Forget Prozac, Psychobiotics Are the Future of Psychiatry.

For millennia, the human race has sought to combat psychological disorders through the intervention of natural – and eventually synthetic – chemicals. Originally, the sources for these psychoactive substances were the various fruits and flowers, including the Areca tree (betel nut), the poppy (opium), and the coca plant (cocaine). But in the 20th Century, new actives were being created in the lab thanks in part to the discovery of lysergic acid, better known as LSD, in 1938.


By the middle of the 1950s, the psychiatric community was fascinated by the idea that mental health could be restored through the direct use of drugs or in combination with traditional psychotherapy. The idea took off in the 1960s as research continued to elucidate the biology of psychiatry.  It essentially created a new avenue for psychiatric treatment: psychopharmacology. This inevitably led to the synthesis of a new compound, 3-(p-trifluoromethylphenoxy)-N-methyl-3-phenylpropylamine, which eventually became known as fluoxetine, and then, as we have all come to know it, Prozac.  By the late 1980s, it was known by another name:  the wonder drug.

Today, pharmacologic compounds for psychiatric treatment are numerous and up to 20% of all Americans are taking some type of psychotropic medication totalling some $34 billion dollars annually. While there have been calls for a reduction in use of these chemicals, primarily due to the fact that many are ineffective, there is a constant pressure from the public to have all their problems solved by a pill.

There is a different – and less costly – course to deal with stress and other psychological problems although until recently, there has been little to no attention paid to this option.  The treatment does not involve an individual chemical but rather a plethora of them which act to reduce inflammation, calm stress and bring about a more pleasant mood.  With a new article out this week from the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre in Cork, Ireland, there is even hope that severe and chronic mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may one day be a thing of the past.

They are called quite simply, Psychobiotics.

According to the authors, Timothy G. Dinan – whose name sounds as catchy as that of another psychiatric pioneer, Timothy F. Leary – Catherine Stanton and John F. Cryan, a psychobiotic is “a live organism that, when ingested in adequate amounts, produces a health benefit in patients suffering from psychiatric illness.”  These live organisms are comprised not only of probiotics but also other bacteria known to produce psychotropic signals such as serotonin and dopamine.

While this concept may raise some eyebrows, this postulate has credence.  There have been several examples in humans where the introduction of a probiotic has led to improvement of mood, anxiety and even chronic fatigue syndrome. But there appears to be a disconnect between the idea of ingesting a bacterium that stays in the gut and psychiatric behavior, which is controlled by the brain.

The answer lies in the fact that many psychiatric illnesses are immunological in nature through chronic low level inflammation. There is a plethora of evidence showing the link between gut microbiota and inflammation and studies on probiotic strains have revealed their ability to modulate inflammation and bring back a healthy immunological function.  In this regard, by controlling inflammation through probiotic administration, there should be an effect of improved psychiatric disposition.

The authors bring up another reason why psychobiotics are so unique in comparison to most probiotics.  These strains have another incredible ability to modulate the function of the adrenal cortex, which is responsible for controlling anxiety and stress response. Probiotic strains, such as Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifdobacterium longum have shown to reduce levels of stress hormones and maintain a calmer, peaceful state.  There may be a host of other probiotic bacteria with the same ability although testing has been scant at best.

Finally, the last point in support of psychobiotics is the fact that certain strains of bacteria actually produce the chemicals necessary for a happy self.  But as these chemicals cannot find their way into the brain, another route has been found to explain why they work so well.  They stimulate cells in the gut that have the ability to signal the vagus nerve that good chemicals are in the body.  The vagus nerve then submits this information to the brain, which then acts as if the chemicals were there.  If these probiotics were used in combination with those that stimulate the production of opioid and cannabinoid receptors, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, the result would be more than just a calming effect; there would be a natural high.

There is little doubt that there needs to be more research into the role of psychobiotics in mental health.  Even the authors suggest that clinical studies need to be performed along with more fundamental research.  However, unlike drugs such as Prozac and LSD, which are highly regulated, probiotics are readily available on store shelves.  This in effect could allow everyone to join in a citizen science movement similar to that of the Erowid culture, which focuses on the effect of natural psychoactives.  All that would be needed is a hub and a name, say PSYCHOgerms, in order to identify the psychological wonders – and admittedly, duds – of the probiotic world.  Should this happen, it may help one day to move past the era of pharmapscyhology and head straight into the more natural world or psychobiotics.

