“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.”
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:
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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..
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 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.
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:
which are necessary for proper brain physiology.
and heavy metals–aluminum, cadmium and lead.
wheat as well as to chemicals such as aspartame
testes, pituitary, and adrenal) are under stress or not functioning
properly, hormone levels may fluctuate and profoundly effect mood.
mood swings and depression.
affects the auto immune system
fog, depression and feelings of doom.
depression as exercisers.
lead to allergic reactions, poor absorption of food, and malnourishment.
in stomach HCL, pancreatic enzymes or bile acids.
iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium
beta-blockers, cholinergics, corticosteroids, estrogens (including
contraceptives, levodopa, reserpine.
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.”
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:
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,
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
“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
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
– 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,
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
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,
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
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.