20 million adults in the United States have depression. Most people with depression do not seek treatment, although the majority can be helped with treatment. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression (such as difficulty concentrating, persistent feelings of sadness, decreased energy) consult your physician as soon as possible.
Here are eight natural and herbal remedies to consider.
St. John’s Wort
The herb St. John’s wort has been used in folk medicine for sadness, worry, nervousness, and poor sleep. Numerous clinical trials suggest that St. John’s wort may be effective mild to moderate depression, however, it may not be effective for major depression.
St. John’s wort may take 4 to 6 weeks to notice the full effect.
St. John’s wort is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women, children, or people with bipolar disorder, liver or kidney disease. Learn more about St. John’s wort.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat needed for normal brain function. Our bodies cannot make omega-3 fatty acids so 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.
Cold water 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. Although fish may contain pollutants such as PCBs, many companies filter the oil so that these chemicals are removed.
SAM-e, or S-adenosyl-L-methionine, is a compound found naturally in the human body that may increase levels of neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Several studies have found SAM-e to be effective than placebo for depression.
Folate, is a B vitamin found in green leafy vegetables, fruit, beans, and fortified grains. It is one of the more prevalent vitamin deficiencies due to poor diet and also because of medication use.
5-HTP, or 5-hydroxytryptophan, is produced naturally in the body and is used in the formation of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Although taking 5-HTP in supplement form may theoretically boost the body’s serotonin levels, many experts feel there is not enough evidence to determine the safety of 5-HTP. It should not be combined with antidepressants.
Reduce your intake of sweets.Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol both dampen the mood. Alcohol temporarily relaxes us and caffeine boosts energy, but the effects of both are short-lived. Both can worsen mood swings, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
Vitamin B6 is needed to produce the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Although deficiency of vitamin B6 is rare, people taking oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy, and drugs for tuberculosis may be at greater risk for a deficiency.
Most people do not get enough magnesium in their diets. Good sources of magnesium include legumes, nuts, whole grains, and green vegetables. Like vitamin B6, magnesium is needed for serotonin production.
Regular exercise is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to improve mood and is something that can be integrated into a treatment plan. Exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, releases mood-elevating chemicals in the brain and can decrease stress hormones.
Getting enough sunlight may be effective for seasonal mood changes that occur in the darker winter months.