Chinese Herbs for the Mind: Herbs for Depression

Chinese Herbs for the Mind: Herbs for Depression

Herbs for Depression (part 1)

If you want to learn how to use Chinese herbs for depression, you'll first have to forget everything you know about depression.  Shed the idea that depression is an emotional problem, or a 'brain chemistry' problem, or that it's even a brain problem.  If fact, don't even assume that depression is strictly a mental problem, though it is - it also isn't.  Depression is, above all, about energy, and how our energy affects all of us, mind, body, and spirit.  TCM is also all about energy.  We call it qi. And to be successful in curing depression you'll need to see people the way TCM doctors are taught to envision their patients, in terms of their qi.  

Start by remembering that that qi, like all energy, is always moving. Electricity flows like water, hence the word 'current". Heat flows, light flows. For it to have any effect, energy, whether inside your body or outside your body, must be moving.  

TCM regards the normal flow of qi and blood as indispensable to our good health, and that in many cases, poor health is the result of poorly flowing energy or body fluids.

It's the Qi, Stupid

You'd think that this would be obvious to everyone, including all those interested in human health.  Everybody, including scientists and medical researchers know with certainty that the body and brain have energy.  After all, without energy your brain wouldn't work, your heart wouldn't beat, your muscles wouldn't move, and all the chemical transformations within your body couldn't happen.  That said, do you recall a single study or experiment designed to measure body energy or investigate the relationship between energy flow and our health and well being? I can’t.

Why aren’t investigators curious about this? Is it stupidity, or just not profitable.

Soon Western medicine will wake up and realize the importance of energy and flow to good health and will understand that diminished or deviant flow causes problems for people.  

Where’s Your Depression?

Point to your depression. Where, on your body do you experience it? Most of you will point to your chest, not to your head.

The Western doctor or therapist sees depression as a brain problem. Modern drugs used for depression adjust brain and neural chemistry to mimic our sense of normalcy, and to a certain extent, these drugs are effective in managing it.

TCM, on the other hand, views depression as a chest problem caused by our reaction to loss or stress.  From the perspective of TCM, when faced with life’s inevitable stressors, human beings habitually become constrained in the chest and abdomen.  Constrained chest qi (energy) restricts flow in the chest, resulting in constrained or withheld emotions, often accompanied by pent-up anger or frustration

Unrelieved, it can also lead to a feeling of agitation in the chest known as Heat in the Heart. This condition is usually diagnosed as anxiety insomnia, tachycardia, or panic disorder. Some heart arrhythmias and many forms of psychosis have their origins here.

All these disorders are actually qi disorders, and therefore physical. That's why some of the most effective ways to relieve do not involve talking or counseling. Depression and anxiety  can be instantly relieved by vigorously moving the qi of the chest. Push-ups work as well as Prozac. More relief can come from boxing, breathing exercises, yoga techniques, massage, and forceful crying and wailing, all of which can release the qi of the chest.

Herbs can also be used to promote the circulation of qi in the chest and to clear heat from the heart. Herbs used to relieve depression and anxiety generally move the Liver Qi (qi of the chest). Taken alone, these herbs may have only a mild effect. In certain combinations, however, the results can be quite powerful.




By the way, did you know that Dr. Shen is also the artist and photographer Joel Schreck? See his work at

Next article Chinese Herbs for the Mind: What Do We Mean By 'Mind'

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