There is some evidence that links the increase of mental disorders prevalence with a deterioration of Western countries nutritional habits and it is found that the use of herbal and “natural” food supplements to treat different disorders is increasing. With factors such as chronic illness, poor health, emotional distress, and quality of life influencing the desire for complementary medicine, patients with comorbid medical and psychiatric problems seem likely to turn to this approach. We reviewed the most commonly used herbal and dietary supplements for which a certain efficacy on psychiatric symptoms or disorders has been claimed, checking current Pubmed-indexed literature (the most important being St. Johns wort, Omega-3 fatty acids, valerian, Kava, Ginkgo, folate, B vitamins, SAMe, Inositol). There is an evidence of efficacy for some of these herbs an supplements, but current studies are often insufficient to reach a final conclusion; still patents are being requested and registered. Many different areas (including efficacy, tolerability, optimal dosing, adequate shelf life, drug and non-pharmacological interactions) need to be thoroughly studied; moreover political decisions need to be scientifically guided in order to best serve psychiatric patients ’ interests and to prevent the usage of expensive and sometimes un-useful therapies. This implies that a scientific strategy has to be used to rule out any thirdpart economical interest which could in any way influence therapeutic choices.
Keywords: St. John's wort, omega-3 fatty acids, valerian, Kava, Ginkgo, folate, B vitamins, SAMe, inositol, herbs, nutritional supplements, natural medicine
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