Herbs: My top five herbs for depression

Brown’s Wellbeing Centre’s top five herbs for treating Depression

Being married to a someone finishing their studies in psychology and having a father who is also a therapist, I have naturally taken an interest in mental illness, or as I prefer to call it: mental wellbeing.

One of the most common problems in mental wellbeing is Depression. Depression is feelings of hopelessness, loss and prolonged sadness. The causes for depression are complex, and I prefer to network with a mental health professional as there are often behavioral issues that Herbal Medicine or Orthodox drugs cannot change. I can however, blend Herbal Medicines for the person in front for me, and I never use the same mix in two patients suffering from the same illness. That being said, I will review the traditional and scientific evidence for safe, effective Herbal Medicines and their application in Depression. I am just amazed that these Herbs can work in depression as well as Drugs that are commonly used for depression, which we now see.

  1. St Johns Wort. – Hypericum perforatum.

St Johns Wort is always referred to by Biomedicine as the evidence based herb. Even though other herbal medicines have excellent evidence, St Johns Wort is the most famous. St Johns Wort is used in traditional Western Medicine for excitability, hysteria, nervous conditions with depression and menopause. It was also used for nerve damage such as neuralgia in addition to topical applications for wounds.  In our modern times, reviews of literature called meta-analysis’ concluded that St Johns Wort is more effective than placebo (nothing) for treating mild to moderate depression. Even in major depression, in a review of close to 5500 patients, St Johns Wort was found to be as effective as anti-depressant, though with fewer side effects. It is worth noting that a mental health professional and GP should always be involved if the depression is serious.

  1. Saffron – Crocus sativus

Saffron has a long history as a culinary spice. It the world’s most expensive spice s(by weight) and is a brilliant bright red-orange colour. It is also becoming one of my favorite Herbal Medicines. Traditionally it is used for menstrual disorders, fever, colds and flu and as we now know: depression. A number of clinical studies have confirmed its effective use in mild to moderate depression. It was found to be significantly better effect than placebo and was had a similar effect to (Prozac) and imipramine (Melipramine), both anti-depressant drugs.

  1. Lavender – Lavandula angustiflora

Many will know of Lavenders effect on the nervous system for migraines and to help induce sleep. Though in modern Herbal Medicine, there is scare literature available to substantiate this, there is however some studies. One suggested of Lavenders use in depression in which Lavender tincture was compared with a conventional anti-depressant drug. They concluded that while Lavender may not be as effective on its on, the combination of lavender with an anti-depressant showed that Lavender may increase the drugs effectiveness.  This is often while I will add Lavender to a potent anti-depressant Herbal mix, increasing its effect. 

  1. Rhodiola – Rhodiola rosea

Rhodiola is popular herb in traditional Eastern Europe, Asia and Scandinavia. It is thought to stimulate the nervous system and enhance physical and mental performance. This Herbal Class is known as Adaptogenic. What is less known though is its anti-depressant action. It appears to modulate the neuro chemicals (neurotransmitters) thought to be responsible for depression and in modern clinical trails it was shown to be stronger than imipramine (Melipramine)or St Johns Wort. 

  1. Rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis

Since ancient times, Rosemary has been used as a stimulant and tonic. The ancient Greeks used it to strengthen memory (hence its symbolism in ANZAC day) and it is also an anti-oxidant used to preserve food. In modern studies, Rosemary has been shown to exert anti-depressant like effect similar, once again, to fluoxetine. 

So there it is: my top five herbs for effectively and safely treating depression. 

Please note that if you are currently suffering from depression, please seek help from a mental health professional. A Naturopath can also blend a Herbal Tonic to your specific needs in that time. The best results are obtained from quality Herbal Medicines (they are not all equal) as prepared by a Naturopath or Herbalist.

If you are seeking relief from depression, please contact Brown’s Wellbeing Centre, via the links below and talk to your GP.

Braun, L., & Cohen, M. (2010). Herbs & natural supplements. Sydney: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.

Hechtman, L. (2012). Clinical naturopathic medicine. Sydney, Australia: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier Australia.

Medi-Herb, A Phytotherapist’s perspective. No.152. January 2012. Australia

Thomsen, M., & Gennat, H. (2009). Phytotherapy : desk reference : a clinical handbook. Hobart: Global Natural Medicine.

*Please note that advice is of a general nature and does not replace the advice of a health professional.

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