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Are OPCs an option for treating depression without medication?

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Are oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) a natural option for treating depression without medication?

In psychiatric issues such as depression, the symptoms treated by the effects of oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) include inflammation, oxidative stress, and neurodegeneration. They improve blood flow and nutrient availability to cells and increase the health of the blood-brain barrier. This allows less prohibitive molecules to cross the barrier and cause an immune response that results in inflammatory cytokines. They also modulate the immune response and improve neurotransmitter balance. OPCs can be a good option for treating depression without medication.

Introduction

This blog post is one in a series about antioxidants that may be helpful for depression and includes Curcumin, Quercetin, and OPCs.

Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) are a mix of naturally occurring antioxidant molecules, also known and searched for under the names proanthocyanidins, procyanidins, proanthocyanidolic oligomers (PCO), and oligomeric procyandins.

Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) are derived from grape seeds or French maritime pine tree bark. They can also be found in red wine, green tea, Ginko Biloba, pomegranates, blueberries, and peanut skins. But please, if you are depressed, do not drink a lot of red wine and down a bunch of pomegranate juice trying to get more OPCs to reduce brain inflammation. The alcohol content in the wine and the blood sugar spike from the pomegranate juice will create much more inflammation. There are better ways to get your OPCs.

In psychiatric issues such as depression, the symptoms treated by the effects of OPCs include inflammation, oxidative stress, and neurodegeneration. In this blog post, you will learn about how OPCs can help you treat depression without medication. Or, if you are already on medication, they may be helpful in reducing your symptoms.

How do OPCs work to reduce neuroinflammation and depression?

The effects of oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) include protection of neurons and the promotion of their survival when under oxidative stress. They also are consistently found to improve memory and cognitive function. But what are the mechanisms by which OPCs can work to help alleviate depressive symptoms – and specifically, the brain (neuro) inflammation that we see as such a prominent factor? And how could they possibly be useful in treating depression without medication?

One creator of brain inflammation is a leaky blood-brain barrier. Substances that are supposed to be stopped and not allowed to enter the brain actually do when this barrier is not in a healthy state. When stimuli get through this barrier, it activates the immune system in the brain and creates inflammatory cytokines. Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) are helpful in allowing the blood-brain barrier to keep its integrity and allow it to better protect the brain from inflammatory assaults like environmental toxins, infections, and immune-activating molecules like food allergens. This helps to reduce future assaults on the brain and decreases inflammation.

Your blood-brain barrier health directly affects your neurotransmitter balance. One example is tryptophan. If you are depressed, you need tryptophan to readily be transported into your brain so that you can make serotonin. If your blood-brain barrier is dysfunctional, you have reduced ability to transport tryptophan where it needs to be. This will cause issues with mood.

Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) can cross the blood-brain barrier, provide protection to an already inflamed brain, and stop up the holes in a leaky blood-brain barrier to keep that stuff from going where it doesn’t belong in the first place.

Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) also moderate the production and release of activating molecules from mast cells in the immune system. If any of your neuroinflammation is coming from hypersensitive immune system responses, as we see in allergies, OPCs may help reduce inflammation from this angle as well.

They also help keep endogenous (made by your own body) anti-inflammatories like glutathione nicely balanced. This also reduces oxidative stress load and reduce inflammation.

So you can see all the mechanisms of intervention that make oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) a very valid supplement to treat the underlying mechanisms of pathology happening in depression. It deserves consideration as an option for treating depression without medication.

How do I use OPCs to relieve the neuroinflammation that is causing my depression?

Take a combination of oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) if you are trying to treat a mental illness like depression. You are looking for 100 to 200 mg total combination per day, 1x to 2x per day.

For Curcumasorb Mind specifically, the dose is 1x per day, unless you are dealing with significant cognitive decline – then, 2x a day is used. You can determine your dosage better with this information. If you have a lot of cognitive symptoms that are a part of your depression, you may do best with 2x a day for this specific supplement.

For children, you would determine the dosage based on weight, calculating their weight in KG (not lbs; use an online calculator). You would then generally provide 1mg of an OPC combination per kg of body weight.

What are the best OPCs to take?

