Disclosure: As a BetterHelp affiliate, we receive compensation from BetterHelp if you purchase products or services through the links provided.

In today’s fast-paced and demanding world, the prevalence of anxiety and depression has reached alarming levels. 

Traditional approaches to mental health often rely heavily on pharmaceutical interventions, but an increasing number of individuals are seeking alternative solutions that take a holistic approach to their well-being. 

One such approach gaining recognition and popularity is naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic medicine is a comprehensive system of healthcare that blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional healing practices. 

It emphasizes the body’s inherent ability to heal itself and focuses on treating the root causes of ailments rather than merely alleviating symptoms. 

Let’s explore what lies at the core of naturopathic medicine, how it differs from conventional medicine, and discuss the best type of naturopathic medicine for anxiety and depression. 

What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is a system of healthcare that focuses on supporting the body’s natural healing abilities and treating the root causes of illness. 

It considers the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of a person’s well-being. 

Naturopathic medicine combines traditional healing practices with modern scientific knowledge and evidence-based therapies. 

Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are trained to diagnose and treat a wide range of health conditions, including acute and chronic illnesses. 

They emphasize the use of natural therapies and techniques, such as herbal medicine, clinical nutrition, physical medicine, lifestyle counseling, and mind-body approaches, to promote health and prevent disease.

The principles of naturopathic medicine include:

1. The Healing Power of Nature: Naturopathic medicine recognizes the body’s inherent ability to heal itself. Treatment approaches aim to support and stimulate this healing process.

2. Identify and Treat the Root Cause: Naturopathic doctors seek to identify and address the underlying causes of illness rather than merely alleviating symptoms. 

By addressing the root cause, long-term healing and improvement can be achieved.

3. Treat the Whole Person: Naturopathic medicine takes into account the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of an individual. 

It recognizes that all these aspects are interconnected and influence overall health.

4. Do No Harm: Naturopathic doctors prioritize using therapies and treatments that are the least invasive and have the least risk of harmful side effects. 

They aim to support the body’s natural healing processes rather than suppressing symptoms.

5. Doctor as Teacher: Naturopathic doctors educate and empower their patients to take an active role in their own health. 

They provide information, guidance, and support to help individuals make informed decisions about their well-being.

6. Prevention is the Best Medicine: Naturopathic medicine emphasizes the importance of preventive healthcare. 

By identifying and addressing risk factors and imbalances before they manifest as illnesses, individuals can maintain optimal health and well-being.

Naturopathic medicine is often used as a complementary approach alongside conventional medical treatments. 

Naturopathic doctors work collaboratively with other healthcare providers to provide integrated and comprehensive care for their patients.

How is Naturopathic Medicine Different from Conventional Medicine for Anxiety and Depression?

Conventional medicine primarily relies on pharmaceutical interventions, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines, alongside psychotherapy. 

While these treatments are generally well-tolerated, they are not without drawbacks. 

Many individuals experience side effects ranging from reduced sexual desire and stomach upset to more severe issues like insomnia, agitation, and even suicidal thoughts in certain populations like children and adolescents. 

Moreover, there’s the potential for physical dependence, characterized by tolerance and withdrawal syndromes, where individuals may need higher doses for the same effect and face negative effects upon discontinuation.

In contrast, naturopathic medicine adopts a holistic and individualized approach to mental health. Naturopathic interventions encompass a broad spectrum, including diet and lifestyle counseling, acupuncture, homeopathy, and the use of nutritional and herbal supplements

The emphasis is on addressing the root causes of anxiety and depression, considering the interconnectedness of physical, mental, and emotional aspects of health.

Naturopathic doctors (NDs) also spend significantly more time with patients compared to their conventional counterparts. 

Initial appointments can last between one and two hours, and subsequent appointments typically range from 30 to 60 minutes. 

This extended interaction allows for a comprehensive understanding of the patient’s overall health, lifestyle, and mental well-being.

Can Naturopathy Help With Anxiety and Depression?

Yes, naturopathy has shown promise in helping with anxiety and depression, as indicated by several research studies. 

One randomized trial conducted by Cooley and colleagues compared the effectiveness of naturopathic care to standard psychotherapeutic interventions for anxiety symptoms.

