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What folk medicines can people take for bipolar disorder?

Rhodiola

Officially known as rhodiola rosea, this herb has been used for years to help manage stress and has also demonstrated positive effects on people struggling with depression. While rhodiola doesn’t ease depression to the extent that an antidepressant will, it has fewer side effects, according to a study published in 2015 in Phytomedicine. “Rhodiola is mildly stimulating,” Dr. Muskin notes. “I wouldn’t use it as a solo therapy, but it is a good adjunct for someone who is on antidepressants and feels like they [still] don’t have a lot of energy.”

SAMe

SAMe, or S-adenosylmethionine, is a coenzyme found naturally in the body that has been extensively researched and shown to reduce symptoms in people with major depressive disorder, according to a review of research published in 2015 in CNS & Neurological Disorders - Drug Targets. But SAMe should be used with caution in people with bipolar disorder who are suffering from depression because it can actually provoke mania, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). It should be used only under the direct supervision of a physician.

St. John’s Wort

This herb, which is often used in Europe for mood management, is one of the better-known natural mood enhancers. Even so, evidence is mixed on whether St. John’s wort actually has a positive effect on major depression or bipolar disorder. The NCCIH states that St. John’s wort may help with depression but can also cause psychosis, and the agency warns that it could interact with many other medications people with bipolar disorder may be taking. St John’s wort has been shown to have similar side effects to some antidepressant medications because it appears to affect the body in a similar way, according to 2015 research published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology.