Natural Mood Stabilizers – Herbs for Bipolar Disorder

Natural Mood Stabilizers - Herbs for BipolarCompared to synthetic drugs, natural mood stabilizers have their own unparalleled advantages. Most herbal remedies, Chinese herbs in particular, have been used for decades of years, if not hundreds. Over such a long period of clinical practice and experiments, it is generally recognized as safe and reliable on curative effect. Actually now many conditions have found the preferable matching herbal treatments accordingly, so does mood disorders like bipolar, depressive or manic episode.

Mood disorders

It refers to a group of unknown psychiatric disorders, characterized by intense and prolonged mood shifts and often accompanied with mental and behavioral changes. Most sufferers are prone to recurrent mood disorders and get back to normal intermittently, generally without mental defects and personality changes after cured. It ranges from mild psychotic behavior to psychosis, but in a narrow sense referring typically to bipolar disorder or manic depression.

The incidence of mood swings is much lower than that of schizoaffective disorder, 3.6-25% reported in Europe and America and 0.6% in China. Patients initially developing this disease are mostly between 16 to 30 years old, rarely seen before 15 and after 50 years old. Manic episode is generally earlier than depressive phases, so does female than male with a prevalence rate of 1:2 to 1:3.2.

What is a mood stabilizer?

It is almost equal to anticonvulsants because most mood-stabilizing drugs are purely antimanic agents, which are mainly for treating mania. From this perspective, it is quite different from antidepressants, which is also called mood enhancers, elevators, or  boosters in treating depression. By the way, it is different from antipsychotics too.

It has to achieve the following jobs:

  • Treat effectively or prevent manic symptoms;
  • Won’t aggravate the depressive symptoms, sometimes improving or preventing depressive symptoms;
  • Stabilize moodswings, suppressing manic phases but not inducing depression and curing depressive episode while not causing mania;
  • During treatment result in no tricky and complicated state, like mixed episodes of mania and depression, mixed multiple mental diseases, and rapid mood cycling and shifting;
  • Won’t increase or reduce suicide risk.

Clinically common mood stabilizers list is as follows:
Lithium, Lamotrigine (Lamictal), Carbamazepine (Tegretol), Oxcarbazepine (Trileptal), Valproic acid (Depakene), Riluzole, Gabapentin (Neurontin), and Topiramate (Topamax), etc.

Herbal treatments with natural mood stabilizers

When it comes to herbal mood stabilizers, first comes to mind might be 5-HTP, St. John’s wort, and clarocet. But they are not our focus here as we would like to look into Chinese herbs instead.

TCM History about mood disorders

The cognition  is a long journey for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) too. It went through a few phases before what it looks now.

  • Huangdi Neijing, also known as The Inner Canon of Huangdi or Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon, clearly pointed out that emotional factors could contribute to the onset of depression;
  • The Huangdi Bashiyi Nanjing, The Huang Emperor’s Canon of Eighty-One Difficult Issues, came up with the pathogenic mechanism and key differences between mania and depression. It argued that a manic episode was characterized by abnormally high moods, noise, and disturbance while a depressive episode by down moods and apathetic facial expressions;
  • Zhu Danxi, the famous TCM doctor in the Jin and Yuan Dynasties, put forth a well-known theory of heart spirit confused by phlegm, which provided the direct theoretical ground to treat depressive episode by clearing phlegm;
  • The Yi Lin Gai Cuo (Correcting the Errors in the Forest of Medicine), written by Wang Qing-ren in Qing dynasty, made a breakthrough by showing clearly the close connection between depressive phase and brain.

Difference among mania, depression, and bipolar

As stated, depression are manifested by symptoms of depressed mood, indifference, anxiety, pessimism, silence, retardation, and incoherency, etc. while mania by symptoms of hyperactive spirit, anger, agitation, restlessness, raving, hitting people and destructing things, hyperactivity, and irritability, etc. Among the patients, young adults are most susceptible to both while children and the eldly appear to be rare. In addition, these two phases are not entirely separated and could transform to each other easily, thus so called bipolar disorder in the case of violent mood swings.

There are two major basic patterns in TCM theory – access syndrome and deficiency syndrome. In the early stage most of them are excess types while thus mixed with access and deficiency in prolonged illness.

  • In depressive phase, access manifests as Qi depression, phlegm blocking, and blood stasis while deficiency as depletion of spleen Qi and heart blood in chronic case;
  • In manic phase, access presents as fire stagnation, phlegm obstructing, and heat accumulation while deficiency as impaired yin in heart and kidney combined with hyperactivity of fire due to yin deficiency by failing intercourse between fire and water.

Principles of natural remedies

Since most are caused by excess pathogen in early stage, the treatments should give priority to regulate Qi flowing, relieve Qi stagnation, smooth spiritual mechanism, lower fire, eliminate phlegm, and remove blood stasis for resuscitation;

since most are induced by deficient vital Qi in late period, the preferred remedies should be benefiting heart and spleen, nourishing yin to tonifying blood, and coordinating yin and yang.

