Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments (CANMAT) Clinical guidelines for the management of major depressive disorder in adults. V. Complementary and alternative medicine treatments

J Affect Disord. 2009 Oct;117 Suppl 1:S54-64. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2009.06.040. Epub 2009 Aug 8.


Background: In 2001, the Canadian Psychiatric Association and the Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments (CANMAT) partnered to produce evidence-based clinical guidelines for the treatment of depressive disorders. A revision of these guidelines was undertaken by CANMAT in 2008-2009 to reflect advances in the field. There is widespread interest in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies in the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD).

Methods: The CANMAT guidelines are based on a question-answer format to enhance accessibility to clinicians. An evidence-based format was used with updated systematic reviews of the literature and recommendations were graded according to Level of Evidence using pre-defined criteria. Lines of Treatment were identified based on criteria that included evidence and expert clinical support. This section on "Complementary and Alternative Medicine Treatments" is one of 5 guideline articles.

Results: There is Level 1 evidence to support light therapy in seasonal MDD and St. John's wort in mild to moderate MDD. There is also some evidence for the use of exercise, yoga and sleep deprivation, as well as for omega-3 fatty acids and SAM-e . Support for other natural health products and therapies is still limited.

Limitations: The evidence base remains limited and studies often have methodological problems, including small samples, variability in dose, short duration of treatment, unknown quality of the agent and limited long-term data. Safety data are also sparse with little information about drug interactions.

Conclusions: Some CAM treatments have evidence of benefit in MDD. However, problems with standardization and safety concerns may limit their applicability in clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy
  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / therapeutic use
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Humans
  • Hypericum
  • Phototherapy
  • Phytotherapy
  • S-Adenosylmethionine / analogs & derivatives
  • S-Adenosylmethionine / therapeutic use
  • Sleep Deprivation / psychology
  • Tryptophan / therapeutic use
  • Yoga


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • adenosyl-methionine 1,4-butanedisulfonate
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • S-Adenosylmethionine
  • Tryptophan