Published On: June 27, 2022
Reviewed On: June 27, 2022
Updated On: July 17, 2023
Medications like antipsychotics and therapy for schizophrenia are traditional treatment options for people living with schizophrenia. However, for about one-third of those diagnosed with it, schizophrenia is actually treatment-resistant. There is some good news, though. Several complementary natural ways to help manage symptoms of schizophrenia have been found helpful for many people.
Learn about additional, alternative methods that can help you deal with schizophrenia.
If you’re looking for a treatment for schizophrenia without medication, it’s important to note that prescribed medication is typically recommended. With that said, we’ve outlined how to combat schizophrenia naturally through several therapist-approved complementary methods. Each has proven effective or shown promise in one or more studies.
Please be aware: These holistic methods may not work the same way or be as effective as some more conventional methods of treatment. You should discuss any natural treatment you decide to try with your doctor or healthcare team. Sometimes natural methods can be most effective when coupled with more traditional forms of psychological treatment, like when used in combination with schizophrenia medication and/or talk therapy.
One promising complementary natural treatment for schizophrenia involves the use of vitamin B supplements. Some research suggests that high doses of vitamin B might help to ease symptoms of different types of schizophrenia.
A 2017 study from the University of Manchester (UK), and other research, found that B vitamins might offer hope. The research shows that high doses of vitamins B6, B8, and B12, when taken with other forms of treatment, significantly reduced schizophrenia symptoms more than just using traditional methods alone did.
It’s important to note that this study combined the use of B vitamins with more traditional treatment methods.
“Vitamin supplements, CBD, and a low carb diet can help reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia. If these are used in conjunction with talk therapy and prescribed medications, the results are even better.”
A variety of foods have been found to potentially decrease symptoms of several mental health conditions, including schizophrenia. In particular, an anti-inflammatory diet is believed to be extremely effective and valuable in reducing symptoms of schizophrenia.
This type of diet focuses on adding an abundance of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while reducing consumption of dairy, red meat, and animal fats.
A 2020 study by researchers at the Department of Food and Nutrition, Seoul Women’s University in Korea, found that anti-inflammatory agents have the potential to help improve symptom severity of schizophrenia, while also working to decrease some of the risks that trigger the onset of episodes.
“A healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and vitamin B is recommended to ease the symptoms, but cannot substitute your medication and therapy.”
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is yet another promising treatment for schizophrenia without medication. This procedure requires surgery to implant electrodes within your brain. These electrodes produce electric stimulation to areas in your brain to provide treatment. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers, the treatment targets a specific region in the brain that’s known to be involved in the control of executive functions, learning, behaviors, and emotions. In even more promising news, it’s possible that DBS might work to alleviate symptoms that have otherwise been resistant to treatment.
One more potentially effective schizophrenia natural treatment is cannabidiol (CBD). While the prescription version of CBD is only approved by the FDA for a rare seizure disorder, some physicians have started recommending CBD off-label to help with schizophrenia symptoms (in states where CBD is legal).
Schizophrenia research done in 2011 by doctors at University Medical Centre Utrecht, Department of Psychiatry, The Netherlands, concluded that “high cannabidiol content cannabis was associated with significantly lower degrees of psychotic symptoms providing further support for the antipsychotic potential of cannabidiol.”
While this might offer hope for the use of CBD to treat schizophrenia psychosis, it’s also important to note that cannabis with a high THC content is associated with increased psychotic symptoms in some people. Much more research is needed before we can conclude how the relationship between CBD, THC, and schizophrenia truly works, and whether or not CBD is, in fact, a truly effective antipsychotic drug.
Over time, schizophrenia can cause brain structure to change. In an effect known as oxidative stress, environmental chemicals can damage cells, but some antioxidants — like vitamin E, glutathione, and N-acetyl cysteine — might be helpful in treating symptoms of schizophrenia. These and other antioxidants are known to protect cells, and they also might help speed up response to other treatments and improve early intervention outcomes.
While the evidence isn’t totally clear and more schizophrenia research must be done, preliminary studies do suggest that antioxidants, particularly when used in combination with medication, might be beneficial in treating positive symptoms of schizophrenia.
If you’re wondering how to combat schizophrenia naturally, you might want to consider looking into amino acids like taurine. Science suggests that there’s likely some correlation between levels of certain amino acids in the brain and schizophrenia, but researchers remain unclear about the exact nature of this relationship. Our understanding will likely change in the future as more is learned about how amino acids interact with the brain.
For now, some research shows that people with schizophrenia who take taurine daily have benefited from improved symptoms in depression, psychosis, and occupational and social functioning.
Omega-3 fatty acids are another potential schizophrenia natural treatment. These essential fats, which the body can’t make on its own, are found in foods like salmon, sardines, and mackerel.
A 2020 study by researchers at I-Shou University in Taiwan found that Omega-3 fatty acid supplements can be effective at reducing the conversion rate to psychosis in adolescents with schizophrenia. The study also shows that Omega-3s might reduce the severity and improve positive symptoms and global functions in adolescents who have an ultra-high risk for psychosis.
Melatonin shows promise as a potentially effective treatment for schizophrenia. It’s a naturally occurring hormone that, among other things, helps to regulate sleep patterns. While sleep disturbances aren’t technically part of the criteria for a schizophrenia diagnosis, they are a consistently reported symptom in people diagnosed with the condition.
Researchers have found in some studies that the use of melatonin on a short-term basis might be effective for some people who experience sleep disturbance-related schizophrenia.
“People displaying schizophrenia symptoms must seek treatment as soon as they start experiencing them; early detection can reduce the severity. The sooner you look for help, the better results you may have in reducing symptoms. Delaying treatment increases your risk of brain volume loss.”
According to a study by Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina, untreated schizophrenia, or untimely psychological treatment for schizophrenia can result in a higher risk of adverse outcomes and brain volume loss. For most people with schizophrenia, the best schizophrenia treatment option combines both clinical and natural treatments.
When seeking clinical treatments, online therapy can help, and that’s where Talkspace comes in. Talkspace allows you to connect with a licensed therapist from the palm of your hand, and experience the most convenient, affordable way to improve your mental health.
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Cynthia Catchings is a trilingual licensed clinical social worker-supervisor, mental health consultant, professor, and trainer for federal law enforcement agencies. Cynthia has over 15 years of experience in the mental health profession. She is passionate about women’s mental health, life transitions, and stress management. Her clinical work, advocacy, and volunteer service have focused on working with domestic violence survivors and conducting mental health research in over 30 countries.