Seasonal Affective Disorder (‘SAD’) is a form of depression which effects people during the Winter. In conventional medical terms, it is normally believed to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the part of the brain called the hypothalamus. It can range from a mild case of the ‘winter blues’ to a severe and debilitating condition.
There is very little available in terms of conventional treatment for SAD. Many sufferers use light boxes which emit a bright white light similar to daylight, other than that antidepressants are probably all your doctor can offer.
However, seasonal conditions such as this are well understood and explained by Chinese medicine theory, which takes a holistic approach to treatment which considers all aspects of your health and well-being.
Herbs and Acupuncture for SAD
SAD is often related to a Yang deficiency, which becomes more noticeable and severe in the winter time. Yang is the bright, warm motivating force of the body which gives you your ‘get up and go’ and when it’s weak it can often lead to depression and tiredness.
If you have deficient Yang you will also feel the cold more acutely than most people, and will likely have poor circulation. It is also possible that your digestive system is weak or easily upset. You will also likely have low energy levels (especially in the Winter)
The Chinese medicine treatment for SAD therefore focuses on restoring the strength of the Yang energy.
Acupuncture can be combined with the warming technique called moxibustion where some ‘moxa’ (dried Chinese mugwort herb) is burned to provide a gentle but penetrating heat. This helps to reinforce the Yang strengthening effect of the acupuncture. This is a lovely technique, and I normally find that Yang deficient people love it!
Acupuncture will also help to regulate the mood and emotions – the key word here is ‘balance’.
Chinese herbal medicine can also be used to treat SAD, with the same goals in mind – to boost energy levels, warm you up, lift depression and balance the emotions. Warming herbs are normally used, which really help to boost the Yang energy, improving motivation, drive and overall energy levels.
For the best and most lasting effect, treatment is best begun before symptoms begin, and then regularly throughout the winter to maintain the beneficial effects. It can also be very useful to have ’emergency’ treatments in January or February, when most of us are at our lowest ebb, to strengthen and prepare for the Spring with a new burst of life.
In my experience, it can be a very effective way of lifting the spirits and ‘keeping the Winter out’!
If you’d like to discuss treatment of SAD, click here for more details: My Bristol Chinese Medicine Practice