Light is important for all living things. Less light brings hibernation naturally. During fall and winter the lack of light causes about 20% of people to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). In northern latitudes incidence can be up to 10%. Closer to the equator it drops to 1-2 %.
First reports of SAD appeared in the 19th Century, but it was not until 1984 that it surfaced in psychiatry. Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression reoccurring at specific times of the year, is still frequently misdiagnosed. Most commonly, the onset of depression begins in September through November, and lessens in March through May. SAD affects men, women, children, and even pets.
Medical treatment relies on anti-depressant drugs. The newer drugs, called serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), come with many side effects, and studies show they do little to help. Recent studies at Harvard Medical School clearly show that essential fatty acids from flax, fish, and some plants are more effective than SSRI drugs. Another accepted treatment is the light box.
A study at the University of British Columbia showed that supplementing with tryptophan (found in nutritional yeast or 5 HTP) and vitamin D3, along with morning light therapy, achieved a 64% improvement in symptoms. Light hungry sufferers seeking relief from symptoms that affect mind, body, and their internal body clock instinctively seek more light. Bright light therapy is a fluorescent light box that produces an intensity of 2,500 to 10,000 lux at a comfortable distance (1-2′). 85% of sufferers usually respond to this treatment within 3-5 days. Dawn stimulators are another type of light therapy that is helpful, as is changing all lighting at home and office to full spectrum bulbs and tubes.
A study in 1993 shows that St. John’s Wort improved the condition of those who regularly experience winter depression. The extract has been thoroughly researched as a natural anti-depressant. A total of 1,592 patients have been studied in 25 double-blind controlled studies. The studies show St. John’s Wort produces improvements in anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances, and without side effects. Use organic, whole herb extracts for the best results.
by Gayle Eversole, CRNP, PhD, AHG, DHo
"Everything has life and deserves great respect."