Author Archives: Dr Erica McIntyre

About Dr Erica McIntyre

Erica is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Technology Sydney in the Australian Research Centre in Complementary and Integrative Medicine, Faculty of Health. Erica has a background in psychology, and her research interests are in the areas of mental health, health services use, complementary self-care, individual differences, and treatment decision-making. Erica has experience with a range of research methodologies including literature reviews, qualitative and quantitative research design and analysis, with expertise in survey design and statistical analysis including multivariate statistics. Currently, Erica’s research is seeking to understand women’s strategies for coping with chronic illness, health practitioner decision-making, and complementary self-care in the Australian population. Erica’s strength is based in primary research using theory driven methodologies to understand psychosocial factors influencing health behaviour and decision-making in health care.

RCT finds no efficacy for L-theanine as an adjunct treatment for anxiety symptoms

The prescription of nutraceuticals is often based on theory and pre-clinical evidence (in-vivo or in-vitro) that a substance might behave in a particular way. However, we don’t know if something works on living humans with a specific condition until we conduct clinical trials and observational studies. The following result from a recent clinical trial is an example of the clinical efficacy not aligning with the pre-clinical evidence.

In their recent double-blind placebo-controlled trial, Professor Jerome Sarris and colleagues found that adjunctive L-theanine compared to placebo had no improvement in anxiety symptoms nor insomnia severity in people with a diagnosis of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). But, they also found that participants reported greater self-reported sleep satisfaction, which is a clinically meaningful outcome for people with GAD that needs further research.

It’s still too early to draw definitive conclusions on the effect of L-theanine on anxiety symptoms, more research needs to be done to verify the results of this study.

You can read the study L-Theanine in the Adjunctive Treatment of Generalised Anxiety Disorder: A Double-Blind, Randomised, Placebo-Controlled Trial in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

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The psychology of herbal medicine use for anxiety: a complicated treatment decision

Lots of people experience anxiety. In fact, it is one of the most prevalent mental health conditions in the Western world. Anxiety can cause a significant amount of distress for people. The good news is that there are evidence-based treatment options for anxiety, which include psychological therapies and pharmaceutical drugs. Unfortunately, these treatments aren’t always effective for people, which may be one reason why herbal medicines have become a popular treatment choice for people with anxiety and mental health problems more generally.

It’s important to understand a person’s motivations for using herbal medicines to treat anxiety symptoms, as they may not be getting the most suitable treatment for their situation. It is also important because research has found that people will combine their use of herbal medicines with prescribed pharmaceuticals, which carries a risk of harmful herb-drug interactions. There are safe and effective ways to use herbal medicines for anxiety symptoms, but it isn’t always a simple treatment choice.

Consequently, in the final publication from my PhD I used a theoretical model to understand why people use herbal medicines to treat anxiety symptoms. The study found that people wanting more control over anxiety symptoms, having a stronger belief that people important to them supported their use of herbal medicines, having positive attitudes to herbal medicines, and having more severe anxiety symptoms were more likely to use herbal medicines for anxiety symptoms.

The findings of this study suggest that mental health care practitioners need to better support people experiencing anxiety to feel more in control of their health through engaging in shared decision-making, and having a conversation with them about evidence-based treatment options with consideration of their beliefs and attitudes towards treatments.

So, if you are a person who uses herbal medicines for anxiety symptoms ensure you talk to your health care practitioner about the most suitable treatment, and check for possible herb-drug interactions.

If you are a health care practitioner ask your patients about herbal medicine use, and ensure you are well equipped with information about herbal medicines so you can support them with their treatment decisions.

At the policy level, people experiencing anxiety need access to accurate and reliable information about herbal medicines to ensure they can engage in safe and effective self-care.

If you’d like to read about this study in detail: McIntyre, E., Saliba, A. J., Wiener, K. K., Bishop, F. L. (2017). Predicting the intention to use herbal medicines for anxiety symptoms: A model of health behaviourJournal of Mental Health. 1-8.

For comprehensive information on evidence-based herbal and nutritional medicines for anxiety disorders read: Camfield, D., McIntyre, E., & Sarris, J. (Eds) (2017) Evidence-Based Herbal and Nutritional Treatments for Anxiety in Psychiatric Disorders. Springer International Publishing: Switzerland.

For a review of the beliefs and attitudes that predict herbal medicine use see: McIntyre, E., Saliba, A. J., Wiener, K. K., & Sarris, J. (2015) Prevalence and predictors of herbal medicine use in adults experiencing anxiety: A critical review of the literature. Advances in Integrative Medicine, 2, 38-48.

Read more about how people are using herbal medicines for anxiety symptoms in: McIntyre, E., Saliba, A. J., Wiener, K. K., & Sarris, J. (2016) Herbal medicine use behaviour in Australian adults who experience anxiety: A descriptive study. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 16, 60.

 

Integrative mental health

The first article from my PhD was published today (yes I’m excited) in a special Integrative Mental Health edition of the journal Advances in Integrative Medicine edited by Jerome Sarris—a prominent researcher in this area. This edition is open access, so I would encourage anyone with an interest in this emerging area of research and approach to treatment to have a read.

With mental health problems becoming more prominent and more people seeking complementary treatments that can enhance conventional care, this area of research is important. Complementary medicines such as herbal medicines are starting to build an evidence base that is demonstrating that they have an important role to play in treating mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression.

Watch this space for more on the research in this field as this is just the beginning.

Welcome to my blog

So I’ve decided to start a blog. I will do my best to make it interesting. Here you will find commentary on herbal medicine, naturopathy, psychology, research and other random things that I find interesting. Check out my publications while you’re here too.