Natural Remedies for Moderate Depression


Cheryl Hoard


From a holistic point of view, many herbal remedies could be used for depression because the physical body, psychological state and spirit are all connected to produce the whole person and all of those parts have also created the disease. Every case of depression is very unique and the successful treatment is to acknowledge and treat the whole person, which quite often includes treating other physical symptoms of the imbalance besides just the psychological. Herbs that support & balance the hormone system, immune system and nervous system could be considered. Using herbs can help make it easier to treat the underlying cause of the imbalance. When there is disease in the psychological state it affects the physical and when the physical state is diseased it affects the psychological.


We as individuals are connected to the whole of society or humanity. Many emotional and mental imbalances are reflections of society’s diseases. Our beliefs are influenced by the beliefs of our environment and culture. These beliefs and emotions actually become physical aspects affecting our health. Our individual journeys toward health and balance, from the perspective of holism (integrating mind, body & spirit), will also help society to become healthy and nurturing. One reflects the other.


Many times depression is experienced along with or because of other conditions like lupus, colitis, PMS, menopause, underactive thyroid, chronic fatigue syndrome, seasonal affective disorder, endometriosis, food allergies, hypoglycemia and more, so using herbs that assist these other conditions as well, will help heal the depression.


Generally, St. John’s Wort is used for moderate depression and sometimes Ginkgo Biloba also. These two herbs have a specific action affecting the brain. Herbs that support the nervous system, some of which are considered antidepressants, include Damiana, Ginsengs, Black Cohosh, Hops, Lavender, Linden Flowers, Melissa (Lemon Balm), Passion Flower and Valerian. In some instances there is a need for healthy stimulation and herbs like Damiana, Panax & Siberian Ginsengs and Guarana may be used.


Bergamot, Clary Sage, Fir, Geranium, Grapefruit, Lavender, Lemon, Jasmine, Neroli, Rose, Rosemary, Sandalwood & Ylang Ylang are some of the many essential oils used. Since there are many causes and specific types of imbalances in depression, the oil chosen can specifically match the particular imbalance. In conditions resulting from nutritional or hormonal imbalances in which there is combination of anxiety, guilt, anger or frustration the oils of Geranium, Grapefruit, Rose & Sandalwood would be good choices. When there is a need for rejuvenation and stimulation if someone is experiencing fatigue, poor memory and concentration, grief or despair then Bergamot, Clary Sage, Fir, Lemon, Neroli and Rosemary are appropriate. In symptoms of mental hyperactivity, restlessness and insomnia good oils to use would be Rose, Lavender, Neroli and Sandalwood. The more sensual and euphoric oils of Jasmine, Sandalwood and Ylang Ylang can be used if the depressed person is without emotion and languid which sometimes is the case in emotional and sensory trauma.


I find it interesting to note that since there are so many oils to choose from, often the individual’s preference to certain particular fragrances leads to the most effective oils for treatment of that individual.


Great care needs to be taken in the use of essential oils for any purpose. Essential oils are the strongest form of herbs available today. They are generally not taken internally and must be diluted before applying to the skin. A little knowledge of their proper and safe use needs to be acquired before using essential oils. To begin to use essential oils, it is safest to use methods of inhalation only.


Aromatherapy, the use of essential oils, is a unique method of plant use because these intense smelling essential oils affect the brain through the nose. The olfactory nerve stimulates reactions in specific areas of the brain, including the limbic system, which in turn creates reactions and changes to the nervous, endocrine and immune systems of the body. This makes it easier to understand how aromatherapy can assist in establishing a healthy balance in the mind as well as the body.


Herbs generally affect the physical body but are not limited to that type of action. Herbs speed up the body’s natural healing processes. I like to think of herbs as helping the cells to remember how to act more normally. One of the beauties of herbal medicine is that your body selectively uses the actions of an herb that it needs and seems to ignore the actions it doesn’t require. Some herbs are considered tonics, which means they can regulate a particular body system either direction. One herb, for example, can help in both high and low blood pressure conditions. The herb helps the body to regain a normal balance.


Many studies have shown the success rate of using St. John’s Wort &Ginkgo for mild to moderate depression as well as the already mentioned herbs for aiding the nervous system. There is also a wealth of data from studies reporting the successful use of essential oils for various conditions. The popularity of these natural remedies is rapidly rising. Realizing that doctors in Europe prescribe these types of herbs and that a large percentage of the European population utilizes them gives encouragement to those of us here in the America that these remedies are effective.


Integrating natural remedies into standard treatment should be done with consultation with the physician involved. If the physician hasn’t enough knowledge to make an informed opinion, it will be up to that individual to gain the necessary knowledge. If this journey to gain more knowledge seems daunting or a burden to the individual, maybe some comfort can be gained by realizing that it has been the patients’ growing use of natural remedies that has prompted doctors and scientists to begin to study these things for themselves. Herbs may be considered to manage some of the side effects of standard medication. Peppermint and Melissa (Lemon Balm) are great for the digestive system, the stimulating herbs mentioned already (Damiana, Ginsengs and Guarana) could help with sedation, herbs like Damiana, Panax Ginseng and Yohimbe could be used for sexual dysfunction and when a laxative herb is needed Cascara Sagrada and Senna are used. Very few herbs cause interactions with prescription medication. Thanks to the German government, there is a list of herbs that do interact with drugs and this is a standard handout available at Cheryl’s Herbs.


