Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?

The Guardian newspaper in England this week reported on a new book that is re-writing the narrative on depression.

Moving beyond the simple black and white thinking of mental illness as a neurotransmitter defect that can be corrected by clever pharmacy, the book describes the author’s personal journey through depression, medication and beyond, to an understanding of the function of depression as a symptom of the disconnectedness of the individual from their family / community / society. The book describes the research showing how lack of  personal autonomy and lack of a sense of purpose and pleasure in a person’s work can contribute to depression and isolation. Corroborating this, in its official statement for World Health Day in 2017, the United Nations reviewed the best evidence and concluded that “the dominant biomedical narrative of depression” is based on “biased and selective use of research outcomes” that “must be abandoned”. We need to move from “focusing on ‘chemical imbalances’”, they said, to focusing more on “power imbalances”.

Interestingly, this is strikingly supportive of the assertions of Dr. Bruce Lipton (Biology of Belief) that it is not our actual reality but our perceptions of reality that determine the mental outlook and set the physiology into certain patterns of hormonal response (love / fear in Dr. Lipton’s words or parasympathetic / sympathetic in the biomedical model). The moral of the story being that, while you can’t necessarily change what happens to you or around you, it will always be your choice how you respond to it.

And to add in another layer of complexity, clinicians and practitioners are recognizing more and more the importance of the micro-biome to mental health. The majority of our serotonin is manufactured by gut flora and most serotonin receptors are in the gut not the brain – we literally have gut feelings.

So my overall recommendations of mental wellness: eat very well including prebiotics and probiotics, get plenty of sleep, exercise outdoors in daylight, cultivate good relations, have a pet, participate in community, spend time in nature and practice an attitude of gratitude. Simple really

And of course there are many herbs that can support and build the nervous system.


Cerebral Circulatory Stimulants
Centella/Hydrocotyl asiatica (Gotu kola)
Ginkgo biloba (Ginkgo)
Rosmarinus off. (Rosemary)

Caffeine like stimulant
Aspidosperma quebracho-blanco
Caffea arabica (coffee)
Camellia sinensis (tea)
Cola vera (Kola)
Ephedra sp.
Paullina cupana (Guarana)
Pausinistyllia yohimbine (Yohimbe)
Ilex paraguaiarensis (Mate)
Theobroma cacoa (chocolate)

Toxic narcotic stimulants
Atropa belladonna (Deadly nightshade)
Datura stramonium (thornapple)
Erythoxylum coca (Coca)
Hyoscyamus niger (Henbane)

Mild Relaxants:
Chamomilla recutita (Chamomile)
Lavandula off. (Lavender)
Melissa off. (Lemon Balm)
Piper methysticum (Kava)
Scutalleria lateriflora (Skullcap)
Stachys betonica (Wood Betony)
Tilia europea (Linden)
Theanine (from green tea)
Verbena off. (Vervain)

Essential Nutrients for Brain Health
Omega 3 fats (DHA and EPA)
B vitamins (B complex)
Vitamin D
Phosphatidyl choline (lecithin)
Phosphatidyl serine

Stronger relaxants / sedatives
Corydalis sp. (corydalis)
Eschscholzia california (Californian poppy)
Humulus lupulus (Hops)
Lactuca virosa (Wild Lettuce)
Passiflora incarnata (Passion Flower)
Piscidia erythrea (Jamaican dogwood)
Valeriana off. (Valerian)

Anti-spasmodic / anti-seizure
Hyssopus off. (blue hyssop)
Lobelia inflata (lobelia)
Piper methysticum (Kava)
Scutalleria lateriflora (Skullcap)
Viburnum opulus (Cramp Bark)
Viscum album (Mistletoe)

Adaptogens (Neuro-endocrine support)
Borago officinalis (Borage)
Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng)
Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice)
Panax quinquefolium (American ginseng)
Panax ginseng (Korean ginseng)
Pfaffia paniculata (Suma)
Rhodiola rosea (Arctic rose)
Schizandra chinensis (Wu Wei Zi)
Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha)

Anti-depressant Tonic nervines
Albizia julibrissin (Albizia )
Avena sativa (Oats)
Bacopa monniera (Brahmi)
Borago officinalis (Borage)
Centella asiatica (Gotu kola)
Huperzia serrata (Club moss / Lycopodium)
Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s wort)
Magnolia off. (magnolia)
Ocimum sanctum (Holy basil)
Polygonum multiflorum (He shou wu)
Turnera diffusa (damiana)
Verbena officinalis / hastata (Blue vervain)
Vinca major / minor (Periwinkle)

Stronger relaxants / sedatives
Corydalis sp. (corydalis)
Eschscholzia california (Californian poppy)
Humulus lupulus (Hops)

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