Many Paths to Healing to Depression

“It’s supposed to be a professional secret, but I’ll tell you anyway. We doctors do nothing. We only help and encourage the doctor within.”


Albert Schweitzer

There is no shortage today of media stories on depression. Newspaper
headlines from this year cover a wide range of issues surrounding
depression: “Herb is Found to Aid Mild Depression,” “Researchers Probe
Heart Disease-Depression Link,” “Millions of American Teenagers Suffer from
Depression,” “A Hidden Epidemic of Male Depression,” “Feeling Blue? Check
your Thyroid,” “Medicating Kids: A Pacifier for Depression,” and of course,
“Prozac Keeps Drug maker Feeling Good After 10 Years.” Why this sudden
fascination with depression? Is it because depression is rapidly becoming
recognized as the one of the biggest health problems facing our society,
not only affecting adults, but teens and children?

This current climate is a far cry from the amount of public interest and
media coverage of depression just four years ago in 1994 when we produced a
conference called “Healing Depression” in Santa Monica, California that
inspired this book. At that time, depression was still a taboo subject
socially, a frightening and mysterious condition that was treated medically
with powerful psychotropic antidepressants which had disturbing side
effects. The controversial antidepressant drug, Prozac, had been on the
market for several years and was just penetrating the public consciousness
and beginning to make headlines. There was little or no interest in, nor
knowledge of natural alternatives to treating depression.

Today, thanks to the barrage of media stories and a number of well known
public figures who have disclosed their battles with depression, including
television journalist Mike Wallace, actor Rod Steiger and novelist William
Styron, much of the social stigma surrounding depression has been removed.
Discussion of depression in our culture has become more commonplace, and
it can now be mentioned in the same breath as being “anxious” or “stressed
out.” Concurrently, there is an increasing public interest in natural
approaches to dealing with this health condition. Even conventional medical
doctors who have historically been known to only prescribe antidepressants,
are now responding to the public demand and are beginning to recommend
natural remedies like St. John’s wort for mild to moderate depression.

A National Health Problem

One in four Americans will experience some degree of clinical depression or
mood disorder during their lifetime, and each year over twenty- five
million people will be diagnosed with a depressive illness. Two-thirds of
those suffering from depression are women. However, the recent focus upon a
“silent epidemic” of depression among men indicates that these figures are
in need of adjustment.1

All told, it is estimated that depression will cost our economy more than
forty-four billion dollars, and an annual loss of two hundred million work
hours. These numbers may be deceiving, however, given people’s reticence in
the past to talk to their physician about depression. Today over 17 million
people, including teens and children, are currently on Prozac, the second
most commonly prescribed drug in America. Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly,
the maker of Prozac, is now engaged in a major media campaign to raise
public awareness about depression and Prozac. With the rising tide of
awareness of depression, many who would have never considered themselves
depressed will be taking Prozac, or some other antidote, pushing the
statistics even higher.

And it appears we are bringing our children along for the ride. It is
estimated that close to 13% of teenagers and approximately 3% of children
under thirteen suffer from depression according to the Center for Mental
Health Services. Until recently, no one has wanted to recognize that teens
and children suffer from depression. To make matters more difficult,
childhood depression is hard to identify and diagnose because it is so
easily confused with other health conditions, and because children lack the
verbal skills to explain what they are experiencing. As a result they act
out their depression in the only way they know how–what we commonly
describe as moodiness irritability, anger and even rage.

Are we becoming a “Prozac nation?” Prozac, despite its ability to transform
personality, appears to be a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
FDA statistics reveal unsettling reports of adverse side-effects ranging
from loss of sexual appetite to suicide and death. These serious
shortcomings, the rising incidence of depression, and the growing
popularity of natural health care, clearly demonstrates the need for safe
and reliable drug-free treatments. It is no surprise then that the
antidepressant herb St. John’s wort, despite having been successfully used
for centuries, was barely on the radar screen in the United States four
years ago, but is now the number four-selling herb in the U.S. and is
outselling Prozac in Germany.

Where Does the Answer Lie?

We have spoken with an endless succession of people whose psychiatrist or
psychologist reflexively prescribed antidepressant medication for their
depression as the only available option. Modern medicine, with its focus on
treating disease with a single “standard of practice” has created a serious
situation for those being treated for depression in the class of
psychotropic antidepressant drugs. Many complain they have been on a
treatment merry-go-round for years, going from one antidepressant to
another, and are still seeking help. They report that they have had some
relief but at the cost of unpleasant and grave side-effects. Others,
however, have received virtually little or no relief, or have actually
gotten worse, and are becoming increasingly desperate.

Two things are clear. The human suffering resulting from depression is real
and impacts every aspect of one’s life–family, work, and relationships.
Secondly, depression is not an illness that can be reduced to a single
cause or a single cure, as demonstrated by the problems associated with the
succession of antidepressant drugs produced over the years. There are no
magic bullets for depression.

Where then does the answer lie to relieving the toll of human suffering
brought on by depression? We have discovered that there are many answers to
solving this complex malady. The key is in understanding the many
underlying causes of depression, and becoming aware of the variety of
natural approaches to its treatment.