Participants in the naturopathic care group received dietary counseling, deep breathing relaxation techniques, a standard multivitamin, and the herbal medicine ashwagandha. 

The results showed a significant decrease in Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) scores, with a 56.5% reduction in the naturopathic care group compared to a 30.5% reduction in the psychotherapy group. 

This suggests that naturopathic interventions, including dietary and herbal components, can be effective in alleviating anxiety symptoms.

Furthermore, according to the Natural Medicine Journal, mild to moderate depression in many patients can be successfully treated with various naturopathic and holistic options. 

These may include dietary changes, dietary supplements, exercise, massage, herbs, and exposure to sunlight.

A broader analysis in 2019, examining literature on naturopathic medicine, found support for its effectiveness in treating a range of conditions, including depression and anxiety. 

The combined results from 33 published studies worldwide indicated that naturopathic medicine is effective for addressing not only mental health concerns but also cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal pain, type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, and other complex chronic conditions.

Best Naturopathic Medicines for Anxiety and Depression

naturopathic
Image Credit: nutraceuticalbusinessreview.com

Naturopathic medicine often employs a range of herbs, vitamins, and supplements as part of its protocol for addressing anxiety and depression. 

The following substances are commonly recommended by naturopathic practitioners for their potential positive effects on mental health:

1. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

Ashwagandha, a botanical marvel with the scientific name Withania somnifera, is characterized by its rich composition of active compounds, including withanolides, alkaloids, and saponins. 

These components are believed to contribute to the therapeutic effects of this herb.

The unique properties of Ashwagandha are thought to exert influence over various physiological pathways, including neurotransmitter pathways, the endocrine system, and the body’s inflammatory response. 

As a result, its potential effectiveness in addressing anxiety has been the subject of scientific investigation.

In a randomized, double-blind, controlled study, the impact of Ashwagandha supplementation on anxiety levels was assessed using the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAMA). 

The findings revealed a notable 41% decrease in anxiety levels among participants receiving Ashwagandha, compared to a 24% reduction in the placebo group. 

This suggests a significant positive effect of Ashwagandha on anxiety.

Furthermore, the study observed a substantial reduction in morning cortisol and DHEA levels in the Ashwagandha group. 

Cortisol and DHEA are hormones associated with the body’s response to stress. This suggests that Ashwagandha supplementation may contribute to a physiological response that helps mitigate the impact of stress and anxiety.

2. St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) 

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) stands as a widely recognized herbal remedy, highly recommended by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). 

Its popularity extends globally, as it is both licensed and extensively prescribed for depression in various European countries.

This herb is distinguished by its active components, including hypericin and hyperforin, which are believed to contribute to its therapeutic properties. 

St. John’s Wort has a rich historical tradition of use and is often sought for its potential mood-enhancing effects.

A pivotal study conducted by Qin Xiang Ng and colleagues in 2017 undertook a comprehensive review of 27 clinical trials involving a total of 3808 patients. 

This research specifically compared the efficacy and safety of St. John’s Wort to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a commonly prescribed class of antidepressant medications.

The findings of this study revealed that, for patients with mild-to-moderate depression, St. John’s Wort demonstrated comparable efficacy and safety when compared to SSRIs, suggesting that in certain cases, St. John’s Wort could serve as an effective alternative for individuals experiencing mild-to-moderate depression.

In another significant German study comparing the efficacy of St. John’s Wort with the antidepressant imipramine, involving 324 outpatients with mild to moderate depression, participants were administered either 75 mg of imipramine twice daily or 250 mg of Hypericum perforatum extract (ZE 117) twice daily for six weeks. 

The study concluded that the Hypericum perforatum extract is therapeutically equivalent to imipramine in treating mild to moderate depression, while also being better tolerated. 

This not only underscores the effectiveness of St. John’s Wort as a natural remedy for depression but also highlights its favorable tolerability compared to a conventional antidepressant

3. Lavender

Lavender, a fragrant herb celebrated for its calming aroma, is not only cherished in aromatherapy but also recognized for its potential therapeutic benefits. 

Beyond its aromatic allure, lavender has garnered attention for its anxiolytic properties, with evidence suggesting its ability to alleviate anxiety.

