Acupuncture for Depression
In Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) the primary mechanism for depression is the stagnation of qi (pronunciation chee). The Liver is responsible for the free flow of energy and blood throughout the body. When the Liver is healthy and optimally functioning, energy is fluid and as a result we feel calm, content and at ease.
When we are stressed or emotionally taxed, qi stagnates. With this slowing down of energy internally, we may feel tired, unmotivated and even depressed. It is the Liver’s job to act as the central hub for filtering all of our emotional experiences. When we are taking care of ourselves through proper diet, exercise, yoga, meditation, sleep, and therapy, the Liver is able to perform without getting stuck. However, when we are extreme in our behaviors, neglect our mental health, and eat improperly, the Liver may suffer. It is demonstrated that acupuncture for depression has positive effects and this condition can be treated with the help of TCM.
Mental health in TCM is approached very differently from allopathic medicine. Conventionally, the treatment of depression with prescription medicines is designed to target the neurohormones and neurotransmitters of the brain. Medicines tweak the brains chemistry in order to elevate the emotional experience. This type of therapy neglects to address imbalances of lifestyle which likely caused and or contributed to the onset of depression in the first place.
Acupuncture treatment for depression is more focused on harmonizing and balancing the entire person. The TCM treatment strategy often includes harmonizing the energy of multiple organs, nourishing the blood and processing unresolved emotional wounds. This can be achieved through acupuncture, nutrition and herbology.
To understand the TCM approach to depression, it is critical to understand this foundational principle: each of the primary five organs (Heart, Liver, Spleen, Lungs, and Kidneys) has an associated emotion. When we treat a patient for emotional imbalances, we apply this principle in order to diagnose the source of the problem and the associated organ(s).
Anger is the emotion of the Liver and joy is the emotion of the Heart. It’s important to note that the TCM definition of anger is more complex than simply being mad.
Anger can take many forms including frustration, disappointment, dissatisfaction, resentment, and apathy. Stagnation of Liver energy can result from unexpressed or unresolved anger and its various manifestations.
In TCM emotions have a close relationship blood. The emotions are said to be rooted or housed in the blood and it is the substantial nature of blood that gives form to the formless.
The Liver not only regulates the flow of qi, but it is said to “store” the blood.
Excessive mental activity, trauma, shock and emotional stress can deplete the body of blood. When blood is deficient the Liver becomes dry and the storing function is compromised making imbalances, like depression, are even more likely.
The Heart plays an important role in mental health because it rules the Shen or the spirit-mind, is responsible for the emotion joy, and it has the job of circulating blood.
The Shen is responsible for:
- clear, objective thinking
Depression does not exist in isolation from these other aspects of cognitive function, and therefore it is important when treating depression to treat the energy of the Heart and nourish the blood in addition to treating Liver energy. When it comes to depression, as well as other mental health issues, addressing imbalances of both Liver and Heart is important because they are dependent upon one another for emotional stability.
The science behind the acupuncture treatment for depression
Chronic inflammatory response has been viewed as a key factor of depression.
Acupuncture for depression and Chinese medicine have been shown in studies to be effective treatments. It is believed the mechanism by which acupuncture has an anti-depressant like effect is that it mediates the inhibition of inflammatory mediators like nuclear factor kappa B.
Another important factor in mediating depression is through nutritional therapies. By eliminating pro-inflammatory foods and incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods, increasing consumption of lacto-fermented foods, increasing pre-biotic foods, fiber and avoiding processed food products, it is possible to successfully treat depression with natural medicine.