Depression: A Natural Approach

Depression wears many faces. Sometimes it is a melancholy feeling. Sometimes, it is fatigue, apathy, or anxiety. There are even times when it is several of these things at once. But it always feels like it’s holding you back from enjoying life the way you should. Now, there’s a solution that does not involve synthetic drugs and their side effects. It is an herb called St. John’s wort.

Throughout my many years as a practicing psychiatrist, I have searched for natural remedies to help my clients. I am well aware of the benefits of conventional drugs, and have employed them in my practice when appropriate. But I am also aware of the side effects and expense associated with synthetic antidepressants such as Prozac, and of the fact that there are many people- perhaps millions-who simply do not need them. For these people, St. John’s wort is a godsend.

I have used St. John’s wort extensively, and can testify that it is as effective as it is gentle. I have seen this remarkable herb help bring welcome relief to many of my clients. People who had known depression all their lives have been overjoyed to find a new sense of peace and calm. Freed from sadness and anxiety, they have gained new insight into their problems and concerns, and have been able to tackle these issues-often for the first time in years. As a therapist, I have found this experience to be deeply gratifying.

Excited by the benefits of St. John’s wort and similar remedies, I have read extensively in the field, exchanged opinions and information with my colleagues, and contributed to many articles and books on the subject. While this remarkable herb has not yet been widely studied in this country, research done around the world has testified to its powers. What doctors have found is that St. John’s wort is not only useful in treating certain types of depression, including seasonal affective disorder, but that it has infection-fighting and immunity enhancing effects that make it a promising treatment for disorders ranging from skin infections to AIDS. It also seems to be especially helpful for women in its ability to fight premenstrual syndrome, menstrual cramps, and the symptoms associated with menopause.

Of course, no medicine, natural or synthetic, is a cure-all, and St. John’s wort is no exception. At this time, it is not recommended as a sole treatment for major depression, nor is it recommended for bipolar disorder (also known as manic-depressive illness). In addition, there are conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, that can mimic depression, and that require a comprehensive treatment program if they are to be successfully treated.

Actually, all medicines, including St. John’s wort, work best when used as part of an overall treatment program. Such a program complements the use of St. John’s wort with important nutrients and other herbs, as well as with a healthful diet and exercise regimen. It also takes into account the psychological factors of depression, and provides the appropriate therapy.

In this book, I explain what depression is, and how both the mind and the body affect mental health. I then tell you about the many possible benefits that St. John’s wort can offer and provide information on its use, including its combination with other herbs. I not only review the studies that have been done on this plant, but provide facts on the synthetic antidepressants as well. I discuss St. John’s wort’s nutritional cofactors, including amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Finally, I make lifestyle recommendations concerning diet, exercise, and stress reduction, without which no mental health program can be entirely effective.

If you suffer from depression, or if you know someone who does, I strongly urge you to learn about St. John’s wort. It could make a very real difference in your life.

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Written by Hyla Cass MD

Explore Wellness in 2021