Women’s Health

Mood Changes In Adolescence And Botanical Treatments

Donna Easto, H.C., C.H., M.H., Certified Herbal Educator

Adolescence isn’t an easy time.  Hormonal changes and fluctuations, combined with cultural messages about adolescent’ roles, the complexities of teen friendships, stress at home, and other demands, can result in internal turbulence.  Being quixotic, cranky or moody is not unusual.  However, over-the-top, consistently severe mood swings may raise concerns about mental health issues that first appear during adolescence. When negative moods stick around for too long and interfere with friends, family, school or activities, it may be time to speak with a school counsellor, parent or professional therapist about what can be done to feel better. Some simple things can go a long way to lifting mood: 

  • Regular exercise controls stress and improves mood.
  • Sleep, get enough and banish all electronics from the bedroom.
  • Control sugar, hormonal changes result in declining blood sugar, which, combined with inadequate high-quality protein and carbohydrates in the diet, can lead to an over-dependence on simple sugars or caffeine for energy: the result, a decline in mood and concentration.  
  • Nutritional supplements can play a role in improving mood.  Adult dosage of a high-quality vitamin and mineral supplement may be taken by teens fourteen and over who do not eat a varied diet and have low levels of essential vitamins and nutrients. Younger girls can take supplements designed for adolescents.  Additional supplements for female adolescents include essential fatty acids with both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Look for a combination of plant-based EFAs and cold-water fish oil.  Not only will these EFAs improve mood and mental function, but they can also be helpful with skin problems.
  • Botanicals: calming and nourishing herbs like chamomile, passionflower and lavender in the correct dosages are gentle herbs; they’re safe, non-addictive and can be used to encourage short and long-term relaxation.  Ashwagandha is an outstanding tonic for the central nervous system to relieve stress and support adrenal function.  It may also have uterine antispasmodic properties, useful when cramping and pain accompany menstruation. Teenage girls need an adequate intake of dietary iron once menstruation begins. If it’s not available in the diet, it should be supplemented. Floradix Iron and Herbs is a highly absorbable, non-constipating supplement derived mainly from plant sources and is readily available locally.  Dark-green leafy vegetables (including nettles, dandelion leaves and edible seaweeds) can help build strong bones and replenish iron lost during menstrual periods. 

Little or no clinical research has been done on the safety of botanical medicines in adolescent females, and extra care must be taken when using “natural”  health products. Herbs in combination with pharmaceutical or recreational drugs is another area where little study has been done.  Because a young person’s immune, digestive and central nervous system is still maturing, they may experience different side effects from those seen in adults.  A qualified herbal practitioner should be contacted when choosing to use herbs for the treatment of health issues.  The primary health care provider also needs to be advised of any herbal product usage.  Natural does not mean safe. There are many unknowns for adolescents. Therapies of 3 months followed by a pause may be preferable to using herbs over a longer time.

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