‘By March, the worst of winter would be over. The snow would thaw, the rivers begin to run and the world would wake itself up again. Not that year. Winter hung in there, like an invalid refusing to die. Day after day the ice stayed hard, the world remained unfriendly and cold’ – Neil Gaiman
It may appear strange to have chosen the homeopathic treatment of depression in March, when spring is on our doorstep, with all the hope and beauty that brings, but contrary to popular belief, and according to the CDC, suicide rates peak in the spring. There are many reasons for this which will be discussed throughout this article. It is first necessary to define depression and analyze briefly the conventional approach to treatment. The Mayo Clinic describes it as such: ‘Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living.’ (Mayo Clinic, 2016)
Conventional psychiatrists claim that it is a chemical imbalance, a serotonin deficiency, statements such as the following, common place: ‘Depression is a serious medical condition that may be due to a chemical imbalance, and Zoloft works to correct this imbalance.’ (cited by Brogan K, 2016a). ‘However, after six decades, since intensive research into depression began, there is not one single conclusive study to support that depression is caused by an imbalance in the brain.’ (Brogan, K. 2016.b.) Harvard Medical School state: ‘It is often said that depression comes from chemical imbalance in the brain; in fact, that figure of speech doesn’t capture how complex the disease is.’ (Harvard Health Publications, 2009.) They go on to say it could be from faulty mood regulators in the brain, genetic vulnerability, stress, medications or medical problems. This will be expanded on from a holistic point of view later in this article.
Conventional treatment is by way of antidepressants. At times, there is undeniable empirical evidence that they can work, although there is speculation currently that this is due to the placebo effect and the passage of time. The adverse effects however cannot continue to be hidden and in patients taking Prozac, possibly the most common SSRI, (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) a host of side effects may be experienced; including sexual dysfunction, dry mouth, nausea, headache, diarrhea, nervousness, restlessness, agitation, increased sweating, weight gain, insomnia and drowsiness. A more serious symptom is ‘Serotonin Syndrome’ a condition in which too much of the mood elevator is present in the brain, can occur within minutes, producing high blood pressure, hyperthermia, high body temperature and an increased heart rate that can lead to shock. Serotonin Syndrome can arise when SSRIs act alone or in conjunction with other medications. Prozac is one of the few antidepressants approved for treating depression in adolescents but the drug has been linked to suicidal thoughts and behavior. Since this evidence has become clear and undeniable, the FDA, in 2007, enhanced its original public warning to a ‘black box’ warning, which is often only given before a product is withdrawn from the shelves and involves pharmaceutical drugs that are dangerous and life threatening, in this case particularly, but not exclusively, for young people. (Prozac, 2016)
Clearly, it is time to re-evaluate all we have learnt, look at things from a different perspective and to stop allowing vulnerable people to be treated with chemicals which can lead to death. Much of the advice that follows will help the patient to reclaim their own power with regards to their health in the realisation that a pill is not necessarily going to cure the problem, or by buying into the myth of the ‘chemical cure.’ As has been shown, there are long term risks to medications such as these (SSRI’s) and efficacy is challenged. Patients who are informed can do much for themselves and will no longer be coerced in to a route that is perhaps not necessary; this freedom is surely liberating and strengthening in itself.
So why are the suicide rates highest in the spring and not as winter falls and the chaos that the holiday’s often brings? Paradoxically, spring is a time when most people are excited about the prospect of warmer weather, more daylight hours, and generally aware of colour literally and figuratively coming back in to the earth. A season of blossoming and growth, of new life; a time to plan for the rest of the year and witness the flourishing and slow but definite blooming of nature’s garden. March heralds the vernal equinox, this year March 19th, and the earliest in history. Spring, a time, I feel of great polarity; the birthing of all things; creation and resurrection are clearly key words associated with the season, and in the case of Christ and the Christian calendar, this was not done without unparalleled agony, hence the analogy to birth. A time to start again, thrive and allow new growth, expression and energy.
However, people who have a tendency to depression often feel under pressure as spring approaches, the lighter nights and longer hours of daylight somehow expose them; it is reverse SAD (Seasonal affective disorder) which is little discussed. They can no longer hide as easily inside, using the dark and cold as an excuse to be anti-social and hibernate; it magnifies their feelings of inadequacy. The vibrancy of the burgeoning brightly coloured flowers and blossoms, and new tangible energies, small reminders of their own personal darkness; their condition is exacerbated. Anxiety creeps in, their differences magnified, they are forced to adapt and adjust to a new season, the temporary comfort of the winter blankets is disturbed. Any disruption in depression is potentially dangerous.
