Everybody experiences sadness at some point of their lives. When this melancholy lingers and does not let up it can lead to a serious disorder called Depression. Symptoms include profound sadness, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, lack of appetite, lack of enthusiasm, and sometimes uncontrollable crying. It can be described like hell on earth. If not treated it can lead to serious problems like suicidal thoughts, even death. When depression is heavy, medical attention must be sought out immediately.
Depression can be a reaction to external factors or it can be due to internal chemical imbalances. It's normal when a loved one dies and you feel sad for a few months. Sometimes that sadness can spiral down into a state of severe despondency or dejection. This is the time help is needed.
According to Ayurveda, internal causes are due to one of the Doshas (Vata, Pitta, or Kapha) disturbing the nervous system and interfering with the functions of the mind.
Ayurveda recognizes three types of Depression:
Vata Depression is accompanied with fear, anxiety, and nervousness. Social anxiety is a big issue, as vata individuals can get overwhelmed by crowds easily. They can also develop hypersensitivity to sounds and touch that even a hug can feel uncomfortable to them.
Useful herbs for someone suffering from a Vata form of depression are Dashamoola (very grounding), Ashwagandha (exhausted adrenals), and Brahmi (helps with all brain functions)
For social anxiety there are a few nervine tinctures that they can take before going into a social situation. These include kava kava, motherwort, or milky oat seed.
Vata imbalances need to be corrected by avoiding cold and dry foods and favoring warm, soupy kind of foods. They need to incorporate healthy oils like olive oil, ghee internally and can use sesame oil externally for a self massage.
Pitta Depression is accompanied by anger, fear of failure, and losing control. Pitta individuals tend to be perfectionists and crave control. When life throws them a wrench, they can spiral out of control. Fits of rage and irritability are common. Their depression can turn violent if left unchecked.
Pitta imbalances need relaxation and lots of cooling down. Massage therapy is a must as they hold on to a lot of tension in their spine. Best oils for pitta are coconut oil with essential oils like lavender, blue chamomile, and all the roses. They need to avoid the fire element in times of imbalance which can include ( excess sun, sour and pungent foods, excessive competition). Pittas need laughter in their life, they need to lighten up. Comedy shows or a light hearted movie can take them out of their funk.
Brahmi milk decoction can be drunk two to three cups per day. Shatavari, known for its excellent effects on cooling the nervous system is another must have herb. Skullcap in tincture form is a powerful remedy that can ease agitation and irritability as it is one the best nervines known to man.
Kapha depression is accompanied by mental heaviness, excess sleep, weight gain, and lack of energy. Kapha individuals can easily sleep fourteen hours or more. Their state of health can rapidly decline when depression sets in.
To help a Kapha suffering from depression, they will need a lot of help and support. They need the extra push from a friend to get motivated. They can start by going on an apple juice fast for a few days to get rid of the physical and mental heaviness. Heat in the form of pungent spices like cayenne, black pepper, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon is a must to kick up their metabolism. Exercise must be done and they will need a partner to motivate them. Hot yoga is an excellent choice for them. A ginger tea throughout the day is a must as it has a long history of treating depression.
According to Vedic Science, the material world contains three core primal energies. They are called the three gunas (Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas). Sattva is equilibrium, balance, harmony. Rajas is movement, agitation. Tamas is static energy. Our minds constantly go through these three gunas. In the morning you might be in a tamasic state of mind and want to keep sleeping. After your morning coffee, rajas begins to kick in and you can get excited and fired up. If you meditated in the morning maybe your day will start harmonious and peaceful (sattva).
The reason Ayurveda and Yoga talks about the three gunas is because Sattva guna brings our mind into a state of harmony which is needed when suffering from depression. The foods and the lifestyle we choose can lead you into a sattvic state of mind. Here are some examples of practices that bring sattva into your life:
Meditation A daily meditation practice is beneficial to your state of mind. Best done before 6 am, to catch the dominant ether element.
Sattvic Foods Whole Foods that are grown outside in the sun. Nuts, fruits, veggies, oils, whole grains, organic milk
Sattvic Herbs A few include shatavari, roses, jasmine, frankincense
Medicinal Oils Rose, jasmine, lavender, lemongrass, neroli, patchouli, bergamot, sandalwood are all uplifting
Here are a few other suggestions that can help everyone suffering from depression regardless of their dosha:
Sunlight getting at least 20 minutes a day of sunlight is critical. Some people suffer from depression due to lack of sunlight
Licorice Root contains eight compounds that are monamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors of potent antidepressant action. Only use short term as large amounts can increase blood pressure.
Rhodiola Root an adaptogenic herb used by the Russians for mental and physical endurance. Adaptogens are known to help you cope with stress for longer periods of time. When your depression is accompanied by body weakness, then this herb is the one to go with.
St John's Wort clinical studies show that treatment with just one of the active compounds, hypericin, results in a significant improvement in anxiety, depression, and feelings of worthlessness. Do not take if your are pregnant and avoid intense sun exposure.
Tryptophan an amino acid that is the raw material in the production of the neurotransmitter chemical called serotonin. This elevates mood and enhances feelings of well being. Sometimes serotonin runs low because tryptophan is scarce. Boost your intake with foods high in tryptophan like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and evening primrose seeds.
Depression can be deadly so go to a medical specialist if its serious. You can incorporate healthy lifestyle, food, and herbs along with the medical treatment. Give yourself a chance. Incorporate Ayurveda and natural ways of healing and you will see how wonderful life can be!