Hemp could literally save mankind – so why is it illegal?

Hemp is a tall, beautiful and gracious looking annual plant that can reach heights over twelve feet. Although hemp (cannabis sativa) and marijuana (cannabis sativa var. indica) come from a similar species of plant, they are very different and confusion has been caused by deliberate misinformation with far reaching effects on socioeconomics as well as on environmental matters. The reason hemp is illegal is not because of any negative impact to the environment or human health, but exactly the opposite. It is so environmentally friendly, nutritionally and medicinally beneficial, that it provides too many abundant resources which would make it impossible for powerful corporations to compete.

Historical Use

Hemp is the most universally useful plant we have at our disposal. The history of mankind’s use of hemp can be traced way back in time to between about 5000 – 7000 BC. Remains of seed husks have been found at Neolithic burial sites in central Europe, which indicate that they were used in funeral rites and shamanic ceremonies. It is probable that at that time the distinctions between various strains were not as pronounced as they are today.

Up until and even during WWII, hemp was a widely grown crop, which provided the world with an excellent and most durable source of fibre. Since it is an annual with a growing cycle of only 120 days it can be harvested several times a year, depending on local weather conditions. Its biomass is considerable, which means that it absorbs large quantities of the greenhouse gas CO2. It is resistant to bugs and requires little agrochemical treatment. It is extremely undemanding and can be grown in very poor conditions and depleted soils and will actually improve the soil structure over a period of years. For many centuries hemp was one of the most important industrial crops which provided the fibres for rope and tough, durable canvass without which the age of exploration could never have set sail.

In the US too, there have long been numerous rules and regulation in place regarding the cultivation of hemp. But unlike today’s regulations that strongly prohibit any cultivation of hemp, less than a century ago hemp cultivation was not just encouraged, but mandatory, with hefty fines being levied against farmers who refused. ‘Hemp for Victory’ was the government coined slogan that fuelled the last big bout of legal hemp cultivation during WWII, promoting hemp cultivation as a patriotic cause.

Delierate Misinformation About THC


Hemp is a variety of cannabis sativa that has a long history of use in the United States. However, since the 1950s it has been lumped into the same category of marijuana, and thus the extremely versatile crop was doomed in the United States. Hemp is technically from the same species of plant that psychoactive marijuana comes from. However, it is from a different variety, or subspecies that contains many important differences.
Industrial hemp has very low Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels, which is the principal psychoactive constituent. Compared to marijuana which is specifically cultivated for personal psychoactive use, it is nearly impossible to “get high” on hemp. Marijuana that can be smoked usually contains between 5-10%t THC, industrial hemp contains about one-tenth of that. In order to get a psychoactive effect, one would need to smoke more than a dozen hemp cigarettes over a very short period of time to achieve any kind of psychoactive effect. The reason for the low THC content in hemp is that most THC is formed in resin glands on the buds and flowers of the female cannabis plant. Industrial hemp is not cultivated to produce buds, and therefore lacks the primary component that forms the marijuana high. Furthermore, industrial hemp has higher concentrations of a chemical called Cannabidiol (CBD) that has a negative effect on THC and lessens its psychoactive effects when smoked in conjunction.

Industrial hemp also grows differently than THC-containing cannabis. Hemp is typically grown up, not out, because the focus is not on producing buds but on producing length of stalk. In this way, hemp is a very similar crop to bamboo. The stalk contains the fiber and hard, woody core material that can be used for a variety of purposes, even carpentry.

The two also differ in the areas that they can be effectively grown. THC-producing Marijuana must be grown in generally warm and humid environments in order to produce the desired quantity and quality of THC-containing buds. However, since industrial hemp does not contain these buds, and the hardy parts of the plant are the more desired, it can be grown in a wider range of areas. Generally, industrial hemp grows best on fields that provide high yields for corn crops, which includes most of the Southwest, Southeast, and Northeast United States. Furthermore, since industrial hemp can use male plants as well as female plants (since the object is not THC production), higher crop yields can result.

While there is virtually no THC in the varieties grown for industrial uses such as oil and fibre, governments have cooperated with powerful corporate lobbyists the ensure that hemp is lumped into the same category as marijuana. The primary reason is that hemp has too many abundant resources for fuel, housing, food, medicine that corporations cannot exploit. Think about how many polluting conglomerates would go down if hemp was permitted as a resource. The oil, pharmaceutical, supplement and constructions industry would need to radically shift their business model to survive.