Many of the solutions come from the world’s great systems of traditional
health care. Some have ancient roots such as herbal medicine, the oldest
form of health care on the planet, and the Greek medicine of Hippocrates.
Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, both of which have both been practiced
continuously for five thousand years, can rightly be called the original
systems of holistic medicine.

Other systems of traditional health care have more modern origins, such as
homeopathy and naturopathic medicine, each of which originated in early- to
mid-19th century Germany before taking root in the U.S. After having fallen
into obscurity for most of the 20th century due to the advent of miracle
drugs, both are now enjoying a major renaissance.

What all of these systems of traditional health care have in common is a
focus on health maintenance, prevention, treating the whole person,
reliance on natural therapies, and taking a more integrative,
multi-disciplinary approach to treatment in order to restore health and
internal balance. These systems also share another commonality–for most of
this century, each has remained outside the accepted standards of
conventional Western medicine, but are now becoming increasingly in demand
by people like yourself in search of solutions to their health problems.

In order to prevent illness and achieve optimum level of personal health,
it is important to be familiar with the tools that can help build a
wellness-based lifestyle, and become aware of all of your treatment
options. The approaches in this book represent the collective wisdom of
thousands of years of the great healing traditions as well as the best of
the emerging field of integrative medicine–nutrition, healthy lifestyles,
mind/body therapies, and spiritual practices.

We have brought together a team of nine leading experts from each of these
fields to present, for the first time, a comprehensive and integrated
picture of depression, including an understanding of its many causes,
prevention and time-tested natural approaches to its treatment. This team
of health professionals will provide an in-depth understanding of the
following primary systems of natural medicine:

  • Ayurveda: The traditional system of medicine in India, the
    practice of Ayurveda extends to 3500 BC. The term Ayurveda means “Science
    of Life,” and it has a long history working with rejuvenation, longevity,
    and mental health through diet, lifestyle, herbs, massage, yoga, and
  • Chinese Medicine: Practiced for over 5,000 years, Chinese
    medicine includes the use of herbs, acupuncture, dietary therapy, massage,
    lifestyle as well as qigong, a system that uses movement, energy and
    breath. This medicine is based on balancing the flow of qi or life force
    through the body’s meridian system or energy pathways.
  • Herbal medicine: The therapeutic use of herbs to alter
    physiology and mental/ emotional states. Both western and Chinese herbs
    are explored here in the treatment of depression, and an emphasis on St.
    John’s wort as the most highly researched and publicized herb for treating
    depression today.
  • Homeopathy: Homeopathic remedies are designed to stimulate the
    body’s own natural powers of recovery to aid in overcoming the disease
    rather than simply suppressing symptoms. Homeopathy aims to treat the
    patient rather than the disease and has effective treatments for
    mental/emotional disorders.
  • Mind/Body Medicine: The use of stress-reduction techniques,
    guided imagery, biofeedback, meditation and other modalities to achieve
    higher levels of mind/body integration, greater capacities for
    self-regulation and inner peace in order to better control anxiety and mood
  • Naturopathic Medicine: A comprehensive and natural approach to
    medicine which looks at all of the factors needed to help move a person
    towards health. This medicine looks to understand the underlying causes of
    illness, and then addresses these causes with natural therapies such as
    diet, lifestyle, herbs, homeopathy, nutritional supplements, hydrotherapy
    and acupuncture.
  • Nutritional Medicine: This approach involves the use of diet and
    nutritional supplements to correct nutritional deficiencies that may
    contribute to biochemical imbalances in the brain resulting in depression.
    Nutritional medicine also utilizes nutrients in higher, pharmacological
    doses in order to push biochemical reactions in the desired direction to
    bring about a return to balance and health..
  • Qigong: The Chinese art and science of gathering, circulating
    and storing body/mind energy (qi) through breath and energy work. These
    are techniques that involve movements and visualizations while standing,
    sitting and moving.
  • Spiritual Medicine: An emerging field that explores the
    spiritual dimension of health and psychology, utilizing psychospiritual
    disciplines such as meditation, yoga, breathwork, self-inquiry and other
    spiritual disciplines. In the more ancient systems of traditional health
    care, the spiritual dimension of health was an integral part of a
    comprehensive, holistic approach to health and well-being.
  • Yoga: A spiritual discipline practiced in India for many
    thousands of years, employing diet, lifestyle, relaxation, physical
    postures, breathing practices, meditation, and awareness to promote
    physical, mental, and spiritual health.

    (For a complete list of therapies covered in this book see Appendix B:
    “Quick Reference to Therapies” in Natural Healing for Depression.)

    Many Perspectives on the Causes of Depression

    There are many underlying causes of depression beyond the conventional
    biomedical perspective that focuses solely on imbalances in brain
    chemistry. We now know that numerous biochemical and physiological factors
    can induce depression. Many physical illnesses can be the cause and,
    conversely, depression can lead to physical illnesses. Depression may be
    caused by emotional, psychological factors or life’s circumstances. On an
    energetic level depression can be viewed as an imbalance of vital energy,
    and on a spiritual level it can be seen as stemming from spiritual
    disconnection or lack of soul awareness.

