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 Integrative Medicine: Many Paths to Healing to Depression 

We often see conventional medical experts erroneously stating that there is no research on herbal or nutritional medicine. The German Commission E Reports, probably the single most important collection of botanical research in the world, have been publicly available in Germany for over ten years. Few in this country were aware of its existence and many who were, discounted it significance as it was not "American" research. However, the German Commission E Reports2 have now been translated into English (1998) in a project spearheaded by the American Botanical Council, and beginning to gain its due respect. Similarly, Dr. Melvin Werbach's classic book, Nutritional Influences on Illness3, now a CD Rom containing over four thousand pages of nutritional research on over one hundred health conditions, was until recently little known outside of alternative medicine circles.

Two other terms coming into greater use are "complementary" medicine and "integrative" medicine. Complementary medicine means that it complements, but does not replace conventional health care, such as the use of acupuncture for pain control in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy. The Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM) at the National Institutes of Health now promotes the use of the term Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Integrative medicine refers to a form of health care that integrates both alternative/traditional and conventional medicine.

Whatever name you choose, the strengths of this approach to health care are in maintaining a high level of health and well-being, treating the whole person, preventing illness, and offering safe and non-toxic natural therapies for treating illness, particularly chronic illness.

The public demand for alternative medicine is very strong. A national survey conducted in1998 by Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention showed that the public does not differentiate between alternative and conventional medicines. Those polled wanted the options of going to both conventional and alternative health practitioners, and using those medicines and services that proved most effective without being restricted by arbitrary definitions. Over 69% of the respondents had used some form of complementary and alternative medicine in the past year. Clearly, consumers want choice in the forms of treatments they pursue --they want the best of both worlds.

How to Get the Most Out of This Book
The information and resources in this book will empower you to be more proactive and self-reliant in dealing with cases of mild or transient depression, showing you how it can be managed through the appropriate self-care and wellness-based lifestyle practices. It will also show you how to work in partnership with a health professional in more moderate or serious cases of depression to create an effective treatment program that incorporates the leading-edge natural approaches.

Choosing a specific program or approach for any health condition can be a very personal process. For healing depression, some of you may choose to work primarily with an acupuncturist or Doctor of Oriental Medicine, while others may prefer to work with a homeopathic or naturopathic physician. Still others will choose a psychiatrist or a physician who is knowledgeable of both alternative and conventional therapies. Some of you may find that taking a more multi-dimensional approach in designing a program that utilizes several different health practitioners and forms of therapy including exercise, massage, meditation, a healthy diet, nutritional supplements and herbs, is the right solution for your condition.

Look over each chapter and see if the approach is relevant to your situation, and whether or not its basic principles resonate with your own philosophy and belief system. Each of these approaches has been effectively used for treating depression, and can work if it is the appropriate approach for you. With the broader acceptance of alternative/ complementary therapies we are no longer restricted to standardized, conventional medicine which looks for one solution to each health problem as if physicians were treating "disease units" rather than a whole person with both biochemical and psychological individuality.

As the various systems of traditional medicine and the more modern systems of alternative medicine share a common perspective--a holistic focus on prevention, health maintenance, the use of natural therapies, and a comprehensive treatment plan--you will find throughout the various chapters some of the same therapies as part of an overall treatment plan. For example, St. John's wort is included in the chapters on herbal medicine, naturopathic medicine as well as an integrated approach to women's depression. This overlapping is not only because of this herb's high success rate with depression, but because the description of each approach would be incomplete without a discussion of this herb.

Finally, you can use this book to help increase your general level of health and well-being by incorporating the dietary, lifestyle, and stress management guidelines.

Every chapter provides tools to help you develop a wellness-based lifestyle and to address imbalances that may occur in your physical and mental health. We have provided additional resources in the appendices for each specific therapy included in the book: recommended reading, national organizations and educational institutes, professional referral sources, as well as Internet resources. The Internet has played a strong role in disseminating information and resources about alternative medicine to consumers, health professionals and health care organization. More importantly, as a global delivery system it supports the formation of an integrated global system of health care which can utilize the best of traditional and modern medicine.

The Need for Self-Managed Care

"The next major advance in the health of the American people will be determined by what the individual is willing to do for himself."

- John Knowles, Former President of the Rockefeller Foundation

With the current direction of managed care, it is vital for the individual to take more control over their own health care. The abundance of information about medical options and alternatives necessitates that we become educated brokers of our own health care. Consumers are doing much of their own medical research today and assessing alternative treatments before conferring with their health professional. The accessibility and wealth of information on the Internet, has only accelerated thisprocess.