Abundant Resources

Hemp provides the fibre to make a durable paper – a far more sensible solution than the wasteful method of clear cutting old growth forests, or even the cultivation pine plantations that are ecologically speaking dead zones that take 20 years to mature before they can be harvested. Cannabis produces 4 times more fibre per acre and can be harvested several times per year. The first dollar bills were printed on hemp paper, your old family bible is probably printed on hemp paper and even the constitution itself was drafted on hemp paper.
Hemp has the strongest natural fibres, which can be used not just to produce rough cloth, such as sails or canvass, but also durable work clothes, like the original jeans. When the plants are grown closer together the fibre becomes shorter and finer, which allows for finer textiles. Today, there are some fashion designers that are experimenting with a wide range of textiles made from hemp for their stylish, trendy hemp lines, shirts, suits, bags, jeans and more. And, no- you can’t smoke them to get high!

Hemp fibres are also finding application as a modern building material, an application that has been spearheaded and exploited successfully in France. Hemp fibres can be blended with water and limestone to create an extremely tough, light-weight, natural cement that has not only excellent insulating properties, but also shows more flexibility than conventional concrete, which makes it particularly useful as a building material in earthquake prone areas.

Back in 1941, Henry Ford built a car that was not only entirely built from ‘hemp plastic’, but also ran on hemp fuel. Hemp oil, pressed from the seeds is also extremely versatile. It can be polymerized to create a solid plastic-like material, which is extremely durable, yet nevertheless is completely natural and biodegradable, which could replace plastics in numerous industrial processes.

Car manufacturers are again turning to hemp as a resource to provide light-weight, yet shock absorbent and environmentally friendly material for their cars. Due to the high biomass hemp would also make an ideal source of ethanol, the best bio-fuel alternative to gasoline, which is capable of fuelling engines without producing all those evil gases that are destroying our atmosphere and poisoning the air. At long last, some of the top car manufacturers are beginning to follow in Ford’s steps.

Some Facts on Hemp

– Farming 6% of the continental U.S. acreage with biomass crops would provide all of America’s energy needs.
– Hemp is Earth’s number-one biomass resource; it is capable of producing 10 tons per acre in four months.
– Biomass can be converted to methane, methanol, or gasoline at a cost comparable to petroleum, and hemp is much better for the environment. Pyrolysis (charcoalizing), or biochemical composting are two methods of turning hemp into fuel.
– Hemp can produce 10 times more methanol than corn.
– Hemp fuel burns clean. Petroleum causes acid rain due to sulfur pollution.

Hemp oil is of a very high quality and industry is using it in paints, inks and varnishes. In recent years the food
industry is also discovering its virtues. Hempseed oil is one of the richest sources of essential amino acids and essential fatty acids, providing an excellent balance between omega-3, -6 and -9 fatty acids. All of these substances are currently being discussed, not only in the alternative health scene, but also by the food industry, which is searching for suitable ingredients to create so called ‘functional foods’. Essential fatty acids are extremely important to the proper functioning of cells. They play a role in reducing bad cholesterol and plaque, which is responsible for arteriosclerosis. Healthfood companies are beginning to experiment with hemp as a basis for a large range of products- from hemp seed bars, to gummi bears, to beer, to hemp cheese and many more.

Studies have been released that show people suffering from cancer have low levels of melatonin in their bodies. Also studies have shown that just smoking hemp can raise the melatonin levels in our bodies. So one can only imagine what hemp oil that is in a concentrated state can do to increase melatonin levels. Hemp oil promotes full body healing and raises melatonin levels thousands of times higher than normal. When the pineal gland produces vast amounts of melatonin, it causes no harm to the body but it is very hard on the condition you are suffering from and indeed can eliminate it. For almost a decade, Rick Simpson has been showing people how to cure cancer with hemp oil.

Both the commercial legal type of hemp oil and the illegal THC laden hemp oil are one of the most power-packed protein sources available in the plant kingdom. Its oil can be used in many nutritional and transdermal applications. In other chapters in my Winning the War on Cancer book we will discuss in-depth about GLA and cancer and also the interesting work of Dr. Johanna Budwig. She uses flax seed oil instead of hemp oil to cure cancer — through effecting changes in cell walls — using these omega3 and omega6 laden medicinal oils.

