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Depression and natural therapies

Depression, for the purposes of this article, refers to the illness known as clinical depression, major depression or unipolar depression. This kind of depression is a recognised clinical condition and is becoming a common illness in developed countries, with up to 20% of the population affected by this illness at some stage of their lives.[1] The medical profession and drug companies have responded with a vast arsenal of antidepressant medications, which have been used effectively since the 1960s. In addition to these medications, there is also an array of natural therapies that may help the sufferer of depression to some extent. While natural therapies have not been shown to be as effective as antidepressants, they nevertheless may have a contribution to make. The role of natural therapies is, first, to help a patient cope with depression while waiting for an antidepressant to start working.[citation needed] Antidepressants can take anything from one week to five weeks to take effect, and life can be very difficult for the patient in the meantime. Secondly, natural therapies may be useful as a supplement to orthodox treatments.


The Therapies


This treatment is now widely used in western countries. It is based on the Chinese system in which certain points on the body are considered to be connected to various organs. Needles are inserted into the points to bring about "balance" in the system. Acupuncture can bring some short-term relief to depression, but is expensive compared to some of the other therapies.[2]

Amino Acids

The natural therapies that most closely resemble antidepressants in their action are certain amino acids. Tryptophan (L-tryptophan) is the precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin, and thus has an affect that is similar to those antidepressants that replenish the supply of serotonin in the brain cells. In particular, tryptophan showed considerable promise as an antidepressant alone,[3] and as an "augmenter" of antidepressant drugs.[3][4] Tryptophan may appeal to patients who are prejudiced against antidepressants or dislike the side-effects. Effective dosage range is 4-6 grams daily. It can take trytophan ten days to start working. It can also improve sleep because the brain creates melatonin from serotonin, and melatonin tells the brain to switch off and go to sleep. Too much tryptophan causes dizziness. Normally, it should not be combined with antidepressants; this can cause serotonin syndrome, a problem which can cause death in extreme cases.[5]

Another amino acid that can help with depression is tyrosine (L-tyrosine), which is the precursor of adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine. By replenishing these important neurotransmitters, tyrosine can lift the mood of a depressed patient, especially patients who have had a "breakdown" through overwork or are burned out for the same reason (a condition which comes about because of a depletion of the adrenal system). Like tryptophan, tyrosine takes approximately ten days to start working. The effective dosage range is 1-2 grams daily. Excess use causes insomnia. Tyrosine can be combined with tryptophan but not antidepressants.[6][7][8]

S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) has also been shown in clinical studies to fight depression,[9][10][11] among other ailments. SAMe can be purchased over-the-counter, usually in 200mg enteric-coated tablets at a suggested dosage of 400mg per day.

Australian Bush Flower Essences

These essences are similar to Bach Remedies and are mostly made from Australian plants and flowers. Normal dosage is seven drops 2x daily, preferably first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

Waratah is the essence that is specifically intended to help with depression.

Sunshine Wattle helps with pessimism and defeatism, especially after a long run of bad luck.[12]


It has been shown that some people with depression have an impaired folate metabolism and that taking a daily B-vitamin complex tablet can help with depression.[13]

Bach Flower Remedies

These remedies are created from various flowers and plants. There are four remedies that help specifically with depression. Normal dosage is four drops 4x daily.

Gentian is for very mild depression or pessimism, although it can help with more serious depression to some extent.

Gorse is for more severe depression.

Sweet Chestnut is for truly severe depression -- "the dark night of the soul".

Mustard is for depression that comes from within and is not related to external circumstances.[14][15][16]


It has been shown that coffee drinkers have a lower incidence of suicide than the rest of the population.[17] Caffeine is a stimulant which, in moderate amounts, helps with fatigue associated with depression. Coffee has been shown to contain small quantities of monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs),[18] which are antidepressants.


