Saturday, August 15, 2009

Reflection: Listening to Chamomile

I never did read Listening to Prozac, but I have been listening to a glass of iced chamomile tea...

I like chamomile. It's a mood brightener, and it seems to be good at relaxing muscles. I can't drink it near bedtime, though, or it makes me hyper.

Am I making that up? I wasn't sure myself, so I asked Google. Google suggested I had a legitimate point -- some people find chamomile energizes them up at least briefly before it brings them back down.

Chamomile increases a brain chemical called glycine, which is mostly inhibitory but sometimes excitatory. (And as for how scientists knew that... they ran an experiment where people drank five cups a day of chamomile, and donated their bodily fluids regularly to science. Even a week or two after they finished the chamomile regime, they were still able to produce glycine-enriched pee.)

It's hard, sometimes, to listen to what one's brain really says, and not what it must say -- I mean, it's hard not to listen to what everybody knows. For years, I said caffeine didn't affect me, because I could drink it and go right off to sleep. But sometimes I'd go decaf, anyway, because of things I read. I mean, everybody knows caffeine is harmful to the likes of me. But then I started drinking a great beverage mix that seemed somewhat calming. What does this Super C energy drink have in it? I wondered. Apparently it has quite a bit of caffeine, among other things.

It turns out that many people have been surprised to realize that caffeine was calming them down -- and that roughly half of them have written about it on the internet. Some people say atypical reactions to caffeine are a trait marker for ADHD. I don't have ADHD -- but I also don't have brain chemistry remotely typical of... well, of some of the labels I've picked up over the years.

And isn't that the case for a lot of people?