    From an overall systems perspective, depression can be viewed as a “warning
    sign” that the body-mind is off-course in some manner–whether it be
    biochemical, physiological, psychological, energetic or spiritual–and is
    signaling that there is a need to make some change in your life.

    Psychological/Emotional Causes of Depression

    Depression often has emotional or psychological roots in the experience of
    loss, which may involve the loss of a loved one, a job, a change of
    circumstances, or divorce. Depression that accompanies the grieving process
    following a significant loss is a natural phenomenon that we all experience
    at one time or another in our lives. In many cases, depression can run its
    course without professional intervention, and in these cases it is not
    appropriate to “medicalize,” the experience and classify it as “mental
    illness.” On the other hand, more severe and enduring forms of emotional
    and psychological depression due to preocuppation with a loss, long-term
    disappointments in life, or chronic pain and physical trauma may require
    psychological intervention or counseling to help guide one through the
    often dark and difficult process of emotional healing.

    Biochemical/Physiological Causes of Depression

    Contrary to conventional wisdom, there are numerous biochemical and
    physiological factors that can induce depression. These elements include
    diet, stress, sleep, exercise, environmental toxins, nutritional
    deficiencies, or hormonal imbalances. Similarly, depression may be a
    symptom of other underlying health conditions such as candidiasis,
    hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, or hormonal imbalance. Cases of chronic,
    psychologically-based depression may eventually result in altered
    biochemistry, which in turn, may reinforce depression as a psychological
    state, making it even more difficult to alleviate. In these cases, it may
    be beneficial to deal with the biochemical factors while simultaneously
    addressing the psychological level. The contributing health professionals
    in this book will cover the following underlying factors that can cause or
    contribute to depression:

  • Alcoholism: Depletes levels of many essential nutrients and amino acids
    which are necessary for proper brain physiology.
  • Candidiasis: Chronic overgrowth of yeast in the gut
  • Chronic pain: The experience of ongoing physical or emotional pain
  • Dietary Imbalances: Excess sugar and caffeine consumption
  • Environmental factors: Toxic reactions to neurotoxins such as solvents
    and heavy metals–aluminum, cadmium and lead.
  • Food and chemical sensitivities: Allergies to foods such as dairy and
    wheat as well as to chemicals such as aspartame
  • Hormonal imbalance: When the endocrine glands (thyroid, ovaries,
    testes, pituitary, and adrenal) are under stress or not functioning
    properly, hormone levels may fluctuate and profoundly effect mood.
  • Hypoglycemia: This condition of low blood sugar can lead to chronic
    mood swings and depression.
  • Hypothyroidism: Low levels of thyroid hormone can lead to exhaustion
    and depression.
  • Infectious Diseases: Such as strep throat, especially in children,
    affects the auto immune system
  • Intestinal parasites: Symptoms of parasitic infection include brain
    fog, depression and feelings of doom.
  • Lack of exercise: Non-exercisers are three times more likely to have
    depression as exercisers.
  • Leaky Gut Syndrome: Caused by candidiasis and intestinal parasites can
    lead to allergic reactions, poor absorption of food, and malnourishment.
  • Lifestyle: High stress levels, smoking and lack of exercise can lead to
  • Low levels of neurotransmitters: Low levels of serotonin and nor
  • Malabsorption: Inability to properly absorb nutrients due to deficiency
    in stomach HCL, pancreatic enzymes or bile acids.
  • Nutritional deficiencies: Deficiencies in vitamin B Complex, vitamin C,
    iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium
  • Pharmaceutical Drugs: Anti-psychotics, barbiturates, benzodiazepines,
    beta-blockers, cholinergics, corticosteroids, estrogens (including
    contraceptives, levodopa, reserpine.
  • PMS/Menopause: Often accompanied by mood swings, anxiety and depression.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Caused by lack of exposure to sunlight.

    Energetic Basis of Depression: According to Traditional Chinese Medicine
    (TCM) illness results from an energetic imbalance of qi or life force in
    the body’s meridians and internal organs. TCM views depression as resulting
    from a blockage or stagnation of emotional qi. Similarly, the Chinese
    system of energy training known as qigong and the Indian system of yoga,
    both recognize the link between the mind and life force (qi or prana),
    while utilizing breathing and awareness practices to help regulate the flow
    of life energy in the body/mind.

    Spiritual Basis of Depression: According to the “perennial philosophy”
    found in the world’s great spiritual traditions, we have essentially
    forgotten who we are–our true nature and divine heritage–and feel
    disconnected from our spiritual source. This disconnectedness or separation
    is viewed as the primary source of unhappiness. Many sacred traditions view
    mental illness and conditions such as depression not as a disease of the
    mind, but as a lack of connection to and awareness of soul. It is when we
    lose touch with our essential spiritual nature, and forget our true purpose
    in life that we become subject to depression and other illnesses.

    Is Depression Preventable?

    “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his
    patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and
    prevention of disease.”

