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Fighting the "Winter Blues"  by Robert Levert

The gloom of the Winter Blues can be dramatic! Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), often called the Winter Blues, is a subgroup of major depression with a regular occurrence of symptoms from November to March

"I'm dreaming of a White Christmas" is about to become reality in most parts of Canada! Can you imagine Christmas without snow? Certainly not in a country where Santa lives.

The Christmas Season is a great time of the year where we get together and rejoice with family and friends. It's also an opportunity to review the achievements of the year drawing to a close and appreciate the hard work that has been accomplished and for which we have been rewarded, hopefully. It's the end of a year and the beginning of a new year which we hope to be even more satisfying than the previous one.

However, if the moon of a White Christmas is romantic, the gloom of the Winter Blues can be dramatic! Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), often called the Winter Blues, is a subgroup of major depression with a regular occurrence of symptoms from November to March. This means that right now, even as we prepare for Christmas, up to 25 percent or more of Canadians may feel sad, experience difficulty with sleep, low energy, lack of interest in sex, loss of appetite, feelings of pessimism, difficulty concentrating, restlessness or agitation, and lack of interest in friends or social events.

The low amount of sunlight, which causes an imbalance in serotonin and melatonin, is partly responsible for seasonal affective depression. Put light in your life during the winter months. In the morning, turn all the lights on to create a daylight effect. Eat your meals under bright lights and work in a bright environment.

People do better when they stay physically active during the winter months. Go out and shovel snow, but don't overdo it! There is evidence that vigorous physical activity can modify brain chemistry, promoting a feeling of well-being. Endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine are just some of the neurotransmitters that are modified with regular exercise.

Other possible causes of SAD - occasional depression are a weakened liver, nervous system problems, thyroid problems, circulatory problems, and emotional issues.  

St. John's Wort, which has undergone more well-controlled studies than almost any other medicinal plant, offers strong evidence of efficacy in mild to moderate depression. A meta-analysis of twenty-three randomized studies with more than 1,700 patients suggested that St. John's Wort had antidepressant action comparable with conventional drug treatment. The compounds found in this herb, namely hypericin and hyperforin, may allow serotonin and dopamine to build up between neurons in a manner similar to other antidepressants St. John's Wort should not be taken in combination with pharmaceutical antidepressants. It is not recommended for pregnant or nursing mothers. If St. John's Wort causes nausea, take a capsule of ginger along with it. As a matter of fact, ginger has a long folk history of use for treating anxiety and depression. It is advisable to avoid exposure to the strong sunshine and tanning rays when taking St. John's Wort.

Equally as important is licorice, according to James Duke, author of The Green Pharmacy. He says that licorice has more antidepressant compounds than St. John's Wort , but licorice doesn't have St. John's Wort's folk history of use as an antidepressant. At least eight licorice compounds are monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors, which are compounds capable of potent antidepressant action.

In his book, Herbal Remedies for Canadians, Paul Saunders refers to AD-C as a wonderful combination of Chinese herbs used to beat mild depression. He goes on to say that these herbs can decongest the liver, which can help lift depression and other negative mood swings. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver is associated with emotional stability. 

AD-C acts as a natural antidepressant to increase vitality and improve downcast disposition. Many people have been able to get off antidepressant drugs with this formula. AD-C is neither sedative, nor habit-forming. Another good herb to use along with this Chinese combination is milk thistle, which is found in LIV-Gd AD-C is not recommended for pregnant and nursing women.

The use of selective nutrients such as vitamin B-complex, HTP Power and zinc may help lift depression. Vitamin B-complex, and especially vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folic acid, are found to be deficient in people with depression; the B vitamins are necessary for the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. There is excellent documentation that hydroxytryptophan, known as HTP Power at Nature's Sunshine, is an effective antidepressant agent. Zinc is another crucial nutrient to mental health, and a zinc deficiency should not be overlooked as a cause of serious depression.

Finally, pink grapefruit oil is one of the best essential oils one can use to lift the mood without sedating. It is known as a "Sunny" oil and does seem to be of great benefit for people with "Winter Blues," when Spring seems a long way off.

WARNING! Depression that won't let up is a serious disorder. If you suffer from ongoing depression, you should work with your medical physician and naturophathic physician or qualified herbalist.

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