Treating Depression Naturally
With the holidays in full swing, I realized that everyone may not be as festive as they would like to be this season. Thus, I decided that this week’s Herbal Farmwife theme is “Treating Depression Naturally.” We all have a lot to be thankful for during the holidays and I would hate to see one struggle with depression during this wonderful time of the year.
The other day, I was reading through a social media site and saw a posting about how Americans cannot afford depression medicine. I scratched my head over the comments that grouped all depression into one category and the only option was prescription medicine for treatment. Rest assured. I’m not going to get into politics here or a philosophical discussion on depression. But, I decided that I needed to raise awareness that there are some viable natural options to alleviating mild to moderate depression symptoms.
Herbs & Spices For Depression
Before we start out this discussion in natural options, I have to first say that if you are struggling with blue moods, depression, anxiety, or other sad thoughts that your first option is to see a healthcare practitioner like a doctor, counselor, or psychiatrist. Depression is a complex illness. One can have varying degrees of depression (mild, moderate, or severe) and it could be caused by a variety of reasons. Depression can be a result of something external that impacted your life like a trauma. It could be a result of a prescription medicine side effect or even a food allergy. Depression may result from something inside your body like a chemical imbalance, gene mutation, hormones, illness, or toxins. Like I said, there isn’t a “one size fits all” with depression. All, some, or one of these reasons could alter your neurochemistry with norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine neurotransmitters playing an important role.
The beauty of most conventional prescription medicines is that they were a result of or originally derived from herbs, spices, and other foods. As our society became an “instant result” group, we’ve moved from waiting for our bodies to heal slowly with herbs and spices to a “get well quick” thought pattern. I have to admit that when I want to feel better, I want it “now.” It is hard to be patient when one is feeling ill.
For many people, their bodies may not be able to process many of the synthetic anti-depressants; thus, causing lots of side effects. Natural alternative medicines may be an option if this is you. The reality here is that there isn’t one “super herb” that does miracles for everyone. We are all uniquely made. But, what I can do is reference many natural options for you to consider, investigate, and research to determine if you believe an alternative medicine option is right for you. Please remember that I do not recommend taking multiple herbs and spices in medicinal doses all at the same time at first. It is better to start out “slow” with one to see how it works with your body before determining whether you should include additional options. Please educate yourself and seek professional help from a healthcare specialist first before trying any of the herbs and spices listed below.
HERBS & SPICES:
ST. JOHN'S WORT: This bright yellow flower perennial is known for effectiveness against mild to moderate depression since clinical research began in the 1970s. Known as the “favorite” natural antidepressant, it acts similar to conventional anti-depressants. St. John's Wort inhibits the reuptake of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. St. John’s Wort is considered as effective at improving moods, decreasing anxiety, and decreasing insomnia as low-dose tricyclic antidepressants, tetracyclic antidepressants, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (like Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil) for treating depression. Doses are most commonly 300 mg three times daily for adults. A potential disadvantage to using St. John's Wort is that it can cause a lot of interactions with other prescription drugs.
SAFFRON: Saffron is a spice derived from the perennial Saffron Crocus flower, which is known for its vivid purple flowers and red stigmas. In alternative medicine, Saffron is used for depression, anxiety, Alzheimer's disease, and pain. Clinical studies state that taking Saffron extract 30 mg daily for six to twelve weeks improves symptoms of depression comparable to imipramine or fluoxetine (Prozac). In preliminary research, Saffron is considered as effective as taking fluoxetine for treating postpartum depression. Saffron is relatively safe to consume orally when added to food or in small doses; but it should be avoided in large doses and should not be taken during pregnancy. For depression, doses may start out at 15 mg a day up to 30 mg a day.
TURMERIC: You may wonder why Turmeric sounds so familiar. It is a popular yellow spice found in many Indian cuisines. Turmeric is becoming the new “hot” spice for a variety of ailments including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, diarrhea, flatulence, abdominal bloating, jaundice, hepatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, bronchitis, respiratory infections, allergies, fibromyalgia, fever, and cancer. But, did you know that research is showing that it can be helpful against depression and even Alzheimer? Over five clinical studies show that taking Turmeric daily along with an antidepressant moderately improves depression symptoms. Preliminary clinical research studies also show that taking Curcumin (a component of Turmeric) 1000 mg daily is as effective as fluoxetine (Prozac) 20 mg daily when used for six weeks. Although all the studies were short-term, the long-term effects of using Turmeric are promising.
RHODIOLA: Grown in cold mountainous regions of the world, Rhodiola has been typically taken for energy, stamina, strength, and mental capacity. It is considered an "adaptogen" to help the body adapt to and resist external stress. Preliminary research has started to see its effects on depression, anxiety, and emotional instability. Preliminary clinical research shows that taking a Rhodiola extract can reduce symptoms of mild to moderate depression after six weeks of treatment. For depression, adult doses of 300 mg of Rhodiola extract once to twice daily can be used.
YOHIMBE: Deriving from the bark of Yohimbe evergreen tree native to western Africa, Yohimbe is used for anxiety and depression along with other ailments. Clinical research is limited though and is mixed when it is available. Alternative medicine folklore suggests that taking Yohimbe reduces depression and phobia-based anxiety. In Africa, Yohimbe is also used for sexual dysfunction caused by selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors and as a helper to conventional antidepressants. A typical dose Yohimbine (a component of Yohimbe) is 15-30 mg daily. Please note that severe adverse effects could happen at higher doses.
DAMIANA: Known as an aromatic shrub, Damiana has been used as a general tonic to help with mild depression in Central America. Folklore states that the tonic helps restore the nervous system. Orally, Damiana is used to treat headache, depression, menopause, and sexual dysfunction to name a few. Hint Hint…..it is considered an aphrodisiac in a few countries. Damiana is a thymoleptic and has restorative properties for nervous exhaustion and is also a natural monamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor to stimulate people with depression. Damiana is considered relatively safe when taken orally when digested with food. It is typically found as a tincture, capsules, and dried for teas. For a tea, typical dosages are two to four grams dried leaf three times daily.
GINKGO: Known as one of the first medicines registered in 15th century China, Ginkgo is probably the most-used treatment in the world for memory loss, brain degenerative diseases, and central nervous system issues. Although research has not shown that Ginkgo directly helps with depression, there is research showing that it is helpful with anxiety, dementia, and schizophrenia. Alternative medicine folklore states that Ginkgo can help with depression by increasing the flow of oxygen to the brain. It is especially true for older people, who are not responding to other antidepressants. For an adult dose, divide 120 to 240 mg of ginkgo leaf extract into two or three doses a day.
With any herbs or spices that you may consider digesting, please consult a healthcare practitioner before adding anything new to your health regime. Depending on your current diet, nutritional support, and prescription medicine, you could have interactions or adverse reactions to other herbs and spices along with prescription medicine. It is better to check first before beginning something new.
Blessings, Herbal Farmwife
For additional “Do It Yourself” natural remedies using herbs, spices, vitamins, minerals, and healing foods, please visit Herbalfarmwife.com.
DISCLAIMER: This information should not be considered to be healthcare advice, medical diagnosis, or treatment. This information is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other healthcare professionals. Always consult a healthcare professional first before trying any herbs, spices, vitamins, or minerals mentioned in this posting. Herbs and spices in medicinal doses may cause adverse reactions when used with other herbs and spices or prescription medicines. This information is merely a discussion of “thoughts” among friends. Please note that none of these statements have been evaluated by the USA’s Food and Drug Administration. Please do not take any herbs and spices in medicinal doses if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
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