week break, then repeat.

Not recommended for pregnant or nursing women or people with high blood pressure. Don't take ginseng without medical supervision if you're on a blood-thinner such as warfarin or have diabetes (as your insulin dosage will need to be adjusted due to ginseng's ability to lower blood sugar). Discontinue use if ginseng produces ill effects such as an elevated blood pressure, hot flashes, insomnia, nervousness, or irritability. Combining ginseng with caffeine and other stimulants increases the risk of over - stimulation.

Eleuthero or Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus Senticosus)

Eleuthero or Siberian ginseng has been used for 2000 years as a Chinese medicine for invigorating the Qi (vital energy) and promoting overall health. Although research in the former Soviet Union suggested that eleuthero improves athletic performance, preliminary research in the United States has failed to show significant benefit. It is said to sharpen mental alertness and help cope with stress. Compounds in eleuthero have been shown to have antioxidant, anticancer, cholesterol-lowering, immune-stimulating, radioprotective, anti-inflammatory, and fever-lowering properties (Davydov et al. 2000).

Suggested dosage: Twenty drops of tincture up to 3 times a day. Up to nine 400-500 mg capsules a day.

Reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum)

Reishi tones the immune system, supports nerve function, scavenges free radicals, protects the liver, and quells inflammation and allergies. According to Hobbs (1996), "Reishi has the unique ability among medicinal mushrooms to calm and support nerve function." In his practice, he recommends reishi to people with chronic stress, anxiety, or insomnia.

Suggested dosage: Reishi is available in capsules, tablets, syrups, and teas. Usual dosages are up to five 420-mg capsules a day; up to three 1 gram tablets up to 3 times a day; up to 2 tsp 2-3 times a day of tincture; or 1 tsp a day of the syrup.

Ashwaganda (Withania Somnifera)

Ashwaganda, also called Indian ginseng, has long been used by Ayurvedic practitioners as a rejuvenating tonic. A research review notes that this herb has anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antistress, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, and rejuvenating properties (Mishra et al. 2000). This data came largely from laboratory studies. Human studies on ashwaganda's stress-reducing ability have yet to be published in English-language journals. Douillard, an Ayurvedic physician in Boulder, CO, says his clinical experience is that this herb fortifies our ability to cope with stress, reduces anxiety, and also improves mental acuity, reaction time, and physical performance (Douillard et al. 2001).

Suggested dosage: Douillard recommends 500 mg 3 times a day of the powdered herb in tablets or capsules.

Prescription antidepressants and other prescription medications for the treatment of anxiety-related disorders often produce unwanted side effects, have more contraindications, and may become habit forming in some cases. Alternatives to these treatments, such as Adapton, have proven to be safe and effective in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and fatigue. There are fewer reported side effects in those patients using natural substances such as Adapton, theanine, DHEA, and melatonin, and there may be greater long-term benefits involved. As with any medication, it is advisable to consult your physician prior to any treatment program.
  • Reduce environmental causes of stress as much as possible.
  • Behavioral modification techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing and exposure therapy may be beneficial.
  • Lifestyle changes that include dietary changes, exercise, and meditation can reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.
  • A high-quality multivitamin and mineral formula such as Life Extension Mix for essential nutrients that may be missing from the diet, along with extra calcium and magnesium at a one to one ratio.
  • Adapton, 4 capsules in the morning on an empty stomach for 15 days; reduce to 2 capsules in the morning after 2 weeks.
  • For patients with panic attacks, the addition of 10 mg of propranolol or 25 mg atenolol in combination with Adapton may be highly effective.
  • Theanine, 100 mg daily to produce a calming effect or 400 mg (4 capsules) throughout the day for a mood-enhancing effect.
  • Melatonin, 300 mcg to 10 mg in the evening, one half hour prior to bedtime.
  • DHEA, 25-50 mg a day. (Refer to DHEA Replacement Therapy protocol.)
  • Ginseng may help relieve symptoms of stress and reduce cortisol levels; one or two 200-mg Sports Ginseng capsules daily are recommended.
  • Consider conventional medications such as SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants if natural therapies fail to relieve symptoms.

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