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Dietary Supplements And Brain Interactions

            Ever since the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, a brand new multibillion-dollar industry has grown. (Grilly 20) This industry is the dietary supplements, also called herbals or organics. What the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act did was allow any product labeled “dietary supplement” to come to market unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The only way that the FDA can step in on a dietary supplement is if “substantial harm has been proven.”(Grilly 20) Some of the common supplements in the market today are St.John’s Wort, Kava, Ginko, and Ginko Biloba.
             St.John’s Wort is a natural growing herb. It has been found useful in the treatment of depression as a natural antidepressant. Depression is believed to be a result of a lack of catecholamine and serotonergic functioning in the brain, as according to the monoamine hypothesis. (Grilly 335) This is why people suffering from depression are prescribed antidepressants (such as SSRIs and MAOIs) which allow for increased levels of serotonin. St.John’s Wort works by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. It works similar to the antidepressants that are prescribed by doctors and clinicians. There has been documented evidence that it is effective in treating mild to moderate cases of depression. (Grilly 21) But this supplement works so much like the antidepressant drugs that it carries a lot of the same cautions with it. The main concern is drug interaction effects. When combined with antidepressant drugs it can cause “serotonin syndrome” which entails many unpleasant symptoms. (Grilly 34) A person taking St.John’s Wort should also be wary of food interaction effects, especially with tyramine. With this natural herb carrying so many prescription drug-like qualities, should it be regulated to prescription only?.
             Another natural herb that is being used for its beneficial properties is the Kava plant.