What is depression?
Ayurveda – an emerging science for treating depression
Do you encounter persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, or emptiness? Feeling irritated, frustrated and suicidal can be a symptom of depression. Depression is not a problem of a day or two; it needs a lot of time, patience and support to heal oneself from depression. Neurodegenerative disorders like depression is a mental disorder, affecting the quality of life of an individual. It poses a sizable global health problem, accompanying substantial burden of disorders, suicides, physical comorbidities, high fiscal expenses and poor quality of life. Adult females have a higher prevalence of experiencing a major depressive episode than their male counterparts. Depression in the adolescent population (ages 12 to 17) has seen a surge in recent years.
With recent advances in neurodegenerative disorders, scientists have reported that conventional drugs can provide relief to the patient but impose undesirable and inevitable side effects and low patient compliance. We see a trend of an upsurge in herbal medicines that are preferred over synthetic drug therapies and conventional medicine to treat a variety of brain disorders. Traditional therapies like Ayurveda have lower side effects and are equally effective in treatment when compared to conventional medication and drugs.
How does Ayurveda view Depression?
Ayurveda is a traditional system of medicine that is based on a naturopathic and anthropological belief. Ayurveda categorizes depression under psychological diseases and terms it as ‘Vishada’. According to Ayurveda imbalance in the psychic energies along with an imbalance of physical energies can lead to mental disorders like depression in human beings. A person can experience an imbalance in their psychic energies when they indulge in negative thoughts, anger, hatred, jealousy, etc. Whereas, stress can be an additional parameter that aids in psychological imbalance. Ayurveda provides a holistic approach in treating depression through lifestyle adjustments, herbal preparations by following mental discipline all of which can strengthen the mind helping an individual cope up with life’s challenges.
Ayurvedic treatments for healing depression
What are the various ayurvedic approaches that can help manage the neurodegenerative and depressive disorders?
Ayurveda follows various holistic approaches while treating a patient. Ayurveda has been practiced since ancient times and has shown efficacy in the treatment of psychological disorders. Some of the ayurvedic approaches are listed below:
a. Avoiding all the etiological factors (Nidana parivarjana) – Intake of various conventional medicines like steroids, painkillers must be avoided. One should try not to be alone, and keep themselves busy performing small tasks. Mental discipline should be followed that involves sleeping on time and waking up early. Communicating with the people around you, and performing tasks that entertain you.
b. Bio-cleansing therapies (Shodhna chikitsa) – Most important step in ayurvedic treatment that involves alleviating pain and symptoms of the disease through the use of various herbs. Some of these treatments include:
i) Shirodhara mostly works on the mental sheath and is usually utilized to calm the nerves, balance Vata, restore the nervous system, and purify the mind. Shirodhara procedure involves pouring a blend of several herbal oils, mixing it with medicated milk or pure ghee. It is poured on the forehead by means of a mud pot, hung from a specific height above the individual for a specific moment. This therapy helps improve the functioning of the five senses, heals depression, fatigue, anxiety, and headaches.
ii) Shirolepa is considered a cooling therapy and is helpful in the treatment of depression. The procedure involves the application of a paste comprising various herbal powders and herbs around the scalp. Your scalp is then covered and tied with certain leaves to permit the herbs to soak into the entire scalp. This helps in the nourishment of their scalp and the head. After about 60 to 90 minutes, the paste is removed and the oil has been wiped off. Later, the mind and body are smeared with medicated oils and the patient is bathed in warm water. Apart from being a treatment for stress, anxiety, and depression, it also helps in other medical conditions like migraines and hypertension. It calms the nervous system of the body, offers extreme coolness to mind, leading to ultimate comfort.
iii) Nellikka Talam can be used in Ayurveda in treating the number of disorders such as insomnia, anxiety, stress, and other psychological ailments. The treatment involves employing a herbal paste containing ‘Nellikka’ (Indian gooseberry or ‘amla’) on the crown or forehead. Various kinds of applications are done, based on the nature of the illness. Ayurvedic treatments are done according to this ‘amla paste’. For anxiety disorders, apart from external use of amla paste, the juice of the fruit is squeezed out of the pulp and mixed with 2 tsp. , honey and lime juice. This is diluted in a cup of lukewarm water and given to the individual daily.
c. Yoga and meditation – Following yogic practices can help in depression and other disorders. Some of the yoga poses that can be done under the supervision of a qualified Yoga therapist include Padmasana, Surya Namaskar, Paschimottanasana, Bhujangasana, and Sarvangasana followed by pranayama and meditation.
Herbs for depression
Some people today look to handle depression with herbal remedies, instead of with drugs a doctor prescribes. Herbs and nutritional supplements
Some herbs, essential oils, and supplements have shown promising effects for those who have depression.