Some patients have shown improvement with increased doses of Vitamin D.[19]

Hypericum perforatum (St John's Wort)

In some countries, such as Germany, Hypericum is commonly prescribed for mild depression, especially in children, adolescents, and where cost is a concern.[20] Some research and experience there has shown that Hypericum can help with mild depression, but not necessarily clinical depression. Hypericum treatment for depression is approved by and paid for by the German government. St. John's Wort can be combined with amino acids but not antidepressants. Recent research has shown that Hypericum can combine adversely with a range of medications.[21]


Inositol has been shown through various studies to be an effective treatment for depression, Bipolor Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder[22][23][24] and panic attacks. The therapeutic dosage of inositol seems to be between 6-20 g/day, with 12-18 g/day being more likely an effective dosage.[25]


Main article: Sceletium tortuosum

Kanna (Sceletium tortuosum) is a succulent herb commonly found in South Africa. In doses as low as 50 mg, users have reported improvements in mood, decreased anxiety, relaxation and a sense of well-being. The alkaloids contained in S. tortuosum believed to possess psychoactivity include: mesembrine, mesembrenone, mesembrenol and tortuosamine.[26]

Mesembrine is a major alkaloid present in Sceletium tortuosum, which has been shown to be a potent serotonin reuptake inhibitor (more so than imipramine),[27] and a PDE4-inhibitor (less so than rolipram).[28]

Sceletium tortuosum contains about 1-1.5% total alkaloids. There is about 0.3% mesembrine in the leaves and 0.86% in the stems of the plant.[29]


Meditation has been proved to be of benefit in a number of ways, including lowering blood pressure and stress levels. Using meditation for clinical depression, however, is fraught with danger, because one of the main symptoms of depression is the inability to concentrate. If a severely depressed person tries to meditate, there is a real danger that they will make themselves worse because of their inability to concentrate. The most helpful and gentle form of meditation for a clinically depressed person may be the repetition -- silently or out aloud -- of a mantra, providing it is not overdone.[30][2]

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help many people with depression, the theory being that Omega-3 helps nourish brain cells that release serotonin into the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids are present, for example, in cold-water fish such as salmon, in flax seed, in fish oil capsules and in flax seed capsules.

"Several epidemiological studies suggest covariation between seafood consumption and rates of mood disorders. Biological marker studies indicate deficits in omega-3 fatty acids in people with depressive disorders, while several treatment studies indicate therapeutic benefits from omega-3 supplementation. A similar contribution of omega-3 fatty acids to coronary artery disease may explain the well-described links between coronary artery disease and depression. Deficits in omega-3 fatty acids have been identified as a contributing factor to mood disorders and offer a potential rational treatment approach." (American Journal of Psychiatry 163:969-978, June 2006)[31]


Reiki is a a form of spiritual practice that originated in Japan in the early twentieth century. It is a form of "energy healing" in which the practitioners claim to channel "healing energy" into patients through their hands. Reiki is used primarily for physical problems; Reiki practitioners claim that it can also treat deep emotional problems, but without providing any evidence. In the case of depression, proponents claim Reiki can provide some temporary relief, which may be due to the close contact with another person.[32][33][34][35]

Tissue Salts

Developed by the biochemist Dr. William Schuessler, tissue salts are twelve alkaline salts used in homoeopathic strengths. Kali. Phos. (potassium phosphate) is the tissue salt that can bring some short-term relief to depressed patients. Normal dosage is four tablets daily, but it can be taken in much higher quantities (one tablet every half hour) in a crisis.[citation needed]

Visible light therapy

Individuals with Seasonal Affective Disorder (seasonal depression, seasonal bipolar) are often helped with light therapy.[36] A special lamp or a set of lamps is used, which does not emit ultraviolet light, so as not to damage the eyes. The treatment is usually done between the hours of 6-8 a.m. for at least an hour. Some psychiatrists prescribe "light boxes" for treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Full-spectrum light is traditionally used, however more recently blue light technology has been introduced.

