The Treatment of Depression with Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine and Energy Healing

The Treatment of Depression with Acupuncture, Chinese Medicinal Herbs, & Energy Healing

By, Christina Ducharme, L.Ac.

Depression affects people in many differing ways. In my practice I treat a variety of different people from diverse backgrounds who are struggling with sadness, grief, apathy, lethargy, and associated symptoms. Depression can be situational, arising from a separation, divorce, loss, or major event; or it can be chronic, coming and going for many years and varying in intensity. The good news is that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can have a huge impact on depression and the associated symptoms.

“… [the] powerful combination of energy work, acupuncture, herbs, and traditional Chinese medicine has been essential for me to move through things I was unsure if I was capable of getting past.”

“…[this] work is one of the most powerful things I have been able to experience to heal deep grief as well as some chronic shoulder pain…”

“…I feel like I’ve turned a corner. I can get out of bed in the morning, and I have energy to do things.”

“…I’ve been able to sleep this past week, and that’s made a huge impact on my mood and energy levels. I even looked at yoga classes locally, and am trying to get out of the house more.”

“…I’ve been feeling hopeless, but I realized through coming here, that I really do have hope. I have hope again.”

~ Client Testimonials & Comments

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a frequent and persistent feeling of sadness and lack of interest in activities of daily life. Depression can be seasonal, chronic or situational. It affects how a person feels, thinks, and behaves and can lead to other symptoms in a person’s life. Common associated symptoms include:

  • Sadness, frequent crying, uncontrollable crying
  • Fatigue
  • Low libido or loss of libido,
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Lack of joy in pleasures of life
  • Moodiness
  • Anxiety
  • Despondence, a trance-like mental state
  • Lack of motivation, apathy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hopelessness
  • Withdrawal from social situations
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal ideation, or attempted suicide

Common treatments for depression include western pharmaceuticals, psychotherapy, and lifestyle counseling. In Chinese medicine, treatment can work in concert with, and as a support to, ongoing treatment. There are many Chinese herbal formulas that work with common anti-depressants or anti-psychotic medications. In my work at Blue Heron Acupuncture, I combine acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and energy healing to bring treatment beyond symptom management and into deep transformational healing.

Cause of Depression in Chinese Medicine

In Chinese medicine mental and physical health are due to the quality, quantity, and movement of Qi and Blood. Depression occurs when the flow of Qi and Blood is disrupted through constraint. Constraint can be due to emotions or it can have a physical aspect. Constrained Qi and Blood negatively impacts the organs of Chinese medicine. In Chinese medicine each organ is connected to a specific type of mental functioning and has a spiritual component. When there is constraint in the Qi and Blood, it interferes with the expression of the mental aspect of the associated organ, and is related to specific mood disorders. Let’s take a closer look at what this means.

There are 5 major organs in Chinese medicine theory. They are the Heart, Spleen, Lung, Kidney, and Liver. Each organ has a specific “job” in Chinese medicine, and has spiritual aspects that are related to psycho-emotional functioning. They are the Shen, Hun, Po, Yi, and Zhi, and are discussed in Table 1.1 below.

Table 1.1 TCM Organs and Spiritual Aspect

Organ Spiritual Aspect Psycho-emotional Functioning
Shen Heart Responsible for mental activity, perception, conscious awareness, and ability to feel; unbalanced Shen results in sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, etc.
Lung Po Sense perception, strong contact and engagement with the world, clear boundaries between self and others; constrained Po leads to depression with constant sadness and tendency towards weeping
Liver Hun Insight, direction and intuition, courage to act on plans, when Hun and Shen are balanced = wisdom results
Spleen Yi Responsible for application of mental activity to specific tasks, concentration, keeping Shen focused; Yi becomes constrained by brooding or worry, leads to depression and melancholic brooding, obsessive thinking, and inability to constructively concentrate, tendency to overeat, comfort eat or become obsessed with food
Kidney Zhi Will power, drive and ability to act upon perception, memory, stability in the face of adversity to change, orienting sense of family connection and history; destabilized Zhi results in lack of grounding, instability or “freezing”, depression with despair and despondency, fearfulness, lack of drive and will to change, sexual withdrawal and loss of libido


When constraint of qi and blood occurs the functioning of the Organ will be affected. Constraint can occur with an emotional cause, and is most commonly associated with the Liver (stress, anger), but the Heart, Lungs (grief) and Spleen (worry, over thinking) can also be involved. Non-emotional causes of constraint can be caused by overeating food, an accumulation of damp and phlegm, from a deficiency in the constitution (qi, blood, or yin) or from an excess (heat or cold).


Treatment with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine requires a sound diagnosis into the causing factors of depression, the underlying pathology, and the affected organs.

Treatment is:

  • Multifaceted!!!
  • Acupuncture
  • Herbs
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Psychotherapy
  • Can include and work in conjunction with Western Prescription Medication
  • Exercise
  • Diet
  • 12 Regular sessions at a minimum

Case Study

  • 41 year old female, M.D. specializing in Psychiatry
  • Complaint: depression, somnolence, difficulty concentrating, overeating, crying all the time, no ability to follow through on commitments
  • History: sold practice and house to move to USA with fiancé, started acupuncture school and ended engagement after 4 years of living here. Has no job, finishing graduate school, no money, homesick, had to find new housing and way to support self until graduation
  • Treatment:
  • Chinese Herbal medicine in conjunction with prescription medication for ADD, & acupuncture
  • Focused on harmonizing digestion, boosting energy, relieving food, qi, blood and phlegm stagnation, and calming the Shen, supporting the Zhi, anchoring the Po, and strengthening the Yi
  • Patient was seen 1x/week for 8 months
  • Results:
  • Patient was able to start loosing weight, digestive complaints ceased, she stopped overeating, started riding her bike, had more energy, showed up to classes, took exams, organized a practice in her home country, graduated from school, and moved home where she has a new and thriving private psychiatric and acupuncture practice, as well as a position at a City Hospital.


Energy Healing for Depression

At Blue Heron Acupuncture, LLC, I combine my extensive training and experience as a graduate of the Barbara Brennan School of Healing to help transform the underlying cause of depression. I use techniques to clear stagnant energy, release held trauma, heal relationship cords, work with belief patterns, and connect to core essence (among other techniques) to truly create a healing and transformative experience. For more information on the healing work that I offer both in person and long-distance, please visit my website at


If you’re interested in learning more about my work, how we could partner together for your health, to learn about upcoming workshops or classes, or if you’re ready to deeply commit to your healing path please contact me at, 802-595-2248, or visit me at my offices:

@ Railyard Apothecary

270 Battery ST

Burlington, VT

Wed. & Fri. 9-5

@ Old Schoolhouse Common

122 School ST

Marshfield, VT

Mon., Tues., & Thurs. 9-5


For more information, on-line scheduling, or to read other blog posts please visit