Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the Treatment of Anxiety and Depression

Gill van der Watt; Jonathan Laugharne; Aleksandar Janca


Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2008;21(1):37-42. 

In This Article


There is significant and growing interest in the use of CAM to treat psychiatric disorders across Western and non-Western societies. We review the current evidence regarding CAM treatments for anxiety and depressive disorders with a focus on recent studies and reviews. With regard to the use of herbal interventions, kava has efficacy for reducing anxiety but is linked to hepatotoxicity. St John's wort is the only demonstrably effective herbal treatment for mild to moderate depression. There are now some promising published data for the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, supporting their role as adjunct treatments in mild to moderate depressive states. There is currently minimal evidence for the use of pure aromatherapy in alleviating the symptoms of anxiety or depression, but the evidence for acupuncture in treating anxiety disorders, including PTSD, is a little more robust. Regarding cognitive interventions, MBSR currently has very little empirical basis but initial research into the combination of hypnotherapy with CBT appears promising in treating depression.

The well documented popularity of CAM interventions for anxiety and depression is not reflected in the current evidence base, which is very limited. There is a paucity of high-quality studies in the field. Until a reasonable number of methodologically sound studies are completed across these varied treatment modalities, it will remain difficult to draw any substantive conclusions regarding their usefulness to the clinician.


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