The devastating feeling of being pulled down mentally as well as physically could be an experience that must have trapped us at least once in our lifetime. Depression is a state of despondency and extreme inactivity that affect our thoughts, actions, social relations, mood and cognitive functions negatively.
Not necessarily a psychiatric disorder in many cases, depression can become a dominant force when left unattended to. To take care of such mood disorders, one need not essentially visit a psychiatric practitioner or take refuge in over-the-counter medications that can not only become addictive, but also harm your body in the long run. Nature has provided us with abundant herbs that can be used for treating a host of mental disorders without any side effects.
Herbs for Depression
St John’s Wort
Indigenous to the European continent, this yellow floral wonder is a century old traditional herbal medication used for treating depression, mood swings, and several other mental and nervous conditions. Though without much scientific backing, St John’s Wort is an accepted treatment for depression ranging from mild to moderate.
The herb works by preventing re-absorption of serotonin by the nerve cells, preventing depression and mood disorders. The active ingredient in the herb hypericum perforatum, which again contains hyperforin, xanthones, flavonols etc . works in a similar manner as that of antidepressants used in conventional medicine. However, St John’s Wort may not be effective for treating major depression, as confirmed by recent studies on the effectiveness of the herb.
A safe and easily available herbal remedy suggested by many holistic practitioners for treating depression, ginger warms up your tissues by enhancing the circulation of the blood all throughout the body. The minerals magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus that are present in ginger are what make it a competent and simple remedy for depression.
Magnesium deficiency is one of the major causes that can lead to symptoms of depression. However, ginger is not a common remedy used for treating depression, as there could be several interactions with conditions like diabetes, heart, heartburn etc. Nevertheless, small dosages are considered safe for people who do not have any major illnesses.
Berries have always been praised for its antioxidant and healing benefits on the body. Camu Camu, a berry from the Peruvian rainforests is rich in phytochemicals and minerals like potassium, beta-carotene, calcium etc. that help in attaining overall health and mental balance.
Camu Camu is being increasingly preferred for treatment of depression, in the place of other herbal alternatives such as St John’s Wort, due to its absence of side effects and drug interactions. The herb is also not an MAO inhibitor as in the case of St John’s Wort and does not pose the risk of developing Cataract or Glaucoma with frequent usage.
The short shrub also known as ‘Indian Ginseng’ is a medicinal herb that is considered as an adaptogen and immune boosting herb in Ayurveda. Its mild sedative and nerve calming effects along with its muscle relaxing properties are what makes it a wonderful remedy for depression and anxiety. Apart from that, the herb is also used extensively for treating male infertility, inflammatory diseases, cancer and general weakness and debility.
Though not harmful when taken in the right dosages, Aswagandha is an herb that can stimulate the production of thyroid hormones in the body and hence overdose can cause thyroid toxicosis and steroidal reaction, which is similar to creatinine.
An herbaceous plant from the cruciferous family, a Maca hypocotyl root is known to contain more than 55 phytochemicals that can help in treating a variety of conditions of the body. The herb is reported to elevate the mood and energy of a person in an instant.
Though no significant side effects or toxicity have been reported with the intake of Maca, the herb is high in glucosinolates, which could interfere with certain conditions of the body. It can also lead to an adverse effect on your hormonal problems if taken in high dosages. Therefore, a visit to the holistic practitioner is recommended before taking this herb for depression.
An aromatic flowering herb belonging to the mint family, Lavender flower and extracts from the flower are predominantly used for treating depression and anxiety. The historical roots have been used internally as well as for stimulating the olfactory senses for relieving the symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, stress and mood swings. Lavender essential oil is a much preferred aromatherapy oil used for improving the quality of life of a person.
The energizing aroma of the herb can stimulate the scent receptors, which are present in the nose, and this will in turn help in mobilizing chemical messages to the limbic region in the brain. The messages help in regulating heart rate, blood pressure and emotional responses of a person suffering from depression. Lavender may cause allergic reaction in some people and in others, it could cause drug interactions and hence a health care expert must definitely be consulted before taking the herb for depression.
Rhodiola Rosea, commonly known as Roseroot is a perennial plant that thrives in cold and mountainous regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Roseroot consists of compounds that are adaptogens and MAO inhibitors that help in treating stress and depression. MAO degrades the amount of serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters that increase the positive signals generated in the brain.
Roseroot inhibits the activity of MAO and helps in elevating mood, improve sleep and emotional stability. Adaptogens in roseroot help in increasing one’s resistance to stress and anxiety.
The calming effect of Lemon Balm has been explored and experienced for centuries. Research suggests that Lemon Balm improves mood and reduces anxiety and depression. Dramatic improvement in mood as well as cognitive functions have been reported in individuals who have been part of laboratory research conducted with Lemon Balm. The volatile oils, which are present in Lemon Balm, citral and citronellal, have strong anti spasmodic as well as calming effect on the muscles and central nervous system.
Also rich in polyphenols that help in preventing free radical damage to the body, Lemon Balm can inhibit thyroid functioning and hence must be taken with caution by individuals suffering from thyroid hormone irregularities.