Stop Feeling Blue: Ayurveda for Depression - Ayurveda | Everyday Ayurveda

Stop Feeling Blue: Ayurveda for Depression

By on December 3, 2016

What is Clinical Depression?

A constant sense of hopelessness and despair is a sign you may have major depression, also known as clinical depression.

Major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older, in a given years.

Women experience depression at twice the rate of men. This 2:1 ratio exists regardless of racial or ethnic background or economic status. The lifetime prevalence of major depression is 20-26% for women and 8-12% for men. (Journal of the American Medical Association, 1996).

With major depression, it may be difficult to:

  • Work
  • Study
  • Sleep
  • Eat
  • Enjoy friends and activities

Some people have clinical depression only once in their life, while others have it several times in a lifetime.

Major depression seems to occur from one generation to the next in some families, but may affect people with no family history of the illness.

What Makes Major or Clinical Depression Different Than Sadness?

Most people feel sad or low at some point in their lives. But clinical depression is marked by a depressed mood most of the day, particularly in the morning, and a loss of interest in normal activities and relationships — symptoms that are present every day for at least 2 weeks.

In addition, according to the DSM-5 — a manual used to diagnose mental health conditions — you may have other symptoms with major depression.

Those symptoms might include:

  • Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
  • Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day (called anhedonia, this symptom can be indicated by reports from significant others)
  • Restlessness or feeling slowed down
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
  • Significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)

What is depression according to Ayurveda?

हृदयंमहदर्थश्चतस्मादुक्तंचिकित्सकैः ||७||

yaddhi tat sparśavijñānaṃ dhāri tattatra saṃśritam||6||
tat parasyaujasaḥ sthānaṃ tatra caitanyasaṅgrahaḥ|
hṛdayaṃ mahadarthaśca tasmāduktaṃ cikitsakaiḥ ||7||

– Charaka Samhita

The heart is indispensable for all the normal mental and physical activities. In the heart, resides Para Ojas – the superior Ojas, which controls the mind. This is why, the physicians have designated the heart as ‘Hridaya’, ‘Mahat’ and ‘Artha’

When this ojas gets low in the body, depression symptoms gets high. In simple words, ojas is the will to live life and when the desire of living is exhausted, it’s called depression.

According to Ayurveda, a weak Sadhaka Agni, that inner fire which is responsible for ‘digesting’ or processing emotions, is to blame.

The term Agni is best represented by biological fire. Agni is vital at physiological and pathological levels. Just as we take food to feed ourselves for nutrition, the so called digestive fire also requires constant feeding so as to carry out various biochemical pathways going on in our body.

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EP - Maximum Nourishment

Many people suffering from depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and insomnia have digestive disturbances creating inflammation, which intensifies these mental health issues.

Their symptoms improve when we heal the gut.

Some experts have dubbed the digestive tract your “second brain” because it’s so sensitive to your emotions.

Around 95% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the intestinal tract and serotonin in your brain regulates mood, in the gut, it promotes the growth of nerve cells and alerts the immune system to foreign bodies like viruses and bacteria.

Sattvik foods that support your Sadhaka Agni include:

  • Fresh, organic fruit and vegetables
  • Whole grains and nuts
  • Dairy products such as milk and ghee
  • Beans and lentils
  • Plant based oil- sesame oil for best results
  • Mild sweet foods like fruit sugar and honey
  • Spices like basil, coriander, ginger, turmeric

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Tips for Preservation of Ojas


tanmahat tā mahāmūlāstaccojaḥ parirakṣatā|
parihāryā viśeṣeṇa manaso duḥkhahetavaḥ||13||
hṛdyaṃ yat syādyadaujasyaṃ srotasāṃ yat prasādanam|
tattat sevyaṃ prayatnena praśamo jñānameva ca||14||

– Charaka Samhita

Those who want to preserve Ojas and maintain the heart and the vessels in good condition, should avoid such factors that lead to unhappiness (worries, stress).

Diets and medicine which are conducive to the heart (Hrudya) should be taken.

The herbs that maintain good health of Srotas (body channels) should be taken.

How can Ayurveda help to fight clinical depression?

Shirodhara is a purifying and rejuvenating therapy designed to eliminate toxins and mental exhaustion. It also relieves stress and any ill effects on the central nervous system.

Shirodhara is a unique form of ancient therapy of pouring oil on the forehead from a specific height and for a specific period continuously and rhythmically allowing the oil to run through the scalp and into the hair. This is a subtype of Murdha taila which means keeping the medicated oil on the head region.

For better results, shirodhara should be done with gayatri mantra music, which has tremendous results and gives complete relaxation.

Gayatri Mantra

ॐ भूर्भुवः॒ स्वः ।
भ॒र्गो॑ दे॒वस्य॑ धीमहि ।
धियो॒ यो नः॑ प्रचो॒दया॑त् ॥

Oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ
tát savitúr váreṇ(i)yaṃ
bhárgo devásya dhīmahi
dhíyo yó naḥ pracodáyāt

Achchapeya Snehapana

1 spoonful of warm cow ghee intake improves your ojas status, so indirectly it will decrease symptoms of clinical depression. A specific diet should be followed with this, so it’s best to consult your Ayurvedic professional for this treatment.

Get an Ayurvedic Massage (Abhyanga)

The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age

– Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89

Benefits of Abhyanga

  • Nourishes the entire body
  • Decreases the effects of aging
  • Imparts muscle tone and vigor to the dhatus (tissues) of the body
  • Most importantly it increases circulation and that directly affects depression

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About Kinshuk Hirpara

Dr. Kinshuk Hirpara graduated from Akhandanand Ayurvedic College in Ahmedabad, India, and completed a Masters in clinical research at Gujarat University. Her practice is focused on skin, hair, and pediatric health and disease. She is a column writer for Gujarat Times, and regular guest on radio and television in Gujarat. Read more of her work on Blogger.

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