Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affects more than two percent of the population. At first glance, this might not seem like much but OCD is the fourth most commonly occurring mental health issue. There are existing prescription drugs and behavioral treatments for patients with OCD. However, studies have shown that natural remedies are just as effective as psychiatric drugs.
People with OCD experience both obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are recurring distressing thoughts, images, and urges that invade a person’s mind at any time. Meanwhile, specific anxiety-relieving actions that a patient feels compelled to do are classified as compulsions.
Factors involved in OCD development include environment and psychiatric history. In addition to these, the levels of brain chemicals can also contribute to OCD. Reduced levels of serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), as well as increases in dopamine and glutamate, are linked to the condition.
With knowledge regarding the different causes of this mental disorder, natural remedies, such as the following, have been recommended for treating OCD:
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) – This common Ayurvedic medicine serves as an adaptogen, a substance that allows the body to resist the effects of stress, that can increase BDNF levels. Its effect on OCD patients is comparable to that of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drug fluoxetine.
- Turmeric – Curcumin found in turmeric has been proven to have multiple health benefits. One of these is the regulation of dopamine and serotonin levels to decrease brain inflammation.
- Inositol – Inositol, which is naturally found in fruits, beans, grains, and nuts, is needed by neurotransmitters to send messages. Although it isn’t effective in all OCD patients, those that are affected by it experience a reduction of symptoms by 50 percent.
- Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) – Like ashwagandha, milk thistle is also as effective as fluoxetine. Milk thistle contains silymarin that regulates dopamine and serotonin levels.
- N-Acetylcysteine (NAC)– NAC is an altered version of cysteine commonly used as a supplement. OCD patients that are supplemented with NAC can experience up to a 35 percent reduction in symptoms since it regulates glutamate and dopamine levels. Although NAC is not naturally found in food sources, cysteine can be converted by the body into NAC. Cysteine-rich foods include pork, chicken, fish, and dairy.
- Psychobiotics – Bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, can be beneficial to patients with OCD. These bacteria act as psychobiotics, which are just probiotics but with mental health benefits. Studies have shown that OCD, as well as depression and anxiety, are reduced by psychobiotics.
- Saffron (Crocus sativus) – Crocins are compounds found in saffron that reduce OCD symptoms. In addition to this, saffron was also proven to be effective in treating depression.
- Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) – This herb is traditionally used for treating insomnia because it can increase production of GABA, a neurotransmitter that signals relaxation. GABA levels are also reduced in patients with OCD so valerian is also an effective treatment for OCD. Studies have shown that OCD symptoms can be reduced by 25 percent with valerian intake.
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Aside from these natural remedies, there are also behavioral therapies for treating patients with OCD. Therapies, such as talk therapy and exposure and response prevention therapy, are more effective than medications, helping 80 percent of patients. However, OCD symptoms often return after therapy is over. Patients with OCD are also prescribed with antidepressants, especially those that are classified as SSRIs, which tend to be very expensive. In addition to this, SSRIs do not always work and even cause unwanted side effects.
These show that natural remedies for OCD should be considered since they are just as effective as prescription drugs and therapies. They are also more convenient and accessible and are cheaper. Additionally, natural remedies for OCD, unlike prescription drugs, do not have unwanted and potentially harmful side effects.