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Complementary Medicine

Are There Any Alternative Treatment for Seasonal Depression?

05/20/2005

Question:

I tend to get depressed in the winter, usually starting in January. I don`t get to feeling better until around the middle or end of May. I've had a number of friends with similar symptoms say that they've been prescribed anti-depressants, but I've read that there are many side-effects, which I want to avoid. Are there any natural treatments?

Answer:

Absolutely! Many people tend to get depressed in the latitudes further away from the equator because of months without adequate sunlight. This is termed Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you can't move to the equator, and don't want to take drugs, natural ways to avoid the winter blues would be light therapy. Many studies have shown that light therapy lamps from 2000-10,000 lux can have a significant impact on mood, libido, carbohydrate cravings, as well as hypersomnolence (sleeping too much) in patients with SAD. It can be used once or multiple times per day, either at home or at work. St. John's Wort, an herbal remedy has also been found effective, but it has so many interactions with drugs, I am hesitant to prescribe it. Melatonin and Tryptophan are being researched for this condition, and would not be recommended before further trials are done. Medical Director Center for Integrative Medicine Cleveland Clinic Foundation One Eagle Valley Court Suite 201 Broadview Heights, OH 44147 (216) 986-HEAL .

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Response by:

Tanya I Edwards, MD, MEd Tanya I Edwards, MD, MEd
Formerly, Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University