Depression is a mental disorder characterized by a pervasive low mood and loss of pleasure or interest in usual activities, and often results in cognitive dysfunction. The disturbance of cognitive processes associated with depression, especially the impairment of learning and memory, exacerbates illness and increases recurrence of depression.
At present, depression is commonly treated with monoamine-based antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). However, about 1/3 of depressive patients are not responsive to conventional antidepressants.
SSRIs cause lower bone density, cause weight gain, harm male fertility and make people more likely to go on shooting rampages, commit suicides, and attempted suicides.
There's more. It also causes panic attacks, low heart rate and lightheadedness, induced mania, psychotic symptoms, electrolyte disturbances and seizures, and even anorgasmia (inability to achieve orgasms). There are literally dozens of other side effects too numerous to mention in this article.
The Natural Route
Researchers from the Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, discovered that XingPiJieYu (XPJY), used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as an anti-depressant, improved the signaling pathway in the hippocampus, the side of the brain associated with learning, memory and emotion.
"The present study indicated that XingPiJieYu could improve the depression and related syndromes in a rat chronic unpredictable stress (CUS) model," they wrote in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
For the study, sixty rats were divided into six groups. The control group was given distilled water. Group two was CUS-induced rats given distilled water, while group three was CUS rats dosed with anti-depressant drug sertraline (10mg).
Group four CUS rats received 0.35g of XPJY, group five CUS plus 0.7g XPJY and group six got CUS plus 1.4g of XPJY.
In the Morris Water Maze test, the CUS rats that received 1.4g of XPJY took the least amount of time to find the platform on day one.
"The present study found that the escape latency (time to find the platform) in the XPJY 1.4 g group on the first day was significantly shortened, but the difference for the sertraline group was not statistically significant," researchers wrote.
"These results shows XPJY could increase the ability of spatial learning of depression rats by CUS."
A spatial exploration test also revealed the memory-boosting benefits of the XPJY 1.4g group, and of the sertraline group, by day five.
"It indicated both sertraline and XPJY can achieve improvement with regards to rats's memory capability, while the efficacy of the XPJY 1.4g group was more significant. This results show XPJY increased the ability of spatial learning memory better than sertraline," researchers said.
XPJY also inhibited weight loss among stressed rats.
"The experimental results are consistent with actual situation. The primary findings of the present study show that CUS causes cognitive decline and depression-like symptoms whereas XPJY showed ameliorating potential against detrimental effect of CUS," the study revealed.
"These results are in agreement with several other studies which also showed that CUS causes cognitive decline and depression like behavior in animal models."