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How Do I Choose the Best Herbal Treatment for OCD?

By Megan Shoop
Updated Feb 11, 2024
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Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a condition that compels the sufferer to perform certain rituals and act on certain impulses throughout the day. The condition may be as mild as a need to organize the home in a certain way, or as severe as needing to wash the hands a certain number of times every few hours. Determining which herbal treatment for OCD is right for each patient is usually a matter of examining how severe the case is, what other medications the patient is taking, and sometimes, simple experimentation with different dosages.

St. John’s Wort has long been used as a mood-lifting, hormone-balancing herbal treatment for OCD. Light doses of this herb, without additional medications or herbs, may be enough to alleviate mild cases of OCD. In fact, St. John’s Wort should generally not be mixed with chemical or concentrated mood-altering medications. Mixing herbs for OCD with prescription medications may cause a serotonin disorder, a condition wherein the patient produces too much serotonin and experiences dizziness and the inability to focus.

Many cases of OCD come with some kind of anxiety or depression. OCD rituals are often caused by stress, which is often exacerbated — not alleviated — by the obsessive behaviors. Heightened stress may then lead to more rituals, which leads to more stress in an unhealthy cycle of behavior. The patient may become depressed and be unable to function properly in society, which may also lead to more rituals and increased anxiety.

Passiflora, or passionflower, tea and capsules may also help by relieving anxiety and elevating mood. Passionflower is not usually used as an herbal treatment for OCD on its own. Instead, it is often combined with St. John’s Wort to help keep depression at bay and maintain the patient’s mood at an even level. The amount of each herb the patient takes depends largely on the severity of the OCD and a doctor’s recommendation. The dosage of St. John’s Wort is usually larger than that of the passiflora, because it is simply a supplementary herb.

Some OCD patients ritualize to the point that they cannot focus on much else and regularly forget appointments or have difficulty maintaining a daily schedule. This forgetfulness may make the patient more anxious, which usually only makes the ritualizing worse. Some herbalists prescribe memory-enhancing herbs for this reason. Ginkgo biloba is usually the remedy of choice and can often be safely combined with both St. John’s Wort and passiflora.

Generally, only extreme cases require all three of these herbal remedies. Most patients taking an herbal treatment for OCD require only one or two of these herbs in varying dosages. Patients should never treat themselves with an herbal treatment for OCD before consulting a doctor or an herbalist. If already taking prescription drugs, the patient must inform each of his or her health care professionals what medications have been prescribed. This way, those treating him or her can avoid medicating the patient with herbs or medications that should not be mixed.

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Discussion Comments

By anon999322 — On Dec 07, 2017

Our son is receiving CBT but this doesn't seem to be having the impact we would like. We're loathe to go down the medication route, so are considering trying herbal treatments first to see if that helps. We're considering St John's Wort, but have recently seen positive things written about passion flower too.

By Vincenzo — On Apr 21, 2014

@Logicgest -- yes, there have been effective psychological treatments to OCD that don't require anything other than some intense work on the part of the patient and some good advice from a therapist.

However, some patients don't respond well to such methods. For them, homeopathic medicines might be the next step because psychologists cannot prescribe drugs. If that still doesn't work, a psychologist may refer a client to a psychiatrist -- a medical doctor who can prescribe medication.

By Logicfest — On Apr 20, 2014

Can't some OCD patients respond well to therapy? Psychologists often treat OCD and they can't prescribe medicine. Therefore, one would hope there are some patients who respond well to therapy instead of either homeopathic treatments or traditional medicines.

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