October 2013

Qi gong May Improve Major Depressive Disorder

Qigong may be an effective treatment for symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD), according to a study.

Qi gong is a modality of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It is the art of managing the breath to achieve and maintain good health and to enhance the stamina of the body in coordination with the physical process of respiration. There are two main types of Qi gong practice: internal and external. Internal Qi gong is the self-directed practice of techniques used to cultivate the circulation of qi throughout an individual's energy system. The practices involve meditation, subtle movement, visualization, and breathing techniques. External Qi gong is an interpersonal healing practice in which a practitioner projects qi into another person in order to promote the recipient's health or circulation of qi. Traditionally, Qi gong has been practiced regularly to promote health.

Depression or depressive disorder is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. Depression is considered a mood disorder. Imbalances in three neurotransmitters (brain chemicals), including serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, are linked to depression. Depression affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about life situations. Unlike normal emotional experiences of sadness, loss, or passing mood states, depressive disorders are persistent and can significantly interfere with an individual's thoughts, behavior, mood, activity, and physical health.

In the current study, scientists examined the potential effectiveness of qi gong treatment in a group of Chinese Americans with MDD. They enrolled 14 people who participated in 12 weeks of qigong and used the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, as well as several questionnaires, to determine whether the therapy may alleviate symptoms.

The results suggested that qi gong may be effective. The authors reported a positive treatment response rate of 60 percent and a remission rate of 40 percent. Significant improvements were observed based on all scales and questionnaires used during the study.

The authors concluded that qi gong may be an effective and feasible intervention for the treatment of MDD symptoms. However, they emphasize that further study using larger sample sizes are needed in order to confirm these findings.

Many other integrative therapies have been studied for the treatment of depression. There is strong scientific evidence to support the use of light therapy, music therapy, St. John's wort, and DHEA for this purpose.

For more information about qi gong, please visit Natural Standard's Health & Wellness Database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 
  2. Yeung A, Slipp LE, Jacquart J, et al. The treatment of depressed chinese americans using qigong in a health care setting: a pilot study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:168784. doi: 10.1155/2013/168784. Epub 2013 Apr 16. 

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