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Depression is a psychotic or neurotic condition characterized by an inability to concentrate, insomnia, and feelings of extreme sadness, dejection, and hopelessness. Most patients of depression are conscious, and patients of mild depression don't suffer from delusion, and in most circumstances, can disguise their symptoms. Due to the fact that depression patients hold a pessimistic view of both themselves and the outside world, they often entertain the notion that life is not worth living, and not infrequently think about suicide. In traditional Chinese medicine, it falls into the category of yu syndrome.


Depression can develop by one of two routes:
1) Unfulfilled emotional needs lead to depressed liver-qi. Combined with qi stagnation and blood stasis, the depressed liver-qi causes dysfunction of the internal organs. Left unattended for extended periods of time, the dysfunction of the vital qi causes phlegm to accumulate. And when the upward-moving phlegm-qi disturbs the mental faculties, depression develops as a result of a compromised acuity.
2) Worries and troubling thoughts exact a heavy toll on the heart and the spleen, leading to a malnourished heart and a depleted reservoir of marrow. When the brain is so compromised, depression, restlessness, and a sag in mental sharpness all become inevitable.

Primary Treatments with Chinese Medicinal Herbs

Xiao Yao Wan

Ingredients: Chai Hu (Bupleurum), Bai Shao (White Peony Root), Dang Gui (Dang Gui), Bai Zhu (White Atractylodes), Fu Ling (Hoelen), Bo He (Mentha), Zhi Gan Cao (Processed Licorice), Sheng Jiang (Ginger)

Clinical Application:
Modifications of this formula was used to treat 30 cases of depression. The modifications were made as follows: for patients suffering from blood stasis and qi stagnation, Dan Shen, Xiang Fu, Wu Yao, Chuan Xiong, and Chi Shao were added; for patients with internal heat due to a long-depressed liver, Dan Shan and Zhi Zi were; for patients with both qi and blood deficiencies, Dang Shen, Huang Qi, Shu Di Huang were added; and for patients with and spleen- and kidney-yang deficiencies, Ba Ji Tian, Xian Mao, Yin Yang Huo, Gan Jiang, Fu Pian, and Ji Nei Jin were added. One unit of treatment lasted 30 days. The treatment featured a 30-day treatment unit, and reported a total effective rate of 87%.

Zhang, et al. treated 58 cases of depressive neurosis with the classic formula Xiao Yao Wan. A control group of 52 cases was treated with a placebo while the other group took a formula consisting Shan Zha, Shen Qu, and Mai Ya. One unit of treatment was one month for both groups. The results: of the treatment group, 17 cases were resolved, 24 significantly improved, 12 improved, and 5 did not respond to the treatment, with a total effective rate of 91.38%; the corresponding numbers for the control group were 0, 5, 5, 35, and 32.69% (P

Other Treatments with Chinese Medicinal Herbs

Bai He Di Huang Tang

Quan treated 30 cases of depression with a formula called Bai He Di Huang Tang (lily and rehmannia combination). The formula consisted of Bai He, Sheng Di Huang, Mai Dong, Wu Wei Zi, and Gan Cao. The results: 18 cases significantly improved, 8 improved, and 4 did not respond to the treatment. (1)

Yu Bi Shu

Wang, et al. treated 30 cases of depression with a formula called Yu Bi Shu (depression-relieving formula). The formula was, in fact, a modification of the combination of two classic formulas (i.e., Wen Dan Tang and Yue Ju Bao He Wan). The modified formula consisted of Chen Pi, Ban Xia, Zhu Ru, Zhi Qiao, Bei Mu, Zhi Zi, Hong Hua, Xiang Fu, Chang Pu, Shan Zha, Sha Ren, etc. The formula was made into granules, and two infusions, of 9 grams each, were administered daily. The results: 6 cases significantly improved, 13 improved, and 6 did not respond to the treatment, with a total effective rate of 80%. (2)

Yin Xing Ye Pian

Zhang, et al. treated 46 cases of senile depression with Yin Xing Ye Pian (ginkgo leave tablets, 4 tablets each time, three times a day). A comparison group of 35 cases was treated with Wei Nao Lu Tong tablets (2 tablets each time, three times a day). Both groups received supplementary psychotherapy. A few more severe cases were also treated with Mei Shu Yu (50mg each time, three time a day), and patients suffering from hypertension or diabetes continued their existing medication for those conditions. Four weeks constituted one unit of treatment. The results: of the treatment group, 17 cases significantly improved, 21 improved, 8 did not respond to the treatment; the corresponding numbers for the comparison group were 8, 14, and 13; there was a significant difference between the two groups (P

Other Treatments

Li, et al. combined iontherapy and acupuncture to treat 258 cases of depressive neurosis. The iontherapy involved administering an anti-depression solution at the acupoint Laogong (P 8), and acupuncture was applied to the acupoints Jiuwei (Ren 15), Daling (P 7), Zusanli (St 36), Anmian (Extra 8), Baihui (Du 20), and Sishencong (Extra 6). The results: 83 cases significantly improved, 136 improved, and 39 did not respond to the treatment, with a total effective rate of 84.9%. (3)

Shao, et al. combined qigong and music therapy to treat 40 cases of depression. The qigong treatment was a self-exercise aimed at relaxation, and the music therapy involved listening to a violin concerto for half an hour daily. The results: after two weeks of treatment, the combined treatment achieved a total effective rate of 75%, and a number of cerebral function indicators, including memory involving numbers, cerebral blood vessel resistance, etc., significantly improved. (4)

Acupunture & Acupressure

Yang treated 18 cases of depression with electric acupuncture. The acupoints Baihui (Du 20) and Yingtang (Extra 1) were treated for one hour daily. A comparison group of 14 cases was treated with amitriptyline. The results: of the treatment group, 10 cases were resolved, 4 significantly improved, 2 improved, and 2 did not respond to the treatment; 10 cases of comparison group significantly improved. The comparison group needed a small dose of anti-depression medication to sustain the its therapeutic effect, however, while the treatment group needed none. (5)

Shang, et al. treated 30 cases of post-apoplectic depression with head acupuncture. 50-milllimeter filiform acupuncture needles were used to puncture the midfrontal, vertex, frontal, posterior and anterior temporal lines for a depth of 15-25 millimeters. The universal reinforcing-reducing maneuvering method was used, and the needles were twirled at 200 rotations/minute, and retained for 30 minutes. One unit of treatment consisted of 30 daily sessions. The results: after one unit of treatment, 12 cases were resolved, 9 significantly improved, 5 improved, 4 did not respond to the treatment, with a total effective rate of 86.7%. (6)

Song, et al. treated 29 cases of post-cerebral apoplectic depression with cutaneous head acupuncture, and compared the results with those of a group of randomly selected 28 cases treated with Western medication. The treatment group had a total effective rate of 89.6%, while the comparison group had one of 71.4%; the difference was significant (P


  1. Quan Shi Jian. Journal of New TCM. 1999;31(2):16-17.
  2. Wang Zheng Wu, et al. Tianjin Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 1999;16(4):36-37.
  3. Li Zhen Zhi, et al. China Journal of Acupuncture. 1998;18(8):465-466.
  4. Shao Hong Qi, et al. China Journal of TCM Information. 1998;5(5):47-48.
  5. Yang Kun Ying. Tianjin Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 1998;15(3):124-125.
  6. Shang Yan Jie, et al. Journal of Clinical Acupuncture. 1999;15(12):5-6.