The philosophy of Self-Managed Care emphasizes maintaining health and well-being, consumer empowerment, partnership with one's health care provider, and increased utilization of natural remedies and alternative medicine services. The demanding baby-boomer population, many of whom are now managing their own health as well as that of their children and aging parents, are opting for less-invasive and more cost-effective natural approaches as their primary strategy, tending to avoid the medical system when possible in non-emergent cases. Savvy health consumers today want a full range of treatment options from both conventional and alternative medicine. More than ever the key word is choice.

Many Paths to Healing Depression
This book presents contributions from nine nationally recognized experts in the major fields of alternative/complementary (traditional) medicine, which as a whole, presents a comprehensive and holistic vision of depression. Five of the contributors are experts in the major systems of traditional medicine: Ayurveda, Chinese medicine and qigong, herbal medicine, homeopathy and naturopathic medicine. Three contributors are experts in mind/body medicine, nutritional medicine and spiritual medicine. The final contributor, a psychiatrist and expert in women's mood disorders, represents the true integrative approach by blending western medicine with nutritional medicine, herbs, and leading-edge psychotherapy.

In reading this book you will witness the true art of medicine as you are intelligently and compassionately guided by dedicated health professionals who look beyond the apparent symptoms to address the deeper, underlying causes of depression through natural and humane approaches. Reading each chapter will take you on a journey of hope and discovery. You will be exposed to healing secrets, both ancient and modern, that will expand your view of the nature of depression and illness as well as educate you in the many paths to healing this condition.

The following summaries of the nine chapters of this book will give you a sense for each healing system or approach, and help you or your loved one begin developing the options for an effective treatment plan.

Depression as Emotional Pain: A Mind/Body Approach -- David Bresler, Ph.D., L.Ac.
Depression is a part of the natural healing process and does not always require therapeutic intervention, says clinical psychologist and mind/body pioneer Dr. David Bresler, who is an Associate Clinical Professor at the UCLA School of Medicine and co-founder of the Academy for Guided Imagery. In this compelling and human picture of the psychological dimension of depression, he explains how our real concern should not be with people who experience depression, but with those who have become stuck in the healing process. From this perspective, we can view depression as a form of chronic emotional pain or an emotional habit which results in one becoming "stuck" in a depressed state of consciousness. In order to break the habit of depressed thinking, we can employ mind/body approaches such as interactive guided imagery which can have powerful physiological and psychological effects, and put us in touch with our own inner resources.

Guided imagery can help us learn to "focus attention on the part of the nervous system that may have answers to our questions and solutions to our problems," according to Dr. Bresler. Most of us are unaware of the powerful inner resources we have at our disposal, and guided imagery techniques can help us to discover these resources and use them to provide new insights and creative solutions to our problems. The reader is guided through an evocative imagery experience which is designed to identify the particular qualities that are needed right now to help get one through a current challenge or difficulty. Additional imagery tools are given for dealing with depression: exploring the origin and meaning of symptoms, encountering the Inner Critic, and accessing yourInner Intelligence or Inner Advisor. According to Bresler, of vital importance in healing depression is keeping the human spirit alive through hope and faith. "When we lose hope, we lose the very thing that offers the greatest help in healing our problem."

Natural Medicine and Depression: A Naturopathic Approach -- Joseph Pizzorno, N.D.
The true role of a naturopathic physician is not in treating disease but helping people to re-establish health, says Dr. Pizzorno, President and co-founder of Bastyr University and an internationally recognized expert in natural medicine and author of the acclaimed book, Total Wellness: Improve Your Health by Understanding the Body's Healing Systems. Identifying a disease is a useful label to help people understand their health problems, however, the naturopathic approach looks beyond the label of "depression." It looks at the whole person and identifies the underlying causative factors to determine what steps are needed to eliminate those causes and help a person move towards a balanced state of health.

This approach has many advantages. Stressing prevention and honoring the healing power of nature, Naturopathic medicine relies upon natural therapies including diet, nutritional medicine, herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture, massage and bodywork as well as psychological and lifestyle counseling. The patient is able to utilize a combination of therapies determined by the naturopath at very safe dosages, rather than a using a single therapy at a higher, toxic dosage. Naturopathy also views the role of the physician to be an educator, teaching and motivating people to take more personal responsibility in maintaining good health and a state of wellness. All of these factors allow the patient to be highly involved in the treatment process.

(Excerpted from Natural Healing for Depression:
Solutions from the World's Great Health Traditions and Practitioners ISBN: 0399525378)
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James Strohecker James Strohecker, HealthWorld Online's President and co-founder, brings a deep, personal commitment to's vision and mission as well as to the success and growth of the company. An e-health pioneer and......more
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