Depression
70 Case Studies
59 Member Stories
2670 Research

Nutrition can play a major role in regulating mood by supplying numerous substrates and nutrients that are needed for proper neurotransmitter synthesis and function. Exercise, massage, and herbs are also known to affect the immune system in ways that promote neurotransmitter function.  


What is depression?

Dealing with depression is tough, and its treatment is not a matter of a day or two. Feelings of guilt or low self-worth, changes in appetite, loss of interest can hamper your life in the most negative way. One requires great support from mental health experts, physically, and emotionally to deal with this kind of mental disorder. Due to significant side effects with antidepressants, many people are often evaluating complementary treatment options in order to combat and fight depression without experiencing any adverse effects that result from conventional medicine approaches.

Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical condition that adversely affects how you feel, how you think and the way you act. Fortunately, it's also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a reduction of interest in activities once enjoyed. It may result in various psychological and physical problems and can diminish an individual's ability to function at work and at home.

Depression symptoms may vary from mild to severe and may include: Feeling sad or having a depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, and even Changes in appetite - weight loss or gain conducive to dieting.

Depression affects an estimated one in 15 adults (6.7%) in any given year. And one in six people (16.6%) will experience depression at some point in their life. Depression can strike at any moment, but normally, it first appears during the late teens to mid-20s. Women are more likely than men to experience depression. Some studies reveal that one-third of women will experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime.

A holistic approach to depression might get to the root cause of depression by looking at a person’s family history, lifestyle & dietary habits, vitamin, amino acids, minerals, as well as the gut microbiome. A variety of alternative or integrative therapy approaches for depression have shown to be helpful in treating depression. These include integrative therapies such as naturopathic medicine, functional medicine, Ayurveda, acupuncture, and homeopathy.

See: Ashwagandha benefits for anxiety

Naturopathic medicine treatment for depression

Naturopathic and holistic options are based on the philosophy of addressing the basic underlying cause of any health conditions. Patients suffering from mild to moderate depression can find successful remission from it by making certain dietary modifications, consuming supplements, exercising, undergoing massage therapy, through the usage of various herbs, and getting into the sunlight. 

Natural medicine for depression is based on a foundation to provide proper nutrition extracted from natural medicine. This is because it has been suggested through various research that Nutrition plays a major role in regulating mood by supplying numerous substrates and nutrients that are needed for proper neurotransmitter synthesis and function. In addition to nutritional intervention inclusion of exercise, massage, and herbs are also known to affect the immune system in ways that promote neurotransmitter function.  

Stress reduction- Reducing or regulating your stress levels is found to be an effective primary care treatment for widespread health concerns including mental health, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, mood disorders, physical health, and job satisfaction in the workplace. Research studies have also suggested that reduced consumption of dietary fat and alcohol can reduce the vulnerability to stress responses.

It has also been found that chocolate, caffeine, nicotine, and refined sugars consumption may stimulate the CNS aggravating mental disorders like depression and its reduced consumption may help reduce the incidence and severity of brain disorders like depression and anxiety.  

Exercise: Exercise can uplift your mood and make you feel good, by releasing feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin thus exercise should be a part of your daily routine in tackling depressive symptoms. 

Diet -  A good and healthy diet not only regulates your mood but also promotes sleep, and keeps you healthy and fit. It’s important to consume a good amount of carbohydrates in combination with proteins and sweets in moderation to keep your blood sugar stable and unaffected.

- Withania somnifera -A herbal plant with many benefits is known to be a potent alkaloid that is used in the treatment of inflammation, anxiety, Parkinson's disease, cognitive and neurological disorders. also, the therapeutic use of  Withania somnifera includes working as an adaptogen for patients suffering from insomnia, debility due to stress,  nervous exhaustion, and as an immune stimulant in patients with low white blood cell counts.

The mechanism behind Withania somnifera producing its beneficial effects in neurological disorders involves calcium antagonism in neurons that play a role in various psychiatric conditions including anxiety, thereby counteracting excitation of the CNS.

Light therapy-  It is one of the easiest and is a scientifically proven procedure that may help in the treatment of various diseases. It is also considered as the first-line treatment in the Winter depression. Light therapy does not have to be just artificial light, Absorbing proper sunlight through regular and long stay outdoors can brighten up your mood. The light therapy is also known to reduce cravings for sweets and is used to treat depression and associated sleep disorders.

Vitamin D - Vitamin D deficiency likely due to low sun exposure may have an impact on mood, and is associated with depressive symptoms like sleep disorders. Natural supplements for depression-like Vitamin D have a substantial effect on neurotransmitters as it is a neurosteroid, that is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier, with physiological effects on neuroprotection, neuroplasticity, brain development, and regulation of neurotrophic factors.

Vitamin D acts as an influencer on mood, and its supplement can help in the treatment of mood disorders like depression.


Natural herbs for depression

There is considerable evidence that showcases the efficacy of natural herbs for depression in attenuating the symptoms of depression. Some of them are explained below:

- St John's wort - There are strong pieces of evidence that support St John's wort extract used in depression had comparable efficacy and superior safety to conventional SSRIs. The exact mechanism is not known however, it has been found that Hypericum perforatum constitutes a number of its active ingredients, including hyperforin, hypericin,  and hyperforin, that appear to increase the levels of chemical messengers in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. These neurotransmitters can regulate your mood and uplift it. 

