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Best Chinese Herbs for Depression

It’s human nature to experience a spectrum of different emotions and moods, including feeling down or depressed.

But if that depressed feeling occurs for no reason, is persistent, or significantly affects your daily quality of life, it’s time to seek some support.

Whether you’re looking for a natural way to manage your depression or enhance the results of the other therapies you’re using, Chinese herbal medicine can help. Read on to learn more about how TCM improves mental health and some of our top Chinese herbal medicines for depression.

What is Depression?

Depression is more than just feeling sad. It’s a clinical mood disorder that often has biochemical and mental-emotional roots.

Depression affects over 280 million people. It is most commonly characterized by loss of interest and persistent feelings of sadness. People may experience this due to biological, psychological, or social reasons.

Proper treatment of depression is essential – and can even be life-saving. Depression treatment looks different for each person and often requires a combination of medications, supplements, therapy, exercise, diet, meditation, and other mind-body support.

Among these treatment options is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). There are several Chinese herbal formulas that work to alleviate the symptoms of depression and help improve mental health from the root.

Do Chinese Herbs Work for Depression?

Traditional Chinese Medicine treats depression by addressing the mind, body, and spirit. Rather than focusing on increasing serotonin levels or pumping the body with feel-good hormones, Chinese medicine focuses on the root patterns of imbalance that lead to depression. Here are a few of the most common TCM patterns related to depression:

  • Qi Stagnation
    Stagnation can occur in the body for a number of reasons but is often caused by unresolved emotions or a sedentary lifestyle. Over time, too much stagnation prevents proper blood and qi flow, which then causes an imbalance in hormones and the organ systems.The Liver organ system is particularly susceptible to stagnation. When there is stagnation in the Liver, you may experience depression that feels more like angst, irritability, anger, frustration, and fluctuating moods.
  • Spleen Deficiency
    Depression can also be caused by a deficiency in the Spleen organ system. The Spleen is the organ most related to creating energy. Energy to digest, energy to move, energy to think. When depression is rooted in a weak Spleen, you will likely feel fatigued, have trouble concentrating, gain weight, have trouble sleeping, feel anxious, or feel overwhelmed yet empty.
  • Heart Deficiency
    The Heart is involved in all emotional imbalances, but especially anxiety and depression. The most common Heart issue that leads to depression is malnourishment. The Heart needs plentiful qi, blood, yin, and yang to feel settled. Without enough, or an imbalance between them, you may experience depression with palpitations, fear, night sweats, crying spells, or emotional instability.
  • Lung Deficiency
    Depression related to the loss (of a loved one, relationship, job) is often related to the Lung, as grief is the emotion tied to the Lung. Experiencing grief for a while after a loss is normal. But when it becomes stuck and unresolved, grief depletes the Lung energy, and depression or other mental and physical health concerns result.

No matter the pattern of disharmony, Chinese herbal medicine can help you find your balance and step out of depression.

The Best Chinese Herbs for Depression

There is no single Chinese herbal formula for depression. Instead, there are formulas that support the various patterns of disharmony that lead to depression. Consider how you experience depression, the other symptoms you have, and your constitution to find the best depression formula for you.

Chinese herbs for mild depression and frustration:

Xiao Yao Wan

If you experience depression as irritability, frustration, and restlessness, this formula is for you. Meaning “free and easy wanderer”, Xiao Yao Wan treats depression caused by Qi stagnation. It soothes the Liver and tonifies the Spleen, which allows it to treat other accompanying symptoms such as menstrual cramps, water retention, and PTSD, which many times goes hand in hand with depression. This is a great formula if your depression tends to worsen around your menstrual cycle.

Chinese herbs for depression with heat:

Jia Wei Xiao Yao Wan

If you’re experiencing those same Qi stagnation symptoms but with more heat signs such as anger, PMS, irregular menstruation, and feelings of being hot or warm, this would be a better formula for you. This formula includes all the same Chinese herbs for chronic depression as Xiao Yao San but adds two additional herbs to clear heat.

Chinese herbs for depression with fatigue:

Gui Pi Tang

If depression leaves you feeling less frustrated and more run down and exhausted, this formula may help. Gui Pi Tang nourishes the Heart and tonifies the Spleen for those who experience depression due to deficiency. Associated symptoms include experiencing weakness, weight gain, insomnia, palpitations, and infertility. For this reason, Gui Pi Tang is a particularly helpful Chinese herbal formula for postpartum depression.

Chinese herbs for depression with anxiety:

Gan Mai Da Zao Wan

If you feel highly emotional (rather than numb) and you also experience anxiety, mood swings, unprovoked crying spells, or restless sleep, this is the formula for you. Gan Mai Da Zao Wan nourishes the Heart and calms the mind.

Chinese tea for depression:

Triple Stress Relief Tea

For generalized depression and anxiety, drinking up to three cups of Triple Stress Relief Tea can be a helpful daily habit. This is a jasmine-flavored tea that soothes the mind and relaxes the body with a gentle combination of healing herbs.

Chinese herbs for mental wellbeing:

Lion’s Mane Mushroom Powder

Studies show that the medicinal mushroom Lion’s Mane is a powerful remedy for inflammation, heart health, and brain health. It specifically helps improve cognitive function and mental wellness. Because depression can cause changes in brain function, this supplement offers both the prevention and treatment of depression. If you struggle more with anxiety than depression, reishi mushroom can also help. 

Overcome Depression Naturally with Chinese Herbal Medicine

Depression is a serious health condition, but it doesn’t have to take over your life. Thankfully, there are many resources available these days for people to manage and overcome depression. Chinese herbal medicine is one of them; and one of the best ways to manage depression and other mental health conditions naturally and holistically.

Shop our Chinese herbs for depression today to start feeling like yourself again soon.

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About the Author

Kaitlan Downes, MSAOM, L.AC

Kaitlan Downes, MSAOM, L.AC

Kate Downes is a Chinese medicine practitioner with a passion for herbal medicine. In fact, it was her love for plant and earth medicine that first drew her to study Chinese medicine.

Kate has a MSAOM (Master of Science, Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine) certification and practiced acupuncture in Indianapolis, IN for five years before packing her bags to roam the world. In order to stay in touch with the wellness community and continue to help others thrive with herbal medicine, she transformed her work from face-to-face patient care to spreading wellness through words. Her life as a remote herbalist and writer has allowed her to work with a variety of wellness brands, health pioneers, and her wonderful clients. She has a special interest in working with women’s health.

Kate thoroughly enjoys writing educational and useful pieces for Best Chinese Medicine. Her goal is to help the public gain a better understanding of the wonders of Chinese herbal medicine so they can be empowered in their own quest for natural, vibrant health.

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2 Responses

    1. Chinese medicine will treat the root of the problem, not the symptom, so it’s important to understand where the anxiety is coming from. Our two most popular formulas are Xiao Yao and An Shen Bu Xin; but, that doesn’t mean it will apply to you. We do offer 30 minute consultations with our certified herbalist, please email directly at [email protected] if you are interested in that service.

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