What is Inositol?
Inositol is a naturally occurring isomer of glucose, found in various forms. It is a member of the “B Complex” group of vitamins, though it is not a vitamin in itself. The most common form of inositol is myo-inositol. The nutrient is a direct precursor of phospholipids, a major component of cellular membranes, which helps to maintain proper transfer of electrical energy and nutrient transfer across the cell membrane. In essence, inositol helps to facilitate healthy cell membranes, which in turn, facilitate nerve impulse in the brain.
Inositol also participates in the action of serotonin, a neurotransmitter possessing effects known to be beneficial in battling depression and anxiety. Inositol is said to influence increased serotonin production. This is different than most SSRIs or anti-depressants, which simply protect serotonin from being absorbed and depleted. Inositol, however, should not be stacked with convention SSRIs or anti-depressant medications, as it could potentially result in serotonin poisoning.
Inositol is present in a typical North American adult diet, though only in amounts of about 1 gram daily (or less). A single gram represents a fairly small amount of inositol, thus, supplementation is typically necessary to receive therapeutic effects for depression, anxiety, and/or OCD. Inositol can be found as a naturally occurring nutrient in seeds, nuts, citrus fruits, cereals and legumes.
Inositol as a Medication for Depression
Many individuals seek the treatment of depression. Natural remedies for depression, including herbs for depression, and, herbs as an anxiety disorder treatment have long been sought. Though not an herb, so to speak, inositol has been reported decreased in those suffering from depression. In a double-blind controlled experiment, participants were given 12 grams of inositol daily for a period of four weeks. At the four week mark, participants who had been administered the inositol treatment had benefited significantly on the Hamilton Depression Scale; especially when compared to those who had been given a placebo.
Inositol seems to work for anxiety, panic attacks, and OCD, additionally. In a different study, participants were administered up to 18 grams of inositol daily for a 12 week period. This experiment was a double-blind, controlled, random order crossover study. Significant reductions to OCD severity and anxiety followed the treatment. Notable improvements on the Hamilton Rating scale for Anxiety scores, agoraphobia scores, and Clinical Global Impression Scale scores were seen following the Inositol treatment.
Dosage & Side Effects: Inositol for Depression
While most studies indicate that 12-18 grams daily is the proper dosage for therapeutic effects, many individuals have reported positive results after using much smaller amounts. These amounts typically ranged from 1-3g daily, taking dosages of 500-1000mg three times daily. Most capsule/table forms of inositol come in 500mg servings; thus, reaching the necessary 1-3 grams is typically not too difficult a feat to achieve (especially when compared to other natural remedies for depression). Most first timers seem to start with a 500mg dose, 3 times daily. Since there is no proof that amounts less than 12 grams/daily are effective, actual dosage amounts and requirements may vary greatly. Be sure to consult a physician before starting an inositol supplementation regimen.
Inositol should be taken for a period of 4-6 weeks before positive effects can be expected. This 4-6 week ramp up period has been found not only necessary, but, beneficial in most studies conducted on the nutrient. Again, one should not expect to see any positive effects on depression, anxiety, or OCD until 4-6 weeks after the commencements of inositol supplementation. Furthermore, some mild side effects have been studied and reported with daily inositol supplementation, including gas and diarrhea. Some speculate that inositol side effects may be beneficial, however, and that the regulation of serotonin in the brain can help to improve sleep and reduce insomnia. All in all, inositol might be a very beneficial alternative treatment for depression and anxiety.