Garum Armoricum (Stabilium)
Ancient Remedy For Modern Depression & Anxiety
by Steven Wm. Fowkes
Judging by phone calls and letters to the Cognitive
Enhancement Research Institute (CERI), anxiety is a common complaint in our
modern society. Mild and free floating anxiety has become so pervasive that it
has become an icon of modern times, a correlate of techno-stress, which becomes
increasingly endemic as the pace of technological change continues to
Use of benzodiazepine anti-anxiety drugs (like Valium) reached epidemic
proportions two decades ago, the use of which was enshrined in the Rolling
Stones song Mothers Little Helper. While long-term side effects have led to a
significant decrease in use in recent times, modern benzodiazepine derivatives
are still widely prescribed.
Drugs vs. Nutrients
Although nutritional approaches to anxiety have not seen much use by the medical
profession, consumers have obtained some degree of anxiolytic relief through the
use of such over-the-counter items as B-complex vitamins, magnesium, GABA, and
herbs like valerian. One of the more interesting of these nutritional products
is Garum Armoricum (Stabilium), an historically ancient extract of fish viscera
(internal organs) of certain deep-water fish species, the preparation of which
dates back to ancient times.
Developed by neolithic inhabitants of the Armorican peninsula (westernmost
France) and refined by Celtic Druids, Garum was adopted by the Romans as a
broad-spectrum elixir that could be used to help the aged or infirm, or more to
their political purposes, to strengthen their soldiers prior to long marches or
Stabilium is a dietary supplement composed of Garum Armoricum, sunflower oil and
lecithin, manufactured in France. There have been two reports that Stabilium has
anti-anxiety properties in asthenic (fatigue) patients dealing with severe
anxiety.(1,2) But the effect of Stabilium on normal, healthy people suffering
mild or free floating anxiety remained untested until recently, when Dr. Thomas
Dorman and colleagues studied college students at California Polytechnic State
University (CalPoly) at San Luis Obispo in a double-blind, placebo-control-led,
crossover study. 3
College students were hypothesized to be an excellent test group because of the
chronic nature of their academic stress and the high degree of homogeneity
within the student population. Students with psychiatric conditions requiring
medication were excluded. Anxiety was assessed with the Speilberger State-Trait
Anxiety Inventory (STAI) which consists of 40 short questions. Each question was
rated on a scale of 1 to 4, with 4 indicating a higher level of anxiety.
Subjects were tested (baseline) and randomly divided into two groups, one
receiving Stabilium (30 students) and the other receiving an identical colored
placebo filled with vegetable oil (24 students). Subjects were tested weekly.
After three weeks, both Stabilium and placebo were discontinued for a week (a
washout period), after which the therapies were reversed; the Stabilium group
received placebo and the placebo group got Stabilium. After three more weeks,
treatment was again discontinued for a 1-week washout period before final
The results show an obvious decrease in average anxiety scores during the
initial weeks which is significantly greater in the Stabilium-first group. After
the crossover, the placebo-first group also experienced an obvious decrease in
average anxiety scores. However, the persistence of the anti-anxiety effect in
the Stabilium-first group through the washout week and well into the second
phase of the study seriously undercut the crossover design.
The ratio of the average anxiety scores of the Stabilium-first group to the
placebo-first group would have been expected to reverse from less-than-one
values in the first phase of the study to greater-than-one values in the second
phase. But because of the lingering anti-anxiety effect of Stabilium, the ratio
remains much closer to one. This indicates that future cross-over studies of
Stabilium should be designed with a washout period of at least a month.
Despite the unanticipated inadequacy of the washout phase, the study clearly
demonstrates a statistically significant decrease in anxiety (P<0.05) from
Stabilium at weeks 2, 3 and 4 of the study. Although the lingering anti-anxiety
effect of Stabilium was a liability in this study design, it should be
considered an asset for real-life use of this product.
Through the initial randomization process, the Stabilium-first and placebo-first
groups should have had approximately identical average anxiety scores. This did
not turn out to be the case. After randomization, anxiety scores in the
Stabilium-first group averaged more than two points higher than the placebo
group. Although this discrepancy is notable, it did not undermine the
conclusions of the study. The lower-anxiety placebo-first group experienced a
qualitatively identical decrease in anxiety during the second phase of the study
when they received Stabilium as the higher-anxiety Stabilium-first group did
during the first phase of the study.
One of the other assumptions of this study that needs questioning is the chronic
nature of academic stress, as there was considerable volatility in the
individual anxiety test scores from week to week. There were even dramatic
increases in anxiety in subjects taking Stabilium and decreases in anxiety in
those taking a placebo.
Although these observations do not negate the effect of Stabilium on anxiety
they do put it in context. Stabilium has a mild, long-term anti-anxiety effect
that is subjectively subtle compared to the weekly (and presumably daily)
fluctuations in anxiety levels experienced by college students. Furthermore, it
is quite different from the powerful, short-term anxiolytic effects of
Valium-like drugs. This is probably due to a fundamental difference in mechanism
of action. Unlike anxiolytic drugs, Stabilium presumably works through a
nutritive mechanism. Due to this difference, Stabilium may be helpful in
situations where Valium is not.
We asked Dr. Dorman (now in Kent, Washington) about his clinical evaluation of
the merits of Stabilium vs Valium. He told us, After using Stabilium for three
years, I think that it is more useful than benzodiazepines, not only because of
the complete lack of side effects, but the patients do not seem to get a
sedating effect. He went on to add, A lot of people on drugs report that their
overall enthusiasm is in decline. The opposite occurs with Stabilium.
source of nutrients and supplements.
did we qualify them ?
1. Crocq L, Bugard P and Viaud P. Fatigue Study Group inquiry into asthenia in
general practice. Psychologie Medicale 10:1943-53, 1978.
2. Crocq L, Bugard P et al., Treatment of astheno-depressive conditions by
Minaprine-Multi-center study of 248 cases assessed by Fatigue Study Group Scale
#4]. Psychologie Medicale 12(12) 643-61, 1980.
3. Dorman T, Bemard L, Glaze P, Hogan J. Skinner R, Nelson D, Bowker L and Head
D. The effectiveness of Garom Amoricum (Stabilium) on Reducing Anxiety in
College Students. Journal of Advancement in Medicine 8(3): 193-200, Fall 1995.
Article reprinted with permission of the Cognitive Enhancement Research
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