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Blue Lotus Ayurveda Newsletter - May 2011

Treating Depression with Ayurveda

Natural Grief or Persistent Depression?

Before talking about depression, it is important to distinguish it from the natural and necessary process of grieving. Depression is not grief. Grief is a normal and healthy way to cope with traumatic or sad events in your life. It is indeed a necessary mechanism to help you move on when things fall apart or you experience a loss. We all feel great sadness at different times in our lives, perhaps from the end of relationships, a divorce, moving away from family and friends, losing a job, or falling ill.

Even if you feel confused or hopeless after a loss or traumatic event, it does not necessarily mean you are depressed. You may be simply going through the grieving process, which is absolutely natural. Furthermore, since some events are more traumatic than others, they may require more time to grieve and recover. Now, if the sadness or depressed mood continues for a long period, then there is a chance you may be experiencing depression, and should seek professional help. Early treatment of depression can definitely help with a successful recovery and prevent severe recurrences.

Depression involves your mind, body, mood, and energy. It affects not only how you perceive the world, but also how you eat, sleep, think, and feel about yourself and others. It is not a sign of personal weakeness, it is a serious imbalance that needs attention and may have emerged from a variety of factors, both conscious and unconscious, past and present. Grieving is natural and will pass; depression is more like an inner heaviness you can't simply get rid of, no matter how much you try to “pull yourself together.” It is a persistent state that most people can't get out of through mere will power.

Depression interferes with your normal functioning and causes you pain, both mental and physical, and clearly affects those around you. It can cause you to lose the pleasure from daily life and complicate other medical conditions—it is an imbalance serious enough to lead to suicide in severe cases. However, appropriate treatment, along with psychotherapy, can help most people who suffer from depression.

Conventional treatment uses anti-depressant drugs, which basically aim at influencing the functioning of certain neurotransmitters in the brain (serotonin and norepinephrine), and require long-term management. They all have side effects, and these are more severe in some drugs than others. Alternative treatment is more holistic and aims at restoring balance.

The Ayurvedic Approach to Depression

According to Ayurveda, depression can arise when excess dosha (either vata, pitta, or kapha) enters the general circulation and lodges in the mind and nervous system, thus interfering with their proper functions. Ayurveda offers a more natural approach and views the symptoms of depression from a holistic perspective. Rather than focusing on disease, its aim is to restore the balance of the doshas within your individual constitution through herbal therapy and the support of proper diet and lifestyle. Ayurvedic teatment for depression is very individualized, and you should consult an Ayurvedic practitioner before undertaking any herbal regime.

Below are some general remedies and suggestions to help with depression according to each doshic type, but since doshic imbalances are not always so clear-cut and vary much in severity, it is always best to seek the advice of a clinically trained practitioner. An Ayurvedic clinician can also work along with your doctor if you are already taking conventional drugs for depression, and help monitor and eventually reduce your intake of these drugs. If you take anti-depressant drugs, you must not attempt to stop or reduce dosage without supervision, as this may cause serious side effects.

Vata type depressionVata-Type Depression

Vata-type of depression is often related to fear, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, and loneliness, which can often be its main cause. To lift the feelings of depression, try to reach out and spend more time with family and friends.

Some herbal remedies for vata depression:

• Mix 1/4 teaspoon of tulsi with 1/2 teaspoon of sage in a cup of hot water. Drink this tea twice a day.

• Steep 1 teaspoon of powdered dashamula in a cup of hot water and drink twice a day.

• Mix 1/3 teaspoon each of these herbs and steep in a cup of hot water for about 10 minutes. Drink 2 or 3 times a day.

• Rub the top of your head and soles of your feet regularly (daily if possible) with a vata oil blend or pure sesame oil.

• Use 3-5 drops of warm sesame oil in each nostril as a nasal therapy (nasya), preferably on an empty stomach, in the morning and evening.