Deep analysis as to the cause of this insidious mental illness is vital, aside from periodicity; the conventional school of thought was briefly discussed above but it is necessary to take this a step further and examine other possible influences. There is evidence unremittingly coming to light, that toxicity through GMO’s, herbicides, pesticides and food additives are strongly linked to mental illness. By adapting a holistic approach, through modifying the diet to food that has not been adulterated with chemicals, and keeping it as simple and pure as possible, avoiding allergens detected through testing, taking natural supplements as required, adequate sleep and exercise and minimising exposure to toxins of every variety, we could go a long way to improving mental health issues Also, lifestyle habits and physical illnesses should be taken into account, as they could easily be affecting the mental state, as discussed. Only in addressing the totality is healing possible and by removing ‘maintaining causes’ which will prevent healing, no matter what form of medicine is given. In addition, the homeopathic consultation would obviously take into account the entire set of presenting symptoms given by the patient to the homeopath; by doing this the correct constitutional remedy is prescribed and in conjunction with the above approach, could be greatly beneficial to the overall health of a person suffering from depression.
The following are a list of possible homeopathic remedies which could be indicated:
Aurum Metallicum– To be considered when:
- Constantly dwelling on suicide
- Profound melancholy, feels hateful and quarrelsome
- Feelings of emptiness, worthlessness, despair after perceived failure at work or in their personal life.
- Symptoms often get worse at night or during the colder months, often alleviated however by calming music.
- Loss of purpose in life, loneliness, particularly if a partner dies
- Loathing of life
- Guilt, often about what they should have said or done
- Despair in terminal diseases, particularly cancer
- Hopes of success squashed, depression creeps in insidiously
- Can help physical and emotional despair
- Oversensitive to contradiction, which excites wrath
Arsenicum Album-To be considered when:
- Indifferent, melancholic, despairing
- Anxious, fearful, restless, palpable anguish
- Obsessive about one’s health
- Depressed when they failing to reach their own high standards.
- Symptoms are usually worse in colder weather, and they are also very sensitive to pain.
- Anxious and depressed; often the depression appears from severe anxiety about illness and the prospect of dying.
- Often, obsessive compulsive behaviour is evident, like excessive hand washing. Those requiring Arsenicum often have obsessive-compulsive behaviour like hand washing. Much hypochondria, and huge fear of cancer, which is often a major cause of the depression.
- Invariably they will go from one doctor to another, for reassurance.
- Restlessness at night is a key symptom, as is pessimism
- Indicated where both anxiety and depression are evident, particularly when accompanied by gastric symptoms, such as indigestion, diarrhea and panic attacks.
- Arsenicum individuals are generally fastidious and restless at the same time.
- Despair and depression caused by feeling they will never be well again.
- Fear is a key symptom accompanied by apprehension and dread. Hard to reassure even if all is OK.
Calcarea carbonica– To be considered when:
- There is a tendency to obesity, pale, slow, reliable
- To be secure and supported is key to those needing this remedy, become depressed when lose control and become fearful and anxious
- Often depression occurs when overcome by physical illness, worry or work.
- The person may also develop fatigue, anxiety, self-pity, discouragement, and confusion.
- This remedy is also best for people who sweat easily and who suffer from insomnia and periods of sluggishness
- A key trait is the desire to stay at home and to be satisfied with this. Comfort is a key requisite
- Do not like being observed in their confusion and are worried that people think she is insane
Causticum- To be considered when:
- Those who feel deep sympathy for others and who become depressed and unhappy due to lack of justice in the world.
- Depression caused by grief or loss of a loved one.
- Mental dullness, often loss of memory is apparent
- Complete paralysis of the mind and the body. Cannot function on any level when severely depressed
- Frequent events causing grief and sadness are too overwhelming, paralyzing all the emotions, coupled with an ongoing sense of injustice.
- Dazed, flat, with no emotions.
- “Hearing bad news” (such as the death of a family member or a diagnosis of incurable disease) can also create a Causticum state.
