Doctor’s Advice: Herbal Therapy Can Help You Deal with Depression
Doctor’s Advice: Herbal Therapy Can Help You Deal with Depression
Depression is a mood disorder fairly common in the United States, as 1 in 10 American adults reports symptoms. This condition can be caused by many factors, such as neurological (changes that occur in our body, chemical imbalances), hormonal (thyroid problems, menopause symptoms) or genetic factors (genetic predisposition to depression). You can read more about it here. Depression frequently appears when people experience sudden changes in their lifestyles, such as moving to a new place, having a baby, losing a loved one, the end of a relationship or a job, dealing with financial stress or suffering from a trauma.
Facts About Depression
Depression can come in many ways, from occasional episodes to severe conditions, depending on the symptoms. The most common emotional symptoms of depression are: sadness, disinterest, anxiety and difficulty in concentrating, symptoms that occur in light types of depression, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). Also, these types of mood disorder manifest physical symptoms, such as insomnia, increased and decreased appetite, fatigue, loss or gain of weight. The more severe types of depression can present more advanced symptoms such as feeling worthless or guilty, irrational anger, hallucinations or suicidal thoughts. These can take the form of Persistent Depression Disorder, Bipolar Disorder or Psychotic Disorder. Usually, for the more severe types of depression, doctors prescribe drugs and therapy.
In clinical settings, patients are given prescription antidepressant medication to cure depression, but in reality there might be no certain cure for depression, unless it is accompanied by family support and natural holistic alternatives. For sure, depression is perhaps the medical condition of the century, along cancer and Diabetes.
Herbal Therapy Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a different approach when diagnosing a patient. The patient’s symptoms are considered parts of a puzzle and establishing a diagnosis is similar to completing it. The treatment arises from this diagnosis, so that for every disease there is a cure. TCM strongly believes in this principle and therefore patients benefit from a variety of herbal treatments for any symptom.
For treating depression, TCM uses a plant called mimosa tree bark (Cortex Albizzia Julbrissin). The plant belongs to the Nourish the Heart and Calm the Spirit category. Albizzia is known to relieve emotional constraint when the associated symptoms are bad temper, depression, insomnia, irritability and poor memory. Also, its flowers have a sedative effect and can calm eventual physical pain caused by side effects of the condition.
TCM uses a variety of plants, usually by combining them in order to come up with a treatment for almost anything. For example, for a condition called Asthenia syndrome, there are three factors that can trigger it: psychia trauma due to melancholy, deficiency of both the heart and spleen, Yin deficiency and fire hyperactivity. Each of these has different manifestations and the treatment given is different. Psychia trauma due to melancholy, for e.g., is manifested through mental aberration, restlessness, tendency to cry and be sorrowful, pale tongue with thin white coating, wiry and thready pulse. These are all symptoms of depression and the Chinese medicine prescribes a treatment included in the therapeutic principle Nourish the heart and calm the mind, based on the Modified Decoction of Glycyrrhizae, Tritici Levis and Jujubae. This is how this prescription looks like:
- Radix Glycyrrhizae Praeparata 12 g
- Fructus Tritici Levis (wizened) 30 g
- Fructus Jujubae 6 pcs
- Semen Ziziphi Spinosae (fried) 15-30 g
- Radix Paeoniae Alba 10 g
- Lignum Pini Poriaferum 10 g
- Flos Albizziae 10 g
- Dens Draconis (decocted first) 30 g
- Concha Ostreae (decocted first) 30 g
It is obvious that Chinese Medicine doesn’t believe in artificial drugs and the Western Medicine, and believes this natural approach is more efficient.
How Can Tea Be Used as Medicine
Another therapy with origins in TCM that has spread in the entire world is tea therapy. When suffering from symptoms of depression, we can chose from a variety of plants that help us deal with our problems.
Green Tea is a popular choice because of its antioxidant properties and because it manages to boost our energy and make us feel good at the same time. Therefore, it can be used as an alternative for coffee.
We all know that caffeine is not indicated when suffering from depression or anxiety because it can cause restlessness or insomnia. But Green Tea knows how to combine its level of caffeine with a mood boosting substance, L-theanine. This combination is very effective as an herbal therapy, as it can cross the blood-brain barrier and increase the levels of dopamine and GABA in our brains, which makes us feel a good energy.
Chamomile tea is the most popular tea in the world, next to black tea. Everybody knows that a cup of chamomile tea has a calming effect on agitated children and even on cranky adults.
Actually, chamomile contains a chemical called Flavonoid, with relaxing properties on both body and mind. If you find yourself in difficulty to sleep or you feel anxious, a cup of Chamomile tea with milk and honey will help you relax and solve your sleeping problems. You can put a lavender sack under your pillow to enhance the calming effect.
Oolong is a type of tea that has been dried in the sun and afterwards fermented or oxidized. There are several varieties of oolong tea, such as Thai, Vietnamese or African, and its beneficial effects include stress relief, lower blood pressure, weight loss, aging prevention (due to antioxidants) prevention of tooth decay (antibacterial), and liver detox (which, in turn, helps treat skin problems such as acne and eczema), and lower blood sugar levels.
Western Medicine does not actually consider herbal remedies ineffective; it just doesn’t prescribe them as treatment for depression or any other condition, because it considers them to be alternative medicines.
But many people use plants like St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) as treatment for their depressive moods.
This plant is a very popular herbal therapy for depression nowadays, its leaves and flowers being used to create supplements, such as tea, tablets, capsules or even tinctures. It is said that this natural remedy has better results than placebo medication and also, it causes less side effects.
Although, St. John’s wort is known to be effective in treating depression, some studies have shown than it can cause anxiety, panic attacks, dizziness, nausea and spikes in blood pressure, as well as excessive bleeding in patients that take blood thinners.
Lavender (Lavandula officinalis) is also very effective in the therapy of depressive symptoms, such as low motivation, lack of energy and loss of appetite, combined with anxiety. The plant has a strong calming flavor, therefore you can use it in small proportions combined with tea or by keeping its flowers around the house for a nice effect of serenity.
Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis), historically used for “feeble brain circulation”, is currently used as leading antidepressant in combination with St. John’s Wort. It is very effective used as a tincture.
What I Recommend as a Doctor
It’s imperative that you discuss with your doctor before undergoing any type of treatment, herbal or medicinal. Also crucial is that you maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating properly and not being sedentary. Especially the latter insures a balanced life. Many people experience high levels of fatigue or difficulty in concentrating, without knowing the reason why these occur. In my opinion, as a psychiatrist, the brain cannot function under normal conditions unless you “feed” it with healthy foods and natural supplements. A healthy diet not only keeps you looking young, but also enhances the levels of a hormone called serotonin in your brain, also known as the “happiness hormone”.
Eat properly, be active and use herbs that boost your mood. This is the best advice anyone could give in order to help you deal with depression in a healthy way.
Dr. Carlo Carandang, MD, is a psychiatrist and a fellow member of the American Psychiatric Association; he has over 15 years of experience in treating patients of anxiety and depression. Over the past few years, he has published several researches and currently contributes with articles on AnxietyBoss.com.