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Depression is affecting over 200 million people worldwide and is among the leading causes of disability worldwide.

It can affect people of every age, background and ethnicity. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 850 000 lives are lost to suicide caused by depression every year.

This is a common mental disorder that presents with depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration. These problems can become chronic or recurrent and lead to substantial impairments in an individual’s ability to take care of his or her everyday responsibilities.

If you’re interested in discovering more about how Chinese Medicine can benefit your mental health, support your journey to recovery or reduce side effects from depression medication, come and visit us.

How can we help?

Chinese Medicine has been successfully used to treat depression for thousands of years and it’s still widely used today in clinical practice, particularly in Eastern countries.

Treatments, tailored to each individual, commonly involve Acupuncture, Medicinal Herbs, as well as dietary and lifestyle advice. These are usually combined in a synergistic approach to relieving symptoms of depression while also correcting the physical dysfunction that triggers them.

Personalised herbal formulas, containing a blend of specifically-crafted ingredients, are designed to promote a soothing effect on both mind and body.

Acupuncture treatments – as shown in the largest ever study conducted into acupuncture, The York study – can benefit depression by eliciting the autonomic nervous system response to promote relaxation, reduce sensitivity to pain and stress and regulate levels of neurotransmitters and hormones, hence altering the brain’s mood chemistry.

How quickly will you see results?

We usually recommend a minimum of 3-4 weeks to see observable changes.

The length of treatment very much depends on the severity of the condition. Long term, debilitating depression can be a much longer process. During the process, though, the patient can start to see progress, in small and large ways. The improvement of some symptoms might be experienced immediately, especially with acupuncture. While the beneficial effect of herbal medicine might require a bit longer.

About Depression

At a time when mood disorders and crises of mind and spirit are on the rise, depression has become a major health concern worldwide, affecting about 280 million people (WHO 2021) of every age, background and ethnicity and being among the leading causes of disability and suicide every year.

Classified as a mood disorder in the DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th edition), depression is a complex disease and a hard-to-pin-down experience.

It involves a persistently depressed mood, feelings of dejection, emptiness, hopelessness, and unworthiness, commonly accompanied by disturbed sleep or appetite, anxiety, irritability, exhaustion, and poor concentration, among other symptoms.

Depression can range from mild to severe and can arise from a combination of multiple factors. In fact, according to research, there’s no single cause of depression. Brain chemistry, hormones, genetics, life experiences, physical health, poor nutrition and stress can all play a role in it.

Stressful events, such as bereavement, relationship issues or financial difficulties, might trigger the condition as well. Additionally, depression can also come secondary to chronic illnesses, such as cancer, or other disorders, including, insomnia and chronic pain.

Depression affects everyone differently, and if not addressed effectively can substantially impact the ability to take care of everyday responsibilities and interfere with daily activities, work, and life in general.

Western Medicine view

According to modern research, depression can have many causes, oftentimes difficult to understand or determine. Sometimes the reasons some people become depressed are just not known.

Although there’s no clear-cut answer, genetics, brain chemistry, certain medical conditions, substance use and stress are thought to be the most common contributing factors.

The conventional Western medicine approach to alleviating depression revolves around two main treatments: anti-depressant drugs and psychological therapy or, more often, a combination of the two.

While these approaches do have scientific support, it’s important to be aware that drug therapy is designed to only target and ease symptoms and can sometimes cause uncomfortable side effects, in both the short-term and long-term, including drowsiness, dizziness, slurred speech, and trouble concentrating. Thus, it should be considered a short-term option.

Complementary and alternative modalities are also increasingly being used and sought out by those who deal with depression.

Many Western doctors are now starting to suggest more natural approaches – alongside traditional treatments – such as exercise, dietary changes, mindfulness techniques and meditation.

These, used as part of an integrative approach can prove very effective in managing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Chinese Medicine view

Chinese Medicine recognises the close link between mind and body – now increasingly acknowledged by modern science – and associates specific emotions to specific Zang-fu organs.

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, depression is a warning bell, an indicator that something is off-balance in the body, not just in the mind, and needs proper addressing.

Depression is thought to result from Qi Deficiency or Stagnation impacting, predominantly but not exclusively, the Liver ZF organ – the main Zang-fu organ associated with the condition – as well as the mind and the subtler levels of consciousness, known as ‘Shen’ and roughly translated as ‘spirit’.

Such disturbance often results in feelings of being stuck emotionally – in fear, anger, or grief, for instance – and can manifest as a lack of energy and lack of meaning in one’s life, worthlessness and self-loathing, and the like.

Chinese Medicine treats depression by restoring balance within and between mind and body. This is achieved through acupuncture and herbal medicine by strengthening Qi and removing stagnation, easing the mind and also correcting the imbalance in other physiological systems.

Chinese Medicine can also be safely combined, as studies show, with conventional treatments such as medication or psychological therapy, to enhance their beneficial effects and reduce unwanted side effects.

Acupuncture has been proved to be an effective treatment for depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke), through clinical trials*.

Lifestyle Advice

No matter if you choose medications or therapy, acupuncture or medicinal plants, or both, there are many things you can do on your own to alleviate symptoms of depression and complement your treatment.

Changes in lifestyle are as important as the treatment itself to foster a healthy mind and body.

Your Chinese medical doctor will provide you with a personalised diet and lifestyle advice as part of your treatment for depression.

As a general rule: stay healthy by eating right, exercising, and getting plenty of rest, fresh air and sleep. This will help you cope better with the challenges of depression as you move forward on your way to recovery.

You may also want to consider sauna therapy which appears to have promising effects on mood and stress.

Book an appointment to see how Chinese Medicine can help you.


Hou DF et al. [Clinical observation of therapeutic effect of baihui (GV20)-yintang (EX-HN3) electro-acupuncture in 30 cases of post-apoplectic depression.] Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1996, 16(8):432-433 [in Chinese].

Li CD et al. Treating post-stroke depression with “antidepressive” acupuncture therapy: A clinical study of 21 cases. International Journal of Clinical Acupuncture, 1994, 5(4):389-393.

Luo HC et al. Electro-acupuncture vs amitriptyline in the treatment of depressive states. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1985, 5(1):3-8.

Luo HC et al. [Clinical observation of electro-acupuncture on 133 patients with depression in comparison with tricyclic amytriptyline.] Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine, 1988, 8(2):77-80 [in Chinese].

Yang X. Clinical observation of needling extrameridian points in treating mental depression. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1994, 14:14-18.

Zhang B et al. A control study of clinical therapeutic effects of laser-acupuncture on depressive neurosis. World Journal of Acupuncture-Moxibustion, 1996, 6(2):12-17.