Mental-emotional diseases are more baffling, frightening and expensive to treat than almost any other type of disease—and the most feared and most common among them is depression. Half the American population has tried a powerful psychotropic medication like Prozac or Zoloft for depression, and Prozac is even given for premenstrual tension.
The Western medical approach has several real flaws, beginning with the lack of individualization. It classifies patients with a disease name, each with its fixed protocol giving the same treatment to very different individuals. And rarely do we promise cure, rather control of the disease. But the drugs used to control the disease create a second disease picture with their numerous side effects. In Western medicine we have very few psychotropic drugs, none without side effects, some very debilitating.
We think we have made progress in Western medicine because we have a new buzzword, “neurotransmitters,” but this does not give us the power to balance those neurotransmitters, much less understand why they are out of whack in the first place. As long as we are not looking at the beginning of the disease, the root, we cannot expect to resolve the end stage, the disease picture. Hence the all-important question: “What happened in your life when you got depressed?” By tracing the condition back to its origin and then addressing that particular state with a remedy, homeopathy can actually cure any depression. And a cure in homeopathy means not only relieving the symptoms but eradicating the predisposition to a particular condition.
You may think you are already using homeopathy because you are using a natural remedy, Hypericum or St. John’s wort, which is sometimes incorrectly called “homeopathic.” But what makes a remedy “homeopathic” is not the ingredient, it is the unique process of diluting and potentizing it. For example, salt has no healing capacities until it is homeopathically prepared (and then it becomes Natrum muriaticum, one of our most powerful remedies). So what about St. John’s wort? All homeopathic remedies are proved on healthy people to determine what symptoms they will cover. Hypericum in its provings indeed shows some symptoms of depression, such as the inclination to weep, apprehensiveness, and mental excitement.
Yet as a homeopathic remedy it does not come even close to a hundred other remedies for depression, each one tailored to the particular patient. Hypericum in homeopathy is mainly used for pain syndromes with nervous involvement: a crushed finger, sciatica, numbness, tingling, and headaches after a spinal tap. But for depression: no! We have far superior weapons. What is the future of St. John’s wort for depression? There are no universal panaceas for any disease. And using an herb in large supplement doses is a lot closer to Western medicine than homeopathy: there is no individualization and no covering of the causality, and too much is taken, too often. There is a danger of actually intensifying the depression as an excess of the herb builds up in the body.
The strength of homeopathy is evident in chronic diseases, and particularly so in mental-emotional conditions like depression. You should never attempt to treat yourself for a chronic disease; professional homeopathic advice is necessary. But for some acute, temporary depressive states, homeopathic remedies can be used very safely. Let’s investigate just some of the homeopathic remedies we have.
By far one of the most powerful anti-depressive remedies is Aurum metallicum or the metal gold. Indeed, it does not have any healing powers in its crude form, but prepared according to homeopathic methods it becomes a gem. It covers the classic situation in which one person dies after many years of a happy marriage, and the other partner dies within a few months. The surviving partner will say, “I lost the sunshine in my life,” meaning they lost all purpose in life. Aurum will also help senior citizens in nursing homes where loneliness and a lack of purpose often bring an “Aurum state” of emptiness and despair. Aurum also covers physical and emotional pain as well as the desire to commit suicide. Indeed these patients are the most likely to commit suicide, typically by jumping from a bridge or from a window. They have a loathing of life and want to avoid other people, but they get revived when you convince them to go out for a little walk.
They often have feelings of guilt (“maybe I should have been nicer, now that he or she is gone, I regret not telling him more that I loved him”). Another trigger for an Aurum state is financial loss, such the stock market crash of October ‘87: many people lost all they had saved in one day and committed suicide, often by jumping from a window. Aurum can also help other family members affected by financial loss, for example a star student who can no longer afford to go to the prestigious college she always hoped and dreamed of. An Aurum person always puts all his eggs in one basket; when he loses it, there is no reason to live further. Aurum also covers so well the pain and despair of patients with incurable diseases, especially advanced cancer. Aurum is able to alleviate physical as well as emotional pain, as I have seen so many times in my practice.
Causticum is another well-known anti-depressive remedy, but the symptoms as well as the causality are completely different from Aurum. The picture is one of complete paralysis of the mind and the body. The patient has suffered a knockout blow from too many unfortunate events in her life. One of my patients suffered a tremendous shock and grief when her baby grandson died unexpectedly in her arms. A second blow came a week later—her daughter-in-law unjustly accused her of having caused his death. These two recurrent shocks were such blows that she came to me not only with depression but also with severe memory loss. This is what Causticum stands for: recurrent grief events, one after the other, paralyzing all the emotions, and often with a sense of injustice or in an unjust situation. People who need Causticum have a flat affect. They seem to live in a daze, with no emotions. “Hearing bad news” (such as the death of a family member or a diagnosis of incurable disease) can also create a Causticum state. We doctors should never forget the power of our words: we can punch a patient’s vital energy down and out with a single statement like “You have cancer.”