Natural remedies should be used daily on a consistent basis but with what I call “common sense” breaks. I believe one should take breaks from anything that is taken or done on a daily basis. After about a month, take a 5- to 7-day break. Depending on the herb, strength and form used, sometimes it would be advisable to take a break after only 2 weeks of daily use. Many of the studies done with St. John’s Wort for depression report good results after 4 weeks of use. Herbs and aromatherapy can be used at the earliest signs of depression to prevent the situation from becoming serious. Generally, we find that the same herbs used for treatment can be used as a preventative.


Herbs usually give better results when taken in a tea or extract form. Capsules are commonly used with some success but the best results are with teas and extracts. You can however get extract strength capsules, which are very good. Often the dose on herbal preparations is very conservative. These doses are a good place to start and are plenty strong enough for more sensitive individuals. Others may have to increase their dose for the herb to be effective. Herbs are generally subtle and sometimes you don’t want to be too subtle in their use. In the case of using essential oils, more is never a good idea and not more effective. Essential oils have a great potential for danger and need to be used sparingly with no exception.


Acupuncture, massage therapy, healing touch, flower remedies, hypnosis and exercise are also beneficial modalities in treating or preventing depression. Treatments that include review of a person’s belief system, self image, patterns of behavior and deep-seated drives or motivations are necessary. Dietary treatment could greatly assist in bringing about a healthy balance again. Some chemical medications given for depression influence the neurotransmission system in the brain but food intake influences neurotransmitters also. One kind of treatment method is usually not enough for complete and long term healing. A varied, holistic approach offers more opportunity for total success.



This information is for educational purposes only

and is not intended to medically prescribe.




Safety information




Black Cohosh Root Cimicifuga racemosa – Avoid when pregnant or nursing, limit use to 6 months; Cascara Sagrada Bark Rhamnus purshiana – Avoid when pregnant, with diarrhea, loose stools or abdominal pain, not for long term use; Damiana Leaf Turnera aphrodisiaca – no warnings; Ginkgo Biloba LeafGinkgo biloba – no warnings, possible concern with ingestion of blood thinning medications but inconclusive; Ginseng Root Panax ginseng – avoid with hypertension; Ginseng Root (Siberian) Eleutherococcus senticosus – avoid with hypertension; Guarana Seed Paullinia cupana – not for long term or excessive use; Hops Flower Humulus lupulus – Some authors say avoid with depression; Lavender Flower Lavandula angustifolia – no warnings; Linden Flower Tilia europaea – no warnings; Melissa Herb (Lemon Balm) Melissa officinalis – no warnings; Passion Flower Herb Passiflora incarnata – no warnings; Peppermint Leaf Mentha x piperita – no warnings; Senna LeafSenna spp. – Avoid when pregnant, with diarrhea, loose stools or abdominal pain, not for long term use; St. John’s Wort Herb Hypericum perforatum – May potentiate pharmaceutical MAO-inhibitors, fair-skinned people should avoid excessive sunlight and tanning while using; Valerian Root Valeriana offinalis – no warnings; Yohimbe Bark Corynanthe yohimbe – Avoid during liver & kidney diseases, chronic inflammation of sexual organs or prostate gland, not for long term use, may potentiate pharmaceutical MAO-inhibitors.



Bergamot Citrus bergamia – tested non-toxic at low levels, phototoxic, possible carcinogenic, slight possible skin irritant; Clary Sage Salvia sclarea – tested non-toxic at low levels, avoid when pregnant, with endometriosis and cancer, potentially sensitizing, sedative; Fir (Balsam) Abies balsamea – tested non-toxic at low levels, potential skin irritant; Geranium Pelargonium asperum, Bourbon – tested non-toxic at low levels, avoid in early pregnancy; GrapefruitCitrus paradisi, pink – potential skin irritant, sensitizing, possibly mildly phototoxic; Jasmine Jasminum grandiflorum – tested non-toxic at low levels, potentially sensitizing; Lavender Lavandula angustifolia – tested non-toxic at low levels; Lemon Citrus limon – tested non-toxic at low levels, potential skin irritant, sensitizing, phototoxic; Neroli Citrus aurantium – tested non-toxic at low levels; Rose Otto Rosa damascena – tested non-toxic at low levels;Rosemary (Cineole) Rosmarinus officinalis – should not be used when pregnant, with epilepsy or by children, possible neurotoxic; SandalwoodSantalum album tested non-toxic at low levels; Ylang Ylang Cananga odorata genuina Hook – tested non-toxic at low levels, potentially sensitizing, do not use on inflamed skin, excess may cause headache, nausea.




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Blumenthal, Mark, et al, Ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Austin: American Botanical Council. 1998.

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Hoard, Jeffrey S., and Victoria Gough, Ed. Proceedings of The World of Aromatherapy II. Boulder: NAHA. 1998.

Hoffmann, David. The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal. Shaftsbury, Dorsett: Element Books. 1996.

Jacobs, Jennifer. The Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. Boston: Journey Editions. 1996.

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Mowrey, Daniel B., Herbal Tonic Therapies. New Canaan: Keats Publishing Co. 1993.

Null, Gary. The Clinicians Handbook of Natural Healing. New York: Kensington Books. 1997.


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