A traditional Chinese medicine found to be effective in treating depression

In a study published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, scientists wanted to confirm if Chai Hu Shu Gan San, a traditional medicine used to treat depression in China, can indeed improve the symptoms and condition of sufferers.

Like many other elements in traditional Chinese medicine, the use of Chai Hu Shu Gan San is prescribed in knowledge spanning hundreds, at times thousands, of years. Previous inquiries on the treatment have been made and they seem to indicate that it is effective against all types of depression; however, no attempt has been made to summarize the results and discuss the treatment’s safety.

Chai Hu Shu Gan San is made from Chai Hu (Bupleurum chinense), a medicinal plant known for its liver-friendly and anti-cancer benefits. It also contains Xiangfu (Cyperus rotundus) and Chuanxiong (Ligusticum chuanxiong), two other important ingredients in Chinese medicine.

To conduct their review, the researchers turned to several databases, including PubMed, China National Knowledge Internet, Wanfang, Chongqing VIP, and the Cochrane library. They included all studies published as early as the database’s date of establishment until January 1, 2017. Furthermore, only those studies that compared Chai Hu Shu Gan San – or its combination with regular Western medicine – and regular Western medicine for the treatment of depression.

They were able to gather 42 studies that involved a total of 3,234 patients with depression in 15 different types of diseases. Analyses revealed that Chai Hu Shu Gan San resulted in better outcomes than Western medicine in three types of depression: pure depression, post-stroke depression, and postpartum depression. The findings also indicated no adverse events of oral administration of the drug.

Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that Chai Hu Shu Gan San offers some advantages as a treatment of depression, especially postpartum and post-stroke depression. They recommended conducting a meticulously designed and conducted randomized control trial to further evaluate the benefits offered by the traditional Chinese treatment.

Natural treatments for depression

Contrary to popular belief, depression is hardly caused by a singular factor. For this reason, treating it naturally may involve a holistic process that covers several aspects of daily life, from one’s outlook to one’s diet. Here are some of the ways to address depression without depending on chemical medications:

  • Determine why – Although most types of depression are caused by a biochemical imbalance, some cases can be triggered by real-life stressful situations, including marital, financial, professional, and personal problems. Knowing if one’s depression is rooted in any problem will allow the person to do something about the underlying cause, which will help them on the journey toward recovery.
  • Move – It’s important to keep moving, whether through exercise, a sport, or a creative endeavor such as dance. Moving releases endorphins, the body’s natural anti-depressant and helps regulate mood and one’s perspective.
  • Improve diet – Recovering from depression will depend much on what one eats. Many chemical anti-depressants work by increasing one’s serotonin levels, but this effect can also be achieved by eating the right food. Eating food items that are high in protein, healthy fats, and omega-3 fatty acids help enhance the production of serotonin in the body. In contrast, one needs to avoid caffeine-rich foods as this natural chemical inhibits serotonin levels. It is also important to eat regularly as skipping meals result in unstable blood sugar levels and moods.
  • Sun it out – Exposure to the sun not only provides vitamin D essential to stronger bones, it also helps brighten one’s mood.
  • Meditate – This relaxing practice can help settle the mind and improve focus, as well as lighten the mood, among a range of other health benefits.

For stories on traditional Chinese treatments, go to ChineseMedicine.news.

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