Prozac’s Worst Nightmare

The following is excerpted with permission from an article written by Dr. Richard Podell, M.D. This information has been helpful to thousands of people in the past, but is not meant to replace your physician.  Be sure to check with your physician before undergoing any change in diet. Dr. Podell maintains a practice in New Providence, NJ (see Podell Medical Center)     ©1997 The Podell Medical Center.  All rights reserved.   May not be reproduced in any form without prior written permission.


Imagine you own this billion dollar a year anti-depressant drug called Prozac. Then, one day you learn that not one but three hot new treatments for depression are about to hit the market. Three nutritional products are as effective as Prozac, don’t have Prozac’s frequent side-effects, and can be bought without prescription for about one-third Prozac’s price. Might you be getting nervous? Maybe, even depressed?

By now everyone’s heard of St. John’s Wort, the herbal anti-depressant. One of the top selling “drugs”, it’s just beginning to hit its stride in health food stores and pharmacies across the U.S.

St. John’s Wort has a dozen “double-blind” studies to back up its claim to be as effective as Prozac–at least for depression that is moderate or mild. For severe depression, it has not been tested yet–no one has put up the money to do the research.

That it works is good news, but the truly beautiful thing about St. John’s Wort is the near absence of side-effects. Unlike Prozac, St. John’s Wort doesn’t make you nervous. Nor does it make men or women frigid. At high doses it might increase the risk of sunburn, and you shouldn’t drink wine along with it.

Then there is the natural amino acid, SAMe (S-Adenosylmethionine). SAMe may actually be stronger than Prozac and work more quickly to boot. Just one problem, the commercially available SAMe products tend to oxidize and lose potency unless kept on dry ice. Not the sort of thing you want to carry to work.

Fortunately, there is a simple, inexpensive way to stimulate the body to make SAMe on its own: a combination of three old fashioned vitamins (folic acid, vitamin B12 and Vitamin B6) together with Betaine TMG, another nutritional supplement.

Like most natural products, SAMe has few negative side-effects. But it does have a positive one, reducing blood levels of homocysteine. Homocysteine is a toxic amino acid. Much like cholesterol, high homocysteine increases the risk for heart attacks and stroke. Homocysteine and SAMe are like two ends of a see-saw. What makes one go up, makes the other go down. So the same nutrient formula that helps fight depression, may have the beneficial side effect of reducing heart disease and stroke.

And then there is Inositol, an odd type of vitamin that acts as a messenger within the cells of our body. Israeli researchers discovered that people who are depressed have low levels of Inositol in the watery fluid that surrounds the spine and the brain. They’ve done three separate double-blind studies which prove that inositol supplements can reverse depression. You need fairly large amounts, enough for some people to get stomach aches, but other than that, no major side-effects.

Fortunately, for Prozac these three new kids on the block can probably be taken together with Prozac and the other prescription antidepressants. Originally, some researchers worried that St. John’s Wort might cause side-effects when combined with these drugs. But, so far, at least there haven’t been problems.

Of course, no one should stop anti-depressant medicines and add a new treatment without discussing it with their doctor. That is true even with such attractive, safe products as St. John’s Wort, SAMe, and Inositol.

Dr. Richard Podell, M.D.

The Podell Medical Center
105 Morris Avenue, Suite 200,Springfield, NJ  07081

Tel:  973-218-9191

Specializing in Prevention and Natural Healing Treatments
Richard N. Podell, M.D., Medical Director
Clinical Professor, Dept. of Family MedicineUMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Nora Cielo, M.A., CBT, Behavioral Health
Beverly Licota, R.N., Patient Education
Lorri Katz, R.D., Dietetics and Nutrition
Abby Silverman, CMT, Massage Therapy
©1997 The Podell Medical Center.  All rights reserved.   May not be reproduced in any form without prior written permission.