The anxiolytic properties of lavender have been substantiated in pharmacological studies and small-scale clinical trials. 

Notably, in a double-blind, controlled study, the efficacy of an oral lavender oil capsule preparation, Silexan, was examined, revealing that it was as effective as Lorazepam (a benzodiazepine) in adults diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. 

Significantly, lavender oil also demonstrated excellent tolerability, with no sedative effects or risk of drug abuse potential.

4. 5-HTP

5-HTP, or 5-hydroxytryptophan, is a compound with the potential to influence serotonin levels in the brain, akin to certain antidepressant medications. 

Derived typically from the seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia, 5-HTP is commonly available in 50 mg or 100 mg gelatin or vegetarian capsules. 

Once ingested, 5-HTP is naturally converted into serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation and feelings of happiness. 

This conversion process has led to the perception of 5-HTP as a natural mood stabilizer, potentially aiding in the management of depression and anxiety.

Research evidence shows the efficacy of 5-HTP in treating depression, appetite suppression, and sleep promotion by enhancing serotonin synthesis and release. 

In a research study involving normal subjects treated with 5-HTP, there was an increase in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep from 5% to 53%, compared to the placebo baseline. 

Additionally, in another study involving 30 hospitalized patients with endogenous depression, the combination of nialamide and 5-HTP demonstrated a more significant antidepressant effect, leading to fuller recovery when compared to patients treated with nialamide alone. 

In addition, evidence supporting the efficacy of 5-HTP in managing anxiety is found in a study by Kahn and Westenberg involving ten outpatients with anxiety. 

These individuals were treated with L-5-hydroxytryptophan and carbidopa, resulting in a significant reduction in anxiety, as measured by three anxiety scales.

This research evidence highlights the role of 5-HTP in addressing not only depression but also anxiety-related conditions.

5. SAMe

S-adenosylmethionine, commonly known as SAM-e, is a naturally occurring compound in the body that holds a pivotal role in normal bodily functions. 

While a synthesized version of SAM-e is available as a supplement in the United States, it has served as a prescription drug in parts of Europe for several decades. 

Though the optimal dosage of SAM-e is yet to be firmly established, studies focusing on depression have initiated treatment with daily doses ranging from 400 to 600 milligrams.

SAM-e’s role in the treatment of depression has been explored over many years. 

A research review conducted by Cuomo and colleagues in 2020, comprising a review of double-blind, randomized controlled trials comparing the antidepressant efficacy of SAM-e to placebo or other antidepressants, highlighted the promising outcomes of existing trials. 

Whether used as monotherapy or as an add-on to other antidepressants, SAM-e has demonstrated encouraging and generally positive results, contributing to the growing body of evidence supporting its potential as a therapeutic intervention for depression.

6. Passionflower – 

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), steeped in traditional use in the Americas and later adopted in Europe, has long been recognized as a calming herb with applications for anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and hysteria. 

Its mechanism of action is believed to involve an increase in gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in the brain, a chemical known to reduce the activity of certain brain cells, inducing a sense of relaxation. 

Passionflower is frequently combined with other calming herbs such as valerian and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis).

A systematic review conducted by Janda and colleagues in 2020 aimed to evaluate the neuropsychiatric effects of Passiflora incarnata. 

This comprehensive review incorporated nine clinical trials with varying durations, ranging from one to 30 days. 

The majority of the studies reported a reduction in anxiety levels following the administration of Passiflora incarnata preparations. 

Importantly, no adverse effects, including issues like memory loss or psychometric function decline, were observed, affirming its potential as a safe and effective option for anxiety management.

In another study, passionflower extract showed effectiveness comparable to Oxazepam, a benzodiazepine, in patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. 

Passionflower exhibited fewer side effects, including a low incidence of impairment in job performance compared to Oxazepam, showcasing its potential as a well-tolerated alternative for anxiety relief.

7. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, essential fats naturally present in specific foods, play a crucial role in supporting various bodily functions. 

They can be obtained from a range of food sources, including fish, seafood, nuts, seeds, and plant oils. 

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines, as well as nuts and seeds like walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, are among the best sources of omega-3s. 

