Mood Supplements with Potential continued...
Consult a doctor or pharmacist about interactions before using St. John’s wort. Although uncommon, side effects of St. John’s wort may include:
- Gastrointestinal upset
- Skin reactions, especially when exposed to sun
- Sexual dysfunction
- Dry mouth
SAMe has been studied a lot for depression. Although current trials are not conclusive, an analysis of 28 studies showed that SAMe produced statistically significant improvement in the symptoms of depression when compared to a placebo. Some studies have shown that improvements were comparable to conventional antidepressants, such as the class of medications called tricyclic antidepressants.
Emmons suggests SAMe for those with a type of depression that produces low energy. He prescribes 400 to 800 milligrams daily, depending upon need or tolerance. The dose most often used for depression in clinical studies is 800 to 1,600 milligrams daily for up to 6 weeks.
Although SAMe usually causes few problems, you should use caution if you have diabetes, low blood sugar, or an anxiety or other type of psychiatric disorder. Gastrointestinal problems, headaches, fatigue, and skin rashes are the most common side effects.
Mood Enhancers That May Be Unsafe
Kava kava. A ceremonial beverage used commonly in the Pacific Islands, kava kava earned its claim to fame as an herb that’s very helpful for anxiety. Unfortunately, kava kava has largely fallen out of favor because concentrated forms for sale in the U.S. have been associated with a rare risk of significant liver problems.
According to the FDA, you should consult a doctor before using kava if you have liver disease or are taking drugs that affect the liver. Likewise, you should see your doctor if you experience any signs of liver illness after taking a kava supplement.
5-HTP. This is a precursor to a neurotransmitter called serotonin. Although some health care providers recommend it for mood problems, others are more cautious. “It is not clear whether 5-HTP is immune from the same problems L-tryptophan had,” Fugh-Berman tells WebMD, referring to an amino acid that was taken off the market in 1989 due to a dangerous contaminant. This concern has been largely disputed, and 5-HTP is generally considered safe, and effective for depression when taken at150-300 milligrams daily.
As you evaluate other mood supplements, keep in mind that the FDA does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. This makes it harder for you to assess their strength, purity, and safety. Fugh-Berman advises doing your own research on effectiveness and adverse effects, using reliable, unbiased sources, and by consulting groups that independently evaluate dietary supplements.