By Brigitte Mars
Depression can occur when life isn’t going right. Feeling “down” when unhappy in work, relationships, and life situations can happen to anyone. However depression can also be biochemical, and occur regardless of how life is going. Expressing oneself creatively through art, music, writing or dance can be productive ways of letting go of depressing emotions.
Many people are on medication for depression. Even children and pets are given Prozac. In oriental medicine, depression results from stagnation in the Liver system. Anger is said to be the result of Liver energy rising and depression is more of an inward process, where anger is turned against oneself. So rather than taking medication as a first method to improve depression, paying attention to the Liver is important.
How does one’s liver get out of balance? Stuffing emotions without expressing them doesn’t help. Being unable to express anger, keeps things inside.
Foods that Improve Liver Function
Eating foods that melt at higher than body temperature, such as margarine and shortening impairs liver function. Even though we may not consciously choose these foods, they are often hidden in bread, cookies, crackers, chips and fried foods. Avoid anything that says hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Cooked oils produce trans fatty acids, which congest the liver and make it work overtime.
Foods that improve liver function, thus benefiting depression include apples, artichokes, barley, beets, and burdock root. Also helpful are. Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, collards, as well as wild greens like lambs quarter, dandelion and malva. Greens are rich in chlorophyll, which improves the quality of blood and transports oxygen to the brain. Sea vegetables like kelp, dulse and wakame can be added to soups and stews and are so nutrient rich, they improve a sluggish metabolism. The sour flavor is especially cleansing to the liver. Adding the juice of one half lemon to glasses of water helps to stimulate liver function.
Food Allergies and Depression
Food allergies can cause swelling and aggravate physical and mental conditions. Get tested test for food allergies. It can be insightful to keep a food journal for several weeks and also note how you feel on those days. Allergies sometimes affect people several days after consumption. One can be allergic to anything, but the most common culprits are wheat, dairy products, eggs, wheat, corn, soy, tomatoes, citrus, sugar, yeast and peanuts. Yeast overgrowth can get out of hand and be further aggravated by eating sugars, juices and breads. Medications such as antibiotics, birth control pills, pain remedies and tranquilizers can cause chemical changes that deplete brain amines, which can lead to depression. Herbs can sometimes provide alternatives to these drugs. Be on the lookout for environmental factors polluting the air and body such as formaldehyde, carpet glue or leaky gas from stoves. Make your work and living space as healthful as possible.
Keep blood sugar levels stable. Skipping meals or binging on sweets, including fruit juices can leave one emotionally vulnerable, depressed and lethargic. Factors that often accompany depression include low blood pressure, low thyroid function and poor adrenal function.
Shallow breathing, poor posture and lack of fresh air all contribute to our brain lacking in oxygen, and thus vitality. Smoking impairs the ability to breathe in deeply. Yoga, t’ai chi and walking in fresh air are all ways to take more oxygen into your system. Exercise wakes up the body and stimulates endorphin production. Though exercise may not cure depression, a lack of exercise can be a contributing factor in being depressed.
There are many herbs that benefit depression:
- Dandelion root ( Taraxacum officinale ) improves liver function by stimulating bile production.
- Ginkgo ( Ginkgo biloba ) helps the brain utilize oxygen better, increases cellular glucose uptake and improves neural transmission.
- Lemon balm ( Melissa officinalis ) helps calm anxiety. German studies show that it calms the portion of the brain that governs autonomic nervous system, and thus protects the brain from excessive external stimuli.
- Licorice root ( Glyccyrrhiza glabra ) helps keep blood sugar levels stable.
- Oatsraw and spikelets ( Avena sativa ) is highly nutritive and supportive of the nervous system. It is an antidepressant and cerebral tonic.
- St. John’s wort ( Hypericum perforatum ) inhibits both A and B monoamine oxidase, thus slowing down the breakdown of neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin. It is rich in brain enhancing flavonoids and amino acids such as glutamine and lysine.
- Siberian Ginseng ( Eleutherococcus senticosus ) helps one better cope with stress and improves mental alertness.
- Combinations of herbs are available in tea or tincture form. The tea is taken three times daily and the extract is taken a dropperful in a bit of water 4 times daily. Do not mix herbs with pharmaceutical medications when treating depression. Consult with a health care provider before ceasing medication.
- Essential oils, can be a way to lift depression orarily. The nasal cavities are in close proximity to the brain and aromatherapy can open neural pathways that have a beneficial affect on the physical and mental body. Essential oils that can help alleviate depression include basil, cinnamon, coriander, lavender, jasmine, and melissa, neroli, patchouli, peppermint, rose, sandalwood, thyme and ylang ylang. The simplest method is to take ten deep inhalations directly from the bottle. Essential oils can also be added to the bath, after filling the tub, in dosages of seven to ten drops. Pull the shower curtain closed to help retain the fragrance. Also helpful is to create a mist spray that you can blast yourself with when needing to be energized and uplifted. To make an uplifting spray, take a 4 ounce empty mister bottle, add 1 teaspoon of brandy to disperse the oils, add about 135 drops of a combination of anti depressive essential oil and fill the mister with spring water. Be sure to use only pure essential oils and always dilute them appropriately before applying to the skin.
Humans are affected by light. which enters the retina and travels to the hypothalamus and pineal gland. Fluorescent lighting doesn’t give full spectrum light. Spending some time outdoors each day, without glasses or contact lenses. Some have found that replacing fluorescent fixtures with full spectrum lights can improve their moods.
When depressed it is important to choose at least ten activities to do on a daily basis. Write down goals. They may be as simple as getting dressed and making the bed. Doing them all will give you a sense of accomplishment.
Delight your senses as best you can with color, beauty, aroma, flowers and music. Coming home to a dirty or dingy living space will dampen anyone’s spirits. Do what you can to brighten where you live. Clutter can make one feel overwhelmed and confused.
Wear clothes that had splashes of color (such as scarlets, oranges and hot pink to elevate moods.
One of the most difficult aspects of depression is getting motivated enough to do something about it. Some people may need to be on medication (but not at the same time as using herbs) to cope with depression. A wise person will use their time on medication to learn healthier eating, create a more beautiful living space and get counseling.