                                                                                                         Thomas Edison

    When looking at the many faces of depression, the logical question arises:
    is depression preventable? In many cases the answer is, “yes” if we can
    learn to minimize or avoid the previously mentioned causes by living a
    balanced, wellness-based lifestyle, and maintaining a healthy psychological
    and spiritual perspective. Until recently, however, prevention has been a
    hard sell in America, as our system of health care has actually been a
    “sickcare” system focused on treating disease, not in preventing illness
    and maintaining health. In this book, each of the health traditions
    discussed by our team of health experts offer secrets to not just treating,
    but preventing depression through a healthy lifestyle and having tools and
    resources at hand to help deal with depression at its onset.

    What Do the World’s Systems of Traditional Health Care

    Throughout history, the world’s great systems of traditional medicine have
    provided a more balanced approach to health care, echoed in the World
    Health Organization’s classic definition of health:

    “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social
    and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

    The World Health Organization (WHO) uses the term “traditional medicine” to
    describe established systems of health care worldwide considered
    “unconventional” by modern, standardized western medicine. Most people are
    surprised to learn that according to the WHO, 80% of the world’s population
    receives their health care from the various forms of traditional medicine
    considered to be “alternative” or “unconventional” in the U.S. These
    systems include Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, unani
    (Graeco-Arab medicine), native American medicine, traditional African
    medicine, naturopathic medicine, homeopathy, chiropractic and osteopathy,
    among others.

    The maintenance of health and the prevention of disease form the basis of
    Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, naturopathic medicine and other forms of
    traditional health care. The therapeutic protocols in these systems are
    intended to restore balance to the body systems in order to reestablish
    health. Samuel Hahnemann, the late 18th/early 19th century founder of
    homeopathy wrote volumes on hygiene, health maintenance, mental health, as
    well as the prevention of disease. These systems all understood the
    connection between diet and mental health, the influence of lifestyle
    factors, the strong connection of mind and body, and finally the importance
    of the spiritual dimension in physical and mental health.

    Yoga and qigong are psychospiritual practices aimed at integrating body,
    mind and spirit. Meditation, now regularly prescribed by many physicians,
    is one of the eight limbs of classical yoga. In fact, the basis of much of
    today’s mind/body medicine, including guided imagery, biofeedback and other
    relaxation techniques, have strong ties to the practices of yoga and

    The following poetic passage written thousands of years ago in the Yoga
    Vasistha, a Sanskrit text of yoga and spiritual philosophy, demonstrates a
    profound and time-less understanding of how illness can originate in the
    mind–an understanding that is now weaving itself into the fabric of
    today’s medicine:

    “When the mind is agitated, then the body also follows in its wake. And
    when the body is agitated, then there is no proper perception of the things
    that are in one’s way and prana (vital force) flies from its even path onto
    the bad road, staggering like an animal wounded by an arrow. Through such
    agitation’s, prana, instead of pervading the whole body steadily and
    equally, vibrates everywhere at an unequal rate. Therefore, the nadis
    (subtle channels for circulation of prana) do not maintain a steady
    position, but quiver. Then to the body, which is the receptacle of
    partially or completely digested food, the nadis are simply death, because
    of the fluctuations of the pranas. The food which settles down in this body
    amidst such commotion is transformed into incurable diseases. Thus through
    the primary cause (of the mind) the disease of the body is generated. If
    this primary cause be annihilated at its root, then all diseases will be

    The formation of a truly global medicine in the spirit of the World Health
    Organization’s vision of integrating modern western medicine with the
    world’s traditional medicines, is more and more becoming a reality. This
    process involves a revitalization of medicine, inspiring the evolution of
    even greater numbers of safe and effective forms of naturally-based
    approaches to health care, side by side with the cutting edge developments
    in the field of mind/body medicine and energy medicine.

    Alternative, Complementary or Integrative Medicine? What’s
    in a Name?

    Alternative medicine is a relative term that refers in large part to the
    systems of traditional medicine that until recently were considered to be
    outside of the mainstream of western medicine. Today, courses on many of
    these systems are now being taught in over fifty U.S. medical schools,
    including Chinese medicine, acupuncture and qigong, Ayurveda, herbal
    medicine, mind/body medicine, nutritional medicine, homeopathy,
    naturopathy and chiropractic. There is a growing number of traditional
    patient-care organizations who now offer alternative medicine services in
    their clinics as well as insurance reimbursements.

    Many in conventional medical circles, however, still refer to “alternative”
    as unproven therapies which purport to replace or act as alternatives to
    conventional medical treatment. The issue as to what constitutes proof,
    conventional double-blind studies as opposed to hundreds or even thousands
    of years of favorable or successful outcomes, remains a contentious issue
    in conventional medicine.

    We often see conventional medical experts erroneously stating that there is
    no research on herbal or nutritional medicine. The German Commission E
    Reports, probably the single most important collection of botanical
    research in the world, have been publicly available in Germany for over ten
    years. Few in this country were aware of its existence and many who were,
    discounted it significance as it was not “American” research. However, the
    German Commission E Reports2 have now been translated into English (1998)
    in a project spearheaded by the American Botanical Council, and beginning
    to gain its due respect. Similarly, Dr. Melvin Werbach’s classic book,
    Nutritional Influences on Illness3, now a CD Rom containing over four
    thousand pages of nutritional research on over one hundred health
    conditions, was until recently little known outside of alternative medicine

    Two other terms coming into greater use are “complementary” medicine and
    “integrative” medicine. Complementary medicine means that it complements,
    but does not replace conventional health care, such as the use of
    acupuncture for pain control in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy. The
    Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM) at the National Institutes of Health
    now promotes the use of the term Complementary and Alternative Medicine
    (CAM). Integrative medicine refers to a form of health care that integrates
    both alternative/traditional and conventional medicine.

