Although conventional drug treatment helps many people suffering from depression, there are many people who do not benefit from these treatments, and others who suffer unwanted side effects. Please do not stop taking your medications. This is not a post to encourage you to stop using your medications, including anti-depressants. My goal in sharing this information to help those who are not benefiting from their present treatments and are considering other options. If you are considering adding any of the medicinal herbs mentioned in this post, speak to your regular healthcare provider for guidance and supervision as you make the changes to your treatment regime. Not all natural plants are safe and some could interact negatively with prescribed drugs. Do not go out into your garden and use plants that are considered bedding plants as medicinal herbs.
Many, many years ago, I was one of the people suffering from depression who did not benefit from conventional drug treatments. My passion to help match the right symptom relief solutions for each unique client prompts me to continue my research into non-conventional treatments, not only for depression, but other symptoms. What works for one person with anxiety or depression will not necessarily be the right fit for another person with the same symptoms. Before you consider adding herbs to your treatment plan, please read my blog post Mental Health by Design for my holistic mental health recommendations for ‘where to begin’.
A number of studies have researched adjunctive therapeutic approaches to improve outcomes for depression patients. I have summarized some of them below.
Medicinal Herbs Studied:
The fruit of the Nelumbo nucifera (Nelumbinis semen) plant has long been used as a natural tranquilizer in Asian countries. “Nelumbinis Semen reverses a decrease in 5-HT1A receptor binding induced by chronic mild stress, a depression-like symptom”(1)
Carvacrol, the main compound in oregano oil, has been found to induce antidepressant effects that seem to be dependent on an interaction with the dopaminergic brain pathways.(2) Carvacrol can raise 5-HT and dopamine ranges in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex and influence neuronal activity through modulation of neurotransmitters.(3)
Camellia sinensis (or tea plant) is used to make most traditional caffeinated teas, including black tea, white tea, oolong tea, and green tea. Research results suggest that green tea polyphenols can regulate the HPA axis involved in the pathology of depression.(4)
Crocus sativus, commonly known as saffron crocus, or autumn crocus, improves the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression and improves the Beck Depression Inventory and Beck Anxiety Inventory Scores with rare side effects.(5)
Hypericum perforatum commonly known as St. John’s wort, is used in the treatment of anxiety and depression and can prevent relapse after recovery from acute depression.(6)
Piper methysticum, commonly called kava, improves the Montgomery–Asberg Depression Rating Scale with no serious adverse effects and no clinical hepatotoxicity.(7)
Rhodiola rosea showed increased hippocampus 5-HT level-induced proliferation of neural stem cells, repairing the damaged neuronal cells in hippocamps.(8) Improves overall depression, together with insomnia, emotional instability, and somatization, but not self-esteem with no serious side effects.(9)
Lavandula angustifolia, the well known and loved lavender plant, reduces stress, anxiety, and depression in pregnant women.(10) Lavender Improves the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.(11)
Curcumin: The medicinal properties of turmeric, which is the major source of the polyphenol curcumin, have been known for thousands of years. Curcumin requires enhancing agents like piperine (found in black pepper) to provide the multiple health benefits. Curcumen restores biochemical and behavioral changes induced by chronic stress, reverses the decreased immobility period and MAO activity induced chronic stress and attenuates the stress-induced hippocampus in mice studies. (12)
Proanthocyanidins are a class of polyphenols found in a variety of plants such as blueberry. They enhance 5-HT levels in hypothalamus, hypothalamus, and the frontal cortex.(13)
Quercetin is a plant pigment (flavonoid). It is found in many plants and foods, such as red wine, onions, green tea, apples, berries, Ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort, American elder, and others. Buckwheat tea has a large amount of quercetin. Studies show that Quercetin prevents hyperactivation of the HPA axis, (14), preventing a skewed stress response, like ‘flight mode’.
Resveratrol, is a natural polyphenol has been detected in more than 70 plant species, especially in grapes’ skin and seeds. Resveratrol raises 5-HT, dopamine, and noradrenaline concentrations in the brain and reduces MAO activity.(15)
The previous phytochemicals and medicinal herbs are just a few of the possible natural treatment options for anxiety and depression. Finding the right mix and dosage of these medicinal alternatives requires time and experimenting under the supervision of a qualified healthcare practitioner experienced in their use. Please review the research information and discuss the information with your regular health care provider before adding phytochemicals and medicinal herbs to your treatment regime and before making adjustments to your present treatment plan. Do not stop taking your medication.
Many phytochemicals can be found in essential oils and are easy to use. Lavender essential oil is one of my favourites and I use it often, applying it to the inside of my wrists and ankles over the Chinese meridian channels, the base of my skull, my toes (reflexology points) and my sternum (this is where I first feel stress). Find out more about phytochemicals in essential oils at my page My Green Medicine Cabinet.
Escapes to nature and other body, mind and spirit experiences promote mental health and overall well-being. Follow my ‘escape to the farmacy’ experience and participate vicariously by donating to the escape to the farmacy garden and education program, sending a packet of organic or heirloom seeds or becoming a patron farmacy member. Contact me for my mailing address.
Follow my ‘escape to the farmacy’ adventures here!
Wishing you health, happiness and peace of mind!
Elisabeth Hines, C.N.C., C.B.P., Holistic Wellness Practitioner, Health by Design, http://www.mybodycanhealitself.ca/
Author of The Whole Person Well-being Equation available at http://www.mybodycanhealitself.ca/books.htm
Wishing you many health promoting escapes! Follow some of my escapes at https://www.instagram.com/escape_to_the_farmacy/ .
Table 1 – Therapeutic Effects of Phytochemicals and Medicinal Herbs on Depression, https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2017/6596241/tab2/
Table 2 – Therapeutic Effects of Phytochemicals and Medicinal Herbs on Depression, https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2017/6596241/tab2/
1 C.-G. Jang, M. Kang, J.-H. Cho et al., Archives of Pharmacal Research, vol. 27, no. 10, pp. 1065–1072, 2004.
2 F. H. C. Melo, B. A. Moura, D. P. de Sousa et al., “Antidepressant-like effect of carvacrol (5-Isopropyl-2-methylphenol) in mice: involvement of dopaminergic system,” Fundamental and Clinical Pharmacology, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 362–367, 2011.
3 M. Zotti, M. Colaianna, M. G. Morgese et al., “Carvacrol: from ancient flavoring to neuromodulatory agent,” Molecules, vol. 18, no. 6, pp. 6161–6172, 2013.
4 W.-L. Zhu, H.-S. Shi, Y.-M. Wei et al., “Green tea polyphenols produce antidepressant-like effects in adult mice,” Pharmacological Research, vol. 65, no. 1, pp. 74–80, 2012.
5 E. Moshiri, A. A. Basti, A.-A. Noorbala, A.-H. Jamshidi, S. Hesameddin Abbasi, and S. Akhondzadeh, “Crocus sativus L. (petal) in the treatment of mild-to-moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial,” Phytomedicine, vol. 13, no. 9-10, pp. 607–611, 2006.
5 S. Akhondzadeh, N. Tahmacebi-Pour, A.-A. Noorbala et al., “Crocus sativus L. in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial,” Phytotherapy Research, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 148–151, 2005.
5 A. Akhondzadeh Basti, E. Moshiri, A.-A. Noorbala, A.-H. Jamshidi, S. H. Abbasi, and S. Akhondzadeh, “Comparison of petal of Crocus sativus L. and fluoxetine in the treatment of depressed outpatients: a pilot double-blind randomized trial,” Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 439–442, 2007.
5 S. Akhondzadeh, H. Fallah-Pour, K. Afkham, A.-H. Jamshidi, and F. Khalighi-Cigaroudi, “Comparison of Crocus sativus L. and imipramine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a pilot double-blind randomized trial [ISRCTN45683816],” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 4, article 12, 2004.
5 A. A. Noorbala, S. Akhondzadeh, N. Tahmacebi-Pour, and A. H. Jamshidi, “Hydro-alcoholic extract of Crocus sativus L. versus fluoxetine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized pilot trial,” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol. 97, no. 2, pp. 281–284, 2005.
6 S. Kasper, H. P. Volz, H. J. Möller, A. Dienel, and M. Kieser, “Continuation and long-term maintenance treatment with Hypericum extract WS® 5570 after recovery from an acute episode of moderate depression—a double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled long-term trial,” European Neuropsychopharmacology, vol. 18, no. 11, pp. 803–813, 2008.
7 J. Sarris, D. J. Kavanagh, G. Byrne, K. M. Bone, J. Adams, and G. Deed, “The Kava Anxiety Depression Spectrum Study (KADSS): a randomized, placebo-controlled crossover trial using an aqueous extract of Piper methysticum,” Psychopharmacology, vol. 205, no. 3, pp. 399–407, 2009.
8 Q. G. Chen, Y. S. Zeng, Z. Q. Qu et al., “The effects of Rhodiola rosea extract on 5-HT level, cell proliferation and quantity of neurons at cerebral hippocampus of depressive rats,” Phytomedicine, vol. 16, no. 9, pp. 830–838, 2009.
9 V. Darbinyan, G. Aslanyan, E. Amroyan, E. Gabrielyan, C. Malmström, and A. Panossian, “Clinical trial of Rhodiola rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression,” Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 61, no. 5, pp. 343–348, 2007.
10 F. Effati-Daryani, S. Mohammad-Alizadeh-Charandabi, M. Mirghafourvand, M. Taghizadeh, and A. Mohammadi, “Effect of lavender cream with or without foot-bath on anxiety, stress and depression in pregnancy: a randomized placebo-controlled trial,” Journal of Caring Sciences, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 63–73, 2015.
11 M. Nikfarjam, N. Parvin, N. Assarzadegan, and S. Asghari, “The effects of lavandula angustifolia mill infusion on depression in patients using citalopram: a comparison study,” Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, vol. 15, no. 8, pp. 734–739, 2013.
11 P. Conrad and C. Adams, “The effects of clinical aromatherapy for anxiety and depression in the high risk postpartum woman—a pilot study,” Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 164–168, 2012.
11 I.-S. Lee and G.-J. Lee, “Effects of lavender aromatherapy on insomnia and depression in women college students,” Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 136–143, 2006.
11 S. Akhondzadeh, L. Kashani, A. Fotouhi et al., “Comparison of Lavandula angustifolia Mill. tincture and imipramine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized trial,” Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 123–127, 2003.
12 M. K. Bhutani, M. Bishnoi, and S. K. Kulkarni, “Anti-depressant like effect of curcumin and its combination with piperine in unpredictable chronic stress-induced behavioral, biochemical and neurochemical changes,” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, vol. 92, no. 1, pp. 39–43, 2009.
13 Y. Xu, S. Li, R. Chen et al., “Antidepressant-like effect of low molecular proanthocyanidin in mice: involvement of monoaminergic system,” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, vol. 94, no. 3, pp. 447–453, 2010.
14 P. Bhutada, Y. Mundhada, K. Bansod et al., “Reversal by quercetin of corticotrophin releasing factor induced anxiety- and depression-like effect in mice,” Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, vol. 34, no. 6, pp. 955–960, 2010.
15 Y. Yu, R. Wang, C. Chen et al., “Antidepressant-like effect of trans-resveratrol in chronic stress model: behavioral and neurochemical evidences,” Journal of Psychiatric Research, vol. 47, no. 3, pp. 315–322, 2013.