Curing Depression with Ayurveda

Dear Dr. Simon, I would like to know if depression can really be cured by allopathic medicine (using antidepressant drugs such as Prozac). Also, could you tell me what the Ayurvedic approach to depression is and if there are any other alternative treatments you’d suggest. Thanks and regards.


According to the conventional medical model, depression results from an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. The most predominant imbalance involves the natural messenger molecule serotonin, but other neurotransmitters are also involved. The class of antidepressants known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), act by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain, thereby improving mood. In general, conventional medicine focuses on managing rather than curing depression.

Our experience at the Chopra Center is that the chemical imbalance associated with depression is often the consequence of unresolved emotional pain from the past. When we accumulate emotional pain and repress the underlying issues at the source, we deplete our psychological energy. Over time, this depletion contributes to depression. When people engage in an emotional healing process to address their long-standing issues, their brains can become more capable of producing higher levels of natural mood-enhancing neurotransmitters – reducing the need to rely on pharmaceuticals. That said, I don’t recommend that anyone stop taking prescribed antidepressants without the guidance of a medical practitioner who is well versed in both conventional and holistic healing approaches.

We offer a program at the Chopra Center called Free to Love, which addresses depression from an Ayurvedic perspective. This process is designed to identify, mobilize, release, and replenish toxic, depleting emotions with nourishing, life-celebrating ones. There are a few Ayurvedic herbs that may be helpful in depression: Ashwagandha (withania somnifera) and Brahmi (centella asiatica or bacopa moniera) both have documented anti-depressant properties. I don’t see these herbs as a substitute for antidepressants, but rather as a component of a holistic program that includes a regular meditation practice, a healthy diet, and a regular exercise program (including yoga, strength training, and cardiovascular activities).