    Whatever name you choose, the strengths of this approach to health care are
    in maintaining a high level of health and well-being, treating the whole
    person, preventing illness, and offering safe and non-toxic natural
    therapies for treating illness, particularly chronic illness.

    The public demand for alternative medicine is very strong. A national
    survey conducted in1998 by Stanford Center for Research in Disease
    Prevention showed that the public does not differentiate between
    alternative and conventional medicines. Those polled wanted the options of
    going to both conventional and alternative health practitioners, and using
    those medicines and services that proved most effective without being
    restricted by arbitrary definitions. Over 69% of the respondents had used
    some form of complementary and alternative medicine in the past year.
    Clearly, consumers want choice in the forms of treatments they pursue
    –they want the best of both worlds.

    How to Get the Most Out of This Book

    The information and resources in this book will empower you to be more
    proactive and self-reliant in dealing with cases of mild or transient
    depression, showing you how it can be managed through the appropriate
    self-care and wellness-based lifestyle practices. It will also show you
    how to work in partnership with a health professional in more moderate or
    serious cases of depression to create an effective treatment program that
    incorporates the leading-edge natural approaches.

    Choosing a specific program or approach for any health condition can be a
    very personal process. For healing depression, some of you may choose to
    work primarily with an acupuncturist or Doctor of Oriental Medicine, while
    others may prefer to work with a homeopathic or naturopathic physician.
    Still others will choose a psychiatrist or a physician who is knowledgeable
    of both alternative and conventional therapies. Some of you may find that
    taking a more multi-dimensional approach in designing a program that
    utilizes several different health practitioners and forms of therapy
    including exercise, massage, meditation, a healthy diet, nutritional
    supplements and herbs, is the right solution for your condition.

    Look over each chapter and see if the approach is relevant to your
    situation, and whether or not its basic principles resonate with your own
    philosophy and belief system. Each of these approaches has been
    effectively used for treating depression, and can work if it is the
    appropriate approach for you. With the broader acceptance of alternative/
    complementary therapies we are no longer restricted to standardized,
    conventional medicine which looks for one solution to each health problem
    as if physicians were treating “disease units” rather than a whole person
    with both biochemical and psychological individuality.

    As the various systems of traditional medicine and the more modern systems
    of alternative medicine share a common perspective–a holistic focus on
    prevention, health maintenance, the use of natural therapies, and a
    comprehensive treatment plan–you will find throughout the various chapters
    some of the same therapies as part of an overall treatment plan. For
    example, St. John’s wort is included in the chapters on herbal medicine,
    naturopathic medicine as well as an integrated approach to women’s
    depression. This overlapping is not only because of this herb’s high
    success rate with depression, but because the description of each approach
    would be incomplete without a discussion of this herb.

    Finally, you can use this book to help increase your general level of
    health and well-being by incorporating the dietary, lifestyle, and stress
    management guidelines.

    Every chapter provides tools to help you develop a wellness-based lifestyle
    and to address imbalances that may occur in your physical and mental health.
    We have provided additional resources in the appendices for each specific
    therapy included in the book: recommended reading, national organizations
    and educational institutes, professional referral sources, as well as
    Internet resources. The Internet has played a strong role in disseminating
    information and resources about alternative medicine to consumers, health
    professionals and health care organization. More importantly, as a global
    delivery system it supports the formation of an integrated global system of
    health care which can utilize the best of traditional and modern medicine.

    The Need for Self-Managed Care

    “The next major advance in the health of the American people will be determined by what the individual is willing to do for himself.”

    – John Knowles, Former President of the Rockefeller Foundation

    With the current direction of managed care, it is vital for the individual
    to take more control over their own health care. The abundance of
    information about medical options and alternatives necessitates that we
    become educated brokers of our own health care. Consumers are doing much of
    their own medical research today and assessing alternative treatments
    before conferring with their health professional. The accessibility and
    wealth of information on the Internet, has only accelerated thisprocess.

    The philosophy of Self-Managed Care emphasizes maintaining health and
    well-being, consumer empowerment, partnership with one’s health care
    provider, and increased utilization of natural remedies and alternative
    medicine services. The demanding baby-boomer population, many of whom are
    now managing their own health as well as that of their children and aging
    parents, are opting for less-invasive and more cost-effective natural
    approaches as their primary strategy, tending to avoid the medical system
    when possible in non-emergent cases. Savvy health consumers today want a
    full range of treatment options from both conventional and alternative
    medicine. More than ever the key word is choice.

