While it’s impossible to cure schizophrenia, many treatment paths hope to relieve symptoms as much as possible. With that, many wonder how to treat schizophrenia with herbs.
As of now, research indicates that herbal remedies may help in treating schizophrenia. However, they’re less effective than traditional treatment methods. With that in mind, many opt to use herbs and other all-natural supplements as a therapeutic addition to their treatment.
Throughout this article, we’re going to take a deeper look at which supplements you can use for schizophrenia. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
What is Traditionally Used to Treat Schizophrenia?
Once schizophrenia is diagnosed, a medical professional will begin to seek out treatment methods. Unlike other mental health conditions, schizophrenia requires lifelong treatments with medication and psychosocial therapy. ¹
Your doctor will decide on which medication is best for you based on your symptoms and day-to-day functioning. While it may take some initial experimentation, most people benefit from:
Since psychotic symptoms are the most common among schizophrenia patients, the goal of antipsychotics is to reduce their intensity and frequency.
Most people will receive a daily oral dose of an antipsychotic that works best for them. While there are a variety of medications, the most common is clozapine. ² However, this medicine may come with dangerous side effects – requiring patients to take routine blood tests. ³
Some of these side effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Weight gain
Most often, side effects subside once the body becomes accustomed to the medication. However, in some instances, other side effects may appear.
If you are currently on medication, it’s vital you consult your doctor before taking any holistic treatments. Beyond the fact that their may be negative drug interactions, suddenly stopping antipsychotic use can be dangerous.
In order to further address negative and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia, your doctor may refer you to: ⁴
- Behavioral skills training
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Cognitive remediation interventions
- Supported employment
The goal of psychosocial therapies is to provide you with an understanding of your mental health condition while helping you to develop coping skills. In turn, this will make it easier to pursue other life goals, such as finding work and developing a relationship.
Furthermore, research shows that most people benefit from a combination of antipsychotic medication and psychosocial therapies.
How to Treat Schizophrenia with Herbs
Since traditional medication brings about dangerous side effects, it’s only natural many wonder how to treat schizophrenia with herbs. However, research concerning herbal remedies and schizophrenia remain slim. With that said, these other treatment options aren’t as effective as traditional medication.
Still, they may be able to help alongside current pharmaceutical practices. If you plan to take any of the herbal medication discussed here, it’s important to consult your doctor beforehand. They will have a clear idea of your circumstances and whether or not herbs will be helpful.
As of this time, some research pinpoints that ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) may help with certain negative symptoms of schizophrenia, including:
- Difficulty showing emotions
- Social withdrawal
- Speech problems
In a randomized study with 66 schizophrenia patients, ashwagandha was found to reduce negative symptoms along with other general symptoms of the condition over a 12-week period. Not to mention, many patients reported feeling less stress after ashwagandha treatment. ⁵
Most participants in the study were in their mid-to-late 40s and had struggled with schizophrenia for more than 20 years. All participants were taking antipsychotic medication and experiencing a recent worsening in symptoms.
Ginseng is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory popular for its regulation of blood sugar levels, strengthening of the immune system, and improving symptoms of erectile dysfunction. ⁶ However, one particular form of ginseng – Panax ginseng – has shown some promise in reducing schizophrenia symptoms.
One study looked into patients struggling with negative symptoms despite taking antipsychotic medication. 42 patients were given Panax ginseng or a placebo for eight weeks. From there, the placebo started taking ginseng and the initial ginseng group started taking the placebo for another eight weeks. ⁷
The study revealed that those taking ginseng showed a significant reduction in negative symptoms – especially when taken in a higher dose. Not to mention, negative symptoms remained low even when patients switched over to the placebo.
Known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, ginkgo biloba may also help reduce symptoms of schizophrenia.
In a 2005 study, it was found that gingko biloba may be able to enhance the effects of antipsychotic medication in patients with schizophrenia. More specifically, ginkgo was found to reduce positive symptoms of schizophrenia over an 8-week period. ⁸
However, there were no changes in negative symptoms.
Beyond herbs, many studies pinpoint that people with schizophrenia have lower vitamin levels than the general population. More specifically:
- B Vitamins – Many with schizophrenia struggle with low blood levels of folic acid (vitamin B9). In a 2014 study, it was discovered that vitamins B12 and B6 were helpful in curbing this deficiency. ⁹
- Vitamin D – A 2018 study found that babies deficient with vitamin D were 44% more likely to develop schizophrenia. ¹⁰ Not to mention, a 2014 review found people who lacked vitamin D were twice as likely to show signs of schizophrenia. ¹¹ However, these studies are inconclusive as people with schizophrenia tend to spend more time indoors.
Furthermore, people with schizophrenia may benefit from fish oil supplements. These provide the body with omega-3 fatty acids which have been found to reduce inflammation in the brain.
In one study, 81 young people who were considered high risk of schizophrenia were given a fish oil supplement or a placebo. Those who received the fish oil were less likely to develop schizophrenia symptoms. ¹²
As you can see, herbal remedies aren’t the best option for schizophrenia patients. However, they may provide you with extra relief that traditional antipsychotics aren’t addressing.
If you’re thinking about taking some of the herbs featured here, it’s important to first consult your doctor about potential negative drug interactions and whether or not they’ll benefit you.
Still have questions concerning how to treat schizophrenia with herbs?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further advice to give – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Schizophrenia
² Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience: Use of Clozapine for the Treatment of Schizophrenia: Findings of the 2006 Research on the China Psychotropic Prescription Studies
³ Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience: Clozapine Monitoring in Clinical Practice: Beyond the Mandatory Requirement
⁴ Annual Review of Clinical Psychology: Psychosocial treatments for schizophrenia
⁵ The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry: Adjunctive Use of a Standardized Extract of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) to Treat Symptom Exacerbation in Schizophrenia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study
⁶ Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects: Chapter 8: Biological Activities of Ginseng and Its Application to Human Health
⁷ Lawson Health Research Institute: Efficacy Study of Panax Ginseng to Boost Antipsychotics Effects in Schizophrenia
⁸ Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences: The effect of extract of ginkgo biloba addition to olanzapine on therapeutic effect and antioxidant enzyme levels in patients with schizophrenia
⁹ HHS Public Access: Vitamin Supplementation in the Treatment of Schizophrenia
¹⁰ Scientific Reports: The association between neonatal vitamin D status and risk of schizophrenia
¹¹ Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology (SAGE): Correlation between total vitamin D levels and psychotic psychopathology in patients with schizophrenia: therapeutic implications for add-on vitamin D augmentation
¹² Nature Communications: Longer-term outcome in the prevention of psychotic disorders by the Vienna omega-3 study