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Traditional Chinese Medicine for Anxiety and Depression

Dr. John Chen, practicer of traditional Chinese medicine and lecturer at USC on the use of Chinese herbs as an alternative treatment for anxiety and depression:

There are many things that are appropriate for depression. Let's talk about Western medicine first. Western medicine does offer many good treatments for both anxiety and depression; a lot of drugs are very effective. But I'm concerned about side effects, especially if they are taken for a long period of time.

I have treated patients using acupuncture and also herbal medicine. They respond beautifully, within one to two weeks. But generally speaking, it takes about two to four weeks. Their first response is usually they have a lot more energy. But then, depending on what the cause of depression is, it may be a little bit longer before they lift themselves out of depression.

So, for example, somebody who may have experienced the death of a spouse, they will feel more energetic. They will have more desire to do things. But those types of traumatic events do take time for the patient to recover completely.

What kinds of things help anxiety and nervousness?

There are many herbs that are commonly prescribed to calm the patient. In that sense, it's different from western medicine. Western medicine uses a straight hypnotic or sedative to calm down a person. They become really drowsy. And over the long term, it may cause dependence. But after they take herbs, they generally feel very calm, without the feeling of grogginess or drowsiness.