Advice for Caregivers on Natural Options to Relieve Sadness and Depression
It’s often difficult to differentiate between sadness and depression. Each has certain qualities that frequently overlap; yet both can impact our lives dramatically.
Sadness can range from a simple momentary unhappiness to a long-term grief or sorrow. Depression is defined as gloominess or dejection, either of which can be debilitating.
With the realization or diagnosis of either sadness or depression, there is a tendency for physicians to quickly follow with a prescription for anti-depressant medications to mask and suppress negative feelings. This is not necessarily a bad thing; anti-depressants can be a life saver for some, but certainly aren’t necessary for every case.
Typical Symptoms of Depression
First we should define the typical symptoms of depression. This can assist in evaluating whether or not depression is even an issue.
There are four key areas to consider:
With respect to behavior, we generally look for changes in “normal” behavior patterns. A person may show disinterest in their usual surroundings or neglect to perform regular chores.
Signs that a change in usual patterns is occurring are when there seems to be a greater desire to be alone; the person is sleeping more than usual; or they become forgetful about special hobbies. A loss of appetite is also an important sign. This isn’t to say that other factors would not be considered, but given the following additional symptoms, depression would be a primary diagnosis.
Appearance is something that is difficult to hide. As caretaker, you should pay attention to uncombed hair, dirty clothes, facial expressions, unusual quietness, skin tone or gestures. Concealing one’s feelings may be easier for some than others, but obvious feelings may be more apparent. Look for recent signs of grief from the loss of a loved one or pet or a sense of hopelessness with unusual anger and impatience. Also look for new or unusual reactions such as self-blame or ongoing criticism of friends and relatives.
Finally, pay attention to the words being used. There are words and phrases that are reflective of suicidal thoughts based on underlying depression. The key is to be aware of unusual behavior or words and take action before they reach a self destructive or suicidal stage. These can include phrases like: “I wish I were dead”, “What’s the point of living”, “I have no joy in my life”, “Things will be better when I’m gone”, or “They won’t have me to kick around much longer”.
As a preliminary response, you might consider counseling or one of the following alternatives. Please bear in mind that depression is difficult to self diagnose, but the feeling that “something is not right”, with a chronic desire to continually sleep, should lead one to consider help.
Unless the sadness or depression is severe, I recommend investigating these natural remedies and combining them with added exercise, daylight and communication as your first option.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort is the most extensively researched herb as an anti-depressant, and for good reason as it is known to show significant improvement in depression, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, and trouble sleeping. Its nutrient value aids nerves and is thought to provide an alternative to Prozac as an antidepressant.
Remember that when taking any traditional drug or herbal compound, there can be unexpected side effects. In this case, St. John’s Wort can cause anxiety as it increases levels of dopamine in the brain, so avoid it if there is recurring anxiety. Read reviews.
Licorice Root tends to replenish the adrenals, allowing a more relaxed state. Though often not thought of as an herb for depression, it really should be.
Licorice is known to have 8 different anti-depressant compounds, known as MOA inhibitors. These inhibitors are capable of potent anti-depressant activity and show significant improvement for all types of depression.
Licorice Root is also very nourishing for burned out adrenals and is best used during times of chronic fatigue and tiredness that usually results in frequent illness. Read reviews.
Keep in mind that this herb is not meant for long term use, but is generally safe for use off and on. This herb should not be used for those with hypertension or high blood pressure.
For those who can’t get all of those constantly circulating, unhealthy thoughts out of our minds, Passion Flower would be you herbal ally of choice. While it doesn’t necessarily treat depression itself, it will certainly help quiet an overactive mind, especially when used before sleep.
Passion Flower is a calmative for the nerves, reducing anxiety and high blood pressure while encouraging sleep. Read reviews.
Valerian, or Valeriana officinalis, as it is officially called, has been in use since the time of Hippocrates. Its other variety is Valeriana dioica. Valerian is an herb that grows mostly in Europe, Asia, and North America. It has been used for centuries for the treatment of various conditions like depression, insomnia and anxiety.
