In our somewhat medication-obsessed society, natural cures for depression may seem out of favor. But the truth is that while drugs often only cover up the symptoms of depression, often the best way to get to the root of the problem is by approaching it with natural methods.
While there are herbal remedies and natural ingredients that can help alleviate depression, ultimately the best way out is through psychological work and inner reflection.
Here we will look at some natural remedies that have long been used to treat the symptoms of depression, along with the natural process of overcoming depression through developing self esteem, healing wounds and psychological growth.
List of Natural Remedies as a Natural Cure for Depression
You’d be forgiven for thinking depression is a modern disease. Indeed, it’s a mystery to many people that depression seems to be more common today at a time when we have a higher material standard of living than at any point in the past.
But depression has always been an affliction humans have had to deal with – and there have always been ways of treating it, differing from culture to culture and throughout history.
Methods as diverse as acupuncture and herbal teas have been used to treat depression. While not every natural remedy is truly effective, it’s worth looking at some of these traditional medicines and discussing whether there’s any scientific basis to their use in treating depression.
1) Acupuncture for Depression
– The Eastern Holistic Approach
Although acupuncture has become increasingly common throughout Europe, the US and other Western countries in recent decades, many people still treat it with suspicion or see it as essentially a therapy, like massage, with no real healing properties.
Because acupuncture is a physical treatment performed on the body, it’s hard for Westerners to understand how it could have any effect on a mental health problem.
However, there is some evidence that acupuncture for depression can produce real results.
Eastern Medicine Turns the Problem Upside-Down – the Holistic Viewpoint
In Eastern medicine, the body and mind are viewed as a single holistic system. Mental issues can often be dealt with by treating physical problems, and vice versa.
This is the basis on which acupuncture for depression operates. In fact, in Chinese medicine depression is not thought of as a single disease or disorder – instead its component symptoms are treated separately, and where a symptom can be treated through acupuncture, then acupuncture is what is used.
Other symptoms might be treated by herbs or a specific diet change.
This is an important point to be aware of, because studies have showed that the best results are achieved when the acupuncture therapy is tailored to the specific depression symptoms of the patient.
That means you want to find an acupuncturist who has experience in dealing with people who suffer from depression, so he or she can carry out a tailored acupuncture routine rather than a general one.
Treating the WHOLE Being:
Acupuncture Works Best in Combination with Diet Changes and Psychotherapy
Practical studies have also shown that acupuncture has its biggest effects on depression when used as part of a complete treatment including diet changes and psychotherapy.
In other words, you shouldn’t view acupuncture as a complete cure for depression on its own, but it can certainly contribute to a faster recovery when combined with other powerful natural cures for depression.
2) Herbs for Depression
As mentioned above, herbs are another component of traditional Chinese and other Eastern medicines, and they offer some interesting options as natural cures for depression.
Like acupuncture, herbal remedies are often treated with suspicion in the Western world, but in reality traditional herbal medicines have been a part of all societies and cultures for thousands of years.
St. John’s Wort as a Natural Mood Improver
You’ll find this is a common ingredient in herbal teas designed to raise your mood. If you’re a skeptic, suspend your disbelief and give it a try – there’s some significant scientific evidence backing up the potency of St John’s Wort as a mood improver.
Again though, as with acupuncture, this should not be seen as a standalone treatment and ought to be used in conjunction with a holistic round of treatments, particularly therapy.
Valerian Root for Sleepless Nights
Valerian root is another natural cure for depression that has been in use for centuries. (In fact, the drug Valium was developed from Valerian root. Many common drugs are in fact stronger, synthetic versions of compounds found in natural herbs.)
Valerian root is commonly used as a treatment for insomnia, so if you’re having sleepless nights it may be worth including in your treatment. If sleeping is not a problem for you, probably better to steer clear of this as it’s likely to make you excessively drowsy.
Although not a herb, omega-3 fatty acids are also believed to have strong links to eliminating or reducing depression naturally. Let’s turn our attention to the role diet plays in depression and how omega-3 and fish oil may be able to help you recover faster.
3) Depression Diet
What you choose to put into your body each day can have a marked effect on your moods in both the short and long term.
A poor diet can create chemical imbalances within your body, which in turn can create or worsen symptoms of depression. On the other hand, improving your diet and cutting out harmful foods and substances is one of the most effective natural cures for depression in the short term.
Fast Carbs May Have a Bad Effect on Your Serotonin Levels (Your ‘Happy Hormones’)
One recommendation when trying to create a diet that will reduce depression is to lower your sugar intake and instead focus on putting more high-quality carbohydrates into your body. Some studies have suggested there may be a link between the type of carbohydrates you eat and serotonin levels (one of the ‘happy hormones’).
So steer clear of sugary foods and sodas and instead focus on complex carbohydrates from vegetables and wholegrain foods.
