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Nutraceuticals in Psychiatric Practice

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Nutraceuticals can be defined as food components or active principles present in aliments which have positive effects for health and quality of life, including preventing or treating disorders. Herbal and “natural” food supplements are increasingly used to treat different psychiatric disorders, often as “self-prescribed” therapies. With factors such as chronic illness, poor health, emotional distress, and quality of life influencing the desire for complementary medicine, patients with comorbid medical and psychiatric problems seem likely to turn to this approach. We reviewed the most commonly used herbal and dietary supplements for which a certain efficacy on psychiatric symptoms or disorders has been claimed, checking current Pubmed-indexed literature (the most important being St. John’s wort, Omega-3 fatty acids, valerian, Kava, Ginkgo, folate, B vitamins, S-Adenosylmethionine, inositol, alfa-lactoalbumin and passionflower). There is evidence of efficacy for some of these herbs an supplements, proved also by Cochrane’s meta-analysis. However many different areas (including efficacy, tolerability, optimal dosing, adequate shelf life, drug and non-pharmacological interactions) need to be thoroughly studied; moreover political decisions need to be scientifically guided in order to best serve psychiatric patients’ interests and to prevent using of expensive and sometimes un-useful therapies. This implies that a scientific strategy is needed to rule out any third-part economical interest which could in any way influence therapeutic choices. The article presents some promising patents on nutraceuticals in psychiatric practice.
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Keywords: Alpha-lactoalbumin; B vitamins; SAMe; St. John’s wort; folate; ginkgo; herbs; inositol; kava; natural medicine; nutritional supplements; omega-3 fatty acids; passionflower; valerian

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Don Carlo Gnocchi ONLUS Foundation - Rehabilitation Unit - “Santa Maria alle Fonti” Medical Center -Viale Mangiagalli 52 -27052 Salice Terme (PV) -Italy.

Publication date: 2012-08-01

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