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Complementary therapies for depression

Depression is a serious mental illness which requires diagnosis and treatment by a doctor and other mental health professionals.

Some people also consider alternative or complementary therapies. These approaches range from diet and exercise to mental conditioning and lifestyle changes. Examples of alternative therapies include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Aromatherapy
  • Biofeedback
  • Chiropractic treatments
  • Guided imagery
  • Herbal remedies
  • Hypnosis
  • Massage therapy
  • Meditation
  • Relaxation
  • Yoga

The mental health charity Mind says it cannot endorse complementary therapies, but does say some people find them helpful.

Finding a reputable therapist is important. The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) is a government-backed regulator of complementary therapists. Some therapies also have their own professional body.

Which herbal remedies can help depression?

There are herbal therapies that some people believe can help with symptoms of depression. For example, St John's wort is used to relieve the symptoms of slightly low mood and mild anxiety.

St John's wort has been used for medical purposes in other parts of the world for thousands of years, but it hasn't been scientifically proven to treat moderate to severe depression.

Black cohosh is another traditional herbal remedy used for the relief of slightly low mood as a symptom associated with the menopause. The medicines regulator MHRA says in rare cases, black cohosh may cause liver problems. If you become unwell (yellowing eyes/ skin, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, abdominal pain, unusual tiredness) stop taking immediately and seek medical advice.

Any herbal supplement should be treated just like a medication. It requires caution and should be taken only after seeking medical advice. Your doctor can help you weigh the risks and potential benefits. That way, you can make an informed decision.

Meditation

Meditation is a way to help the mind become more quiet and to encourage calmness. There are different types of meditation available, but the goals are broadly similar.

Yoga

Yoga exercises are designed to help encourage better physical and mental freedom while developing more control over the body and a person's thoughts.

Massage therapy

In massage therapy, touch is used to help with physical symptoms along with mental health and emotions. Different types of massage therapy are available, including Swedish, therapeutic massage and Indian head massage.

Reflexology

With reflexology, a therapist applies pressure to specific points on the hands and feet. The idea is that the body has the capacity to heal itself and that nerves in the hands and feet are related to various parts of the body. Manipulating these nerves at specific points, it is thought, will stimulate the healing process.

Exercise

Different forms of exercise can lower your stress, relax you, and reduce depression. Exercise can also increase your energy, balance, and flexibility. In general, exercise is a safe, effective, and easy way to improve your well-being.

Improved self-esteem is another benefit of regular exercise. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that trigger a positive feeling in the body.

Seek medical advice before starting a new exercise programme.

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