Ah, herbal medicine. Herbs smell great, they’re pretty to look at and can be surprisingly effective as psychotherapeutic agents. In fact, in some countries, they prescribe these first and resort to pharmaceuticals as a last resort! Now that sounds like my kind of place! As usual, we will be focusing on the ones that have the best reputations.
-St. John’s Wort: Why? It seems to work pretty effectively for those with mild to moderate depression. (http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/content/61/5/712.long; http://www.bmj.com/content/313/7052/253.abstractijkey=c26c31d134ef1dffd057a32525e360a14c5f00f2&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1538611/?tool=pubmed; http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/acm.2009.0066) It’s an oldie but a goodie. We don’t understand how it works but recognize that it can work. It interacts with a lot of medications like birth control and other antidepressants so do your homework before trying it out.
-Rhodiola: This is such a nice herb. It’s a powerful adaptogen, which increases the body’s resistance to stress, trauma and fatigue. (Cool, huh?) Its use in depression has shown some promise due to its fortifying effects on the body. (Effects of Rhodiola rosea L. extract on behavioural and physiological alterations induced by chronic mild stress in female rats. J Psychopharmacol March 2009 23: 130-142, first published on May 30, 2008.)
-Ginseng: Another adaptogen (meant to be taken regularly, which means its strength is in its cumulative effects), this herb has shown effectiveness in the research against depression. The Panax species are the ones that have been shown to have the most benefit, but that may be because others haven’t been studies adequately enough yet. (http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/content/61/5/712.long; Identification of antidepressant-like ingredients in ginseng root (Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer) using a menopausal depressive-like state in female mice: participation of 5-HT(2A) receptors.
Yamada N, Araki H, Yoshimura H. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2011 Mar 22.; Effects of a standardized ginseng extract on quality of life and physiological parameters in symptomatic postmenopausal women: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Swedish Alternative Medicine Group. Wiklund IK, Mattsson LA, Lindgren R, Limoni C. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res. 1999;19(3):89-99.)
Short and sweet. There are so many other herbs that have the potential to be useful against depression. These are just a few that seem to have stood the test of time.
Stay tuned for the last step in our depression series. It covers some basic naturopathic therapies that few have heard of, but are incredibly supportive and beneficial to people dealing with depression.