Herbs for Depression

Everywhere you look you find something about depression. Depression appears to be one of the fastest growing disorders out there. More alarming is the fact that pre-school children are the fastest growing market for antidepressants. What’s wrong in a society in which children under the age of six need medication to make them happy children?

Depression is caused by chemical changes in the brain that affects how it functions. In a sense it causes the brain to misfire or send mixed signals. Poor nutrition can be a leading cause of the neurotransmitters not functioning properly.

Poor nutrition lies at the forefront of the diseases and disorders that we face today and it begins in childhood. All too often our children are raised on a diet of McDonald’s fast food, processed quick-fix foods, all the snacks they can eat in one sitting, and sodas. Their little brains aren’t getting the nutrients they need to function and develop properly. Even if you give them good food during childhood they will eventually create their own diet in the teen years and adulthood. These two are still critical times for good nutrition. The brain can begin misfiring at any time poor nutrition is evident in the diet.

Herbs and prescription medication can only do so much. If you want to get at the root of the problem you have to arm yourself with good nutrition.

Studies show that certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies play an enormous role in depression. After suffering far longer than I should have from bipolar disorder because I refused to be medicated, I knew there had to be a better way. I did research and concluded that lacking certain vitamins is inherent in depression. This information isn’t easily found in these times of pharmaceutical companies looking to get rich off of illness, but if you dig deep enough you will find this information. On the other side of the coin is the nutritional industry vying for your money just as well. But if you look at it more closely, at least with the nutritional companies you don’t have possible adverse side effects. Their biggest promise is that you will feel better and 99% of the time this is true.

The biggest obstacle in overcoming depression is just deciding to do something about it and taking steps to deal with it. Another obstacle with fighting depression is to find what works for you. For some it may be adding physical activity, some may find that meditation and diet works, then others may find that it takes a combination of all these along with getting the vitamins required to help with depression.

The best vitamins for treating depression are the B vitamins, notably B6, B12 and folic acid. Another good supplement is Omega 3’s. Taking these in conjunction with an exercise or meditation program shows promising results. Some herbs that can be added to this regimen are:

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum). Hypericin, the active compound in St. John’s Wort is shown to help anxiety, depression and the feelings of being worthless. It is often compared to some commercial medications like Elavil and Tofranil. It is also improves sleep quality. If you take St. John’s Wort you should avoid exposure because it can cause the skin to be sensitive to sunlight.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra). Licorice contains monoamine oxidase inhibitors or MAO inhibitors. These compounds have potent antidepressant action. If you take licorice or any other MAO inhibitor there are certain foods you should avoid like alcohol, smoked or pickled foods, cold and hay fever medications, amphetamines, narcotics, tryptophan and tyrosine.
You can add licorice to your favorite herbal tea but only consume about three cups a day. Large doses of licorice or long-term use can cause headache, lethargy, water retention, sodium retention, high blood pressure and excessive loss of potassium.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale). Ginger has a long history in folk lore for treating anxiety and depression.

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Purslane is rich in the minerals potassium and magnesium which have been shown to have antidepressant effects. It is also rich in other minerals that are beneficial in treating depression such as calcium, folate, and lithium.
It should be noted that folate is the natural form of folic acid, a B vitamin that is very good for depression and that lithium is a highly prescribed medication for the treatment of depression. Thyme is also another herb that is high in lithium.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Rosemary oil mixed with some vegetable oil makes good massage oil. Aromatherapists use rosemary quite often in the treatment of depression because it stimulates the central nervous system. Other oils that may be beneficial are bergamot, basil, camomile, clary sage, lavender, jasmine, nutmeg and ylang ylang. Essential oils are not to be taken internally.

Gingko (Ginkgo biloba). Gingko may be beneficial in the treatment of depression because it helps increase blood flow to the brain. It may be especially good for the treatment of the elderly who suffer depression.

Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). Ginseng acts as a MAO inhibitor and may help improve a person’s sense of well-being.

Foods rich in B vitamins. We are back to an essential part of brain chemistry and brain function. B vitamins keep the neurotransmitters at a high level. Good sources of folate are pinto beans, navy beans, asparagus, spinach, and broccoli. You can find B6 in foods such as cauliflower, watercress, spinach, kale, brussel sprouts, radishes and peas.

Remember there is no quick fix for depression but if you take an active stance against depression, you can manage it. Eat a healthy diet, get a good amount of physical activity and decide that you will take control.

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