Anxiety and Depression: Chinese Medical Approach

Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mood disorders affecting approximately 20% of the population at some point during their lives. Today, more than 30 million Americans are taking anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs, and over 130 million prescriptions were written for anti-depressants in 1998. One may assume these numbers have only grown. According to the Physician Desk Reference, the top anti-depressant and anxiety drugs address only the signs and symptoms of the disease and can cause a myriad of side effects: insomnia, anxiety, listlessness, fatigue, loss of appetite, and sexual dysfunction.

In order for a person to be diagnosed with depression, four or five of the following symptoms must persist for two weeks, and not be due to another physical condition, medication, alcohol, drugs, or normal bereavement:

Some of the symptoms associated with a diagnosis of anxiety include:

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Depression/Anxiety

Every healthy person has experienced some form of depression in his or her life. It is a healthy response to overwhelming events in our lives. When we are healthy, physically and mentally, we can usually bounce back from a depressed state within a couple of weeks, and continue on with our normal lives. But when feelings become persistent and occur without precipitating factors, true depression may set in.

Every healthy person has also experienced anxiety in their life. We all know what it feels like to be anxious. "Butterflies" in the stomach when one is preparing for a job interview, meeting new people, or speaking in public are quite common, normal, and can be positive. Anxiety can be a positive reaction that helps prepare individuals for situations that are uncertain. But when anxiety is persistent, and exhibited in unwarranted situations, this positive emotion interferes with and limits our daily activities.

Many people may feel a combination of anxiety and depression. They may tend to be depressed, tired, and have difficulty making decisions or focusing during the day, and feel anxious, restless, and "shaky" at night.

Chinese medicine recognizes a powerful interplay between the body and emotions; the two are, in fact, inseparable. When we become emotionally upset, our internal environment also becomes disrupted, leading to the physical symptoms of anxiety and depression. When we are physically compromised, our emotions can be greatly affected.

According to Chinese medical theories, depression and anxiety are often the result of an imbalance or blockage in the body's energetic organ meridian systems. If the Qi becomes obstructed or the quality becomes insufficient, emotional upset, anxiety/depression, illness and disease may occur. Many things may cause the Qi to become blocked or insufficient: physical trauma, emotional trauma, hereditary weakness, poor diet, and chemical, physical and emotional stress.

A ground breaking pilot study at the University of Arizona1 studied the treatment of depression using traditional, individually tailored acupuncture treatment, within the structure of a double-blind, randomized, control trial. Twelve sessions were held over an eight-week period, with an additional session per week for the next eight weeks that also treated the control and placebo groups. At the end of the study, 64% of the participants were judged to be in full remission of their symptoms.

To see the results of this, and other, studies, you can go to the following site:

Treating Anxiety/Depression with Acupuncture and Herbal Therapy

My treatments for anxiety and depression combine acupuncture, Alpha-Stim micro-current stimulation, and herbal therapy. A general protocol is 12 sessions over a 4 week period of acupuncture and micro-current stimulation. The Alph-Stim is a Class IIA, Type B, medical device that has "Underwriters Laboratories, Inc." classification in the US and Canada, and uses microcurrent electrical therapy to relieve anxiety, depression, and insomnia (the current is so low, many people do not feel it).

The herbal supplementation is key to the effectiveness of the treatments. The treatments will not be as effective with out the supplements. The herbal formulas are used to address stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. A few of the formulas that I use (you would only be prescribed one, or perhaps two) are: Calm Dragon, Compassionate Sage, Celestial Emperer's Blend, Quiet Contemplative, Free and Easy Wanderer, Ease Plus™, and Ginseng and Logan Formula.

The success rate for this type of treatment is very high, 75%+. While severe depression may require more intensive treatment, relief of stress and anxiety is usually felt immediately and not as many treatments are required.

1 Allen J.J.B., Schuyer R.N., and Hitt S.K. (1998), The efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of women with major depression. Psychological Science 9 (5): 397—401.

For more information on Chinese medicine and anxiety/depression:

If you would like to pursue this form of treatment, contact me at the following telephone number or e-mail address. You will be asked to fill out a detailed intake form before your first appointment. You may pick this up at my office, or I can e-mail it to you.


Calvin Dale Smith, BA, MSc, DOM
Doctor of Oriental Medicine (USA)
Riverside Acupuncture and Wellness Centre
2211 Riverside Dr., Suite 106
Ottawa, ON K1H 7X5
cdalesmith at