"I want to avoid Prozac. What natural alternatives are there?"
I hear that question several times a month at Present Moment. While I admit that many people are helped with depression by allopathic medications and treatments, others are turned off by the medical approach. Fortunately, there are many alternatives available that can also have a positive healing effect.
Most of the time, the first approach I use are flower essences. The ability of flower essences to cause shifts in people at the mental-emotional level makes them a natural choice for working with depression. However, the essences must be used wisely and carefully. There is no one "essence for depression"; each person's situation is completely individual. This is probably one case where self-help is not feasible and I heartily recommend seeking a qualified consultant. Nonetheless, let me share some impressions of various flowers that I've found helpful.
There are a number of flowers that directly address the emotional state of depression or deep resignation. The best known is Mustard, from the Bach Remedies. The emotional profile of deep gloom and lethargy, as though a dark cloud descended on the person, seems to fit many depression situations. Various degrees of hopelessness and despair are also covered by Gorse, Sweet Chestnut, and Wild Rose. If the person is suicidal or likely to "do something terrible", I'd probably test out Cherry Plum (the "I'm out of control!" remedy) on them. States of panic or terror require other essences, such as Rock Rose (which I've nicknamed "liquid Valium" for its soothing properties) or Grey Spider Orchid, to help the person regain their composure. Sometimes, Star of Bethlehem is called for (if they are "numbing out" or going into emotional shock), or Waratah (if this is an "emergency crisis" situation and you just want to pull them through the night). But dealing with the immediate emotions is only the first step.
In the wholistic approach, disease is always looked at as a message about what the person needs to be healthy and whole. This is especially the case with so-called psychological illnesses. It's important to ask why the person is showing symptoms of depression. In many instances, the "blues" and lethargy of depression are hiding another emotion altogether, most frequently repressed anger. If there's an underlying cause apparent, it makes more sense to remove the cause instead of "fighting" the symptoms that result. Many remedies are available to get at buried emotional states. The remedies Dagger Hakea, Mountain Devil, Fuchsia, and Scarlet Monkeyflower are high on my list of "anger formulas". Sometimes the deeper emotion is grief or a deep-seated hurt that has never had a chance to heal. My favorite remedy here is a striking Australian flower called Sturt Desert Pea, a very powerful essence that should be used with caution (due to the potent emotions it can stir up). Similarly, Black Eyed Susan is a powerful catalyst for bringing up buried emotions from the unconscious (also use with caution!). There could be sexual overtones to the person's emotional dilemma -- Crab Apple, Billy Goat Plum, Sticky Monkeyflower, Easter Lily, etc. would be options here. In short, almost anything could be an underlying cause, and practically any remedy could wind up being the "core" healing agent for the person.
Perhaps the most common issue to surface in depression consultations is some kind of dysfunction in the family while growing up. Whether outright abusiveness, or "merely" a cold distance or lack of loving support from one or both parents, it can spell a lifetime of difficulty for a child, even years after they've left home. I routinely ask clients how they experienced each of their parents when they were young. Their answers often provide telling clues. The remedies Baby Blue Eyes, Red Helmet Orchid, Mariposa Lily, or Dog Rose may not make up for an unhappy childhood, but they can help the person to move on and learn to parent themselves. I also frequently use an essence called Boab, for when a person feels entangled or trapped within the family matrix. Boab helps you break free of the family and become an independent individual, able to stand on your own.
Another common emotion (with everyone, not just depressed people) is shame, that unspeakable feeling that something is terribly wrong with me. It's a secret that must stay hidden, for fear that others will see what a horrible person I am. It's amazing to see all the things that people are ashamed about. Sometimes the source of shame is something very ordinary or trivial, something that everyone does, but it must be kept a "dirty secret" because it seems so loathsome. The remedy Pink Monkeyflower is a champ at breaking through this kind of shame. It sheds so much forgiving light on the dirty secret that I call it the "welcome back to the human race" remedy. Sometimes, the turning point in depression is simply forgiving oneself for being human. Being human is not a sin, it's simply the way we were born, so you might as well glory in it. This level of self-acceptance is the gift of Pink Monkeyflower.
Working with depression via flower essences is often an art form, demanding much sensitivity to the people who call on my services and the flowers that I use. The essences may not be the total answer for people with depression, but I am certainly amazed at how much good they can routinely produce. For me, there's no greater pleasure than to see one of my clients come back with a smiling face. "Thanks, I feel like a new person!" That's a beautiful gift to share with one another.