Can Chinese Herbs Relieve Transitory Anxiety?

Background

Recent research has established correlations between stress, anxiety, insomnia and excess body weight and these correlations have significant implications for health. This study measured the effects of a proprietary blend of extracts of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense (Relora®) on anxiety, stress and sleep in healthy premenopausal women.

Methods

This randomized, parallel, placebo controlled clinical study was conducted with healthy, overweight (BMI 25 to 34.9), premenopausal female adults, between the ages of 20 and 50 years, who typically eat more in response to stressful situations and scores above the national mean for women on self-reporting anxiety. The intervention was Relora (250 mg capsules) or identical placebo 3 times daily for 6 weeks. Anxiety as measured by the Spielberger STATE-TRAIT questionnaires, salivary amylase and cortisol levels, Likert Scales/Visual Analog Scores for sleep quality and latency, appetite, and clinical markers of safety. The study was conducted by Miami Research Associates, a clinical research organization in Miami, FL.

Results

The intent-to-treat population consisted of 40 subjects with 26 participants completing the study. There were no significant adverse events. Relora was effective, in comparison to placebo, in reducing temporary, transitory anxiety as measured by the Spielberger STATE anxiety questionnaire. It was not effective in reducing long-standing feelings of anxiety or depression as measured using the Spielberger TRAIT questionnaire. Other assessments conducted in this study including salivary cortisol and amylase levels, appetite, body morphology and sleep quality/latency were not significantly changed by Relora in comparison to placebo.

Conclusion

This pilot study indicates that Relora may offer some relief for premenopausal women experiencing mild transitory anxiety. There were no safety concerns or significant adverse events observed in this study.

More about this Study

Hou Pu (Magnoliae Officinalis) is warm herb that treats Qi stagnation in the abdominal and chest. It also resolves phlegm and helps dries dampness. Hou Pu is used to treat diarrhea , abdominal pain , cough with phlegm and wheezing.
Huang Bai (Phellodendron amurense) is a cold herb that has as strong action in draining fire downwards and resolving diarrhea. Huang Bai targets the lower jiao and in Western medical terms is useful for treating urinary problems; night sweats, vaginal discharge. Such symptoms are related to damp heat in the lower jiao.
The active ingredients in Relora are Magnolia officinalis bark extract, Phellodendron amurense bark extract, rice powder, gelatin capsules (sourced from http://www.besttreatmentforanxiety.com).

Comments

I had never heard of transitory anxiety before this trial and I looked it up. The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory Form Y (STAI) is the definitive instrument for measuring anxiety in adults. The STAI clearly differentiates between the temporary condition of “state anxiety” and the more general and long-standing quality of “trait anxiety.” The essential qualities evaluated by the STAIS-Anxiety scale are feelings of apprehension, tension, nervousness, and worry. Scores on the STAIS-Anxiety scale increase in response to physical danger and psychological stress, and decrease as a result of relaxation training. On the STAIT-Anxiety scale, consistent with the trait anxiety construct, psychoneurotic and depressed patients generally have high scores. This is different to General Anxiety disorder, which is a recognised pathology characterised by chronic anxiety and worry even when there are no stressors present or nothing to worry about.

Is there validity in doing a clinical trail on transitory anxiety and stress, which seems to me to be a highly personal condition? What is one person’s distress is another person’s eustress. The trail used biomarkers and other measurements to capture symptoms associated with stress and anxiety. This provided the clinical evidence. However the underlying condition is arguably so variable over time because of the social-psychological factors of stress.

References

Effect of a proprietary Magnolia and Phellodendron extract on stress levels in healthy women: a pilot, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Nutrition Journal 2008
Douglas S Kalman1*, Samantha Feldman2, Robert Feldman3, Howard I Schwartz4, Diane R Krieger5 and Robert Garrison6

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