How different is the experience of using medicine vs. using herbs for mental health issues?

The vast majority of my career has been based in practicing traditional, western medicine where we utilize psychopharmacology. We find that medicine is very effective at addressing symptoms and is helpful when a more immediate result is needed. Some medicines may have immediate impact, relieving symptoms. However, in some instances side-effects are also part of the experience with medicines.

The age-old tradition of using herbs is different, both philosophically and sometimes in the way they are administered. Usually a combination of herbs (plants) are matched to the specific symptoms of a person. For example: Herbalists view anxiety in a person who also has high blood pressure very differently from a person who has anxiety and also has heartburn. Each herb or plant combines for a remedy much like notes combine to make a song. The remedy has to resonate with the holistic constitution of the person. Oftentimes treatment with herbs takes time and patience to find the ideal remedy.

We find that for many people, a combination of medication and herbs can offer a synergistic effect. Herbs can help reduce or improve side effects from medicines. It can also help with reducing doses of medications. However, this approach has its own risks because of the lack of research in combining herbs and medications. This blending of traditional western and eastern medicine requires expertise to ensure that the desired outcome is achieved in as safe a way as possible.

Dr. Javed is a double board certified integrative medicine physician. His practice blends conventional psychiatric care with other evidence-based treatment models, including psychotherapy, orthomolecular medicine, nutrition, functional medicine, herbalism, and mind-body approaches.

As we integrate all of these in the service of healing our job is also to trust the person’s healing intuition. Often their instinct plays a key role in selecting what path to take as we work on designing a treatment plan which incorporates these diverse treatment modalities.