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Feeling the Blues?

Everyone does at some point.   Let’s face it ~  there are a million things that can trigger it.  Money, marital problems, kid problems, life…

Don’t be in a hurry to trot off to the doctor for a prescription, though.  There are safer methods that are just as effective!  I’m going to tell you about them, of course, but first I’d like to take a look at a couple of the most commonly prescribed medicines for depression.

Let’s start with the most popular of all of them ~ Xanax.  I think I can safely say that everyone has at least heard of this one, if not experienced it for themselves.  It is considered one of the ‘safest’ anti-anxiety meds on the market.  Right.

I wanted to make sure I got the most accurate info about this drug before sharing it with you, so I headed straight to the Pfizer website first, which clearly states that Xanax is “the most prescribed medicine of its kind”.  This is what the company that makes it has to say about it:

“Important Safety Information: XANAX XR should not be used if you are allergic to benzodiazepines, have a condition called acute narrow angle glaucoma, or are taking the anti-fungal medications ketoconazole or itraconazole. XANAX XR is not recommended for use in pregnancy. Therefore, let your doctor know if you are pregnant, if you are planning to become pregnant, or if you become pregnant while you are taking this medication. Let your doctor know if you are nursing.

The most common side effect is sedation, but this often decreases or goes away in most people after their bodies get used to the drug. Until you experience how XANAX XR affects you, do not drive a car or operate potentially dangerous machinery, etc. Other common side effects, which occur in fewer patients, include sleepiness, memory impairment, impaired speech, abnormal coordination and/or muscle action, and reduced sexual drive. Some patients may experience side effects associated with psychological and/or physical dependence on XANAX XR. Medications like XANAX XR, even when used as recommended, may produce psychological and/or physical dependence. This may make it very difficult to discontinue treatment with XANAX XR. Discontinuation symptoms, including the possibility of seizures, may occur following abrupt discontinuation from any dose, but the risk may be increased with extended use at doses greater than 4 mg/day. It is important that you get your doctor’s advice on how to discontinue treatment safely and carefully. Gradually tapering your XANAX XR dose will help to decrease the possibility of discontinuation symptoms.”

The bold text is my doing, but the words are copied and pasted from their website.  Let’s walk through this one together…

First of all, if you are now pregnant or nursing, stay away from this one.  If you are planning to become pregnant, you want to stay away, also.  Becoming pregnant shouldn’t really be a problem if you are taking Xanax, though, as you probably won’t want to have sex while you are on it because it decreases you sex drive.  That’s one problem solved, right?

You might want to avoid driving a car or operating heavy machinery on Xanax, also.  Why?  Well, it could make you a little sleepy.  Okay, a lot sleepy, but that might not be your biggest problem while driving.  The loss of muscle coordination and the inability to remember where you were going should probably be your biggest concerns.  Either way, you might oughtta avoid commandeering a vehicle while taking this med.

Then, we move on to the less dangerous side effect of impaired speech.  Embarrassing…maybe, but not dangerous.  Certainly not as dangerous as the fact that many people become both physically and psychologically addicted to Xanax.

And, did you notice the sentence about discontinuing use?  Seizures.  Hmm.  Intersting.

So, the bottom line is that if you choose to take Xanax, you might not be able to talk properly, control your body, drive a vehicle, get pregnant, desire sex or stay awake, but you won’t be depressed!

Okay, so maybe Xanax isn’t for you.  Maybe something different…

Let’s try Effexor. Again, in an effort to get the most accurate info, I went to the Wyeth website.  I was going to copy and paste their safety info, too, but there was way too much!  Instead, I’ll give you the highlights and you can visit their site on your own for the full message.

“All patients taking antidepressants should be watched closely for signs that their condition is getting worse or that they are becoming suicidal, especially when they first start therapy, or when their dose is increased or decreased. Patients should also be watched for becoming agitated, irritable, hostile, aggressive, impulsive, or restless. Such symptoms should be reported to the patient’s doctor right away.”

So…when you first start out on this one, you might consider hiring someone to come and hang out with you for a week or two in case you start feeling suicidal from the medicine.  Just warn them before hand that you might feel the inexplicable need to beat them senseless…

“Before starting EFFEXOR XR, tell your doctor if you’re taking or plan to take any prescription or over-the-counter drugs, including migraine headache medication, herbal preparations, and nutritional supplements, to avoid a potentially life-threatening condition.”

“Taking EFFEXOR XR with aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, warfarin, or other drugs that affect coagulation may increase the risk of bleeding events.”

Skip the vitamins and avoid the aspirin while taking Effexor, kids.  You just might end up dead.

“EFFEXOR XR may raise blood pressure in some patients.”

“…prolonged dilation of the pupil of the eye) has been reported with EFFEXOR XR”

“In clinical studies, the most common side effects with EFFEXOR XR (reported in at least 10% of patients and at least twice as often as with placebo) were constipation, dizziness, dry mouth, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, nervousness, sexual side effects, sleepiness, sweating, and weakness”

Again, you have a choice.  Which do you prefer?  Depression or constipation, dizziness, dry mouth, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, nervousness, sexual side effects, sleepiness, sweating, and weakness.  I’m thinking we’ve stumbled upon a no-brainer!

The truth is, I could list another 5 or 10 prescription anti-anxiety/depression drugs, each with a long list like the ones above.  There is nothing safe about any of them.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  And these are just the side effects.  Nothing was said about the extra load it puts on your liver and kidneys, your digestive system, the naturally-occurring chemicals in your brain.  All of this has been conveniently glossed over.

But, if you listen to most doctors you don’t have a safer option.  After all, herbs don’t REALLY work…

Or, they do work but they are so dangerous…

Which is it, do you think?  My answer is neither.  Herbs do work, and when prepared by a knowlegeable herbalist, are extremely safe and effective.

Now, we can take a look at exactly which herbs might be best to treat anxiety and depression.  I have my own formula, of course.  It contains lemon balm, st. john’s wort, ginger, peppermint, white tangerine tea, gingko, vervain and chamomile.  Why did I choose these particular herbs?  Obviously, because they all contain some sedative/anti-anxiety properties.  Some of them are probably familiar to you.  St. Johns wort, gingko, chamomile…these are all common herbs that most of us have tried on at least one occassion.   Their ability to help relieve depression and anxiety are well-discussed and often debated.

Unfortunately, most of them are tested individually.  While I understand the reasoning behind this practice, I don’t agree with it.  Herbs, as I’ve stated many times, are far more effective when used in conjunction with other herbs that enhance each others’ benefits and counteract any negative side effects.  However, even this method of testing herbs has yielded impressive results from St. John’s wort, gingko and chamomile in both the medical and homeopathic realms.   A quick Google search will turn up many studies and their results, so there is no need for me to regurgitate them for you.

Still, you ask, what about side effects?  Well, as with anything, you can be allergic to herbs.  It’s  an unusual occurrence, but it is possible.  Chamomile, for instance, is a member of the ragweed family.  If ragweed sends your allergies skyrocketing, you should probably avoid chamomile.  And, as with all herbs, these are capable of interfering with any medications you might be taking and if you have any current health conditions you should delve more deeply into side effects.  If you are a normal, healthy person, there is little chance of any negative side effects from any of these herbs.

Not all side effects are negative, though, and this herbal blend has plenty of positives!  An enhanced immune system, a better-functioning digestive system, a clearer mind,  better skin and fewer headaches, just to name a few.  No sleepiness.  No loss of muscle control.  No unexplainable rage.  No loss of memory.  Just a little relief from your depression.

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