Ellen Kamhi, PhD, RN: Herbal Support for the HPA Axis?Part 3

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Interview by Craig Gustafson

In parts 1 and 2, Dr Kamhi discussed the connection of the HPA axis to the gut and other hormone-producing glands. She also described the use of common herbs that can support the HPA axis. In part 3, she discusses some often-overlooked?but no less effective?herbal options.

 

Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine (ATHM): What other herbs for HPA support might be generally overlooked?

Dr Kamhi: Mimosa and magnolia are both wonderful additions to help balance the HPA axis. Magnolia was named after Pierre Magnol, a French botanist who participated in botanical nomenclature. Magnolia contains compounds which bind to several important targets that are associated with drowsiness, which, of course, is affected by the dysfunction of the HPA axis and melatonin disruption.

Magnolia binds to both serotonin and norepinephrine transporters and is also involved with GABAA, so it is no wonder that it has been used to regulate cortisol and mood, as an anti-inflammatory that suppresses nuclear factor kappa B and enhances GABA neurotransmission in the neurons. PubMed lists several current studies that discuss these mechanisms.

 

ATHM: Is that the flower, the bark, or the root?

Dr Kamhi: That is a very good question because, with each herb, a different part of the plant is used as the medicinal component. In terms of magnolia, the bark is usually used and occasionally also the flowers. Also, always be aware of safety precautions, particularly in pregnancy. Magnolia may have an oxytocic effect, which can stimulate uterine contractions. However, toxicology studies in animals have found that doses as high as 5 grams per kilogram only gave mild side effects.

 

ATHM: What about the mimosa?

Dr Kamhi: Isn?t that a beautiful tree? The flowers remind me of a book written by Dr Seuss, which features a Truffula Tree. It has a beautiful, delicate, aromatic fantastic flower! The genus and species are Albizia julibrissin. It is known as the tree of happiness. It calms the spirit and relieves constrained emotions. It is useful as a nervine for anxiety and offers antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, and lipid-lowering effects.

These effects are due to the wide array of bioactive compounds found in mimosa, particularly saponins?such as triterpenes and monoterpenes, flavone saponins, quercetin, and isoquercetin, which help to protect the cell and rebuild healthy gut linings. It is also a nervine with immune-regulating and cancer-inhibiting effects. Mimosa influences 5-HT receptor binding, as well as the GABA, dopamine, and serotonin, which is helpful for depression, anxiety, and irritability. Mimosa is an underused herb, which is now coming into more popularity. Dosing recommendations include 3 to 6 milliliters of mimosa liquid extract or 500 milligrams per day of dried herb in capsules. For my wildcrafting students, we go out and pick the flowers and just throw them in a cup, add some boiling water, let it steep, and then strain and drink. Although we do not know the exact dose in that case, we have the added joy of hands-on interaction with the plant.

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