Chinese Medicine offers a number of options to help alleviate depression. There are studies and clinical evidence showing both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are often helpful when used appropriately. From a Chinese Medicine perspective there are many underlying diagnoses (i.e. sets of causes and conditions) that can lead to depressive symptoms. Many of those are outlined in our depression treatment section.
One Chinese herbal formula which is commonly used to treat depression is Chai Hu Shu Gan Wan. This formula is particularly useful when the underlying diagnosis is liver qi stagnation with spleen qi deficiency, as well as some other related diagnoses. Along with depression, this formula may be appropriate in some cases of epilepsy, certain menstrual irregularities, certain types of headaches or migraines and more.
The formula is generally comprised of the following herbs:
While the formula is established for treating depression, researchers from Hunan University in China conducted the study I'm exploring today to look specifically at the effect of the formula on depression in patients with epilepsy. Using an epilepsy and depression induced rat model along with a fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem, Rapiflux, Selfemra) control group.
The rats were treated every day for 28 days and then bio-chemical analysis was done. For the changes they were looking at in this model, the researchers found no statistical difference between the fluoxetine group and the Chai Hu Shu Gan Wan treatment groups. They looked at the following measures:
They concluded that Chai Hu Shu Gan Wan "effectively improves certain symptoms of depression" in a epilepsy/depression model.
This type of study which uses chemical analysis to better understand the internal biochemical effects of Chinese herbal formulas are very useful. For practitioners, we are largely long past the need to show the positive clinical effect of these formulas when properly used. But better understanding of how they work only increases our understanding. Further, direct comparison with popular western drugs, in this case fluoxetine, are also important. While the study doesn't get into human use details, there are generally far less side effects (generally none) with Chinese herbal medicine when properly used. Obtaining similar effects to western drugs without side effects and at a much lower cost is important for patients to increase their understanding of available treatment options.
You may also be interested in similar article looking at acupuncture and the treatment of depression in comparison with prozac.
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