Depression affects an estimated 20% of the population at some point in their life. Because of its prevalence, many professionals consider depression to be the “common cold” of psychology. While there are effective medications for the treatment of depression, the possible side effects make considering a natural therapy such as acupuncture worthwhile.
In Eastern Medicine, depression is considered a problem of constraint, called Yu. The primary Yin organ related to this condition is the Liver, with the Spleen and Heart playing secondary roles. The Liver is the energetic organ responsible for circulating the Qi, or vital energy, of the body. As your mood becomes low, this depresses the flow of Qi within the body leading to Liver Qi Stagnation. This impairment in the flow of Qi can affect all other physiological activities, such as digestion, sleep, and energy level. If this condition persists, additional stagnations of Heat, Phlegm, and Blood will occur, possibly leading to mania, mental cloudiness, and body pains, respectively. Over time, the secondary stagnations will spread to affect the Heart and Spleen creating additional symptoms, such as poor memory and fatigue.
Acupuncture treatment for depression will focus on circulating the Qi and balancing the flow of energy to relieve specific symptoms. The most common Qi circulating treatment is called The Four Gates. This treatment includes the use of Large Intestine 4 (LI4) on the hand and Liver 3 (Liv3) on the foot, bilaterally. Additional balancing points may include Stomach 36 and Spleen 6; these points are useful to strengthen the digestion and improve the production of Qi in the body. Once your Qi is circulating properly and your energy levels are normalized, you can begin to have the strength to lift yourself back into the swing of life, leaving your depression behind.