Everyone experiences low moods and feelings of sadness now and then, depending on one’s life circumstances. However, when such emotions persist for 2 weeks or longer, interfering with one’s normal day-to-day functioning, it is classified as clinical depression.Depression is one of the commonest causes of disability all over the world.
The causes of depression are varied: past physical, emotional or sexual abuse; personal disputes or conflicts with either family members or close friends; loss or death of a loved one; genetic susceptibility; major stressful life events, such as getting married, getting divorced, joining a new job, or retiring, etc.; substance abuse; serious illness; financial losses, etc.
In clinical depression you are likely to have some of the following symptoms: decreased energy; fatigue; difficulty concentrating, making decisions, and remembering details; feelings of worthlessness, guilt, hopelessness and helplessness; excessive sleeping or insomnia; irritability and restlessness; losing interest in hobbies or activities that were once pleasurable; appetite loss or increased appetite; persistent “empty” or sad feelings; persistent pains or aches; and sometimes even thoughts of suicide.
The traditional treatment is with antidepressants and/or cognitive therapy. People also try various alternative treatments for their depression, such as biofeedback, yoga, relaxation, meditation, and herbal remedies.
5 Herbal Remedies For Depression
If you suspect you are suffering from depression it is not advisable that you try self-treatment with some of the alternative treatments mentioned above without consulting a psychiatrist. Here are some herbs that you may find useful to tide over the symptoms of depression.
St. John’s Wort
This is a very popular herbal remedy for depression. The flowers and leaves of Hypericum perforatum are used to make the extract. The active ingredients that are responsible for the antidepressant effects of St. John’s wort are hypericin and hyperforin, which act by regulating the levels of the neurotransmitters (chemical messengers of the nervous system).
It is available in a variety of forms: tablet, capsule, dry herb, tea, and liquid extract. The dose is 300 mg (containing 0.3% hypericin) thrice daily, with meals. It can take up to 3 or 4 weeks to start feeling the effects of St. John’s wort. Do not discontinue it suddenly, but taper its dose gradually. Some of the side effects it can cause are sleeplessness, vivid dreams, anxiety, irritability, restlessness, fatigue, stomach upset, dry mouth, diarrhea, skin rash, and tingling. It may not be safe to take it during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
The leaf extract of Ginkgo biloba has antidepressant effects. It is thought to help in depression by increasing the number of binding sites in the brain for serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in depression.
The dose is 40-80 mg of the standardized extract thrice daily. Some of its side effects are headache, dizziness, stomach upset, allergic reactions, forceful heartbeat, and increased risk of bleeding. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, and those taking blood thinners such as aspirin or warfarin should not use it.
The root of Rhodiola rosea is used medicinally. It is an adaptogen, that is, it regulates the body’s immune, hormonal and nervous systems to alleviate the depressed mood, anxiety and sleeplessness.
The dose is 340-680 mg of rhodiola extract daily. It may take up to 6 weeks for the effects of rhodiola to be felt. Not enough is known about its potential side effects.
Berries of Myrciaria dubia are thought to help in depression. The exact chemicals responsible for the antidepressant effect have not yet been isolated. It is available as capsules, powder and juice. Check the product insert for the correct dose. There is not enough data on its safety.
The root and berries of Withania somnifera are used medicinally. Ashwagandha extract has several adaptogen compounds, which relieve anxiety and depression symptoms.
Consult the product insert for its daily dose. In large doses it may cause stomach upset, vomiting, diarrhea, and even abortion in pregnant women.