How Was Depression Treated in Ancient Times?

Depression is a mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While modern medicine has come a long way in treating mental illnesses, the same cannot be said for ancient times. In this article, we will explore how depression was treated in ancient times.

Ancient Greek and Roman Times

In ancient Greece and Rome, depression was considered a physical ailment rather than a mental one. It was believed that the imbalance of bodily fluids or humors caused depression. To treat it, physicians would often use bloodletting or purging to balance these fluids.


Bloodletting involved making an incision in the patient’s skin and draining out a certain amount of blood to balance the humors. This was done using leeches or other surgical instruments. While it may have had some benefits for physical ailments, it did not prove effective in treating depression.


Purging involved inducing vomiting or diarrhea to rid the body of excess fluids. This was also not effective in treating depression and could lead to further health complications.

Ancient Chinese Medicine

In ancient China, depression was viewed as an imbalance of energy flow or Qi in the body. Acupuncture and herbal medicine were used to restore this balance.


Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate energy flow. It is believed that this restores balance and promotes healing. While there is no scientific evidence to support its effectiveness in treating depression, some people find relief from its use.

Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine involved using plants and natural remedies to treat various ailments, including depression. The use of herbs such as St. John’s Wort has been found to have some effectiveness in treating mild cases of depression.

Ancient Egyptian Medicine

In ancient Egypt, mental illnesses including depression were believed to be caused by evil spirits. To treat it, they used a combination of magic and medicine.

Magical Spells

Magical spells were used to ward off evil spirits and restore balance to the person’s life. While these may have had some psychological benefits, they did not cure depression.

Medicinal Treatments

Medicinal treatments included the use of herbs and animal products like crocodile dung. While some of these remedies may have had some physical benefits, they did not prove effective in treating mental illnesses like depression.


While ancient civilizations had different beliefs and methods for treating depression, none of them proved effective in curing the illness. Today, we have a better understanding of mental health and effective treatments like therapy and medication. It is important to seek professional help if you or someone you know is struggling with depression.