Valerian is known for its calming effect without causing drowsiness. Since Valerian does not affect REM sleep cycles at night, it does not induce any sleepiness but rather produces a natural, mild calm to soothe the anxiety of patients. Studies show that Valerian provides quick and natural relief for people with poor sleep. This is a natural and safe alternative to drugs like benzodiazepines which may cause continuous dependence on the pills.
Scullcap is another adrenal herb, but also has been very effective for nerves, high blood pressure, worry, restlessness and emotional conflict. Skullcap is a very effective herb that has a calming yet strengthening effect on the nervous system and will help to relieve certain symptoms of depression such as poor sleep, poor concentration and headaches.
It is particularly useful for depression brought on by prolonged stress, illness or overwork. Skullcap may be taken as an infusion, capsules or tincture.
Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis) grows primarily on the Mediterranean seashore. Fittingly, its name means “dew of the sea.” It’s built quite a reputation as a potent, natural remedy for anxiety.
Throughout history, rosemary benefits over the years include relieving depression, improving circulation, memory, digestion and easing muscle pain.
Modern technology has allowed scientists to explore the mechanisms behind rosemary’s benefits. Evidence shows that rosemary boosts blood flow to the brain, and this improves memory and helps you think more clearly.
It appears that rosemary benefits also include breaking down acetylcholine, a chemical found in the brain. This allows nerve cells to communicate with one another more effectively, which contributes to enhanced mental acuity, better memory recognition, increased concentration and a calmer disposition.
Holy basil, known as tulsi (also spelled tulasi) in its native India, is a revered herb in Ayurvedic medicine. Holy basis has been used to treat a variety of health concerns from headaches and stomachaches to inflammatory problems and common colds. This herb is classified as an adaptogen, a substance that increases the body’s resistance to internal and external stress. Therefore, it makes sense that holy basil would relieve panic attacks and depression. Read reviews.
Holy basil is a relatively well-studied herb, with research that has demonstrated that it can radically and speedily improve anxiety and depression, and reduce stress – both physical and emotional. The exact mechanism of action is yet to be determined although research has shown that holy basil decreases the amount of cortisol released during stress without the adverse side-effects of prescription medications.
In addition, holy basil has the capacity to increase physical and emotional endurance thus increasing the resilience to all stressors. As already mentioned, it lowers blood sugar levels which in turn reduces cravings and stabilises moods, and thus facilitates weight loss.
Holy Basil has been traditionally used to support people through times of stress, working as adaptogen (i.e. substance that balances and protects the body by improving resistance to any type of physiological or mental stress) and anxiolytic (decreasing anxiety). One of the most strongly supported actions of this herb is that of an adaptogen, with current research supporting its traditional use in managing acute and chronic stress and fatigue. Chronic stress has been shown to increase the levels of oxidative stress and free radicals. Holy basil enhances the levels and activities of endogenous antioxidants and antioxidant enzymes including glutathione and superoxide dismutase.
In a recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial researchers evaluated the efficacy of an extract of holy basil in the symptomatic control of general stress (1). They concluded that the effect of holy basil supplementation over placebo on comparison was considerable for all stress parameters measured. The treatment showed 39% improvement in general stress symptoms over and above the placebo. The significant finding in this study was the reduced intensity of forgetfulness, reduced symptom scores of sexual problems (stress-related), and the effective relief from frequent feelings of fatigue and sleep problems.
Holy basil has been clinically trialed in treating generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) in a small, controlled 60-day clinical trial (2). The results indicated that taking the herb significantly improved anxiety, stress, depression and attention span in subjects suffering from GAD, with the greatest improvements occurring at the completion of 60 days of treatment.
As a bonus, other research has indicated that holy basil has a strong antioxidant action in the brain resulting in improved memory and slower cognition decline. Free radicals have been associated with ischaemic brain lesions, development and progression of degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, and general decline in memory and cognition due to chronic stress. Read reviews.
