Herbal depression medicine is commonly promoted as a viable alternative to pharmaceutical treatment of depression. However, the final verdict on the usefulness of herbal depression medicine needs yet to be made. While the effectiveness of herbal anti depressants has to be analysed on a case-by-case basis it can be said that a general problem with assessing the potential of herbal depression medicine lies in the fact that not much clinical, statistically relevant data exists. Also, there seems to be only limited interest from medical establishment to embark on studies testing the effectiveness of most herbal depression medicine. So what is the evidence that herbal anti depressants are effective depression treatments?
St John's Wort
St. John's wort (Hypericum Perforatum)
is the most well-known and best studied of the herbal anti depressants.
It has been known as herbal depression medicine and ailment for other
diseases for centuries. In Europe, where this herbal depression medicine
is commonly prescribed by medical doctors, a number of clinical studies
have shown St John´s wort to be an effective herbal anti depressant in
cases of mild to moderate depression. However, two clinical studies in
the US have recently indicated that St. John´s wort extracts were no
more effective than a placebo in major depression (it has to be noted
though that one of the studies was funded by the pharmaceutical
industry). Further studies with this herbal depression medicine are
underway, but it may take years before a definite verdict can be made on
St John´s wort. The exact mode of action of this herbal depression
medicine is unknown, though some evidence exists that it acts on
serotonin production or -activity. Despite all limitations and open
questions, St. John´s wort currently stands as the only herbal
depression medicine with a clinically demonstrated effect in certain
types of depression.
Other herbal depression medicine
Other herbal anti depressants commonly mentioned are Gingko Biloba and Siberian Ginseng. For each of those alleged herbal anti depressants
circumstantial evidence exists that seems to show their potential as
herbal depression medicine. However, no clinical studies have been
conducted so far that prove or disprove any claims made with regards to
their effectiveness as ailments for depression.
major problem with all herbal depression medicine, apart of limited
clinical evidence, is that the quality of different marketed herbal
extracts may vary substantially and that there may be purity and
effectiveness issues. Furthermore, the common misconception that herbal
depression treatment is natural and hence does not have any side effects
is outright wrong and the depressive patient should be aware of the
potential risks of taking herbal anti depressants without consultation
through a medical professional.
it must be said that, although herbal depression medicine is widely
used, on the whole there is (maybe with the exception of St. John´s
wort) no definitive evidence for the usefulness of herbal anti
depressants. Especially when compared to standard prescription drugs for
depression herbal depression medicine usually does not stand out as a
first choice treatment option. However, when other more established
treatments fail, or in particular in the case of St. John´s wort, in
cases of mild depression, using herbal depression medicine may be worth
trying. In any case the user should realise the limitations and
potential dangers of herbal depression medicine.