Treating Depression Naturally

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Interviewer: Another one I think that you're familiar with is depression. You wrote a book on St. John's Wort, correct? 

Roy Upton RH, DAyu: Right.

Interviewer: And you talk about depression, another condition that gets medicated quite a bit.

Roy: Yeah. Same thing. You have to look at the lifestyle. What's really cause of the depression? Obviously, it has to do with brain chemistry. Much of it has to do with brain chemistry, and that's what, presumably, St. John's Wort is doing. And fish oils is another one. Magic bullet for certain types of depression or certain people with depression. But again, you have to say, "What's the root of my depression?" I mean, all of us will get depressed every once in a while, but when it's chronic and debilitating, that's when you have to make a change, and have to say, "Well, what's the root of it?" You know? 

Again, I was talking with a friend yesterday that went into depression. For him it was, you know, childhood stuff that came up. No medication is going to address childhood stuff, parental stuff.

Interviewer: Mm-hmm.

Roy: No medication is going to address the loss of a loved one, of a child, of a wife. That's not going to be replaced by a drug. And those are the things that you have to... here's where you can use antidepressants whether they're conventional or whether they are, you know, the natural antidepressants as management tools to get you over the hump, to give you enough strength to deal with the issues that you have to really deal with. And one of my favorite approaches is actually to go with the brain chemistry, is to give the building blocks of the neurotransmitters that are needed that promote satisfaction.

Get people exercising so that it raises endorphin levels on a regular basis. The human body was not meant to be sitting eight hours a day in front of a computer. We didn't evolve that way. We need the sunlight. We need the exercise. We need the oxygen. And it's a surprise that more people don't crash and burn in the way that we live. So I'm a big fan of L-tryptophan as one of the building blocks. Before it was taken off the market and then got reintroduced to the market, that was one of the primary antidepressants that was used. Now you have all the serotonin analogues, you have the SAM-e, which I actually like going farther down the chain of the building blocks, the basic amino acid building block, L-tryptophan, which then leads to all that at the brain chemistry. And then St. John's Wort is a great magic bullet.

Now here's where it goes back to your original question. Like, how does the different traditional orientations affect what I do? So a lot of times what I'll do is I'll look at the constitutional makeup of the person from a traditional Chinese medical perspective. And in Chinese medicine they say that the heart rules the mind, and that the heart houses the spirit, or the shen. They call it the shen. And so when you have a troubled shen, you have a troubled spirit, you have a troubled heart. And the nature of the heart is to pump blood. And so one of the ways that you deal with these types of shen disturbances, which depression is one of them, and insomnia and anxiety are two others, is you nourish the blood. You build and nourish the blood to fill the heart, to fill the shen, to fill the spirit, that then fills the mind and the consciousness.

Now that's a very typical traditional Chinese medical philosophy that not everybody's going to believe. But I can tell you in clinical reality, when you approach depression from this way, it works really well. Because you're getting to that, what's going on with this person, not just giving an antidepressant. So a lot of times what I'll do is I'll take a Western herbal magic bullet that's been clinically proven to work with mild to moderate depression, like St. John's Wort, L-tryptophan, or any fish oils is always a basis of my protocols and I'll give it in conjunction with a traditional Chinese formula, specifically for the constitution of that person, to nourish and build blood, and to nourish the heart, and nourish that spirit component. And it works for most of the people more of the time than just giving St. John's Wort alone. So it's a mixture of kind of Eastern and Western herbal medicine thought.
Roy Upton is the executive director of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia. He's also written a book on the herb St. John's Wort. Here he discusses depression, antidepressants and some ways to look at and treat the condition naturally.

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