Cancer and Depression

by Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel (insert by Keith Scott, M.D.)
One of the side effects of a cancer diagnosis is depression, often not talked about, yet it happens quite frequently. Depression is different than feeling sad. It is a serious mental illness that can impact your daily life in major ways. With a life threatening diagnosis, it is understandable that depression could set in.
What are the Signs and Symptoms?
In a report by the National Institute of Mental Health, they list the following signs and symptoms:
  • Ongoing sad, anxious, or empty feelings
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling irritable or restless
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once enjoyable, including sex
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, a condition called insomnia, or sleeping all the time
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Thoughts of death and suicide or suicide attempts
  • Ongoing aches and pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease with treatment.
The common treatments for depression are:
1. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy or talk therapy, working to change negative thinking styles and behaviours. Also with this type of treatment, these therapies have greatly helped cancer patients.

  • Psychoeducation – finding out about your illness and its treatment
  • Stress management training to help you cope with anxiety
  • Problem-solving therapy to help people identify and work through problems that contribute to feeling depressed.
2. Serotonin reuptake inhibitor – antidepressants such as Celexa, Zoloft, and Prozac.
3. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor – antidepressant medications such as Effexor and Cymbalta.
However, a lot of people do not want to start down the drug therapy route. Interestingly, I found the following article which talks about another alternative to drug therapy – a spicy herb. It could get you through the depression stage without drugs and moving on to a healthier, happier frame of mind to help you heal from cancer without more drugs in your system.
NOTE: It is always best to check with your healthcare provider to monitor your health status. Depression is not something to take lightly. It’s best to get the help you need. Being depressed is not something to hide or feel ashamed about. Having cancer definitely is a valid cause for feeling depressed and getting help is one of your tools in the healing process.
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Depression – Saffron A Spicy Solution, by Keith Scott, M.D. 
Saffron, a well known spice used to give a unique flavor and a vivid yellow color to many dishes has been used for centuries in traditional medical systems to treat depression and other illnesses. Recently a number of clinical trials have shown that this spice is as effective as fluoxetine (Prozac) and imipramine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.
The spice saffron is a yellow powder derived from the stigmata (styles) of the flowering bulb Crocus sativa. It is cultivated on a commercial basis primarily in Iran and to a lesser extent in India, Spain and a few other countries. Prior to the advent of cheaper, synthetic food colorings, saffron was also grown in other European countries including England.
Although several other spices have demonstrated the potential to prevent and treat several neurological diseases saffron is the first to be tested as a treatment of depression in clinical trials.
The recent clinical studies on patients with depression were conducted by doctors at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences. The double-blind, placebo controlled trials compared the effects of 30 mg per day of saffron powder to those of normal doses of two common anti-depressant drugs, fluoxetine and imipramine. In all three clinical trials they found that saffron was at least as effective as these two commonly used anti-depressant drugs in combating mild to moderate depression.
This latest research shows that we have yet another spice that can help with a neurological illness – in this case, depression. Depression affects all age groups but increases in incidence with age. In other words we can include it with other diseases associated with the aging process; such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and others.
There is some scientific evidence that saffron, like many other other spices, may also help to prevent and treat certain cancers. Saffron contains the compound safranal and many antioxidants such as carotenoids and other compounds common to other spices that have been shown to have anti-cancer properties.
Countless studies have shown that spices can help prevent and treat most age related diseases. To a large extent it is those spice-based compounds responsible for their strong colors and flavors that protect us against many of the underlying disease processes common to these conditions.
Humans evolved eating strongly colored, intensely flavored, bitter, sour, “spicy” foods. Therefore it should come as no surprise to us that it is primarily in spices that a vast repository of therapeutic phytonutrients exists to help us combat depression and other neurological and degenerative diseases.
If we add more spices such as saffron to our meals we will not only be happier with the enhanced flavor but the compounds in these tasty additives should also put more zest into our day and help us to avoid a visit to the psychotherapist.
About the Author:
Keith Scott is a medical doctor who has a special interest in nutritional medicine. He has written several books on health related topics includingMedicinal Seasonings, The Healing Power Of Spices and Natural Home Pharmacy. For more information about the use of spices in the prevention and treatment of neurological and other diseases go to: []

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