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Human Neurotransmitters in Plants

The consumption of certain fruits is suggested as a potential treatment for depression given the presence of psychoactive neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin in many plant foods.

August 1, 2012 |
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Acknowledgements

Image thanks to GerryShaw via Wikimedia Commons.

Transcript

Last year a strange letter was published in the Journal of neuropsychiatry and clinical neuroscience suggesting fruit as a treatment for depression. Starts out talking about how bad the disease is, how abnormally low levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin in the brain may be responsible, how we now have several classes of drugs such as SSRIs—Prozac--that may work by boosting serotonin levels, but then of course notes how these medications bring with them some serious problems side effects, etc. And so a new therapeutic approach is needed.

How about using high-content sources of serotonin to provide our body with these substances, you know, like, plantains, pineapples, bananas, kiwis, plums, and tomatoes. What?! Since when do plants have animal neurotransmitters? Since forever, I was surprised to learn.

Animal neurotransmitter substances in plants. They’ve got all the stuff we have. There’s adrenaline in plants, there’s dopamine, serotonin, melatonin—in fact there was recent study trying to figure out which varieties of tomatoes and strawberries had the most. And there’s actually enough in a serving to enhance levels in our blood stream.

Humans use serotonin as a neurotransmitters, plants use serotonin is in a protective role, adaptation, flowering, establishing it’s shape, In fact the same drugs that we use to affect our psychology can affect a plants biology. This is your plant (St. Johns Wort). This is your plant on, Prozc, , Ritalin, , amphetamines.

OK, so bioactive human neurotransmitters in plants, but what’s in it for us? Can fruit really be used to treat depression?

(we will find out in tomorrow’s video-of-the-day)

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

This is the first of a four-part video series on boosting the levels in the brain, the so-called "happiness hormone." That's what drugs like Prozac do, but are there more natural ways without so many side effects? Tomorrow's video-of-the-day The Wrong Way to Boost Serotonin will talk about tryptophan supplements. Then A Better Way to Boost Serotonin dispels the common myth about tryptophan and turkey and finally The Best Way to Boost Serotonindiscusses a strategy to maximize the transport of the serotonin precursor across the blood-brain barrier. This whole saga reminds me of the Aspirin Levels in Plant Foods story, and of Power Plants in general. Please check out my other videos on Improving Mood Through Diet, as well as my full-length Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death presentation (in which this video content is mentioned in the suicide section). If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free byclicking here. And welcome to volume 10!

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: How To Boost Serotonin NaturallySaffron vs. Prozac for Depression, and How Probiotics Affect Mental Health

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    This is the first of a four-part video series on boosting the levels in the brain, the so-called “happiness hormone.” That’s what drugs like Prozac do, but are there more natural ways without so many side effects? Tomorrow’s video-of-the-day The Wrong Way to Boost Serotonin will talk about tryptophan supplements. Then A Better Way to Boost Serotonin dispels the common myth about tryptophan and turkey and finally The Best Way to Boost Serotonin discusses a strategy to maximize the transport of the serotonin precursor across the blood-brain barrier. This whole saga reminds me of the Aspirin Levels in Plant Foods story, and of Power Plants in general. Please check out my other videos on Improving Mood Through Diet, as well as my full-length Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death presentation (in which this video content is mentioned in the suicide section). If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here. And welcome to volume 10!

    • SJ M.D.

      Fantastic!

      Pineapple vs Prozac

      Of course the concern is if these molecules are broken down in the GI-tract and if they can penetrate the blood-brain barrier.

      Wouldn`t be surprised if nature has a solution for that.

      Michael – this site is very educational!

      • HemoDynamic, M.D.

        Welcome back to the Team!
        :-)))

    • Koritsa

      I believe the paper also mentioned fenugreek along with those fruits. Do you suppose it would be good to link this video to the fenugreek heading?

  • Jo

    Yay! The first of the new DVD! Thank you for making these videos free for us for now. I purchased your very first DVD and can’t wait until I’m able to purchase your entire set.

    I wonder if you realize how many people you’ve helped by presenting science in easy to understand videos. You’ve literally changed my and my boyfriend’s — who was diagnosed with bladder cancer — lives!

    Thank you again!

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    Everyday, comon’ EVERYDAY I am blown away at what you come up with.  I don’t have the time to be the Hunter Gatherer for this information and research, and again I have to say I truly appreciate the time and effort you put forth into this labor of love.  Just fantastic.

    Just look at the powerful impact you are having on the world. Quote from Jo, “You’ve literally changed my and my boyfriend’s — who was diagnosed with bladder cancer — lives!”

    Powerful!  Just like the plants you represent!
    ;-}

    • http://GreenMommyBlog.com/ Kristen Suzanne

      I agree! :)

  • http://poxacuatl.wordpress.com/ Strix

    Awwww…so you’re a tease, Dr.Greger?  :^)

    I remember reading that cherries — I think sour — are good for seratonin, amongst other benefits.
    Mmmm…chocolate cherry vegan icecream!

    Teases wheezus…true to form, I’m sure your teases pleases

    Till tomorrow! :D

  • http://twitter.com/garyyuen गरिष्ठ

    Interesting. Though if the maximum lifespan is somewhere between 120-140, or even 200+ as some believe, why not spend more time figuring out how, instead of addressing the sick.

    • SJ M.D.

      Calorie Restriction will probably extend your life with several years 

  • AlexanderBerenyi

    Awesome.

  • LKSkinner

    Oh no! Another cliffhanger! 
    Seriously, this is fascinating information. And will irritate the manufacturers of Prozac to no end. 
    Imagine, feeling down? Have a pineapple-banana smoothie made with soymilk and slurp your depression away. 
    And no nasty side effects either like what comes with Prozac and the other SSRIs.

  • Cpgraetti

    I’m really excited about this thread!  I’m hoping to get off the SSRI I’ve been on for 15 years and thereby lose the 30 lbs that came with it!  Looking forward to the next couple of videos on this!  Thanks Doc.

    • Easter Cat

      You’ll probably have to wean yourself off the drugs, but I agree it’ll be better than a lifetime of pill popping.

    • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

      I hope your journey to better health and less drugs has been successful. You might be interested in reading Dr. Breggin’s book, Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal. It is a detailed handbook on the challenges of getting off psychiatric drugs including SSRI’s. He also recommends an approach that has seemed to work for many of his patients. I believe it should be read by anyone who prescribes these drugs or treats patients who are on these drugs.

  • Cindykoczy

    Dr.Gregor,
    Plain and simple!
    YOU ROCK !You are a hero of mine.Thank You for dedicating your life to the truth.
    Your followers love you.<3
    Cindy from Portland.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marius.aglen Marius Aglen

    This is confusing, I searched on “Depression” and I get up a list of video’s. I’m watching them in order, and in every video there’s just another cliffhanger, and the next video doesn’t follow the last one.

  • Emily

    Watch the FDA try to sanction bananas, lol!

  • bruxe

    I realize testosterone is not a neurotransmitter, that I know of, but many people have or think they have a lack of testosterone. Are there similar chemicals in plants that can boost human testosterone levels in males?