Hemp Oil Uses 

Every application that uses petroleum for it’s skin and hair products can use hemp oil as it is more beneficial and herbal. It can be used in many health issues as either a pain reducer or even as the cure for it.

– Since hemp oil is natural, it is used as a moisturizing oil which can be applied after a shower or a bath. When you massage your body with it, it nourishes the skin and increases the blood circulation. More on facial skin care.
– Hemp oil is used in cooking as well, though it is not suitable for high heat cooking. Along with giving a slightly nutty and crispy taste to food, it can be the perfect salad oil just in case you’re out of olive oil.
– Another application of hemp oil is it’s use as biodiesel in the same manner like other vegetable oils. It is a safe replacement for petroleum as it is non-toxic and doesn’t harm the environment.
– Almost all the forms of plastics can be made by using hemp oil instead of using petroleum as a base. As those made from petroleum, release harmful chemicals while decomposition, but those from hemp oil, don’t.
– Hemp oil can also be used in the production of paints as it doesn’t cause any armful releases when washed down from the drain and has very low emissions than the petroleum paints which are currently being used.
– Hemp oil prevents skin disorders like psoriasis, eczema, acne and dry skin. It is highly nutritious for the skin and makes a wonderful addition to homemade moisturizing blends and rejuvenating creams. (Read Andrew Weil’s article on hemp oil

The list of beneficial uses of hemp goes on and on.

So why is non-psychoactive Hemp illegal?
There is an old saying: if you want to get to the root of a problem, follow the money. This holds true for hemp. In this case we have to ask the question ‘who benefits from hemp being illegal?’ The logical answer is: the oil companies- and their share holders, of course. Hemp became illegalized at the time when oil was beginning to make an impact on the economy as a base material for many things that hemp could also be used for, including textiles and fibres (plastics), cosmetics and fuel. Obviously, a resource is more profitable if access to it is restricted and not every farmer can grow it himself. In an exceedingly clever PR move psychoactive marijuana and hemp have been ‘thrown in the same pot’ as it were, and a massive campaign has been launched to convince people of the dangers of marijuana alias hemp – a highly questionable assertion.

Although technically hemp is not illegal to grow in some states, it requires obtaining a special permit from the drug enforcement agency (DEA) to restrict mass production. These permits are rarely given out and require that the crop be surrounded by security measures such as fences, razor wire, security guards, or dogs. For a crop that has little-to-no potential to get people high, the current attitude is both irresponsible and draconian.
Hemp is the most useful plant ally we have – a sustainable resource par excellence, as some might like to call it. Instead of cursing it we should be grateful to its deva and use all its ample gifts to turn the ecological demise of our planet around.

It is not hard to see how immensely valuable hemp is and how it has the potential of solving many of our environmental problems, not to mention our health problems. Yet, we are continuously deprived of its benefits because farmers are prohibited from cultivating this crop. Obviously importing it or products made from it is very expensive and the high expense is a prohibitive factor to choosing hemp as an environmentally friendly alternative even where it is available. It makes no sense to import a crop like hemp, when it can be, should be and used to be grown in all temperate and hot regions of the world.

Industrial hemp could transform the economy of the world States in a positive and beneficial way, and therefore should be exploited to its full potential.

Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.

Article source: Raw For Beauty


Psychotropics Still Commonly Prescribed for Autism.

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are still commonly prescribed psychotropic medications alone and in combinations despite “minimal evidence” of their effectiveness, new research suggests.

A retrospective study of more than 33,000 children with ASD showed that 64% had been prescribed at least 1 psychotropic. In addition, 35% had been prescribed 2 or more classes of psychotropics concurrently, and 15% had been prescribed 3 or more classes.

“Our results indicate the need to develop standards of care around the prescription of psychotropic medications to children with ASD,” write Donna Spencer, PhD, from OptimumInsight, Life Sciences, in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and colleagues.

They note that the study participants who had comorbidities such as bipolar disorder or attention-deficit disorders, who were older, or who had visited a psychiatrist were significantly more likely to use psychotropics.

New standards of care should be based on “a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach to improving the health and quality of life of children with ASD and their families,” write the investigators.

The study was published online October 21 in Pediatrics.

Few Treatment Options

As reported at the time by Medscape Medical News, a systematic review of 33 randomized controlled trials, which was published in 2011, showed that only 3 psychotropics (all of which were antipsychotics) “have established evidence” in treating symptoms of ASD.