Pitta type depressionPitta-Type Depression

Pitta-type of depression tends to be the most serious of all types, and usually requires proper medical attention and a strict Ayurvedic regime. Anger, fear of failure, of making mistakes or losing control, and recurring thoughts of suicide are characteristic symptoms of this type of depression.

A mild pitta depression can be caused by disappointment or failure to attain a certain status or ambition, or even a promotion at work. Pitta types are also prone to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which is also a mild type of depression usually occurring in the winter.

Some herbal remedies for pitta depression:

• Mix equal parts of brahmi, jatamansi, and shatavari. Use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of this blend with warm water and drink twice a day.

• Mix 1/2 teaspoon of any of these herbs in a cup of hot water and drink 2-3 times a day.

• Rub your scalp and soles of feet at bedtime with a pitta oil blend or coconut or sunflower oils.

• Use 3-5 drops of warm brahmi ghee in each nostril, twice a day, on an empty stomach.

• The regular practice of meditation can be very helpful for all types of depression, but it is especially recommended for pitta types. Even 10 minutes a day can be greatly beneficial.

Kapha type depressionKapha-Type Depression

Kapha-type of depression is usually characterized by weight gain, mental heaviness, feelings of worthlessness, excess sleep, and drowsiness.

Some herbal remedies for kapha depression:

• Mix 2 parts sarasvati, 3 parts punarnava, and 3 parts chitrak. Put 1/2 teaspoon of this mixture in your tongue and wash it down with warm water 3 times a day.

• Steep 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of powedered ginger in hot water and drink twice a day.

• Go 3 to 4 days without any food except for apple juice. This helps lighten up the heaviness of kapha depression.

• Use 5 drops of punarnava ghee in each nostril twice a day on an empty stomach.

• Do some exercise or increase the amount of exercise you normally do to balance your weight.

• Good yoga asanas for kapha depression are: sun salutation, plow, shoulder stand, bow, maha mudra, and vajrasana (sitting on your heels). Ujjayi pranayama can also help with kapha depression.

© 2011 Yol Swan. All rights reserved.

Common depression symptoms

Common Symptoms of Depression

Minor Depression

Depression is considered minor when there is either a depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, or a markedly diminished interest or pleasure in daily activities, plus 2 to 4 of the following symptoms lasting at least 6 months but less than 2 years continuously:

- Significant weight loss or gain

- Decrease or increase in appetite

- Sleep disturbances

- Noticeable agitation or slowness

- Fatigue or loss of energy

- Inappropriate feelings of worthlessness or guilt

- Diminished ability to concentrate

- Indecisiveness

- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Mild or Clinical Depression

Clinical depression is extreme and persistent and can interfere significantly with the ability to function on a daily basis. It includes at least 5 of the following symptoms lasting more than 6 months continuously:

· Loss of interest in friends

· Loss of interest in usual activities

· Sleep disturbances like insomnia, oversleep and waking up early in the morning

· Restlessness

· Anxiety

· Fatigue and low energy

· Poor appetite or over eating

· Weight loss or weight gain

· Lack of concentration

· Difficulty in making decisions

· Frequent crying spells

· Suicidal thoughts

· Feelings of worthlessness

· Feelings of inappropriate guilt

· Feelings of hopelessness

· Feelings of helplessness

Photo of a sad clown

Tridoshic Herbal Formula For Depression

Regardless of the type of depression you are experiencing, it is helpful to use all three of the following remedies:

1. Combine:

5 parts Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)
3 parts Jatamansi (Nordostachys jatamansi)
3 parts Brahmi (gotu kola)
5 parts Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia)

Take 1/4 teaspoon of this mixture with 1/2 cup warm water 3 times a day.

2. Take 1 teaspoon Triphala with 1/2 cup warm water every night at bedtime.

3. Inhale 3 drops of Brahmi oil into each nostril twice a day, and rub the oil on the sides of your feet at bedtime.

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