On any given day in the United States, 15 million people deliver mail, cook meals, teach school, perform surgery, write novels or make love while enveloped in a fog of depression. For most of them, the fog, like that in Carl Sandburg’s poem, hovers a while and then moves on. Yet, for some people, the fog lingers, darkening every aspect of their lives.

Conventional treatment for depression includes antidepressants such as Prozac(TM), Xanax(TM), Elavil(TM) and myriad others. While these drugs do mitigate symptoms for many people, they do little if anything to resolve the problem permanently. And, they can have dangerous side effects including changes in heart rate, blood pressure and heart rhythms (Harvard Women’s Health Watch, December 1995, vol. 3, no. 4).

Homeopathy is a treatment for depression that many find safe, effective and potentially permanent. Homeopathy works under the principle that like cures like. That is, a remedy that would cause symptoms in a well person will cure that same illness in a sick person when given in minute doses.

Homeopathic treatment for depression is administered in one of two ways: on an acute or on a constitutional basis. Acute homeopathy works to relieve symptoms of acute depression (comes on suddenly and lasts a short time) with a known cause, according to Miranda Castro, Rs. Hom., who practices in Seattle. When selecting a remedy, take into consideration your symptoms as well as the nuances of your emotional, physical and mental states. General guidelines for taking these remedies are provided by Castro:

  • Take one tablet (6C or 30C) three times daily for up to three days, then quit.
  • If the remedy was effective, start taking it again if the symptoms return.
  • Stop taking the remedy if there’s no improvement.

Constitutional homeopathic care is a more in-depth treatment and is advised for chronic depression, says Lauri Aesoph, N.D., of Sioux Falls, S.D. Chronic depression lasts a long time or recurs frequently. If you’re suffering from chronic depression, it’s best to visit a homeopathic practitioner for a constitutional treatment. This form of homeopathy individualizes remedies based on the person’s specific needs. “A prescription of a constitutional medicine is made after a detailed analysis of the person’s genetic history, personal health history, body type and present status of all physical, emotional, and mental symptoms,” says Dana Ullman, M.P.H., in his book The Consumer’s Guide to Homeopathy(Tarcher). He adds that “the correctย constitutional medicine can enact a true cure, not just amelioration of symptoms or suppression of disease.”

To help determine if you’re suffering from depression, the American Psychiatric Association offers the following guidelines. If you’ve experienced five of these situations for a month or more, you’re depressed. If you’ve experienced four of them for a month or more, you’re probably depressed.

1. Have your eating habits changed? (Is your appetite bigger or smaller than usual? Are you experiencing fluctuations in your body weight?)

2. Are you sleeping more or less than usual?

3. Have you lost interest in life, especially in activities you once loved?

4. Are you hyperactive or inactive?

5. Is your ability to think or concentrate diminished?

6. Are you fatigued or unenergetic?

7. Do you find yourself feeling worthless, guilty, sad or blue?

8. Do you think of harming yourself or have recurrent thoughts of suicide?

The Many Faces of Depression

What is depression? “[It’s] a massive dark haze that descends on your life, distorts your impressions of events and people and makes body, mind and soul numb and cold,” says Judith Sachs in her book Nature’s Prozac (Prentice Hall). Sachs notes that some depressions manifest in emotional despair, while others are masked in physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches and dizziness.

Sometimes the cause of depression is unknown. Other times, it can be traced to bottled up anger turned inward, chemical imbalance, nutrient deficiencies, a sad event in life, and alcohol or drug inducement, writes Linda Rector Page, N.D., Ph.D., in her book Healthy Healing (Healthy Healing Library Series).

Depression can stand as an illness by itself, or occur in association with other ailments such as seasonal affective disorder, premenstrual syndrome or postpartum blues. Sometimes depression results from a physical cause such as an accident, says Castro. This was the case of her 15-year-old client Tim, who’d suffered a mild concussion resulting from a bicycle accident. Since the accident, he’d lost interest in his friends and school work, had headaches and was depressed. Castro successfully treated Tim with Natrum sulphuricum, a homeopathic remedy often chosen for depression after head injuries.

To a large degree, whether a person becomes depressed by life’s events may have much to do with his or her general health, according to George Vithoulkas in his book The Science of Homeopathy (Grove Press). It makes sense then to visit a health care professional to determine the state of your overall health before starting any treatment, says Aesoph. She adds that homeopathic care is best supported by assessing all aspects of your life including diet and exercise and making changes where necessary. For instance, food allergies and nutrient deficiencies including vitamins B12, thiamin, folic acid, niacin and pyridoxine are often found in depressed people, say Michael Murray, N.D., and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D., in their book Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (Prima). Also, “exercise alone has been demonstrated to have a tremendous impact on improving mood and the ability to handle stress,” they say.

Nearly everyone feels depressed some time during his or her life, and it’s comforting to know that Nature has provided a medicine chest of safe, gentle homeopathic remedies as individual as we are. Aesoph suggests psychological counseling along with homeopathy may help chronically depressed people.