If I could choose only one anti-depressive remedy, it would be Ignatia. There is no better remedy to mend depression from a broken heart and betrayal, especially if it is still acute (fresh in the person’s mind). The Ignatia person reacts in her depression with sighing, sobbing and just sitting there immobilized, as if struck by a lightning. “Why me?” they ask in vain, left by a lover in whom they put all their emotional bank balance. “How could he do this to me?” They are very sensitive to the behavior of their lover, as if their very survival depends on that one person. An Ignatia person may also have psychosomatic symptoms such as sighing, choking, a stiff neck, and a globus hystericus (a feeling of a lump in the throat making it impossible to swallow). They often weep for help and attention, they eat the refrigerator empty, and they may even have convulsions.
If someone has many Ignatia (acute heartbreak) events, they will need another remedy: Natrum muriaticum (Nat-mur). If there are too many heartbreaks, the person turns to silent grief, never crying except perhaps when alone listening to classical music. She doesn’t want to talk about her depression (except maybe with her very best friend). She feels worse when people try to console her because she just wants to be left alone. These people are easily offended, never forget what was done to them, often dwell over the painful event, sometimes with great vindictiveness.
They often become psychotherapists or dedicate their life to a cause like MADD (Mothers Against Drunken Drivers). Indeed, most members of these groups could benefit from Nat-mur since they all lost a beloved one in tragic circumstances. People who need Nat-mur typically have recurrent attacks of cold sores or herpes genitalis, sometimes unexplained hives or rosacea in the face. Add to that a dry skin and oily face and sensitivity of the eyes to sunlight, and you can recognize the physical symptoms of grief leading to depression. Rather than committing suicide, they tend to crusade for a worthy cause as this improves their moods.
Another frequent remedy for depression is Phosphoricum acidum, the phosphoric acid used to make bubbles in soft drinks. The person who needs it feels that her life is flat and all the sparkle has gone out of it. She is so depressed that she is indifferent to everything, even her own family, friends and activities she usually enjoys. She lies in bed with her face to the wall and the phone unplugged. She suffers from spaciness, a great loss of memory with difficulties finding the right word, drowsiness during the day and insomnia at night. Typical physical symptoms include hair loss and painless diarrhea. This Phosphoric acid state is mainly found in teenagers who have homesickness (it’s absolutely the greatest remedy for these teenagers away from home for the first time), or in patients broken down from nerve strain after a longtime chronic illness like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or mono.
One of the all-time greatest remedies for women is Sepia. There is probably not one mother who has not been in this state (although you don’t have to be a woman to get the exhausted, burned out and depressed Sepia state). But it is certainly well-known for the infamous post-partum blues. How would I wish that ob/gyns knew about Sepia! The patient basically is worn-out, physically, mentally and emotionally.
It can be from a particularly difficult pregnancy (perhaps with severe morning sickness, for which Sepia is very helpful too!) or from an arduous delivery. To the amazement of the family, the Sepia patient can be so depressed that she feels indifferent to her family, even her newborn baby. “Leave me alone,” they say, “I am utterly exhausted. I need a vacation, far away from the whole family, to be able to replenish my energy.” The poor Sepia patient has always been very dutiful but this attitude is precisely what brought her into a state of exhaustion and depression (“I’m having a nervous breakdown,” she may say). Now she feels that everyone wants a piece from her, her children, husband, and friends, and she can’t cope with the demands anymore. She may even say, “Shoot me because death must be better than this.” Hopefully your postpartum blues are very short-lived, but don’t take a chance: Sepia is a state easily recognized and remedied by the homeopathic physician. Of course anyone with overwork and over-responsibility can slide into this exhaustive Sepia situation.
I can’t leave you without mentioning another great remedy: Arsenicum album. Yes, the poison arsenic is one of the greatest healers in homeopathic doses. The person who needs Arsenicum has anxiety and depression; in fact the depression often comes from severe anxiety about illness and the prospect of dying. These are the people with obsessive-compulsive behavior like hand washing. They fear microbes which seem to be everywhere; they are so afraid of catching a disease and especially cancer that they become depressed. They are very restless, especially at night where they toss and turn in bed. Arsenicum patients are by their very nature very pessimistic: today everything might be OK but you don’t know what tomorrow brings! Often this state starts after a child has been exposed to the death of a parent, or after an adult has taken care of a dying relative for months. Fearing that no one can help her, she runs from one doctor to another and is often labeled a hypochondriac. She relies greatly on a trusted doctor, and when the physician moves away or retires, depression sets in.
Homeopathy has so many more great anti-depressive remedies: Chelidonium, Calcarea carbonicum, Cina, Graphites, Nitric Acidum, Stannum, Psorinum, Pulsatilla, etc.—each for a different set of symptoms and a different causative factor. Do you see now that homeopathy is far superior to any Western drug because it is tailored to the patient? If you are ever depressed, run to your homeopathic physician with your kind of depression and he will find your remedy for sure.