    Many Paths to Healing Depression

    This book presents contributions from nine nationally recognized experts in
    the major fields of alternative/complementary (traditional) medicine, which
    as a whole, presents a comprehensive and holistic vision of depression.
    Five of the contributors are experts in the major systems of traditional
    medicine: Ayurveda, Chinese medicine and qigong, herbal medicine,
    homeopathy and naturopathic medicine. Three contributors are experts in
    mind/body medicine, nutritional medicine and spiritual medicine. The final
    contributor, a psychiatrist and expert in women’s mood disorders,
    represents the true integrative approach by blending western medicine with
    nutritional medicine, herbs, and leading-edge psychotherapy.

    In reading this book you will witness the true art of medicine as you are
    intelligently and compassionately guided by dedicated health professionals
    who look beyond the apparent symptoms to address the deeper, underlying
    causes of depression through natural and humane approaches. Reading each
    chapter will take you on a journey of hope and discovery. You will be
    exposed to healing secrets, both ancient and modern, that will expand your
    view of the nature of depression and illness as well as educate you in the
    many paths to healing this condition.

    The following summaries of the nine chapters of this book will give you a
    sense for each healing system or approach, and help you or your loved one
    begin developing the options for an effective treatment plan.

    Depression as Emotional Pain: A Mind/Body Approach — David Bresler,
    Ph.D., L.Ac.

    Depression is a part of the natural healing process and does not always
    require therapeutic intervention, says clinical psychologist and mind/body
    pioneer Dr. David Bresler, who is an Associate Clinical Professor at the
    UCLA School of Medicine and co-founder of the Academy for Guided Imagery.
    In this compelling and human picture of the psychological dimension of
    depression, he explains how our real concern should not be with people who
    experience depression, but with those who have become stuck in the healing
    process. From this perspective, we can view depression as a form of
    chronic emotional pain or an emotional habit which results in one becoming
    “stuck” in a depressed state of consciousness. In order to break the
    habit of depressed thinking, we can employ mind/body approaches such as
    interactive guided imagery which can have powerful physiological and
    psychological effects, and put us in touch with our own inner resources.

    Guided imagery can help us learn to “focus attention on the part of the
    nervous system that may have answers to our questions and solutions to our
    problems,” according to Dr. Bresler. Most of us are unaware of the powerful
    inner resources we have at our disposal, and guided imagery techniques can
    help us to discover these resources and use them to provide new insights
    and creative solutions to our problems. The reader is guided through an
    evocative imagery experience which is designed to identify the particular
    qualities that are needed right now to help get one through a current
    challenge or difficulty. Additional imagery tools are given for dealing
    with depression: exploring the origin and meaning of symptoms, encountering
    the Inner Critic, and accessing yourInner Intelligence or Inner Advisor.
    According to Bresler, of vital importance in healing depression is keeping
    the human spirit alive through hope and faith. “When we lose hope, we lose
    the very thing that offers the greatest help in healing our problem.”

    Natural Medicine and Depression: A Naturopathic Approach — Joseph
    Pizzorno, N.D.

    The true role of a naturopathic physician is not in treating disease but
    helping people to re-establish health, says Dr. Pizzorno, President and
    co-founder of Bastyr University and an internationally recognized expert in
    natural medicine and author of the acclaimed book, Total Wellness: Improve
    Your Health by Understanding the Body’s Healing Systems. Identifying a
    disease is a useful label to help people understand their health problems,
    however, the naturopathic approach looks beyond the label of “depression.”
    It looks at the whole person and identifies the underlying causative
    factors to determine what steps are needed to eliminate those causes and
    help a person move towards a balanced state of health.

    This approach has many advantages. Stressing prevention and honoring the
    healing power of nature, Naturopathic medicine relies upon natural
    therapies including diet, nutritional medicine, herbs, homeopathy,
    acupuncture, massage and bodywork as well as psychological and lifestyle
    counseling. The patient is able to utilize a combination of therapies
    determined by the naturopath at very safe dosages, rather than a using a
    single therapy at a higher, toxic dosage. Naturopathy also views the role
    of the physician to be an educator, teaching and motivating people to take
    more personal responsibility in maintaining good health and a state of
    wellness. All of these factors allow the patient to be highly involved in
    the treatment process.

    Dr. Pizzorno’s naturopathic approach to treating depression identifies five
    primary determinants of mood: physical factors; social factors (family and
    social patterns), mental factors (a person’s thinking patterns), emotional
    factors and spiritual factors. For example, on the physical level we may
    need to eliminate toxins, normalize endocrine function and neurotransmitter
    metabolism, increase exercise and light exposure, and utilize natural mood
    elevators. On the mental and emotional levels we may need to deal with
    family of origin issues, employ psychodynamic approaches when necessary, or
    even follow a prescription for having fun if we are in need of lightening
    up our lives.

    Dr. Pizzorno offers a fascinating case study to illustrate naturopathic
    medicine’s comprehensive and effective approach to dealing with depression
    that first provides the necessary and immediate symptomatic relief while
    treating the primary causes.

