Herbs and Alternative Therapies for Psychological Disorders


Bill Docket discusses herbal remedies and alternative therapies used for psychological disorders. Mr. Dockett studied Traditional Therapeutic Herbalism and is also a certified addictions counselor.

David Roberts is the moderator.

The people in blue are audience members.

Online Conference Transcript

David: Good evening everyone. I'm David Roberts. I'm the moderator for tonight's conference. I want to welcome everyone to Our topic tonight is "Alternative Remedies and Therapies for Psychological Disorders". Our guest, William Dockett, has over nine years of experience in the mental health field. He is a Traditional Therapeutic Herbalist and a certified addictions counselor.

I also want to run our usual disclaimer, that we are not recommending or endorsing any of the suggestions of our guest. In fact, we strongly encourage you to talk over any therapies, remedies or suggestions with your doctor BEFORE you implement them or make any changes in your treatment.

Good evening, Bill, and welcome to Can you explain what traditional therapeutic herbalism is?

Bill: Hello, and thank you for inviting me. Traditional herbalism is the use of herbs for healing. The most common is Chinese Herbalism or TCM.

David: Do various herbal remedies work for mental health issues like depression, bipolar, ADD, etc.?

Bill: Yes, the most common ones are St. John's Wort, Valerian, and Chamomile, which is also used for folks sensitive to St. John's Wort.

David: Are there any mental health areas where herbs are ineffective in treating a psychological disorder?

Bill: Yes, schizophrenia and organic mental disorders.

David: Besides herbalism, are there any other remedies that are effective in treating psychological disorders?

Bill: Actually, yes. Acupuncture is very effective for stress disorders. Also, aromatherapy works well for stress and uplifting spirits in general.

David: I know you are an herbalist, so maybe this is an unfair question, but would you recommend that a person use herbal treatments rather than standard psychiatric medications? Are they, in your estimation, equally as effective?

Bill: Herbal treatments can be as effective as medications, but they take longer to be effective. For severe mental illness, I would default to medications, and as always, any treatment should be discussed with your doctor. I am not sure how psychiatrists, in general, feel about herbal medications, though. It might be hard to find one who will work with herbals.

David: So what type of specialist would you go to then? And how much longer do herbs take to be effective vs. standard medications?

Bill: The specialist really depends on the preferences of the main psychologist working with the client. Osteopaths are generally more holistically inclined. As far as effectiveness, herbal medications work with individual body chemistry and it usually takes at least two weeks for herbal treatments to show effects when treating depression.

David: We have a lot of audience questions, Bill. Let's get started:

Charbeaner: How much Same (Sam-e) will really help mild to moderate depression? Is there something better and should you take Same with Folic Acid and B12? I have heard 400 mg of Same will work, but then I have heard it must be much much more. I cannot take standard antidepressants, i.e. Prozac, etc., because they upset my colon. I have depression and I need help.

Bill: First, I would say that it is important to consult with your doctor or an herbal specialist who has your case history. However, Same and B12 would be a good combination. I can't really comment on dosage without your individual case history. An additional comment: try eating fresh or pickled ginger for an upset colon.

Ellen R: What herbal remedies are being used in the treatment of chemical dependency at this time?

Bill: Generally, I use a combination of gingko, chamomile and St. John's Wort. Gingko increases blood circulation and improves memory. Chamomile soothes anxiety and it also helps regulate sleep patterns. St. John's Wort, Same are for easing depression. I use these in conjunction with traditional addictions therapies, such as counseling.

kaymac: Are any of these herbs safe for children or teenagers with mild depression?

Bill: Yes, but proceed with extreme caution. I hesitate to give suggestions in this case, because it is so easy to overmedicate young children, as well as the elderly. Herbal treatments for these groups should definitely be done only under professional supervision.

reneeandjerry: Are there any long-term, strong sleep herbs, that help anxiety that I can take?

Bill: Valerian works well, in moderation. So does kava-kava. However, valerian sometimes causes headaches or a "hangover" effect. Furthermore, you should investigate the reasons behind your anxiety. The herbal treatments can only help the symptom and lack of sleep, they will not address the cause of your anxiety.

