This is an article and guest post by Eve Pearce on how to battle depression. From time to time, writers will send me their articles to post on this and various blogs.
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Battle Depression… The Natural Way
Depression or anxiety affects nearly one in every five adults in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics. Those facing a greater risk include women, adults aged 50 to 54, those who are divorced or separated, the unemployed, those without a supportive network of family or friends, and persons who are unhappy with their health. Carers for the ill or disabled and the elderly are also more likely to fall prey to depression and/or anxiety.
Depression, Anxiety and the Youth
Depression and anxiety do not only affect adults; indeed, one in 10 children in the UK aged between five and 16 suffer from mental health disorders; nearly 80,000 children and young persons, meanwhile suffer from severe depression. Over the years, the statistics are growing at an alarming rate; the organisation Young Minds, for instance, reports that the number of depressed youths aged 15 to 16 nearly doubled between the 1980s and the 2000s. Mental illness can have serious consequences, including increased hospitalisation owin
g to episodes of self-harm. Many depressed persons obtain unnatural highs from new designer drugs like bath salts, which artificially increase levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, resulting in cravings which are hard to curb once the ‘high’ is over. Bath salts (mephedrone), made from the psycho-stimulant cathinone (which hails from the Catha edulis plant) damage the brain’s ability to respond to serotonin over time, often resulting in serious mental illnesses like severe depression.
Depression and Anxiety: Best Therapies
Treatment for depression and anxiety is varied, with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) proving to be a popular choice among therapists. CBT involves encouraging patients to recognise how their thought patterns affect their behaviour and vice-versa. Often, a therapist may encourage a patient to change typical behaviours in order to observe how changed outcomes can affect the patient’s thoughts and feelings regarding a person or situation. Alternative approaches include meditation, yoga and the use of essential oils like lavender, which produce a state of calm when diffused throughout a room, applied topically or even consumed in healthy foods like raw chocolate. The citric oils (mandarin, bergamot, lemon, to name a few) are known to ‘lift’ the mood and to instil a sense of joy.
Remedies from Mother Nature
Nature offers us a host of plants that can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. These include:
- California Poppy: Also known as Eschscholzia californica, this plant, native to the state of California in the US, is currently used to promote relaxation, ease the nerves, and curb symptoms of depression and long-term mental and physical exhaustion. It is so safe and gentle that herbalists often prescribe its use for children. Unlike many common sedatives, this plant does not affect the central nervous system. A typical dose is one teaspoon of California Poppy tincture in half a glass of water, taken twice a day.
- St John’s Wort: Over the past two decades, dozens of clinical studies have proven that St John’s Wort is at least as effective as standard drugs used to treat depression and anxiety. Known as ‘Nature’s answer to Prozac’, this beautiful plant bears joyful yellow flowers which contain a scarlet hued oil called hypericin, which battles viruses and is thought to lift the mood; studies have indicated that whole plant extracts work best in fighting mild to moderate depression.
- Rosemary: A recent study indicates that inhaling rosemary oil boosts brain power. Researchers found that the oil increased brain wave activity, improved the mood and positively affected the nervous system. In a similar study carried out at the University of Northumbria, the inhalation of rosemary oil was found to sharpen mental faculties (improving subjects’ speed and accuracy while carrying out mental calculations) and to have a positive effect on mood.
One of the best ways to enjoy the benefits of rosemary oil is to diffuse it (placing around 10 drops of therapeutic grade rosemary oil into a diffuser); you can also enjoy a relaxing cup of tea: just place a tablespoon of fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon of the dried herb) in a teapot and add a cup of boiling water. Keep the lid on and leave to brew for a few minutes.
Sam-E: Short for S-adenosyl methionine, SAMe is an amino acid which occurs naturally in our bodies when our health is in an optimal state, but which diminishes considerably when we are suffering from stress, physical or mental illness and nutritional deficiencies. Although trials indicate its efficiency in treating depression, the exact cause for its success is as yet unknown; it is thought that SAMe increases serotonin and dopamine levels in our brain, which improve the mood.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 levels have been found to be much lower in the blood of depressed persons than in those who do not suffer from this condition. A study carried out on nearly 22.000 subjects revealed that those who regularly consumed cod liver oil were 30 per cent less likely of having symptoms of depression than those who did not consume the Omega-3-rich oil. Another study carried out by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, meanwhile, has found that Omega-3 fatty acids may boost the mood of those already diagnosed with depression. It all makes sense when one realises that brain tissue is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids; when we consume too little ‘good fat’ (Omega-3 fatty acids are found in abundance in wild Alaskan salmon and sardines), we force the brain to utilise other available fatty acids, which result in inferior quality cells. This, in turn, negatively affects our cognitive and emotional functioning. It is vital to include a healthy amount of Omega-3s in our diets, and to consider supplementation if necessary. More top sources of Omega-3s include mussels, rainbow trout, flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts.