Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier - The Best Alternative Medicine

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Depression: CAM Therapies for Specific Conditions

  • A study in 1985 revealed that patients who engaged in an eight-week program of meditation experienced less pain, anxiety, and depression than patients treated with conventional medications and physiotherapy.

  • Results of a study suggest that hypnotic imaging may help in producing physical and psychological changes that will help patients deal with breast cancer by reducing depression.

  • Research is still preliminary, but in Europe, steroid hormone DHEA products are being marketed for menopause-related depression.

  • In a 1985 study, acupuncture compared favorably to treatment with conventional depression medications. After five weeks of acupuncture treatment, 70 percent of depression patients were cured or markedly improved, compared to 65 percent taking medication.

  • Americans now use herbs mostly for a variety of minor conditions, the most common of which is depression.

  • Commission E in Germany has approved Ginkgo biloba extract for the symptomatic treatment of depression.

  • Mental functioning of fifty patients with depression improved when treated with the commercial ginseng-based product Ginsana, a European brand of ginseng extract.

  • St. John's wort is one of the powerhouses of contemporary herbal medicine. It has become very popular in the United States in a short period of time, and is used primarily to combat depression.

  • In a 1988 study, twenty-three depressed subjects were placed on a therapeutic diet free of caffeine and sucrose for one or two weeks, then challenged, in a blinded fashion, with caffeine and sucrose. When challenged, 50 percent responded with significant and sustained deterioration of their moods.

  • In a study, twenty-four depressed elderly patients showed significant improvement on one gram of amino acid L-acetylcarnitine taken daily for one month, as compared with placebo.

  • Among subjects in an Ayurvedic program, those who were highly adherent to the prescribed therapy showed a decrease in depression.

  • A study of elderly women who had undergone surgical repair of hip fractures found that those with strong religious beliefs were able to walk farther at discharge, and also showed lower levels of depressive symptoms.


Caution: Research on the hormone melatonin remains inconclusive, but some studies suggest that melatonin can deepen or induce depression.

Caution: Depression can be a side effect of acupuncture.

Caution: If you are taking St. John's wort, sunlight may cause a photosensitive reaction that can irritate and inflame the skin of light-skinned individuals. If you are taking any other antidepressants, discuss the use of St. John's wort with your doctor before using it. Do not take it if you are planning a pregnancy, during pregnancy, or when breast-feeding. In combination with common drugs such as Prozac (SSRI) or Nardil (MAO inhibitor), St. John's wort can result in fever, confusion, and muscle spasms. The standard MAO food warnings apply with St. John's wort. Typical preparation and dose are 300 mg of the standardized (0.3 percent) hypericin (thought to be the active agent), three times per day with meals, for a total of 900 mg per day. It may also be taken as two 450 mg tablets, two times per day. Or drink 1 to 2 cups per day of the dried herb tea boiled for ten minutes. St. John's wort should be taken with meals to avoid stomach discomfort. At least four weeks should be allowed in order for blood levels to reach adequate concentrations to be effective.




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Copyright © 2000 by Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier, Inc.
Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, New York.

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