Recent studies have reinforced the potential efficacy of a number of traditional herbal aids for depression.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)One of the most widely known herbs purported to help with depression, St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) has been the subject of much debate in recent years. While the data on St. John’s Wort is confusing to say the least, it is worth noting its long and extensive use throughout the world, along with several independent investigations reinforcing its efficacy. A 2009 meta-analysis by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded that “Overall, the St. John’s wort extracts tested in the trials were superior to placebo, similarly effective as standard antidepressants, and had fewer side effects than standard antidepressants.”
Another thoughtful and extensive meta-analysis published by four physicians in the British Journal of Psychiatry considered 37 prior studies and found that “Hypericum perforatum extracts improved symptoms more than placebo and similarly to standard antidepressants in adults with mild to moderate depression.” Furthermore, hypericum extracts caused fewer adverse effects than questionable antidepressants.
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)study of Rhodiola rosea, 89 individuals, male and female, ranging from 18-70 years of age and selected according to DSM-IV criteria for depression, were divided into three groups. One group received 340 mg of rhodiola per day, in two tablets, a second received 680 mg/day in two tablets and a third received two placebo tablets. Both groups receiving the rhodiola experienced significant improvements in overall depression, insomnia, emotional instability and somatization as scored in the Beck Depression Inventory and Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAMD) questionnaire. The placebo group showed no such improvement. No serious side effects were reported among any of the three groups.
Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
Rhaponticum (Rhaponticum carthanmoides)Another interesting alternative for menopause related mood disorders is Rhaponticum (Rhaponticum carthanmoides): in a study of 109 women, published in 2007 in the journal Menopause, over 80% of women who took Rhaponticum daily for twelve weeks reported a “a marked improvement in health state and general well-being.”
Lavender and Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Two lovely herbs to investigate: Lavender and Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis). A fascinating study from the Neuroscience Unit of University of Northumbria in Newcastle found that a 600 mg dose of melissa officinalis alleviated the physiological effects of laboratory induced stress in healthy individuals, suggesting that the herb may have great potential in mitigating deleterious effects of stress outside the laboratory.
Researchers in Korea investigated the effects of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) aromatherapy on insomnia and depression among 42 female college students, and found that both maladies showed improvement. In another study that suggests lavender may have more powerful effects than previously speculated, Japanese scientists found that lavender “may have beneficial acute effects on coronary circulation.”
Other herbs frequently used by herbalists to reduce depressive symptoms include:
- Mimosa (Albizzia julibrissin)
- Pulsatilla (Anemone pulsatilla)
- Tiger Lily (Lilium lancifolium)
- Cactus (Selenicereus grandiflorus)
- Schizandra (Schisandra chinensis)
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM
- Study Finds Antidepressants to be Depressingly Ineffective
- Nutritional Approaches to Mental Health
- Benefits of Wormwood
- 9 Ways to Balance Your Hormones Naturally