Table of Contents
Natural remedies are safe and effective options to help address the symptoms of bipolar disorder and to help regulate both energy and mood. Those with clinical bipolar disorder (also called manic depression) experience dramatic differences in mood, with swings from depressive episodes to periods of mania characterized by extreme energy and enthusiasm for sometimes irrational plans or ideas.
Other symptoms of bipolar disorder include elation, restlessness, lethargy, and even aggressiveness. However, everyone with a bipolar condition experiences its mood swings differently and to different degrees. Men and women experience bipolar disorder in equal numbers, with symptoms generally appearing a few years either side of one's 20th birthday.
Natural Remedies: Calming herbs such as lavender or St. John's Wort can have a balancing effect on those with bipolar disorder. Supplemental magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids have been indicated to improve mental functions and reduce emotional cycling for those with bipolar/manic depression. However, be aware that natural remedies can interfere with medicines prescribed by your psychiatrist. Additionally, alcohol and illicit drugs should be avoided.
Our readers offer information and opinions on Earth Clinic, not as a substitute for professional medical prevention, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your physician, pharmacist, or health care provider before taking any home remedies or supplements or following any treatment suggested by anyone on this site. Only your health care provider, personal physician, or pharmacist can provide you with advice on what is safe and effective for your unique needs or diagnose your particular medical history.
04/17/2010: Sheryn from Milwaukee, Wi: "Susan and others...I noticed while researching several options to treat low-level depression, that many caution against using if your depression has a bipolar (manic) component. My guess is that increasing serotonin in that instance leads to the manic activity and irritability (depressed mood manic energy me = one serious crabby-butt, lesson learned with an ill-fated combo of stimulants for attention deficit).
The solution for you may lie in working with other parts of your brain chemistry. Maybe see what folks are recommending for bipolar/cyclothymia."
[YEA] 07/28/2009: Sveta from Des Plaines, IL: "Having been suffering from bipolar, bulimia, anxiety disorder and depression for 5 years. Tried ACETYL L-CARNITINE. Have one thing to say, it's freaking amazing! I'm surprised you don't hear about it much. It helps my anxiety better than cold showers, antidepressants, and even Xanax! I'm so happy that that i found out about it. It's like the hell I've been living in for years is over. This supplement has the strength of a prescription drug. I advise everyone who has anxiety problem to give a try. Though I need like 50 mg a day instead of 5000 the way they recommend. 5000 is too much for me to tolerate. Find your dosage. And never give up. Try every supplement for depression and anxiety out there, one by one. Some will do nothing, some will make you feel worse, but there'll be one, two, or even more that will help you and make your life a beautiful and joyful thing to have. Good luck everyone."
EC: More info about this supplement on our L-carnitine page.
[YEA] 09/23/2012: Lighta from Auckland, New Zealand replies: "i agree! Started taking it on intuition a couple of days ago. My depression (bipolar2) is already much improved thanks to supplements, diet and stress-free lifestyle changes over 6 years, but this is giving me a noticable extra boost: dont get fatigued nearly as easily, noticably better tolerance to stress and to sugar-induced anxiety, better clarity, not wanting to comfort-eat, and finding a calm smile on my face. Have read briefly online about how it helps all kinds of things, from excercise recovery, energy, any degerantive brain diseases, heart function etc. Im taking 500-1000mg a day. I have read cautions for people with bipolar or who are taking some medications, and that doses higher than 3g may make some people nauseous, get stomach upset etc."
Blue Light Therapy
09/01/2008: Teresa from Kenedy, Texas: "Some information on blue light therapy, link at bottom of page.
Using blue light for "light therapy"
As you probably know, there's a version of depression called "Seasonal Affective Disorder" (SAD), or "winter depression". This kind of depression -- which is very common in people with Bipolar II -- can be treated with light. Plain old light will do, but in some parts of the country in December plain old light is hard to come by So several decades ago researchers studied whether sitting in front of a bank of lights for 30-60 minutes might help reverse the seasonal sag in mood, and found that indeed some people seemed to respond very well. In the most recent study of "light therapy", sitting in front of a box of light every morning during a Canadian winter was as effective as fluoxetine (Prozac).
But the light needed for this, from a suitcase-sized "light box", was hard to get: insurance companies almost never pay for these boxes, which are expensive, usually around $250-300. They are not very portable.
However, now a very small light box is available for around $140 (e.g. from Costco last winter) that's much more portable, so you can use it where you happen to be in the morning. The key was finding just the right wavelength of light for this purpose, which allowed the box to be much smaller. I hope you already know, from the story above, what wavelength that is: blue light -- the striped peak in the graph above, which comes from the manufacturer's website (I have no financial connection to that manufacturer, and get no gain from telling you this story. I'm telling it here because I think it's a great story, and because understanding it may help people get an effective treatment they might not have considered otherwise).
