Herbs Compare Favorably with Antidepressants in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) Patients

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Psychotropic herbs compare favorably to conventional antidepressant drugs in their effectiveness, according to a recent study. The research confirmed the usefulness of antidepressants for symptomatic relief of depression in CFS patients, and simultaneously reinforced the potential therapeutic usefulness of herbal psychotropic preparations.

The study conducted by Gurpreet Kaur and S.K. Kulkarni at Punjab University in India, noted that CFS patients are more prone to psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression, which occur in about two-thirds of some groups of patients. Although various classes of drugs have been studied for their effectiveness in CFS, no specific therapeutic agent is available. Antidepressants have been reported to be beneficial in providing symptomatic relief in some patients. Besides improving the depressive symptoms, these agents ameliorate sleep disturbances and emotional symptoms.

The herbs tested were withania somnifera root extract, and a variety of herbs formulated according to the principles of Ayurveda (traditional Indian system of medicine,) including aswagandha. Psychotropic herbs are those that affect psychic function, behavior or experience.

The study used mice to compare the effects of the drugs and the herbs. Over a period of seven days mice were forced to swim continuously to induce chronic fatigue until they became almost immobile. The researchers observed the duration of the immobile period and administered the drugs 30 minutes before the test on each day. The baseline anxiety level of each animal was also assessed before and after the forced swimming.

The drugs tested were both first and second generation anti-depressants, including imipramine, desipraine, tranylcypromine, alprazolam, mianserin, idazoxan and fluoxetine.

(editor’s note: the above summary of the original research study “Comparative Study of Antidepressants and Herbal Psychotropic Drugs in a Mouse Model of Chronic Fatigue” was originally published in The Journal of Chronic Fatigue, Vol. 6 No.2 and was used with permission of The Haworth Press.)

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