David: What about taking these herbs you're mentioning while at the same time taking prescription medications. Is there a concern about side-effects or toxicity here?

Bill: There is always a concern of toxicity or ill effects when mixing medications. Mixing medications is never a good idea unless you have the approval of a medical professional.

David: What kinds of side-effects from herbals can one expect?

Bill: On my website, there is a list of common drug interactions. Of the ones I mentioned, there are few side-effects from herbals. For example, I would not take ginko if I am taking any type of clotting medication.

David: Here are some more audience questions, Bill:

elizabetha2: If you have severe Bipolar Disorder, will these herbs help at all, or is this considered an organic brain problem?

Bill: For severe bipolar disorders, I would generally default to medication, but you could also use Same, and it will not interfere with most SSRI's. So a combination approach.

cassady: In Bipolar 1 cases, do you know of any instances where herbs have replaced anti-psychotic meds?

Bill: Not as a total treatment, initially, but I have known some individuals who made the transition to a mostly herbal regimen.

David: We have a lot of bipolar questions:

gremmy: What can Valerian Root do to help bipolar disorder, i.e., specifically the hypomanias, etc?

Bill: Valerian will definitely calm you down, but it is rather a strong herb. I would generally recommend kava kava, and chamomile to sedate instead. Valerian often causes too much drowsiness.

Ellen R: Are there herbal remedies, in addition to those for depression, that are used to treat irritability and explosive anger symptoms?

Bill: None specifically, that I am familiar with, for anger issues. For that, I would default to a counseling approach and self-concept issues.

whinavi: I am bipolar and am treated with 1750mg of Lithium and 2000mg of Epilum per day. Despite this, I still have manic episodes. What would you suggest as an alternative? By the way, I suffer from mania and not depression.

Bill: I am leery to make recommendations when Lithium is involved, due to it's finicky nature and long half-life.

David: Is it your experience that most people turn to herbs because of the side-effects of standard psychiatric medications? Or do you think herbs should be a first-line of treatment?

Bill: I have mostly seen the use of herbs as treatment for side-effects, and for frustration with traditional psychiatric medications, seldom as a first line defense. This is possibly due to lack of knowledge.

David: I'm getting some questions about brands and manufacturers and the best place to buy herbs. I think part of that stems from reports that "not all brands/manufacturers are the same." Can you shed some light on that?

Bill: This is true. Not all brands are the same, and herbs are not regulated by FDA. When looking for herbs in stores, you want to look for a complete herb and not just the active properties. This is because it is the complete herb that works, and most herbs in the stores contain only active properties. When you have only active properties, there is nothing to balance any side-effects caused by that property, which is where the inactive properties come into play. I believe GNC has a product called the herbal fingerprint line.

David: Is there something on the label, some "code words", that consumers should look for to indicate this is a complete herb?

Bill: Yes. Like I stated, "complete", "fingerprint", "full spectrum", and always try and find "organically grown."

reneeandjerry: Are there any herbs that, in combination, treat daytime fatigue?

Bill: Well, as an energy boost, there is always ginseng, I often tell clients Korean or American opposed to Siberian. Siberian tends to give only a short-term boost, that the the body quickly adapts to or builds a tolerance for.

pam: Am I correct in assuming that it is not recommended to take herbal supplements while on medications?

Bill: Not without first consulting your doctor.

David: I was just thinking, would you take herbs as a preventative measure? For instance, to prevent depression or anxiety, lets say.

Bill: Again herbs/medications only treat symptoms and not the underlying causes of your problems.

David: I also wanted to ask you are there herbs for ADD, ADHD.

Bill: I have seen the most dramatic results with a reduction in refined sugar, (sugar busters diet) and I believe the removal of yellow dye #5.

David: I know it's late now, so I want to thank Bill for being our guest tonight and sharing his knowledge and experience with us. And thanks to everyone in the audience for coming and participating. I hope you found it helpful.

Bill: Thank you and good night everybody.

David: Good night everyone.

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2007, June 5). Herbs and Alternative Therapies for Psychological Disorders, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 19 from

Last Updated: July 9, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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