Common herbs for bipolar disorder

According to the dominating phase in bipolar disorder, the lists of natural mood stabilizers (Chinese herbs) for depressive and manic episodes are as follows:

(1). Depressive phase (intermingled phlegm and Qi)
Ban Xia (Pinellia Rhizome), Chen Pi (Tangerine Peel), Tian Nan Xing (Arisaema), Bai Fu Zi (Typhonium Rhizome), Bai Jie Zi (White Mustard Seed), Zao Jia (Gleditsiae Fructus), Fu Ling (Poria), Hou Po (Magnolia Bark), Yuan Zhi (Senega Root), Shi Chang Pu (Sweetflag Rhizome), Yu Jin (Tumeric Tuber), Mu Xiang (Costus Root), Xiang Fu (Nut Grass Rhizome), Tan Xiang (Sandalwood), Chen Xiang (Aloeswood), Su He Xiang (Resin of Rose Maloes, Styrax), She Xiang (Navel Gland Secretions of Musk Deer), and An Xi Xiang (Benzoin).

(2). Manic phase (phlegm-fire disturbing mind)
Niu Huang (Cattle Gallstone), Zhu Li (Bamboo Juice), Tian Zhu Huang (Siliceous Secretions of Bamboo), Zhe Bei Mu (Fritillaria Bulb), Dan Nan Xing (Jack in the Pulpit Rhizome and Bile), Yu Jin (Tumeric Tuber), Bai Fan (Alum), Fu Shen (Poria Root), Shi Chang Pu (Sweetflag Rhizome), Zhu Ru (Bamboo Shavings), Meng Shi (Lapis Stone), Dan Shen (Salvia Root), Zhu Sha (Cinnabar), Huang Qin (Baical Skullcap Root, Scutellaria), Huang Lian (Coptis Rhizome), Bing Pian (Borneol), She Xiang (Navel Gland Secretions of Musk Deer), Zhen Zhu (Pearl), and Sheng Tie Luo (Iron Filings).

23 thoughts on “Natural Mood Stabilizers – Herbs for Bipolar Disorder

    1. admin Post author

      Thanks for your comments. I would if I could, but it might take a while since I am pretty busy recently. And hopefully your partner will recover soon from bipolar.

  1. ange

    How is this better then the prescribed medication for bipolar disorder and psycotics I have both and I am wanting to try something natural but of course my mother does not think that’s best. I just don’t like taking all these pills. They can make you tired, etc. If I did choose to try this, would you suggest that I do this in the morning so that I can give myself time to adjust to the changes? Please give me more information.

    1. admin Post author

      It sounds that your situation is quite complex. If possible, please visit a TCM doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Just as you see, the herbs listed in post are for reference only. That’s to say, what herbs should be combined and how they consumed depend on the specific diagnosis. And hope you will get well soon.

      1. Shannon Kelly-thomas

        I’d really like to ask your professional opinion. My closest and adored friend is in a manic /depressive swing and isn’t taking medication because he does not agree with taking farmacuticals as the ones he took 8 years ago (the last time an episode occurred) left him with a lot of other side effects. What would be a herbal treatment at least momentarily to calm down and balance. As he is an advocate of herbs.

  2. Donna Baumoehl

    We cannot recover from bipolar or any other mental chemical imbalance but merely treat it. Often as in my case we are better off without meds or at least most of them. I only take lamictal since it doesn’t harm the body or cause weight gain. Unless a person has is a threat to herself or others she shouldn’t take those poisonous meds that harm different parts of the body in some way at some point.

    1. Karla

      I use to take Lamictal for my Bipolar. After awhile it destroyed my hair leaving it brittle and very unhealthy. I got to wondering about this drug so I did some research on it. I found out it is extremely hard on the bones because it depletes the minerals in the body. Being on it for a prolonged amount of time, it will surely destroy your bones and joints too. You better have a plan if you’re taking it, and that’s for sure! I got off of it ASAP.

    1. admin Post author

      Sorry if something in this article has misled you. In fact, all the mentioned herbs won’t come in one capsule. Instead, they are just those that are commonly used by herbalists in the treatment of bipolar disorder. That’s to say, the doctor will decide the combination, one or a few of them, based on the signs and symptoms. An important point to make here: some doctors may use herbs that are not listed here too. This is all about the subjective experience.

  3. Johann Georg Blomeyer

    Thank you very much for your description. My wife suffers from bipolar and I simply cannot believe in the modern medicine, which her specialist prescribes.

    Best would be to see a Chinese specialist. But where to find one ? Isn’t there an institute or special hospital, who treats bipolar or an association in China which can recommend a doctor in bipolar ?
    Thanks and best regards,
    Johann Georg Blomeyer

  4. Jon

    Her best bet would be to find a traditional Chinese doctor in your area. I have the disorder and have been practicing chinese medicine consistantly for the past 10 years. I have been successfully off all western medications for five years

    Please be advised however it does take a long time to withdraw from the western medications.. Your partner must be committed to stop alcohol aa this will interfere with the treatment and success.

    She will also need a western doctor that is able to slowly withdraw her from the medications As a tcm doctor would not know that..

    In my case I was fortunate to be working with a Chinese herbalist along with a western Doctor Who was also a pharmacist.

