Depression is a serious mood disorder with symptoms that range from mild to debilitating and potentially life-threatening. Some people look to manage depression with herbal remedies, rather than with medication a doctor prescribes. Here are some of the most popular natural remedies for depression.
ST. JOHN’S WORT
Allso known as Hypericum perforatum, this plant has been a common herbal mental health treatment for hundreds of years. However, people must use caution if they chose to try it as a potential treatment for depression.
A 2016 systematic review found that St. John’s wort was more effective than a placebo for treating mild to moderate depression and worked almost as well as antidepressant medications. However, this review of eligible studies did not find research on the long-term effects of St. John’s wort on severe depression.
The authors also advised caution against accepting the results wholesale, as the herb has adverse effects that many of the studies did not consider. St John’s wort can also interfere with the effects of antidepressant medication, meaning that it may make symptoms worse or reduce the effectiveness of conventional treatment. While St. John’s wort might help some people, it does not show consistently beneficial effects.
This supplement comes from the gnarled root of the American or Asian ginseng plant. Siberian, Asian, and Eleuthero ginseng are different plants with different active ingredients. Practitioners of Chinese medicine have used ginseng for thousands of years to help people improve mental clarity and energy and reduce the effects of stress.
Some people associate these properties of ginseng with potential solutions for the low energy and motivation that can occur with depression. However, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) advise that none of the many studies that people have conducted on ginseng have been of sufficient quality to form health recommendations.
50-300 mg up to three times/day—start at 50mg in the morning. Converts directly into serotonin. If you are taking too much, you will feel sleepy or have runny stools. Also usually helps with anxiety, although sometimes it can paradoxically cause anxiety. Must use with great caution if you’re taking an antidepressant.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat, needed for normal brain function. Since the body cannot make omega-3 fatty acids, they must be obtained through diet. Studies have linked depression with low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids and have also found that countries with higher fish consumption, such as Japan, have a lower rate of depression.2
Coldwater fish such as salmon, sardines, and anchovies are the richest food source of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil and cod liver oil are also available. While fish may contain pollutants such as PCBs, many companies filter the oil so that these chemicals are removed.
Fish oil capsules may interact with blood-thinners such as warfarin and aspirin. Side effects may include indigestion and bleeding. Avoid taking fish oil, 2 weeks before or after surgery.
Exercising starts a biological cascade of events that results in many health benefits, such as protecting against heart disease and diabetes, improving sleep, and lowering blood pressure. High-intensity exercise releases the body’s feel-good chemicals called endorphins, resulting in the “runner’s high” that joggers report. However, the value is in low-intensity exercise over time. That kind of activity spurs the release of proteins called neurotrophic or growth factors, which cause nerve cells to grow and make new connections. The improvement in brain function makes you feel better. “In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain—the region that helps regulate mood—is smaller. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression,” explains Dr. Miller.
Depression is a common but serious illness that negatively affects how you feel and act. It occurs when chemicals in your brain (neurotransmitters) become unbalanced. Health professionals commonly prescribe antidepressants to help correct these chemical imbalances. Rhodiola Rosea has antidepressant properties by balancing the neurotransmitters in your brain.
In a six-week study on the effectiveness of Rhodiola on the symptoms of depression, 89 people with mild or moderate depression received 340 mg or 680 mg of Rhodiola or a placebo pill daily. Both Rhodiola groups experienced significant improvements in overall depression, insomnia and emotional stability, whereas the placebo group showed no improvements.
Interestingly, only the group receiving the larger dose showed improvements in self-esteem.Another study compared the effects of Rhodiola to the commonly prescribed antidepressant sertraline, which is sold under the name Zoloft. It randomly assigned 57 people diagnosed with depression to receive Rhodiola, sertraline or a placebo pill for 12 weeks.
While Rhodiola and sertraline both reduced symptoms of depression, sertraline had a greater effect. However, Rhodiola produced fewer side effects and was better tolerated. There are many natural remedies for depression.