Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a complicated disease. While a personality disorder such as BPD in itself can not be medicated, its co-occuring illnesses and symptoms can. But what it medication is not available during a sudden flare-up of symptoms? Or what if the medication on its own is ineffective? There are three herbs you should know about: yerba mate, kava kava, and valerian.Please note this is all strictly my opinion: I’ve had luck with these herbs when medication was not available or effective. Also, discuss any herb use with your psychiatrist–some herbs can interact with prescribed medications. Please also note that you should stay on your medication and use the herbs as a supplement, not a replacement. I keep them on hand for emergency flare-ups of symptoms–sort of an herbal first aid kit.
Yerba mate is an herb from Argentina. It is a natural anti-depressant, anti-anxiety and mood stabilizer. In Argentina, yerba mate tea is given to children to even out their temperaments. According to The Herb Book by John Lust, N.D., Darwin called it “the ideal stimulant”. It is also known to relieve fatigue and stimulate mental energy.
My friend Donna Yarema, who owns a tea shop which carries yerba mate, calls this “the happy tea” because it seems to improve customers’ moods. In fact, the shop’s manager, Randee Bennett, uses yerba mate to treat her bipolar disorder. Yarema told me that mate should be brewed like a green tea; the water should be heated to just before boiling, then the herb steeped to taste.
When I drink yerba mate, I feel like I could conquer the world. Yerba mate is a perfect pick-me-up for when you have a mild depression.
Frankly, this is the best anti-anixety herb I’ve ever used. It has been used to fight fatigue, insomnia, and anxiety. It takes effect very quickly and leaves you with a mellow feeling. So pleasant was this mellow feeling that some states passed laws listing kava kava as an “under the influence” herb.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, kava kava has been shown to be beneficial for anxiety. However, studies have been suspended due to a possible link to liver damage. This side effect appears to be rare, but be warned. WebMD.com recommends not taking it for more than three months without consulting your doctor.
According to WebMD.com, kava kava does not interfere with mental alertness when taken for anxiety. “Kava may be used instead of prescription antianxiety drugs, such as benzodiazepines and tricyclic antidepressants,” the site reads. “Kava should never be taken with these prescription drugs.”
I haven’t had any problems with kava kava, but it may interact with some psychotropic medications. Consult with your psychiatrist before using kava kava.
Traditional Osage healer Lo Ha Wa Ti An Ka calls this “Grandmother Earth’s Valium” and says his tribe used it as a nerve tonic. According to A Woman’s Guide to Vitamins, Herbs, and Suppplements, valerian has a long tradition of use in treating insomnia, anxiety, and depression. I used to use it to treat self-injury urges.
According to 20,000 Secrets of Tea, valerian was used in World War I-era England to treat air raid strain. “Sedative to the higher nerve centers, valerian relieves pain, tension, and the effects of excessive strain to bring sleep in stressful situations, with no morning-after effects,” the book reads. “It quiets and soothes the brain and nervous system.”
The book warns that valerian should not be taken with sleeping medications, since it will enhance their effects. Low doses are recommended with breaks every two to three weeks. The book notes that it’s best to use valerian in small amounts in tea blends. It’s also worth noting that in about 5 percent of the population it can cause hallucinations, so be warned.
So those are three herbs everyone with BPD should know about. Remember, I’m not a psychiatrist, so this is no substitute for medical advice. Only you and your doctor can decide what’s right for you. I’m just telling you what’s worked for me when modern medicine either failed or wasn’t available. Do your homework on these herbs or others that may help, such as hyssop, St. John’s Wort or lavender. Here’s to your health!