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Are There Natural Mood Stabilizers for Bipolar? (And Do They Really Work?)

The term “natural mood stabilizers" means different things to different people. For some, a natural mood stabilizer is an activity or coping mechanism that helps them manage the symptoms of bipolar, such as exercise, meditation or talking therapy. For others, natural mood stabilizers are taken in the form of herbal supplements, vitamins, and herbs, either alongside or in place of traditional medicine. The world of alternative medicine can be hard to navigate, and it's not always easy to know what works. Let's look at some of the natural mood stabilizers for bipolar and examine their effectiveness.

Natural Mood Stabilizers: Are They Real and Do They Work?

Do natural mood stabilizers even exist? The answer is yes, but whether they work is a matter of speculation. As with all kinds of medication and treatment, what works for one person may not work for another. While some people rely on prescription mood stabilizers to keep bipolar symptoms under control, others find that the side-effects outweigh the benefits and decide to turn to complementary treatments.

Natural mood stabilizers unofficially used in the treatment of bipolar disorder include:

  • Rhodiola: This herb, known as Rhodiola rose, is a mild stimulant. It has demonstrated positive effects on people with depression, but it is not recommended as a substitute for antidepressants or mood stabilizers. You should check with your doctor before taking this if you have bipolar disorder.
  • Magnesium: Studies show that magnesium supplements can help lower stress, but there is no evidence that they work as a natural mood stabilizer. If you want to try a magnesium supplement, talk to your doctor first, as taking magnesium with some other medications can cause blood pressure to dip too low.
  • Omega-3: Scientists found that bipolar disorder was less common in countries where people consumed a lot of omega-3, which can be found in cold water fish, nuts and plant oils. Making positive changes to your diet and establishing a routine around your meals can help in the management of bipolar disorder. Ask your doctor if there are any special diets he or she can recommend and whether there are any foods you should avoid.
  • Ashwagandha: This plant from the nightshade family can reduce stress and improve mood, but there is no evidence of its treatment for bipolar disorder. Ashwagandha supplements are typically well-tolerated, and there are few side-effects if any. However, you should still consult your doctor before taking it, especially if you are on other medications.  

It’s important to keep in mind that even “natural” bipolar medicines have side-effects. Lithium, for example, is technically a natural mood stabilizer because it is a mineral – not a manufactured drug. It does, however, have many potential side-effects, including tremor, diarrhea and long-term damage to kidney function. To use another example, taking St. John’s wort – a flowering plant sometimes used to treat the symptoms of depression – can have dangerous implications for someone with bipolar disorder, as it has been linked to serotonin syndrome and the onset of mania.

Natural Mood Stabilizers for Bipolar: Do They Work?

The National Institute of Health claims that while natural mood stabilizers may help lift symptoms of depression, there are no known complementary therapies for mania. Therefore, taking natural mood stabilizers for bipolar is not generally recommended.

While herbs and supplements may ease some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder and help to lift mood, there is little evidence that natural mood stabilizers are effective. When combined with a proper treatment plan (such as medication and therapy), natural remedies do have their place in the management of bipolar, but you should never substitute or stop taking a prescribed medication without consulting your doctor.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2019, May 22). Are There Natural Mood Stabilizers for Bipolar? (And Do They Really Work?), HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-medications/are-there-natural-mood-stabilizers-for-bipolar-and-do-they-really-work

Last Updated: June 1, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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