This little light box has been tested for effectiveness just as the older bigger light boxes have, and shown to be superiorGlickman to the "control" condition -- a dim red light, admittedly not the greatest control condition, but this research has been hard to do, coming up with a plausible "placebo" treatment. A better test would be a comparison of the blue light versus white light, which might be more plausible as a placebo, as the older light boxes emit a white light. That study has been done, and the blue light was superior (not yet published, the manufacturer tells me, as of June 2006). The best test would be a head-to-head study of the little blue one versus one of the older big ones, which we know from years of research are truly better than a placebo. But the blue-light manufacturers have little incentive to do that study (what if theirs was not as good?), so we're not likely to see that research unless one of the manufacturers of the old light box pays for it!
EC: For more information on this remedy, please see our Blue Light Therapy page.
[YEA] 08/04/2005: Trevor from Cambridge, NY: "My hot water tank malfunctioned recently so I had to take cold showers. At first I dreaded the idea but have since found that tepid showers invigorate my spirit and lighten my mood. I'm bipolar and have crushing depressive episodes. Believe me when I say that I feel my cold showers mitigate the effects of my dark moods and project a feeling of well being and joy throughout my whole body and mind!"
[YEA] 06/21/2012: Rcohen from Kingsport, Tn: "On the track of researching a more broad based concept, having BiPolar Illness, Fibro and now Cancer in our family, I have discovered a few common demoninators across many "chronic diseases". First we must note our medical system's propensity to sell symptoms to the general public AS illnesses so they can "treat" them indefinitely. Then understand that most things we eat, consume as medicinal, breath or otherwise consume is TOXIC, and in the case of foods, contain little to zero nutritional value. Even if the food is SUPPOSED to be healthy for you, the way most companies TREAT / PROCESS it will leave it devoid of any of the good stuff.
With that said, MOST illnesses I believe, including Cancer (look at Essiac Tea), Fibro and BiPolar is due to a toxicity, deficiency and lack of good nutrition or at least nutrition that makes it where it needs to go on a cellular level. Most processed foods CLOG the body to the point where it can't ABSORB the nutrition FROM the foods that we consume, if even it WERE good for us.
The answer in most cases is to DETOX as a regularity and to supply your body with a nutritional boost of some kind (specific to your symptoms) to offset the rest.
[YEA] 03/24/2007: George from Houston, Texas: "My girlfriend suffers from bipolar mania and PMS, and I've tried hard to figure out why she can be the most perfect, wonderful, loving girlfriend for months, then turn into a mean, vicious, heartless, remorseless monster and kick me out of the house. Then she started taking an herb called fenugreek to increase milk production while breastfeeding. Within less than two weeks she transformed back into the wonderful, loving woman I fell in love with and it was better than ever! After doing more research I determined that the culprit was a neuropeptide hormone called oxytocin, the love hormone. It's responsible for milk production, bonding, trust, openness, reduction in stress/anxiety, and to some extent libido. It was a beautiful transformation! Apparently there was an intranasal form of oxytocin available previously, but now you have to get it custom made, but fenugreek seems to promote its production. I guess the key is to make sure that she takes it regularly while her oxytocin levels are high and she's still reasonable! Otherwise the bad version of her may refuse to take it!"
Flax Seed Oil
[WARNING!] 12/20/2008: Kira from Saratoga, NY: "If you have bipolar tendencies (e.g. getting hypomanic when taking an SSRI anti-depressant) be careful when taking flax seed oil, a very small percentage get hypomanic (e.g. you feel like you have ants in your pants and can't sit still). When such a person continues to take the flax oil, it may trigger a manic episode.
I can tolerate Omega 3s in fish oil but not flax oil or flax mixed with cottage cheese. Not many people seem to know this side effect of flax that effects like 1% or so of users but somewhere online I came across it after already experiencing it myself. Most people aren't bothered."
Gaba and Lithium Aspartate
[YEA] 08/07/2008: Monique from San Diego, California: "My husband has bipolar disorder, mostly manic. He has been taking GABA (amino acid), about 3 or 4 per day, which really helps. He also takes lithium aspartate, about 5 per day, 5 mg. each. Both of these are found at our local health store. These are both calming for him, provided he takes enough. If he escalates into mania, he takes a little more GABA daily, until balanced again."
Lemon Juice and Olive Oil
09/26/2008: Donnie from Albuquerque, New Mexico: "Hey Daniel, I had a bipolar girlfriend. In doing Internet research I found a natural supplement company out of Canada called "True Hope." Though Julie never tried it (in denial about her bipolarity), I heard some good things about it. I remember that it was a lot cheaper than lithium or other less-natural symptom suppressors. Since you're on an all-natural kick, this might be something you might be interested in."
