Passionflower, valerian, rhodiola, gastrodia have exhibited anti-anxiety effectsin various studies. One clinical trial of participants with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) showed that passionflower extract was as effective (and with less side effects) as oxazepam (30 mg/day) in reducing symptoms of anxiety. Other human studies examining passion flower’s effects on pre-operative anxiety reported significant benefits in comparison to placebo and pharmaceuticals (1). Passionflower has also exhibited sedating propertiesin animal studies (2). Some evidence is indicating that the active ingredient in valerian (valerenic acid) interacts with the GABA-ergic system, with a mechanism of action similar to that of benzodiazepine drugs (3). Rhodiola is another herb with anti-anxiety functions. In clinical studies, rhodiola extract improved mental work capacity, attention, task performance and overall mood, while reducing stress and mild anxiety.
Gastrodia, reishi and rhodiola also have reported anti-depressant effects. In a clinical trial of gastrodia, 58 patients with post-stroke depression (PSD) were divided into two groups. Both received mirtazapine (15–30 mg/d) for 4 weeks, and one group also used gastrodia as an additional therapy. Symptoms of depression improved significantly in the group that was also given gastrodia (4). One study showed that a water-soluble extract of reishi has antidepressant-like potential in rats (5), and rhodiola has been indicated to normalize cortisol synthesis; cortisol is involved in certain chronic immune/inflammatory diseases and in some patients with depression (6).
Adaptogenic herbs help the body adapt to stress and assist in normalizing bodily processes. Rhodiola hasadaptogenicproperties. In a clinical study of more than 100 adults, use of rhodiola extracts resulted in significant and steady improvement in stress symptoms, fatigue, quality of life, mood, concentration, disability, and functional impairment (6).
Schisandra, skullcap, jujube, and lotus seed also haveneuro-protectiveproperties (7, 8, 9, 10). Cognitive enhancement and anti-inflammatory properties have been seen with schisandra (7) and jujube promotes memory and learning (9). Other herbs that have exhibited cognitive enhancement functions include, rhodiola, and lotus seed. Rhodiola extract improved mental performance in people with stress-related fatigue and improved symptoms of chronic fatigue symptoms (6).Gastrodia, arbor vitae seed, and other herbs in Xylo™ haveanti-inflamatory effects (4, 11).
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine view:
Skullcap Leaf (Scutellaria lateriflora)is cold, enters the LU, ST, GB, and LI channels, clears Heat and dries Damp, drains Fire and detoxifies, cools the Blood and stops bleeding, clears Heat, calms the fetus, and calms ascending Liver Yang.
Xi Fan Lian (Passion flower,Passiflora incarnate) is not included in the Chinese materia medica, but has been described as cool, enters HT and LIV channels; calms the Shen, tonifies Yin.
Wu Wei Zi (Schisandra Fruit, Fructus schisandrae)is warm, enters the HT, KI and LU channels and all five Zang organs; tonifies Qi, astringes Lung Qi leakage and stops coughing, tonifies Kidney and binds Essence, astringes sweat and generates fluids, quiets the Spirit, and calms and contains Heart Qi.
Xie Cao (Valerian Root, Valeriana officinalis)is warm and enters the LIV and HT channels, induces tranquilization, stops bleeding and alleviates pain.
Ling Zhi (Reishi Mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum)is slightly warm, enters the HT, LIV, LU, channels; tonifies Heart Qi, nourishes Heart Blood and calms the Spirit, tonifies Lung Qi, transforms phlegm to stop cough and wheezing, tonifies Qi and nourishes Blood.
Bai Zi Ren (Arbor Vitae Seed Thuja orientalis)is neutral and enters the HT, KI, and LI channels; nourishes the Heart, calms the Spirit, moistens the Intestines, unblocks bowels and astringes Yin Deficiency sweat.
Long Yan Rou (Longan Fruit, Arillus longan)is warm and enters the HT and SP channels; tonifies and augments the Heart and Spleen, nourishes the Blood and calms the Spririt.
Hong Jing Tian (Rhodiola, Rhodiola rosea)is cold, enters the HT, KI, LIV, SP and LU channels; tonifies, clears Lung heat, nourishes Lung Yin and relieves cough, and invigorates the Blood.