I highly recommend CurcumaSorb Mind from Pure Encapsulations because it has been used for decades in functional psychiatry practice with excellent results. It contains green tea extract, pine extract, and proprietary formulations of curcumin and other polyphenols like blueberry and grape extract. If you cannot find it available on Amazon (affiliate link), you can buy directly from the Pure Encapsulations website (not an affiliate link).

CurcumaSorb Mind at Pure Encapsulations

For some people, Curcumasorb Mind may be prohibitively expensive. If that is the case, I would recommend a less expensive but still third-party-tested option. Swanson Grape Seed, Green Tea & Pine Bark Complex (affiliate link) provides 125 mg each of grape seed, pine bark, and green tea.

Will OPCs cure my depression?

Let me be perfectly clear and upfront with you. NOTHING reduces neuroinflammation like a ketogenic diet.

Read what I wrote there. I did not say a low carbohydrate diet, which can produce very inconsistent levels of actual ketones. Doing a ketogenic diet for weight loss alone can be insufficient for the treatment of mental illness or neurological disorders. Sometimes, low carb in general does the trick, and sometimes, it does not. Some people need a stronger intervention, such as what happens when there is a sufficient and consistent supply of ketones available.

A ketogenic diet creates ketones that act as signaling bodies that turn down inflammation by helping turn genes off and on, helping to heal the gut, and does a host of other things that really should be and need to be happening if you are depressed. There is no supplement you are going to take that sustainably does for you what a ketogenic diet can do for your neuroinflammation and depression.

That said, oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) can be very helpful. And they also have some signaling properties. And if you have depression, they may really help your symptoms, particularly if you are someone who has decided they will not be doing the ketogenic diet. They can offer some real assistance with neuroinflammation. Will OPCs still work if you are eating a terrible diet, are nutrient deficient, and do not go to therapy?

Probably not.

But medication will not work well to treat your depression with those conditions either. Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) can be a good option for treating depression without medication. Even if they do not cure your depression, they will likely significantly reduce neuroinflammation if you are also doing other things to take good care of yourself. And as an added bonus, French maritime pine bark can help treat the sexual side effects of antidepressant medications. So you may want to add them to your treatment regimen regardless.

But give them a try. Because neuroinflammation is a huge contributing factor to your depression. And I want you to know all the ways you can feel better!

Conclusion

As always, this blog is informational and not medical advice.

Be sure to check out these articles on the role of neuroinflammation in depression and what you can do about it!

If you want to learn more about the underlying mechanisms that cause depression in more detail, you will enjoy my posts on the topic.

If you currently have a prescriber that has no idea why you are bringing any of these natural treatments up, you may need to find a prescriber that practices functional psychiatry willing to talk about different options. I am not a prescriber. But I am a mental health counselor who practices principles of functional and nutritional psychiatry, so feel free to contact me if you would like help on your healing journey. You can learn more about me and my telehealth and teleconsultation work with clients here.

Like what you are reading on the blog? Want to learn about upcoming webinars, courses, and even offers around support and working with me towards your wellness goals? Sign up!

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References

Fine, A. M. (2000). Oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes: History, structure, and phytopharmaceutical applications. Alternative Medicine Review: A Journal of Clinical Therapeutic, 5(2), 144–151.

Full article: Alternative medicine and herbal remedies in the treatment of erectile dysfunction: A systematic review. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2022, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/2090598X.2021.1926753

Mei, L., Mochizuki, M., & Hasegawa, N. (2014). Pycnogenol Ameliorates Depression-Like Behavior in Repeated Corticosterone-Induced Depression Mice Model. BioMed Research International, 2014, e942927. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/942927

Smetanka, A., Stara, V., Farsky, I., Tonhajzerova, I., & Ondrejka, I. (2019). Pycnogenol supplementation as an adjunct treatment for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction. Physiology International, 106(1), 59–69. https://doi.org/10.1556/2060.106.2019.02

The Role of Phytochemicals in the Treatment of Depression. (n.d.). Great Plains Laboratory. Retrieved January 25, 2022, from https://www.greatplainslaboratory.com/webinars/2016/11/7/the-role-of-phytochemicals-in-the-treatment-of-depression

Trebatická, J., & Ďuračková, Z. (2015). Psychiatric Disorders and Polyphenols: Can They Be Helpful in Therapy? Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2015, e248529. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/248529

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