Depression is characterized by withdrawal from the daily activities of life, accompanied by a reduced sense of well-being and feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and pessimism.


What is Depression?

From Modern Western Medicine

Everyone experiences some degree of depression now and then, and for the vast majority of people, the condition rights itself without intervention of any kind. For many, however, depression persists and deepens, requiring psychological and medical assistance.

Depression may have some physical or organic origins; for instance, hormonal imbalances, such as those resulting from childbirth. Numerous drugs can also cause depression. Many mood-altering and psychotherapeutic drugs, birth control, and sleeping pills can bring on the condition.


From Traditional Medicine

Depression is often results from inadequate levels of serotonin, the brain neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of well-being, confidence, positive outlook, and restful sleep. Serotonin is increased in the brain by high consumption of carbohydrate-rich foods, such as whole grains, beans and vegetables. The Chinese regard many cases of depression as a deficiency of nutrition (see below), a stagnant liver, weak spleen, and hypoglycemia.

Studies have shown that exercise relieves depression. So, too, does reducing the amount of sleep from 8 to 5 – 6 hours per night.

Who Gets Depressed?

While everyone is prone to occasional bouts of depression, more women than men seek treatment for the condition (one in six women, as opposed to one in nine men, seek help). This may indicate a greater willingness to confront and deal with depression, rather than a greater susceptibility. More than 15% of Americans suffer from clinical depression, while severe depression affects 5 to 10% of the population. Depression tends to increase with age.


General Recommendations

  • Foods rich in complex carbohydrates should dominate your diet. These include whole grains, vegetables, beans, and fruit. These will boost serotonin and promote feelings of well-being, security, and inner peace.
  • Mild aerobic exercise, at least 5 days per week
  • Yoga
  • Journal writing: spend 10 – 20 minutes per day writing down your feelings in your diary. Studies have shown that writing relieves depression and other mild psychological disorders.


Foods to Eat

  • Whole grains rich in complex carbohydrates, such as brown rice, barley, corn, millet, oats, and whole wheat (eat these foods at least twice per day)
  • Vegetables
  • Beans
  • Cucumbers
  • Apples
  • Fresh wheat germ
  • Kudzu root
  • Wild blue-green micro algae (¼ g, one to three times a day)


Foods to Avoid

Avoid the following foods, which obstruct and/or damage the liver:

  • Meat
  • Diary
  • Eggs
  • Hydrogenated oils and poor-quality fats (such as shortening, margarine, and refined and rancid oils)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Chemicalized food and water
  • Intoxicants                               
  • Highly processed, refined foods
  • Drugs


Chinese Medicine

When the liver is not functioning properly, myriad emotional problems can occur. Many liver conditions involve excess of one kind or another. The most frequent kind occur when too much food is eaten—especially the rich and greasy kind—and the liver becomes swollen and sluggish in its attempt to circulate qi energy smoothly through the body. The qi then stagnates in the liver. The following foods stimulate a stagnant liver. The first remedy is to eat less of all foods:

  • Moderately pungent foods, spices, and herbs
  • Sprouted grains, beans, and seeds                   
  • Watercress
  • Onion family
  • Mustard greens
  • Sweet brown rice
  • Beets
  • Amasake
  • Strawberries
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Chestnuts                                                                    
  • Cabbage, turnips, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts
  • Apple cider vinegar (1 tsp. in a little water up to three times a day)


Herbs to Treat Depression

  • Lemon balm leaf: ½ – 6 grams moves liver and spleen qi
  • Gardenia (sometimes called the happiness herb because it relieves liver congestion and blocked emotion): 6 – 12 g
  • Pulsatilla: prepare from the fresh herb. Macerate 2 lbs. in 4 pints of strong alcohol. Two to three drops of tincture are taken three to four times a day in a spoonful of water. Use within a year of preparation.
  • Ginkgo biloba: available in pills and capsules
  • Gotu kola: available in pills and capsules
  • Slippery elm: available as a tea



  • Vitamin B1: 1.5 mg per day
  • Vitamin B6: 2 – 10 mg per day, especially if there is edema or if depression is related to the menstrual cycle
  • Vitamin B12: 1 – 10 mcg per day
  • Vitamin B complex: 50 mg per day
  • Vitamin C: 100 – 500 mg per day
  • Calcium/magnesium: in a 2:1 ratio (500 mg of calcium; 250 mg of magnesium) per day


Sleep Management

Studies have shown that people who reduce the amount of sleep they are getting from 8 or more hours per night to 5 or 6 hours experience dramatic improvements in mood.



  • Daily meditation, prayer, and guided imagery routines
  • Support groups
  • Chanting and singing
  • Exercise—very effective if practiced daily
  • Writing in a journal daily
  • Write in journal about the most traumatic and/or shameful experience you have had for four days, at least 20 minutes per writing session. This method, developed by Southern Methodist University psychologist James Pennybaker, Ph.D., has been proven effective in alleviating many kinds of psychological disorders, including depression.



  • Lavender



  • Walking daily
  • Yoga and stretching exercises specifically boost brain levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of well-being, positive outlook, deeper sleep, and higher self-esteem.
  • Bicycling, jogging, swimming, and any aerobic activity or sport