See also


  1. ^ Beyond Blue. Retrieved on 2007-04-30.
  2. ^ a b Bricklin, Mark (1983). Natural Healing. 
  3. ^ a b Thomson J, Rankin H, Ashcroft GW, Yates CM, McQueen JK, Cummings SW (1982). "The treatment of depression in general practice: a comparison of L-tryptophan, amitriptyline, and a combination of L-tryptophan and amitriptyline with placebo". Psychological medicine 12 (4): 741-51. PMID 7156248.
  4. ^ Levitan RD, Shen JH, Jindal R, Driver HS, Kennedy SH, Shapiro CM (2000). "Preliminary randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial of tryptophan combined with fluoxetine to treat major depressive disorder: antidepressant and hypnotic effects". Journal of psychiatry & neuroscience : JPN 25 (4): 337-46. PMID 11022398.
  5. ^ Brensilver JM, Smith L, Lyttle CS (1998). "Impact of the Libby Zion case on graduate medical education in internal medicine". Mt. Sinai J. Med. 65 (4): 296-300. PMID 9757752.
  6. ^ Chaitow, Leon (1991). Thorson's Guide to Amino Acids. 
  7. ^ Carlson Wade
  8. ^ L-Tryptophan - nature’s answer to Prozac. Retrieved on 2007-04-30.
  9. ^ Investigating SAM-e. Geriatric Times (2001). Retrieved on 2006-12-08.
  10. ^ Kagan, BL; Sultzer, DL; Rosenlicht, N; Gerner, RH (1990). "Oral S-adenosylmethionine in depression: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial". Am J Psychiatry 147: 591–595. PMID 2183633. Retrieved on 2007-02-16.
  11. ^ Rosenbaum, JF; Fava, M; Falk, WE; Pollack, MH; Cohen, LS; Cohen, BM; Zubenko, GS (May 1990). "The antidepressant potential of oral S-adenosyl-l-methionine". Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 81 (5): 432–436. PMID 2113347. Retrieved on 2007-02-16.
  12. ^ White, Ian (1991). Australian Bush Flower Essences. 
  13. ^ J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2001;70:419 ( March )
  14. ^ Bach, Dr Edward (1931). Heal Thyself. 
  15. ^ Gurudas (1983). Flower Essences and Vibrational Healing. 
  16. ^ Ball, Stefan (1998). The Bach Remedies Workbook. 
  17. ^ Kawachi I, Willett WC, Colditz GA, Stampfer MJ, Speizer FE, A prospective study of coffee drinking and suicide in women. Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass., USA. Arch Intern Med 1996 Mar 11; 156(5):521-5
  18. ^ Human monoamine oxidase enzyme inhibition by coffee and beta-carbolines norharman and harman isolated from coffee
  19. ^ Potential link between depression and vitamin D deficiency in patients with fibromyalgia
  20. ^ Fegert J, Kölch M, Zito J, Gaeske G, Janhsen K (2006). Antidepressant Use in Children and Adolescents in Germany. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology 16, 197-206.
  21. ^ Hypericum. Retrieved on 2007-04-30.
  22. ^ Palatnik A, Frolov K, Fux M, Benjamin J (2001). "Double-blind, controlled, crossover trial of inositol versus fluvoxamine for the treatment of panic disorder". Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology 21 (3): 335–339. PMID 11386498.
  23. ^ Fux M, Levine J, Aviv A, Belmaker RH (1996). "Inositol treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder". American Journal of Psychiatry 153 (9): 1219–21. PMID 8780431.
  24. ^ Di Paolo G, De Camilli P (2006). "Phosphoinositides in cell regulation and membrane dynamics". Nature 443 (7112): 651-7. PMID 17035995.
  25. ^ (May 2005)
  26. ^ Psychoactive constituents of the genus Sceletium N.E.Br. and other Mesembryanthemaceae: a review.
  27. ^ Pharmaceutical compositions containing mesembrine and related compounds. U.S. Patent 6,288,104 (PDF)
  28. ^ Mesembrine - an inhibitor of PDE4 that follows structure-activity relationship to rolipram. [1]
  29. ^
  30. ^ Benson, Dr Herbert (1996). Timeless Healing. 
  31. ^ Am J Psychiatry 163:969-978, June 2006 doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.163.6.969]
  32. ^ Gooch, Steve (2006). Reiki Jin Kei Do. 
  33. ^ Klatt, Oliver (2006). Reiki Systems of the World. 
  34. ^ Hosak, Mark (2006). The Big Book of Reiki Symbols. 
  35. ^ Stien, Frans; Bronwen Stien (2003). The Reiki Source Book. 
  36. ^ Lam, RW; Levitt AJ, Levitan RD, Enns MW, Morehouse R, Michalak EE, Tam EM (2006). "The Can-SAD Study: a randomized controlled trial of the effectiveness of light therapy and fluoxetine in patients with winter seasonal affective disorder". American Journal of Psychiatry 163 (5). 16648320. Retrieved on 2007-05-12.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Depression_and_natural_therapies". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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