Mood-Aid is a relatively simple mood-support formula which combines St. John’s Wort, 5-HTP, Skullcap, and Ginseng…[Skip to the Bottom Line]
ST JOHN’S WORT:
Hypericum perforatum (St Johns Wort) has been investigated as a potential alternative treatment for depression in a multitude of studies, some of which are conflicting.
A 1997 study found that St John’s Wort extract (1800mg daily) was as effective as imipramine (150mg daily) in patients suffering from severe depression. However, a 2002 study concluded St. John’s was ineffective at treating severe depression in subjects consuming between 900 and 1500mg of St. John’s daily over a period of 8 weeks. So while the results of studies involving severe depression appear mixed, the most promising results have come from studies in which the subjects had mild-moderate depression.
A 1997 study found that a St. John’s Wort extract (900mg daily) was comparable to amitriptyline (75mg daily) in terms of its ability to treat mild-moderate depression. A 2000 study found that St John’s was not only as effective at treating mild-moderate depression as fluoxetine, but also produced significantly less side effects on average.
Overall, St. John’s has not only proved to be effective at treating depression, but has actually been shown to be just as effective as certain prescription medications, making it an ideal alternative treatment for depression. Those with depression should consult a medical professional before beginning any anti-depressant regimen, but given the substantial amount of evidence in favor of St. Johns as a safe alternative treatment for depression, your doctor may very well agree that it’s worth a shot.
Scutellaria baicalensis (Skullcap), while originally used in traditional Chinese Medicine, has made its way into the mainstream supplement industry with a variety of claims attached to it, mostly pertaining to cognitive health. Skullcap contains, among other things, a compound called Oroxylin A which has been shown, both in vitro and in rats, to inhibit the reuptake of the “feel good” neurotransmitter, dopamine.
A 2003 study, published in the “European Journal of Pharamcology” found that Baicalin, another component of Skullcap, induced an anxiolytic-like effect in mice “through activation of the benzodiazepine binding site of GABA(A) receptors”. While this effect is not as potent as certain anxiety medication (benzodiazepines), it offers preliminary support for Skullcap as an anxiolytic. Unfortunately, there are no human studies from which to draw conclusions regarding what an acceptable/effective dose of Skullcap might be, or if these effects are as pronounced in humans as they are in mice.
Red Ginseng is another compound with a variety of potential applications, but with preliminary support as a treatment for depression. A 2011 study concluded that two distinct extracts of Korean (Red) Ginseng were effective at treating depression in mice. A 1999 study, published in the “International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics” found that postmenopausal women who consumed Red Ginseng (6 grams daily) experienced a notable improvement in climacteric syndrome symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, and depression. Unfortunately, the 6000mg dose used in this study dwarfs the 33mg present in the Mood Aid formula, and it is highly unlikely 33mg would produce similar effects.
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is the direct precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is often referred to as the “happy neurotransmitter” because of its role in regulating mood, among other things. Indeed, low serotonin levels may cause depression. For this reason, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Zoloft are often prescribed in order to restore and stabilize levels of serotonin in depressed individuals.
However 5-HTP may offer a simpler method for increasing serotonin: by simply crossing the blood-brain barrier and converting into serotonin. Since 5-HTP’s only function is conversion into serotonin, and it easily crosses the blood-brain barrier, it is more effective at increasing serotonin than supplemental tryptophan (a pre-precursor to serotonin), which can be used for other such as protein synthesis.
Unfortunately, 5-HTP as a treatment for depression has not been studied extensively and the studies that have been conducted are less than promising. The theoretical mechanism of action certainly exists, but practically, there may be factors that reduce the efficacy of 5-HTP in treating depression. Furthermore, Mood Aid only contains 3mg of 5-HTP. Considering the recommended dose is between 100 and 200mg, it is unlikely that 3mg would effectively raise serotonin levels to a noticeable degree.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
St. Johns Wart is really the only ingredient in the Mood Aid formula with an established track record for treating depression. While Skullcap, Korean Ginseng, and 5-HTP have potential, a fair amount of research (specifically in humans) must be conducted before conclusions can be drawn on either substance. Furthermore, the doses of each ingredient are far less than what has either been demonstrated to be effective or, in the case of Skullcap, KG, and 5-HTP, what might potentially be effective based on preliminary evidence.
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