Natural Cures for OCD: What Are They, and Do They Help?
written by: Keren Perles
• edited by: Paul Arnold
• updated: 11/12/2010
Although the most common methods for curing OCD consist of cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotropic drugs, natural cures for OCD exist as well. Herbs and dietary changes can help OCD sufferers control their symptoms and lead more successful lives.
slide 1 of 6
One of the most promising natural cures for OCD is inositol. This nutrient is related to the vitamin B complex, and contributes to the strong formation of cell membranes. More important for OCD sufferers, inositol affects nerve cells, specifically their ability to transmit information throughout the body from one neuron to another. In one study that involved thirteen people with OCD, subjects taking inositol had significantly lower levels of OCD symptoms six weeks later than those who were taking a placebo during that time. (Note: There were no significant differences at the three week point, so six full weeks of inositol may be required in order to see the desired results.) In fact, the study stated that it found inositol to be as effective as some drugs as a cure for OCD.
slide 2 of 6
St. John's Wort
St. John's wort is perhaps the most common herbal treatment option given to OCD sufferers. In the 1990s, thousands of people began taking St. John's wort when it was shown to help with mild to moderate depression. Only afterwards did researchers begin to look at whether the herb may affect other disorders, such as OCD. Although some studies have suggested that St. John's wort is no more helpful than a placebo in treating OCD, other studies suggest that it is even more effective than SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), the main drugs used to treat OCD.
St. John's wort inhibits the reuptake of serotonin, which essentially increases the amount of serotonin available in the body. This method of helping with OCD is similar to the effects that SSRIs have on the nervous system. SSRIs also inhibit the reuptake of serotonin, but they are more selective than St. John's wort. In other words, they inhibit the reuptake of other chemicals as well.
slide 3 of 6
Although Passiflora does not cure OCD directly, it does minimize the anxiety levels that constantly accompany many people who have OCD. Therefore, some herbal remedies for OCD consist of a combination of St. John's wort and Passiflora, which can help the symptoms of depression and anxiety in people with OCD.
slide 4 of 6
Myelin is a natural material that provides a protective sheath around the axon of a neuron. Neurons that contain a myelin sheath can transmit information exponentially more quickly than those that lack a myelin sheath. Some posit that OCD and other disorders are related to the wearing down of the myelin sheaths, due to stress or other factors. Because the myelin sheath is made of fatty acids, increasing the amount of essential fatty acids in the diet can presumably help to aid in the control of OCD. Sources of fatty acids include flaxseed oil, fatty fish (e.g., salmon), evening primrose oil, and krill oil. In order to be digested properly, the fatty acid sources need to be consumed together with proteins, such as seeds, tree nuts, meat, poultry, or legumes.
slide 5 of 6
Other Diet Changes
Other dietary changes that can help OCD symptoms include limiting or eliminating caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol can increase stress levels, exacerbating OCD symptoms. These changes, along with the natural cures for OCD listed above, can have a drastic effect on the symptoms of some OCD sufferers.