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Expert Advice-Treatment of Depression in Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM):

Traditional Chinese Medicine for Depression

Today, it is estimated that five million Americans are taking Prozac. Unfortunately, over the last seven years there have been 31,000 reports of adverse reactions to this powerful drug. More and more people struggling with depression are beginning to ask, "Is there any safe, effective treatment that I can use regularly without worrying about side effects? What is the natural way to deal with depression?"

In my clinic, TCM Health Center, we are often asked the same question by patients, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other health professionals: "How do Chinese, Japanese, and other people from Asia deal with depression?" Prozac is not familiar to most Chinese, not even the health professionals in China. Many popular anti-depression drugs are not available in hospitals in China. It is not that the Chinese experience less stress than Americans do: it is very hard to avoid stress in todayís world, no matter where we live. But people in China deal with stress and emotional problems differently: they get acupuncture treatments and take herbal formulas instead of looking to drugs.

Chinese medicine incorporates centuries of experience in dealing with depression. The first medical book, The Yellow Emperorís Classic of Medicine, which was written 2300 years ago, contained theories on the origins of depression. In Chinese medicine, mental or emotional problems such as depression are attributed to an imbalance or blockage in one or more of the internal organs (Zang/Fu) and the energy pathways (meridians) that pertain to them. Some common patterns that can manifest as depression are Liver Chi Stagnation, Spleen Chi Deficiency, Kidney Essence Deficiency, or Lung and Heart meridian disorder. Generally, people begin by experiencing an imbalance in one organ or meridian. Untreated, or improperly treated, the disorder will spread, involving other organs and meridians. Chinese medical doctors emphasize early diagnosis and early preventive treatment of imbalances.

Traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, is a safe and effective way to deal with depression. Acupuncture, herbal formulas, and other Chinese medical modalities have been used in China for over 5000 years, but have only recently become mainstream in the United States in the last twenty-five years. The people who come to my clinic looking for help with their depression, are typically those who have already tried everything else. Often they have tried seven or eight different anti-depressant prescriptions, with disappointing results. Either the drugs didnít work, or the side effects were too unpleasant, or they didnít want to take anti-depression drugs for the rest of their lives. Almost every one of my patients feels that acupuncture has definitely improved their quality of life. A number of scientific studies also supply a great deal of evidence on how and why acupuncture can help depression. A clinical study has shown that patients who received acupuncture treatments experienced significant reduction in depression symptoms. After treatment, more than half no longer met the criteria for clinical depression. Statistically, that makes acupuncture just as effective as antidepressants. Studies also show that acupuncture can change the levels of many neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, that profoundly affect mental states.

Chinese herbal therapy: The Chinese herbal formula Mood Smooth (Jia Wei Xiao Yao Wan) has been in use for six hundred years in China to deal with depression. The Chinese call this old remedy "the happy pill" because of its well-known anti-depressant effect. I call it "Chinaís natural Prozac." It has been used by millions of people over the centuries, and jis especially popular with women. Other common remedies for depression include Spleen tonic herbal formula Chi Spleen Tonic (Bu Zhong Yi Qi Wan), Kidney nourishing herbal formula Kidney Yang Tonic (Jin Gui Shen Qi Wan), and many other remedies that are widely used with different patterns of depression. When you come to a Chinese medicine clinic, the practitioner will evaluate you first, and tell you what kind of imbalance and/or deficiency you have from the Chinese medicine point of view. Then he or she will decide what is the best herbal remedy for your depression.

Mood Smooth (Jia Wei Xiao Yao Wan)

Buplerum (Chai Hu)
Mint (Bo He)
Angelica (Dang Gui)
Peony (Bai Shao)
Atractylodes (Bai Zhu)
Poria (Fu Ling)
Licorice (Fu Ling)
Ginger (Sheng Jiang)
Peony Bark (Mu Dan Pi)
Gardenia (Zhi Zi)

Kidney Yang Tonic (Jin Gui Shen Qi Wan)

Aconite (Fu Zi)
Cinnamon (Gui Zhi)
Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang)
Cornus (Shan Zhu Yu)
Dioscorea (Shan Yao)
Alisma (Ze Xie)
Peony Bark (Mu Dan Pi)
Poria (Fu Ling)

Dietary Therapy: Every one knows that certain vitamin or mineral deficiencies can play a very important part in depression, such as deficiencies in Zinc, Vitamin C, Folic Acid, Vitamin B-12, and Vitamin B-6. Because of the vital part that nutrition plays in our overall health, including mental health, dietary evaluation is another important part of Chinese medicine. Chinese medicine practitioners will often ask patients to keep a three-to-five-day dietary intake record, in order to evaluate factors in the diet which can be contributing to depression. Certain foods such as daikon radish, sesame seeds, soybeans, and kelp are highly recommended for depression patients. Other foods such as coffee and alcohol should be avoided.

Chinese medicine works holistically. A good Chinese medicine practitioner will always give you a complete evaluation including what kind of deficiency or imbalance you have, which energy pathway is blocked, what foods to eat or avoid, and how these things relate to your mental health. I hope that anyone who feels the need of it will benefit from this natural and safe medicine.