Argumentative Essay on The Use of Herbs in Treating Depression

Argumentative Essay on The Use of Herbs in Treating Depression


The American Psychiatric Association notes that over 25 million individuals in the United States grapple with anxiety disorders characterized by persistent fear, excessive worry, or recurring panic attacks. A substantial proportion of patients (32%) endure anxiety, depression, or adjustment disorders, especially following a cancer diagnosis (Yeung et al., 2018). Many individuals experiencing depression prefer herbal remedies to traditional medications due to their limited effectiveness and side effects. This essay aims to illustrate that despite growing evidence supporting the efficacy and safety of natural treatments for depression, more comprehensive studies are imperative before these remedies can be recommended as safe and effective alternatives or supplements to conventional psychotropic agents.

Findings Supporting the Use of Herbs in Treating Depression

Conventional approaches for managing depression and anxiety typically revolve around pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. However, antidepressants and anxiolytics modulate neurotransmitters crucial for the central and peripheral nervous systems. Of concern are their substantial side effects, including addiction, seizures, sexual dysfunction, headaches, and even suicide.

Our research, drawing from PubMed, Allied and Complementary Medicine, Embase, and Cochrane databases, focused on single-herb randomized controlled trials from 1996-2016 (Yeung et al., 2018). Among 100 articles covering 38 botanicals that met our criteria, studies on lavender, passionflower, and saffron showcased benefits akin to standard anxiolytics and antidepressants. Black cohosh, chamomile, and chasteberry also exhibited promise. Approximately 45% of studies reported positive outcomes with fewer adverse effects compared to conventional medications. Based on available data, these herbs seem useful in alleviating anxiety or depression with favorable risk-benefit profiles compared to standard treatments. This could benefit cancer patients by reducing medication load and associated side effects.

Recommendations and Limitations

Herbs like black cohosh, chamomile, chasteberry, lavender, passionflower, and saffron seem beneficial for treating depression and anxiety with minimal risk of serious side effects. They offer plausible alternatives for patients inclined toward natural remedies. Future research must delve into their mechanisms of action, safety, and efficacy. Clinical trials should use standardized agents to determine optimal dosages, potential interactions, and adverse effects, especially among cancer survivors.

Considerations for Physicians and Patients

Such natural remedies as St. John’s Wort, SAMe, and omega-3 fatty acids could eventually prove valuable in fighting depression and other related disorders. However, specialists should approach recommending natural antidepressants with caution, emphasizing their still unproven effects. It is also believed that individuals with mild symptoms or those intolerant to conventional medications might benefit more from natural treatments. Meanwhile, patients on multiple medications should be cautious due to potential adverse drug interactions. Finally, pregnant women are recommended to always consult a doctor and use registered antidepressants (Mischoulon, 2009).

Limitations and Safety Concerns

There is limited data on safety during the treatment of depression in pregnant women and those lactating. Consequently, more clinical trials are needed before prescribing these herbs confidently, especially for psycho-oncologic use (Mischoulon, 2009). The lack of academic studies and regulations on natural treatments causes significant uncertainties about their advantages and disadvantages. Specialists also emphasize that natural does not equate to safe because of possible toxic reactions and potential adverse interactions with conventional medications.


While some studies demonstrate the utility of herbal medicines in managing anxiety and depression, there is still a lack of clear data validating their superiority over current medications. Future studies should determine standardized forms and large-scale trials to discover comparative effectiveness and dosage recommendations. Understanding mechanisms and pharmacokinetics is essential for establishing these products’ effectiveness, particularly beneficial for cancer patients with high rates of depression and anxiety, offering potential alternatives when conventional treatment does not bring the expected result.


Mischoulon, D. (2009). Update and critique of natural remedies as antidepressant treatments. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am, 36(4). p. 789-807, x. doi: 10.1016/j.ogc.2009.10.005.

Yeung, K. S., Hernandez, M., Mao, J. J., Haviland, I., & Gubili, J. (2018). Herbal medicine for depression and anxiety: A systematic review with assessment of potential psycho-oncologic relevance. Phytother Res, 32(5). p. 865-891. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6033.

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