Treating Depression Using
Traditional Chinese Medicine

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Treating Depression Using Traditional Chinese Medicine

Do you know that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be used for treating depression?


The equivalent of depression in TCM

“Depression” is very much a clinical term used in western medicine / psychiatric, with specific criteria for diagnosis spelt out in guiding documents such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) or the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10).

Since TCM developed almost entirely separate from its western counterparts, TCM practitioners do not use the same systems of disease categorization and diagnosis criteria.

An examination of the disease classification used in TCM reveals that the closest match to what western doctors know as “depression” is probably what TCM practitioners know as “Yu Zhen” (郁证) [1].

“Yu” means being depressed or stagnant, while “Zhen” means syndrome in translation. In turn, Yu Zhen is characterized by symptoms such as depressed or unstable moods, feelings of congestion in the chest, pain in the ribs, easily agitated or tear easily, feelings of blockage in the throat though no physical obstruction can be found, etc. [1].

These descriptions of Yu Zhen are similar to the symptoms of extreme sadness and worthlessness, significant loss of joy and energy, etc, characteristic of depression.

The description of “Yu Zhen”, its causes and its corresponding treatment modes are recorded in ancient medical text as early 206 B.C. (e.g. Huang Di Nei Jing, or The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic). [2]


Evidence of TCM effectiveness

New to the ways of traditional Chinese medicine, you might ask for evidence of TCM’s effectiveness before deciding whether to embark on treating depression using TCM.

The answer is that there is much support for the effectiveness of TCM, though these evidences are mainly empirical data and hence do not meet the standards of western scientific studies.

But despite its shortcomings in terms of scientific records, TCM has proven its ability in other ways. Read more about the evidence for the effectiveness of TCM.

Given the wealth of information on how TCM has been used for by the Chinese for treating ailments, including depression, over centuries, it might be worth a try to use TCM for treating your depression, especially if conventional western medicine has not been helpful for you.

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