Understanding Anxiety and Its Link to the Gut Microbiome

Q: What is anxiety and how does it affect individuals?

A: Anxiety is a common mental health condition characterized by feelings of worry, fear, or unease that can range from mild to severe and interfere with daily activities. It can manifest as physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, and difficulty concentrating.

Q: What factors contribute to the development of anxiety?

A: Anxiety can be influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life experiences such as trauma or stress. Additionally, emerging research suggests a potential link between anxiety and the gut microbiome.

Q: What is the gut microbiome?

A: The gut microbiome refers to the community of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, that inhabit the digestive tract. These microbes play a crucial role in digestion, immune function, and overall health.

Q: How does the gut microbiome influence anxiety?

A: Studies have shown that there is a bidirectional communication system, known as the gut-brain axis, between the gut and the brain. This communication occurs through neural, hormonal, and immunological pathways. Disruptions in the gut microbiome can lead to dysregulation of this axis, potentially contributing to the development or exacerbation of anxiety.

Q: What evidence supports the link between the gut microbiome and anxiety?

A: Research in both animals and humans has provided compelling evidence of this connection. For example, studies in mice have demonstrated that alterations in the gut microbiome can influence behavior related to anxiety and stress. In humans, preliminary studies have found differences in the gut microbiome composition of individuals with anxiety disorders compared to those without.

Q: How can we support a healthy gut microbiome to potentially reduce anxiety?

A: Maintaining a diverse and balanced diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and fermented foods can promote a healthy gut microbiome. Additionally, probiotics and prebiotics may help support beneficial gut bacteria. Managing stress, getting regular exercise, and prioritizing sleep are also important for gut health and overall well-being.

Q: Can addressing gut health alleviate symptoms of anxiety?

A: While more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between the gut microbiome and anxiety, preliminary studies suggest that improving gut health through dietary and lifestyle interventions may have a positive impact on anxiety symptoms for some individuals. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized recommendations and treatment options.


  1. Cryan, J. F., & Dinan, T. G. (2012). Mind-altering microorganisms: the impact of the gut microbiota on brain and behavior. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 13(10), 701-712.
  2. Kelly, J. R., Borre, Y., O’ Brien, C., Patterson, E., El Aidy, S., Deane, J., … & Dinan, T. G. (2016). Transferring the blues: depression-associated gut microbiota induces neurobehavioural changes in the rat. Journal of psychiatric research, 82, 109-118.
  3. Foster, J. A., & Neufeld, K. A. (2013). Gut-brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. Trends in neurosciences, 36(5), 305-312.
  4. Sarkar, A., Lehto, S. M., Harty, S., Dinan, T. G., Cryan, J. F., & Burnet, P. W. (2016). Psychobiotics and the manipulation of bacteria–gut–brain signals. Trends in neurosciences, 39(11), 763-781.

Understanding Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) and Alternative Options for Skincare

Eczema, commonly referred to as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide. This Q&A guide aims to provide comprehensive information about eczema in lay language, covering its causes, symptoms, treatment options, and lifestyle tips. The answers are based on scientific research, and three reputable articles have been referenced for accuracy.

Q: What is eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)?
A: Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition characterized by red, itchy, and inflamed patches on the skin. It often starts in infancy or childhood but can persist into adulthood. While the exact cause is not fully understood, it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors that lead to hypersensitive skin.

Q: What are the common symptoms of eczema?
A: Common symptoms of eczema include itching, redness, dry skin, and the formation of small, fluid-filled blisters. These symptoms can vary in intensity and may come and go over time. In severe cases, the skin may become thickened or scaly or become raw and infected with bacteria on the skin leading to honey-colored crusting on top.

Q: Are there triggers that worsen eczema symptoms?
A: Yes, certain triggers can exacerbate eczema symptoms. These may include allergens like pollen, pet dander, or dust mites. Other triggers can be irritants like soaps, detergents, or rough fabrics. Stress, extreme temperatures, and certain foods can also play a role in flare-ups.

Q: Is Eczema Contagious?
A: Eczema is not contagious. It is a non-communicable skin condition, meaning it cannot be spread from person to person through direct contact.

Q: Can eczema be cured?
A: While there is no known cure for eczema, it can be effectively managed with the right treatment plan. This usually involves a combination of moisturizers, topical corticosteroids, and in some cases, oral or injectable medications. Avoiding triggers and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also help in managing symptoms.

Q: Are there alternative options to managing eczema symptoms?
A: There are natural and alternative medicines that some people use to manage eczema. Understanding eczema (atopic dermatitis) is essential for those affected by it and their caregivers. By recognizing triggers and implementing proper skincare routines, individuals can effectively manage their condition. While there is no cure, ongoing research offers hope for improved treatments and therapies in the future.

Remember to consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice and treatment options.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment


  1. Boguniewicz, M., & Leung, D. Y. (2011). Recent insights into atopic dermatitis and implications for management of infectious complications. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 127(4), 833-844.
  2. Bieber, T. (2008). Atopic dermatitis. New England Journal of Medicine, 358(14), 1483-1494.
  3. Nutten, S. (2015). Atopic dermatitis: global epidemiology and risk factors. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 66(Suppl. 1), 8-16.

Skullcap: An Herbalists Favorite Anxiety Support – Exploring Citizen Research with People Science, Land of Verse & HerbPharm

By Land of Verse Clinical Herbalist Interns, Christine Mineart and Lia Aspen

1) What is Skullcap?
Skullcap, or Scutellaria lateriflora, is a prized plant in the herb community that focuses specifically on the nervous system. In the Lamiaceae, or Mint, family, Skullcap bears a square stem, opposite leaves, and a gorgeous cluster of small purple-blue flowers with qualities that help to calm an overstimulated system. Skullcap was even once labeled “Mad Dog Weed” referring to its historical use for rabies. In fact, this popularized the application for such condition around the 19th century in Westchester, New York. This plant is a profound remedy for nervous system dysregulation, capturing and soothing the hearts of many who work with it.

2) How is it used by herbalists to reduce anxiety?
Skullcap has a long lineage of traditional use and science is just catching up. Indigenous people, such as the Cherokee, and later Eclectic physicians, employed Skullcap as a nervine (herbalist term for an herb that supports the nervous system). This plant is used in modern times for the same purpose. Skullcap excels at pacifying an overactive mind, seemingly “putting a cap” on thoughts that just won’t stop coming. Think of it as a specific to an overthinker. In conjunction with calming the nerves, Skullcap acts as a trophorestorative, gently repairing the system overtime.

Additionally, skullcap acts as a smooth muscle relaxant, explaining some of its early use for menstrual cramping, and current usage for tension. This plant can be employed when injury has occurred and there is both physical pain associated as well as secondary trauma to the nervous system. Some use also suggests support in withdrawal from nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol, and may be combined with herbs like Milky Oat Tops, Rose, and Holy Basil for this purpose.

One of the most captivating things about Skullcap is that, to our understanding, it stimulates gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a neurotransmitter that calms the nerves. When someone is not making enough GABA, or their body is having an issue receiving the neurotransmitter, Skullcap may help fill the gap.

Skullcap is made most commonly into a tea, tincture (alcohol extract), and glycerite (glycerin extract); it is taken by itself or combined with other plants.

3) Current research – only 2 clinical studies done!
There are only two clinical studies published on Skullcap, and both aimed to observe the anxiety-reducing effects of freeze-dried Skullcap capsules. While both studies did observe some decreases in anxiety in study participants, due to challenges in study design no significant results could be reported [1,2]. It’s been a decade since these studies were published, and Skullcap continues to be used by clinical herbalists as one of the top remedies for anxiety. In practice, clinical herbalists tend towards alcohol tinctures, teas, and glycerites when suggesting Skullcap to clients for anxiety support, and there are no standardized studies on these medicinal preparations to date. Conducting large-scale clinical studies is resource intensive, and studies often investigate preparations of herbal medicine that deviate from real-world applied herbalism protocols. This has led to a large gap in the body of published research, with many integrative health practitioners interested in utilizing potent herbal medicines, but seeking rigorous evidence to support their practice.

4) Verse is now collaborating with People Science to conduct the first study to look at HerbPharm Skullcap glycerite used as an anxiolytic.
For the very first time, Verse is embarking on a groundbreaking research project in collaboration with People Science that will revolutionize the way we study herbal medicine. Our collaboration is centered around conducting the first-ever standardized approach of an herbal product. This approach ensures testing, accurate data collection, and credible results. As we dive into uncharted territories, we aim to set a new precedent for the future of herbal research. Together, we are set to conduct a standardized study, and the spotlight is on Skullcap glycerite from Land of Verse’s partners, HerbPharm. This partnership beautifully merges the centuries-old wisdom of herbal medicine with cutting-edge technology and research methodologies. We believe that by combining ancient knowledge with modern tools, we have the potential to unveil new dimensions of healing.

With our combined dedication to knowledge, discovery, and holistic well-being, we look forward to reshaping the landscape of herbal medicine research. Stay tuned for updates, insights, and a glimpse into the extraordinary partnership that is setting a new standard in the field. Here’s to the union of tradition and innovation – a partnership that’s poised to make history in the realm of herbal medicine.


  1. Brock C, Whitehouse J, Tewfik I, Towell T. American Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora): a randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study of its effects on mood in healthy volunteers. Phytother Res. 2014 May;28(5):692-8. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5044. Epub 2013 Jul 22. PMID: 23878109
  2. Wolfson P, Hoffmann DL. An investigation into the efficacy of Scutellaria lateriflora in healthy volunteers. Altern Ther Health Med. 2003 Mar-Apr;9(2):74-8. PMID: 12652886

Exploring THCV Cannabis Strains for Focus, Energy, and Motivation

THCV, known as tetrahydrocannabivarin, is a lesser-known cannabinoid found in certain cultivars of cannabis. With unique properties and potential benefits, THCV has garnered attention among cannabis enthusiasts and researchers alike for their potential to enhance focus, provide an energy boost, and promote motivation. 

In this Q&A, we will explore what THCV is, its effects, potential benefits, and more.

Q: What is THCV?

A: THCV is a naturally occurring cannabinoid found in cannabis plants. It is structurally similar to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, but it has distinct properties which contribute to different effects.

Q: What are the effects of THCV?

A: THCV has been reported to have different effects compared to THC. While research is ongoing, anecdotal evidence suggests that THCV may have stimulating and energizing properties, potentially promoting focus and clarity. It may also have a shorter duration of psychoactive effects compared to THC.

Q: Can you explain the potential benefits of THCV?

A: The potential benefits of THCV are still being explored, and more research is needed. However, some studies and anecdotal reports suggest that THCV may have several potential therapeutic applications. These include appetite suppression, weight management, potential anti-inflammatory effects, and even potential anti-epileptic properties.

Q: What is the potential impact of THCV on focus, energy, and motivation?

A: Preliminary studies suggest that THCV may have stimulating properties, enhancing focus, and mental clarity. Some users report increased energy levels and improved motivation after consuming THCV-rich strains. However, individual experiences may vary, and it is important to note that scientific research on THCV is still emerging.

Q: Are there potential medical applications for THCV? 

A:  Early research shows many health and wellness applications for THCV.  Like THC and other cannabinoids, THCV also has anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and antioxidant properties, including positive outcomes for diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases, to appetite, and anti-anxiety. While promising, much more research and observational studies need to be done.

Q: Are THCV cultivars different from regular cannabis cultivars?

A: Yes, THCV cultivars are cannabis cultivars that naturally contain higher levels of THCV compared to typical cultivars. It’s important to note that most cannabis cultivars do not contain significant amounts of THCV, and it may require specific breeding or genetic factors to develop strains with higher THCV content.

Q: Can THCV get you high?

A: THCV may have psychoactive properties, but its effects can differ from those of THC. THCV is not intoxicating or impairing. While some individuals may experience an uplifting sensation, others report a clearer-headed (no cognitive impairment) and more focused experience with THCV than THC alone. It’s important to note that the effects of THCV can vary between individuals, more research is needed to fully understand its effectiveness, dosage, and potential side effects.

Q: How much THCV should I take?

A: The appropriate dosage of THCV can vary depending on various factors such as individual tolerance, desired effects, and the specific product being used. It is recommended to start with a low dose and gradually increase if needed. Consulting with a healthcare professional or a medical cannabis specialist can provide personalized guidance.

Q: Where can I buy THCV products? 

A: THCV-dominant cannabis products can be found at certain dispensaries or online platforms that specialize in cannabis products. However, it’s important to note that the availability of THCV-dominant cultivars can vary depending on your location and local regulations. Researching and contacting local dispensaries or reputable online retailers can help you find THCV products.

Q: Is THCV legal?

A: The legal status of THCV varies from country to country and depends on local cannabis regulations. It’s essential to research and understand the legal framework surrounding cannabis and its cannabinoids in your specific jurisdiction.  

THCV is an intriguing emerging cannabinoid, with a range of potential health benefits, found in select cannabis strains. While it shares some similarities with THC, THCV has unique properties that set it apart. Although research on THCV is ongoing, it shows promise in various areas including focus, energy, and motivation. 

If you are interested in participating in our current THCV study, complete an initial survey to see if you qualify.


Russo, E. B. (2011). Taming THC: Potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. British Journal of Pharmacology, 163(7), 1344-1364. [Link](https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21749363/)

“Cannabis: How to Dose and Use THC and CBD for Maximum Effects” by Leafly

“10 THCV Strains You Should Know About” by Green Entrepreneur

“Everything You Need to Know About THCV, the So-Called ‘Diet Weed'” by Men’s Health Magazine

Pregnancy and Alternative Medicine

Pregnancy can be an exciting and challenging time. From morning sickness to back pain, it’s no wonder some expecting mothers turn to alternative medicines for relief. Not all alternative medicines are safe during pregnancy, therefore, it’s essential to know which remedies are appropriate during this important time. Here is a list of alternative medicines that may be helpful during pregnancy:

  1. Ginger is a popular remedy for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. It can be consumed in various forms, such as ginger tea, ginger ale, or ginger candies. Research suggests that ginger is a safe way to significantly reduce nausea and vomiting during pregnancy (1).
  1. Aromatherapy involves using essential oils or botanicals such as lavender to promote relaxation and reduce stress. Studies have shown that aromatherapy can reduce anxiety and labor pain for some pregnant women (2). 
  1. Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice that involves inserting fine needles into the skin to stimulate specific points on the body. Evidence suggests that acupuncture may significantly reduce lower back pain in pregnant women (3). 
  1. Prenatal Yoga is a type of yoga that can involve physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. Research shows that prenatal yoga may improve sleep quality and reduce back pain in women in their third trimester of pregnancy (4). 
  1. Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in many bodily functions, including muscle and nerve function, blood pressure regulation, and protein synthesis. Research suggests magnesium supplementation during pregnancy can help reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication (5).

In conclusion, alternative medicines can provide effective relief for many pregnancy-related symptoms. However, it’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider before trying any remedies or practices. With the right guidance, you can safely and comfortably navigate your way through your pregnancy journey.


  1. Lete I, Allué J. The Effectiveness of Ginger in the Prevention of Nausea and Vomiting during Pregnancy and Chemotherapy. Integr Med Insights. 2016 Mar 31;11:11-7. doi: 10.4137/IMI.S36273. PMID: 27053918; PMCID: PMC4818021.
  2. Tabatabaeichehr M, Mortazavi H. The Effectiveness of Aromatherapy in the Management of Labor Pain and Anxiety: A Systematic Review. Ethiop J Health Sci. 2020 May;30(3):449-458. doi: 10.4314/ejhs.v30i3.16. PMID: 32874088; PMCID: PMC7445940.
  3. Yang J, Wang Y, Xu J, et al. Acupuncture for low back and/or pelvic pain during pregnancy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMJ Open. 2022;12(12):e056878. Published 2022 Nov 21. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2021-056878
  4. Azward H, Ramadhany S, Pelupessy N, Usman AN, Bara FT. Prenatal yoga exercise improves sleep quality in the third trimester of pregnant women. Gac Sanit. 2021;35 Suppl 2:S258-S262. doi:10.1016/j.gaceta.2021.10.030
  5. Yuan J, Yu Y, Zhu T, Lin X, Jing X, Zhang J. Oral Magnesium Supplementation for the Prevention of Preeclampsia: a Meta-analysis or Randomized Controlled Trials. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2022;200(8):3572-3581. doi:10.1007/s12011-021-02976-9

Long COVID & Mental Health – Q&A with Saleena Subaiya and People Science

Dr. Saleena Subaiya, board-certified emergency medicine doctor and clinical researcher at New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, shares her insights as a Long COVID researcher. 

PS: What is long COVID?

SS: Long COVID, also known as post-acute sequelae of COVID (PASC), involves new or returning symptoms 4 weeks after a COVID infection. It’s estimated to affect between 10-30% of all COVID-19 survivors.  The most common symptoms include fatigue, cognitive and attention deficits (known as ‘brain fog’), shortness of breath, and the worsening of symptoms following physical or mental exertion (1).  Patients with long COVID also report changes in mental health including new-onset depression, anxiety, and even suicidal behavior. 

PS: You’ve previously described long COVID as a “road walked alone,” how so?

SS: There is currently no pharmacologic treatment for long COVID, with patients reporting symptoms up to 2 years post-infection.  After my own diagnosis with long COVID, I’ve been on and off eight different medications, changed my lifestyle and diet, and I am still recovering.  During this period I relapsed, which meant 6 weeks at home confined to my bed, feeling so exhausted I was unable to carry a 30-minute conversation.

This pattern of  relapsing-remitting, common among those with long COVID, has been challenging to navigate.  The majority of people who see me do so when I’m well enough to leave my home.  They are unable to see the tremendous effort I have to put forth to appear as normal as possible, and this comes at a cost.  It is exhausting.  

PS: How does long COVID impact mental health?