Apart from their recognized benefits for overall health, including improvements in hair and skin health, omega-3 supplements are also explored for their potential in managing depression.

Research evidence supports the use of omega-3 fatty acids in depression management. 

In an eight-week trial involving 60 outpatients, 1000 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), one of the main omega-3 fatty acids, demonstrated effects similar to fluoxetine in alleviating depression symptoms. 

Also, the combination of EPA and fluoxetine outperformed either treatment alone. 

Additionally, omega-3 fats showed promise in the treatment of childhood depression, as evidenced by a controlled double-blind pilot study

These findings underscore the potential role of omega-3 fatty acids in addressing depression and promoting mental well-being.

Other Naturopathic Approaches

Naturopathic medicine encompasses a diverse array of approaches beyond herbal supplements and specific compounds. 

These holistic strategies aim to address the root causes of health issues and promote overall well-being. Among the notable naturopathic approaches for mental health are:

1. Diet and Nutrition:

Naturopathic practitioners often emphasize the importance of a balanced and nutrient-dense diet

Certain dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, have been associated with improved mental health.

2. Mind-Body Techniques:

Practices like meditation, mindfulness, and yoga are integral components of naturopathic care. 

These techniques focus on the mind-body connection, promoting relaxation, stress reduction, and emotional balance.

3. Physical Activity:

Exercise is considered a fundamental aspect of naturopathic medicine.

Regular physical activity has been linked to the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters that contribute to mood elevation, and is often recommended for individuals dealing with anxiety and depression.

4. Hydrotherapy:

Hydrotherapy involves the therapeutic use of water in various forms, such as hot and cold compresses, baths, and wraps. 

This modality is thought to stimulate circulation, boost immune function, and support detoxification.

5. Biofeedback:

Biofeedback is a technique that enables individuals to gain awareness and control over physiological processes. 

By providing real-time information about bodily functions like heart rate and muscle tension, individuals can learn to manage stress and anxiety responses.

6. Homeopathy:

Homeopathic remedies, derived from natural substances, are used to stimulate the body’s self-healing mechanisms. 

Naturopathic doctors may prescribe individualized homeopathic treatments based on a patient’s specific symptoms and constitution.

7. Acupuncture:

Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine practice, involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body. 

It is believed to balance the flow of energy, or qi, and may help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

8. Counseling and Lifestyle Counseling:

Naturopathic practitioners often provide counseling services that go beyond traditional psychotherapy. 

This may include addressing lifestyle factors, stress management, and emotional well-being.

Conclusion

As the understanding of mental health continues to evolve, naturopathic medicine offers a promising avenue for individuals seeking a holistic approach to managing anxiety and depression. 

From influencing neurotransmitter pathways to modulating sleep patterns and reducing stress, naturopathic medicines offer a nuanced and individualized approach to mental well-being. 

Moreover, the research-backed evidence supporting their efficacy suggests that naturopathic interventions can be valuable components of a comprehensive strategy for mental health.

It is essential to consult with a qualified naturopathic practitioner or healthcare professional to create a personalized treatment plan tailored to individual needs and circumstances.

FAQ’s:

1. How long does it take for naturopathic remedies to show results in anxiety and depression treatment?

The timeline for experiencing results with naturopathic remedies can vary. Some individuals may notice improvements in a few weeks, while others may take longer.

It’s essential to follow recommended dosages and consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance.

2. Are naturopathic remedies safe to use alongside conventional medications?

While many naturopathic remedies are generally considered safe, it is crucial to inform healthcare providers about all supplements and medications being taken.

Some herbs and supplements may interact with certain medications, emphasizing the importance of a coordinated and informed healthcare approach.

3. Can lifestyle changes alone help with anxiety and depression?

Yes, lifestyle changes, including dietary modifications, exercise, stress management, and adequate sleep, are integral components of naturopathic approaches to anxiety and depression.

These changes can positively impact overall well-being and contribute to mental health improvement.

nlpa

Categories

Therapists that Understand You!

Find a therapist that fully understands ALL of you. Speaking with someone who has a similar cultural background and view on the world can be very comforting.

Find a Therapist that get YOU!