Botany and horticulture are my areas of expertise, and Ian is on the mark when the writes about the chemicals in plants. Plants produce a wide variety of chemical compounds, some of which are useful as medicines at the right dosages. Dose is important, take for example digoxin, which is a heart medication which is derived from foxglove (Digitalis purpurea). Years ago I ran into this idiot at a Home Depot trying to impress his girlfriend by telling her how he was eating foxglove flowers to improve his heart health. Normally I would not have said something, but since this could be a disastrous practice I had to interrupt and let him know that what he was doing was dangerous, that digoxin in overdose could very well be fatal, and that he had no way of knowing how much drug he was getting (and he didn't have a heart problem anyway). I think he got the message. As for Chinese herbs, some may have active ingredients that work, others may not, but again dose would be important, too little would not work, too much could be toxic. Plus the chemicals in plants are no more or less likely than chemicals in pills to produce side effects. Chemicals are chemicals, whatever their source. Most plants produce chemicals in small enough amounts such that a herbal extract is likely to be made to concentrate the active (or inactive) ingredient(s) and that will involve non natural ways such as solvents--its how chemistry works when it comes to concentrating certain compounds from a mix. Research is needed on herbs that are claimed to have antidepressant or anti anxiety effects, we do know that St Johns wort (Hypericum sp) does have antidepressant effects, but has the side effect of making one's skin burn more readily in the sun (my sister experienced this). Crude extracts containing more than the active ingredient hypericin also have weak MAO inhibitor activity, hence the need to be careful about drug interactions. Also regulation is important, I know of one case (my wife is Chinese so I heard this story firsthand, she knew the people involved) where a herbal preparation (not for depression) from a Chinese vendor was investigated by the FDA (only because of a complaint by a competitor) and found to contain actual medication in the mix, so the person got in big trouble and had to reformulate their product. Of course the "herbal" product worked due to the medication it contained, but this could be dangerous for people due to possible interactions with other medications they may be taking, etc. So in summary, natural means nothing, its all about the actual efficacy, safety, and side effects profile of the chemical (be it from an herbalist or a big pharmaceutical company) on the individual. I will agree though that I do believe BigPharm could be more responsible in reporting side effects (for example sexual side effects of SSRIs were woefully underreported when they first came out), and conducting long term studies beyond what they need to do to get their product approved which would better assess effects of using medications for years (and investigate questions like why some meds may "poop out" for some individuals). They also tend to push newer medications which may not be better than older ones, the atypical antipsychotics come to mind, they may work well for some but the cost in terms of long term side effects (metabolic syndrome, diabetes, increased cholesterol, movement disorders, etc) really needs to be considered when comparing them to older antidepressants and antianxiety agents. Abilify is heavily advertised as an antidepressant add on here in the US, but I'd really have to be out of all other options before I would try it, as my limited experience with similar meds ranged from not good (olanzapine in tiny doses made me sleepy and affected by blood sugar) to disastrous (one pill of Saphris knocked my blood pressure so low I passed out cold and fell at night and had to be taken by ambulence to the ER to get pumped with IV fluids to raise my bp).