St. John's wort

  1. Turn down the heat with therapy

    It's one of the Holy Grails of the drug industry: A pill to end hot flashes.

    Think that's a big market? You bet it is! Up to 80 percent of all women battle hot flashes during menopause, making a would-be treatment a billion-dollar dream for the drug industry.

    But for women, that dream is more like a nightmare as they play guinea pig. Instead of being given safe, natural, and proven treatments for their hot flashes, they're given unproven antidepressants, risky anti-seizure drugs, and even blood pressure meds... and almost all of them are being used off-label.

    It's a massive public health experiment that's hurt far more women than it's ever helped.

    But you don't need to swallow those pills, or face side effects, to get some relief, because the latest research points to a pair of easy, drug-free solutions: ordinary group therapy and self-help.

    Researchers recruited 140 women who reported hot flashes and night sweats at least 10 times a week and assigned them to either group therapy, self-help, or no treatment at all.

    The groups met four times a month, while those who got self-help had one meeting and a phone call with a shrink, but after that relied on a book and CD.

    Six weeks later, 73 percent of the women who got self-help reported meaningful improvements, compared to 65 percent of those in group therapy, and 21 percent of those who got no treatment at all.

    And six months later, those improvements held.

    Of course, therapy didn't quite work for everyone. But therapy isn't your only option here, either, because there are other proven natural ways to get safe drug-free relief from the worst symptoms of menopause.

    One recent study found that aerobic exercise can slash the number of hot flashes -- and a recent follow-up finds that getting sweaty four days a week can beat the other signs of "the change" as well, including night sweats, mood swings, irritability, and more.

    Other safe options backed by science include acupuncture -- which beat sham acupuncture in one study on hot flashes -- as well as a combination of St. John's wort and black cohosh. And, of course, many women get through menopause with the help of custom-made bio-identical hormones.

    An experienced naturopathic physician can help find which option is best for you.

  2. Antidepressants fail another trial

    There's no two ways about it: When it comes to beating depression, that last thing you want is your doctor's first choice.

    Tell him you're down in the dumps, and he'll reach for his prescription pad -- but the dirty secret about the depression meds used by some 30 million Americans every year is that they just don't work.

    Too many people have already figured that out the hard way -- and now, a new study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry confirms it's not just them.

    It's the drugs.

    In this one, researchers put sertraline -- aka Zoloft -- up against both a placebo and a form of psychotherapy. Sixteen weeks later, and there was no statistical difference between any of the three groups.

    Some of the patients on Zoloft were even switched to another med, Effexor -- and still got no relief.

    This shouldn't surprise anyone, since studies have shown for years how even the most popular antidepressant drugs can't beat a placebo.

    But it did.

    "I was surprised by the results," confessed lead researcher Jacques P. Barber, dean of the Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies at Adelphi University in New York, according to Reuters. "They weren't what I'd expected."

    I'm not sure what Dr. Barber was expecting, since I tell you all the time about research in which antidepressants fall way short. A study just last month even found that not only do SSRIs get roughly the same response rate as the placebo, but they actually make the depression worse a full fifth of the time.

    That's not the only risk that comes from SSRIs -- and it's not even close to the worst risk. These drugs have been linked to everything from personality changes to sexual dysfunction to death, including death by suicide.

    But you don't have to put your life on the line for a treatment that doesn't work -- because there are real answers out there...answers that can change your life for the better if you're willing to look.

    In many cases, depression is a result of nutritional and hormonal imbalances -- something no antidepressant drug in the world can fix. A skilled naturopathic physician, however, can help you find the real source of your depression and correct it without meds.

    To find a doctor skilled in natural medicine, you may contact the American College for the Advancement in Medicine at www.acam.org, 949-309-3520, or 1-800-532-3688.

    For short-term relief while you look for that solution, you still don't have to turn to antidepressants. St. John's wort has matched or even beaten drugs in some studies, and the amino acid SAMe works so well it's often the first choice in Europe.

    You'll find both of them in any vitamin shop.

  3. Antidepressants make depression worse

    Turns out antidepressants are even worse than ineffective: In a huge number of patients, they can actually make depression worse.

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