1) Efficacy of an Extract of Ocimum tenuiflorum (OciBest) in the Management of General Stress: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study; Ram Chandra Saxena,1 Rakesh Singh,2 Parveen Kumar,3 Mahendra P. Singh Negi,4 Vinod S. Saxena,5 Periasamy Geetharani,6 Joseph Joshua Allan,6 and Kudiganti Venkateshwarlu6; Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 894509, 7 pages
2) Controlled programmed trial of Ocimum sanctum leaf on generalized anxiety disorders. Bhattacharyya D1, Sur TK, Jana U, Debnath PK.; Nepal Med Coll J. 2008 Sep;10(3):176-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19253862
Generally, a product called 5HTP can be helpful for low serotonin levels, taken with B6 for absorption. Preliminary studies indicate that 5-HTP may work as well as certain antidepressant drugs to treat people with mild-to-moderate depression. Like the class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which includes fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft), 5-HTP increases the levels of serotonin in the brain.
One study compared the effects of 5-HTP to fluvoxamine (Luvox) in 63 people and found that those who were given 5-HTP did just as well as those who received Luvox. They also had fewer side effects than the Luvox group.
SAM-e is short for S-adenosylmethionine. This supplement is designed to act like a synthetic form of the body’s natural mood-boosting chemicals. According to the Mayo Clinic, SAM-e is regarded as a supplement in the United States — the FDA doesn’t consider it a medication. You shouldn’t take SAM-e along with antidepressants. You should also be aware that SAM-e can cause health effects like upset stomach and constipation if you take too much.
The evidence: The brains of people with depression and bipolar disorder have been shown to have below-average levels of inositol, which prompted researchers to investigate whether inositol supplements could help treat depression.
The initial research was promising. A small study published in 1995 found that taking 12 grams of inositol a day — an amount equivalent to a fistful of the capsules sold in health stores — improved depression symptoms more effectively than placebo. Read reviews.
Folic Acid is the synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin (B9) found in fruits, leafy vegetables, and other foods, that affects the neurotransmitters known as monoamines. Folic acid is sold in stores as a capsule or tablet.
The evidence: Folate deficiency is common among depressed people, especially those who don’t respond to antidepressants.
Folic acid has never been tested as a stand-alone treatment for depression, but it has been compared with placebo as an addition to Prozac.
In one study, patients who received folic acid responded better than those who received placebo — but only the female patients. Nearly 95 percent of the women who received folic acid responded to the combo treatment, compared to about 60 percent of the women who received the placebo. Read reviews.
Aurum is a remedy used for depression, sadness, insecurity, anger, self-reproach, suicidal thoughts, and fears of failure, worry, tension, stress, bouts of depression from lack of sunlight and heart problems. A potency of 30c should be sufficient to determine its value. Take once, wait 4-5 days and then repeat only if no changes have occurred. Repeat only once more and if there are still no changes, consider another remedy. Read reviews.
Sepia is a Homeopathic remedy that helps with bouts of depression from loss of sunlight, but it can be differentiated from Aurum by its grief, fatigue, sarcasm and irritability aspects. The individual needing Sepia can be indifferent, weepy, angry, overwhelmed and exhausted. Read reviews.
All of these herbs, supplements and Homeopathic remedies can be used in conjunction with medications, generally, without causing any harm. But remember; stop dosing if an aggravation occurs, as there is no need to over stimulate depression. Once triggered the body finds its own way of rediscovering balance, even on the emotional level.
Although herbs and supplements show promise in treating depression, they aren’t a consistent or reliable substitute for treatments when you experience severe depression.
You should call a doctor right away if you have severe depression or thoughts of hurting yourself. Don’t try to rely on supplements as a way to pull you through these severe symptoms. Depression can be a serious disease. If your symptoms are severe, work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that fits for you.
Recommendation: If you feel that your depression is severe and persistent, I recommend Depression Help Fast 2nd Edition. One of my family members used this system, and it helped immensely with relief and perspective.
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