Herbal Support for Anorexia Nervosa

Herbal Support for Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is an emotional disorder. Although many think of it as an obsession with food and body weight, the eating disorder is really an outward sign of emotional turmoil—and addressing these emotional needs is at the heart of any treatment plan. Medical attention is also required, as this disorder takes a large physical toll, and, without proper medical care, can even be fatal. The following herbal therapies can provide some support for the emotional and physical needs of a person coping with anorexia. Be sure to seek physician guidance before starting herbal therapy.

Condurango (Marsdenia condurango): Helps to stimulate appetite and aids digestion.

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum): Helps to stimulate appetite and aids digestion.

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis): Aids digestion.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): Helps to stimulate the appetite, soothes digestive spasms, and works as a mild sedative. Lemon balm may also help regulate thyroid-stimulating hormones and help the thyroid to function normally.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): Helps to soothe digestive spasms and heals a damaged digestive track. Also reduces mild depression. Note: Licorice should not be taken by people who have high blood pressure.

Oat straw (Avena sativa): Helps to restore the nervous system to normal functioning and soothes the digestive track. Also helps to reduce depression. This herb may take a while to start working but its effects are long lasting.

Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens, S. serrulatta, S. serullatum): Helps to restore and maintain the digestive track's normal functioning.

Siberian ginseng (Eleuthrocuccus senticosus): Helps to improve overall body strength and endurance.

St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum): Helps to restore the nervous system to healthy functioning. Also helps to reduce anxiety and mild to moderate depression. Note: St. John's wort should not be taken at the same time as conventional antidepressant medications.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis): Helps to stimulate appetite, soothes digestive spasms, and works as a mild sedative.

Wild yam (Dioscorea villosa): Soothes digestive spasms and helps to reduce depression.

Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas) or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with 1 teaspoon herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. Tinctures are preparations made from alcohol (or water and alcohol), containing an herb strength of 1 part herb to 5 parts solvent or 1 part herb to 10 parts solvent.


Blumental M, senior ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin, Tex: The American Botanical Council and Boston, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998.

Blumenthal M, senior ed. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, Mass.: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

Integrative Medicine Access: Professional Reference to Conditions, Herbs & Supplements. Newton, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

Review Date: April 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

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