Using Nutrients, Nature, and Biochemistry to Treat OCD

August 7, 2020

Studies show that herbs and supplements can play an important role in alleviating OCD.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by compulsive actions that follow upon intrusive, stressful thoughts. It is often treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are a class of antidepressants. But the SSRIs are ineffective for 40–60 percent of people suffering OCD and these drugs have serious side effects.

For this reason, OCD is in need of better, safer treatments. Many people suffering from OCD can’t tolerate the side effects of drugs or don’t respond to drugs. Sometimes they do respond to the drugs at first but stop responding after a while.

For these people, another option may be found in two herbs have gone head-to-head with SSRI antidepressants or other natural remedies that have shown verifiable results.


Saffron is an effective natural antidepressant. In 2017, the Iranian Journal of Psychiatry published a 10-week double-blind study that compared 30 mg a day of saffron to 100 mg a day of fluvoxamine in 46 people with mild to moderate OCD. OCD scores went down slightly more in the saffron group, but the difference was not significant, meaning that saffron is at least as effective as the drug.

Milk Thistle

A double-blind 2010 study published in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry gave 35 people with OCD either 10 mg of Prozac or 200 mg of milk thistle extract three times a day for eight weeks. Both the drug and the herb produced a significant benefit, and there was no significant difference between them: on the Yale-Brown Scale for OCD, milk thistle dropped the score by 11 points and Prozac by 12.5.


Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng, is an important herb within Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine. It has been proven to be effective for stress and anxiety, so researchers tried adding the herb to a treatment of SSRI antidepressants. In a study, 30 people with OCD added a placebo or 120 mg of ashwagandha root extract to their SSRI four times a day for six weeks. While scores on the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale went down from 18–16 in the placebo group, they went from 26–14 in the herb group: a significantly better improvement.

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