Traditional Chinese Medicine for Depression

From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, mental or emotional problems such as depression are caused by imbalance or blockage in internal organs and pathways in the body. Common patterns of depression are liver qi stagnation, qi deficiency in spleen, qi deficiency in kidneys, internal heat and heart blood deficiency. The most common pattern is liver qi stagnation. TCM practitioners believe that liver is responsible to regulate our emotions. Depression can occur when the flow of liver qi is interrupted causing liver qi stagnation.

Besides internal factors, depression can also be caused by external factors such as drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, overwork, poor diet, lack of exercise, poor sleep quality and lack of leisure time.

Chinese Herbs for Depression

TCM practitioners often offer acupuncture combined with herbal formula for depression. For depression caused by liver qi stagnation, Xiao Yao Wan, an herbal formula is often used. It can enhance mood and reduce stress. It has been traditionally used for mental health conditions such as depression, panic attacks, stress and anxiety. It contains herbs include Chai Hu, Dang Gui, Bo He, Bai Zhu and Fu Ling.

Jie Yu San can also be used to resolve liver qi stagnation. It is often used to improve symptom management for stress and depression. It contains herbs include Fan Hong Hua, Chen Pi, Ban Xia, Zhu Ru, Shi Chang Pu and more. Among herbal formulas for depression, many of them contain Fan Hong Hua (Saffron), which is traditionally used for depression. There are numerous studies that support it is as effective as antidepressants (1).

Acupuncture for Depression

According to the World Health Organization, acupuncture has been proved through controlled trials, is effective for depression (2). Another study shows that people with severe depression who received acupuncture saw their level of depression decline more than people who received usual care. The benefits of acupuncture can last as long as 12 months.

Acupuncture for depression will focus on circulating the qi and balancing the flow of energy. It can help ease depression symptoms, as well as the underlying conditions. If you are a do-it-yourself type, you can also try stimulating acupressure points for depression on your own.

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