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Complementary Therapies for Depression

Depression has a prevalence of 5% in the general population. It is estimated that at least one third of all individuals are likely to experience an episode of depression during their lifetime. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is often negatively defined.

Complementary and alternative therapies (CATs) are popular. In 1991, 34% of the US adult population used at least 1 such therapy for 1 year. This figure has now risen to 40%.

Forty-two percent of 115 Danish psychiatric inpatients had used CATs at least once, with herbal medicine being the most frequent type. (11) Herbal remedies, homeopathy, acupuncture, massage, relaxation, and unconventional psychotherapeutic approaches have been reported as the most prevalent CATs among depression.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese treatment. Based on the belief that 2 types of "energies."

Electroacupuncture appears to have greater efficacy than traditional acupuncture, and the preliminary results.

Two clinical trials compare the effects of electroacupuncture and amitriptyline hydrochloride.

Medical herbalism (also termed phytotherapy in Europe) is the treatment of illness with plants, parts of plants, or plant extracts. It has a long history in all medical cultures, and many of our modern drugs

Scattered references (33,34) occur in the ethnobotanical literature to plants used by indigenous peoples to treat depression. In China, herbal remedies are often used in combination with conventional western drug.

Lay books on CAM (15-18) claim a variety of plants to be helpful in depression, eg, wild oats, lemon balm, ginseng, wood betony, basil, and St John's Wort. Yet, only for St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) does a substantial body of evidence exist. It has recently been reviewed (37,38) in English. The meta-analysis by Linde et al (38) identified 23 RCTs involving a total of 1757 outpatients suffering from mild to moderate depression. Fifteen of these trials were placebo controlled, and 8 compared H perforatum.

Many categories of physical exercise exist, eg, leisure-time and work-related physical activity or single bout

Aromatherapists (normally NMQTs) use a combination of gentle massage techniques and essential oils.

Homeopathy is based on the "like cures like" principle that suggests that a remedy (often, but not always, plant based), which causes certain symptoms in a healthy individual, can be used as a treatment.

Hypnotherapy is a state of focused attention or altered consciousness. All current theories of hypnosis are provisional and incomplete. (69) Hypnotherapy cannot cure disease, but can be a useful adjunct.

There are several different forms and traditions of massage therapy. (72) In the context of this article, massage uses typically a gentle manual stroking technique over the body (usually the back).

Relaxation therapy is an umbrella term for several techniques primarily aimed at decreasing physical