Healing Anxiety with Herbs

by Harold H. Bloomfield, M.D.

Published by HarperCollins

344 pages, 1998

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Quiet Words for the Prozac Generation

Reviewed by Linda L. Richards

It's the era of the quick fix. Trouble sleeping? Work getting you down? Relationship less than perfect? There's a doctor somewhere nearby with a prescription pad and a pricey Mont Blanc ready to write you up a cure for what ails you. Four pink pills a day to help you find your way back to painless normalcy. Or will it?

In his new book, Harold H. Bloomfield, M.D. -- author of the bestselling Hypericum and Depression, How to Heal Depression -- covers ground that's of interest to a lot of people; especially if you buy the statistics. According to Bloomfield, more than sixty-five million people in the United States suffer from anxiety and insomnia every year. That's a lot. More then five billion tranquilizers and sleeping pills are consumed -- presumably by those sixty-five million -- annually.

Healing Anxiety With Herbs deals with the alternatives to those little pink pills and their brethren. And, according to Bloomfield, there are lots of alternatives. In fact, the contemplation of the alternatives make the book a peaceful read. Chapters, for instance, on aromatherapy and emotional freedom seem almost like step one to stress removal in themselves.

The set up to the herbal sections is a little frightening, because it confirms the things we already suspected.

Antianxiety drugs are a multibillion-dollar business. The pharmaceutical industry helps underwrite medical journals, professional meetings, and drug representatives who bring free samples to doctors' offices. While there is a huge profit incentive for developing and testing a new synthetic tranquilizer or antidepressant drug, there is no economic incentive for U.S. companies to research an herbal medicine alternative, because a plant remedy cannot be patented.

The book is broken into three bite-sized pieces. Part 1, What is Anxiety, takes several looks at anxiety and what it's made of, including some of the causes and reasons for that anxiety and how it affects us as individuals.

Part 2, Herbs for Anxiety, Insomnia, and Stress looks at natural alternatives to synthetic drugs including the aforementioned aromatherapy and the healing power of certain types of flowers. This part also looks quite closely at less arcane anti-anxiety herbs such as kava, hypericum, valerian and others.

Part 3, Natural Self-Healing was perhaps my favorite part of the book. Bloomfield's approach is certainly holistic in that the whole person is dealt with, not just a cause and not just a cure. Part 3 is a breath of fresh air: the deep breath that so many of us forget to take. Just feeling the words can make you feel less tense.

The simple act of safely letting go of control can become a wonderful means of stress reduction. What you resist persists; what you accept lightens. Just feel whatever you feel, and notice whatever you notice.

A lot of this stuff is amazingly commonsensical: but that's the problem and -- ultimately -- the reason for this book. The harried lives many of us lead can bring us to the point where common sense is often forgotten. Bloomfield's expert and gentle voice brings this -- and other things less obvious -- into sharper focus. | August 19, 1998