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News and Views
November 1998

Herbal Remedies in Psychiatric Practice

Author Affiliations

From the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto (Dr Wong), Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (Mr Smith), and Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto (Dr Boon), Toronto, Ontario; and Centre for Studies in Family Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, The University of Western Ontario, London (Dr Boon).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1998;55(11):1033-1044. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.55.11.1033

Patients' use of alternative and complementary health services has created a need for physicians to become informed about the current literature regarding these treatments. Herbal remedies may be encountered in psychiatric practice when they are used to treat psychiatric symptoms; produce changes in mood, thinking, or behavior as a side effect; or interact with psychiatric medications. English-language articles and translated abstracts or articles (where available) found on MEDLINE and sources from the alternative/complementary health field were reviewed. Each herb was assessed for its safety, side effects, drug interactions, and efficacy in treating target symptoms or diagnoses. A synopsis of the information available for each herb is presented. In many cases the quantity and quality of data were insufficient to make definitive conclusions about efficacy or safety. However, there was good evidence for the efficacy of St John's wort for the treatment of depression and for ginkgo in the treatment of memory impairment caused by dementia. More research is required for most of the herbs reviewed, but the information published to date is still of clinical interest in diagnosing, counseling, and treating patients who may be taking botanical remedies.