[YEA] 08/16/2008: Daniel from Los Angeles, California: "I am 37 years old and bipolar. I never knew that I had a 'kidney stone' problem until recently. I have investigated anything that could be considered to be the cause or culprit to trigger my bipolar, and until recently, I thought I was incurable...I actually used to laugh at people that took so much time to respond to ads like this (like, 'what losers....'); but now I am one of them. I have had pains in my right side where my kidney was, but always attributed it to being dehydrated, or something I ate or just some kind of sprain. But then I wondered if I might have a kidney condition and none of my doctors would do any tests to find out. I began to lose faith in my doctors and western medicine altogether...I firmly believe that anyone who is diagnosed with a mental illness should consult a professional, but now I also suggest seeking alternative measures. Having considered my kidneys as part of my problem, I tried the olive oil and lemon juice (2oz. and 2oz. each), for about 3 days every 8 hours or so, and I started having spasms in my right kidney area almost immediately. After about 24 hours, I felt the 'tumbling' sensation in my bladder when I urinated. The second night I woke up in the middle of the night with shooting pains in my rectal area, which immediately subsided. The next morning I urinated and out came a few stones and I feel soooooo much better. I actually feel more 'clear headed' and not so pessimistic (if that's even possible...). I don't know if this is a cure for bipolar, but I SINCERELY believe that is has helped me immensely with my mental balance. Thank you for posting all of your supportive letters and Earth clinic for allowing us to post them here. God bless you!"
03/14/2011: Jasmine from Budd Lake, Nj: "So true your article was. I just wanted to say that I appreciated it. I am bipolar as well. I am an artist and a musician and mechanic and a cook and so on and so on. I have learned to embrace my multi talents and my deep emotion. Like you said most of the world will never feel as we feel or be as talented and interesting as we are. Well said!"
[BETTER BUT NOT CURED] 09/30/2010: Taylor from Chicago, Il: "I haven't found any food/substance that helps with my bipolar, but a recent lifestyle change has really helped me. My doctor suggested I track my moods daily, which I do, and it helps me notice patterns and when to expect my ups and downs. Each day, write down a description of how you felt and rate your mood, from -10 being the most depressed you've ever felt, to 10 being the most manic you've ever felt. Also, record how much you slept that night, if you drank alcohol or consumed other drugs, and if you had any suicidal thoughts (no mater how fleeting- as we bipolars know, suicidal thoughts can often be... For lack of a better word... Casual, not of much concern. What matters is that your mind for whatever reason thought about suicide, no matter how severe). Keeping track like this has really helped me. Oh ya: THERAPY. It rocks. Cognitive-Behavioral therapy is ok, but I suggest using that therapy in combination with another. CBT can be difficult for bipolar people because we think abstract. Look for a therapist who's been trained in more than just cognitive behavioral. In therapy sessions, it's vitally important to tell the truth. If you are guarded and afraid you'll cry, tell your therapist, and work out a way to communicate; maybe write letters and bring them into therapy. Insist that you just can't tell the truth in normal conversation and you need to find another way. Art therapy is also great; However, I think that therapy should be more that just art therapy. I think art therapy should be used in combination with talk therapy. Also, don't be afraid to tell your therapist that you think they're wrong, or that what their saying isn't helping. They're not perfect, and you need to work as a team. Also, don't be afraid to switch therapists. Trust your gut. Also, I stumbled across an article called The 7Habits of the Highly Productive Bipolar. I've started to follow these more rigidly and it's helping a lot. Exercise and Sleep make a big difference.
-Eat a proper diet
-Incorporate Scheduled Relaxation time into your life
-Have a morning and evening routine
-Learn to be organized
-Don't take yourself too seriously
I have also found that marijuana kicks me into mania. I was in denial for a while because I like smoking and mania can be really fun, inspiring and significant, but weed induced manic episodes ultimately threw off my routine too much and put me behind in the more important things in life. So, rule of thumb... Be wary of the weed. Its ok once in a while, but the mania can last well past the few hours after smoking. It's kept me up all night and into the morning through the next day. In college, it can often be normal to be smoking 1, 2, 3 times a week- that just doesn't work if it makes you manic. Cut back. Once a month. Once every three weeks.
