Nutraceuticals and Brain Function
Some nutraceuticals influence brain function. Examples are: Kava Kava, Ginkgo Biloba, and St John's
In Germany physicians prescribe St John's Wort for depression seven times more than pharmaceuticals.
The August 3, 1996 issue of the British
Medical Journal (BMJ) contains an analysis of approximately 25 such studies that suggest that St. John's
Wort is better than a placebo, and that it is just as helpful as commonly used drugs, with less side
effects such as headaches or vomiting.
However, several adverse effects have been reported in association with the usage of St. John's Wort,
gastrointestinal discomfort, such as upset stomach
increased sensitivity to sunlight (use a sunscreen or sunblock while on St.
Components of St. John's Wort may also cause an increase in blood pressure, which could result in a
Whether a St. John´s Wort product is more or less effective may also rest on how the product is
Different methods produce different combinations of the basic ingredients. Furthermore, the origin of the
plant and the cultivation method determine the content of its active ingredients.
In Germany the drug is made with an alcohol extraction method. In the United States the drug is often made
using a water extraction method, which may produce a product with a different activity.
In an independent test commissioned by the Los Angeles Times, three of 10 brands of St. John's wort had no
more than about half the potency listed on the label. Four other brands had less than 90 percent of the
potency listed. One of the lowest-scoring products sampled, with about 20 percent of the labeled potency, was
from Sundown Herbals, a division of Rexall, the nation's No. 1 distributor of dietary supplements.
Read more about St
John's Wort in a web page of the Columbia University.
A better alternative to pharmaceuticals and to nutraceuticals with side effects is to restore a dysrupted
brain function with an adequate minerals and vitamins supplementation.
The rational behind this is that mineral
deficiency is an overall reality and that mineral deficiency triggers several brain dysfunctions.
Selenium and lithium are two minerals essential for brain function.
A selenium deficiency plays a special role in brain.
Persons with low selenium status experience relatively depressed moods.
Hawkes, Wayne Chris; Hornbostel, Linda. Effects of dietary selenium on mood in healthy men living in a
metabolic research unit. Biological Psychiatry, 1996 Jan, v39 (n2):121-128.
Nine surveys conducted between 1980 and l963 indicate a continuing negative relationship between selenium
levels in fodder crops and US schizophrenia (SZ) prevalence. Wich is to say that the disease is more
prevalent in parts of the country where the soil and water content of selenium is lower.
International similarities in the spatial distributions of SZ and celiac disease, cancer of the esophagus,
and multiple sclerosis (all of which appear to involve selenium inadequacy as either a cause or an effect)
further support a role for selenium deficiency in SZ.
Selenium affects the activity of enzyme systems, either as a component of an enzyme or as the selenium ion.
Low glutathione perioxidase levels found in a specified schizophrenic population could be explained by a
problem in the biometabolism of selenium.
Brown Jr., James S.; Foster, Harold D. Schizophrenia: An update of the selenium deficiency hypothesis.
Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, 1996, v11 (n4):211-222.
Small amounts of lithium help maintain brain function.
(Note: Lithium is extensively used for brain disorders at dosages in the milligram range. We are talking
here of lithium in the nutritional range. in the microgram range, which is one thousand times lower)
In a placebo controlled clinical trial it was found that the intake of trace amounts of lithium improves
mood, friendliness and energy.
A total of 24 subjects, 16 males and 8 females, average age 29.4 ± 6.5 yr, were randomly divided into two
groups. Group A received 400 µg/d of lithium orally, in tablets composed of a naturally lithium-rich
brewer's yeast, for 4 wk. Group B was given normal, lithium-free brewer's yeast as a placebo. All the
subjects of the study were former drug users (mostly heroin and crystal methamphetamine). Some of the
subjects were violent offenders or had a history of domestic violence. The subjects completed weekly
self-administered mood test questionnaires, which contained 29 items covering parameters measuring mental
and physical activity, the ability to think and work, the mood condition, and the level of emotionality.
In the lithium group, the total mood test scores increased steadily and significantly during the period of
supplementation. The 29 items were furthermore placed into three subcategories reflecting happiness,
friendliness, energy and their negative counterparts. In Group A the scores increased consistently for all
subcategories until wk 4 and remained essentially the same in wk 5. In Group B, the combined mood test
scores showed no consistent changes during the same period. The only positive change in some members of
Group B occurred during Wk 1 and was attributed to a placebo effect. In Group B, the placebo effect was
noticeable for the subcategories of energy and friendliness; the happiness scores showed no surge and
declined during the entire period of observation. Based on these results and the analysis of voluntary
written comments of study participants, it is concluded that lithium at the dosages chosen had a
mood-improving and -stabilizing effect.
G.N. Schrauzer and E. Devroey. Effects of Lithium Supplementation on Mood. Biological Trace Element
Research vol 40, 1994. pp 89-101.
Vitamins of the B group
Folate Studies of depressed patients show that many are deficient in folates.
The authors examined the relationships between levels of three metabolites (folate, vitamin B12, and
homocysteine) and both depressive subtype and response to fluoxetine treatment in depressed patients.
Overall, the results are consistent with findings linking low folate levels to poorer response to
antidepressant treatment. Folate levels might be considered in the evaluation of depressed patients who do
not respond to antidepressant treatment.
Fava M; Borus JS; Alpert JE; Nierenberg AA; Rosenbaum JF; Bottiglieri T. Folate, vitamin B12, and
homocysteine in major depressive disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 1997 Mar, 154(3):426-8.
Vit B12 and folate have a synergic
We report the occurrence of hemolysis and red cell fragmentation mimicking microangiopathic hemolytic anemia,
malabsorption and folic acid deficiency in the course of vitamin B12 deficiency. Appropriate replacement
therapy corrected all abnormalities. An association between hemolysis, malabsorption and folic acid
deficiency should lead physicians to search for signs of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Jubault V; De Lacroix-Szmania I; Zittoun J; Jouault H; Lesprit P; Godeau B; Schaeffer A. Hemolysis and
schizocytosis, malabsorption and the "folate trap": unusual semiological peculiarities associated with
vitamin B12 deficiency Revue de Medecine Interne, 1998 Dec, 19(12):921-3.
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
The omega-3 essential fatty acid Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an
important constituent of brain
cells' membrane .