    Women’s Depression: An Integrative Approach — Hyla Cass,

    Psychiatrist and author Hyla Cass, an expert in integrating leading-edge
    natural medicine with innovative psychotherapy, and Assistant Clinical
    Professor at the UCLA School of Medicine, encounters many women in her
    private practice with typical psychiatric complaints: depression,
    addiction, impaired concentration, eating disorders, weight gain, insomnia,
    anxiety, fatigue, and sexual dysfunction. Rather than approaching her
    patients from a standard psychiatric, drug-prescribing perspective, Dr.
    Cass examines other possible underlying causes for their depression and
    related symptoms: genetic predisposition, hormonal imbalances, food and
    chemical sensitivities, chronic fatigue syndrome, candidiasis, toxic
    reactions, and nutritional deficiencies.

    Her integrative approach to treating depression and mood disorders in women
    utilizes a wide range of therapies depending upon the specific history and
    biochemistry of the patient as determined by laboratory tests. These
    therapies include dietary therapy and nutritional medicine, amino acid
    therapy, herbal medicine, and natural hormone therapy, as well as mind/body
    therapies, leading-edge forms of psychotherapy including Voice Dialogue,
    and when necessary, conventional antidepressant medications. Dr. Cass’
    integrative approach to treating depression and its underlying metabolic
    causes is also relevant to men, with the exception of the specific hormonal

    A Comprehensive Approach to Depression: Nutritional Medicine and
    Biofeedback — Melvyn Werbach, M.D.

    Psychiatrist Melvyn Werbach presents a “new” model for looking at
    depression based on the natural and holistic principles of Hippocrates, the
    ancient Greek physician/healer recognized as the father of Western
    medicine. Depression can be viewed in three different ways according to
    Dr. Werbach: as a failure of a body system, a psychological defense, and a
    physical or psychological warning of the imbalance between mind and body.
    Optimal treatment involves a holistic approach which integrates the best of
    psychiatry, nutritional medicine and mind/body therapies.

    Dr. Werbach, an internationally recognized authority in nutritional
    medicine, an early pioneer in biofeedback research at UCLA, and Assistant
    Clinical Professor at the UCLA School of Medicine, provides a clear and
    in-depth explanation of the nutritional treatment of depression through
    diet and nutritional supplementation, based on solid scientific research.
    Dietary factors and common foods associated with depression are examined
    such as caffeine, sugar and alcohol, as well as specific nutrient
    deficiencies including vitamin B-Complex, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin
    B12, and vitamin C, as is neurotransmitter precursor therapy to raise
    serotonin levels. A case study emphasizes the importance of integrating
    therapies such as biofeedback and relaxation response training into a more
    comprehensive model of treating depression.

    The Natural Pharmacy: Herbal Medicine and Depression — Janet Zand,
    O.M.D., L.Ac.

    Depression is an enigmatic and complex phenomenon according to Dr. Janet
    Zand, a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, author, and a nationally known expert
    in herbal medicine. In fact, many of the numerous symptoms of
    depression–chronic fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite, headaches,
    backaches, bowel disorders, and feelings of worthlessness and
    inadequacy–can, in other circumstances, be the cause of depression. Herbal
    medicine has a long and respected history, and holds a valuable place in
    the treatment of mental/emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression
    as well as the vast majority of health problems. The proper use of herbs
    not only helps to alleviate symptoms, but also helps to treat the
    underlying problem and strengthen the overall functioning of a particular
    organ or body system.

    Dr. Zand profiles the Western and Chinese herbs herbs that have proven
    effective in treating depression, anxiety and mood disorders, including St.
    John’s wort, kava, Siberian ginseng, Ginkgo biloba, astragalus, Dong quai,
    bupleurum, milk thistle, ginger root, and valerian. She also provides a
    list of essential oils that are helpful in alleviating depression as well
    as a useful herbal chart for quick reference. This chart lists the herbs
    and the corresponding symptoms of depression that it addresses, along with
    how the herb is taken, plus any possible side effects.

    Homeopathy and Depression — Jacquelyn Wilson, M.D.

    Homeopathic remedies use minute doses of a medicinal agent that stimulate
    the body’s own natural powers of recovery to restore balance and health
    rather than to simply suppress symptoms. Dr. Wilson, a nationally
    recognized authority in homeopathy and past President of the American
    Institute of Homeopathy, has found this system of natural medicine to be
    consistently effective in treating mental and emotional problems, as a
    method of individual self-care, and in more serious cases, when
    administered under the care of a health professional. In classical
    homeopathy, however, there are numerous forms of depression, as depression
    is not considered to be a single disease but a specific symptom-picture.
    Classical homeopathic prescribing matches a single remedy with a patient’s
    detailed symptom profile. The keyto the homeopathic approach to treating
    depression, therefore, is to find the medicine that corresponds or is
    similar to the depressed person’s mind and body traits, and complaints.

    The most important homeopathic remedies for depression are described in
    this chapter, along with the appropriate Bach Flower remedies and cell
    salts, including each remedy’s matching symptom profile. Dr. Wilson also
    distinguishes between the advantages and disadvantages of the two primary
    forms of homeopathy–classical single remedy prescribing, and complex
    homeopathy which uses combination remedies. She provides a fascinating
    account of a serious depressed woman who did not respond to
    antidepresssants and conventional medicine, but significantly benefited
    from a specific homeopathic remedy.

    Qigong, Chinese Medicine and Depression: Roger Hirsh, O.M.D.

