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Article Archive >> Featured Topics

Alternative Approaches: Herbs: Healing Depression Naturally

Alternative Approaches
Herbs: Healing Depression Naturally
by Jennifer LB Leese

When it comes to treating depression, doctors have come a long way. Many years ago, psychiatrists used to think you could cure depression by removing a patient's colon or teeth. In the late 1800s, there was a doctor who observed his anxious patient become calm as he road on a bumpy train; thereafter the man's treatment consisted of shaking him for greater and greater lengths of time.
In an attempt to cure the ancient malady of melancholia, doctors have resorted to scads of strategies, some of them plainly stupid or cruel, others, like prescribed medications, work.
With medications, psychiatrists would try a patient on one antidepressant medication, wait eight weeks and, if it didn't work, switch to another one. This still occurs in most cases. But the process is painfully slow.
The good news is that many depression sufferers are able to significantly reduce or eliminate symptoms through natural and more cost effective means. Some herbal remedies provide depression relief uniquely by influencing various specific biochemical processes. Some replenish missing brain chemicals or cell enzymes, whereas others increase certain hormone levels. What's more, herbal and natural products are easily accessible and provide fast relief with little or no side effects.
Alternative Actions
Dietary changes that may be helpful: Although some of the research has produced mixed results, several double-blind studies have shown that food allergies can trigger mental symptoms, including depression.
Restricting sugar and caffeine in people with depression may elevate mood. How much of this effect results from the sugar and how much from the caffeine remains unknown. People with depression may want to avoid sugar and caffeine for one week to see what happens.
Lifestyle changes like exercise that may be helpful: Exercise increases the body's production of endorphins-chemical substances that can relieve depression. Scientific research shows that routine exercise can positively affect mood and help with depression. As little as three hours per week of aerobic exercises can profoundly reduce the level of depression.
Art Therapy: Drawing, painting, and sculpting help many people to reconcile inner conflicts, release deeply repressed emotions, and foster self-awareness, as well as personal growth.
Dance/Movement Therapy: Some people find that their spirits soar when they let their feet fly. Others-particularly those who prefer more structure or who feel they have "two left feet" gain the same sense of release and inner peace from the Eastern martial arts, such as Aikido and Tai Chi.
Music/Sound Therapy: It is no coincidence that many people turn on soothing music to relax or snazzy tunes to help feel upbeat. Research suggests that music stimulates the body's natural "feel good" chemicals (opiates and endorphins). This stimulation results in improved blood flow, blood pressure, pulse rate, breathing, and posture changes. Music or sound therapy has been used to treat disorders such as stress, grief, depression, schizophrenia, and autism in children, and to diagnose mental health needs.
Herbal Remedies
St. John's wort Hypericum perforatum. Several studies indicate that St. John's wort may be as effective as tricyclic antidepressants, but with fewer side effects. St. John's wort has not yet been scientifically evaluated for its use in treating depression.
Valerian root Valerianofficinalis has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as improve sleep quality. The root has been studied along with other herbs to help with sleep disturbances and hot flashes. Several studies suggest that taking valerian by mouth may reduce the time it takes for people to fall asleep and may improve sleep quality, especially in those who routinely suffer from insomnia or sleep difficulties.
Damiana Turnera diffusa acts as an antidepressant, tonic, diuretic, to treat coughs and as a mild laxative. It is said to relieve headaches, control bed-wetting, and stimulate muscular contractions of the intestinal tract. Damiana is a stimulating nerve tonic used for debility, depression and lethargy and is held in high repute by Mexican herbalists, particulary as an aphrodisiac, prescribed as a thick decoction before bedtime.
Ginkgo Biloba Maidenhair tree is a powerful antidepressant and antioxidant that increases blood flow to the brain and other parts of the body. This improved blood circulation increases memory, promotes cardiovascular health, corrects impotency caused by arterial insufficiency and alleviates symptoms of Alzheimer's patients. Asthma sufferers may also benefit due to its high flavonoid content.
Siberian Ginseng in its various varieties is referred to as an adaptogen, a substance that assists the body to adapt to external physical stresses such as exposure to extreme heat/cold, biological hazards, trauma, illness or lack of sleep. Ginseng is believed to stimulate the immune system, enhance abstract thinking and improve aerobic capacity. By regulating blood sugar levels, Ginseng may also benefit people with diabetes.
SAMe S-Adenosyl Methionine is an essential amino acid required to maintain healthy neurotransmitter processes in the brain. People suffering from depression often have deficient quantities of seratonin, dopamine, and phosphatides and poor receptor site binding.
5HTP is an amino acid that is converted to seratonin, a strong neurotransmitter in the brain. It specifically targets symptoms caused by low seratonin levels such as feeling down, changes in sleep patterns, fibromyalgia and migraine pain. 5HTP has also been successful as a weight loss aid by suppressing the appetite.
Recipes
"Medicinal" tea
Pour 1 cup of boiling water over l-2 teaspoonfuls of dried St. John's wort and steep for l0-l5 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
Depression Tincture
2 oz St. Johns wort
1 oz Passion flower
1 oz Skullcap
1/2 oz Elethuro
Fill a wide mouth jar half full with herbs. Fill jar up to top with good vodka. Cover tightly and shake daily for 2 weeks. Strain and bottle in dark bottles. Traditional dosage is 1 tsp. 3 times a day!
If you are experiencing much anxiety add 1/2 oz of Valerian root to the blend.
Oil
Fill a pint jar loosely with dried St. John's wort. Pour olive oil to top, seal tightly and allow to infuse for 4 to 5 weeks. Shake the jar occasionally.
Bath Kisses
These lusciously scented kisses are a bathtime luxury. Melt 1 oz cocoa butter and 2/3 oz shea butter in the microwave. Then add 1/3 oz sweet almond oil and 1/8 tsp each of frankincense and sweet orange essential oils.
Pour into small candy molds and place in the freezer for 20 minutes. Remove and place one or two kisses into hot bath water. Store the rest in a baggie in the freezer.
Damiana Delight
The bitterness of damiana is offset by the spearmint and orange zest.
Ingredients:
* 1 tbs chamomile
* 1 tbs damiana leaves
* 1 tbs lemongrass
* 1 tbs spearmint leaves
* 1/4 tbs jasmine flowers
* 1/4 tbs orange peel, grated
Preparation:
Combine herbs in two cups of water, and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain out herbs and serve hot.
Do Your Research
If you think you are depressed. Get help. Talk to your doctor. Find out where to get help for your depression; find a psychotherapist who's right for you, and be sure to research commonly prescribed depression medication. You CAN live without depression.

Source: Healthy Place, Undoing Depression by Richard O'Connor, and The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal by David Hoffmann, and Archives of Internal Medicine.

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