Treating Depression with Chinese Medicine
Everybody gets the blues from time to time. However, 17 million Americans suffer from clinical depression each year. Two thirds of these are women. Clinical depression is a disease, which can have devastating effects on one’s family, relationships, and career.
Chinese medical treatment for depression does not just alleviate the symptoms of depression but seeks to find and then eradicate the root cause of this disease.
What is Depression?
The term “depression” encompasses several different medical diagnosis:
- Bipolar Disorder
- Seasonal Affective Disorder or S.A.D.
Although each of these conditions vary from person to person, they all include some of the following symptoms:
- A persistent sad or empty mood Fatigue or lack of energy
- Loss of interest or pleasure in formerly enjoyable activities
- Problems with sleep
- Changes in appetite and eating
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, & making decisions
- Thought of death or suicide
- Crying at the drop of a hat
- Bodily aches and pains that do not respond to treatment
Although a whole family of new anti-depressant drugs, such as Prozac and Zoloft, have brought relief to millions of patients, these drugs do have unpleasant or unacceptable side effects in many patients. In addition, these drugs do not cure depression; they only manage its symptoms. Few patients relish the idea of staying on such medication their whole lives.
Chinese Medicine & Depression
Chinese Medicine has been treating depression successfully for more than 2000 years with various combinations of acupuncture, herbs, diet, and other low or no cost home therapies. In Chinese Medicine, there are six major patterns of depression. These patterns mostly have to do with the Chinese idea of the liver, spleen, and kidneys. When a patient comes to an acupuncturist or practitioner of Chinese Medicine complaining of depression, the practitioner will first decide which of these six patterns or what combinations of these patterns the patient exhibits. This pattern diagnosis is made through four basic examinations:
- Looking at the face, eyes, posture and especially the tongue and its coating,
- Listening to the patient’s voice, breathing, and manner of expression,
- Questioning about the course & history of the condition as well as about other bodily functions, and
- Feeling the pulse on both wrists.
Based on that individualized pattern diagnosis, the practitioner will then craft a personalized treatment plan encompassing all aspects of the patient’s life.
Does it work?
Recently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded a pilot study on the effects of acupuncture on depression in women. The results of this study showed that acupuncture was at least as effective as either drugs or psychotherapy and there are no side effects!
When acupuncture is combined with Chinese herbal medicine, Chinese dietary therapy, and various other lifestyle modifications (all individually tailored to the person’s own pattern of disharmony), the effects are even greater. In addition, Chinese medical treatment for depression does not just alleviate the symptoms of depression but seeks to find and then eradicate the root of this disease.
Can one combine Western & Chinese Medicine?
Absolutely. In many cases, a combination is the best and quickest way of treating depression. Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, can be used to lessen or eliminate the side effects of Western anti-depressants, while a certain amount of psychotherapy can help the Chinese treatment go faster. Anyone currently on anti-depressants who wants to get off them by using Chinese Medicine should definitely discuss this with their prescribing physician and work out a withdrawal schedule in concert with their Chinese medical practitioner. Patients with bipolar disorder typically need to stay on their Western medication.