Lavender oil - Usage of lavender oil as foot baths, lavender oil compresses or burning it as a perfumed candle while sleeping may act as supportive therapies in depression by assisting in getting sleep. Evidence-based studies have shown that these natural therapies promote the release of eicosapentaenoic acid in the brain and thus enhances mood.

Crocus sativus- Saffron seems to finely tune the level of some neurotransmitters deficiency in the brain that is assisting in low mood and depressive behavior. Saffron herb possesses, serotonergic activity, improves serotonin levels, and also modulates the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and exerts neuroprotective effects. It also tackles oxidative stress by inhibiting the lipid peroxidation pathway and thus protects the brain from damage. 

Ginseng- Ginseng is known to exhibit good antidepressant activities via sensitization of serotonin receptors or through inhibiting the reuptake of monoamine oxidases to a small extent. It regulates the mood in the depressive patients by increasing the levels of Nor-Epinephrine and 5-HydroxyTryptamine in the brain.

Peony- The processed root of Peony, is an important ingredient of various Chinese medicinal formulas. It is used to treat various symptoms of depressive disorders and ameliorates depressive symptoms caused by chronic unpredictable stress.

It exerts its antidepressant activity by inhibiting the monoamine oxidases that are responsible for causing oxidative stress in the brain. 

See: Potential of Disease Prevention with Panchakarma Therapy

Studies in naturpathic medicine for depression

St John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) versus sertraline and placebo in major depressive disorder: continuation data from a 26-week RCT.[7].

The study was carried out to understand the effect of St John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) on 135 depressed patients who were randomized to a double-blind treatment. The treatment included three arms with St John’s Wort extract (900 mg/d), fluoxetine (20 mg/d), or placebo treatment for 12 weeks of double-blind.

The results demonstrated with this study showed that SJW was ineffective in reducing depression. The study was considered as “failed” due to the high placebo-response and no separation between treatments at week 8. 

However, the study was further continued to understand the long term effect of treatment with  124 participants "responders" from the 10th week of treatment that lasted until week 26. These patients were divided into three arms sertraline = 49, SJW = 35, and placebo = 40 who were continued to take randomly assigned SJW (900-1 500 mg), sertraline (50-100 mg) or matching placebo. 

At week 26 only 82 subjects remained who were assessed for Hamilton depression rating scale (HAM-D),  the Beck depression inventory (BDI) scores, Remission rates, clinical global impressions scales for severity (CGI-S) and improvement (CGI-I) and on intention-to-treat analyses. The results of the continued study revealed an equivocal outcome between treatments at week 26, where both SJW and sertraline were still therapeutically effective, but with a pronounced "placebo-effect" impeding a significant result at week 26.


See: Beat Depression with Meditation

Summary

Naturopathic medicine for depression employs the use of many Complementary Alternative Medicine therapies which involve nutrition, herbal medicine, lifestyle counseling, massage, exercise, light therapy and homeopathy to improve health and treat depression chiefly by assisting the body's innate capacity to recover from mental disabilities. Even though various research suggests the efficacy of the natural remedies for depression to be effective in the short term trials, further research needs to be carried out with large sample size, for a longer duration of time to understand their longer-term efficacy in treating depression.

See: Anxiety, Depression, Hairloss, PMS, & Wrist pain with Bisoma & Tetrasoma Acupuncture, Sasang Herbs

References

1. Cooley, Kieran & Szczurko, Orest & Perri, Dan & Mills, Edward & Bernhardt, Bob & Zhou, Qi & Seely, Dugald. (2009). Naturopathic care for anxiety: A randomized controlled trial ISRCTN78958974. PloS one. 4. e6628. 10.1371/journal.pone.0006628.

2. [Naturopathy consultation. Depressive symptoms]. [Article in German] Wiebelitz KR.

3. Liu, Lei & Liu, Changhong & Wang, Yicun & Wang, Pu & Li, Yuxin & Li, Bingjin. (2015). Herbal Medicine for Anxiety, Depression and Insomnia. Current Neuropharmacology. 13. 10.2174/1570159X1304150831122734. 

4. Ng, Qin Xiang & Venkatanarayanan, Nandini & Ho, Collin. (2017). Clinical Use of Hypericum perforatum (St John's wort) in Depression: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders. 210. 10.1016/j.jad.2016.12.048. 

5. Khaksarian, Mojtaba & Behzadifar, Masoud & Behzadifar, Meysam & Alipour, Maryam & Jahanpanah, Firouzeh & Re, Tania Simona & Firenzuoli, Fabio & Zerbetto, Riccardo & Bragazzi, Nicola. (2019). The efficacy of Crocus sativus (Saffron) versus placebo and Fluoxetine in treating depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychology Research and Behavior Management. Volume 12. 297-305. 10.2147/PRBM.S199343. 

6. Aucoin, Monique & Cooley, Kieran & Anand, Leena & Furtado, Melissa & Canzonieri, Alex & Fine, Alexa & Fotinos, Kathryn & Chandrasena, Ranjith & Klassen, Larry & Epstein, Irvin & Wood, Wende & Katzman, Martin. (2017). Adjunctive Vitamin D in the treatment of non-remitted depression: Lessons from a failed clinical trial. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 36. 10.1016/j.ctim.2017.09.011. 

7. Sarris, J & Fava, Maurizio & Schweitzer, I & Mischoulon, David. (2012). St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) versus Sertraline and Placebo in Major Depressive Disorder: Continuation Data from a 26-Week RCT. Pharmacopsychiatry. 45. 10.1055/s-0032-1306348. 

See: Astragalus root or huang qi to boost immunity

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