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Latest Edit: Iva Lloyd, ND 2014-07-24 (EDT)

Depression can happen at any age but is most common in women and usually develops between the teenage years and in the 40s. The spectrum of clinical depression is wide, and includes mild feelings of melancholy to suicidality. The use of antidepressants, and diagnosis of clinical depression is extremely prevalent in North America.[1], [2]


See Also Mental/Emotional or Psychological Conditions
Books Books on Mental / Emotional Health
Articles Articles on Mental/Emotional or Psychological Conditions

Naturopathic Assessment

Check out this book Healing Depression: Integrated and Conventional Treatments
Article Depression- Part 2, NDNR; 2013 May
Article Is it Really Depression?, NDNR; 2012 July
Article Herbal Medicines, other than St. John’s Wort, in the Treatment of Depression: A Systematic , Alt Med; 2011;Vol16(1)
Article Vitamin B3 for Depression: Case Report and the Review of the Literature J Orthomolecular Med 2010, Vol25(3)
Article Depression Part 1 , 2013 April NDNR

Causal Factors

Depression commonly occurs due to the accumulation of life events and situations that are not inline with what a person desires or had hoped for. Other factors that contribute to depression include:


  • Regular exercise has been shown to be as effective as psychotherapy in the treatment of depression, and is protective in the development of depression.[3]


  • With major life stressors, the actual and perceived support that a person has from family, friends or community plays an role in the onset, duration and impact of depression. A sense of community and meaningful relationships can reduce isolation and decrease risk of depression.[3]


Article Toxicity and Depression, NDNR [1], 2012 March
  • The time a person spends outdoors, the amount of sunlight, the amount of time a person spends around nature (trees, water, flowers) are all factors in the risk of depression.[4]


  • Trauma
  • Depressive episodes often follow a traumatic situation.

Medical Interventions

  • Some medications initiate or worsen signs of depression including: antihypertensives, anti-inflammatories, birth control pills, antihistamines, corticosteroids, tranquilizers and sedatives. [2]

Diagnostic Testing

Lab testing may be indicated to identify any co-existing conditions contributing to depression. The diagnosis of depression is made based on clinical examination and interview. The following are the DSM-IV criteria for major depressive disorder:[5]

  • A.Five or more of the following must be present during a 2-week period and represent a change from previous functioning. One of the symptoms must be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure:
  1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
  2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all or almost all daily activities
  3. Significant weight loss or weight gain, or a significant change in appetite
  4. Insomnia or hypersomnia
  5. Pyschomotor agitation
  6. Fatigue or loss of energy
  7. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive inappropriate guilt
  8. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, indecisiveness
  9. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
  • B. The symptoms are not due to a psychotic condition.
  • C. There has never been a manic episode, mixed episode, or hypomanic episode.
  • D. Symptoms are not a result of use of a substance, or another medical contion.
  • E. Symptoms are not related to bereavement.

Related Symptoms and Conditions

Article Anxiety and Depression , NDNR; 2013 March

Many chronic, debilitating or sudden illnesses or medical conditions can contribute to feelings of depression.


Depression is a persistent feeling of sadness that interrupts normal functioning. It can manifest as a loss of interest or enjoyment in activities, drowsiness, decreased sexual interest, and menstrual abnormalities. It is normal to feel sadness after a disappointment or loss or a loved one, but symptoms of depression last for weeks or months instead of days.

There are several theories postulated to explain the development of depression including:[2]

  1. Learned Helplessness Model: The learned helplessness model asserts that depression is a result of persistent pessimism and hopelessness as learned behaviours.
  2. Agression Turned Inward: Although there is no proof supporting this model, clinicians have substantiated the theory that in some cases, depression is a result of agression which rather than being externally expressed, is turned inward.
  3. Loss: It is well known that depression often follows significant loss, such as loss of a family member, employment, relationship, financial stability, status, or habit pattern.
  4. Interpersonal Relationships: The Interpersonal Relationship approach explores depression as a behaviour used to control others.
  5. Biogenic amine: There is evidence of biochemical abnormalities in depression characterized by imbalances in biogenic amines.

Naturopathic Treatment

The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies. Depression is typically a chronic disease and requires ongoing monitoring and individualized treatment.

It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.

Article Hypericum for Depression , 2010 December Natural Medicine [2]

Home Care

Home Care strategies include:

  • Mental Attitude

The following behaviours are recommended to optimize mood and prevent the development and progression of depression:[6]

  • Develop a positive, optimistic attitude by:
    • Setting goals.
    • Using positive self-talk and affirmations.
    • Asking yourself empowering questions.
    • Seeking the help of a mental health professional.
  • Perform a relaxation/stress reduction technique 10 to 15 minutes each day.
  • Find ways to inject humour and laughter in your life.


