Fight Depression Naturally With Herbs

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PHOTO: MICHAEL P. GADOMSKI/PHOTO RESEARCHERS
This herb, derided for centuries by gardeners as a bothersome pest, is called St. John's Wort (Hypericum in more clinical circles).

If you need a lift from depression but don’t want a prescription drug, you can fight depression naturally with herbs like St. John’s Wort.

One of the most puzzling questions to grapple with while we
electrify and technologize and work-ethic ourselves into
the twenty-first century is why life is making such an
alarming number of us seriously depressed. Whether we have
grown self-involved to the point of absurdity or are finally
managing to alienate ourselves from true spirituality by
burying it under appliances and money and cell-phones,
sadness has simply become epidemic . . . and a killer.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health
(NIMH), untreated depression is the number one cause of not
only all alcohol and drug addiction but also all eating
disorders, and the $40 billion of lost work and business
failures is just the visible part of the iceberg. Lurking
underneath are legion suffering children and wives who
endure violence as well as the quiet (and too often
explosively not quiet) suffering of the depressed people
themselves, some twenty million of them in the US. alone.

Whether gripped by backwards thinking or not,
pharmaceutical companies have sought the answer in plastic
capsules, and ever since the introduction of MAO
(mono-amino-oxidase) inhibitors in the ’70s and the updated
SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors such as
Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil) of the ’90s, we have taken the
bait and are currently mortgaging ourselves to drug
companies to the tune of nearly $3 billion a year-for
antidepressant medication alone!

It is not for us to decide whether happiness can ever be
found in a bottle, but the quiet revolution in medical care
currently taking place in Europe, and the “miracle herb”
prescribed there (twenty million people taking sixty-six
million doses every day in Germany alone), may herald an
age when we find a way to make health and happiness
something that can be grown as well as bought: fight depression naturally with herbs.

This herb, derided for centuries by gardeners as a
bothersome pest, is called St. John’s Wort (Hypericum in
more clinical circles). Within the past five years, over
5,000 patients have participated in hypericum
drug-monitoring tests–more than 2,000 of these in
double-blind studies. Eight head-to-head comparisons showed
hypericum was as effective as prescription antidepressants,
but with fewer side effects.

According to Dr. Richard Firshein, a columnist for
Psychology Today, “We aren’t sure exactly how it
works though we know it inhibits the enzyme that breaks
down dopamine, the ‘pleasure’ neurotransmitter, and may
also work the way antidepressant drugs do, by inhibiting
the brain’s uptake of serotonin and norepinephrine ….The
active ingredient, hypericin, is believed to be responsible
for its mood boosting effects, and the side effects are
usually quite mild.”

“Mild” may be an understatement. In fact, after 2,400 years
of herbal remedies involving hypericum, not one death from
toxicity has ever been suspected, much less reported. It is
considerably less toxic than aspirin and does not inhibit
sexual desire and performance as Prozac and its cousins do.
In a review of six hypericum studies, the British
Medical Journal
reported that 10.8 percent of patients
indicated that they experienced side effects with
hypericum, whereas nearly 36 percent experienced
side-effects with prescription drugs.

The kicker is that even if you want to simply go to the
herbal shop and buy Hypericum rather than grow it, the cost
per pill is from one-fifth to one-tenth of what
prescription antidepressants cost, not to mention the fact
that there may be no doctor’s visit to pay for.

Even those wildly enthusiastic about Hypericum admit that
it works only in mild to moderate cases of depression, that
it takes from four to six weeks to take effect, and that
those currently taking prescription drugs require medical
supervision before switching, but St. John’s Wort’s
promise, by virtually all accounts, is simply fantastic.


Product Name: HYPERICUM
VERBATIM

Company: Hypericum Buyer’s Club
Strength: 300 mg.
Type: Scored tablet (breaks into two 150 mg. doses for
children or for adjusting an adult dose; no animal products
used)
Cost: $27.50 for 280 tablets
Cost per day: 29 cents
Available: Mail order
Mail Order Address: Hypericum Buyer’s Club, Los Angeles, California
Shipping & Handling Charge: None

Product Name: ST. JOHN’S WORT
Company: Solaray
Strength: 300 mg.
Type: Gelatin capsule
Cost: $10.98 for 60 capsules
Cost per day: 55 cents
Available: Health food stores
Note: Solaray sells four St. John’s wort formulations. The
one that matches the extract used in the medical studies is
labeled “Guaranteed Potency” and is 300 mg. (not 250 or 325
mg.).

Product Name: ST. JOHN’S WORT WHOLE EXTRACT
Company: Elixir Tonics & Teas
Strength: 300 mg.
Type: Vegi-cap capsules (no animal products)
Cost: $16.95 for 90 capsules
Cost per day: 56 cents
Available: Elixir’s retail store or by mail
Mail Order & Store Address: West
Hollywood, California
Shipping & Handling Charge: $2.95

Product Name: ST. JOHN’S WORT
Company: Enzymatic Therapy
Strength: 300 mg.
Type: Gelatin capsule
Cost: $12.95 for 60 capsules
Cost per day: 65 cents
Available: Health food stores