Xiang Fu (Nut Grass Rhizome, Cyperi rotundi)is neutral, enters the LIV, SJ and GB channels; spreads and regulates Liver Qi, regulates menstruation and alleviates pain.
Lian Zi (White Lotus Seed, Nelumbinis nuciferae)is neutral enters the HT, KI, and SP channels; tonifies the Spleen, astringes diarrhea, tonifiies Kidney, astringes Jing, nourishes the heart and calms the spirit.
Tian Ma (Gastrodia Rhizome, Gastrodia elata)is neutral and enters the LIV channel; extinguishes Wind, calms the Liver, stops spasms and tremors, subdues rising Liver Yang, alleviates pain and disperses Wind-Damp Bi.
Da Zao (Jujube, Chinese Date, Ziziphus jujube) is warm and enters the SP and ST channels; tonifies the Spleen and Stomach, augments Qi, and nourishes Blood and calms the Spirit.
- Sarris, J. 2018. Herbal medicines in the treatment of psychiatric disorders: 10-year updated review. Phytother. Res. Mar 25. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.6055.
- Gazola, A.C., Costa, G.M., Zucolotto, S.M., Castellanos, L., Ramos, F.A., de Lima T.C.M. 2018. The sedative activity of flavonoids from Passifloraquadrangularis is mediated through the GABAergic pathway. Biomed. Pharmacother.Apr (100):388-393. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopha.2018.02.002.
- Murphy, K., Kubin, Z.J., Shepherd J.H., Ettinger, R.H. 2010. Valeriana officinalis root extracts have potent anxiolytic effects in laboratory rats. Phytomedicine. Jul (17:8-9):674-678. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2009.10.020.
- Liu, Y., Gao, J., Peng, M., Meng, H., Ma, H., Cai, P., Si, G. (2018). A Review on Central Nervous System Effects of Gastrodin. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 9, 24. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2018.00024.
- Matsuzaki H., Shimizu Y., Iwata N., Kamiuchi, S., Suzuki F., Iizuka, H., Hibino Y., Okazaki M. 2013. Antidepressant-like effects of a water-soluble extract from the culture medium of Ganoderma lucidum mycelia in rats. BMC Complement Altern Med. Dec 26:370. https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-13-370.
- Anghelescu,I-G., Edwards, D., Seifritz, E., Kasper, S. 2018. Stress management and the role of Rhodiola rosea: a review. International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice. Jan 11. https://doi.org/10.1080/13651501.2017.1417442.
- Sowndharajan, K., Deepa, P., Kim M., Park S.J., Kim, S. 2018. An overview of neuroprotective and cognitive enhancement properties of lignans from Schisandra chinensis. Biomed Pharmacother. Jan (97):958-968. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopha.2017.10.145.
- Sowndharajan, K., Deepa, P., Kim M., Park S.J., Kim, S. 2017. Baicalein as a potent neuroprotective agent: A review. Biomed Pharmacother. Nov (95): 1021-1032. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopha.2017.08.135.
- Chen, J., Liu, X., Li, Z., et al. 2017. A Review of Dietary Ziziphus jujuba Fruit (Jujube): Developing Health Food Supplements for Brain Protection. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (2017).https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/3019568.
- Gong, Y.S., Guo, J., Hu, K., Gao, Y.Q., Xie, B.J., Sun Z.D., Yang, E.N., Hou, F.L. 2016. Ameliorative effect of lotus seedpod proanthocyanidins on cognitive impairment and brain aging induced by D-galactose. Exp. Gerontol. Feb (74):21-28. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exger.2015.11.020.
- Silva, I.S., Nicolau, L.A.D., Sousa, F.B.M., Araujo, S., Oliveira, A.P., Arauho, T.S.L., Souza, L.K.M., Martins, C.S., Aquino P.E.A., Carvalho, L.L., Silva, R.O., Rolim-Neto, P.J., Medeiros, J.V.R. 2017. Evaluation of anti-inflammatory potential of aqueous extract and polysaccharide fraction of Thuja occidentalis Linn. in mice. Int J Biol Macromol. Dec (105):1105-1116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2017.07.142.