SS: Ongoing research has shown that there are likely different types of long COVID with the most common being a neurological type consisting of ‘brain fog,’ impaired memory, attention deficits, and sleep disturbances (2) (3).  Rates of depression among individuals with long COVID range from 11- 28% (4), nearly two to three times higher than the general population.   Managing mental health symptoms is a crucial part of helping patients function better in life and at work. 

For readers suffering from long COVID, I suggest checking out Body Politic (www.wearebodypolitic.com) for resources or considering participating in clinical research.


1. Organization, W.H., A clinical case definition of post COVID-19 condition by a Delphi consensus, 6 October 2021. 2021.
2. Premraj, L., et al., Mid and long-term neurological and neuropsychiatric manifestations of post-COVID-19 syndrome: A meta-analysis. J Neurol Sci, 2022. 434: p. 120162.
3. Taquet, M., et al., 6-month neurological and psychiatric outcomes in 236 379 survivors of COVID-19: a retrospective cohort study using electronic health records. The Lancet Psychiatry, 2021. 8(5): p. 416-427.
4. Renaud-Charest, O., et al., Onset and frequency of depression in post-COVID-19 syndrome: A systematic review. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 2021. 144: p. 129-137.

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, or cause sufferers to wake up too early and be unable to get back to sleep (1). Oftentimes individuals will still feel tired after waking up and experience a loss of energy. Everyone’s sleep needs are different, and you may be a long or short sleeper!  To learn more, read our interview with an expert sleep doctor on the Myth of 8 Hour Sleep.

Many adults experience short-term insomnia, lasting for days or weeks, often in response to stress. In chronic cases, insomnia is longer-term lasting for a month or more (2). The exact cause of insomnia is not known, but it can be caused by physical or mental health conditions, medication side effects, bad sleeping habits, lifestyle and environmental factors, and even stress. Symptoms are generally severe enough to impact an individual’s work, personal, and or family life. In addition to a lack of energy, insomnia can increase feelings of anxiety, depression, and irritability. 

Lifestyle changes including good sleep habits and those targeted towards reducing stress can help with insomnia (3). Medicines can also be used to support a regular sleep schedule. 

To learn more about your sleep, visit our Projects page to explore ongoing research opportunities.


  1. Mayo Clinic. Insomnia – Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. Published October 15, 2016. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355167
  2. Suni E. Insomnia. Sleep Foundation. Published September 4, 2020. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/insomnia
  3. MedlinePlus. Insomnia. Medlineplus.gov. Published 2019. https://medlineplus.gov/insomnia.html

Fermented Foods as Medicine

In 1904, Professor Eli Metchnikoff, gave a public lecture presenting his hypothesis that the exceptional health and longevity of Bulgarian peasants was, in part, due to microbes in the fermented milk products that they consumed in large amounts (1). With this lecture he introduced the idea of probiotics, microbes that promote health. His lecture made front page news and set off a global craze for yogurt and other fermented dairy products as health foods. Four years later he would go on to win the Nobel Prize in 1908 for his work on immunity but over a century would pass before we had the technology necessary to validate his hypothesis.

Fast forward to 2021, a lab at Stanford reported the results of a clinical trial in which they compared the impact on immune function, systemic inflammation, and gut microbiome diversity of two diets. In one, the subjects ate six servings of fermented food daily and in the other, they doubled their intake of fiber. After 10 weeks they found (2):

  • The fermented food group had a significant reduction in inflammation along with a beneficial increase in gut microbiome diversity. 
  • There was no significant change in either inflammation or gut microbiome diversity in the high-fiber group. This doesn’t mean that dietary fiber isn’t beneficial in other ways. Even the scientists who conducted this study were surprised at this finding because there is ample clinical evidence supporting the benefits of a high-fiber diet. 
  • 95% of the increased gut microbial diversity in the fermented food group did not come from the fermented foods, suggesting a complex and nuanced relationship between microbes, the postbiotic products of fermentation, and a healthy gut microbiome.
  • Metchnikoff was right! There are significant health benefits associated with fermented foods.

These findings suggest that we have only just begun to understand the relationship between our health and microbiome. While more research needs to be done, the Hippocrates quote “Let thy food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be thy food” stands true.


  1. Vikhanski L. A science lecture accidentally sparked a global craze for yogurt. Smithsonian.com. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/science-lecture-accidentally-sparked-global-craze-yogurt-180958700/. Published April 11, 2016. Accessed December 22, 2022.
  2. Wastyk HC, Fragiadakis GK, Perelman D, et al. Gut-microbiota-targeted diets modulate human immune status. Cell. 2021;184(16):4137-4153.e14. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2021.06.019