Category: CAM

No! Saliva tests to measure the levels of Serotonin, estrogen, progesterone, melatonin, testosterone, or DHEA are almost never legitimate, are expensive, and do not provide any clinically meaningful information to health care practitioners.  These tests are usually marketed with various supplements to control imbalances of these hormones; a serious conflict of interest.  Some well-intentioned patients have purchased and completed such tests thinking that it might provide their healthcare provider with “important information.”

Saliva testing is not a reliable method of assessing levels of any hormone except Cortisol (which must be done under very specific conditions and only for certain conditions). There is no physiologic reason to measure most salivary hormone levels and no generally published ranges of normal levels of hormones measured in saliva. Hormones are typically measured in blood, which makes physiologic sense; some hormones and their metabolites can usefully be measured in urine, but are not currently a part of any protocol for evaluation or diagnosis of any mental health condition.  Moreover, even if the test results are technically accurate, I’m aware of no science that links salivary hormone assays to non-optimal levels of hormones or neurotransmitters. Nor, even if the tests were entirely legitimate, is there any evidence that the proposed treatments will “optimize” neurotransmitter or hormone levels.

If you are concerned that you may have a mood disorder such as depression or anxiety, concerned about reasons for insomnia, or concerned that you may be approaching menopause, please contact your doctor and have that discussion with him or her. Depression, Anxiety, Insomnia, and all other psychiatric conditions are diagnosed through a “Psychiatric Diagnostic Interview” based on standardized guidelines as put forth by the American Psychiatric Association in the DSM-IV TR (Diagnostic Statistical Manual, 4th Edition, Text Revision).  While certain blood tests may be useful in evaluating for medical conditions that may play a part in certain mental health conditions, such as thyroid conditions, saliva test are not.  Your resources would be better spent investing in yourself through health eating and exercise; you already have all the “important information” any clinician might need: your story.


Traumatized children living in Kosovo experienced significant reductions in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms when treated with a mind-body program according to a new study published in Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (8/12/08. PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can occur in response to traumatic events. Common symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares or difficulty sleeping, feeling emotionally numb, being easily startled and difficulty concentrating.

The mind-body techniques used in the study were developed by the Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM) and included meditation, biofeedback, breathing techniques, guided imagery and self expression. Eighty-two high school students diagnosed with PTSD were included in the three-month long study. Instructors trained in the CMBM program provided 12 sessions, in small educational settings.

Patients in the mind-body group experienced a significant improvement in PTSD symptoms compared to the control group. The number of children with PTSD symptoms decreased from 100 percent to 18 percent by the end of the study. The techniques reduced stress and symptoms of withdrawal, as well as decreased the frequency of flashbacks and nightmares. The effects were maintained three months after the study.

This mind-body technique is currently being used to treat people in Israel and Gaza who are traumatized by war, as well as those traumatized by Hurricane Katrina in southern Louisiana. It is also used to treat depression in the United States and has been added to a stress reduction program in several U.S. medical schools.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry represents the first randomized controlled trial of any intervention in war-traumatized children.

A small study in Japan (n=13) looked at the autonomic, neuro-immunological and psychological responses to wrapped warm footbaths.   “Warm wrapped footbaths” were associated with an increase in parasympathetic activity and decrease in sympathetic activity as measured by serum cortisol levels and salivary igA levels.  Hmmmm…. so footbaths are relaxing…..  

I actually do recommend bodywork, whether massages or pedicures, to patients to help manage and mitigate the effects of stress.  How much better to get a pedicure than to pop an extra benzo.