These included aripiprazole and risperidone for irritability and hyperactivity, aripiprazole for stereotypy, and haloperidol for negative behavioral symptoms. Promising evidence of benefit was shown for methylphenidate, and preliminary evidence was shown for 5 other agents, including naltrexone and atomoxetine.

However, “the humbling or sobering news is that we still have no medicines that treat the core features of autism — social/interaction and language impairments and repetitive behaviors,” said Matthew Siegel, MD, medical director of the developmental disorders program at Spring Harbor Hospital, Maine Medical Center, in Westbrook, at the time.

Yet other studies have shown “increasing rates of psychotropic use and [polypharmacy] among children overall” as well as in children with ASD, note the current investigators.

Because there is a wide variance in use estimates of psychotropic medications and because many reports are based on a period of 1 year or less, are based on parent reports, and include small sample sizes, the researches sought to conduct a study that answered these concerns.

They assessed data from medical and pharmacy claims for 33,565 insured children and adolescents younger than 21 years with ASD (82% boys; 60% between the ages of 6 and 10 years, 22% between the ages of 11 and 17 years, 17% between the ages of 0 and 1 year).

Claims for all participants had been made at least 6 months prior to baseline, and all had at least 6 months of continuous care between January 2001 and December 2009.

For this study, the psychotropic medication classes included antidepressants, both stimulants and nonstimulants for treating attention-deficit disorder (ADD), antipsychotics, anxiolytics, lithium, anticholinergics, and anticonvulsants/antiepileptics.

“Polypharmacy was defined as at least 1 episode of multiclass polypharmacy,” explain the investigators, noting that “an episode of multiclass polypharmacy” denoted prescriptions that overlapped 2 or more classes for at least 30 days.

Increasing Use

Results showed that 63.56% of the participants had any psychotropic use, whereas 34.36% showed evidence of multiclass polypharmacy.

Psychotropic or polypharmacy use increased with the age of the children. A total of 34% of the 0- to 1-year age group had use of any psychotropic, and 10% had polypharmacy use.

These numbers jumped dramatically to 64% and 32%, respectively, for those in the 2- to 10-year age group; to 84% and 57% for those in the 11- to 17-year age group; and to 87% and 62% for those in the 18- to 20-year age group.

Of those in the polypharmacy subgroup, total episodes of multiclass polypharmacy averaged 5.63 per child. The average maximum number of medications per episode was 2.6, and the average maximum number of classes per episode was 3.3.

In addition, 10.4% of the entire study group had 3-class polypharmacy, and 4.5 had polypharmacy with 4 or more classes.

“Common class combinations were antidepressants and ADD medications (38% of subjects), antipsychotics and ADD medications (28%), antipsychotics and antidepressants (20%), and antipsychotic, antidepressant, and ADD medications (18%),” report the investigators.

The average total days of all episodes of polypharmacy was 525. The median was 346 days.

Interestingly, use of either psychotropics or polypharmacy was lower in the participants from the northeast and western regions of the United States and highest in the southern regions.

This raises questions “about the availability of nonpharmacologic, behaviorally based services and treatments in the south, where other health outcomes and health care services have been found to be poorer than in other parts of the country,” note the researchers.

The strongest predictor of psychotropic and polypharmacy use was having a comorbid condition, especially seizures, bipolar disorder, and ADD. Household income was not found be a significant factor.

Overall, the findings emphasize the need for more research of psychotropics in kids with ASD “to assess the value of these medications when weighed against their potential for harm,” conclude the investigators.




Psychotropic Drug Use Associated with Increased Risk for Car Crashes .

Antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and so-called “Z-drugs” such as zolpidem (Ambien) and zaleplon (Sonata) are associated with increased risk for motor vehicle accidents, according to a case-control study in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

Using registry and claims data from Taiwan, researchers assessed use of psychotropic drugs among 5200 people who were drivers during motor vehicle accidents and 31,000 matched controls who were not in accidents.

Relative to nonusers, the risk for motor vehicle accidents was higher among patients who had taken the following classes of drugs within the previous month: antidepressants (adjusted odds ratio, 1.73), benzodiazepines (1.56), and Z-drugs (1.42), but not antipsychotics. Even relatively low doses of antidepressants and benzodiazepines conferred increased risks.

The authors conclude that clinicians should “choose safer, alternative treatments and advise patients not to drive, especially while taking medications, to minimize the risk of causing [traffic accidents] under the influence of psychotropic medications.”

Source: British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology