This statistic saddens me: More than one out of every 20 Americans experiences depression at any given time, yet fewer than one-third seek help from a mental health professional for this condition.
One reason for this reluctance: Patients expect to be prescribed antidepressants, and many have concerns about taking these drugs, which is understandable. Antidepressant drugs are supposed to help patients with severe depression, but studies show that they have a low success rate—and have many serious side effects, including suicidal thoughts.
One underrated therapy is homeopathy, which can help on its own or in conjunction with nutritional and/or hormone therapy.
Let me explain why homeopathy makes more sense for depression than antidepressant drugs. Pharmaceutical drugs for depression are designed to force the body chemistry to act in certain ways—for example, to artificially increase the effects of brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. These drugs may reduce symptoms of depression, but they don’t address the root cause of this type of mental health problem. Therefore, not only can pharmaceutical drugs interfere with the healing process, they may suppress it. When it comes to depression, that means that antidepressants actually can make the condition worse. When one antidepressant doesn’t work, physicians often prescribe another one, which can lead to even more side effects.
Homeopathy, by its very nature, requires holistic practitioners to take into account the whole person. After an extensive interview with a patient, a practitioner will consult a repertory, a catalog of symptoms and the homeopathic remedies associated with relieving those symptoms. The correct remedy is believed to stimulate the body’s natural healing response.
When treating mental health, homeopathy is both an art and a science. It requires that the holistic practitioner elicit information from the patient about how he/she is feeling emotionally and physically and then matching the best homeopathic remedy to that particular person.
I use homeopathy to treat many of my patients who have depression—and I closely follow the work of one of the leaders in the field, Dana Ullman, MPH, a consultant, author and founder of Homeopathic Educational Services, a nationally known resource for homeopathy (www.Homeopathic.com). Our editors spoke to him recently about how homeopathy can help depression…
The value of homeopathy for depression has been validated in several clinical trials. In a recent Brazilian study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers divided people with moderate-to-severe depression into two groups. Half received the antidepressant drug fluoxetine (Prozac), while the other half received one of 20 different homeopathic remedies custom-prescribed by a homeopathic practitioner. After four weeks and again after eight weeks, the two groups showed equal improvement when evaluated with an established depression rating scale. (Some patients are helped by antidepressants.) But the homeopathy group reported significantly fewer adverse side effects.
In an older, small study conducted at Duke University, researchers found that almost 60% of patients with major depression, social phobia or panic disorder responded favorably to homeopathic treatment. And in an English observational study, researchers found that almost 64% of patients with depression reported improvement with homeopathic treatment. (This was not a comparative study.)
FOR HELP WITH DEPRESSION
Holistic doctors see firsthand how effective homeopathy can be for treating depression, but you need to know how to take these remedies because they work differently from other types of medicines.
There are dozens of homeopathic remedies to choose from based on an individual’s personality, symptoms and disposition. The challenge: To find the remedy that works best for your profile. Four of the most common remedies used to treat depression are described below. You can begin with the one that best matches your symptoms. As you will see, some of the symptoms overlap.
Homeopathic remedies can be dispensed in different dosing amounts. One dose with a high potency, such as 200C or higher, usually is prescribed by a holistic practitioner (this high dose should not be taken by a patient on his own). The patient then waits a month or two to see if it has helped. Sometimes patients feel much better after taking just one high dose.
Lower doses (such as 6C or 30C) can be taken by a patient on his own. Lower doses usually are taken once or twice daily for about two to four weeks. If one homeopathic remedy doesn’t start to relieve symptoms within that time, stop taking it and try another remedy. These remedies have no known side effects.
- For acute depression following grief, such as after the loss of a loved one or a job, the breakup of a relationship or a recent experience of abuse…
Symptoms: Sighing, a lump in the throat, frequently alternating moods.
Remedy: Ignatia amara, derived from the seeds of the St. Ignatius bean tree.
- For depression that arises following a humiliating experience, insult or loss of pride…
Symptoms: Bouts of anger aimed at yourself or someone else.
Remedy: Staphysagria, derived from the herb stavesacre.
- For depression related to loss or grief, particularly if you tend to dwell in the past, suppress your grief or have haunting memories…
Symptoms: You are an emotional individual who does not like to express his emotions and rejects sympathy.
Remedy: Natrum muriaticum derived from sodium chloride (table salt).
- For chronic depression, including depression marked by feelings of despair and lack of meaning in life…
Symptoms: You engage in self-condemnation, self-reproach and self-criticism. You imagine that obstacles are in your way and impede the reaching of goals. You expect bad news and things to go wrong.
Remedy: Aurum metallicum, derived from gold.
If none of the treatments above helps you, there are many more homeopathic remedies to try. A trained practitioner can pick up the nuances of your symptoms and match you to the most helpful remedy.
To find a licensed homeopathic practitioner in your area, contact the American Institute of Homeopathy (888-445-9988, http://HomeopathyUSA.org). A practitioner can work with you and your doctor to help you make the transition from antidepressant drugs to homeopathic remedies. Caution: Do not stop taking an antidepressant drug on your own—this can be dangerous. If you have severe depression or suicidal thoughts, you should be under the care of a psychiatrist.