David Winston on Herbal Medicine for Depression

March 9, 2016

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We caught up with one of our favorite herbalists, David Winston, to ask him a few questions about treating depression with herbal medicine. David is is an Herbalist and Ethnobotanist with 46 years of training in Cherokee, Chinese, and Western herbal traditions.  He has been in clinical practice for 39 years and is an herbal consultant to physicians, herbalists and researchers throughout the USA and Canada. He is also speaking at the Shift Network’s Plant Medicine Summit, hosted by our own David Crow. Floracopeia: What will you be talking about at the Plant Medicine Summit? David Winston: I’m giving a brief overview of treating depression with herbs. Floracopeia: How can herbal medicine be used to help with depression and anxiety? David Winston: There are many types of depression, and each has different herbs that can be used to help relieve these conditions.  For example, for Seasonal Affective Disorder, a combination of Lemon Balm and St John’s wort works well (even though either herb by itself is not particularly effective for this).  For anxiety, the herbs Motherwort and Blue Vervain are especially effective for PMS-induced anxiety. Floracopeia: What’s the one herb everyone should know about?   David Winston: Fresh Oat, the Queen of Nervines.  This is the herb for people who burn the candle at both ends, the top, the bottom, inside and out and are so “fried they are crispy.”  By this, I mean they have lost their emotional foundation and become highly reactive to stress and regularly have number #10 reactions to #1 type problems.   Floracopeia: What changes have you seen in people's lives after integrating herbs into their health care? David Winston: Herbs are not panaceas, but they can offer significant benefits for many people with many different conditions.  I have seen people suffering from chronic skin conditions, anxiety, IBS,  female reproductive problems, digestive problems, constipation, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, depression, etc achieve great benefits from adding herbs to their regimen. As an example I love to talk about the use of bitters.  Bitters enhance digestion, absorption of nutrients and elimination.  Not only do people taking bitters report that their digestion improves (less gas, abdominal bloating, nausea), they then also say their skin clears up, their headaches go away and their arthritic pain improves.    Floracopeia: Can you share an example of an easy way to integrate herbal medicine into our health care at home?   David Winston: There are many mild, self-limiting diseases that are appropriate for self care.  We can use ginger tea for nausea, chamomile tea for digestive upset or bad dreams, fennel seed for flatulence or to prevent colic in breast feeding babies (the mom drinks the tea, and the essential oils pass through the breast milk), turmeric to help relieve arthritic pain, and a sage gargle for a simple sore throat. Floracopeia: Thanks David! See you at the Plant Medicine Summit!
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