You get the picture. When slipping into a manic episode, I have found the following tips helpful:
-do not write emails, send letters, leave comments online, or call someone you normally wouldn't call because what you'll end up writing/saying is likely to be unusual, and you will regret it once you come down. If you really want to communicate, write it down, save it for later when you cool down. -don't spend money. Don't go near a store, don't look at any online shopping sites. -stay off the internet, in general
-don't go to bars/parties, and do not have sex with anyone that you're not currently in a sexual relationship with. Just go masturbate if the horny takes over. -be wary of driving, cooking, lighting candles, operating machinery... Anything that could burn down your house, cause an accident, etc. Mania leaves you pretty absent-minded. -occupy yourself with doing something you like! Don't fight the episode and try to function normally through it. Take a deep breath, admit that your manic, then go make some art, dance, sing, hang out with a friend, workout, listen to music/audiobook, etc. Similar tips for if you're depressed. Make sure to call a friend for help if you need it. If you're feeling suicidal, call a friend for suicide watch. They can just hang out at your place/you go to theirs and chill. They just need to keep an eye on you is all. I also find that taking a really hot shower or burying myself in lots of blankets and overheating can help quell the depression, like literally sweating it out. I'm considering eating a decent amount of cyanne pepper next time I'm depressed- seeing as it heats and stimulates- to bounce out of depression I feel like one needs some kind of a kick. It's probably a good idea to pick a few friends you can count on and tell them about your condition and how to handle it if you come asking for help. And something many readers might not agree with:
-Take your medication as prescribed
Now I know, no one wants to be taking pharmaceutical mind control drugs- eek!! BUT... I find that with the right medicine, taking a pill can make life a lot less stressful, traumatic, hectic, wild, depressing... Etc. I don't plan to stay on my medicine indefinitely, but I consider medicine a valuable tool to help keep you stable as you learn life skills and find a living situation that works for when you go unmedicated. I view it as the lesser of two evils. Medicine helped clear my mind, helped me in therapy to work out all the demons my mind was plagued with from years of my body kicking me with depressed phases. (self confidence, self hatred, negative attitude, etc. )
BUT.. Its very important to find the RIGHT medicine. Thats where tracking the mood becomes vital. I went through a roulette of antidepressants, anti anxiety and add drugs because I didn't have a clear picture of my own situation. Bipolar people, as a rule of thumb, are NOT supposed to take antidepressants. You can get away with a mix of a mood stabilizer and an antidepressant, but if you don't have a mood stabilizer, the antidepressant can kick you into a crazed, off the charts manic episode. Which happened to me. Not to mention that starting the antidepressant can make you uber depressed and suicidal too. Bottom line: track your moods, be wary of ANYTHING other than a mood stabilizer. ***
Love to all the bipolars out there- they say it's a "disorder", but no one has the right to label you in any way. So forget the negativity. Accept yourself and appreciate the fact that most of the general population will never know the depth of emotion that we do. For all the depression we suffer, a good day means more to us than most. For all the mania, we brim with life and energy unlike most. I consider myself blessed."
Lithium Orotate, Lithium Aspartate
[YEA] 06/12/2012: Burblemesh from Austin, Texas: "I have taken lithium orotate (40 mg, 4 of the Gabatone pills per day provides this and other useful supplements) to help control bipolar disorder, specifically the mania. It has, however, helped even me out overall, including my depression. I have OCD as well and take 1800 mg of Inosotil and 1500 mg NAC to help with that. This combination has worked better than anything else I have tried, and I have tried a lot (completely exhausted Western medical options to no avail)."Replies
08/02/2012: Desperatemom from Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada replies: "Hi Burblemesh, I want to understand how serious is your Bipolar especially during mania. Did you get into very angry episodes before taking the Gabatone pill. Maybe if you can share some information regarding your mania state. How long you have been taking the Gabatone pill and did you have any mania episodes since? My son has bipolar for several years and in the last several months he got into very angry episodes often. We are using GABA 500mg to calm him down. However I am very interested in getting my son the Gabatone pill if it can even out his mood and prevent the angry episodes. I really appreciate your reply. Desperate Mom"
05/24/2010: Gean from Salina, Ks: "Hello, has anyone here had any experience with the over-the-counter supplements lithium orotate or lithium aspartate? This would be for OCD, or bipolar disorder, or anger, PTSD, etc. Thank you."
Melatonin, Chamomile Tea
[BETTER BUT NOT CURED] 07/19/2009: Jeremiah from San Diego, California: "I have Bipolar Disorder characterized most by Manic episodes. Some are not all that bad; they're just a pain in the ass when I have something to do or someone to meet/people to be around. Anyways, I have noticed that when I can't get to sleep at night because my Seroquel doesn't seem to want to do its job, I take Melatonin, usually at 3 mgs. to start off with, then another 3 mgs., which usually knocks me out.
I have also tried Chamomile Tea with positive effects, but since I suffer from enuresis (bed-wetting), I have had to discontinue, because even if I take my medication for enuresis, I still go, which normally wouldn't happen otherwise.
That is not to say that I don't recommend Chamomile Tea. I would actually highly recommend to anybody, except if you have enuresis, even if you take medication for it."