Ignatia amara– To be considered when:
- Where depression is caused by anger, grief, or disappointed love, brooding, weeping evident.
- People who are mentally and physically exhausted by long, concentrated grief.
- Desire to be alone
- One of the best remedy’s for depression caused by betrayal and a subsequent broken heart
- Often the pain and grief is suppressed as they do not want to show weakness in front of others, although deeply hurt and vulnerable
- Tears or laughter may alternate, for no particular reason. Other symptoms may include abdominal cramps, headaches, or insomnia.
- Reaction to depression is often observed as deep sighing or sobbing, or sitting, immobilized.
- Psychosomatic symptoms such as sighing, choking, a stiff neck, and a feeling of something stuck in the throat or a lump (known as globus hystericus.) making swallowing difficult.
- They often weep for help and attention, they eat the refrigerator empty, and they may even have convulsions.
Kali phosphoricum -To be considered when:
- Generally suited to conservative, ‘proper’ people who are down to earth. Nervous exhaustion which can make them lose control and become depressed as a result.
- Often caused by overwork and heavy emotional stress as a result.
- Depression causes them to withdraw
- Mental and physical prostration, both anxiety and depression evident
- Mental symptoms are often accompanied by nervousness, exhaustion, lack of concentration, headaches, insomnia, anaemia, sensitivity to the cold, and indigestion.
- Extreme nervousness and ‘starting’ at slightest sounds accompanies symptoms
Lachesis muta– To be considered when:
- People, (generally women) are self-centred, suspicious, territorial, highly sexed, with a sharp tongue
- Person has disposition to low spirits and indolence, often women of choleric temperament
- Ailments from long lasting grief, sorrow, fright vexation
- Depression is caused by suspicion, jealously, or repressed feelings.
- It is also prescribed for people who dislike commitment or confinement.
- The person may be loquacious and want to talk all the time; often prophetic perceptions, jumping from one idea to another.
- Often menopausal depression, accompanied by hot flushes, burning up feeling, night terrors and angry dreams
- Depression and irritability comes on before, during and after menopause, and there are strong tendencies to unwarranted suspicion, envy, jealousy, insecurity and resentment
- Physical symptoms of the menopause such as heavy menstrual periods and uterine pain, ovarian cysts, fibroids can exacerbate the mental symptoms. Congestion, in every sense is a key word, mentally and physical which is why they are better for discharges in every sense. Worse also from suppressed sexual energy.
Natrium carbonicum– To be considered when:
- Often indicated for gentle people who have been hurt or disappointed
- People that try and avoid conflict. They become isolated, withdrawn and listen to sad music.
- Melancholy is intolerable accompanied by apprehension; wholly occupied by sad thoughts
- Great debility, inability to think or to perform mental labour which causes a headache
- Stupefaction, slow comprehension when trying to exert himself
- Often accompanied by digestive problems and nervous disorders.
It also suits people who feel irritable, indifferent to family members, weary and depressed patients who always prefer to be in seclusion away from people.
Natrum muraticum -To be considered when:
- People are closed and hypersensitive, defensive and resentful
- Great vulnerability and easily hurt
- Depression takes the form of withdrawal and desire for solitude, often crying alone, often to classical music
- Tearful and lonely depression as a result of suppressing sadness. Often unresolved grief from the past and their childhood can deeply affect their mood and they can feel ignored, deserted, forsaken and abandoned
- They are worse when people attempt to console
- Easily offended and never forget what was done to them, dwelling on it and becoming vindictive.
- Rather than considering suicide, they would dedicate themselves to a worthy cause or crusade, which makes them feel better.
- Other symptoms include migraines, insomnia, back pain, anxiety, and hopelessness.
Phosphoric acid -To be considered when:
- Depression is often the result of grief or disappointed love
- Life has become useless, often they do not want to live
- Burned out, weak, person who is indifferent to everything and apathetic.
- Other symptoms include loss of appetite and often feeling overwhelmed from overwork, grief, studying, or heartbreak
- Depressive episodes often are worse from sleeping.