Make Sure to Get Healthy Proteins
Another key tip is to ensure you eat a sufficient amount of protein each day. The key when it comes to boosting protein levels is to make sure you’re getting it from clean, lean sources – not taking in too much saturated fat and sugar at the same time. Skinless chicken and turkey, fish, and lean beef all represent good low-fat sources of protein to add to you natural cure for depression.
‘Comfort Eating’ Can Be a Big Problem for Depression Sufferers
Comfort Eating often leads to weight gain, which can further deepen the depression cycle as your self-image starts to dive.
By learning to avoid sugary and fatty foods and focus on complex carbs, plenty of protein and a small amount of ‘good fats,’ you can learn to eliminate the cravings and over-eating that contribute to weight gain.
Cleaning up your diet not only helps cure depression by balancing out nutrients and chemicals in your body – when you start to look in the mirror and see a healthier you, you’ll get a confidence boost which helps pull you out of a downward spiral.
4) Caffeine, Alcohol and Drugs
Don’t Get Fooled by the Short Term Benefit of Marijuana
One common tendency for people suffering depression is to use marijuana as a form of self-medication. This is not a natural cure for depression.
The initial high is considered relaxing and often allows the depressed person to escape from their troubles temporarily.
However, the long term effects of this kind of self-medication can be quite devastating. Marijuana is a depressant, and over time excessive use only leads to greater chemical imbalances in the brain and a deeper depression.
The same applies to alcohol consumption and abuse. It’s important not to rely on quick-fix self medications and instead turn to longer term, holistic treatment plans.
5) Fish Oil and Depression
Fish oil has been proclaimed as a ‘wonder supplement’ in recent years, and if you’re a natural skeptic about supplements you might assume it’s all hype.
But the positive effects of omega-3 supplementation have been repeated in many scientific tests. Whether it can really be considered a natural cure for depression is up for debate, but there is some strong evidence indicating it’s beneficial.
Depression Sufferers Typically Have Low Levels of EPA and DHA (Fish Oil Can Give You That)
Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid – that means the body needs it, but it can only come in through the diet. It’s not produced within the body itself.
Omega-3 is involved in many important brain functions. Some researchers have theorized that low levels of EPA and DHA (two key ingredients in fish oil) may be linked to depression in some cases.
By supplementing with fish oil, the levels of these nutrients can be balanced out, leading to improved brain function and better moods.
Fish Oil Works Best for Severe Depression
According to experts, fish oil supplements might not be of much use to mild depression sufferers. The effects may be so subtle that you hardly notice a difference. However, for a severe depression sufferer, the changes can be quite large.
Of course, you don’t have to supplement to get fish oil into your diet – simply including a lot of fish in your diet will do the trick (as well as providing you with a good source of clean protein, as mentioned earlier).
In fact, it’s not recommended that you simply supplement without including fish in your diet as a whole food – you should aim to get everything you need through whole foods, and supplement only when you’re struggling to get enough of a particular nutrient through what you eat and drink.
The Healing Process
While the above natural cures for depression can all help correct imbalances at the physical level within your body, dealing with depression in the long term ultimately involves addressing its causes on a psychological level. A big part of learning to cope and recover from depression is getting to the roots of what makes you depressed in the first place.
Understanding Causes of Depression – Nature or Nurture?
There are many potential causes of depression. There’s long been an argument about whether depression is a product of ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’ – genetics, or experience.
The answer is it’s a mixture of both. While some people have a genetic tendency towards depression, it’s not written in your genes one way or another. For some people who don’t have a genetic tendency to depression, a traumatic event can lead to the onset of this mental disorder.
For others, who have a history of depression in their family, only very small environmental triggers may set off a bout of severe depression – or depression may appear to develop without any external trauma at all. In any case, trying to determine exactly when your depression began and what events or experiences may have first set it off will help you go a long way towards healing and reversing the damage.
Everyday Habits for Combating Depression
One of the crippling effects of depression is that it often makes us feel that fighting it is a losing battle.
As a result, we don’t take the steps necessary to form new habits that can help us get back to a better, happier place.
A big part of the problem is that any new action seems like a monumental challenge when your mood is low and everything feels meaningless.
Learning to ‘Small Chunk’
However, by learning to ‘small chunk’ new behaviors and habits and commit to taking little steps each day, you can slowly make your way towards the happier and healthier self you want to develop.
Physical Exercise … Remember, Baby Steps
One habit which it’s highly recommended you cultivate is physical exercise. Again, start small – even just a short walk each day can be enough to get the ball rolling on a new routine. The key is to set the bar low at the beginning.
Don’t tell yourself you’re going to go out and run 5 miles if you haven’t exercised in six months. Your mind is likely to resist such a challenge, and as a result negative self-talk will rush in and lower your mood further.
Instead, set a tiny goal – like a 5-minute brisk walk – and then congratulate yourself on having achieved it.
This is how you can start to bring yourself out of a downward spiral, by setting small, achievable goals and then gradually raising the bar as your self-confidence returns.
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