Using complementary therapies continues to gain popularity as people look for more natural techniques for handling their health. Research suggests promise for several supplements in treating mild-to-moderate depression. Drugs and counseling are conventional approaches to relieve the symptoms of depression. But some herbs and nutritional supplements may also help. Some ayurvedic herbs have proved to cut the symptoms of depression. These are some of the supplements which people most commonly use.
– Brahmi: Brahmi is a tiny perennial creeping herb that has an age-old reputation of treating stress. Brahmi functions as an adaptogen, which only means that it helps the body adapt to stressful or new situations. When consumed, it’s thought to increase the serotonin levels in the brain, which allows the mind to keep calm and provide relief from anxiety and nervousness. Brahmi helps in adapting stress or new conditions.
– St. John’s wort: St. John’s wort is also called Hypericum perforatum. This plant was a common herbal mental health remedy for centuries. However, individuals must use caution when they decided to attempt it as a possible treatment for depression. A systematic review discovered that St. John’s wort was more effective than a placebo for treating mild to moderate depression and worked nearly in addition to antidepressant drugs. The writers also advised caution against accepting the outcomes, since the herb has adverse effects that many studies didn’t consider. While St. John’s wort might help some folks, it doesn’t show consistently beneficial consequences. For these reasons, individuals shouldn’t use St. John’s wort rather than conventional treatment.
– Ginseng: This supplement comes in the gnarled root of the Asian or American ginseng plant. Asian, Siberian, and Eleuthero ginseng are different plants with different active ingredients and properties. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners have used ginseng for thousands of years to help people enhance mental clarity and energy and lessen the consequences of anxiety. Some people today associate ginseng properties with possible solutions for the reduced energy and motivation that could occur with depression.
– Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is thought to relieve stress and anxiety because of the presence of active compounds like steroidal lactones, saponins, alkaloids, and withanolides that offer antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-inflammatory properties. These properties help in reducing the stress brought on by psychological and physical fatigue. Additionally, it balances out the constant mood swings and increases focus, mental alertness, and concentration. It helps in restoring the normal physiological functioning. Ashwagandha helps restore normal body functioning and can be consumed in its powdered form or as a liquid extract.
– Chamomile: Chamomile is well known for helping to manage depression and stress. Research studies have reviewed the benefits data about chamomile, which stems from the Matricaria recutita plant. The results reveal that chamomile generated more significant relief from depressive symptoms compared to a placebo. However, further studies are essential to validate the health benefits of chamomile in treating depressive symptoms.
– Lavender: Lavender oil is a popular essential oil. People typically use lavender oil for comfort and reducing anxiety and mood disturbances. A variety of studies suggested that lavender may have significant potential in reducing stress and improving sleep. Lavender has mixed results in studies that evaluate its effects on anxiety.
– Maca (Peruvian Ginseng): Maca, also referred to as Peruvian ginseng, is a herb that’s power-packed with nutrients. It’s a rich source of vitamins, amino acids, various minerals, and phytonutrients that increase stamina and reduce excessive anxiety. A Peruvian plant which belongs to the radish family, maca is a natural healer that helps with hormone and neurotransmitter production because of the existence of adaptogen. Furthermore, maca is a natural energizer and helps individuals overcome lethargy. Maca is a natural energizer and helps overcome lethargy.
– Saffron: A popular and the most expensive spice in the world has been used for centuries for managing anxiety and depression. Some studies suggest using saffron as a safe and effective remedy for controlling the symptoms of depression. But more research would help confirm the probable advantages of saffron for those who have depression.
– Jatamansi (Spikenard): Jatamansi is a perennial herb that helps to treat insomnia and other sleeping disorders. Additionally, it is famous for its antidepressant, anti-stress and anti-fatigue properties. The origins of jatamansi are used for its medicinal purposes in Ayurveda that are proven to provide a curative effect on mood swings and anxiety disorders. Jatamansi can erase negative thoughts by channelizing the energies of the mind in the perfect direction.
– Peppermint: Peppermint or Pudina in Hindi has been used for centuries to heal nervous system disorders because of the presence of menthol as it helps calm the nerves and has a cooling effect. It’s packed with vitamin A and vitamin C, minerals such as magnesium, manganese, iron, calcium, folate, copper, and potassium. Menthol helps cure insomnia by keeping your mind calm and allows you to sleep in peace. Peppermint has menthol that keeps your mind calm.
It is vital to refer to a healthcare provider before you change to herbal remedies because the outcome positively depends upon the dose and the form in which they’re consumed.
Scientific studies in Ayurveda managing Depression
Are there any Science and research done to showcase the efficacy of Ayurvedic treatment for depression?
a. The first study named Clinical study on the management of depression through Ayurveda  involved sixty-three male patients between 40-45 years of age who were clinically diagnosed with moderate depression on the basis of the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. All these patients were randomly divided into three groups
Group A – It had 20 patients who were prescribed Savasana and Anulom vilom pranayama.
