Although statistics say that clinical depression affects about five percent of the American population, that number is most likely greatly underestimated. The truth is, thousands of people suffer from depression and stress related mental disorders but are either incorrectly diagnosed or never ask for help or treatment. For those who do, however, there is good news in the form of short-term cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and naturalistic depression treatments.
Among the latter are herbal medicines, homeopathy, yoga, aromatherapy, acupuncture and similar non-traditional, non-pharmaceutical treatments. Several well-recognized reports have shown that specific herbs act in much the same way as chemical medicines, balancing both neurotransmitters and hormones, with excellent results but without the occasionally debilitating side effects or withdrawal symptoms associated with prescription anti-depressants.
The leaves and flowers of St. John’s Wort, a plant found in both Europe and North America, have been used to cure depression for thousands of years both here and abroad. Another widely used plant is the West African Griffonia Simplicifolia, the seeds of which are used to make 5-HTP or 5-Hydroxytryptophan. This natural treatment helps stimulate the production of tryptophan, the amino acid that makes you feel so content and sleepy after a turkey dinner and which leads to the production of serotonin, the body’s own cure for depression.
SAM-e (S-adenosyl-L-methionine) and folic acid have also been discovered to be effective in treating mild to moderate depression, particularly when combined with CBT, as practiced by the many New York City psychiatrists who specialize in this form of therapy. While herbal additives are being used by more of the population every single day, most people are not informed enough to effectively self-prescribe, so it is generally unwise to take any of the aforementioned herbs with or instead of prescribed pharmaceutical depression meds, nor without prior consultation with a therapist.
However, regular exercise, yoga and meditation have been found to be of great help for physical and mental well being, and are being prescribed, not just by your general practitioner, but also by some psychiatrists to treat depression and stress.
For individuals who are either already being treated for a stress related mental condition or who are in the process of seeking depression treatment, inquiring into the pros and cons of a naturalistic treatment program is a wise idea. By all means, get active physically if you are able to do so. However, it is important to remember that this is rarely an “either-or” situation. Self-medication, by means of either natural or homeopathic remedies, should not replace regular treatment by a trained, certified medical professional. If regular pharmaceutical medications are prescribed, asking about naturalistic remedies instead of pharmaceuticals may turn out to be the best step you can take toward recovery.