Herbal Remedies for Depression

Many people in the pursuit of herbal remedies for depression have discovered adaptogens. These are herbs that assist us in adapting to stress and improving our moods, hence the name adaptogens. They may be a way of beating depression naturally.

What are they?Some of the common adaptogens are: Siberian Ginseng, Rhodiola Rosea (Golden Root), Maca Extract, Wolfberry and Ashwaghandra.The name adaptogen was given to this special group of herbs by a Russian scientist, Dr. Nicolai Lazarev, who first discovered them in 1947. Since then, numerous studies have been done which suggest that they help the body in many ways.

The term adaptogen has yet to be accepted by conventional medicine.

These herbs have been used extensively in Indian Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine for many centuries to prevent stress-induced diseases and as herbal remedies.

How can adaptogens help?

Adaptogens function in:

  • Improving moods, stress, anxiety and depression
  • Improving circulation and eliminating toxins
  • Normalizing the central nervous system and endocrine system
  • Preventing the body’s inflammatory response from going out of control
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Helping with physical endurance

How can they work? They fit in with the theory that our bodies go through three stages of stress progression:The alarm phase:In this initial phase stress can be in the form of demanding athletic training, exposure to toxins, psychological trauma and other stressors.

The adaptation phase: The body in this phase is trying to adapt and adjust to the stress. The longer we can stay in this phase the better as it is usually is a safe period.

The exhaustion phase: This is where the body gives up and we become aware of disease symptoms. This period can take months or years to develop.

Adaptogens help the body to stay in the adaptation phase. This will prevent the exhaustion or disease phase from developing as the body continues to adjust to the stress.

How do you take them? As ground-up herbs:These come in capsule form but there is doubt as to whether they can be efficiently absorbed.

As dried extracts in capsule form: There is a possibility that this may contain non-organic herbs that have been contaminated with benzene or ether as part of the extraction process.

In tincture form: This is an effective way of taking adaptogens as the extraction process ensures a high level of potency. Add the drops to one ounce of water, hold it in your mouth for about one minute and then swallow it.

In the form of teas:Teas can be made by steeping 2-3 teaspoons in one cup of boiled water for 1-15 minutes.

Adaptogens can be absorbed effectively in the form of teas.

Adaptogens should be taken regularly for at least one month to get the benefits. Also, as they stimulate, it is best to take them in the morning.

(Similar to all the other herbs that are considered to be herbal remedies, more clinical trials on their pharmaceutical action are needed to substantiate the many claims. To date, most studies have been performed on laboratory animals only.)

Plant compounds from a South African flower may in the future be used to treat many diseases whose source is the brain – more proof that herbal remedies have great potential.

At the University of Copenhagen a number of these derivative substances were tested in a lab model similar to the blood-brain barrier.

The encouraging results have been published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology – more proof that these remedies are getting the attention they deserve.

Substances from the South African plant species Crinum and Cyrtanthus (found in daffodils and snowdrops) have an effect on the specific mechanisms in the brain that are involved in depression, according to the scientists.

A team based at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences has shown how these South African flowers contain plant compounds whose characteristics enable them to cross the defensive blood-brain barrier.

This is an enormous challenge in all new drug development research, so herbal remedies are coming to the rescue.

“Several of our plant compounds can probably be smuggled past the brain’s effective barrier proteins. We examined various compounds for their influence on the transporter proteins in the brain.

This study was made in a genetically-modified cell model of the blood-brain barrier that contains high levels of the transporter P-glycoprotein.

“Our results are promising, and several of the chemical compounds studied should therefore be tested further, as candidates for long-term drug development,” says Associate Professor Birger Brodin.

“The biggest challenge in medical treatment of diseases of the brain is that the drug cannot pass through the blood-brain barrier.

The blood vessels of the brain are impenetrable for most compounds, one reason being the very active transporter proteins. You could say that the proteins pump the drugs out of the cells just as quickly as they are pumped in. So it is of great interest to find compounds that manage to ‘trick’ this line of defence.”

It could be a long time though before any new drug reaches the pharmacy shelves, he cautions.

“This is the first stage of a lengthy process, so it will take some time before we can determine which of the plant compounds can be used in further drug development,” says Birger Brodin.

“In my research group, we have had a long-term focus on the body’s barrier tissue – and in recent years particularly the transport of drug compounds across the blood-brain barrier.

More than 90 per cent of all potential drugs fail the test by not making it through the barrier, or being pumped out as soon as they do get in.

Studies of natural therapies are a valuable source of inspiration, giving us knowledge that can also be used in other contexts,” Birger Brodin emphasises.

Herbal remedies for depression appear to be be getting the attention they deserve.