Bi-polar disorder

General characteristics

General characteristics

Bi-polar disorder is what used to be called 'manic depression' and is characterized by alternating mood swings ranging from severe depression to feelings of elation or 'mania'.
Herbal and natural treatments aim to feed and balance the nervous system, provide symptomatic relief as needed while suffering emotional extremes, keep the bowels moving, the liver healthy and to encourage the adoption of a balanced whole food diet.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Ration your intake of stimulants like coffee, black tea, cola etc and opt for herb teas, fruit or vegetable juices and water instead.

As with any disorder of the nervous system avoid fizzy drinks as these leach out important nutrients from the nerve tissues.

Diet should include a wide variety of healthy foods such as wholegrains, fruit, vegetables, seeds and nuts to ensure optimum nutrition.

Foods containing bitter principles like artichoke, chicory, radicchio, dark leafy greens, olives etc have a stimulating and therefore cleansing effect on the liver. Keeping the liver in healthy working order is important in keeping depression (melancholy- literally 'black bile' in Latin) away.

Alternate breakfasts of porridge, muesli and wholemeal toast with yeast extract.

Seed and nut 'butters' such as tahini are excellent sources of calcium and other nutrients.

Fibre is also valuable as it helps keep the system clean by avoiding constipation.

Foods containing calcium, magnesium and B vitamins are especially valuable in nourishing and stabilizing the nervous system.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Make up a tea in a teapot of 2 teaspoons each of nettle, oatstraw and raspberry leaves and drink the contents throughout the day. This will provide plenty of calcium and B vitamins and can be safely taken over many months and years as a nerve and general tonic.

A useful overall nerve tonic and balancing formula aimed at reducing the emotional swings contains equal parts of st johns wort, gotu kola, lemon balm, vervain, oatstraw and skullcap. Use 1 heaped teaspoon per cup of boiling water 3 times daily as a tea or 1 teaspoon in a little water 3 times daily as a tincture. Do not use this formula with any prescribed anti-depression medicines.
For times of deep depression try damiana, oatstraw, st johns wort, ginkgo, vervain and borage in equal parts as either a tea or tincture, same dose and cautions as above. Other stimulating herbs include rosemary and sage.
To calm and soothe in times of hyperactivity try passion flower, valerian, motherwort, chamomile, vervain, lavender and oats in equal parts, same dose and frequency as above.
Hop flowers are a powerful sedative and relaxer but should be avoided during depression as they will exacerbate the condition. Use a teaspoon per cup to help you get to sleep or feel deeply relaxed.
Cramp bark is a great herb to counteract spasm and tension in the nervous system and muscles. Add 30-50 drops of tincture to an individual dose of tea or tincture when a relaxing, even sedative effect is required.
Some very effective and useful bitter herbs to add to teas or tincture formulas include gentian, dandelion root, artichoke leaf, holy thistle and milk thistle.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Evening primrose oil is widely respected for its positive effects in many disorders of the nervous system.
Make sure you have plenty of rest as this is one of the most beneficial remedies of all to aid the recovery of an erratic nervous system. If you have trouble sleeping drink a strong cup (2 teaspoon steeped in hot water for 10 minutes) of chamomile and lime flower tea an hour or so before bedtime. A glass of warm milk with a good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg is also effective, soothing and comforting.
Spirulina and the blue-green algaes are renowned for their wide spectrum of vitamin and trace mineral content. A daily dose of powder or capsules will act as a more natural supplement than conventional vitamin/mineral pills.

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