Group B – It included 17 Patients who were administered panchakarma treatment of Nasya, Shirodhara along with yoga and pranayama.
Group C – In this group 25 patients were prescribed with Saraswatarishta and Ashwagandharishta along with the treatment prescribed to Groups A and B.
The patients of each group were clinically assessed after 7, 30, 60 and 90 days by the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. The patients showed gradual improvement in their anxiety and depression after three months with a score of 60, 72 and 84 percent in group A, B, and C. After three months of treatment the level of anxiety and depression were decreased and the patients exhibited a remarkable effect with more positivity in thoughts, reduced feelings of sadness, guiltiness and a lot more happiness.
Results from this study showed that mental health disorders like depression can be effectively managed by the Ayurvedic approach along with psychological counseling.
b. In another study titled A Comparative clinical trial on the role of Panchakarma therapy and Unmada Gajankusha Rasa in the cases of major depressive disorder vis-à-vis kaphaja Unmada..
Eighty patients with major depressive disorder were enrolled based on DSM-IV diagnostic criteria. The patients were divided into four groups for receiving different types of ayurvedic treatment.
The first group – that included 10 patients were given Vamana therapy.
The second group that included 30 patients were put on Unmada Gajankusha Rasa (250 mg) twice a day with plain water for three months.
The third group (n=10) patients were put on Unmada Gajankusha Rasa along with Vamana therapy.
The fourth group (n=30) patients were put on Fluoxetine.20 mg once a day for three months for comparative study.
Upon clinical assessment, the results showed a significant antidepressant effect in the patients who were in the third group receiving Vamana and trial drug Unmada Gajankusha Rasa. However, when these therapies used alone showed only mild to moderate effect. It is evident from this study that Vamana therapy along with trial drug has produced a significant effect in treating cases of major depressive disorder.
Is Ayurveda effective for healing depression?
Is there any real success story of a patient who got relief from Ayurveda therapy for depression?
A female patient with a 9-month-old baby boy was diagnosed with severe depression. . She was hospitalized four times and was on heavy medication. She also tried various therapies like group therapy, art therapy, meditation, electroshock therapy but none of them were effective or helped to elevate her mood. After trying all these therapies, one day after consulting with a meditation teacher she came to know about an ayurvedic doctor who can help treat her depression. The ayurvedic doctor suggested certain changes in diet, lifestyle habits and advised her to get up early in the morning and go for a walk, perform yoga and meditation. She also advised her not to consume red meat, carbohydrates, sweets, and alcohol. Within one year of following Ayurveda for depression protocol as advised, she lost 20 lbs of weight and feels much better about herself. She is now living a healthy life along with her son.
Natural Home Remedies for Depression
Natural treatments and home remedies may not be a replacement for medical diagnosis and treatment but may be considered good for mild forms of depression. Getting to re-establish a harmonious relationship with the cycles of nature is important in Ayurveda. Healthy lifestyle patterns include waking in the morning, around the same time as sunlight. Avoid rushing, as this creates tension and disrupts the brain.
Eat fresh food, free of chemical pesticides, and eat well-cooked meals mindfully. Sattvic spices like ginger, cardamom, and ginger open the brain and the heart. Herbal formulas are instrumental in light the path towards growth and healing. Intake of ghee is suggested for those suffering from ailments of “diminished intelligence and memory.” Nutritious eating habits include sitting still while eating, resting after meals to offer food time to digest, chewing all food to an even consistency, and eating without distractions such as music or television. Daily practice of asana, pranayama, mantra, and meditation is suggested to increase sattva.
There are many ayurvedic herbs that have proved to be beneficial for brain health, some of them include Jatamansi, Ashwagandha, Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) , Kapikachhu(Benincasa hispida), Tagara (Valeriana wallichii, Shakhapushpi. However, these herbs must be taken under doctor supervision. Some of the home remedies that can help with depression include:
a. 1 tsp of Ashwagandha powder along with one spoon of pure ghee is found to be very effective in treating depression.
b. One teaspoon of asparagus powder with honey taken twice a day along with milk can prove to be a brain tonic.
c. One tablespoon of licorice powder in warm water taken empty stomach is known to provide symptomatic relief from various ailments including depression.
Ayurvedic medicine provides the most comprehensive natural approach in treating the disease by understanding about the functioning of the mind and body. Ayurveda recognizes that many physiological and environmental factors can contribute to depression and anxiety, and one should maintain a balance between them. Ayurvedic medicines that include herbal formulations along with meditation, diet changes and yoga has proven to be an effective and accessible treatment modality for Psychological disorders like anxiety and depression. The ayurvedic approach has now been adopted widely and seems to be more empowering than what is currently offered by allopathic medicine. However, more research is needed on the Ayurvedic treatment for psychopathology, and its treatment plans, as a way to further establish Ayurveda.