    Chinese medicine as well as the many Chinese healing arts and martial arts
    are based on the concept of Qi or vital force. Chinese philosophy
    believes that the free and unobstructed flow of qi throughout the organ
    meridian system of the body brings radiant health, whereas its blockage or
    stagnation results in reduced energy that can lead to health problems.
    There is a strong recognition in Chinese Medicine of the role of the
    emotions in health and illness. When the body and mind move in harmony,
    positive emotions prevail. Depression, however, is due to a stagnation of
    emotional Qi within an individual’s internal organs, especially the liver,
    kidneys and lungs. If the Qi is deeply stagnated for a period of time it
    can affect every organ meridian system and cause severe depression.

    Dr. Hirsh, a respected doctor of Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, and
    a longtime teacher of Qigong and taiji (tai chi), leads the reader in a
    journey into the secrets of Qigong, an ancient Chinese art of energy
    training and rejuvenation. Qigong is increasingly utilized in health care
    settings worldwide, and is used in both the prevention and treatment of
    depression. For those experiencing either acute or deep-seated depression,
    Hirsh provides some simple Qigong exercises which involves breathing,
    visualization and movement to stimulate and energize. The first set of
    Qigong exercises are warm-ups that can be performed either individually or
    as a group to help deal with mild to moderate depression. The second group,
    “The Eight Silken Brocades” is a set of ancient exercises that help to
    stimulate and tonify the whole biomechanical system of the body in order to
    relieve stress, maintain youthfulness, and promote general well-being.

    Ayurveda for Depression and Mental Health — Shri Kant Mishra, M.D.,
    M.S., Doctor of Ayurveda

    Ayurveda, the traditional system of medicine in India practiced
    continuously for over 5,000 years, literally means the “Science of Life.”
    The principal goal of Ayurveda is the preservation and promotion of health
    with special emphasis on preventing illness. The secondary goal of this
    form of medicine is the treatment of physical, mental and spiritual
    illness, according to Dr. Shri Kant Mishra, an internationally renowned
    neurologist, and the only western-trained M.D. working in the U.S. with a
    formal degree in Ayurveda from Benares University in India. In addressing
    one’s overall heath, Ayurveda embraces a holistic perspective, integrating
    all aspects of life–nutrition, hygiene, sleep, seasonal changes,
    lifestyle, and physical, mental and sexual activities. Diagnosis and
    treatment in Ayurvedic medicine revolves around determining the
    individual’s constitutional profile, which is based upon the unique
    combination of the three doshas or humors (vata, pitta and kapha). Illness
    and depression results when there is a dosha imbalance.

    This ancient system of natural medicine has a long history in the areas of
    mental health, rejuvenation, and longevity through the use of diet and
    lifestyle practices, herbs, massage, yoga, and meditation. Dr. Mishra
    explores the Ayurvedic approach to attaining a balanced state of mental
    health and focuses on specific approaches to treating vata, pitta and kapha
    forms of depression. He also provides yogic practices such as pranayama
    (breathing practices) and meditation to help promote optimal health and
    mental clarity and balance.

    The Spiritual Dimension of Depression — Carlos Warter, M.D.,

    The great spiritual traditions of the world tell us that pain and suffering
    are rooted in the forgetfulness of our true divine nature– our separation
    from the universal source. Psychiatrist Carlos Warter, M.D., Ph.D., a
    pioneer in spiritual psychology and psychospiritual integration, shows us
    how depression can manifest through ignoring or forgetting our true
    identity as spiritual beings. In treating hundreds of individuals with
    symptoms of depression, Dr. Warter recognizes the validity of each
    treatment modality, and the importance of looking at the physical,
    biochemical, mental and emotional causes of depression. To be really
    effective, however, he has discovered that one must cross into the realm of
    the spiritual to create a truly comprehensive treatment approach. “In the
    majority of depression cases that I have treated,” says Warter, “the
    essential problem is that the individual’s identity is firmly established
    in the smaller story of the personality and their larger, divine identity
    has been ‘forgotten.’ ”

    The solution, according to Warter, is to help the individual to move from
    the small, contracted story where depression is able to develop, to the
    awareness of a larger dimension of one’s being, the large or big story of
    human life. This elevation in awareness entails a fundamental shift in the
    very notion of who one is, thereby undercutting very basis of the
    existing depression. In this final chapter, Dr. Warter charts out the
    spiritual terrain of healing, by combining both eastern and western
    spiritual traditions, and providing many practical tools and exercises to
    help us reclaim our wholeness and spiritual birthright.

    Where Do I Go From Here?

    The final chapter gives you important tips to further educate yourself
    about the therapies in this book, and the criteria for selecting the most
    appropriate one for a specific condition. This includes referrals to the
    various appendices of the book, that provide resources on alternative and
    complementary health care, recommended reading and Internet resources. The
    chapter also provides guidelines for finding the most suitable professional
    services, including health professionals, diagnostic laboratories and
    compounding pharmacies.

    Treat this book like a treasure chest of healing approaches to depression
    and mood disorders. Open and examine its unique and valuable contents.
    Discover and take with you the map to healthier living.

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    Written by Nancy ShawStrohecker

    Explore Wellness in 2021