Chinese Medicine Treatment for Depression


In TCM theory, mental or emotional problems such as depression are caused by imbalance or blockage in internal organs and pathways in the body. Common patterns of depression are liver qi stagnation, qi deficiency in spleen, qi deficiency in kidneys, internal heat and heart blood deficiency. The most common pattern is liver qi stagnation. TCM practitioners believe that liver is responsible to regulate our emotions. Depression can occur when the flow of liver qi is interrupted causing liver qi stagnation.

Besides internal factors, depression can also be caused by external factors such as drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, overwork, poor diet, lack of exercise, poor sleep quality and lack of leisure time. In Western medicine, treatment includes antidepressant and psychological treatment.

Chinese Herbs for Depression

TCM practitioners often offer acupuncture treatment combined with herbal formula to treat depression. For depression caused by liver qi stagnation, Xiao Yao Wan, an herbal formula is often prescribed. It can enhance mood and reduce stress. It has been traditionally used to treat mental health conditions such as depression, panic attacks, stress and anxiety. It contains herbs include Chai Hu, Dang Gui, Bo He, Bai Zhu and Fu Ling. Jie Yu San can also be prescribed to resolve liver qi stagnation. It is often used to treat stress and depression. It contains herbs include Fan Hong Hua, Chen Pi, Ban Xia, Zhu Ru, Shi Chang Pu and more.

It’s not easy to find a TCM practitioner to prescribe the right herbal formula. Some of the formulas have to prepare in the traditional way, which is a very time-consuming process. Many people will try to take one single herb instead of herbal formula. For herbal formulas to treat depression, many of them contain Fan Hong Hua (Saffron), which is traditionally used to treat depression.

Fan Hong Hua (Saffron) has been traditionally used to treat depression in Chinese medicine. There are numerous studies that support it is as effective as antidepressants (1).

Where to buy: Saffron Extract

How to use: Saffron can be used in the forms of liquid extract, powder and capsules.

Acupuncture Treatment for Depression

Many studies suggest that acupuncture has the most immediate effect and may be the treatment of choice for depression and anxiety, especially when combined with psychotherapy or drug therapy. According to the World Health Organization, acupuncture has been proved through controlled trials, to be an effective treatment for depression (2). Another study shows that people with severe depression who received acupuncture treatment saw their level of depression decline more than people who received usual care in Western medicine. The benefits of acupuncture treatment can last as long as 12 months.

Acupuncture treatment for depression will focus on circulating the qi and balancing the flow of energy. It can help ease depression symptoms, as well as treat the underlying conditions. If you are a do-it-yourself type, you can also try stimulating acupressure points for depression on your own.

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