Complementary and alternative medicine in the treatment of anxiety and depression

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Abstract

Purpose of review

There is well documented evidence for the increasing widespread use of complementary and alternative medicine in the treatment of physical and psychiatric symptoms and disorders within Western populations. Here we provide a review of the recent literature on evidence for using such interventions in the treatment of anxiety and depression.

Recent findings

With regard to herbal treatments, kava is effective in reducing anxiety symptoms and St John's wort in treating mild to moderate depression. The association of kava with hepatotoxicity, however, is a significant concern. Promising data continue to emerge for the use of omega-3 fatty acids in managing depression. Evidence for the use of acupuncture in treating anxiety disorders is becoming stronger, although there is currently minimal empirical evidence for the use of aromatherapy or mindfulness-based meditation.

Summary

The evidence base for the efficacy of the majority of complementary and alternative interventions used to treat anxiety and depression remains poor. Recent systematic reviews all point to a significant lack of methodologically rigorous studies within the field. This lack of evidence does not diminish the popularity of such interventions within the general Western population.

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