Depression is the most disastrous mood disorder affecting the health of individuals. Conventional treatments with chemical compounds for depression have limitations, while herbal medicine has unique therapeutic effects. This paper introduces the pharmacological basis and biological mechanisms underlying the botanical antidepressants over the past 5 years. Based upon the specific therapeutic targets or mechanisms, we analyzed the pathological roles of monoamine neurotransmitters, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, inflammation, oxidative stress, synaptic plasticity performed in antidepressant of the botanicals. In addition, gut flora and neurogenesis were also preferentially discussed as treatment approaches. Based on the complex pathogenesis of depression, we suggested that mixed use of botanicals, namely prescription would be more suitable for treatment of depression. In addition, neural circuit affected by botanicals or active components should also attract attention as the botanicals have potential to be developed into fast-acting antidepressants. Finally, gut flora might be a new systemic target for the treatment of depression by botanicals. This review would strength botanical medicine as the antidepressant and also provides an overview of the potential mechanisms involved.
Keywords: Botanicals; Depression; HPA; Inflammation; Mechanisms.