Niacin also known as Nicotinic acid is one of the compulsory nutrient needed by the body. When Niacin combines with Nicotinamide, Vitamin B3 complex, a water soluble vitamin is formed. The human body cannot manufacture this vitamin so it needs to be gotten through the foods we eat and through supplement. It is a nutrient that everybody needs each day in different amount depending on the health circumstance. It is not a drug; it is safe and does not require a prescription but it is safer to speak to a doctor before taking it especially if you are on medication.
Niacin has many health benefits like helping the body to convert carbohydrates, fats and proteins into the form of energy that the body can use; it elevates high density lipoproteins which is good for the body and at the same time lowers low density lipoproteins, very low density lipoproteins and triacylglycerides which are bad for the body. It helps in improving blood circulation by dilating blood vessels. It is needed in the production of hormone, it reduces inflammation in the body, and it helps to maintain and repair DNA. But in this article we will be looking at the role that niacin plays in the treatment of anxiety and depression.
Anxiety and depression is a mental illness that affects millions of people around the world and it is more common in women than men, it is a feeling of unease, worry, fear and hopelessness. Some of the signs of anxiety and depression are lack of concentration, insomnia, loss of appetite, quick to get angry or irritable, losing joy or interest in the things you like doing, constantly in worry and having negative thoughts, feeling tense, stomach aches and always using the toilets. Presently, there are no cure/treatment for anxiety and depression, only few medications that give adverse side effects which make people to look for natural alternatives of which niacin or Vitamin B3 is one.
Niacin has the ability to greatly reduce general anxiety and chronic depression. It even helps people with these ailments to relax naturally and sleep well at night. Niacin became popular as a cure for depression in the year 1960. Bill Wilson, the founder of the Alcoholics anonymous or the AA group, was a former alcoholic suffering terribly from anxiety and depression, he struggled with chronic depression much of his life till he was introduced to two psychiatrists, Dr. Humphrey Osmond and Dr. Abram Hofer in the late fifties, he joined them in a study using niacin to cure depression because they told him of a promising new treatment/cure for alcoholics and schizophrenics made up of Vitamin B3 or niacin, he was fascinated and interested since he was suffering from depression and joined them.
Bill Wilson started ingesting high doses of niacin, three grams daily and in just 14 DAYS; his lifelong battle with chronic depression and anxiety lifted. He conducted his first clinical trial and discovered that 20 people were cured out of 30 just by ingesting high doses of Niacin. This really amazed Wilson that he spent the last eleven years of his life spreading the word about vitamin B3 or niacin and its potency in fighting depression, in 1967-1968 he published a pamphlet titled “the vitamin B therapy”, he went on to publish several articles about it and wrote his story and experiences with depression and niacin in a book he titled “pass it on”.
Though the mechanism of how niacin treats or cure depression still remains a mystery to scientists, some studies have proved that a deficiency of Vitamin B3 leads to depression, anxiety and insomnia, if left untreated it can lead to dementia and pellagra. Niacin helps anxiety and depression by relieving the symptoms, it brightens mood, makes the body to be mentally alert, and because the body can’t store niacin, you need to get it every day through the food you eat. You can get good quantity of niacin by eating lots of almonds and seeds, wheat and its products, green leafy vegetables, beans, rice bran, turnips, carrots, lean red meat, liver, kidney, celery, pork, prawns and supplements.
The news about the potency of niacin in fighting depression went low for some times and many people did not know about it. Why did the niacin treatment for depression go silent? What killed it? Many factors could be responsible like;
- The niacin flush (the side effect)
- Fears about the practice of orthomolecular psychiatry (healing with high doses of vitamin or nutrients). Even till today, many are afraid of taking high doses of a vitamin because of fear of side effect, and then during the days of Bill Wilson it was rumored that high doses of niacin causes liver problems but Dr. Hoffer boosted that he took more niacin than anyone on the planet and he was healthy till he died at the age of 91. He refuted all claims that niacin was responsible for liver problem and even said it increased lifespan. And he proved his point before he died, he met a Canadian woman named Mary Maclsaac who had chronic depression, she took very high doses of Vitamin B3 for 42 years, she did not get any liver complications, in fact she did cross country skiing at the age of 110 and died at the age of 112.
We will take a look at the flushing side effect of niacin.
The Side Effect of Flushing
When you take niacin, it dilates the blood vessels, and creates “niacin flush” which is a warm sensation that indicates a temporary saturation of niacin. When you feel this flushing sensation, that means that you have taken enough niacin. To control this flushing sensation, start by taking very small amounts of niacin and gradually increase the quantity until you have a slight flush which should end in about ten minutes and pinkness around the cheeks, ears, neck forearms and other parts of the body, it can also be accompanied by itching or a burning sensation and if you take too much niacin, the flush will last longer and it will be more pronounced. Large doses of niacin on an empty stomach will cause intense flushing.
The niacin flush can be uncomfortable but it is completely harmless. It is a common reaction that happens when capillaries expand, increasing blood flow to the skin surface and removing toxins from the body. The flushing is also a sign that your body is being cleansed, your body is going through a minor detox as the capillaries are wider. The symptoms do go away after an hour if the dose is high and over long use, people do develop tolerance to the flushing. Drinking plenty water will help to reduce the sensation of the flush and to get rid of the toxins faster.
22 people that have used niacin to cure depression were asked about it and they all had good things to say about it, it helped from mild to chronic depression, even to suicidal cases. In the rating of over 10, niacin was rated 9.8. They also took it in high doses and over time they overcame the flushing sensation.
Katty had this to say of niacin “I had severe depression on and off past few years, this time around it was unbearable and I was literally falling apart mentally; I had anxiety, insomnia, sadness, torment for a year. I refuse to take meds and decided to try niacin. I started on 300mg (severe flush like sunburn and itchy skin) then calmness. I was upping the dosage each time and flushes eased eventually. Now (two week later), I take 1500 mg 2-3 times a day and the flush is slight. Sadness is gone and I feel much more with it. It seems to be blocking unwanted thoughts, hands down- a true depression cure”.
Another person said “I’ve been the depressive type most of life, and I’ve also had problems with alcohol. I decided to give niacin a try and within a few hours ago of the first dose I felt 10 times better. I am now on day 5 and slowly upping my dose. I feel better each day and don’t feel the sadness that was so paralyzing for so long. I really enjoy the niacin flush feeling”.
Another person said “my step daughter was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression 2 years ago. She couldn’t go to school; she was suicidal and completely dysfunctional. She has been on Zoloft since then. We decided with diet and exercise to spend 6 months weaning her off the pills which was hard. I read about niacin, and we came off Zoloft and immediately into this. 3 pills a day which would make 1500mg. the flushing subsided very fast for her. On day 3, she went for a run voluntarily, on day 4, she said that she would join soccer, 3 weeks in, she was better than ever before. Niacin works, she said it lifted the fog”.
Niacin should always be taken immediately after eating. The usual dose range is 3,000-9,000 mg daily divided into three. Occasionally, some people may need more. To control the flush, you can start with 25 mg 3 times a day after each meal. The next day, try 50 mg at breakfast, 25 mg at lunch and 25 mg at dinner. The next day, you take 50 mg 3 times after each meal. You keep increasing the dosage by 25 mg per day until your first flush occurs. If you flush early, you don’t need much niacin, but if you flush at a high dosage, that means your body needs and is using the vitamin. The dosage should not reach your upper limit, it should be brought down immediately. Your upper limit is the limit that causes nausea. And if it is not reduced, it will lead to vomiting.