Depression has come more and more to the forefront in health care in recent years. Depression is a state of mind familiar to almost everyone, but this very familiarity becomes problematic when approaching clinical depressive states. Major depression occurs in 10% to 20% of the world’s population in the course of a lifetime. Women are more often affected than men, by a two to one ratio, and they seem to be a particular risk in the period prior to menstruation or following childbirth. Relatives of patients with major depression also seem to be at some higher risk of becoming depressed, and about 2% of the population may have a chronic disorder known as a depressive personality.
Depression is defined by a standard set of symptoms described in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
- poor appetite and significant weight loss, or increased appetite and significant weight gain;
- insomnia, or increased sleep;
- agitation, or retardation, of movement and thought;
- loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities or decrease in sexual drive;
- fatigue and loss of energy;
- feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach, or excessive or inappropriate guilt;
- diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness;
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts.
Natural medicine, including herbs, diet, and other non-invasive therapies, is particularly appropriate in treating the underlying causes and symptoms associated with depression. Unlike conventional, allopathic medicine, natural medicine works in a gradual manner, is humanly comprehensible and may even be considered to be ordinary– like ordinary magic. Natural medicine is consistent with the rhythms of nature and how nature is organized. Historically, there has been a commitment in medicine to do no harm, and when you are using natural substances such as herbs and working at a gradual pace, the likelihood of doing harm is almost completely eliminated. Two major classes of anti-depressant drugs are commonly used: the tricyclic drugs, employed since the early 1960′s, and the monoamine oxidase inhibitors (M.A.O.I.’s). The herbalist should be familiar with these widely prescribed drugs as they impact the prognosis.