- No sparkle, flat, enjoys nothing
- Memory loss, tries to search for the right word, tired during the day, insomnia at night
- Physically can experience hair loss and diarrhoea
- This state is often experienced by teenagers who are homesick and away from home, or in those experiencing long term chronic illness such as chronic fatigue
Pulsatilla -To be considered when:
- Mostly, a remedy that is prescribed for women and children
- Depressive conditions relating to fluctuating hormones such as menstruation and menopause, as well as pregnancy, all symptoms exacerbated at these times,
- People who become tearful and sad when depressed
- Desire lots of comfort and attention.
- They are also very moody, jealous, and whiny.
- Forsaken feelings but is better for consolation
- The person’s mood will improve with fresh air, crying, and light exercise. the best remedy when depression occurs in conjunction with menopause, menstrual periods, or puberty
Sepia Officinalis -To be considered when:
- Person is dutiful, but who can no longer cope with demands put on her
- Feels unworthy
- Sinking ‘all gone’ feeling in stomach
- Depression accompanied by mental stasis, confusion, absent mindedness, dullness, difficult thinking
- Emotional stasis
- Indifference to loved ones and family members.
- They become annoyed when interrupted in their solitude
- They may feel better after crying and they prefer not to be consoled.
- Other related symptoms include digestion problems and menstrual issues.
- Post-partum problems, patient is low, and worn out, physically and mentally, sometimes from a difficult delivery.
- During menopause and perimenopause and pre menstrually, many symptoms add to the feelings of depression, and could indicate sepia: palpitations, weakness and sudden fainting worse before periods and in a room full of people; weight gain, increased or lack of appetite, nose bleeds, early, irregular and heavy periods with flooding; heavy menstrual periods, total loss of sexual libido. There are many more, but the above are all indicative of changing hormonal states contributing to depressive feelings.
- Hysterical tendencies during menopause; anxiety and mental imbalance in peri-menopause and during menopause. Anxiety during menopause with flushes of heat.
- Depression is worse on waking in the morning, but better after getting up.
- Sulky and lash out at those closest to them
- May use alcohol or marijuana to escape.
There are numerous other remedies which could possibly be considered, however, the above covers many symptoms experienced by people in this state. As ever, a full case should be taken and the symptoms seen in their totality. As an adjunct, it may be significant to mention that a recent article in The Guardian (June 4th, 2015) discusses that in 2007, Prince Charles advocated the use of homeopathy for several conditions, depression being one of them (also eczema and irritable bowel syndrome.) He wrote to the then Health Secretary, Alan Johnson. Prince Charles wrote: ‘The only reason I persist in my efforts over integrated healthcare – despite waves of invective over the years from parts of the medical and scientific establishments – is because I cannot bear people suffering unnecessarily when a complimentary approach could make a real difference. ‘He went on to suggest illness should be treated with a ‘whole person approach” rather than a “reductionist focus on the particular ailment. I agree with Prince Charles. Mental and emotional conditions, such as depression are complex, and no two people present in the same way; there is no individualisation, making conventional treatment a long shot, to say the least as the medications are designed to treat everyone. In addition, each medication carries with it a long list of undesirable, debilitating, side effects as has been shown. This is where homeopathy comes into its own. A remedy can cover symptoms on every level, ironically the more unique the symptom, the easier the remedy choice as it is a differentiating factor. Each case of depression is unique, therefore, treatment should be tailored to the individual. There is a time and a place for conventional treatment through the use of SSRI’s, depending on the severity of the case; the initial integration of the above advice however, could be of great benefit to a patient and start a healing process which could reduce or eliminate dependency on prescription drugs.
I hope this advice has been of help and that you can circulate it amongst anyone you many feel would benefit. I would love that March, with all its paradoxes proves to be a wonderful start to the spring for you and that some of the polarities discussed here become beautifully balanced.
This article was first published for www.findahomeopath.org.uk
Brogan, K. (2016a) Depression, its not your serotonin [online] – Available at: http://kellybroganmd.com/depression-serotonin/
Brogan, K. (2016b) A Mind of your own. The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives. Harper Thorsons
Evans, R. Booth, R. (2015) ‘Black spider memos’: second batch of Prince Charles letters released. The Guardian- [online] Available at:
Harvard Health Publications. (2009) Harvard Medical school. What causes depression? (June, 2009) Online – Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-causes-depression
Mayo Clinic (2016) Definition of Depression. (2016) [online]- Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/basics/definition/con-20032977
Prozac, (2016) [Online] – Available at : https://www.drugwatch.com/prozac/