Lifestyle recommendations include:

  • Dietary recommendations
  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine and simple sugars
  • Elimination of alcohol is recommended
  • Increase consumption of omega-3 fatty acids [3]
  • Ensure you drink adequate water.
  • Both aerobic and anaerobic activities have been shown to be as effective as antidepressants or psychotherapy in the treatment of depression.[3]
  • Chiropractic manipulation practices such as bio-energetic synchronization technique (BEST) has been found to not only improve posture, pain, and fatigue, but also decrease depression.[7]
  • Meditation and other breathing exercises have been found to be beneficial in the management of stress-related depression.[8]
Article Depression and Sleep, NDNR; 2013 March
  • Ensuring adequate sleep (not too little, not too much) is associated with decreased risk of depression and it can aid recovery from depression.
  • Relaxation Training
  • Hypnosis, meditation, and imagery have been studied in the treatment of depression, and have shown significant clinical benefit through substantial use in traditional and modern health systems. [3]

Naturopathic Therapies

The prescribing of naturopathic therapies requires the guidance of a naturopathic doctor as it depends on a number of factors including the causal factors, a person's age, prescription medications, other conditions and symptoms and overall health. It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor prior to taking any natural therapies.

Naturopathic Therapies for depression include:

Article Amino acids as neurotransmitter precursors: Potential treatment for depression, IHP, [3], October 2010
Article Lavender Oil for Anxiety and Depression, an ND review of the literature on the safety and efficacy of lavender, NMJ, [4], 2012 February
Article Childhood Depression and Chocolat 200C, NDNR; 2012 September
Article Physical Medicine for Depression, NDNR [5], 2011 April
Article Vitamin D and Depression, Study reflects a direct relationship between vitamin D deficiency and depression , 2011 January Natural Medicine [6]
Article Evaluation of S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine (SAMe) as Primary or Adjuvant Treatment of Depression , 2011 January Natural Medicine [7]
  • Massage Therapy
  • Massage therapy is a safe adjunct to treatment in depression, and has been shown to be effective in reducing both anxious and depressive symptoms. [14]
  • Other Therapies
  • Phototherapy has been shown to be effective for patients experiencing seasonal affective disorder.[3]
  • Music Therapy
  • Music therapy can be effective in the treatment of depression.[15]


Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND [8]

  1. Pizzorno Joseph, Murray Michael, Joiner-Bey Herb (2207) The Clinician's Handbook of Natural Medicine, Churchill Livingstone.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Murray MT, Bongiorno PB (2006) Pizzorno Textbook of Natural Medicine 3rd ed Chap 144 Affective Disorder Elsevier.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Schneider C, Lovett (2007) Rakel: Integrative Medicine 2nd ed Chap 9 Depression Saunders
  4. Holick, M (2007) Vitamin D Deficiency New England Journal of Medicine;35:266-281.
  5. Dains JE, Baumann LC, Sceibel P (2007) Advanced Health Assessment and Clinical Diagnosis in Primary Care 3rd ed Mosby.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Murray Michael (1996) Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements, The Essential Guide for Improving Your Health Naturally Prima Publishing
  7. Chaitow, L (2008) Naturopathic Physical Medicine: Theory and Practice for Manual Therapists and Naturopaths Churchill Livingstone
  8. Chaitow, L, Bradley, D, and Gilbert, C (2002) Multidisciplinary Approaches To Breathing Pattern Disorders Churchill Livingstone
  9. Murray Michael (1996) Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements, The Essential Guide for Improving Your Health Naturally Prima Publishing
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Prousky Jonathan (2008) Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Clinical Nutrition CCNM Press.
  11. Dwyer AV (2011) Herbal Medicines other than St. John's Wort, in the Treatment of Depression: A Systematic Review. Alt Med Rev;16(1);40-9.
  12. Hershoff Asa 2000 Homeopathic Remedies, A Quick and Easy Guide to Common Disorders and their Homeopathic Treatments, Avery Publishing Group, New York
  13. Ullman Robert, Reichenberg-Ullman Judyth (1997) Homeopathic Self-Care, the quick and easy guide for the whole family. Prima Publishing.
  14. Moyer CA, Rounds J, Hannum JW (2004) A meta-analysis of massage therapy research. Psychol Bull;130:3-18.
  15. Hanser SB, Thompson LW (1994) Effects of music therapy strategy on depressed older adults. J Gerontol;49:265-269.