Herbal Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder

| 11/29/2010 10:58:46 AM

/uploadedImages/Blogs/L.Cleek.jpgAre you frequently feeling down in the dumps now that the weather's getting cooler and the days are getting shorter? You may be one of the growing number of people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. The Mayo Clinic defines seasonal affective disorder (also called SAD) as a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year, most often during the winter months. Winter's decrease in daylight hours can cause a disruption in the body's internal rhythm, which can lead to feelings of depression. Reduced sunlight can also cause a drop in serotonin, perhaps leading to depression. Five percent of adults have been diagnosed with a form of Seasonal Affective Disorder but up to 20 percent of people experience symptoms at some point.

SAD is usually only a temporary condition so anti-depressant medications aren't often recommended to treat the symptoms, especially since prescription selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI's) often come with numerous side effects. According to non-profit helpguide.org, common side effects of SSRI's include sexual problems, drowsiness, sleep difficulties and nausea. While some side effects go away after the first few weeks of drug treatment, others persist and may even get worse. Patients taking SSRI's can also experience antidepressant discontinuation syndrome if the drugs are stopped abruptly instead of the dosage being gradually tapered down. Common withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, extreme restlessness, insomnia, muscle pain/spasms, nausea and vomiting.

Several years ago, a neurologist prescribed me the generic antidepressant Duloxetine for treatment of migraines and after taking it for several months, I didn't notice a significant change and attempted to stop taking the drug cold turkey. My doctor didn't warn me of the dangers of quitting abruptly and I had a terrible time trying to feel normal again. The withdrawals made me feel severely depressed, constantly nauseous and I had extremely vivid nightmares for nearly a month. As a result of my experience, I would strongly recommend searching for alternative options before taking prescription anti-depressants.

If you want to avoid these risks or simply don't like taking prescription drugs, there are several herbal remedies that can be used to naturally treat SAD, as well as other forms of depression. Some of the most commonly used herbs for depression include: St. John's wort, ylang ylang, lavender, chamomile and passionflower. 

St. John's Wort Extract 

St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is one of the most commonly recommended herbs for relief from feelings of depression, anxiety or nervousness. In The Herb Companion article 15 Herbs to Save Money on Medical Bills, contributor Kim Erickson advised that recent studies have shown that St. John's wort is just as effective for treatment of mild to moderate depression as prescription SSRI's, the only exception being that the herb has far fewer side effects. While doctors warn that the herb can make some prescription medications less effective when taken in combination with birth control pills, for example, the possible side effects are much less serious and extensive than those of prescription antidepressants, as read above.

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