Author: Ahmed Elkadi, MD
Ideally a person should learn how to eliminate negative emotions and cope with stress by using mental concentration based on realistic positive logic. At times, however, the magnitude of stress is too much to deal with by mental concentration alone. The use of a tranquilizer is necessary. Other situations that may necessitate the use of a tranquilizer are when persons are trying to lose weight or stop smoking. A tranquilizer can reduce the nervous tension associated with withdrawal of food or cigarettes. However, the problem is that most - if not all - synthetic pharmaceutical tranquilizers produce undesirable side effects.
The main concern is usually regarding the sedating effect on the body, with impairment of sensory or motor functions of the central nervous system. Obviously the potential is there for physical or psychological dependence. With this genuine concern in mind, it is highly desirable to find natural ingredients that will provide the needed tranquilizing effect without the harmful side effects. Over the centuries herbal medical tradition has shown that several herbs possess some soothing effects on the nerves, among many other virtues. These include aniseed, blue vervain, catnip, chamomile, dandelion, fennel, gotu kola, ginger, ho-shou-wu, hops, kelp, lobelia, mistletoe, oat straw, passion flower, peach bark, pennyroyal, peppermint, sage, saw palmetto, skullcap, spearmint, thyme, valerian root, wild yam, witch hazel, wood betony and others.
Some of these herbs have a sedative effect and help promote sleep. They include blue vervain, catnip, hops, lobelia, peppermint, skullcap and valerian root. Others may have a stimulating effect and are therefore suggested to be used as mood elevators in depressive states, such as gotu kola and kelp. Their reputation is based on ancient experiences and centuries of observations.
A Happy Pair
Two of these herbs were subject to recent controlled scientific studies using a prospective double blind protocol with accurate statistical analysis of the study results. They are ginger and thyme. Studies at the Institute of Islamic Medicine for Education and Research in Panama City, Florida showed that ginger and thyme have a statistically significant tranquilizing effect in humans, with the effect of ginger being more pronounced and longer lasting. The beauty is that both herbs are safe and free of the usual undesirable side effects of synthetic tranquilizers. In the case of ginger, we have a fairly good idea about the mechanism of action. Ginger is known to be a thromboxane antagonist. It inhibits thromboxane synthesis.
There are anti-anxiety receptors (benzodiazepine receptors) in the brain, and thromboxane is thought to be the natural ligand for these receptors. A natural ligand is a substance that occupies or blocks the receptors. As ginger inhibits the synthesis of thromboxane, these receptors simply become free to be stimulated with the resulting tranquilizing effect. Diazepam (valium) and other tranquilizers that belong to this group of benzodiazepine are also thromboxane antagonists, and this may explain .their tranquilizing effect. The problem with the benzodiazepine tranquilizers is that they are plagued by serious undesirable side effects.
Ginger, on the other hand, is free of any addictive side effect. On the contrary, it has a general stimulating effect on the body. It stimulates the heart and skeletal muscles as well as stimulating the adrenal gland medulla to secrete catecholamine. It also has an aphrodisiac effect leading to increased sperm count and motility. Furthermore, it has been suggested that ginger may play a therapeutic role in the treatment of drug addiction based on its noradrenergic and thromboxane inhibiting effect.
At present we do not have an explanation for the tranquilizing effect of thyme. Whether it has an anti-thromboxane activity similar to ginger or a totally different mechanism of action has to be determined. But the safety records of both ginger and thyme as natural herbs extend over thousands of years of use as spices. In addition, modern studies have found both to possess a variety of medicinal effects. Ginger has an anti-motion sickness effect; an antiemetic effect in patients recovering from surgery; an antirheumatic effect; a protective effect on the stomach inner lining; and, most recently, an immune-enhancing effect. Chronic smokers who want to quit could use ginger and thyme in combination with black seed (a known immune enhancer) to help with the healing of chronic inflammatory changes usually associated with smoking.
Thyme was found to have an anti-microbial effect and a spasmolytic effect on the smooth muscles of the trachea and small intestine. Most recently it was also found to have an anti-viral effect and a beneficial selective cytotoxic effect. In cell culture studies, thyme extract killed cancer cells and cells infected with the HIV (Human Immune-deficiency Virus) while not causing any harm to normal cells in control cell cultures.
Be aware that harboured negative emotions are powerful immune suppressors. Ginger and thyme can exert an indirect immune-enhancing effect by reducing the severity of any existing negative emotions. They are almost the perfect tranquilizers!
Ahmed Elkadi, MD is president of the Institute of Islamic Medicine for Education and Research in Panama City, Florida. Reprinted from 22 alive HIS