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Depression: A holistic perspective and herbal solutions

  • Mood & Mind
  • 22:51 reading time (ish)
  • 4343 words

Written by Simon Mills

There seems to be a lot of unhappiness about: demand for antidepressant prescriptions – which were designed to treat major depressive disorders – has been increasing for decades, in some countries to alarming levels (1). This raises some pressing questions, though without easy answers. Are we less prepared to tolerate low moods? Is depression being over diagnosed? (2) Is the world becoming a darker place so that more people really need these prescriptions? Are natural responses to unpleasant events becoming more medicalised? This review will help at least to address another question: could herbs help?

We all feel down occasionally. It’s a natural response to difficult events or simply part of life’s ebb and flow, often passing within days.  This is often what we mean by being depressed.  However low mood is one end of a spectrum of trouble, going through stress-induced anxiety-depression, ‘mild to moderate depression’, through to very dark major disorders. Full-scale clinical depression can be a peculiar form of hell, confining sufferers to solitary torment, when nothing feels worthwhile, nothing gives any pleasure and hope disappears. Thoughts of suicide are common. People who go through this say that it is worse than any physical disease, and it can be dangerous.  

So faced with a range of depressed conditions from low mood to something medically severe, a first question in herbal practice is how to understand a depressed patient: is a diagnosis of depression relevant or useful, and are there approaches suitable to herbal treatment?

I am a Cambridge medical sciences graduate and have been a herbal practitioner in Exeter since 1977. In that time I have led the main professional and trade organizations for herbal medicine in the UK and served on Government and House of Lords committees. I have written standard textbooks used by herbal practitioners around the world, including with Professor Kerry Bone from Australia.

I was involved in academic work for many years, co-founding the University of Exeter pioneering Centre for Complementary Health Studies in 1987 (where we built a complementary research and postgraduate teaching programme from scratch), then at Peninsula the first integrated health course at a UK medical school, and the first Masters degree in herbal medicine in the USA, at the Maryland University of Integrative Health.

I am particularly fascinated by the insights we can distill from the millions of intelligent people who over many centuries needed plants to survive. Mostly I want to learn and share the old skills, to experience healing plants as characters, that can help us fend off ill health. My passion for offering people tools to look after themselves and their families has led me to work with the founders of the College of Medicine on pioneering national self care and social prescribing projects. I am now the College Self Care Lead and also Herbal Strategist at Pukka Herbs

Simon Mills

I am a Cambridge medical sciences graduate and have been a herbal practitioner in Exeter since 1977. In that time I have led the main professional and trade organizations for herbal medicine in the UK and served on Government and House of Lords committees. I have written standard textbooks used by herbal practitioners around the world, including with Professor Kerry Bone from Australia.

I was involved in academic work for many years, co-founding the University of Exeter pioneering Centre for Complementary Health Studies in 1987 (where we built a complementary research and postgraduate teaching programme from scratch), then at Peninsula the first integrated health course at a UK medical school, and the first Masters degree in herbal medicine in the USA, at the Maryland University of Integrative Health.

I am particularly fascinated by the insights we can distill from the millions of intelligent people who over many centuries needed plants to survive. Mostly I want to learn and share the old skills, to experience healing plants as characters, that can help us fend off ill health. My passion for offering people tools to look after themselves and their families has led me to work with the founders of the College of Medicine on pioneering national self care and social prescribing projects. I am now the College Self Care Lead and also Herbal Strategist at Pukka Herbs

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