Skip to main content

Prevent suicide: some herbal remedies helpful for depression


Painting of poet Thomas Chatterton/Wikipedia

What drives people to commit suicide? It is believed that the English romantic poet Thomas Chatterton killed himself in 1770 with arsenic. Since depression often precedes suicide and with the rise in the number of people being treated for depression there is a growing concern.

There are so many factors that contribute to depression. The search for all of the factors that cause it continues on. Some evidence suggests a genetic pre-disposition.

The treatment for depression is as wide and varied as the many causes of it. Treatments include psychotherapy, light therapy (increasing one’s exposure to natural light during the winter months); electroshock treatments, MAO inhibitors and anti-depressants.

Anti-depressants are the general treatment for depression.  However, over time, drug therapies have been controversial because they are prone to dangers. In-spite of the use of anti-depressants, there are stories of those who have killed themselves or have attempted suicide. While anti-depressant drugs may be effective in treating depression, “recent reports also suggest that anti-depressants might, in some rare cases, actually worsen suicidal tendencies instead of alleviating them.” (Science Daily, Aug 9, 2008).

It is important to recognize the difference between clinical depression and normal bouts of feeling “the blues.” Some of the signs and symptoms of clinical depression include:

  • Persistent feelings of pessimism & hopelessness
  • Decrease in appetite resulting in weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Slow movement and speech
  • Lack of concentration
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Uncertainty
  • Anxiety
  •  Low self-esteem
  • Diminished sex-drive

Some physical causes of depression may develop as a result of drug side-effects from certain medications; lack of exercise; low thryroid function; hormonal changes; lack of natural light – particularly during the winter months or for those who work graveyard shifts; a diet high in protein; food allergies; a stressed immune system, particularly as it recovers from illness or fights disease; and low blood sugar.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to drug therapies.

Certain Chinese herbs have been very helpful for alleviating depression. Chinese herb formulas assist the body with both physical as well as emotional healing. Two key Chinese herbs are Bupleurum root which boosts energy and is an anti-depressant and Cyperus root which helps increase blood flow and regulates energy. When combined together they can be very useful in treating symptoms associated with depression.

Some supporting Chinese herbs include Hoelen which can have a soothing effect and calm the emotions. Siberian Ginseng revitalizes body energy and stimulates the pancreas, adrenal and pituitary glands – all of which play a vital role in affecting the emotions. Dong quai root is a mild sedative and helps stimulate hormones that curb mood swings.

Single herbs that can be used during times of stress include Chamomile, Catnip, Hops, Passion Flower, Skullcap and Valerian Root. Passion flower is very helpful for symptoms associated with anxiety as well as Kava Kava. Hops can aid the body with stress symptoms that occur below the waist; Skullcap is useful for headaches associated with stress. Valerian Root is most effective for calming  symptoms which occur throughout the torso. Black Cohosh is also an anti-depressant useful for the kind of depression in which one feels as though a black cloud of doom hangs over them.

Since blood sugar problems may contribute to depression, Licorice Root is useful for normalizing blood sugar levels; Chromium and B-complex vitamins help the body to make better use of insulin.

Vitamin E with Selenium can help overcome side-affects associated with depression. (“Selenium Aids Mood Problems” in Let’s Live, May 1992)

Lavender and rosemary essential oils are helpful in treating nervousness. Simply use on a cotton ball or use in a diffuser.

While suicidal tendencies are often associated with depression it is important to know that depression is seldom the only factor. Other disorders that may increase the risk for suicide include ADHD, anxiety, substance abuse and stress. If any of these disorders are present it is wise to seek professional counseling and medical help.

For more information: Science Daily; Real Mental Health