According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 44.3 million Americans, ages 18 and older, suffer from a mental disorder. Depression, included in this number, is reaching epidemic proportions. While the media continues to report on the potentially life-threatening side effects of pharmaceutical antidepressants, more and more individuals are turning to herbal solutions. A little known tree in the West, Albizia julibrissin, is beginning to share the spotlight with other herbal antidepressants as an effective remedy.
Depression: The silent epidemic treated with dangerous drugs
Mental illness is classified as any mental condition that disrupts daily personal, social, or occupational function. Anxiety and mood disorders are the most common forms of mental illness in adults. An astounding 25 percent of all American adults have a mental illness while it is estimated that 50 percent will develop a mental illness at some point during their lifetime. The World Health Organization has found that mental illness contributes to more disability in developed countries than any other class of illness, including heart disease and cancer.
Conventional medicine continues to treat depression with prescription antidepressants which has produced some startling results. Recently, two newborn deaths in British Columbia, Canada were linked with maternal use of antidepressants. An Australian study found that older men taking antidepressants had a mortality rate 1.6 times higher than depressed men who did not take them. Cardiovascular disease, cancer, and infection doubled in the group of men who used antidepressants.
Albizia julibrissin: The tree of happiness
Albizia julibrissin (Mimosa) is a tropical ornamental tree native to Asia. The leaves of the Mimosa close during the night and when it rains. Due to this unique characteristic, it has been referred to as the "Sleeping Tree" in Japan. In China, it is known as the "Tree of Happiness" because of its calming herbal properties. The flowers do not have petals but instead are clusters of silky thread-like stamen measuring 2-3 cm in length. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are all attracted to the flowers of this fragrant tree.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Albizia julibrissin
The bark and flowers of the Albizia tree have been used for centuries in China to foster mental wellness, curb depression, and to promote sound sleep. Albizia is one of the most cherished Chinese botanicals for alleviating anxiety and stress.
Roy Upton, vice president of the American Herbalist Guild, says, "In ancient traditional Chinese literature, use of Albizia was linked with 'the happiest of results: promoting joy, assuaging sorrow, brightening the eye, and giving the desires of the heart.' In more modern times, Albizia belongs to a class of botanicals that 'nourish the heart and calm the spirit."'
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) there is a strong link between the mind and the well-being of the heart. In fact, TCM practitioners view these organs to be intimately connected. A healthy mind supports a healthy heart. TCM also believes that Albizia helps to relieve irritability due to suppressed emotions.
Michael Tierra, L.Ac., offers further insight into the benefits of Albizia: "Both the bark and the flowers of Albizia are used as a calming sedative in Oriental traditional medicine. Categorized in the Chinese Materia Medica as a calming spirit herb, the bark is thought to 'anchor' the spirit, while the flowers lighten it. The flowers have also been used for the treatment of insomnia, amnesia, sore throat, and confusion in Oriental traditional medicine as well as depression, melancholy, and anxiety."
As a trusted Chinese herb for centuries, Albizia julibrissin brightens your day gently and safely. Peace and mental well-being are within reach with this versatile tree.