Stress, anxiety and depression seem to be a modern plague. Doctors are writing an incredible five times more prescriptions for antidepressant drugs now than they were 20 years ago; but dishing out more medication has done little or nothing to improve the situation. In fact the problem is still growing, with latest figures from the Office for National Statistics showing that one in every five adults in the UK now suffers from anxiety or depression¹.
Antidepressant drugs may be more of a problem than a solution. They are often ineffective and their list of side effects is enormous; the more serious of these include thoughts of suicide or self-harm, a potentially fatal drop in blood sodium levels (hyponatraemia), a dangerous rise in blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, diabetes, anxiety and digestive problems.
Dr David Healy is professor of Psychological Medicine at Cardiff University Medical School. He has described antidepressants as ‘a miracle of modern marketing, rather than modern medicine’ and has particular concerns about the link between drugs such as Prozac and the incidence of suicides. So why do doctors go on prescribing them? The answer, as researchers from Portland, Oregon discovered, is that they only ever see the clinical trials data that Big Pharma wants them to.
After hunting down hidden data using the Freedom of Information Act, the researchers investigated 74 studies involving 12 antidepressant drugs and over 12,000 people². What they found was stunning. Out of 38 trials with positive results, 37 were published. While a further 36 studies showed negative results, only 14 of these were published, and ‘in a way that conveyed a positive outcome’. In other words, the results were twisted to imply the drugs worked when they didn’t.
Ancient knowledge and modern technology have produced an effective, natural antidepressant
The need for safe, natural alternatives to antidepressant drugs has never been greater and the search for them has led enlightened researchers to look at traditional herbal remedies from around the world. People in hunter-gatherer societies had much harder lives than we do in the ‘developed’ world today and they often used medicinal plants to help them cope with fatigue, hunger and thirst.
One such plant is Sceletium tortuosum, a native of South Africa that was used since time immemorial by the indigenous people and also more recently by the ‘Afrikaner’ settlers. The leaves of the plant were traditionally dried and chewed to provide a feeling of relaxation and well-being.
Today you can take advantage of the stress-relieving, anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties of Sceletium in the form of Zembrin, a supplement that is safe, non-addictive and free from side effects.
Zembrin is made by HBC Protocols, a company dedicated to finding new, science-based solutions for emotional health, depression and ageing concerns. It is the result of seven years of research and development, aimed at producing an effective, carefully standardised supplement, from plants with the most desirable blend of active ingredients.
The mood-altering properties of Sceletium tortuosum are due to various alkaloid chemicals that it contains, the most important of which are mesembrenone and mesembrine. But not all plants belonging to this species have high levels of these alkaloids or contain them in the ratio that is most therapeutic. A recent study showed that there are actually five separate ‘chemotypes’ – these are varieties of the plant that look identical but differ in their chemical make-up³. One chemotype contains no mesembrine at all and the alkaloid content of the others varies widely. This is why it is important to buy a Sceletium product like Zembrin, which has a guaranteed composition of active ingredients.
Zembrin’s mood-lifting effects could be felt in days rather than weeks
The effects of Sceletium on mood and cognition are well documented. Clinical case studies have shown impressive results in people suffering from major depressive disorder, dysthymia (long-lasting chronic depression) and severe depression combined with anxiety4. In many cases, an improvement in mood was felt within days of starting treatment, in contrast to the six to eight weeks that are usual before the effects (if any) of antidepressant medications become noticeable. For people who do not have clinical depression but may be feeling stressed or anxious, Zembrin could impart a pleasant sense of ‘relaxed alertness’ within about 20 minutes.
It is thought that Zembrin may act in much the same way as a class of antidepressant drugs called SSRIs or ‘selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors’. These increase the amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin in brain cells by blocking its re-absorption. As a result, the brain cells are more easily able to send and receive chemical messages, which in turn boosts mood. In addition, Zembrin blocks the action of an enzyme called PDE4 (phosphodiesterase 4), which constricts blood flow in the brain5. This results in greater vasodilation and blood flow, so increasing the availability of oxygen in the brain and imparting a feeling of alertness. The combination of SSRI and PDE4-inhibitor effects results in a state of relaxation and calmness without the drowsiness and ‘brain fog’ that can be a side effect of antidepressant drugs.
The results of a placebo-controlled trial of the safety and tolerability of Zembrin were published online earlier this year6. In this study, 37 healthy adults took either a low or high dose of Zembrin, or a placebo,daily for three months. They underwent a series of tests, designed to detect any changes that could indicate a health risk. No such changes were seen at either dosage of Zembrin and less side effects were reported in the treatment groups than in those taking the placebo.
Although this study was intended to demonstrate the safety of Zembrin rather than its effectiveness, some of the participants who had been taking Zembrin gave unsolicited reports of greater feelings of well-being, including improvements in coping with stress and better sleep.
What to take for best results
The recommended dosage of Zembrin is one capsule a day, providing 25mg of Sceletium extract, but two capsules may be taken if needed.
Women who are pregnant and people taking antidepressants of the MAOI group should not use Zembrin. If you are taking any other medication, talk to your doctor before taking Zembrin. Because Zembrin can induce a state of deep relaxation in some people, you are advised to see how it affects you before driving or operating machinery.
1Beaumont J, Lofts H. Measuring national well-being – health 2013. Office for National Statistics,
2N Engl J Med. 2008; 358:252-260 19 June 2013
3Biochem Systematics Ecol. 2012; 44:364–373
4Aust J Med Herbalism. 2001; 13:3-17
5J Ethnopharmacol. 2011; 137(3):1124–1129
6J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Feb 26 (Online ahead of print)