Living organisms have a unique property to respond to changes in environment. The information from the outer word is obtained in the form of stimulus (a change in the environment which evokes a response from the human being). The information received by the human being is coordinated through the nervous system which in addition, helps to achieve coherences of the functioning of internal organs.

The nervous system is perfectly organised as far as anatomy (structure) and physiology (function) is concerned. Nervous system is divided into two main divisions as illustrated below:

Nervous system functions in three principal ways in order to process diverse information from human being environment:

  • The nervous system receives external and internal stimuli to provide sensory information from its environment and from within.
  • The information so gathered is integrated by it so that meaningful interpretation may be made.
  • Nervous system regulates intracellular activities as well to maintain coordination of movements of the whole organism by involving stimulation of muscles, glands, and nerve cells concerned with perception, learning, etc.

The nerve cell (anatomically known as neuron) is the structural and functional unit of the nervous system. They conduct message from brain to organ and vice versa. This process is known as transmission of nerve impulse. The nerve cells have special properties like excitability and conductivity. There are certain chemicals known as neurotransmitters which play a significant role in the functioning of the nervous system.

Incidence of diseases like depression and anxiety neurosis is continuously growing. Allopathic system of medicine has given effective drugs for treating these diseases but side effects of the drugs cannot be ignored. Research has shown that Ayurvedic medicinal herbs if processed properly and used under expert supervision are helpful in alleviating depression and other diseases.

Causes of Depression

Depression can strike anyone at any time. Depression does not just have an impact upon the depressed patient but each and everyone around him or her gets affected by depression in one or other form. There are several factors that can lead to incidence of clinical depression. The treatment of depression requires professional and rational approach.

Individuals having history of following are at more risk for developing depression

  • A history of abuse
  • A pessimistic life
  • A serious medical illness like cancer or heart disease
  • Family history of depression
  • Family problems

Exact aetiology (cause) of depression is not well understood. According to experts, when chemicals present in the brain, known as neurotransmitters do not work to full potential, the consequence is the most prevalent disease, so called depression.

Types of Depression

Depression is clubbed under mood disorders. Depending upon the distribution of the signs and symptoms, depression can be classified as mild, moderate, and severe. Severe form is also known as major depression.

In some cases, depression may be associated with mania, and this condition is often referred to as bipolar disorder.

Sometimes, depression strikes with change of season, more precisely known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Incidence of depression is very common after menopause and the condition is clinically known as post menopausal syndrome (PMS).

Signs and Symptoms

  • Body aches and pains (headache or migraine)
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Difficulty going to sleep at night
  • Early morning awakening
  • Excess of sleep
  • In some cases, depressed person craves carbohydrates and sweets and thus gains weight
  • Isolation from surroundings
  • Lack of sleep
  • Loss of memory
  • No appetite often weight loss is seen
  • Severe disturbances in appetite and sleep patterns
  • Social phobia
  • Wake up during the middle of the night

Allopathic Treatment of Depression

  • Lithium therapy.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) like imipramine.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) like fluoxetine and sertralinbe.

Ayurvedic Treatment of Depression

  • Jatamansi is the drug of choice used for tackling clinical symptoms of depression. Masyadi quatha (Ayurvedic formulation based on Jatamansi), 30 ml is effective in treating depression. It should be taken under expert medical supervision.
  • Tagara in a dose of 2.5g, twice a day with water has antidepressant and hypnotic property activity. The drug should not be used for prolonged use as the drug is contraindicated and it can harm the liver.
  • The patient should be counselled by experts for finding exact cause of depression. Mental recreation, reading religious books, and exercise have been reported to have beneficial effect on depression.
  • Dried powder Amalaki (Phyllantus emblica) one teaspoonful, with warm milk, at bed time is good for curing insomnia.
  • Rubbing of toes and palm with sesame oil is beneficial.
  • Brahami is a popular medicinal herb used in Ayurveda. Recent clinical research has highlighted the cognition enhancing activity of the herb. Brahami ghrita is the official preparation of Ayurveda indicated in dementia. One teaspoonful (5g) of the preparation, twice a day with milk should be given to the patients for at least six months (see under Ayurvedic clinical studies). Alternatively brahami-panaka (syrup) can be consumed for similar activity.
  • Smritisagara rasa, one tablet, thrice a day is used after meals.
  • Saraswatarishta (wine prepared from Vacha), six teaspoonfuls (30 ml), with equal quantity of water is helpful.
  • Hypericum is not a new treatment. It has been prescribed by medical practitioners for centuries for such conditions as depression, anxiety, mania, fatigue and insomnia. Today, hypericum is widely prescribed in Germany for mild to moderate depression, anxiety and sleep disorders.

Other Alternative treatment

  • Massage: Modern studies have documented the benefits of massage therapy for depression. One study conducted in 1997 examined massage therapy’s effect on anxiety and depression levels and on immune function. The subjects received a 45-minute massage five times a week for a one-month period. The preliminary findings were that anxiety, stress and cortisol levels were significantly reduced; 5-HT (serotonin) levels were increased; and natural killer cells were increased suggesting immune system benefits.
  • Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy is the practice of utilising pure, therapeutic essential plant oils to enhance mood and improve mind/body health. Reduction of stress and depression and emotional catharsis are some of the reported benefits of aromatherapy.
  • Meditation: Meditation can be defined as a focused effort on a single peaceful thought or a physical practice such as breathing; or repeating a sound used to calm the ruminations of the mind.

Ayurveda Clinical Studies

Brahmi ghrita: In a study, 42 patients fulfilling the DSM-IV criteria for major depressive episode were enrolled. Out of 42 patients, 35 patients completed the study. In case of 35 patients, 25 patients were instructed to consume Brahmi ghrita and 17 patients were administered placebo capsule. In the Brahmi ghrita group, 20 patients completed the course, whereas in the placebo group, 15 patients completed the course of the treatment.

Upon analysing the effect on H.D.R.S., moderate improvement was seen in 50% patients and mild improvement was seen in 35% patients in Brahmi ghrita group. The total effect of Brahmi ghrita group was statistically highly significant (p<0.005) then the placebo group.


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