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Journal of an Herbalist: Devastating Depression

Case: Susan called me one day complaining that she could do nothing to shake the deep depression she was in.

She had come to see me eight weeks ago and I had given her some herbs and some dietary and lifestyle ideas, but she had abandoned them within a few weeks and started taking her medication again.

She had been taking her medication for six weeks now and was not seeing any improvement.

She called asking for more advice. “It seems like I have tried everything, “she said, “what am I doing wrong? Where do I turn now?”

Susan’s complaint is one I have heard often among clients, friends and acquaintances alike.

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The three common factors all the complaints seem to have in common is a lack of faith that one will get better, a feeling of no purpose in life and a lack of a catalyst to change the situation.

Nearly one hundred percent of the problems such as this I have encountered are simple to heal once these three issues are addressed.

However, in Susan’s case it was a little more difficult. Susan was far from any alternative healers, regular medical care or even activities.

She was forced to spend much of her time in the home due to the fact she could not drive in Saudi Arabia, her husband was very busy and she had three children who made it difficult to move around in buses or taxis.

She also had a very strict budget as her husband had recently changed jobs and wasn’t being paid as much as before.

Of course all these situations in themselves could make one depressed and feel hopeless, but I reassured Susan that there were many things she could do for herself even within her restricted area and budget.

First, we addressed the lack of faith that she would get better.

I reminded her that, “Allah has provided a cure for everything except death.”

I also helped her realize that although she may not believe that right now, that if she concentrated on healing her faith that in time she would regain it.Depression

Many people take faith for granted and assume it is something you either have or don’t have. However, faith is something that can become stronger or weaker.

I told her to take solace in the thought that if faith is not exercised it will grow weaker.

If one sits for years in happiness they will have an easy faith but if something devastating happens after these years their faith may not be strong enough to handle it.

On the other hand, if someone is constantly exercising his or her faith by having it challenged, then it becomes stronger and can handle more and more.

Susan’s faith was being exercised and she needed to hold its form and focus on it in the same way one does when they are exercising their muscles.

This could be accomplished by praying for more faith or using the essential oils of frankincense, spikenard, juniper, basil, coriander, chamomile, neroli, and linden blossom.

These herbs were readily available on the local market and although they weren’t available in the concentrated and distilled form, Susan could still benefit from their energies.

I told her to make a triple strength decoction of the herbs and soak with them in a bath three times a week.

She had available to her chamomile, basil, linden and coriander so I instructed her to take a tablespoon of each, simmer it for one hour on a very low heat in 6 cups of water and then strain it and add it to her bath water.

Secondly, we addressed the issue of Susan’s feeling of lack of purpose in life. This is a feeling more common than people realize.

Many people who have this feeling think they are the only ones they know with this problem. However, many people around them share the same feeling.

This is an easy feeling to fall into if one loses their focus on why they are living to begin with.

One must keep their focus on the feeling that all they are doing is to please Allah and honor his creation. With this in mind, one needs to find a channel for doing that.

Many people have channels but not the correct reason behind the channels. And many people have the correct reasoning but mistakenly assume that their dedication to Allah through prayer only will sustain them in this life.

More successful are those who are dedicated to Allah but have found an avenue in wish to express that dedication.

Some people chose the medical field, some people chose motherhood, and some chose teaching, drum making, writing, or many other skills.

Susan had a very strong faith and prayer life but nothing else in her life had been directed towards her dedication to Allah.

We discussed her interests and restrictions and came up with two ideas.

First, she realized that she was very lonely and found little motivation to do things with her children although at the same time she was very creative and wanted to do many things.

We decided that she would start a small mother and child’s school at her home.

She initially feared that her home was not adequate and that she did not have the ability or character. However, I reassured her that it is the spirit that goes into such an endeavor that matters.

In addition, her character problems were as a result of not getting involved. So, once she got involved, she would become a more steady and dependable person naturally.

Secondly, Susan decided to study calligraphy and herbalism. She didn’t have enough money to enroll in a course, but with my help we designed a course for her in both subjects, which involved having an end goal in mind and a method to reaching the goal.

Susan purchased a calligraphy book and practiced copying the names of Allah on various papers. I taught her a craft a friend of mine practices.Depression

This Muslim brother photocopies calligraphy from books and then traces it onto fancy paper and frames it.

Susan tried her hand at this and found she was quite good at it. She made it her goal to try to sell her work.

At the same time she purchased a few basic herbals and made it her goal to study the usage and effects of one herb every two weeks.

Every two weeks she would purchase a new herb from the local market, read about it in great detail and then use it in various ways around her home.

By the end of the year she would be intimately familiar with more than 25 herbs.

Even some of the most knowledgeable hobbyists in herbalism never take the time to know more than a few herbs intimately and some only know a few things about thirty or so herbs without much depth of knowledge.

The third and last thing Susan needed was a catalyst to assist her healing. The first two suggestions could prove to be good catalysts for her.

However, just to give her an extra boost I suggested that she take a stronger herbal tea and take it for a minimum of six weeks this time.

I gave her a mixture of herbs including skullcap, hops, nettles, alfalfa, and orange peel addressing her various problems including her moods.

I also told her that if she couldn’t afford herbs or find the same mixture that a simple tea of thyme taken three times a day would be a good substitute for her.

Susan called me in three weeks to say she was feeling better than she had in years. She was most excited over the fact that she had completed three pieces of calligraphy and had sold them to three ladies who’s friends had also made orders.

This article is from Science’s archive and we’ve originally published it on an earlier date.

About Dr. Karima Burns
Dr. Karima Burns has been counseling as a Home-path for over 9 years. From the U.S. she is a doctor in Naturopathy, a Master Herbalist, and teaches with inspiration from the Waldorf school. She uses art, health and education to heal others.