    It will take quite some time but it’s worth it in the end. She will need to be on a formula (chinese supplements) for the remainder of her life, however no side effects like our meds.. Chinese herbs strengthen the organs that caused the imbalance in the first place

  5. Jon

    Liver fire is responsible for our mood disorders and as such, there are supplements that you can purchase via Dragon Herbs and Jing Herbs that assist in draining this fire like western medicine attempts to do with pharm meds, but without the damage to the very organ the med goes through

    You see, its quite ironic, our American medicine.. The mood stabilizers like depakote, get filtered via the liver. The liver is in charge of anger and irratibility.. So, it attempts to fix the brain but fails since it is getting filtered through the very organ that causes that emotion

    The best bet is always to find A tcm doctor, b/c a formula tonifies all the organs so that they dont get out of balance, however there are formulas like Liver Chi via Chi’s Enterprise that has schizandra and 2 other herbs that cools the liver and assists with the heart shen.

    Also, Dragon herbs is a great site (product called the great stabilizer) assists the heart and liver as well and Jing herbs.. They are liver supplements on those sites

    Best to see a tcm doc, b/c too much liver tonics can make the kidney too yin and then you deplete energy if in excess.. Its all balance. Hope this helps

  6. Susan

    I took drugs for 9 months on and off after year 12 high school and it made me very sensitive. I was around the wrong group of friends and I was very young with no parental guidance due to my parents having so many problems always arguing and mentally no stability within the family. I was going through a drug induced psychosis at that time and I didn’t think anything of it. I don’t know if that is the same as bipolar but later the doctor gave me medication for bipolar disorder but I only took it for 2 months and stopped. Later down the track the doctor labeled me as bipolar disorder 1. My parents don’t believe I have bipolar disorder and my dad especially doesn’t believe in the medications. My parents are Chinese and they think all the medications on the market are all for business. I believe in Chinese medicine and natural herbs because they have alot of history for many generations. The only thing Im confused about is whether it’s just a drug induced psychosis that can be treated. I have recently become so anxious and depressed as well as over sleeping and not being able to sleep at night over thinking. I’m also studying full time in university with a double degree in law and commerce. It’s so stressful and I’m also working 5 days a week. I feel as if my sleep has become so hard that I get nervous when it comes to the night because I have trouble sleeping and when I wake up in the morning and think of my assessments I get so anxious so easily. Some mornings I wake up with anxiety and I don’t even know why.

  7. Lis

    Susan, i have a Young freind with bipolar depresion. I think you should get help with a western doctor to get diagnosed correctly. It could have been the drugs you took, or that you developed bipolar disorder. If you are not sleeping and having racing thoughts you should seek help before you get worst. It normally starts with a lot of anxiety and prblems getting to sleep. Then comes the lack of concentration, panic attacks, irritability and eventually a psysocis. Before it gets worst, again, seek help, you could try a chinese doctor or a western one. You should do it so you do not end up missing your university assigments. Bipolar depresion is very hard to diagnose. Act quickly. Good luck!!
    I was interested on finding informatiom to control the disorder during pregnancy, western meds because of side effects need to be interrupted during. That is why i think that trying chinese might help somehow during pregnancy. Just researching.

    1. Neg

      Susan – your workload is incredibly stressful. It sounds like it is life-style and circumstantial and not necessarily a mental health issue. Doing 2 degrees and working full time is too much for anyone. It sounds like you have a history of trying to live up to expectations of perfectionism. I think you should treat your symptoms via Chinese medicine but then address why you overwork/do. You need to be kind to yourself.

  8. Lynn

    Extreme stress while managing Mother’s affairs long distance & locally at intervals, exacerbated by devastating back injury that eventually affected neurological, cognitive and physical abilities. Life long extremely fit and able condition deteriorated. Recent untimely death of Mother last April eroded progress and appeared to compound issues. Working through depression w TCM doctor but having difficulty maintaining positive momentum and achieving goals and reinvigorating previously successful business. Weekly acupuncture, Tui Na & jai Wei Xiao Yao Wan. Any other suggestions?

  9. huetri

    Hello. Would you please comment on the “chai hu long gu mu li” formula.
    Radix Bupleuri Chinensis
    Os Draconis
    Concha Ostreae
    Radix Ginseng
    Sclerotium Poriae Cocos
    Radix Scutellariae Baicalensis
    Ramulus Cinnamomi Cassiae
    Rhizoma Pinelliae Ternatae
    Fructus Jujubae
    Radix Et Rhizoma Rhei
    Rhizoma Zingiberis Officinalis Recens
    (Chai Hu)
    (Long Gu)
    (Mu Li)
    (Ren Shen)
    (Fu Ling)
    (Huang Qin)
    (Gui Zhi)
    (Zhi Ban Xia)
    (Da Zao)
    (Da Huang)
    (Sheng Jiang)
    Many thanks for your help.

  10. Donna Warburton

    Does anyone have any sites for western doctors I’m desperate as I suffer bipolar physcosis. The medication doctors are given me are not helping too many side affects. I’m do desperate please help. I live in leeds


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