Mood disorders are among the most prevalent mental health issues today. While medication is available, more and more people are turning to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), including herbal remedies, acupuncture, and meditation to help manage their mood disorders.
Andrew Newberg, MD, director of Research, Daniel Monti, MD, medical and executive director and Aleeze Moss, PhD, instructor of the Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy program at the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital review the most commonly used CAM practices in the management of patients with mood disorders and the available data on CAM use for mood disorders in the recent issue of the Expert Reviews in Neurotherapeutics.
Mood and anxiety disorders include a broad range of diagnoses such as major depression; dysthymia, a type of mild depression, and others.
A 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) showed that almost 40 percent of adults use CAM, with Americans with depression more likely to use CAM remedies than conventional antidepressants or psychotherapy.
Newberg, Monti and Moss evaluated CAM modalities across four categories: natural products; mind-body medicine and manipulative and body-based practices; and other CAM practices. A snapshot of their findings is outlined here:
Botanical medicines, vitamins, minerals and natural products found to positively impact patients with mood disorders, include: Hypericum (St. John's Wort); S-adenosyl-methionine- an amino acid essential in production and delivery of dopamine, serotonin and norepenephrine throughout the brain; Omega-3 fatty acids- essential fatty acids (EFAs) play a role in maintaining brain structure and function. Research shows that reduced levels of EFAs may be associated with depression. The most common source of EFAs is fish oil.
Meditation, yoga, qi-gong, tai-chi and acupuncture are among the most commonly used.
Yoga is effective in improving anxiety and depression, suggests a growing body of research; Meditation-based practices such as mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy have supporting data suggesting therapeutic benefit, including decreases in depression, anxiety and distress for a variety of health conditions, including mood disorders; Acupuncture- inconclusive evidence shows acupuncture can be a beneficial treatment modality for mood disorders.
Other CAM products
There are several CAM products that are used for mood disorders, but many have little supporting data. A few that do include: TRP and 5-HTP, amino acid precursors of serotonin, and the botanical Rhodiola rosea.
The popularity of CAM interventions within the general Western population continues to grow as does the body of rigorous research into the effects and mechanisms of CAM interventions for mood disorders.
"As the field grows, we anticipate that the data will be able to provide a more detailed evaluation of CAM interventions with more practical applications regarding potential benefit effects and helping to avoid adverse effects," conclude Drs. Newberg and Monti and Moss.
Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals