Nutraceuticals in the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): a review of mechanistic and clinical evidence



Publication Details

Camfield, D. A., Sarris, J. & Berk, M. (2011). Nutraceuticals in the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): a review of mechanistic and clinical evidence. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 35 (4), 887-895.


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a debilitating mental illness which has a significant impact on quality of life. First-line SSRI treatments for OCD typically are of limited benefit to only 40-60% of patients, and are associated with a range of adverse side effects. Current preclinical research investigating nutraceuticals (natural products) for OCD, reveals encouraging novel activity in modulating key pathways suggested to be involved in the pathogenesis of OCD (glutamatergic and serotonergic pathway dysregulation). Emerging clinical evidence also appears to tentatively support certain nutrients and plant-based interventions with known active constituents which modulate these pathways: N-acetlycysteine, myo-inositol, glycine, and milk thistle (Silybum marianum). The serotonin precursor tryptophan is unlikely to be of use in treating OCD while 5-HTP may possibly be a more effective precursor strategy. However, there is currently no clinical evidence to test the efficacy of either of these substances. Currently the balance of clinical evidence does not support the use of St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) in OCD. While clinical research in this area is in its infancy, further research into nutraceuticals is warranted in light of the promising preclinical data regarding their mechanisms of action and their favourable side effect profiles in comparison to current SSRI treatments. It is recommended that future clinical trials of nutraceutical treatments for OCD utilize randomized placebo-controlled study designs and considerably larger sample sizes in order to properly test for efficacy.

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